Friday, August 20, 2010



I'm finding myself becoming more and more aware of the upcoming one year anniversary of Michael's death. I keep trying to remember what It was I was doing at this point last year. Rather than get out a calendar and try to pin point exactly what was happening, I would rather just consider in general where our lives were.

It was around this time that hospice came in the picture. It is likely that by this date hospice was already active in our home. I remember knowing prior to contacting them that with brain tumor patients, the hospice period is often very short, as the tumors eventually grow very fast, and the end comes quickly. This was also the case for Michael. When the doctor and I decided it was that time, Michael was aware of what was going on, but was suffering from considerable memory loss. I also wondered exactly how he was processing information. Intellectually he seemed to understand things, but his thoughts didn't always seem connected to emotions at that point.

I remember when the hospice social worker first came to our home, Michael made a comment about not needing their help. He turned to her, and then to me to say he didn't really see that their services offered him much more than what he was already receiving from me and the hospital. I had to explain to him the the services were going to be more of an assistance to me.

It was also about this time that Michael has having increasing problems with his mobility, so we rarely left our home. In a way it made our time left more focused. We laid around in bed talking, or sat in the living room watching television. I remember feeling so sad because he could no longer work on his Sudoku. He loved Sudoku, and it really calmed him. When he wanted a break from Sudoku he would get out his crossword puzzles, and work on those. He would often interrupt my reading or writing to ask me some of the questions in the puzzle. In the past I would have told him not to ask me because I would lose all my focus, and then get quite obsessed with the puzzle. He would just laugh, lean over and kiss me, and go back to his puzzle. But when I could see that he was having significant problems remembering, I put down my book, moved in closer, and worked on the puzzles with him. Those puzzle and Sudoku books are some of my most valued possessions.

Today I been giving thought to how I want to spend the day of the actual anniversary. I know that some people hold gatherings for their loved ones on the anniversary, but most of Michael's friend, and all of his family, live in northern California. I suppose I could organize something with all of my family and friends down here in southern California. I'll have to really consider this, as I had told most of them last year not to make the trip up to San Francisco for the memorial. I didn't want anyone traveling far for the ceremony. Most of them had already been up to see us for our wedding 11 months earlier, and I knew they would be with us in spirit. Maybe having something with them this time around might be nice.

My other idea is to go off and do something alone. I don't mean check myself into a hotel, and just lay around and cry all day. I'm sure there will be plenty of that, but I would like, and probably need, something a bit more focused. I want to look into possibly finding some kind of meditation center where I can have some solitude, but that would lend itself to mindful meditation. I remember Michael's cousin telling me of a lovely Buddhist center near Santa Cruz, but I can't be traveling that far right now. I have a job interview next week, and who knows, I could be employed by then.

It feels good just to be thinking ahead about this. It feels a bit like self-preservation.


  1. I agree with the self-preservation via some kind of plan. For our first birthdays (right near each other) after it happened, I went on a strenuous hiking retreat. Rather crazy, given that I hadn't really eaten in months, but it was important to me to Move.
    Do you know the SF zen center? They might know of a similar meditation/retreat house near you. And maybe you already know these folks - - they might know something too.

  2. Dan,

    I love the idea of the meditation centre and spending time on your own, doing what you need to do. On the first "anniversary" (I actually don't like that word 'cause anniversary to me implies something loving and happy, not sad and grief-filled, but I can't find another word that fits the bill), I had a small gathering with friends because I felt it honoured Austin and I felt they needed it. But I was wrong and should have just focused on what the boys and I needed. Austin didn't care and I've since learned that I can't be worrying about taking care of everyone else. I wish I would have had time on my own. I did that in Feb, just before the one year, and if I had just repeated something like that, it would have been the perfect way to honour Austin. I think that next March 20 the boys and I will go somewhere on our own and try to find some zen. Good luck with your finding something that works for you.

