Archives for the month of: June, 2012

Twelve weeks, three days

Father’s day was a surprise for me. Throughout my life, I have been less than enthusiastic about “Hallmark” holidays. These commercialized creations have always irked me, but I play along for everyone else who seems to be drinking the Koolaid.

I was unprepared for waking up in tears on Sunday morning. I guess I might have been sipping that Koolaid, or maybe it’s just one of those “firsts” in the year of grieving that becomes significant in spite of your attachments to it.

Getting out of bed was a chore, made no easier by having my daughter curled up in the same state beside me. When I’m sad, I’m so tired. Getting out of bed, getting something to eat, washing my face seem to be Heruclean tasks that I’m simply not up to tackling. I did it, though, and asked myself how I could honour Ray with this day.

I went to see my father-in-law…the only father that I’ve had since 1976 when my own father took his life. My father-in-law is now 96, and his smile still warms my heart. I could feel Ray’s support and his joy that I made this effort.

I screwed up some energy and decided to make a great meal for my daughter, visiting niece and her boyfriend. I was in an Italian mood. (Ray was ALWAYS in an Italian mood!). I busted out and tried something as old as time, but new to me: eggplant parmesan. In fact, this entire meal was built around my discovery and purchase of two exquisite baby eggplants at my local green market. I have to say that eggplant parmesan is one of the great finds of Italian cuisine and I highly recommend it. It is a cheesy, tomatoey creation with panko crusted eggplant rounds tucked in to create a fabulous texture.

Eggplant parmesan…..yum!!

I also cooked my standard, but always popular, spaghetti with tomatoes, garlic and basil and served a tart made with the first local, sweet strawberries called Crostada di fragole e ricotta. Oh, so heavenly!! I am not, as a rule, a baker. This sort of thing is challenging for me, but I loved the result and plan to make it often.

My very own Crostade di Fragoli e ricotta

The fact that I am circling around again to food is significant. Creating great food has been one of the greatest pleasures in my life for a couple of decades. I am enchanted by the colours, smells and textures of food. I am excited with every moment of planning a meal and how it will all come out “à la minute” — hot and perfect.

The crostade was the crown on a beautiful meal. it looked like a shiny red sun — celebrating the father of my children, who we always called our Ray of Sunshine.

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Twelve weeks, two days

Loss is sometimes defined by context. I was talking with my son recently and we realized in unison that the further out we get from Ray’s death, the harder it sometimes seems. That would appear to be inverse logic, but it’s because we can only absorb grief in small amounts at any one time.

If you haven’t experienced a significant loss, you might imagine that grief would be so overwhelming that you would simply be crushed under the weight of it. Sometimes it does feel a bit like that, but then you can shake it off and proceed with life for a while more. The human mind simply cannot contain massive grief, so it processes it a bit at a time. That measured grief goes on and on. What happens with time, at least for our family, is that we realize more clearly as time goes on that he is actually gone. Ray isn’t coming back.

I said this to my son and then apologized for making such a childish observation. But he corrected me. We haven’t actually gotten that far in processing the reality. To do so fully would be unfathomably painful. So we do it in those small chunks, but in turn, we are struggling to get our arms around the size of it. I would equate it to looking at a pebble and then trying to comprehend the size of Earth on which it rests. The scale is just too much.

We are blessed with this coping mechanism of only looking at a small part of it at any one time. It’s a slow process, but it means we can survive it….

Twelve weeks, to the minute

I am constantly turning to Ray to ask his opinion. I still expect that he’ll be right there — to finish my sentence, give me the name of that celebrity that I can never remember, remind me of what my opinion was when I last expressed it on the subject at hand.

Ray was my greatest fan. He loved me unconditionally, He worshipped me, in fact. I know I didn’t deserve it, but I was grateful for it every minute of my life with him. He saw no fault with me. He always told me I was beautiful. He cheered me on in every shaky moment.

I am about as imperfect as a human being can be. I am a sieve with memory. I can’t remember names (numbers, no problem). I know the music I like, but unless it’s classical, I can’t remember the song, the artist or even the decade. Ray had an encyclopedic memory for music. I would walk into a room with him and silently elbow him and tip my head. He would give me the names of the people in the room from left to right. I would say go right. He would say go left. He was always right on directions.

