Going Along for the Ride

I’m going to be without a car for about three weeks starting on Monday, and when I mentioned this to a woman I dance with, she said, “Maybe you’ll have to ask your friends for help.” She said it sweetly and kindly, but the impression my friend gave me was that I was just too damn independent. Others have come right out and said the words, not meaning them as a compliment, and I suppose it’s the truth. I don’t like to put people out or put them on the spot or make them feel burdened by my requests. Still, people do like to help. So . . .

Maybe it’s time for me to be less stubbornly independent.

Or not. What do I know? Not as much as I once did, that’s for sure.

But my friend is right. If I am without transportation at such a critical time — when I am about to be ejected from the only home I’ve known for the past five years — then I will have to ask for help, even though it’s my decision to be without a vehicle. (I’m going to have my ancient VW bug de-rusted, de-dented and re-painted in celebration of my new start in life. Makes me smile to think of restoring the bug while I am restoring me.)

It’s interesting all the changes — outer and inner — that are coming at the same time as the fifth anniversary of Jeff’s death. (The actual anniversary is this Friday.) I feel like I’m crossing some great divide, though I’m not sure what the divide is dividing. Maybe the last of my old life and the beginning of my new. Coming to my father’s house to take care of him was a transitional stage for me. A place where I could grieve, where I could move away from my old shared life without having to start anew.

And now it’s time to start anew. (We never really do start a new life, of course. Every stage is an extension of our one life, but sometimes it feels like a new start, particularly when so little of the old remains.)

Another friend said about my current situation, “Grief and joy mixed up with movement. That’s a recipe for . . . I don’t know what.” She suggested asking the I Ching. Sounds so exotic! Now I just need to think of the proper question to ask. (Not a yes or no question.)

The oddest thing about this upcoming odyssey is how many friends I have. (It bewilders me at times that so many people seem to like me.) Some friends have said I simply cannot leave the area, that I have to stay here so they can have the benefit of my company. Others say I have to go on an epic journey so they can experience it vicariously.

Me? For now, I’m just going along for the ride. And starting next week, I will literally be going along for the ride. No driver’s seat for me for a while. Should be interesting.

***

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.

Glad about Grief

Almost five years ago, my life mate/soul mate died, leaving me in a world of pain.

I hesitated about using such a cliché, but the truth is, the world for me was pain. My heart hurt, my lungs hurt, my mind hurt, my soul hurt. I was surrounded by hurt. Everything I saw, smelled, touched brought pain. I couldn’t make sense of what had happened. How could he be dead? How could I not be?

Ferris wheelMost of the pain has been now absorbed, amoeba-like, by the days of my life. During the past five years, I have traveled, taken dance classes, learned new things, made new friends, lost friends, had new experiences, attended festivals and fairs, ridden Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds, suffered various ailments, written more than a thousand blogs, walked thousands miles, dreamed impossible dreams as well as merely improbable ones, been hurt, inadvertently hurt others, made plans and abandoned plans, panicked, found peace at times, even found pieces of time.

All of that living has bounded the pain, creating a buffer between me and the rawness of the universe, making it easier to embrace the future, wherever it might take me. (Easier, not easy. There is a contract on my father’s house, which, if accepted, will mean the beginning of the next phase of my life. And since I have no clue where I will go, I have moments of panic because I just am not ready. And yet . . . I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.)

Despite the buffer, the pain does seep into my consciousness at times, stealing my breath, and filling me with sorrow. The difference between now and the beginning (odd that I always call his death “the beginning”) is that where once I railed against the pain, now I welcome it because I am reminded of him, of his life, of our shared life, and that is good. He is no longer the focus of my life, and that also is good since such a one-sided relationship can bring no joy or growth, but he is and will always be a part of my life. He is and always will be a person unto himself, and it’s that person I celebrate with my brief and occasional bouts of tears.

The world is poorer for his absence. And someone, if only me, should acknowledge that. I used to wish grief weren’t so hard. Now I’m glad that it is.

***

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.

What It’s All About. Maybe.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be finished with weeping. It’s possible that when Jeff died, the pain dug such a deep well into my psyche, it tapped into an everlasting underground river of tears, and so they will be with me on and off for the rest of my life.

