Seven Years and Seven Months

Seven years and seven months ago, Jeff, my lifemate/soulmate, died after a long illness, catapulting me out of not only our coupled life, but the very house we shared for decades. After dismantling our home, getting rid of what I could and packing the rest, I went to stay with my father, who needed someone to be there for him. Although he was mostly able to look after himself, he was getting feeble enough that he needed someone in the house to make sure he was okay. And me, being newly loose in the world, undertook the task. If he were alive, my father would be over a hundred years old, but he died three years ago today, and once again I was catapulted out into the world.

I’ve become somewhat of a nomad, or maybe I should say a serial nester. In the past three years, I’ve lived over a dozen places (and those are only the places I’ve stayed more than a couple of weeks. If you include places I stayed a week or less, they are too numerous to count.) Because I’ve spent most of the past couple of decades taking care of friends and relatives, my financial situation is precarious, so I should be trying to find a place to settle down and get a job, but . . . well, I’m not. After the emotional rigors of the past ten years (starting with Jeff’s rapid decline and my mother’s death and ending with the fall eleven months ago that pulverized my left wrist, destroyed my left elbow, and smashed my radius, leaving me with a deformed arm, and wrist and fingers that don’t quite work the way they should), it’s nice to just go with the flow — not trying to do anything, not trying to think anything, not trying to push my recalcitrant spirit into a semblance of vitality. Just drifting.

Occasionally I correspond with the newly bereft who discover me through my book, Grief: The Great Yearning. They appreciate knowing they aren’t alone in how they feel, and they seem to find solace in my words. And that’s all I have left of grief now — just words. (Well, that and compassion. Not everyone comprehends the total horror that one lives through after the death of the one person you shared everything with, the one person who anchored you to life, the one person who understood you.)

Oddly, in the same way that I can no longer “feel” the exact pain of my arm when it shattered, I can no longer actually “feel” the pain of new grief. I remember not being able to breathe. Not being able to think. Not being able to get a grip on the immense agony of my grief. I remember feeling as if I were standing on the brink of the abyss, remember thinking that if I reached out far enough, I could still touch Jeff. But I cannot actually recall the feeling of new grief itself.

Even more oddly, I’m not sure if the man in my memory is the real Jeff. Has my memory of him changed over the years to fulfill his changing role in my life? I no longer know, and don’t want to know. To try to resurrect the real him, if only in memory, will eventually lead to losing him again, and that I can’t handle.

So I drift.

I am doing what I can to exercise my hand, wrist, elbow — I won’t gain the maximum usage of the joints for another year, so I am still diligently following instructions. And I am still taking dance classes. And slowly, I am gaining strength, better balance, and maybe even a modicum of grace.

What I have not been doing is writing, even though finishing my decade-old work not-in-progress tops my to-do list (or would top my to-do list if I had one. A to-do list seems the antithesis of drifting.)

Although today is the anniversary of my father’s death, it is Jeff I think of. If Jeff hadn’t died, I would never have gone to take care of my father, would never be where I am today.

Drifting.

This photo is twenty years old, the only one ever taken of me, Jeff, and my parents. Although I am the only one still alive, that “me” in the photo is long gone. I don’t even remember being her. Maybe she’s just as lost as the other three.

***
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.

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Don’t Forgive Yourself

[A new grief friend emailed me yesterday in angst because he doesn’t know how to forgive himself for the way he acted when his life mate/soul mate was dying. What follows is the email I sent him. I hope he doesn’t mind my sharing my own words because I think they are important enough to preserve on this blog.]

Dear Friend,

Try this: Don’t forgive yourself.

I just looked at Grief: The Great Yearning to see how long it took me to forgive myself. Day 211. That is a very long time from where you are. And it’s not so much that I forgave myself but that I realized there was nothing to forgive.

In my book on day 211, I mentioned the numbness of that last year, and why it had to be that way, why it was okay I acted the way I did without actually enumerating all the problems of that last year, but there truly were a lot of things I had to learn to accept. For example, I often bristled when Jeff talked to me. Because of the cancer in his brain (which I didn’t know about), he could no longer hold a thought in his head long enough to have a conversation, so he “lectured” me. I clenched my fists and jaw while I choked on his words. Sometimes I walked away from him when he was talking because he wouldn’t listen (or as I now understand, couldn’t listen) to anything I had to say. During that last year, I hated when he used “my dishes,” though up until then, we shared everything. (It took me a long time to understand why I hated that he used those dishes, but I now see those dishes as a metaphor for our lives. As long as we had a life together, they were our dishes. When he began moving away from our shared life, leaving me to find my own way, they reverted to being my dishes.) We bickered about what I would do when he was gone — he wanted me to go stay with my father so he wouldn’t have to worry about me, and staying with my father was the very last thing I wanted (well, second to last — the very last thing I wanted was for Jeff to die.) And the month before Jeff died, we had the only truly horrific fight we ever had.

