Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Prayer

I’ve started talking to a new spiritual director. This is the first time I’ve worked with a male, although I’m not sure that matters. Anyhow, his name is Bob and he seems a bit more traditional. He gave me a booklet that he wrote about dozens of ways to bring prayer into your life. Last week, I went to Vegas for two nights with my friend Ann from Chicago. I started to read his book on the way to the airport and tried to implement some of his ideas.

The first was called the “flash” prayer. When people/ideas come across you (in any way whatsoever), just do a quick prayer. So I thought about that and found that it was pretty easy to come up with prayers at any second of the day. I boarded the plane and DUH! How about praying for the pilots? I’m sure lots of people do that when traveling in the air, but I have been out of the habit.

When switching planes, I was stuck in the waiting area. The TV was on and there were the repetitive stories about some of the NFL players and their recent problems with domestic violence. I had been watching the stories for days and had fleeting thoughts and comments, but mostly know what a terribly complicated topic it all is. Child and spousal abuse has been around since human beings have been around and it is hard to understand how it all happens. Instead of watching the footage yet another time, I decided to send up a flash prayer for all of them and their families.

What else is on TV these days? Isis. War. Again, concepts I can’t even begin to understand or offer any kind of intelligent opinion on to discuss with other people. I have zero idea on how to make all that madness stop. And again, it hit me. Why not just send out a flash prayer? I felt so much better after doing that. I can’t contribute anything meaningful to a solution, but somehow I felt helpful by offering up small prayers.

Completely unrelated to the prayer topic, I was sitting in the waiting area and chatting with a bunch of 20 something year olds. A woman was talking about seeing a very old woman get her knitting needles taken away at security because they could be considered dangerous weapons. That somehow streamed into a conversation about what happens to dogs and cats that travel on planes, which then somehow led into the idea that all the cats are probably in the cockpits with the pilots. It got sillier then imagining the pilots who are, of course, allergic to cats and sneezing while trying to fly the plane. Then one guy triumphantly announced how that explains the bumpy flights. “FURBULANCE” is the correct term, rather than turbulence. Ok, so we were all pretty tired, but it was funny at the time.

Back to prayer suggestion number two. That one was called “signal” prayers. The idea is to pick some sort of signal that you come across several times a day to remind you to pray. I came up with my text notification. I have it set for that little bell that goes off. My one client always says, “Tink? Is that you?” which cracks me up every time. So I figured that every time I hear the tinkle, I will say a flash prayer. Then I thought I was smarter than anything when I combined the two kinds of prayer in my smart, little head. I will say a flash prayer for whoever texts me! I was feeling proud of myself for that one.

What a timely thing to have happen. I got a text this morning that absolutely deserved a prayer. My son Colin is looking for a used car so he gave me the ads he had circled. I called the first one and the car was already gone. No surprise because it was a great deal. The second ad had a phone number that said it was for texting. So this morning I texted the number and I quote: “Do u still have the car?” While meeting with my spiritual director, I got a response back. It said, and I quote: “Stop F*****G bugging (me) you dumb A*S B**CH.” Whoa. I was shocked. Then I laughed. I decided not to respond, just say a little prayer. They paid for an ad to sell a car, put their phone number in, and then responded like that to a request. Holy cow. You gotta laugh, right?

If you have any good prayer stories, feel free to share them. And if you know of any good used cars for sale, send me a text. A nice one, please.


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Guest Blogger: Marcy Westerling

I came across an article by Marcy Westerling and looked her up. Her blog is at livinglydying.com. Here is the description on her blog:

“Welcome to a space dedicated to the process of livingly dying – staring at imminent mortality and yet residing in the world of the living. More and more of us are finding the words terminally ill and chronic illness co-mingle. We are living longer and better despite a dire diagnosis/prognosis. But the path is not easy.” You should check her out!

She has graciously given permission to repost her latest blog so I hope you find it helpful. It is entitled “I hear you are doing Great!” and was posted on September 13, 2014. It reminds me of a passage I wrote in my new book about figuring how to answer people when they ask, “How are you?” Thank you Marcy!

