It seems as if I’ve accidentally taken a vacation from the internet. I haven’t posted a blog in over a month (I even forgot to celebrate the eleventh anniversary of this blog), and I’ve made only an occasional visit to Facebook. It wasn’t planned, this vacation. It’s just that life — and death — got in the way of my usual e-activities.
My older brother’s death affected me — and continues to affect me — so much more than I thought it would. (For someone who thinks she is as self aware as I think I am, my own reactions to death always manage to surprise me.) I thought I’d grieved the loss of my brother when I left him on the street in Colorado, but death is different. Irrevocable. And I am very conscious of his being gone.
My brother had given me the stuff in his storage unit a few years ago with the caveat I wouldn’t do anything with it until he was gone. (Did he know how close to death he was? I don’t know. I thought this disposition of his possessions was just his usual doom saying.) So, in addition to dealing with his death, I had to deal with his possessions. Well, my possessions. It was incredibly sad to see his preparations for a life as a musician he never got to live. It was incredibly sad having to dispose of the provisions for that unlived life. (There is no way I could have kept his things. I have enough of my own — and Jeff’s — stuff in storage without having to add my brother’s, too.)
Jeff’s death brought to the fore questions about death and the meaning of my life as well as fears of my growing old alone. My brother’s death didn’t leave me with the mystical quest Jeff’s death did; instead, it made me question the practicalities of my life. Made me realize I need to prepare for my old age. Considering the longevity of my parents, I thought that old age would be a long time coming, but both brothers closest to me in age, one a year younger, one a year older, are now gone. My younger brother didn’t come within thirty years of my mother’s final age. My older brother didn’t come within thirty years of my father’s age.
Although I have reconnected with other siblings, I still have to deal with life on my own. They all have someone significant in their lives, and I have . . . me. I see friends sporadically, but mostly, I spend my time alone. It’s odd that I am now where I feared to be during those first years of grief after Jeff died. I used to be terrified of stagnating, of becoming the crazy cat lady sans cats, so I kept myself busy with forward-looking activities. After the seventh anniversary, that need for busyness evaporated. Luckily, as it turned out. Most of my grief group friends are now paired up, my walking friends have gone on to other activities, and my dance classes have diminished. (I stopped going to a couple of the classes because they had become a performance group rather than actual classes and caused me more frustration than joy. Most of my other classes, classes that I loved, were either cancelled or are hit and miss.) And my dream of an epic hike evaporated when I discovered the reality of my physical abilities. Or lack of abilities.
So here I am. Alone. But not stagnating. (At least, I don’t think I’m stagnating. But if I am, would I know?) I’ve been spending time with my new grief book, preparing for its send off into the world of agents. I’ve been trying to get back into walking shape — my frequent colds this year and the trips I’ve gone on (to Seattle and to my brother’s memorial) have taken their toll on me. And I’ve been trying to figure out where to go from here, not in a mystical way, but a practical way, trying to figure out where I want to be living when death begins swiping at me with its scythe.
Death. So not a friend of mine! (Though I might feel differently when I near my own end.) I don’t mean to sound morbid. There’s just been too many deaths in too short a time.
Although I should return from my accidental vacation and get back into the discipline of keeping up the blog, I truly don’t want to foist my sadness on others. I did enough of that when I was dealing with Jeff’s death, and there’s nothing new to say.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Unfinished, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.
September 27, 2018 at 5:25 pm
Pat, I was thinking about you and what follows on a longer drive home today. First, my reference — my wife of 30 years passed 3 years ago. My thoughts were thus:
When your partner dies, one (maybe just me) loses three masks: 1) one is the mask you have/had for your partner (I think even the most soully mates are not 100% transparent), 2) you lose the mask to the outside world, and 3) you lose the mask to yourself. Losing that one thing that gave you strength beyond all else alters everything. (Please don’t anyone offer me Jesus here.)
The new masks don’t seem to fit quite right. So they lay on the dresser and my face feels raw to the touch or even stings in a gentle breeze.