Would I have given anything to go back and redo that year? Of course I would. After he died, I suffered over every disconnect, over every time I could have been, should have been kinder, over every word I didn’t treasure.

The truth is, I lived the best I could under horrible circumstances. The truth is, you lived the best you could under horrible circumstances. And, the truth is, you reacted normally to something that was done to you, then you went on with your lives. The only reason it is a problem is that your life mate died.

It wasn’t until day 335 that I realized the nature of grief. When the loved one is alive, we are on a Ferris wheel, riding up and down and around, up and down and around. Always, we are ourselves, being kind and nasty, loving and angry, always it seems as if we are in the same moving seat, paying no attention to the other seats on the ride. When our loved one dies, the Ferris wheel stops, and we see that we are in every single one of those seats. Something that passed is no longer past. Something that was vital and in motion is now static. We have to grieve every damn one of those seemingly infinite seats, seats that we never would have paid any attention to if the ride had just kept going.

So what if you got angry? You were alive. You were in a relationship. People get angry. It sounds to me as if you had reason to be angry. You were hurt. And underlying all of that was the soul-destroying knowledge that your mate was dying, which makes you really, really angry. (Even when you know a person is dying, though, you don’t really know it. In my case, I just figured Jeff would be forever dying and I would be forever struggling to deal with it.) When the dying goes on for a very long time, you can’t be your optimum self. Because of that damn Ferris wheel. You are on the ride, dealing with stresses that no human should have to deal with, and since you are still on the ride, you see only that single seat.

And then the damn thing stops.

I understand you cannot unsee the seats of the ride you wish to unsee. They are there. Every single now-stationary seat has to be grieved. So don’t forgive yourself. Grieve for that which you lost. Grieve that you reacted in a human way. Grieve that the Ferris wheel stopped. But don’t try to forgive yourself. Wait. Cry. Scream. And some day, maybe day 211, maybe day 345, maybe day 763, you will understand that you were simply living, simply doing the best you could under untenable conditions.

Do we want to be better? Of course we do. Do we want to have done better? Of course.

But the tragedy is not the hurt, not your anger, not whatever you did to try to relieve the stress. The tragedy is death. If you had lived to an old age as a couple, your anger would have been long forgotten. It’s only death that makes it relevant.

So grieve. Face the real culprit: Death itself.

(And oh, my gosh, do I sound ridiculously pedantic. Take what you can from this email and disregard the rest.)

But know that I understand, and one day, you will too.

Wishing you strength as you carry this burden of grief. Wishing you peace.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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 Last Rose of Summer

Summer is gone, of course, but just like the rest of us stalwart blooms, the summer roses are hanging on, at least out here at the edge of the desert. Faded, perhaps. Maybe even lonely. But hanging on.

Sometimes I get embarrassed, occasionally even annoyed when people tell me how admirable I am because I don’t see it. (Though I used to, oddly enough, back when I was going through those first horrendous years of grief.) Now I’ve come to see that I’ve only done what everyone else does in the face of great trauma, angst, and turmoil — hang on to that last shred of sanity, humanity, honor, or whatever you want to call it. (Not dignity, that’s for sure. Dignity goes out the door when seemingly never-ending pain and tears enter.) Sometimes when we are fighting our way through turmoil, it feels as if we are surrendering to our worst side because we live in a culture that seems to revere stoicism — the ability to accept great pain with little affect. And yet, as I learned, hiding pain does not help anyone, though it does let others escape the discomfort of hearing us scream out our agony.

The truth is, we are all stronger that we believe we are, braver than we can imagine, more emotional that we ever expected, and have the ability to pick ourselves up and take another step when all we want to do is dive into oblivion. Sometimes it seems to take forever to go through the trauma of hellish heat, buffeting winds, destructive storms, but then all at once, there you are, still standing in the warmth of a new day.

The last rose of summer.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.

Fabulous Review of UNFINISHED

Getting a good review is always heartening for an author, but even more gratifying is when the reader/reviewer “gets” the story.

