It is the name of a movie and what happened at our (my) house last night.  I set the stage in a way that would allow it to happen.  I needed for it to happen.  It changes nothing.  It just needed to get out.

After finishing writing last night, I did a few chores and then got out the box of letters I wrote Mary Ann.  I put on the CD that had brought me to tears months ago when we first realized it was time to call in Hospice.  I read a few of the letters.  Actually, the letters did not tap my emotions.  They are pretty boring.  I ramble on about Greek tests and singing groups and learning recitativs for someone who couldn’t sing the solos at the last minute.  Each letter so far, and I am sure all of them, end with declarations of love in as many different ways as I could figure out to say them.  I have read eight of the letters so far.  Understand, for three years, except for summers when we could see each other, I wrote her a letter every night.  (No wonder I have gotten into this blogging every night business.)

Remember, I was nineteen or twenty years old and very much in love.  They sound like something from a bad romantic movie.  The only redeeming element is that I really meant what I was saying: “I don’t know how to tell you just how much I love you and miss you.  I can hardly believe it myself.  I love you.”  Then another: “Even if you didn’t love me — I love you enough for both of us.”  I will spare you any more for now.

It was not the letters. Certainly the music lowered my defenses and helped me let go of my control.  I just pulled down a picture of the two of us from a year or two or three ago.  It is the one that was cropped for the obituary.  I looked and I remembered the indignity of it all.  I remembered what she endured looking from the outside in rather than from inside the struggle.  I could not tolerate the thought that she is gone.  I spoke out loud because I couldn’t not speak.  In a moment of self-pity, I asked “Why did you give her to me to love and then take her away.”  I was angry — not out of control angry, just angry.  “It’s not fair that she should have had to suffer so — she did nothing to deserve it.”

Please understand, I realize that God doesn’t like death and sickness any more than we do.  I realize that God understands death from the inside out and the outside in.  God didn’t wish for Mary Ann to suffer, for me to be in pain with her.  What God did was hang in there with us through it all, never letting go of us.  Understand also that God’s relationship with us is strong enough and intimate enough to allow anger to be a part of it.  I needed to be angry at that moment.  Read the Psalms some time and see just how many are laments spewing anger at the unfairness of life.  Pastor Mike addressed this matter at the funeral.

Noisy tears flowed.  The dam broke.  Every time I looked at her face and remembered, the tears flowed.  In an earlier post, I mentioned that I used to count how many times I had cried in my adult life.  The first time was after I got the phone call that my Dad had died.  I was 42 years old.  Until last January, I had not yet run out of fingers on one hand to count the times.  I have stopped counting and will never do so again.

I guess there was some part of me that still thought it was a sign of weakness for a man to cry.  I knew before and I know still more certainly now that crying, actually letting the pain in far enough to feel it, is an act of courage that is demanded if wholeness and healing will come.  Running away from it or pretending it isn’t there or encrusting it in some sort protective casing is hardly the path to strength of character and the ability to endure whatever comes.

There was an interesting coincidence at our Spiritual Formation group this morning.  The lesson in our discussion booklet for this morning was entirely devoted to the need to let go, to die, before we can rise to new life.  The last of the four discussion questions printed at the end of the readings was, “What role does the reality of death and the deaths of those you love play in your life?”  Talk about timing.

Today was a busy Wednesday, as they often have been for some reason.  It started with the Spiritual Formation Group on the deck.  While that was going on Landscaper Sheila was doing her final maintenance of the landscaping she put in this spring.  She will return in the fall to do some clean up and prepare it for winter.  I am on my own for the rest of the summer.  Those plantings are in great jeopardy!

In the mid-morning, Dave came over to get a couple of death certificates and obtain the signatures needed on a variety of forms for the financial issues following a death.  Then Kristie came over to do the monthly house cleaning.  Now the house is not only empty but empty and clean.

I did some overdue posting in the computer check register while she cleaned.  It will take a while to get my bearings in that arena.  Everything seems to be on course.  I have configured the online emails from the Caregiving Spouses of those with Lewy Body Dementia so that I have to go to the web site to read them.  As a result, the hours I have spent checking emails have pretty much been eliminated.  I just can’t read those emails at the moment.  It takes me right back to something from which I need a break for now.

I had leftovers from the funeral dinner for lunch and dinner.  Next I will start on all the containers that Lisa put in the freezer when food was coming in faster than we could eat it. It should be many weeks before it is necessary for me to exercise my culinary skills.

