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Paying Homage: Who was he?

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Paying Homage: Who was he?

I recently took part in a memoir writing course, hoping it would help me write the memoir I’ve been struggling with – about my life with Bob, my husband who died four years ago June 8th, and grief, and whatever else this book will be when I write it. But I just can’t seem to get the writing down in any way that isn’t jumbled.

I tried to write a submission for critique. The first one wasn’t good. The second attempt wasn’t much better. Overall, it was a painful struggle. When it came time for the critique of my piece – the last of all the submissions – the facilitator didn’t go through my story like she had for the others. She asked questions.

“What was Bob like? From what you’re saying, without saying it, I think we can tell he was intrigued by you when he met you. I think he was introverted, kind and shy.”

But these were conjecture based on what was in between the words. I hadn’t said who he was and in missing that I missed what made him important to me, and to others who knew him.

So I’m going to do my best to tackle this again, and maybe by sharing this I am revealing just a small part of who he was.

Bob fought for his life the entire time I knew him and without complaint. We had a good marriage. We weren’t best friends, we became kindred spirits. We rarely fought each other; we fought for his life together. He had Crohn’s Disease – an often debilitating illness causing so much pain it’s palpable, especially to those who love you the most. We fought the disease one operation after the other until his death. “For better or for worse, in sickness and in health.” And yet, during the 30 years I knew him he never once complained about his lot in life. He barely complained about the excruciating pain until it became unbearable and he would tell me it was time to go to the hospital.

Bob was the most honest person I ever met. Over the past four years I’ve encountered people who are bitter over broken relationships, divorce and deceit. I can tell you without any hesitation that Bob would never do that to me. We actually had this conversation and I remember saying that cheating on someone would be the worst pain you could inflict on them. “That one act can affect another human being’s self-esteem and makes them question their self-worth. It’s better to admit you harbored those feelings and walk away before you acted causing irreparable pain to another human being,” I said. He agreed. I trusted that Bob would never do that and I know he didn’t. He was, as we say in Yiddish, a mensch – a person of integrity and honor.

Bob was analytical and a mediator. He always said “There are three sides to every story, yours, mine and the truth.” He was soft spoken and rarely raised his voice in anger. When he did, people would stop whatever they were doing. They would listen to him as he analyzed the situation, having weighed all the pros and cons before speaking up. In one of his jobs he was asked to be a mediator and in another job he was approached to be a union representative because people knew he would be fair and honest. He proved himself to be fair in all instances and took his job mediating on behalf of others very seriously.

Bob was respected by everyone who knew him. During his last months, his co-workers and supervisors from the automotive parts plant, where Bob was a lead-hand electrician, came to the hospital to talk to him about his return to work. They had decided to put him in charge of their apprentice program because he was so patient and good at teaching those who were in trade training. He was humbled and elated at the opportunity to take on this role, which never happened because he didn’t make it back to work.

At his visitation services grown men came and cried on my shoulder saying how much they would miss him. The day of he was buried, the plant he worked at shut down production at 11:00 a.m. when the funeral began. There’s a sizable financial cost to involved with shutting down a plant, even for a short while and, believe me, this isn’t done for everyone.

Bob was a wonderful father and grandfather. We have a daughter and he had two children from a previous marriage. His daughter has a child, our granddaughter. Bob was an amazing father. His children looked up to him and wanted to make him proud. It wasn’t hard to do that. He was proud of each of them and always let them know this, not with constant praise but by being there to counsel them whenever they had problems. It was dad they often turned to when they were struggling. They knew he’d have the answer they needed to hear.  His granddaughter was nine when he was in the hospital those last months. No matter how sick he was, when she came to visit he’d swing his feet over the side of the bed, sit next to her and whisper quietly having a special, private conversation only a grandfather and granddaughter can have. When he died his children were bereft and to this day they all miss him profoundly.

Is this what people need to know if I were to write a memoir? I’m still not sure. But I hope that by giving just a few small insights into who he was, I pay homage to a man who never looked for the limelight, but in his death I hope I honor him with my memories.

Paying Homage: Who was he? was originally published on Write From Here

I will always miss you

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I will always miss you

It’s been almost four years and my heart still aches.
I will always miss you.

I am in a different place than I was four years ago, but
I will always miss you.

My heart is open to new possibilities, but
I will always miss you.

When I see couples together and I feel jealous.
I will always miss you.

I am stronger than I was three, two, a year or less ago, but
I will always miss you.

I walk without you beside me but I’m told you’re always near. I don’t feel you.
I will always miss you.

I wonder what life would be like if you were still here.
I will always miss you.

A bird, a word, a song, all reminders of our life together.
I will always miss you.

