Testing 1 2 3

I figure since my internet access might be a problem, I should learn how to blog by email. I read the tutorial but there is no way to find out if I learned anything unless I test myself. Okay let’s do it. Abracadabra! Post!

***

Posted via phone. Since this smartphone is probably more intelligent than me, blame any mistakes on the phone.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels 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.

The Courage to Remember

One of the lies we’ve been told about grief is that we should put the deceased out of our minds to keep from being so sad, but the truth is that it’s important to remember . . . anything.

Carrie Jane Knowles, author of the soon-to-be re-released memoir, The Last Childhood (a book about the impact her mother’s Alzheimer’s had on their family), wrote a blog today: Art as an Act of Memory. She talks about the devastating effects of not being able to remember even the simplest things, and mentions a far-flung theory she’d read that Alzheimer’s patients developed the disease because they wanted/needed to forget.

Of the four of us, I’m the only one still living.

I am not a believer in blaming the victim for a disease, but this particular idea has merit. We spend most of our lives burying that which is too painful to remember, whether the memory of loved ones lost to death, world-wide tragedies, wars, deprivations, abuse, that it seems impossible so much buried pain could leave us unscathed.

As Carrie Knowles says, with all the “tragedy we’ve witnessed in recent years, what chance do we have of not developing Alzheimer’s? How will we have the courage to remember?”

Courage. So much of life is about courage, about living despite the tragedy in our lives, about remembering no matter how much sorrow it brings us.

Philosopher Eugene T. Gendlin wrote: What is split off, not felt, remains the same. When it is felt, it changes. Most people don’t know this. They think that by not permitting the feeling of their negative ways they make themselves good. On the contrary, that keeps these negatives static, the same from year to year. A few moments of feeling it in your body allows it to change.”

At times I’ve felt strange about continuing to write about the effects of the death of my life mate/soul mate five years after the fact, but from the beginning, I knew it was important to feel whatever I was feeling. Not that I could have buried the feelings — I don’t have that sort of discipline — which is just as well.

I am starting my life from scratch, or at least mostly from scratch. I’ll have a storage unit full of things that I can’t yet get rid of, a brain full of fading memories, a soul full of old sorrows, and a psyche that will always feel the absence of the one person who connected me to the earth. And I’m okay with that. What I wouldn’t be okay with is if any of those things held me captive. I have a world to explore, adventures to embark upon, experiences to savor. My moments of sorrow will only add piquancy to my future if I continue to have the courage to feel and the courage to remember.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

The Countdown to the Rest of My Life

I had a surprising and surprisingly pleasant Christmas. As it turns out, I did not have to spend the holiday by myself in this echoingly empty house. My dance teacher and her husband adopted me for the holiday, which gave the Yule a family-like aura.

I even went to church with them on Christmas Eve. I was nervous at first — it’s been decades since I set foot inside any church — but it was nice. And powerful. I could feel the belief of those present, and it seemed right to be celebrating CHRISTmas with them. (Particularly since I have recently taken ole Mr. Claus in such distaste.) I felt a bit envious of the congregation’s belief, and nostalgic for the days when I too believed. I had just enough belief, though, to picture the knowing looks on my parents’ faces as together they looked down on this unexpected visitation of mine.

Now begins the countdown to the rest of my life, though I still have not a single clue how it will unfold. I am still going through my stuff, sorting out and packing what I will keep and getting rid of what is no longer important. (I found a cloth fodownload (1)r cleaning vinyl records that I bought probably around the last time I went to church, along with some of the adaptors for 45rmp records. The records and record player are long gone, of course, but somehow until now it never occurred to me to get rid of these unnecessary trinkets.)

Sometimes the sorting becomes an end to itself, and it is only when I pause for a break that the reality hits me. I am not packing for anything. webster_chicagoNot packing to go home to my life mate/soul mate, not packing for a wonderful adventure, not packing for a new life. Just packing.

I always knew this time would be hard. My stay here at my father’s house was merely a transition from my shared life with my soul mate to . . . whatever. Now that they are both gone, it’s just me heading into an unknown future.