“Recently a friend noted how difficult it was “to know how you are doing.” It’s true, I suppose. I have used the Livingly Dying blog this summer to report on the macro challenges of trying to access the care that I think is best suited for my current situation rather than bore folks with the blow by blow of this summer’s treatment.

In the jumble of the last 4-½ years of living on treatment it is unproductive to rank the various moments. But this summer’s treatment ranks up there as hard – between the frequency, toxicity, length and travel I have been living a half life as one full week (plus) goes into treatment and recovery. My exhaustion confuses me. Am I tired, how tired or have I slipped into depression? All of the above may be most likely.

This week I have accomplished tasks as cooler temperatures invited activity. It thrilled me. By Wednesday night I was violently ill – did I do too much, random luck or am I cursed?

I just don’t know how I am.

The other week I ran into an acquaintance as I arrived at the memorial of a friend. She bellowed from across the street, warm smile on her face, “I hear you are doing great!” And I wondered in what possible context she was using such an adjective to describe my reduced life of constant nausea and limitations. Was I supposed to nod in agreement? (I am doing great compared to a chemo patient in Gaza or Syria.) Instead, I declined her bear hug, saying my blood counts required vigorous avoidance of germs that day, my nadir. She asserted that she felt great. “Yeah”, I said, “but it’s not about you.” I felt like the grumpy curmudgeon I am.

This summer I have had minimal social contact – these slight encounters leave me bruised and even more confused on how I am. Alone, I am content.

It has been a summer of loss. I lost the cancer vacation I’d so hoped for after completing the phase one clinical trial cross county. Instead my cancer went nuts. My June to do list, gleefully assembled in May when I was “healthy” for 45 days, was pretty damn vibrant. I was excited! This summer I have lost so many trusted comrades as they close out their cancer journeys. Some have been in active choice; other’s reluctant, as they died one by one. I have done more soul searching on when and how I will cease treatment. Not yet but the time inches uncomfortably close. I no longer know my next steps. I now understand that a body can only tolerate so many years living on chemo without breaks. It’s not just about containing my cancer; it’s about keeping the rest of my body functional.

So, how am I as I close out the summer of 2014? Depleted, ever hopeful and ever realistic. Please accept that reality and don’t call me a cancer “thriver” or “survivor” or tell me I am doing “great”! This summer I identify only as a cancer veteran crawling around far too much. And yet very, very glad to be alive.”


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Knights in Shining Armor

This week’s blog is inspired by a comment that was made on my last blog “Sisterhood.” The comment was “we can’t believe there’s a knight in shining armor that will come swooping into our lives and take all of our stress away. I think if we believe that, no man will ever have a chance or be capable of providing that to a woman.”

I couldn’t agree more and I thought I had kind of indicated that in my blog about my widow friend. She still grieves and aches, even with a special guy in her life.

One of my strengths is that I’m pretty self-aware and honest about where I am. I can be brutally honest and hard on myself, which then becomes more of a detriment than a strength. Anyhow, throughout my life in my quest to experience love, I generally haven’t suffered from looking for Mr. Perfect. I’m relatively realistic about people and relationships. I have no misguided aspirations of someone swooping in and I certainly have no vision of having a stress free life. If there isn’t a man in my life, it isn’t because I have held up impossible standards that no man could possibly live up to.

Having said that, it is possible for a loving man to relieve some stress though, and most particularly the stress of loneliness. When examining many of the failed relationships I’ve had throughout my life, and especially those since Tim’s death, there are always those “hindsight is 20/20” things that stand out. For Frankie, there are two that stand out to him and every once in a blue moon he opens up about them.

The first man who touched his life, was the first guy that I dated after Tim’s death. Here is how some of that conversation goes. “Frankie, he definitely loved you. The two of you had a great relationship and he was really good to you. Unfortunately, he wasn’t very good to me. As much as I loved him for you, I couldn’t stay with him for that reason.”