Realization that finding someone like you is impossible but I must go on.
I will always miss you.

I am hopeful that I will find a light and a different kind of love beyond sad memories but I will never forget you.
I will always miss you.

I will remember you forever even as my new life evolves.
I will always miss you.

I will always miss you was originally published on Write From Here

You Hurt Too

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You Hurt Too

Sometimes on our journey we meet people who are also grieving. They inadvertently hurt us with their grief.

I know I am stronger because I don’t blame myself, but it hurts. I can’t help you if you don’t want to be helped and you can’t blame me for how you feel. We are at an impasse.

I no longer feel pain. I can’t cry because I’ve built a wall around myself. It’s my protection. I can’t feel empathy and that scares me.

It all changed when he died and I was propelled on this path. I don’t recognize myself anymore. I hope I will be able to let this wall down so I can feel again, but I can’t trust right now. Where did I go? I miss me.
 

You Hurt Too was originally published on Write From Here

Eulogy for my Dad

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Eulogy for my Dad

Friday, October 7, 2016

dad-gradDr. Murray Boles, August 27, 1928-October 5, 2016

As many of you know our dad’s passing on Wednesday [October 5, 2016] came as a surprise. But that’s not what I wanted to talk about because Dad wasn’t the sick person we saw the past two years. He was a vibrant and active man, a healer and kind father and husband.

I could tell you about all of dad’s professional accomplishments but they really are too long to list so I’ll try and summarize.

Dad was born in Windsor, Ontario and so was my mother, but they met in London, Ontario, where I live now. Dad was attending the University of Western Ontario to become a doctor and mom was attending Victoria School of Nursing.

Dad received his degree in diagnostic and therapeutic radiology and was a member of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and Fellow of the same prestigious organization, as well as a Fellow of the American College of Radiology.

He worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Sarnia, Ontario waiting to immigrate to the US to practice there and started working at Grace Hospital in Detroit. He later became Chief of Henry Ford Hospital Therapeutic Radiology. In fact, he started that department and is a legend in the hospital because he forged into new area of cancer treatment and research there. He also held several teaching positions including Clinical Instructor, Assistant Professor and Acting Chairman in Radiology at Wayne State University Medical School. He was Director of the Therapeutic Radiology Residency Program and School of Radiation Therapy Technology at Henry Ford Hospital.

Mom and Dad moved to Columbia, Missouri in 1983 where Dad opened his own cancer clinic in conjunction with Columbia Regional Hospitals, where he also held the title of attending physician. That’s our dad on paper.

dad-2The man I remember, as a child, was very unassuming and quiet. He didn’t talk to us about his work but sometimes we’d go to his office with him. My biggest thrill was being allowed to use the typewriter. I think that’s where I got my start learning to type so quickly, that and mom making me take typing in Grade 9, which I thought was ridiculous but look what I do now. I’m a writer and can type 80 words per minute. So, yes, mom and dad had our future quietly planned, at least they knew we were going to attend university and created a life that allowed us this opportunity.

Of course there are so many memories I have of growing up and what I tell people is that, truthfully, I had a perfect childhood. We had loving parents who really cared about us. We learned the value of a dollar. Our parents came from modest families. When they married they weren’t wealthy. They bought their dream home in Farmington, Michigan for $25,000 and the living and dining room parquet floors were a place for my sister, Anita, and I to practice gymnastics because they couldn’t afford to furnish those rooms for several years.

One story dad told us was when he was in medical school and got a notice for a second term tuition. Though he worked in the Canadian Naval Reserve during the summers, something he was very proud of, especially in his retirement years, but that year he didn’t have the money to pay for his second term tuition. He went to the accounting office and they told him to fill out some papers and he got a bursary. Dad would give mom a dollar each week and asked her to hold onto it for him. They would go to the infamous Bobby Sox diner in London on the weekend and he would use that to have a hamburger. Being a skinny guy and putting all those hours in for school and internships, etc., this was a wonderful treat.

Dad had a loving family. We often visited our grandparents, dad’s parents, Bloomie and Joseph who lived in Windsor with dad’s brother, Uncle Lew. Lew and Dad were actually 21 years apart so Lew was more like a big cousin rather than our great uncle. The home they lived in was built by our grandfather and our father. We had our cousins, Stephen and Ellen State and their parents, Frances and Jack who lived in St. Thomas, Ontario.

Some of my fondest memories of bonding with dad included the day he decided to make bread from scratch with me and Anita. Mom was fastidious about a cleanly home, so he shooed her out the door that day and promised to have the place spic and span when she returned. I’m not sure how clean it really was because I remember being covered with flour from head to toe, but the result of our hard work was delicious.

