I recently was sorting through some storage totes we had tucked away years ago. In one of them, I found what I thought was long lost and what I had been searching for through many years: notebooks Jim had written to the kids when they were little and a letter to me Jim wrote not long after he was diagnosed.
Needless to say, since I have stumbled upon this treasure, I have been an emotional roller coaster. It is such a shock to the system to read words written in Jim’s beautiful handwriting. It is like holding a sacred document in my hands, as tears stream down my cheeks, my insides swirling between feelings of amazement, shock, happiness and reliving the pain of losing him all over again. Searching each word for a hidden meaning, a sign, a glimpse again at who Jim was, hearing his voice read the words out loud as I sit in silence with only my memories and my heartache. Just when I thought I was getting stronger, working through the grief, the wounds have been re-opened and I begin anew trying to sift my way as I struggle to grasp so many feelings.
But through the agony of reliving the love and loss I feel so grateful to be blessed with these words from Jim I had desperately hoped for. Jim’s expressions to me hold a weight they never would have if he were still alive and we were still living our day to day lives. Why is it we can’t stop, slow down, appreciate the mundane and normal conversations, touches, feelings, stories, desires and existence of those around us? So many days I struggled to recognize how little time we had left together and day after day I became overwhelmed, stressed and indifferent to the ticking of the clock counting down the days, hours and minutes left to hold Jim, look into his eyes, hear his voice and to feel his hands in mine. I always felt we had more time, which somehow I fooled myself into believing even as he lost abilities and functions. How grateful I am to have his words, like ghosts, to pour over and treasure. Even if it feels as if I am reliving the loss, I wouldn’t miss being able to have his messages to me to keep forever.
I had asked Jim so many times after he was diagnosed to write letters to the kids. He always said he would and he didn’t. He started, but just wasn’t able to. Maybe it was too hard, too painful, too much admitting what was happening….maybe it was denial or maybe his mind was just already incapable. Whatever the reason, he didn’t. He didn’t leave me instructions for his funeral, or help with his obituary (one of the worst things after he passed was trying to put into words the wonderful man and life he had lived) and he didn’t write me a message of love and acceptance for what was to come and release me from all the strain and weight of his care. He didn’t write to me he forgave me for my shortcomings. He didn’t come back from the grave to tell me any deep dark secret. It was and is still up to me to be my own savior and relieve myself of my own pain and my own insecurities. Oh how I had relied on him for so much and how I still wasn’t prepared for him to leave me, even after he was sick for so long.
We should all write out our wishes, our feelings of love and acceptance and most importantly: forgiveness. What a gift for our loved ones left behind; messages to be read and cherished once we are no longer able to communicate with them ourselves. While a most difficult chore and maybe one that needs some assistance, but what a priceless and invaluable gift to leave behind. No need to procrastinate, start today with a journal, a piece of paper, a notecard….whatever you have handy and write from the heart. Don’t be scared to share stories, thoughts, opinions, and tell those loved ones left behind you understand their sacrifices, their need to move on and that you forgive them for any perceived imperfections. Guilt can weigh you down more than grief. Relieve them of their guilt and remind them of your love and your connection. It will make you feel good knowing they will have your words and it will give them a keepsake unlike any other.