Then there is guy number two. He was only around six short weeks, but they were powerful ones. That conversation goes a little differently. “Frankie, he definitely cared about you. You had a great relationship with him and with his son. He was good to me, too. He fit in with our family almost perfectly. But he left us. We don’t really know or understand why, but he didn’t stay with us.”

Other conversations with Frankie reveal more of the pain he feels. He talks about how he doesn’t want to know anyone, male or female, because people just end up leaving. That’s when I want to punch that guy. No one can blame someone for not wanting to stay in a situation they are unhappy in. No matter how happy Frankie and I were, I would have never wanted someone to stay with us that didn’t want to be with us. However, there are better ways to leave than others.

In reality, he was like that knight in shining armor. Not because we were living in an unrealistic cloud nine state. Things were just smooth and they fit. We felt grounded. I experienced contentment, possibly for the first time ever. The problem I have, is not having a clue as to why he left. And even more bizarre to me is there was no attempt to try to correct whatever it was that was bothering him. He just ran. No real explanation. No real goodbye. But even worse, there was no goodbye to Frankie. There was no goodbye between Frankie and his son. His son was probably fine with it. But then his son has a living father and mother.

That doesn’t seem like an unreasonable standard to have for someone. Is that not something that a man should be capable of providing for a woman? If you are going to enter into our lives, then at least have the decency to leave with some sort of closure. After what Frankie and I have been through, a loss like that was cruel.

In my mind, the knight in shining armor became much more like the cowardly lion. How disappointing.


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Sisterhood

One of the perks of writing a book, is getting to meet some amazing people. I guess I need a stronger word than “perk.” It’s one of the things that actually makes it worth it. I think at some point I have blogged about my new friend, Trish. She read my book and then sought me out. She is my age, was widowed not long after I was, and has six kids. She also is a multi-business owner.

She always calls me her hero and I just laugh. Other than writing a book, I don’t see much to call me a hero for. At least not for HER to call me a hero. I call her MY hero. In fact, I call her that in the next book that I wrote. I have four kids. But I met three of them when they were 13, 16, and 19. I didn’t raise them from birth. Now I have one adult living here, and one 12-year-old. She has SIX. Like I said, she is MY hero.

Because her husband was self-employed, I get about three times as much social security benefits for my one minor I am raising, than she gets for all six of her kids combined. And I worry about money?

We had lunch this week. We’ve been talking and texting about things that we feel like no one else understands sometimes. She recently had a person close to her lose a loved one. She was worried that she didn’t feel the compassion and sympathy she normally would. Boy, did I get that. I think we are just already tired out from death and dying, even though some time has passed. Living with the fallout from death and dying continues to be exhausting, probably even more than caretaking was.

She met a great guy. She was ready to give up on the dating scene, just like most people who are in the dating scene are. Then she met him on Match and he seems great. I listen to her talk and I’m amazed. He actually seems to really love her and WANTS to help out with the kids. He is ready to take on what it might mean to be involved with all six of them. He hangs out when her family comes to town, even though he doesn’t “have” to. I’m envious, but I am happy for her. She deserves it. She absolutely deserves it.

Even with that support in her life, she still struggles. It’s a reminder to me that meeting someone like that won’t take all the pain and stress away. It helps immensely, but life is still hard. And I’m sure they have lots of adjustments and changes down the road to get through.

When we hugged goodbye after lunch, she said something about how much she enjoys getting to spend time with me. I laughed. I sincerely laughed. I asked her if she was kidding because we had spent the majority of lunch with me down in the dumps, teary eyed (like I am several times a day) feeling hopeless and stuck. I can hardly stand my own company and she actually expects me to believe she ENJOYS me? I wasn’t trying to be dramatic. It was just a genuine reality check moment for me, like “Hey, I know you love me, but let’s be honest. I’m not exactly fun to hang out with.” I didn’t say that, but I think she knew what I meant.

About 15 minutes later, I got a text that said, “I just want you to know I do love being with you! I wish I could make it all better for you. You will be ok. I know it!” I texted back, “Back at ya, sista!”

She really is my hero.