Bring out Your Dead
I love Monty Python. And of course the response to this is, “But I’m not dead yet”.
I’m not dead yet.
For over two years, I started and ended each day hoping it would be my last. The burden of my grief, sorrow and love was too much too bear. Every day assembling my game face and going out into the world. And coming home, praying I wouldn’t wake up and have to do it again. From this sprang people’s perception I was so strong, I was doing so well. Sometimes when the energy was low or the day had been particularly bad, I broke character. A glimpse of the mess behind the curtain.
I actually went home at lunchtime from work with the intention of never going back, ever. Never leaving my house again. Talking myself away from the moment was perhaps one of the hardest things I have ever done. When I returned to work, I was amazed no one saw the devastation on my face. I was beginning to understand how my husband pulled it off.
I don’t think I turned the corner until I brought home the dog. Joy. Here was a little being that personified everything I lost. And what a freaking aggravation! I’m not sure if I turned the corner because I needed her or I was determined to win our battle of wills.
But even that did not reboot my psyche. Death daily in my thoughts, no longer thinking of how to orchestrate it, but thinking how I wouldn’t fight it when it came. I needed my dead.
All through this time I spoke daily to my dead. Sometimes in anger, sometimes pleading, sometimes just talking about my day or asking for help. I knew they were there. This professionally skeptical CPA saw, heard, smelled irrefutable signs her people were around. But I wanted more. The longing to be in their presence was overwhelming.
God had obviously carried me through the minefield in which I had been living. There were too many irrefutable signs there too. I couldn’t understand it. As a young woman I had prayed to find someone to really love me. Years later being presented with the young man who would become my husband, all too clear he was my soulmate. How could God give me this incredible gift, answering my prayers, and then rip it away from me without so much as a by-your-leave? If there weren’t a plan, why leave me alive? I prayed for the plan to reveal itself, I prayed for patience (which I have little of), to wait, I prayed for understanding.
In my waiting I needed a plan of action. Being very terrier-like myself, I needed a job to do otherwise there might be trouble. So I embarked on a program of updating my house. Completing all the remodeling jobs in residence on the to do list for almost a decade. Hardwood floors, new carpet, new trim and on and on. Learning I would never make it as a general contractor. There’s a reason those people have jobs, dealing with contractors is like herding squirrels. Delay, excuses, non-performance, I ran into it all. It kept me so busy that by the time the drought really settled in here, I was toast, needing a respite in the air conditioning.
Still a plan had not presented itself, but I was able to see how my dreams for the house looked. What a pleasure. But when the main projects were done, it became obvious I could no longer stay here. Too much property, too much work, too much cash drain. I needed to sell the house. As the summer sizzled into fall, my detachment from the property began. I had a realtor come through who liked the updates and the feel of the house now. She was very positive about the prospects. We landed on a spring 2013 list date.
Still no plan, still my dead were more real than most of the folks around me. I traveled to Italy, hoping the trip would knock me back into the land of the living. Even that did not provide an exorcism.
As Thanksgiving approached, I thought about the few holidays we had been able to have in the house. How much we had loved staying home during those times, and rarely having the opportunity. Then it hit me, this season would be the last season in my house, our house. These next few months would be terminal ones for enjoying the beautiful sunroom my husband remodeled stem to stern with his own hands, to enjoy curling up on the sofa with a fire, look out over the “Queendom” (his word, not mine) from our bedroom.
This was the season to say goodbye. I needed to release my dead. If I didn’t I would never live, I would continue life in this coma-like state, hearing and seeing life going on around me, unable to participate. I needed to spend this Christmas in the house, saying good bye.
This was not an easy thing. First, I had to clear it with Mom. We have been alone, together for a long time. It was not a conversation I looked forward to. She understood. Having wrestled with her own dead for 25 years, she understood.
I planned the bones of my long Christmas weekend. I wanted to cook; to make that last big turkey dinner. I wanted to attend Christmas Eve service. But I made no plans for my dead. I didn’t realize the strain this decision put on me until I began to notice I had started having anxiety attacks again. Needing medication. Frantic I was down to my last pill and couldn’t raise the doctor to renew the prescription. Being asked to sing at the Christmas Eve service sent me into a tailspin. Just sending the declining email put me on the couch in a puddle; what if I had been foolish enough to say yes?
And so Christmas Eve, out of the blue, I confronted my dead. The conversation isn’t important; it was the feeling of release, from both them and me. Their worry that I was not going to be able to take care of myself evaporated. I had been holding them close, while they needed to continue their journeys. I had to let them go so they could let go of me. It was time. And we are all on our way.
I’m not dead yet.