I decided it would be best to get out of the house for a while, so I made a quick run to pick up a couple of things.  One is a zippered cover for a pillow.  No amount of soaking in Oxy Clean or spraying with Spray and Wash is able to get the stains out.  Mary Ann was taking Plavix and Aspirin to thin her blood because of her stroke.  Often her gums or nose would bleed a little during the night.  The pillow is certainly clean, and now it looks that way also.

The house is becoming very neat and orderly and boring.  I still hope to at least get my office, which is a complete shambles, cleaned up.  That happening would be right up there with the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes.  Actually, I suppose my problem is that I have the twelve baskets of leftovers and nowhere to put them.

Here are the ideas that I have seen so far for the title of a new blog to replace this one: newlifeemerging.com; calltocontemplation.com; buildingnewlife.com; next chapter; life after retirement; thecontinuinglife.com; my journey continues; life’s journey continues; a new role begins; continuing life’s pathway; making new memories — remembering the old; progressive pathways; pathways of personal progression; day by day; heading home; homeward bound; faith journal; moving on; stepping stones (to healing).

By the way, whatever it is, it needs to be in the .com format and checked with a site like godaddy.com to see if it is available or already in use.

Well, this day has come to an end.  As I mentioned to Son Micah, the challenge is to manage the pause and stop button on the video running in my mind of Mary Ann’s most difficult days including the last one, so that there will be minimal flooding from the broken dam.  Today was better.

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Whether the reason is lurking somewhere in my DNA, those double helixes containing the code that tells the cells in my body where to go and what to do when they get there, or in subtle messages from Dad (he didn’t talk much) as he showed me what to do with my feelings (don’t show them), I did not end up able to cry very much.  Mind you, I can tear up at a sappy movie.  My lip will quiver when I am overcome with emotion, but really crying, sobbing, is a very rare experience for me.   There was the time my Dad died, the day our daughter left for college (our Son contends this is just more evidence that we liked her more than him — gratefully, she is convinced we liked him more than her — we must have done something right).  There was the time after six sleepless nights in Mary Ann’s hospital room that I broke down, sobbing, in my Son’s arms.  I cried when we buried good friend Al.  I can count on one hand the times I have really cried. 

I am a member of an online group for those caring for spouses who have Lewy Body Dementia (check www.lbda.org for information on joining).   Parkinson’s Disease Dementia is a Lewy Body Dementia.  There is an understanding of confidentiality in the group.  I suspect no one will mind my sharing one of today’s topics.  Someone asked for suggestions for “music to cry by….”  Please understand that very many of these brave folks have given themselves completely to the care of Loved Ones who need them constantly.  Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) is a particularly insidious form of Dementia.  Symptoms can come and go from one minute to the next with no way to predict when they will do so.   I can only hope I will muster their courage when our journey takes us where so many of them are or have been. 

The songs suggested had names like, The Days of Wine and Roses, Because of You, The Way We Were, If Tomorrow Never Comes, Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain, Through the Years, You Were Always on my Mind, I Still Miss You, After the Lovin’, And I Love You So, and dozens more.  I was struck by how many could respond immediately to the question, “What is music to cry by….”  The posts just kept coming. 

Then came a few who asked (I paraphrase), who needs music, I can cry any time, just stopping to think brings tears.  It would break your heart to hear the litany of impossible challenges these people endure, some for decades.  Yes, there is a time to weep.  We are made of water, mostly.  Sometimes we need to just spill some of it before we explode.  I suppose that is what tear ducts are for.  No, it doesn’t change our circumstances when we cry.  It changes us, our chemistry.  Strangely, it seems to take us close to the place from which laughter comes.  When spending time with grieving families, listening to stories about the one who died, the laughter and the tears seemed to live right next door to one another.  Both seemed to have healing power.

But what of those of us who don’t do well at crying?  We need to find our way to a mechanism for releasing whatever it is, whatever healing it is that tears and laughter can provide.   My insides can be stirred by a Bach Passion, or Russian liturgical music, or Ralph Vaughn Williams, or Poulenc, or Widor, or Telemann, sometimes Enya or the Celtic Women or Hammer Dulcimer music.  For me, these past few days have confirmed that my release is to be found in thoughts put into words.  My life’s work has revolved around talking.  Now that we are mostly at home, today was a day of sleep for Mary Ann (one of the transitory symptoms of LBD), there is no one to listen.  So, here I am, making words, my version of crying and laughing and healing.  And you who dare to enter this Internet domain are my therapists.  (Please do not bill me!)