Unfinished was a hard book for me to write because it called up the horrific and inexplicable emotions I experienced during the first few months after the death of my life mate/soul mate, but knowing that others appreciate Unfinished makes the dredging of my grief worthwhile.

I hope this review by Sheila Deeth, author in her own right, will intrigue you enough that you’ll check out Unfinished.

Sheila Deeth‘s review of Unfinished:

Beautifully balanced blend of grief, romance and mystery

Many things are left unfinished when a life is cut short, even if the ending is long and slow, well-predicted, and sensibly prepared-for. Words are left unsaid, secrets left untold. And relationships tremble in the wind of passage. Platitudes offer neither comfort nor wisdom, and grief is a full-time job.

Pat Bertram’s Unfinished invites readers into that grief, while adding layers of mysteries, hints of betrayals, and conversations beautifully recorded of honest recognition. “One of the ironies of grief is that… when people should be looking out for you, you have to… make allowances for their discomfort,” says one character, while others tell Amanda she should pick herself up.

Unfinished is a beautiful combination of intriguing fiction and informative wisdom, leading readers along the path of grief, through byways of longing and guilt. Faith is respectfully recognized and recorded, but never a call for commitment—it’s what others believe, including Amanda’s husband David, but it’s not part of her life.

The story tells of David’s illness, the temptations of drugs to kill physical pain and the internet for mental and emotional hurts, and the aching need for human interaction. It’s a story of betrayals past and future, secret and open, and of a woman slowly coming to terms with life on her own. Mystery perfectly balances grief, the plot moves forward decisively even while Amanda digs into the past, and the dialog is convincing and wisely thought-provoking.

Good fiction with wise lessons, pleasing humor and wounded depths, Unfinished is a book you’ll keep to reread when it’s unfinished.

Click here to buy Unfinished by Pat Bertram: https://www.amazon.com/Unfinished-Pat-Bertram/dp/1941071651/ 

Grocery Story

I cried at the grocery store yesterday. It wasn’t an unprecedented occurrence — anyone whose life partner has been claimed by death knows the triggers lurking in those well-lit aisles — but in this case, the tears had nothing to do with me.

I was standing at the protein bar section, picking out a couple of Lara bars when a younger woman approached and asked if I knew which ones would help her gain weight. Apparently, her family and friends think she looks like a drug addict, and she thought if she gained ten or twenty pounds, they’d leave her alone. I looked her up and down, and shrugged. I said she looked fine to me. She was very thin, but mostly because she had a delicate (though not frail) frame. She wasn’t emaciated, and in fact had average to good muscular development. And her eyes were clear and bright with intelligence.

I said, “Tell your family I said you looked great.”

She replied, “I’ll say you were a perfect stranger.”

“I am perfect,” I said, and we smiled at each other.

That moment of connection opened her up, because next thing I knew, she was telling me her story. She had been a drug addict, but that very day was her third anniversary of being clean. Those seven lost years had changed her metabolism, and now she couldn’t gain weight.

She went on to tell me that ten years ago her three-year old daughter had been run over and killed, and the next day, her husband went out into the desert and shot himself because he couldn’t handle the pain. That, of course, was when my tears came, and I hugged her. The death of a child or a partner is excruciating, but to have to deal with both at once? Oh, my. The poor woman. No wonder she shrouded herself in drug-induced numbness. Now that she’s clean, she has to learn to cope with her grief as if it was still new.

Even worse, she is fighting not to be racist. The guy who ran over her child was of a minority, and the judge who let him off was of the same minority. And last week, two fourth-graders of that same minority choked her six-year-old son in the school bathroom. (I hesitate to mention the races of both her and her various adversaries because in today’s climate, even that could be considered racist.) She doesn’t want to hate, so she is fighting that feeling, too.

It amazed me that instead of seeing this woman’s honor, strength, and courage, her friends and family saw someone with a weight problem. Admittedly, they were probably worried about her, and afraid that she had picked up her old ways, but still, we are much more than the weight we carry, whether too much or too little.

I hugged her again and wished her happiness, then we went our separate ways.

But her story haunts me, and now whenever I am in that particular grocery store aisle, I will think of her and hope she is still okay.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of four other 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.

Excerpt From UNFINISHED

Amanda put a hand over the hole in her chest and was surprised to discover that under her white cotton blouse, her body remained intact. “I miss you, David,” she murmured. “Dammit, I miss you.”