I never expect the grief upsurges. After each one, I think I’m done with the tears, but apparently, the well is deeper than I ever imagined. I should have expected today’s upsurge, though. This is the countdown to the fifth year anniversary of his death, and each day is the anniversary of a last time — the last time we talked, or hugged, or smiled at each other. Of course, in addition to the coming anniversary (the days before are the hard times — the anniversary is an anticlimax), I am still dealing with the fallout of the emotional trauma of the past couple of years, am grieving my father’s death, and am dealing with my impending anchorless and unknown future. (I’m also doing some online tasks for someone I didn’t think I’d ever be working for again, and that adds a whole other layer of remembered pain.)

Still, there are big changes. In between the days of tears are days of feeling great, even feeling sanguine about the future. I can feel the warmth and perhaps even the radiance of my smile, which I haven’t felt in many years. And I’m developing an appreciation for the macabre. (I keep wanting to type macable. What a lovely word that could be! I might have to use it sometime.)

solmate socksFor example, I lost Jeff the other day. Literally lost him as in could not find him. Or rather, could not find his ashes.

When I first got the ashes from the funeral home, I wrapped his robe around them to keep him warm. (Yeah, I know — he couldn’t feel the cold, but such is the magical thinking of grief.) And when I got here, I set the bundle on the couch in my living room, and there it stayed until a week or so ago. I had to clear things out of that room so it could be cleaned, and I placed the bundle in a box in the garage with my packed things, and somehow, I moved the box without remembering what was in it. What a scramble to find him! It truly is time to deal with those ashes. If I remember during the next windstorm, I’ll go to the top of a nearby knoll and let him decide where he wants his ashes to rest. Or I’ll take a trip to the ocean and return him to the font of life. (We are, after all, creatures of water and stardust even more than creatures of the dirt.)

Adding to the silliness someone sent me a gift and inside I found a pair of solmate socks with the logo, “Life is to short for matching socks.” “Yep,” I thought, “lose one soul mate, find another.”

There are some good things happening — I’m finally starting to fathom the way men think, which is not at all the way I think. It’s like the storybook problems of grade school arithmetic. Men jump right to the answer, leaving only sporadic hints of how they got there, and I need to see the whole dang train of thought because important information is contained in each step that is often missing from the solution.

I’m still doing things I would never have imagined myself doing. Today I went shopping for fishnet stockings, not something that had ever entered my mind, but I need them for my jazz costume.

And my car seems to be purring along, frisky and quiet at the same time. After all my plans of traveling the world and not settling down, I might have to move here permanently. Adventure can be found anywhere, but a good air-cooled-VW mechanic is a rare treasure.

Sounds like my life is purring along, too, doesn’t it? Sorrow, smiles, and silliness. That’s what it’s all about.

Maybe.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

Four Years and Eleven Months of Grief

Today marks four years and eleven months since my life mate/soul mate died. Next month it will be five years. I haven’t been actively mourning the entire time he’s been gone so the title is misleading on that account, but the world changed forever when he left, catapulting me into a world of grief that will always be a part of me.

These lonely years seem unfathomable to me on so many levels.

Unfathomable that I have survived the horrendous pain and angst of grief that made it impossible to catch my breath at times.

Unfathomable that I’ve managed to live without him.

Unfathomable that I am still here.

Unfathomable that I still get up every morning.

Unfathomable that I have found much happiness, and unfathomable that I still am beset by sadness.

Unfathomable that I smile so easily and unfathomable that I am just as easily brought to tears.

Unfathomable that he’s been gone so long — it seems just a few months ago we made our final goodbyes.

Unfathomable that he was ever a part of my life — our life together seems like a faded dream.

Unfathomable that I will not be going home to him now that I no longer have to look after my father.

Unfathomable that the world continues to spin, the sun to shine, the moon to glow, the winds to blow.

Unfathomable all the nevers —  never see him again, never see his smile, never hear his voice, never cook another meal with him, never watch another movie with him, never discuss another book, never . . . never . . . never . . .

Unfathomable that I still yearn for him.

Unfathomable.

GTGYwp

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

Curiosity, the Passive Cousin of Passion

I hear a lot of talk about passion. Characters, of course, are supposed to be passionate. Apparently, passion is what makes a character compelling and memorable. Who can forget Scarlett O’Hara, with her overweening and narcissistic passion? Like her or hate her, people find it hard to look away. Her passions make her the center of attention for everyone, including herself. Well, everyone except for me. Her passion exhausts me.

We living characters are exhorted to be passionate also, to embrace life and follow our passions, which sounds like good advice for those with high levels of energy. I am too phlegmatic to be truly passionate, though I have my moments, particularly when unfairness comes into play. I despise unfairness. Yeah, I know — life is unfair, but why should it be? Is that a natural law of the universe? Thou shalt be unfair? But I digress. As you can tell by the title of this post, the topic is not unfairness or even passion, but curiosity.

