Saturday, November 21, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

Yesterday morning, I received word that my ex-husband suffered a massive brain bleed and that there is no hope for any recovery.

I spoke with a dear physician friend who was by Jerry's side, the nurse, and Jerry's priest. I felt rather numb after the initial shock, but then he enormity of this loss for our daughter, and for me as well, hit. I spoke with my spiritual father, and just the sound of his voice is so calming to me. After that, I was ready to telephone dear daughter at college and broke the news to her. It was hard, very hard and we both cried. Then I called Jerry's brother, soon to be the last of the three Norman boys, my cousin/sister Roseanne, and a few others. I asked for prayers from some online women's groups and sent an email asking for prayer to many of the people in my address book.

The next task was to get DD and me to Mountain View, CA, where Jerry is in intensive care. It seemed impossible to gather the funds necessary until a dear friend/sister offered her credit card for the tickets. God Bless You Joan! Next, I needed to make arrangements for the care of my pets, which was shouldered by my friend/sister Cindy. God Bless You Cindy!

The day was spent in prayer, pleas for prayer, phone calls, internet searching, bank visits, laundry and packing. Its a blur, really.

Finally, I got on the road, and in the darkness, I had four hours to unwind, pray and think, punctuated by two long conversations with dear, dear Mat. E and Fr. K. It was so necessary to speak with both of them - Fr. K because he's known Jerry and me for 30 years and that shared history and memories of Jerry at his best cannot be replaced, and Mat. E because she knows me - we are twins in so many ways.

I've been thinking a lot about death the last few years, and I've been feeling my mortality - just read my last post if you want proof. I've been thinking about what it means to be ready, about what kind of change of heart God wants. I've been pondering the meaning of grief and loss and separation.

Jerry is leaving this world for the next very soon, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe in a couple of days. As I look back on all that we shared over the last 34 years, the fun, the heartbreaks, the joys, the sorrows, I understand that part of me will go with him. Alex told me something very wise yesterday, something someone told him when his wife died a year and a half ago: the day of your death is a joyful day because that's the day that God has chosen for you to be born into Heaven to live with Him, one of two birthdays chosen just for you. So, its a joyful day.

I get it. I believe it.

But still, there is pain at the parting for those of us who remain. Still, there is the pain your child feels at losing her father at such a young age... and when your child hurts, you hurt as well.

I'm the only one awake at DD's apartment, and soon we will get ourselves to the airport and begin a journey that is the end of the journey that Jerry and I began so long ago. Its a new life for him, and in some strange way, for us as well.

Jerry is a good man, an honorable man, who loves his daughter more than anyone, more than anyone. He has much to be proud of, and I pray that he has no regrets. I pray that he is ready with a good defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ. I pray that he will be counted among the just and take his place in the mansions of the Lord. I pray that I will see him again at the last.

I pray that God and the Most Holy Theotokos will give me the strength to do whatever needs to be done over the next couple of weeks, and that I will be a strong comfort for our daughter. I pray that I will be able to graciously and humbly accept love and assistance when offered.

I pray for our daughter, that she remain strong and faithful, and that she have only good memories of her father, particularly at the last. I pray that, when the enormity of this loss hits her, she will know that its not forever and have the strength to reach out to me and to others to comfort her in her grief.

But mostly, I pray for the servant of God, Gerald George, who goes to meet his maker today. I will pray him into heaven, while I miss him here on earth.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The sting of Death

I haven't written anything since last March, shortly after Dad died. I realize that there was something healing about his death, something that allowed me to close the book of grief over my mother's death that overwhelmed me since she died four years ago. Its a mystery...

But death is everywhere. In just the past couple of months, my cousin T died. Poor T, who made all the wrong choices, always comparing herself to her sister and never thinking she measured up. Poor T who at the core of her felt that she was unlovable. Poor T, who was so afraid of doctors and hospitals and pain, yet died in cancer ridden agony, and so afraid of death, but died anyway. Poor T.

Another piece of my childhood and of my heart gone.

And then there is E. We chatted on the phone just the day before she went into the hospital where she died a couple of days later. E, who never told a soul that she was failing, and that cancer was choking her insides off. Such a shock to hear of her death. I've picked the phone up a dozen times, thinking that I needed to tell her something, and then remembered that she's dead. Its hard to take in. Its hard to believe that there are no more emails and no more phone calls from her.

So, I keep in touch with her husband instead. He is such a mess, but he won't say it. He says he's great, and that things are going swimmingly, but then you hear him tear up on the other end of the phone and he suddenly has to go, so you hang up. This is the most emotional man I have ever met, yet he is trying to remain stoic, living alone in that beautiful house.

We all grieve in different ways.

I've decided to stop grieving. There is so much good in my life, that I'm wasting it with grief and depression. So many good things.... and am I truly grateful for them? I spend so much time looking at the spaces in my heart and my life where people used to be and now there is nothing, that I think I'm missing the goodness that is there instead. I do have so much to be thankful for: my daughter, my family and friends, my health, my pets, my job. Its all a gift really.

Sometimes I wonder why God allows us grief? I think I "get" death.... but I've been wondering about why God allows us to hurt and mourn the one who has gone, the way that we do. That I do. Its so painful. I can truly believe that we will meet again at the resurrection, and I do believe that, but it feels like forever. The forever of the missing seems almost cruel. But we know that God isn't cruel - how could He be? He created us!

Maybe it has to do with us understanding the depths that He went to to save us by sacrificing His only son. I wouldn't do that - I can't conceive of it - my heart stops beating if I even think of sacrificing Elisabeth.... Yet, that is exactly what He did for us. For me.

Its all almost too much to bear.

I keep meeting with my spiritual father, and that has got to be the reason that I don't spend hours writing in this blog any more. He has been wonderfully patient. Its weird, because I really want someone to know me even more than I want to know myself, and he seems to be the chosen one. But sometimes I think to myself, who am I kidding here? Spiritual direction is more than me blubbering all about myself week after week. Somehow it doesn't seem "hard" enough and then there is the odd meeting when it seems too hard to continue. I struggle during these meetings to remain real and honest, and not over dramatize as I am wont to do, or sink into telling a good story which I sometimes do, or whine. I hate whining. But he never complains...

I think I can see a few changes over time. My spiritual father says he can, and I guess I just have to trust his judgement. I know its hard to be objective about yourself, but I think I can see some changes from when we started meeting. For one thing, I am much calmer and I think I'm a little happier and more content. I see more patience and love in my heart for everyone, even people who drive me crazy. This is a definite improvement.

But the more we talk, the more I realize that we are taking the tiniest of baby steps in the spiritual life. I've been thinking about this for a long time and I can see that we are taking baby steps because I really can't handle going any faster. I'm too comfortable in my cocoon of competence to do anything more than stick my baby toe in the water. Pretty sad commentary, really.

Is it wrong to keep thinking about death? Is it pathological? I don't feel like I'm grieving hard anymore, but I understand that death happens all the time, and eventually, it will happen to me. I need to be ready for that day. That's the whole point of the spiritual life, isn't it? To get ready to die? Not that I'm constantly contemplating death and not truly living, because that's not what I'm doing at all, but death seems to have an immediacy to it, a nearness, that really brings me up short. Will I be ready?