Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Beat of his Heart

pocket watch/ 400D
Originally uploaded by

First, I must say that it was a lovely and peaceful day. It was a very busy day at work, but I took the time to pace myself, so that I would not end the day in complete stress. It was also one of those late evening getting home days, so I found myself needing to make a quick decision about dinner. I spent the late afternoon observing my son Dante at his Jiu Jitsu class. He has needed extra firm encouragement to get to his classes lately, so I was proud to see how well he was doing. On the way home he kept throwing out ideas for dinner, all of which included driving through a fast food establishment. In the end I gave in. So what if it was my birthday dinner, the kids were happy. When I arrived home my daughter had made the most beautiful cake. I think she has baking in her future. All of the kids and I watched a little television while we were enjoying the delicious cake. Soon it was time to get my youngest off to bed, then return downstairs where my older kids were still lingering. As I entered the room my breathing became a bit labored.

Before I get too far into this, let me say that I so appreciate all the birthday wishes from friends and family today. This year those messages took on a greater meaning. Thank you all.

As I returned to join my older two, my daughter noticed that something was wrong, and asked if I was okay. I said that I could feel an asthma episode coming on, so I excused myself to go find my inhaler. But as I started to descend the stairs to my bedroom I knew that this was not simply an asthma attack. I was being overtaken by my grief. I quickly stepped into the shower and just unleashed my tears. It felt quite painful, but I was okay with it. It's not a surprise. How could this day pass without missing Michael?

A year ago today Michael and I were in Sedona, Arizona. He had taken me to the Enchantment Resort for the week. We had a wonderful time. A year ago tonight as we were preparing to leave our cottage for dinner, he gave me a gift. It was a beautiful pocket watch. I have never worn a watch, just one of my quirks, so it the perfect gift. On the back of the pocket watch he had it engraved with the message, "Dan, Love you always, Michael." Inside the watch was a picture of the two of us from our wedding. The accompanying card was of a cliff diver. In it Michael had written a message stating that he supposed cliff diving would not phase me too much at that point. He said that I had taken so many great leaps of faith, like marrying him, already. He also wrote that he hoped that I liked the watch, and that whenever I hear it ticking, I should think of his beating heart with mine.

For many nights after Michael died, I kept my pocket watch right next to my ear as I slept. These days it usually sits on our book shelf, among the many little collectibles that I have keeping vigil over Michael's ashes. Tonight the pocket watch will return to my pillow. It will give me strength, and comfort, as I allow my tears to return.

Each day at the Enchantment Resort, the staff would leave cards in the room with words of wisdom from various Native Americans. I kept a few of the cards to remember the peacefulness I experienced on that trip. Here are some of those words.

"The earth is a living thing, the mountains speak. The trees sing. Lakes can think, pebbles have a soul, rocks have power." -John "Fire" Lame Deer, Lakota 1903-1976

"Everything on the earth has a purpose. Every disease, an herb to cure it, every person, a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence." -Mourning Dove, Salish 1888-1936

"It does not require many words to speak the truth." -Chief Joseph, Nez Perce 1840-1904


  1. Such a lovely post, Dan. Michael's gift of the pocket watch was so wonderful and brilliant.

  2. I'm glad to hear that through the grief, you found some peace and comfort on your birthday.
    Cheers, Dan