Curiosity is every bit as important a motivator as passion when it comes to life and reading. I am not one for romance novels. The passion is not to my taste, and there isn’t much curiosity involved. You know the characters will get together if the story is a category romance. And you know they won’t get together if the story is not a category romance. Did Lara and Dr. Zhivago get together? Did Cathy and Heathcliff? Did Scarlett and Rhett? (As an aside, you and I would never use such spellings of names. Double tees for both major characters? How coincidental — and cutesy — can you get?)

I’ve always been motivated by curiosity, the passive cousin of passion. When it comes to reading, I want to know who did it, how they did it, why they did it. Curiosity has often kept me reading far into the night.

Desert pathsIt’s the same with life. During the long years of grief for my life mate/soul mate, it was curiosity that kept me going. (I describe him as my soul mate for lack of a better term. Despite the passion such a term might seem to invoke, we were not passionate people, not romantic, not even especially happy, but we were connected — for good and bad — on what seemed to be a cosmic level. Of course, for all I know, it could have been a folie à deux.)

I once wrote: I called for you when I was out walking in the desert today, but you didn’t answer. Well, of course you didn’t answer — you’re dead.

I kept walking, following the winding road wherever it took me. No view on the road was different from another. The road didn’t lead to any particular place. The point was just to go. To see. And so it is with my life right now. I have no real reason to do anything. There is no meaning in my life, no reason to live except for curiosity.

Since his death, I’ve often wondered what will happen to me. Where would life take me? Who would I turn out to be now that I am . . . just me? That same curiosity will continue to keep me going into whatever future there may be.

When I researched long-term walking, I came across mention of a woman who called herself the Peace Pilgrim. In her forties, the Peace Pilgrim responded to a spiritual awakening by getting rid of everything she owned, and setting out on foot to promote peace. She traveled for tens of thousands of miles with only the clothes on her back and a pen, toothbrush, comb, and map in her pockets.

I envy the belief, focus, and agenda that allowed her to travel so lightly. I’m not sure I am capable of the sort of belief it takes to travel with nothing but the clothes on my back. Don’t have an agenda, either, but as a friend told me, “I don’t think you need belief or agenda…seems to me you just need curiosity!”

Yep. Curiosity. Not passion, just curiosity. The need to see what is around the next bend. If I’m lucky and willing to take risks, the power of curiosity could lead me into a lot of adventure!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

Grief and a Need for Adventure

For the past few years, I’ve had an overwhelming desire for adventure, especially some grand and epic journey that would change me forever. I’ve noticed this same trait in others of my grief “age group,” those of us who lost our soul mates around the same time. Apparently, our psyches believe that only something great and powerful and life affirming (or death defying) can offset the terrible loss we suffered. This feeling isn’t reserved for just our group of course, but since we’ve suffered a similar loss within a few months of each other, the phases we all go through are more apparent to me.

For some people, the desire for an epic adventure dissipates as their grief dissipates. For example, I have a friend who’s been grieving the end of a love affair for the past couple of years, and although she’s been going through this same need for adventure, she now seems to have reached both an acceptance of her loss and a readiness to resume life on a more prosaic level. She wants to write and do art, which are adventures of their own, but both seem to demand some sort of settled life so the artist can pursue those adventures on art’s own terms.

campingMe? I’m not there yet. Although it seems as if I’m unequipped physically for great feats of endurance, such as an epic walk, I’m not ready to accept the idea of a settled life. In my case, I’m not sure it’s still about a need for adventure so much as a need for a simpler life. What could be simpler than taking a walk? One foot in front of the other. That’s all you need to do. At least, that’s the way it appears on the surface. The more I research, the more complicated such a life becomes. A gallon of water weighs eight pounds. In desert states, sometimes you have to walk fifty to a hundred miles before coming upon a water source. At a half gallon of water and five to ten miles a day, that means a minimum load of forty pounds just of water. Add to that food, shelter (tent), sleeping system, rain gear, emergency kit, change of clothes. No wonder people who walk across the country push or pull carts so they can haul the necessities. Or they walk with nothing, and trust in the journey to supply what they need. I have no interest in a cart, and no ability to surrender to trust, so here I sit, journeying on my computer, dreaming as yet impossible dreams.

