Monday, April 28, 2014

One month

Time has taken on a new meaning. Each day creeps by but, in total, it's unbearably fast. My beloved Kevin Brooks died one month ago today. I know a month is an arbitrary construct of time, but it still cuts. A knife is a manufactured device, not of nature or our own secret rhythms, but it can still wound. So it is.

A month ago today we were holding hands and staring into each others eyes in the most intimate gaze I have ever experienced. Two months ago we were still fighting. Three months ago there was hope of a sort. Four months ago we had just celebrated Christmas and I was worried his diagnosed gastritis and strained back were something much worse. I have never more desperately wanted to be wrong.

In the month since he died I have changed the sheets. I have eaten meals I don't recall, flat in my mouth. I have cried gallons of tears. I have been startled by my own laughter and the occasional pleasure, then felt a stab of relief and guilt at the same time. I have wondered at my own purpose without him. I have kept breathing, much to my surprise.

Today I will continue to breathe, the body following its own determined rhythms.
Today I will cry again and again.
Today I will walk through the world with his name on my lips, no different from any other day.

I have been told by so many people that I will survive this. That someday it will not be as sharp and bright. That eventually I will stop writing only about this. That he is watching me and loving me on the other side of the veil.

I know.

But that does not yet ease my heartache. It does not stop me from yearning for his touch. It does not stop time.

One month.

So it is.

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Friday, April 25, 2014

Four weeks

I've read that grief has some predictable moments. One of them is when the mourner begins to realize that this is real. That their beloved isn't come back. That this absence won't be filled with a surprise visit or waking from the dream.

I hit that point this week and have been hitting it over and over again through the last few days. I feel as though all that is left of me is the wound, the tears, the sorrow and fatigue. I know at some point I will feel a little better and that will have its own kind of misery, maybe grey instead of black, but for now all I know is this: He isn't here. He won't be coming back.

On Monday it will be a month since the best man I have ever know, my beloved, a wonderful father, friend and grand human being, took his last breath and left for the next adventure. I hope there is a next adventure and he is there, hanging out with all who have gone before. I am struggling for faith.

I hate this.

Grief turns me into a four year old again. I'm feeling and saying things I never expected.
It isn't fair. 
I hate this. 
Please come back.
I feel like a lost child, all I know how to do is cry.

I know, it's one breath at a time, one moment. Cold comfort when he isn't here.

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Strange days

What a strange day it is today. How strange many of my days are now, but today especially so. Or maybe I say that every day and just don't remember.

Today is Easter, a holiday with little religious significance for me but with a great deal for Kevin. We would go to his church for Easter services and he would glow with joy. Jesus had risen, the whole of Christianity pivots on this day. As his Jewish partner I would do my best to fit in, I'd admire the ladies in lovely hats and the kids in their Easter best, I'd enjoy the music and mostly I'd feel joy by extension. While it may not be my holy day, it was clearly holy nonetheless and that made it a lovely thing to be part of.

I've always liked the stories of Easter and Christmas, one celebrating hope and renewal (albeit via a hard path) and the other basically the biggest birthday party in the world. Even as a non-Christian these things have meaning to me and I loved celebrating with Kevin, who believed so deeply. After church on Easter we would either have a good meal at home or eat Easter dinner with friends. They would all be glowing with joy and I loved being part of it.

Today is 24 days since Kevin died. And I am struck over and over again that people around the world are celebrating a rise from the grave, a renewal into life. Yes, as a Christian Kevin believed in eternal life and I have no reason to doubt him, but he is not here. Not risen in the flesh. Not holding my hand. Not singing Easter songs next to me. Not eating dinner with gusto. He is not here. (I know some of you will say he is, just not in a tangible form and I understand that. But right now, it is his immediacy that I am longing for. I am not denying the power of and my yearning for signs and visitations, but... I miss him.)

I sit on our back porch and watch the birds. I listen to the church bells. I smile as my friends and neighbors beam with Easter joy. But he is not here. And everlasting life seems very far away.

What a strange day it is today.

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer

(thanks to my friend Tony Toledo for sending me this poem today)

Jill Alexander Essbaum

is my season
of defeat.

Though all
is green

and death
is done,

I feel alone.
As if the stone

rolled off
from the head

of the tomb
is lodged

in the doorframe
of my room,

and everyone
I've ever loved

lives happily
just past

my able reach.
And each time

Jesus rises
I'm reminded

of this marble

they are not
coming back.

Creative Commons License

Friday, April 18, 2014

3 weeks, 3 months, 20 years

Everyone says the first year is the worst. That the first time you come up to each holiday, each birthday, each anniversary, each significant date without your beloved you die inside a little bit more, but are still stuck here, without them.

I don't know yet if this is true. I do know that this week in general and today in particular are very hard.

This past week was the first time I've not attended or held a Seder in many years. It was the first time in over a decade that Passover passed and I wasn't sharing it with Kevin. Had I been home without him I would have found a Seder somewhere, but it wouldn't have been the same. As it is, I was in New Jersey, helping my parents as my father had open heart surgery. I was where I was needed, but it means I didn't retell the story of escape from enslavement, of redemption, of hope, a story so important to both of us. It means I didn't fuss over dinner while he reminded me that I had already cooked enough. It means we didn't give each other secret glances all evening. It means so much and so much lost.

