Birth, Death, Joy, Grief (24)

Aug 09, 2020

Birth, Death, Joy, Grief (24)

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future

To a known God”

·      Corrie ten Bloom

My wife of 59 years (June 10, 2020) and best friend Eileen had been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the esophagus, in February 2019. Eileen died on February 22, 2020, the day following the birth of our latest granddaughter, Maria; the funeral was March 4, 2020, and the burial was July 3, 2020. This blog gives my thoughts, fears, prayers, and hopes during this challenging and difficult time looking at the space in my life.

I am still in Ohio, as just as I was preparing to leave, I had almost finished packing the car Wednesday morning and was upstairs ready to strip the bed, when I heard a loud crash of pots and pans in the kitchen, and Tom called for me. When I arrived, he was sitting on the floor, and there was a lot of blood on his hand. He had scraped a large area of skin on something (we have never figured out what he hit). I called his daughter for help, and she and her husband came over and between the two of us we got him up and into a chair. Eventually his son joined us and they took him to the emergency room to have his hand looked at.

He returned with his hand wrapped up, and will go to the wound center on Monday to have it checked over. He said he had been reaching for a pan in the lower shelves of the kitchen cabinets, and just lost his balance and went down. Pots and pans were scattered about the floor, that corroborated that statement. In the process of falling he apparently bent his toes back and they were very painful. The x-rays showed that none were broken, but they were very painful (pulled muscles?), and still bother him quite a bit. So I will stay on until he regains his confidence and his feet stop hurting. Hopefully I will be able to go home next week.

We will move all things he uses or could use up to the upper shelves. There are many ‘good’ dishes that could be moved lower or taken into the basement on the upper shelves, giving space for the pots and pans he would most likely use.

The greatest loss was his confidence in his ability to remain alone. His fall button did not go off, and after discussing it with the company we added another on his wrist. He had been wearing the one over the head under his shirt, and the company said that for best results it should be loose over his shirt. He is now able to go to the bathroom by himself again, and he generally is now preparing his own breakfast and lunch, but at a much slower pace.

My classmate decided not to come over because of the virus exposure, and we agreed to talk once a month or so going forward.

My son Dan and his family have gone back to Virginia, leaving my daughter Barbara  at my home alone. That means that when I do return home the self-quarantine will be much simpler, as I can roam upstairs freely, just not go down to where Barbara spends most her time. According to the guidelines, I just have to take my temperature twice a day (morning and evening), and as long as I don’t run a fever I can be free to walk about the area upstairs. Doesn’t sound too bad, as I can go outside into the gardens and look and work on the bonsai.

I have spent much time pondering death and more, especially Eileen’s death. Eileen often spoke of her premonition of an early death over the years, especially the last few years. she has mentioned often that few in her family lived until 80, and none that she knew of reached that age without dementia. She had done almost everything she wanted to do in life, and was content with her life, happy with her children and family life, and happy that she had no sign of dementia. She worried about me and the grandchildren, but trusted that God would take care of us. I was worried, but she seemed content with life as it was, and faced the cancer with calmness. I recall she said to me, after watching her sister lying in bed with Alzheimer’s, not seeing or recognizing anything, that she would prefer to die of cancer than that go through that sad condition. And so it was.

I have been trying to make sense of it all, and I realize deeply that this is life: death is part of life, and she does not really die totally, as memories of her remain, children and grandchildren remain, and all the good she has done (and she left a deep mark on the world with her many things she accomplished, and the many people who were touched). I am reading a book that is helping, The book is Finding Meaning, by David Kessler. He has spent a lifetime working with the dying and helping those who have suffered a deep loss, including himself, as he lost his 20-year-old son to drugs. He calls “meaning” the sixth step in recovery, that after acceptance finally occurs we must find a meaning in what has occurred. It is helping, and I am about a third of the way through the book. I have yet to find meaning in Eileen’s death, but it is early in the process, as he mentions that it usually takes a year or more before one can reach that point. It took him several years to find meaning in his son’s death; and if he can find meaning in that, I surely can eventually find meaning in the life and death of Eileen.

I found another poem in the book of prayers that I read every day: Life Prayers: Prayers from around the world,by Elizabeth Roberts. The poem is a Jewish Prayer:

In the rising of the sun and in its going down,

We remember them.

In the glowing of the wind and the chill of winter,

We remember them.

In the opening of buds and in the warmth of spring,

We remember them.

In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer,

We remember them.

In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn,

We remember them.

In the beginning of the year and when it ends,

We remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart,

We remember them.

When we have joys we yearn to share,

We remember them.

So long as we live, they too shall live,

For they are now a part of us, as

We remember them

——Jewish Prayer


Oh Gentle One, You are joined with us in our pain and loss, as You too wept over us in our sorrows as part of Your journey of life in caring for us. You know deeply my loss, and give me solace in love and gentleness in the love and care of family and friends. I bow before You in Your understanding of our human condition, opening up paths by which love can hold us in ways we can feel and touch. My loss is Eileen’s gain, as she is now in Your Love and Care, sharing all with me and all of her vast array of friends and family.

3 thoughts on “Birth, Death, Joy, Grief (24)”

  1. Beautiful, Uncle Dave. I’m glad you are finding that your being with your brother is so comforting to him. I love the Jewish prayer and I know Aunt Eileen is so present in your mind and heart. She will live on that way forever!

    1. Thank you Kathy! I am home now, and my brother is doing well. There is a danger of him falling agony, but he is much more careful now.

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My God has led me on an 80 year jaunt to ever more wondrous beauty. I am led to share this journey and gifts of God that have been showered upon me, not just for me but for whoever God brings into my path.

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