People keep asking me if I had inherited this house if I would continue living here. I always say no just because owning this house was never an option, but the truth is, I probably would stay out of inertia. If you have a place to live, it’s much harder to uproot yourself than if life uproots you. But eventually I’d have to leave because I don’t have the wherewithal to keep up such a house. Nor could I handle the stress of upkeep. Most of my recent stresses and dramas have centered around this house. Alarms chirping, things breaking down, things needing to be fixed, replaced, cleaned, packed. Things. Other stresses and dramas have centered around my computer and car. More things. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life as a caretaker of things. I want more from life than . . . things. (I’ve considered joining the tiny house movement, but again, although on the surface, owning a tiny house seems simple, in the end it’s as complicated as owning a big house. )

I have dance commitments through the end of May, so whether the house sells or not, I’ll be staying in this area at least that long. (Jazz and belly dance performances in March, Hawaiian and Tahitian performances in May.) And then? More dancing, probably. I still have much to learn that dancing can teach me. I’m considering renting a room in a house, which would give me more unsettledness than an apartment lease. Besides, considering the non-credit I have, never having borrowed money or owned a credit card, it’s almost impossible for me to rent a place.

I have way too many things for a simple life, but to simplify my life, I’ll be putting it all in storage. That way I won’t have to be burdened with those things, but will have them whenever I need them.

I do know I will do something. I’ll have to. My mother died at eighty-five and my father at ninety-seven, though there’s no saying whether I will live as long as either one of them did. (My immediately younger brother died nine years ago from brain cancer.) Still, there is a possibility of my living for decades still. I will have to do something during all those years, and whatever that something might be, I’m sure it will be an adventure because life itself is an adventure.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

Life is a Present

Someone reminded me the other day that life is a gift. Someone else told me that my deceased life mate/soul mate is in a better place. The juxtaposition of these two ideas used to perplex me. If life is a gift, why was it denied him? If he is in a better place, why am I here? I don’t think about this conundrum any more, at least not much. Somewhere along the line I conceded that he might have gotten the better end of the deal. (It was easier to accept his death that way than to think he was missing out.)

gift2Life, with all its pain and trauma, seems a dubious gift at best. It’s more like a present, something that was presented to us whether we wanted it or not. Or like a presence: being present (being here now) in the present (this moment).

Considering all the possible gamete connections, it’s amazing that any of us are here. (Though I suppose it’s like the lottery. Someone will win the lottery even though the possibility of any one person winning it is astronomically small.) Our presence could be deemed a gift, yet there is the matter of pain and trauma, angst and ill health, grief and stress and old age, along with all the trials of everyday life. (There’s no need to mention joy or wealth or friendship or any of the other wonders of life — we know those are gifts without ever having to look for a bright side since they are the bright side.)

Perhaps the gift of life is emotion — joy and sadness, laughter and tears and all of the thousand other emotions that we humans experience, both pleasant and unpleasant.

When my profound grief over the death of my soul mate started to wane, I missed it, as odd as that might seem. There was something so very immense about such grief, as if I were standing on the edge of eternity, one foot poised above the abyss. I also missed the constant life lessons grief taught me about myself, about will and survival, even about the workings of our bodies. Would I choose to feel such grief for the rest of my life? Of course not, though knowing I will always have upsurges of sorrow doesn’t bother me like it used to. Mostly, I am grateful I was able to feel such grief and to honor his life in such a way.

It’s rather a literary cliché, one that most of us have come to believe, that the more intelligent a person or species is, the less emotional. Mr. Spock from Star Trek and Lucy from the recent movie Lucy are two such examples. But what if this belief is not true? What if emotion is a form of intelligence, and the more emotional we are the more intelligent? Are ants emotional? Are cockroaches or rats or cows? I don’t think so. Some animals do feel some sort of emotion, but no other creature can experience the range of feeling we do.

(Even if emotion isn’t a gift, it probably has some sort of survival mechanism because otherwise, why would emotion have developed?)

Not even all humans feel emotion. Sociopaths don’t feel emotions, or if they do, the emotions are very shallow. (There could be 30,000 non-killing sociopaths for every murderous sociopath, so this is a fairly common emotional disorder. See: Your Mother-in-Law, the Sociopath.)

So perhaps life is a gift after all, including all the parts like pain and sorrow that we would just as soon live without.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter 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.

Lady of Leisure

I knew that once there was a break in my blog-a-day routine, I’d have a hard time getting back here, and so it is. (Or was.)

Life has hijacked me, and even after the computer problem seemed to be fixed, doing any sort of blog put too much pressure on me. It was easier just to let it slide, but I stole a couple of hours tonight to bring you current with my ridiculous life.