Today, Friday the 18th, marks three weeks since he died. And three months since he was diagnosed. He fought so hard. We fought so hard. Yet here we are, he is gone and I remain. I don't know what else to say about it but that I miss him with every molecule in my body. I don't know when I will stop crying. I don't know that I want to.

Today, April 18th, is also 20 years cancer-free for me. This year it only tastes bitter. I am still here, but the love of my life was stolen away. Sure, had I not survived all those years ago we wouldn't have had the time we did. I know that. I also know it doesn't help right now.

I know this is just part of the journey, or at least I know that's what I should know. But right now? Three weeks. Three months. Twenty years. My heart breaks more every day.

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Grief in the time of social media

Once upon a time we had social cues for mourning. We wore black for a year, then grey and lavender. We covered our faces. We made jewelry from hair and wore lockets with our beloved dead enshrined inside. It was understood that we were fragile and would be for a good long time. We were cared for by our communities and strangers alike, not only because they could read the cues but because everyone experiences loss; we all need this kind of care sooner or later. Grief was a public event, without shame. It was understood that the world became muted.

It's harder to mourn now. Our entire culture is geared towards the quick fix and there are no visible signs that say I am lost. Strong, painful emotions are meant to be exposed maybe once, then hidden away (Kevin has been gone for 2.5 weeks and I've been asked if I feel better yet). We yearn for community to support us, but many of us don't have a clear place to turn.

I am one of the lucky ones. I have friends and family who are beside me as I travel the widow's path. I've also turned to social media for community. I have plenty of live, in-person community for which I am immensely grateful, but social media has become an immediate source of comfort when I am in pain which, these days, is most of the time. It gives me an outlet when I don't want to call a friend in the middle of the night. It gives me a lasting record of support, when my mind is so tired and sad that I can't remember the arms that held me just a moment ago. All I need to do is look online and I can see the many people who care.

Throughout Kevin's illness I kept everyone updated via CaringBridge and Facebook. It would have been all but impossible to communicate with the hundreds of people who care about him without these tools. And now, when I am in enormous need of support, I can post on Facebook and immediately am reminded that, in some ways,  I am not alone.

I am so grateful for this support. I struggle with these tools to some degree, because I worry that I'm taking advantage of everyone's concern by reaching out online, but right now? I'll set the guilt aside and take what comfort I can. It does mean my broader online communities are exposed to more emotion than these tools usually see and I have exposed my vulnerability, but no one has complained as yet. I feel some trepidation that people are not given the freedom to opt-in to the grief, but have it placed in front of them because it shows up in their feed, then I remind myself that they can skip the post or block me. That's okay.

Social media doesn't replace the living village, but it's a good start. And if Facebook, Twitter, CaringBridge or LinkedIn are what it takes to get me through the coming long nights, then I'm all for it. Thank you all for being my extended community and holding me safe online as I grieve. Thank you for being so patient as I figure out how to navigate this new world before me. Apparently it can be done in small steps, even just 140 characters at a time.

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Friday, April 11, 2014

Two weeks

I was going to entitle this post Time but decided that I may as well go with honesty.

In just under two hours it will be two weeks since my beloved died. A lot has happened in that time. So little has happened. I am living suspended. I think that's the nature of grief, especially in these early days.

In the last two weeks I have cried more than I had in the last 40 years. Maybe cumulatively.
I have felt worse and known worse is yet to come.
I have had glints of hope and resilience which then led to a consuming sense of loss.
I have been supported and loved by communities and people I never would have expected.
I have discovered the zen of coloring books.
I have gotten a tattoo I love for reasons I hate.
I have written letter after letter that I don't know if you can read but I write them anyway. I don't know where to mail them.
I have gone without eating and I have binged.
I have slept and awakened in a state of wild confusion that disintegrates into tears.
I have tasted the loneliness and possibility of the coming years and I have yearned to reject it all.
I have looked at the world in awe and thought the world is still here. how can the world be here?

Two weeks ago your heart was still beating, your pulse strong under my fingertips. Two weeks ago I (and those with you) were wondering is this it? until it was it. Two weeks ago I could still harbor some hope that maybe this was a dream.

Two weeks ago.

I want to write that the love remains. That I still feel it and I believe, somewhere, you do too. That the love you created in your life is not lost. I want to write that this gives me solace. And maybe that's true. But I also want to write Bullshit. It's not enough. And maybe that's true, too.

I am living suspended.

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Friday, April 4, 2014

One week

I woke up one week ago today holding your hand, your palm warm in mine.

One week ago today I knew you were going but you were still here.

A week ago I knew what was coming but couldn't conceive of what it meant because there was still breath in your body. I had no idea what was coming. I still don't, but that I am emptier every day.

Seven days ago I was someone else. I don't know who I am now. Time will tell.

Your eyes. Your smile. Your touch.

This is not a lesson I want to learn.

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License
True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
Related Posts with Thumbnails