It is startling how difficult it is to get by without that “other half”. Ray and I were whole, perfect beings, but we completed each other. We were the gilding on our respective lilies. Ray wasn’t perfect. I have no illusions in that regard. He was stubborn, temperamental and an uncompromising perfectionist. He expected the best from himself and everyone around him. It was hard to live up to, but that perfectionism made him support me with complete focus and passion. No woman could ever hope for such unbridled attention.

Now, I have to push myself, by myself. I have to ask, “is this the best I can do? Is this up to Ray’s standards?”. How many widows or widowers can say that that is the first thing they think about in loss? How many knew that they were exponentially better people because of their mates?

Eleven weeks, five days

Again, I am choking out sobs. I have just watched Dr. Wayne Dyer interview Anita Moorjani. The timing is heaven sent.

I have been consumed of late with thinking about Ray’s last hours. They weren’t good. He struggled and fought. He would fight to get up out of bed, even though he was only semi-conscious. His breathing was so laboured. I cannot find a way to calm myself about his state. I can only see suffering of the greatest kind. I can only imagine fear. It has filled my days and nights with guilt, horror, sadness and an overwhelming desire to comfort and take it all away…even though it is now long past.

We cared for Ray at home. He died, in his former office, in a hospital bed provided by the Province, with no less than 10 people with him. His brother, my sisters, my nephew, his sisters, my daughter, son and daughter-in-law were all there — talking to him, trying to comfort him and feeling the impossibility of letting him go.

I have been so haunted by Ray’s last hours. Tonight, I watched a PBS talk by Dr. Wayne Dyer, and he introduced a woman named Anita Moorjani, who had been admitted to hospital in Hong Kong with organ failure in late stage cancer. What Anita Moorjani said gave me some comfort. I’m not in any way relieved, but I feel there is a possibility that Ray was not suffering as profoundly as I believe he was. As she drifted into death, Anita experienced an expansion of consciousness — something Jill Bolte Taylor talked about in her TED talk called My Stroke of Insight. (I encourage anyone and everyone to watch this. I have done so numerous times. It is new information everyone should have.)

Anita saw “the other side”, saw lost loved ones and, at the same time, those grieving by her bedside — but she felt overwhelming peace. For some reason, God gave her a chance to come back.

I think Ray got that chance on the operating table at VGH in March of 2006. The surgeon told me that they had almost lost him. It was a 12-hour surgery with profound complications. The surgeon thought of closing and giving up, but said he knew he had to go ahead. It gave me and my family six more years with Ray, a man more expansive in his generosity and humour, a mentor to young designers, an inspiration to countless people.

We can’t know what passing into death is really like. We can hang onto the words of those who have come close. For me, they give me a bit of comfort. As it happens, I have been present at the death of a number of people — some peaceful, some violent. In all but Ray’s case, I have seen peace sweep over them. I am still so unsure in Ray’s case. He wasn’t done and I’ve said that before. Was he willing to let go? Was he okay with going to “the other side”? I won’t know til I get there myself. Sometimes, I really want to be there, but not in “that” way. Just in the way that I miss him so badly and I want to see him again. I can wait until it’s my time, but I certainly don’t dread that day.

Ten weeks, three days

I’ve stumbled into an unexpected new phase in my healing process and it feels like a big step backward. I have constantly been on the verge of tears since I got back from my cruise. Everything I see, touch and hear that reminds of Ray makes me well up. I can’t even say his name right now.

It seems strange to have this happen so far away from his death. I feel his presence much more tangibly now, more so than before. I feel agonizingly wistful for his thoughts and ideas. With everything I do, I realize that Ray would have done it differently and I feel somehow guilty for not doing it the way he would. I know that this is neither logical nor healthy, but I need to take it out and have a look at it and figure out why I feel this way. I know that I am my own good person. I know that I am intelligent and kind. I know that I have my own specific talents. But I miss Ray’s talents. I miss his opinion. And I miss his kind and gentle spirit.

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