September 27, 2018 at 6:37 pm
I’d never considered the mask analogy, but it sure works. One of the reasons the loss of a life partner is so excruciating is that loss of a connection to the world and one’s self. Those masks simply do not fit right any more. Even though the mask we had with the other half our couple might not be the true us, it’s the one we’ve become most comfortable with, and when it’s gone — yep, our faces feel raw. It’s a hard thing to have to live with, this loss with all it’s attendant losses, and a call to Jesus just isn’t the answer. It’s a very earthly loss and leaves us with very earthly feelings of rawness and aloneness.
September 27, 2018 at 6:07 pm
It’s Jo. I’m so sorry you’re having a hard time I lost Danny two years ago and then right after that three days before his first anniversary I lost my very best friend. She had lost her husband seven years ago so she was sort of The Rock for me and I think the Lord left her that year to help me get through. I find that we grieve people in different ways because everybody mean something different to us. I neighbor had siblings so I don’t understand the loss the sibling but my friend was very close and it was hard to lose her to. I understand the feeling of alone. I’m still at the point that I try to keep very busy and find myself very tired sometimes I wished you lived closer we could walk together Don’t give up the boat my friend I’m sure there’s oceans for you to sailyet, your book is amazing and I know that you’re supposed to be here to help people get through what you’ve gone through and experienced because I know you helped me. Your’re very dear don’t ever forget it
September 27, 2018 at 6:43 pm
Ah, Jo. You’re so kind! And oh, no. I didn’t know about the loss of your best friend. Two such grievous losses so close together are a real trauma. I do think we grieve for the relationship as much as for the person. The depth of the relationship often determines the grief, and suffering two such deep relationships so close together is truly hard. Thank you for your kind words about the book. I’m keeping my fingers crossed I get the right agent so the book is available to anyone who needs the message.
September 28, 2018 at 6:32 am
From what you know of grief, your book will be a Godsend to thousands of people. If I weren’t the worst proofreader on the planet, I would have volunteered to look at a copy and search for typos. My sister-in-law’s mother–whom we knew well–died the past month, so new reasons to grieve often appear before the old ones have faded into the background.
September 28, 2018 at 10:09 am
After a certain age, I suppose we should expect to see a lot of death, but apparently, I reached that age rather early. In a way, it’s good. That means the book will reach those who will need it in the coming years as they reach the age of too many deaths.
September 28, 2018 at 2:49 pm
Let us know if you need anything.
September 29, 2018 at 4:35 am
Pat not surprising you’re keenly feeling all aspects of your brother’s death! Just because you have experienced death before does not make another death simpler, especially for a person as sensitive and compassionate as you. Once again you demonstrate to us your honesty, so please do not apologize by saying ” I truly don’t want to foist my sadness on others. I did enough of that when I was dealing with Jeff’s death, and there’s nothing new to say.” I beg to differ you ALWAYS had something new to say then and now…do not confuse extensive self-centered paralyzing self-pity with rightful and needed self-compassion. Self compassion for yourself having to mourn your brother in the absence of Jeff’s comfort. Self-compassion for yourself that you are functionally, emotionally and spirtually facing growing older alone. You sound discouraged right now and it is ok. All you have done since Jeff’s death both planned for and executed (or sometimes not fully executed) has not been in vain; perhaps, if you can just let it stand without self-judgement…rest a bit…breathe. I guess the saying “it’s the journey not the destination” might be appropriate. I do not have answers only some humble observations which may or may not fit for you but please know the exercise of constructing this comment has helped me.
September 29, 2018 at 3:39 pm
Hi, Terry. Thank you for your comment and your insights. And for your compliment! It’s always good to know that I have such sympathetic and understanding readers. I will be easy on myself. I promise.
September 30, 2018 at 8:52 am
Hi Pat, It’s been a while since I read a post from you and I have to say, I’ve missed you. If it helps at all, I’m pretty much in the same boat as you are. I do have a son and a half-sister, but they have their own lives and loved ones. Living alone has the advantage of choice and if I need a hug, I turn on the Hallmark channel. 🙂
September 30, 2018 at 10:38 am
I wish the Hallmark Channel did it for me, but I guess, this blog does the same thing for me that the HC does for you. Sometimes I wonder what the point of it all is if one is alone, but it’s not as if I’m the only one! I have to keep remembering that not everyone is couple up, and even if they are, they aren’t necessarily happy or fulfilled. I’m so glad to “see” you! I should write more, then I can e-see you more often.