A sudden fury swept over her. “Why did you leave me?” she screamed. She ran back to his closet, grabbed a handful of clothes, and dumped them on the floor. A muffled thud caught her attention, but it took a moment for the truth to soak into her grief-fuddled mind. Something weighty had been stashed among the clothes. She scrabbled about in the pile of garments and pulled out a threadbare terrycloth robe that seemed inordinately heavy.

For a second, Amanda considered reburying the robe in the heap of clothing. David had always been a private person, but during his last year, he had become furtive, and he would not appreciate her ferreting out his secrets. “Well, David,” she said aloud. “If you didn’t want me rummaging around in your life, you shouldn’t have died.”

Still, a feeling of dread made her hesitate. Summoning the strength of her anger, she thrust a hand into the robe’s pocket. Her heart thudded when she felt the shape of the cold metal object. Gingerly, she pulled the piece out of the pocket and stared at it. It couldn’t be real, could it? But the weight told her the small revolver with the two-inch barrel was genuine.

Click here to buy Unfinishedhttps://www.amazon.com/Unfinished-Pat-Bertram/dp/1941071651/

***

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.

UNFINISHED is Now Finished and Available on Amazon

Amanda Ray thought she’d grow old with her pastor husband David, but death had other plans. During David’s long illness and his withdrawal from her, Amanda found solace in the virtual arms of Sam Priestly, a college professor she met at an online support group for cancer patient caregivers. Amanda thought that when their spouses were gone, she and Sam would find comfort in each other’s arms for real, but though David succumbed to the cancer that riddled his body, Sam’s wife, Vivian, survives. Vivian had been in the process of divorcing Sam when she fell ill, and after the diagnosis, Sam agreed to stay with her until the end. Since Sam plans to continue honoring his vow, Amanda feels doubly bereft, as if she is mourning two men.

Rocked by grief she could never have imagined, confused by her love for Sam and his desire for her to move near him, at odds with her only daughter, Amanda struggles to find a new focus for her suddenly unfinished life. As if that weren’t enough to contend with, while clearing out the parsonage for the next residents, Amanda discovers a gun among her devout husband’s belongings. Later, while following his wishes to burn his effects, she finds a photo of an unknown girl that resembles their daughter.

Having dedicated her life to David and his vocation, this evidence that her husband kept secrets from her devastates Amanda. If she doesn’t know who he was, how can she know who she is? Accompanied by grief and endless tears, Amanda sets out to discover answers to the many mysteries of her life: the truth of her husband, the enigmatic powers of love and loss, and the necessity of living in the face of death.

Does this story sound interesting to you? If so, you can now purchase the print version of UNFINISHED (published by Stairway Press) on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1941071651/

Although the feelings of grief Amanda experiences are based on my emotional journey during my first two months of profound grief, the story itself is fiction. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to deal with not only the loss of one’s mate, but the loss of the idea of one’s mate. Well . . . yes, I guess I can imagine how it would feel, because I wrote the novel! I hope you will read UNFINISHED. It’s an important book because too few fiction writers portray the truth of new grief, and that lack leaves the newly bereft feeling isolated and as if they are the only ones dealing with grief’s craziness.

***

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.

A Fresh Chance to Take the World by Storm

While going through the first throes of grief, I was astonished by how little authors knew about the enormity of grief and its impact. In one book, the new widow cried the first night, then woke up the next morning determined to put her grief behind her, and she never shed another tear. In a second book, the only concession to grief was a single sentence, “She went through all five stages of grief.” Yikes. How ignorant (or lazy) is that? Grief is not merely a brief spate of sorrow that is easily suppressed. It is a complicated process that involves — and completely disrupts — every part of you: your mind, body, soul, spirit, ego in an ever expanding spiral of “stages”.

Because of such authors, I decided to tell the truth of grief, and so I started blogging about what I was going through. I also considered writing a novel about a woman dealing the agony of grief, but I thought it would be too hard to portray in a positive light a woman who cried all the time. It is a caveat in the writing community that if your characters cry, your readers don’t, which could be why most books featuring a widow or widower take place three to five years after the loss.

Still, I wrote a novel about a new widow and her first two horrendous months, which will soon be published:

While sorting through her deceased husband’s effects, Amanda is shocked to discover a gun and the photo of an unknown girl who resembles their daughter. After dedicating her life to David and his vocation as a pastor, the evidence that her devout husband kept secrets devastates Amanda.

But Amanda has secrets of her own.