On Sunday we would attend Hebrew School and Dad would take us to the bagel store and bring home a dozen bagels and cream cheese and lox and make scrambled eggs and we’d have a yummy brunch.

Dad also had a wonderful sense of humour. He would always pull a prank on mom on April Fool’s Day. Each year she swore she wouldn’t fall for it, but she always did.

Dad loved music. Every Sunday he’d pull out the portable record player. I know all the words to all the songs from Gigi and loved singing very song along with Maurice Chevalier.

He loved sailing, though his only solo attempt resulted in husband and wife overboard. Mom wasn’t impressed, to put it mildly. He enjoyed playing golf and tennis.

Our parents were married for over 50 years before mom became sick and died in 2009. They were the love of each other’s lives and we all missed mom, but dad missed her terribly. They were each other’s best friends. Every morning before he headed to work Dad would bring two cups of coffee on a bedside tray to their bedroom. Mom would be in bed and he’d sit on the side of the bed and, sipping coffee as they’d talk quietly together. He’d go to work and come home at night for dinner because they both felt it was important to be together, as a family, at the end of the day. As I said, it was a pretty ideal upbringing for my parent’s daughters.

In 2012 dad decided to move back to Michigan. He said it was an area he was familiar with and he would be close to me and his brother. He loved Canada and was proud to be a dual American and Canadian citizen.

I know this is just a sketch of our father’s life. He was a remarkable man. And today [at his funeral], as we put him to rest so that he can be with others that he loved so much, we ask that you remember him and all the wonderful times that you had with him when he was alive.

Eulogy for my Dad was originally published on Write From Here

Learning from loss

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Learning from loss

I’ve been writing blogs about my journey for a website called Headspace. Right now I have blogs two posted:  Till Death Do Us Part: Living the Vows of Marriage and Life After Death:
Death, Grief, Mindfulness and Meditation. Two more are slated for publication in November and December, and I’ve been commissioned to write another two. They’re all based on this journey from grief to ‘new normal,’ and in between. The amazing thing is that I’ve come to a point where I can write about the sadness but the ending is uplifting. That’s a huge leap from then to now.

In my last post here I wrote about the beginning of a relationship. It was an amazing journey. I learned I could have feelings for someone else and not feel survivor’s guilt. I learned that I could enjoy life and feel passion. But I also had to learn other lessons that weren’t always uplifting. In the end we parted, and my lesson since then has been that I can live my life as a single person and be a whole person on my own. It’s another chapter in this ‘new normal’ life.

I don’t see myself being alone for the rest of my life. I will never forget Bob and he will always be my husband. Those of you who have gone through this understand. But many of us also feel the need to connect with someone to move into a new chapter even, or especially, after such a profound loss. .

airbnb-superhostOne of the most influential things in my metamorphosis from sad and bereft has to do with opening my home to strangers. I became an Airbnb host in October 2015 and, to date, have hosted more than 40 guests in my home, from as close as my own city. to as far away as New Zealand and China. With each guest I became more confident and comfortable sharing my home. I offer my guests a place of respite and sanctuary from busy schedules in their everyday lives or if their visit brings them here to study or work. In return, they’ve given me gifts and notes of thanks and written glowing reviews on my Airbnb site. I must admit I’m a bit jealous because my cats – Joey and Cassie (get better reviews than I do! And for my efforts I’ve become an Airbnb Superhost, which is really just a status but it’s nice to be recognized for being a kind, caring host.

This week I begin what I think will be the final phase of my mental health healing. I’m taking a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) program for depression, to help with depression relapse. I’ve felt strong enough to handle the sad moments myself these past few months, but having tools to combat it when it reappears can only be a good thing. Depression is like any disease. It doesn’t just disappear. It’s ongoing and must be treated. I use mediation, exercise, work, positive affirmations, gratitude and have good friends surrounding me with love. I am thinking positive thoughts. It feels like another lifetime when I was holding on to dear life. That’s a good thing. I’m stronger now.

I’m even strong enough to work again and actually can focus (no more ‘widow brain’). This year has brought me new clients and a positive attitude about my abilities, capabilities and talents as a writer. I have a more focused perspective about what I want to do and the clients I want to work with. I am manifesting my desires and they appear.

We all lose loved ones and I am close to losing someone very special in my life again. It’s the natural ebb and flow of life. But if I have learned one thing from loss, it’s that someone new comes into our life at just the right time when we need them. And if we are lucky they stay with us, at least for as long as we need them. This keeps the flow coming in. Life and death are not mutually exclusive. They are what we must experience in our time here. And with loss comes more understanding about ourselves. I have learned a lot from loss, and I am sure I still have more to learn.

 

Learning from loss was originally published on Write From Here