When something weighs on my heart and just will not let up, I naturally turn to art or writing; more accurately, both. If those things fail to bring relief I usually end up throwing some sort of unfocused temper tantrum at inappropriate times so this time I’m going to try a different approach. I thought I’d do the writing part and at the same time work on my sharing issues and let it out here, so be nice wordpressers = )
First, a short bit of background:
Frank-love o’ my life, husband. J-Frank’s older sister, very close to him. B- J’s very long-time husband, known for how close they are after so many years together.
J and B had one child who is now adult, out of the home. They are, always have been, highly organized and driven; each of them working all of the over-time possible and even taking part-time jobs even though they each had actual careers. They worked very hard and achieved the things they wanted most; a beautiful home, a custom Harley Davidson for B, the ability to buy vintage trucks and the things that enhanced their lives.
Even with their self-imposed work schedules a key part of their marriage has always been that what time they did plan to have off of work was used to the absolute fullest, always together. Once all of the working and saving began to pay off they took trips to the places that they loved or that interested them. I’d say they really began to hit that sweet spot about 6 or 7 years ago.
One thing about B, he is a LOT like my Frank, A LOT. That’s a whole new post however, let’s just say that you either really love Frank and B or you just cannot stand them – BUT even those who hate must admit that they respect the hell out of them both. Very hardworking men – MEN, that’s the other similarity; they consider themselves men in every sense of the meaning. Respect your elders, work hard and honestly, loving husband and father and have a strong sense of pride in your appearance and abilities.
In their mid-fifties, J and B were about to retire comfortably and take those long-term trips planned for so long – spend the quality time together that they had earned with all of that extra work.
About 3 years ago we got the news that B had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and that it was already well dug in, advanced. J was beside herself, my Frank was angry and filled with stubborn hope because, as he said, ‘he will be fine because no one like B deserves anything less than a miracle’.
For the first year we were happy to go right along with that, B was doing well and was still up and runnin, feisty, went on biking and a couple of mini-vacations with J. Remission! We were so thrilled.
Then last September he stopped by our house and hung out a bit, talking of his treatment and openly discussing the time limits the doctors had given his life (3 months). He had begun to lose weight again but this time it was going faster and was much more noticeable. And, yes, he was angry. Pissed OFF. Been cheated.
Always the planners; details became even more important over those next 3 months as B went from a strong, muscular 57-year-old proud man to looking like a man in his 70’s and one that could almost fit into the clothes of our 10-year-old daughter. J is a registered nurse and took a year off of work to care for him full-time. It really just…swooped downhill from that time on. The transformation of this big strong man not only took its toll on J, but my Frank seemed to be in a state of shock after each visit.
B's older brother, J and B. Early August 2011
So, August 31st, J called Frank at work and told him that hospice and the doctor were there and said that there were just hours left. Hours.
Frank is a foreman for a commercial roofing company and was working an hour away not to mention the time it takes to dry in or tighten up a roof so that a crew can leave it for the night in such a way that even if it rains, the building will be waterproof. He hauled ass as did his crew and sped into town. Frank walked into our house, grabbed the keys to his personal truck and was about three feet from our front door when J called him, B had just passed.
All of this I tell you to show you the type of man B was; private and stubborn, set in his ways…and such a good man. It was no shock to any of us that B had left J with strict wishes for no kind of funeral – nothing even resembling a funeral. So, while all of us gathered at J and B’s that sunny afternoon, standing out in little groups in their yard and on the porch, J was inside with the hospice nurse giving B his final bath and changing him into the outfit she had made ready for him. Frank left ‘his chair’, the spot that he’d occupied nearly nightly for months while he and B watched movies and talked details, during this private time and only during this time.
With the nurse gone and given instructions not to have the funeral home come for B for at least 2 hours, we all set about following what B had wanted. Frank took his usual spot, kitty cornered three feet or so from the foot of B’s couch; the t.v. turned off and just the milky light from the 2 skylights we came in and paid our respects. We sat and talked,visited and looked at photos up on the wall from just 5 months before when B looked like B.
This weekend J is having a get-together that will in no way walk, talk or sound like a funeral and so, thankfully she has this plan to…well, plan. Details to tend to, arrangements to make. Frank and I worry that after that, what? Do you see what we are fretting over? See, the lovely man he really was, he made sure that J would never have to worry about money, that everything was paid for, all accounts squared up. Not only was she so used to being a bit of a workaholic there was the all-consuming job of being B’s full-time nurse as well; and that didn’t wind down slowly, but just stopped.
J has always been a romantic, really would have loved to have a funeral to honor B yet he did leave a lasting effect on her because she totally despises the cards and letters that come to her now, filled with “Sympathy in your time of loss” and words like “your dearly departed husband” etc. All of the usual pre-determined socially acceptable behaviors will, in J’s case, probably get you socked in the eye.
I am going out for a visit tomorrow and I had several pieces that I had been juggling, wanting to give J something special from just myself but not knowing what was “ok”. Then last night I literally sat down with no real idea what I was even doing and just ran through the “Rise Above” piece. When Frank saw it the first thing he said was “that’s perfect, that’s the one.”
Rise Above on 10x10 stretched canvas
Really? Yes, I like this piece very much and I actually feel it’s pretty appropriate for J, but you know how we are with that nagging doubt thing. I suppose I wrote this post for 3 reasons:
- to write all of these feelings out, as therapy. (I do feel much lighter, even right this minute)
- to get any opinions on the “Rise Above” piece for J
- with J finding herself alone and no ‘to do’ list pressing, how can I help? Would a visit from me and my art journaling travel kit sound like something I should try? Art journaling has saved me and so many others…what do you think?
Thanks to anyone who stuck it out and read this far. I would be so grateful for any thoughts on any of it, even if you have no opinions one way or the other.