During David’s long illness and withdrawal from life, Amanda found solace in the virtual arms of Sam Priestly, a college professor she met in an online support group for cancer caregivers. Amanda believed she and Sam would find comfort in each other’s arms for real after their spouse’s deaths, but miraculously, Sam’s wife survives the cancer that killed David. Rocked by unimaginable grief for her husband, confused by her love for Sam and his desire to continue their affair, and at odds with her only daughter, Amanda struggles to solve the many mysteries of her unfinished life: the truth of her husband’s secrets, the enigmatic power of love and loss, and the necessity of living despite the nearness of death.

The publisher (Stairway Press) says Unfinished is a fresh start for me to take the world by storm. Even better, my first readers think it’s a powerful story!

“Unfinished” is a novel of loss, love, and personal discovery. Told with realistic intensity, this story about surviving life while in the throes of soul-changing sorrow shows that grief never dies, but those left behind can learn to live again. —J.J. Dare, author of False Positive and False World

While finding your high school best friend has become a talented writer may not be a surprise, I can honestly say it has become a delight. I have now read all of Pat’s work to date and marvel at the honesty of emotion with which she writes. As a reader, I delight in Pat’s ability to develop characters, to portray our complexity as human beings. Pat’s characters in “Unfinished” challenge our beliefs with their ability to hold a dialectic, and just when you feel you know how this is going to lay down, more is revealed! And, as a therapist, I value this as I offer “Unfinished” to my grieving clients. Pat’s experience makes the reader uncomfortable at times giving us permission to embrace our grief “and let it take you where you need to go” eschewing the judgment of others about “not grieving right,” as we work our way forward [coming to see grief as a gift]. As well, it allows those not yet touched by grief to understand and support, not exhort closure, widening the book’s audience. Unfinished is an authentic gift. —Mary Strasser, MC, LPC, LISAC

So, look for Unfinished. Coming soon!!!

***

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.

 

 

End of the Great Yearning?

My last upsurge of grief came exactly one month before the seventh anniversary of Jeff’s death. That upsurge was so severe, my grief felt raw, as if he’d recently died. I feared a terrible month leading to the anniversary, but there were only a few moments of sadness after that horrendous day. In the two and a half months since the anniversary, I haven’t experienced much emotion, either sad or glad. (Hence the sporadic blog posts.)

It’s as if the great yearning that gripped me for the past seven years took a sabbatical. There’s been no particular yearning to go home, no unbearable yearning to see Jeff once more, no yearning to know where he is or if he is. There’s been no yearning for adventure, no yearning for experiences to prove that I still exist, no yearning for meaning or knowledge or wisdom, no yearning for an end to the loneliness. There hasn’t even been any yearning to express myself. Just a barely swinging emotional pendulum and a quasi-quiet mind.

I thought this hiatus from yearning was due to my arm — not just the shock of the fall, the months of pain, and the horror of having a deformed arm (if you could see my arm, you probably wouldn’t notice the deformity, but what I see and feel is far from normal), but also the torpid backlash from the highly traumatic experience. For more than four months, I’d been mostly housebound and isolated, and I thought the restricted life helped me welcome aloneness. Recently, though, I read that in year eight of grief, people begin to feel a little tired of working so hard that they let go of the busyness, pull back, and go in their alone zone. Apparently what I thought was a stage of my physical healing was actually a stage in my grief healing, though I suppose it could be both — coming to terms with the physical trauma could have helped me come to terms with the residual loneliness of grief. (If this woman’s timeline holds true, next year I will be ready to question my old dreams and start new ones. These dreams are supposed to be magical because they will be from the new me.)

Whatever the reason for this equability, this lazy pendulum swing, this hiatus from yearning — whether it’s due to the destroyed arm or the grief timeline — it’s been . . . different. I’ve been indulging my indolence because . . . well, because . . . why not? Nothing pulls at me. Nothing pushes me. I’m sure some day adventure, responsibility, or need will call to me once more but for now, simply living is enough. After my long months of isolation, I’m gradually picking up my life where I left it when I fell — taking an occasional walk, going to dance classes now and then. Next week I will probably be back at all my dance classes (with a third ballet class thrown in for good measure) as well as continuing my own version of physical therapy.

(The doctor hasn’t yet prescribed therapy sessions for my destroyed arm/wrist/elbow/fingers because he said all the therapist would do is sit me in a corner and have me work my immobile wrist and fingers, and that I can do on my own. Next month, though, I will probably start more advanced therapy. I’m doing well on my own — I can now drive, type, open bottles and doors, make a fist, do curls and overhead presses with a five-pound dumbbell, hold on to a ballet barre, do the requisite hand movements for Hawaiian dances — but I still have a long way to go.)

