|Joe as Santa in 2003 delighting us all.|
Monday, December 5, 2016
ALZHEIMER'S--AND THERE IS GRIEF
Right now I’m confused. I’m still trying to make sense of what’s happened. Joe is gone. I’ve lost him.
It happened much earlier than I had expected. I’ve cried a lot so I guess I’m grieving. But I felt the loss of pieces of Joe for almost four years now and it brought me to tears many times before, so was I grieving then? Is this just another layer of grief? Did I start the grieving process while Joe was still here, while he was still with me? I think I did.
What does “grieving” mean? That’s not a silly question. If you asked 50 people to describe grief you’d likely get 50 different answers. I suspect that’s because it involves such a range of emotions, and emotions are in the abstract; you can’t touch them, or see them. Grief might feel different based on your individual life experiences or your coping skills or what you’re grieving over. The grieving process has no finite time-line; there’s no start line or set stopping point.
Joe was an enormously important part of my life. His death represents an end to what has been a deep and loving relationship, and I must now somehow adapt to a new unwanted and frightening reality. My life is different than it was before I met Joe and it’s going to be very different going forward. After all, I was with Joe for more than half of my 68 years on earth (Did I just tell the world how old I really am?).
I feel a tremendous sadness and aching because of the unalterable fact that Joe isn’t coming back. It’s the knowledge that he won’t be there the next time I reach out to him, the next time I have something good or bad to share with him. (I remember that same feeling with the loss of my sister.) But there’s also a hollowness and frustration knowing there was no miracle cure that would have stopped Al from taking Joe. There was nothing I could do to make more time.
If there can be some relief at this point, it’s knowing that Joe is no longer struggling; that he’s done battling Al and the indignities this disease thrust on him.
As for Al…He’s won this battle, but I’ll still be here to fight him. I plan to remain an advocate to the cause and do my part to help find a cure for the mind monster that is Alzheimer’s.
I’ll keep writing as I slowly work through all of this. I know it will take time; but someday I’ll be able to think back and hopefully only remember the strong, wise, confident and loving man that was Joe.
To all of you who have followed our journey, please know that your support meant so much to Joe and me. Being the avid golfer that Joe was, if he could he would tell you to look for him again on the Great 19th Hole in the Sky.
I ran across this piece and thought I would sure it with you.
“As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months or years, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall, or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming, an anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming for the most part and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.”