Not only have I been on the phone late into the night on two different occasions with a computer technician, I’ve been spending most of my days emptying cabinets and cupboards in preparation for the cleaning crew who was here yesterday. (The window cleaning crew was here, also, which added to the commotion, but at least I didn’t have to do anything to prepare for their arrival.)

The ways of grief are strange. I was doing fine cleaning out my father’s stuff until I came upon a glass I had put in the cupboard. I hadn’t been able to decide what to do with the item when I was packing my own glassware, so I put it in my dad’s cabinet sort of as a joke for whichever of my family would be clearing out my father’s “effects.” I don’t know why, but it never occurred to me I would be the one for the task. And seeing that glass sent me spiraling into grief.

I emailed my siblings: This is the second time I had to clear out the possessions of someone who died. When Jeff died, there was no one else, so I had no choice but to do it myself, but this time, there are a whole slew of you. Not one of you volunteered to help. Yes, I know, you all have lives, but still it would have been nice for someone to at least acknowledge that the task needed to be done. It simply was not fair.

It’s all done except for the tears. The only thing left in the house is the furniture, but that will stay here until the house is sold.

I hope none of you ever have to deal with this emotionally taxing chore that I’ve now had to deal with twice.

Maybe that wasn’t a nice message to have sent, but I was too exhausted both emotionally and physically to care about niceties.

I’ve also had to deal with chirping alarms — both smoke and burglar; bills that aren’t forwarded where they are supposed to go, nasty customer reps who won’t answer simple questions such as if we could enclose a photo of the bill with payment rather than the bill itself, and a hundred other small tasks.

And, of course, there is the matter of my recently unreliable 43-year-old VW. Because I didn’t want to risk the car breaking down during the weekend, on Sunday I hiked seven miles round trip to the nearest grocery store to get oven cleaner since the cleaners don’t carry it with them. Add in a few comestibles, and I ended up carrying a five-pound pack on the trip back. Five pounds is not much, but it totally wiped me out. Puts sort of a damper on the idea of my taking an epic walk. Truth be told, that hike to the grocery store seemed pretty epic to me!

On the bright side:

1) My computer seems to be fixed. Even after they cleaned my caches, uninstalled and reinstalled the antivirus program, there were problems, but shutting down the computer every night instead of just leaving it in sleep mode has made a big difference. The way the computer guy explained it, the computer runs on memory, and sometimes bits of the memory get tied up and become unusable, so restarting the computer resets the memory and makes more of it usable. That could be computer speak for “I haven’t a clue what is wrong with your computer, but if it works when you shut it down every night, then do it.”

2) Except for the furniture, my father’s stuff has been disposed of. All cupboards, closets, drawers, cabinets are empty. The house is so clean it looks new, (except for the carpets, but that’s next week’s task). The windows, screens, sills, shutters are all clean. And best of all is knowing I will never again have to deal with the effects of a newly dead loved one.

4) It will give me great pleasure to discontinue Charter Communications when the house is sold. They are almost as unpleasant as Microsoft folks. (Though no one, so far as I know is as unpleasant as MS people. During my computer troubles, the computer guy suggested I contact Microsoft for help on a particular registry issue. One MS person couldn’t speak clearly enough for me to understand, and when I asked her to repeat what she said, she hung up on me; another said they would help but demanded money; and third spent more time on a hard sell for some sort of protection plan than they did listening to my description of the trouble. Thank heavens for System Restore! It made the MS people redundant.)

3) I found a VW guy who specializes in air-cooled engine bugs! Yay! I have an appointment with him in two weeks. He already knows what the problem could be — the coil combined with cheap parts from the auto parts store rather than the real thing. (Bosch being the real thing, apparently.) He’ll give my car the shake test (as I understand it, they literally shake the car), and check to see if it’s worth keeping.

Several people (well, two) have told me that so much going wrong is indicative of a major shift in energy, and that breakdowns could be a sign of breakthroughs. I suppose it’s possible, and I would like to think they are right. All I know is I am exhausted.

I still have a lot of work to do — I didn’t finish packing my stuff, just threw the stuff from my cabinets and drawers in boxes to make it easy for the workers to deep clean, and I now I can’t find anything, so now I have to unpack and repack. And I still have several unfinished projects to do before I become that fabled creature — a lady of leisure.

If all goes well, I’ll be back here again tomorrow. I hope you are doing well.