    Love Deb

  3. On the one year anniversary, I made a conscious decision - ahead of time- not to be with people or answer the phone. On that day I got a tattoo I had been planning for months - in spirit it sounds like your koi tattoo, a beautiful commemoration of our time together, what it meant to me, and a concrete vision of me, now, after. Having lived through this. Something permanent and visible to mark the changes.
    I did end up talking to a couple of people, close friends of mine and/or Jeff's who recognized the date and called for that specific reason. Let it ring and ring for my mom and my sister....sorry ladies, sometimes you just have to protect i did. I know they love me but they would have required more of me than I was able to give on that day.

    It was a very deliberate stepping through the day. My 19 year old daughter and I had planned to go to walk a long wide beach with Jeff's dog -mine now obviously- after the tattoo. But we went home (she had accompanied me, on one of the more sacred afternoons of my life thanks to the attentive & spiritual tattoo artist) and we both fell asleep and never left the house. It felt right. It is important to do what feels right and take good care of yourself, and your children as necessary, on that day. Please don't let practical matters interfere, if for example you are employed, let them know you will need to take that day...sorry to sound bossy; I know are well aware of and can take care of your own needs.

  4. it is a significant stretch of time. for me it started a couple of days before and last until after the year mark of Dragon's funeral on Valentine's Day. since i had no options, i was alone for all of it. i would rather have done it differently. you, however, are blessed with being able to do exactly what you want and need to do. do what is best for you and your children. you are already seemingly going to follow your heart and instincts. that's the best choice. i wish you peace.

  5. Although I don't really think about dates too much, I can't help but "feel" Sept. 6th coming around for a second time very soon. Like you, I seem to be finding myself remembering what I was doing two years ago this time, and also a year ago.

    Two years ago, Don had been on a targeted therapy drug for a couple of weeks. In some ways, he seemed to be feeling better, but his heart had been so badly damaged by the second line of chemo (Taxotere) that he was fairly unwell. Also, the tumors in his lungs had reached the point that he could only speak with great difficulty, and at best, with a very raspy whisper so that I'd have to lean close to hear most of the time. He was having a lot of choking events and I couldn't wander further than I could hear him signal by hitting an iron railway spike on the glass top of a side table beside the recliner chair piled with memory foam and comforters - the "bed" on which he'd been sleeping for several months due to the cancer in his bones.

    I remember sitting outside the house looking around at the late summer wildflowers and thinking that, maybe I should build a wheelchair ramp as it was getting to the point that I didn't think Don would be able to walk the distance to the car for much longer. There were a lot of steps to our front door, so I was pondering how I would construct the ramp, but part of me knew that it was unlikely I'd ever have to build it. That made me feel very sad and it still makes me sad to even remember those last days.

    Don was quite lucid, but it took so much effort to talk, that he just sat and watched television. He'd lost interest in reading. He slept quite a bit. Once in awhile he would tell me funny things like. "Write a book!" He was thinking of some kind of nature book, I think. He also told me not to kill myself after he died -- he knew me quite well and knew that's just what I was thinking of doing. I told him not to make me make any promises as my Dad had also made me make some death-bed promises that were very hard to keep. He knew that and nodded that it was okay then.

    Last year, I had sold my house and was trying to get moved out by the closing on Sept 5th. It was a horrible couple of weeks and by the 6th, I was pretty much run into the ground. I'd hoped to leave for the west after signing off the house papers on the 5th, but I was just too exhausted. I think I left for the west on the 9th.

    I don't quite know what I'll do this year. I think there might be people here visiting. I tend not to do anything special on certain days. With me, I think it's places more than dates that mean something to me - and I'll probably have other memories when I finally leave here and to up north over Lake Superior, or get out to the coastal redwoods in northern California.

    Anyhow, a meditation retreat of some kind sounds like a good plan. Or maybe just find a good place to go and meditate on your own -- somewhere overlooking the ocean, I think.

  6. what you will find is that the anticipation of the date/1-year-mark is so much worse than the actual day itself. at least that's how i felt and i've heard from many others. all the stress and agonizing we do over important dates kind of drains us and when the day finally arrives, we're left empty. and maybe that's a good thing.