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions. I have a list of things that in an ideal world I would do every day, and I will continue to strive for as many of those items as possible. (Things like getting enough water, enough sleep, enough exercise. Dancing, stretching, lifting weights, eating salads. Trying not to get hungry, angry, lonely, tired because they contribute to sorrow and feelings of futility.)

But this year, I will be making one resolution — to be courageous. A person can’t leap into uncertainly without courage, and I will need all the courage I can muster.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

After the Waiting Comes the Dread

So, no more 2011. I stayed awake until the year was officially over . . .  waiting . . .  but I felt no different when the clock hit 12:01 a.m. than I did at 11:59 p.m. It was the passing of a moment, that’s all. But this morning, I woke with a feeling of dread. I haven’t felt such a roiling since the months immediately following the death of my life mate/soul mate. I feel as if I’ve lost something precious that I can never get back, as if the world has changed in some unidentifiable way. I don’t know what that something is, though. It’s not the loss of 2011 — those are just numbers. It’s not the loss of my mate — he already died and cannot die again.

Perhaps it’s the past that I’ve lost? All that’s left for me now is today, and the rest of my today’s, however many there will be. (And considering the age my mother was when she died and the age my father is today, I could have a LOT of days.)

Perhaps it’s that irrational hope of reunion that I’ve lost? For a long time, I had the feeling that if I am strong, if I pass the test of living without him, if I face life with hope, then I will be able to go back home to our shared life. That feeling was very strong at the beginning, and I was careful to deal with all the challenges that grief brought me. But he never came back, never called, and of course, he never will, not in this life anyway (and this life is the life I am living).

Perhaps it’s the sense of togetherness that I’ve lost? During the months since his death, I’ve often felt as if this were still our life — his and mine — with the tasks of living now solely my responsibilty.  But the truth is, this is my life, and my life alone. He’s not here to help, to listen, to care. (I talk to him, especially when I am out in the desert, but so far he’s keeping silent.)

Despite all my losses, I hope I will be able to face the coming years and the coming changes in my life with courage and hope and generosity of spirit. I am in a transitional stage, and someday — perhaps before I’m ready — I’ll have to figure out where to live, what to do, how to grow old alone.

But for now, today, all I feel is dread.

Grateful Even in Grief

Mairead Walpole, author of A Love Out of Time posted an article on the Second Wind Publishing Blog entitled “Thanksgiving: A holiday or the trigger for the countdown to Christmas?” I read the article more for her observations than because of an interest in the holidays, thinking I had nothing for which to be grateful, then it struck me how wrong I was. I have a lot to be grateful for despite my continued (though much gentler) grief.

I am thankful I have a place to sleep, food to eat, desert trails to walk, books to read, words to write.

I am thankful for the people who have entered my life to give me support during this bleak time.

I am thankful I had my life mate to love and care for.

I am thankful my life mate loved and cared for me.

I am thankful for the emotional security offered by our relationship, which gave me the freedom to try new things.

I am thankful he shared his life — and his death — with me.

I am thankful for our added closeness at the end.

I am thankful he is no longer suffering.

I am thankful he didn’t linger as a helpless invalid. He dreaded that. 

I am thankful for his legacy. He faced his death with such courage that he gave me the courage to face my life.

I am even thankful for my grief. It reminds me that he shared part of this journey called life with me, and it is helping me become the person I need to be to continue my journey alone.

So, this Thanksgiving, I am grateful even in grief.

Greening the Desert

I’ve spent many hours during the past few months wandering in the desert, grieving for my lost mate. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much in my entire life. Of course, nothing this sad has ever happened to me before, either. At times I felt like a baby, and so I was — a child newly born to grief. I’ve learned much about tears in this crying time. Tears do not designate a lack of courage. Tears do not mean one is steeped in self-pity. Tears do not mean one is weak. Tears are simply a way of relieving emotional tension, and there is evidence that they even remove chemicals that build up in the body during emotional stress.

And apparently tears can do one other thing — they can green the desert. Here’s a photo of one of the trails I’ve been walking most days — visual proof of my river of tears. Or at least the result of them.