Oddly, this “active passivity” (for lack of a better term to describe my current state of mind), hasn’t dimmed my appreciation for the small miracles of living. Yesterday I went to lunch with three other women, and in the middle of the meal, it awed me to think of all the life choices and coincidences that led us — a woman born in Taiwan, one born in Singapore, one in Los Angeles, and one in Denver — to that very place.

Soon there will be a couple of more miracles in my life (and yours!) — the publication of two new novels, the first new Pat Bertram books in five years. Next month look for Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, a mystery involving my dance class, and Unfinished, a novel about a grieving woman. (I’ve read too many books where someone dies and no one goes through grief except for a brief bout of tears, or the author tosses in a single sentence about the character going through the five stages of grief, or the author completely skips the first horror of grief and picks up the story years later. I wanted to do tell the truth and show the strength that comes along with the constant tears of breath-stealing grief.)

For the moment, though, I have no real plans and no plans to get plans. I’ll just accept this (possibly temporary) lack of yearning the same way I accepted the great yearning that propelled me for so many years.

Wishing you blue skies and clear days until next time.

***

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.

My April Time

Last week brought big changes. First, although I was not supposed to have the surgery to get my fixator off until this Tuesday, April 4, when I went for my pre-op on Monday, March 26th, the surgeon decided to take the hardware off the next day due to irritation around the pin sites. So, I had the surgery on Tuesday, March 27, the seventh anniversary of my life mate/soul mate’s death. I spent Wednesday in bed trying to recuperate, finished packing on Thursday, and moved on Friday and Saturday with the help of some friends.

I hadn’t really planned to move, but the place where I was staying had become un-conducive to healing. (Is that proper terminology? If not, the words describe how I felt, which makes it proper.) And this new place fell into my hands. It’s across the street from open desert, and while the house itself is much quieter than the one I came from, the area is vastly noisier. Dogs barking, power tools screeching, and trains howling. (This is a major transit area for trains, not passenger trains but freight trains, and they come within a mile of where I am staying, sometimes every few minutes, blaring horns all the way. Yikes.)

Still, I think the trains create sounds I can get used to, I have earplugs for other intrusive noises, and — did I mention? — I am across the street from the desert! I can’t really go hiking yet— because of my destroyed arm I am considered a fall risk (and I feel like I am at risk for a fall) — but I can pick my way carefully through the lower trails and washes. The neighborhood is also much nicer than the one where I’d been staying, and I have a private bath, which, along with the proximity to the desert, helps offset the noise pollution. (It’s amazing to me how much noise pollution we allow. Why should one man with a chainsaw be allowed to destroy the quiet of an entire neighborhood? It doesn’t seem right.)

I still have a long recovery ahead of me, at least a year, perhaps two, until I get to my maximum mobility. Although the surgeon continues to claim I will only end up with fifty percent mobility and guarantees that I will suffer from posttraumatic arthritis, I intend to do everything I can to heal. If I were with someone, I’m sure I would have the same resolve, but being alone and facing a future alone, I need to give myself the greatest chance of being able to take care of myself completely for as long as possible.

Oddly, despite a few surges of grief over the fate of my arm, I’ve handled the situation with equanimity. Perhaps the lessons of grief and other adversities have finally sunk in. The arm might be deformed, might be lacking in strength and mobility, but I am not deformed. I am not lacking in strength and mobility. Whatever happens with the arm, it in no way changes me — who I am at the core. (Of course, it still hasn’t been determined who I am at the core, but I don’t know if it’s necessary to make that determination. It should be enough simply to be. To adapt. To become.)

One change I’m curious to see how will affect me is that for the first time in a long time, I have a place to read and relax other than on the bed. Will I be able to sleep better using the bed only for sleep? I guess I’ll find out.

It seems sort of a new beginning, this April. I passed the seventh anniversary of my life mate/soul mate’s death. I got the external fixator removed, which will allow me to enter a more active role in my healing. And I have a new place to stay.

In her book The Stillwater Meadow, Gladys Tabor wrote: “People have seasons . . . There is something steadfast about people who withstand the chilling winds of trouble, the storms that assail the heart, and have the endurance and character to wait quietly for an April time.” During the first years of my grief — while I worked through the pain of my life mate/soul mate’s death and our separation, adjusted to life without him, learned to think of him with gladness instead of sadness, searched for new ways of being and new reasons for living, realized that he is he and I am I and we have separate paths in life — I held fast to the idea of an April time.

Now, finally, an April time — perhaps even my April time — is here.

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(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.