***

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 Kindness of Strangers

Grief — or it could be self-pity — always seems to catch me unaware. I’ve been having good days recently, feeling that the universe is smiling on me, so today’s brief bout of tears was especially unexpected.

I’ve been doing a few small chores for my father’s estate — getting an electrician to fix the chirping smoke alarm on the 15-foot-high ceiling, clearing out a few more of my father’s things, scheduling an estimate for the carpet and tile cleaning. I was fine during all that, fine even when I closed out my father’s account, but on the drive back to the house from the bank, I could barely see the road for the tears.

heavenAlthough my father’s death didn’t devastate me like the death of Jeff, my life mate/soul mate, it has had its traumatic moments. It’s difficult — and bewildering — to dismantle a person’s life, even a person who owned as few personal things as my father did. The person is gone, but their “effects” linger long afterward. Someone has to dispose of them, and since I am in the house, that chore has devolved upon me. (I suppose I could have left it for someone else to do, but during the past few years, I was the one most immediately involved in his life, so that in addition to propinquity makes me the logical person for the job.)

Closing out his bank account shouldn’t have been any more difficult than the rest of the tasks, but it was, perhaps because it means one less connection to my life here and ultimately to my past. Or maybe because the people at the bank were so nice to me. Since I was an equal signatory with my father on the account, they thought the money should go to me instead of my father’s estate. When I explained that legally the money didn’t belong to me, they made sure I had copies of the paperwork and urged me to keep them for my protection.

So few people have paid attention to me during these months my father has been gone, including those who told me they would owe me forever for taking care of him, it’s like I died with him. I’m not the only one who lost a father, of course, but most of my siblings’ lives will not be changed appreciably by his death — they still have their husbands and wives, still have their homes, still have . . . whatever it is that they have. But my life is in upheaval once more because of death.

The neighbors, who loved my father, have been snubbing me for the past three months because although I told them he died and made sure they could say goodbye as he left the house for the last time, I somehow neglected to tell them when the funeral was. It just never even occurred to me. His obituary was in the local paper and even though they knew where to find me, they never asked. Never stopped by to see how I was doing, either. Never expressed an interest in what was going to happen to me. And yet, devastated as I was by the rapid turn of events surrounding his death and my renewed grief for Jeff, somehow I was supposed to put them foremost in my mind. Oh, my.

No wonder the kindness of strangers brought me to tears.

Tomorrow, I will be back to my determined optimism, will be back to feeling maybe the universe is unfolding as it should be, will be back to believing wonder and joy await me, but tonight I will honor my dead with a few more tears laced, perhaps, with a touch of self-pity.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

Grief: The Great Learning, Day 445

I’ve saved the letters I wrote to my life mate/soul mate after he died, thinking that one day I would write a sequel to Grief: The Great Yearning, the story of my first year of grief. I’d planned to call the sequel Grief: The Great Learning, and detail the lessons gleaned from the second and third years of my grief. Because I no longer want to keep revisiting such angst, there will be no sequel, so I’m publishing the letters here on this blog as a way of safeguarding (and sharing) them.

Although this letter was written three and a half years ago, it reflects much of what I am thinking about now. My father recently died, and now I am facing what I could only think about back then — the vast open plain of the future before me.

I am packing to leave this house and go . . . I know not where. I’ll probably stay around here for a while. I have made new friends after those referred to in this letter disappeared out of my life, and it just occurred to me that I can speak about all of my concerns to at least one of those women. It’s nice and helps offset the loneliness that still hits me every evening.

And oh, yes. I still keep hoping for major changes — good changes.

###

Day 445, Hi, Jeff.

I’ve been going through an upsurge of grief, missing you so damn much. It stuns me, like a snake stunned by a rock thrown at it, to think I’ll never see you again. You’d think I’d have come to an accommodation with that, but such ”acceptance” of that fact does not bring acceptance of what it means — death for you, loneliness for me.

Life involves people, doesn’t it? I’m trying to “people” my life, but it’s not the same thing as being connected to one specific person. We were often lonely even when we were together, but this loneliness is incomprehensible. I’m considering staying here after my father dies because at least I know people here, but so many of the people I have met, especially those from my grief group, have already faded from my life. And if the rest disappear, then what?

It should be exciting to have the vast open plain of the future before me, but all I see is bleakness and aloneness. I have no one to talk to about my concerns. I don’t know how to cope with that. I keep hoping for major changes (good changes), but all that seems to be happening is a slow descent into inevitability.

I hope you’re not lonely. I couldn’t bear that.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand 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.

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