Category Archives: grief

Grieving

We, my wife and I and thousands of others, are about to lose a friend. His family are about to lose a husband, father, son-in-law and so forth, as it always is. None of us walk alone, not really, and few of us pass unnoticed and unmourned. In his case, many will notice and mourn.
Bill has terminal cancer. It arose suddenly and was misdiagnosed for far too long. Maybe he could have beaten it if things had been different. But there it is. It is what it is. He and the family seem to be dealing with it about as well as can be expected.
We have never met him in person. I’ve spoken to him once on the phone. We know him from his blog, podcasts, and Facebook. His signature is in a book his wife wrote, signed to Shel and me by the whole family (and their dog). We can’t really claim to know him at all, and yet in many respects we feel as if we do. We do know and love his wife and kids, who are all three the kind of people who make you feel as if you’d known them most of your life and just need to catch up a bit. We know them well enough to be absolutely certain that the man who married that woman, who fathered and helped raise those children to young adulthood, was a good man who lived an essentially good life. None of us are perfect.

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Changes, the movie

I’m getting ready to head out on a little road trip. It’ll be fun, because Shel and I don’t get to travel as much as we used to. But it’s not for a fun purpose. A family member has died, and we’re going to the memorial service. We weren’t especially close to the departed, but he’s the former husband of the matriarch of our generation and she and their kids are important. Not to say he wasn’t, but you get it. (Yes, “former” husband; in our family it takes more than a legal separation to get you out of the fold. Old Southern families are like that.)

Anyway, it got me to thinking about the inevitability of changes. Everything passes. New things come along. We accept or we don’t. We adjust, or we don’t.

I had a friend fifty-odd years ago who played the guitar and sang folk music. He’d sit in front of the mike tuning his 12-string and mumble (audibly) “I’m going to get this thing tuned and have it welded!”

Sometimes our attitude toward life is like that. We want to get it right — for us — and have it welded so nothing changes: no bad stuff we can’t handle easily, no pain, no loss, no illness, no aging . . . especially that! And certainly no death. That’s particularly true of addicts. The misery of our lives is built around our grasping for things to which we can never hold on. We claw our way toward things that, once we get them, we’re too tired to enjoy, or too habitually clawing to appreciate. The hungry ghosts keep pushing us, and we live our lives in perpetual grasping and loss, discontent and anger about things we can never control.

As the AA Big Book reads, “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.” I don’t mean that in the sense of some bromide that is supposed to make our lives ecstatically happy. That will never happen. What acceptance — of life’s changes, of our inability to control others, of our ability to change the things we can, of the reality of those differences — can do for us is greatly reduce the pain. As long as we are trying to grasp and hold on to things we must lose, we will be both unhappy and unable to heal, to go on with our lives, to seek happiness in those places that truly bring it.

Grief is our way of acknowledging the changes and the way to get beyond it. Passage of time takes away a lot of the pain, usually taking a couple of years whether it’s a death, a lost romance, or some other burden. That’s okay. Our pain is accomplishing nothing for loved ones who have left us for whatever reasons, and if they were counseling us they would say to march through the pain, let it go as it fades, and live happy lives. That’s what Phillip would have wanted.

The only thing standing in our way is fear of change, that greatest of human fears. Why fear something that is inevitable? Living with it and enjoying the new aspects of our ever-changing lives is the only rational solution to our misery. That’s what I want for my loved ones, my readers and myself.

Aw shit…

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By Bill
Sometimes it seems that you can’t win for losing…and yet, as the old Chinese saying goes, “Who knows what’s good; who knows what’s bad?”

The vet tells us that our old Frby cat has between 4 and 8 months left before his kidneys fail completely.  He’s 16, and that sort of thing is to be expected in cats that age (Slim’s survival to almost 20 was unusual), but that doesn’t make it any easier to handle.  Shel and I are both head over heels for that cat; he’s the best cat we’ve ever known (sorry, Slim), and between us we have well over a century of cat acquaintances to compare.  So the news sucks.

But who knows what’s good…etc.?  Dr. Nancy was able to pull him through his last crisis pretty well, and he’s at home and back to normal for now.  We have a chance to love and cherish him, care for him, see him interact with Fred — the kitten we got to keep him company after his housemate left us last month — and, when the time comes, make informed decisions about his quality of life and the best time to let him go. 

With a little luck and care, we’ll have a few more months with our old buddy.  And if we aren’t that fortunate, we’ll at least have had a chance to say goodbye and get used to the idea.  One of the cruelties of life is that people usually outlive their pets.  The good news is, we have them to begin with.

Frb’s ashes will join those of Ebbie and Mr. Slim in our collection, and someday they’ll be mixed with ours and spread lovingly in a nice place by our kids (who will totally “get” it).

We’ll have lots of time to play, then.