Tag Archives: grief

A New Normal… but no idea

So, I had a long convo with an old business partner/friend. It was good to chat through things in a way where brutal honesty rules and no punches are pulled. That’s one of the cool bits about business… when decisions drive finance, you can’t beat around the bush or you will loose. Beyond that though, we’ve both been through the rough and tumble over the years, so despite hard core candor, there is never any question as to ones support for one another on either side.

So… the obvious, “yep, you gotta figure out a new normal, but what that is, I have no idea”, and of course, neither do I.

But one of the critical bits was… “our world is one of no excuses. Granted, this is an exceptional time, but sooner or later, the excuses have to end, when is that going to occur?” Nothing like not pulling punches LOL, but he is right on the money with this. It would be all too easy to dick around for a very long time and then extend it some more. Such would not be cool.

Obviously grief gurus tell you that timing is not predictable, and each person has to work through things on their own time. One challenge, especially for the businessman, is that the rest of the world doesn’t stop just because ones own personal world did. A second challenge is that jumping in too soon can put others finances, and in the case of engineering, potentially life at risk, so that’s not cool either… but it can also serve as a barrier from jumping back into the fray too. Such was ultimately what my buddy was getting at.

The other thing he brought up was my lack of confidence. Yep, there are times when grief stops me cold, or impairs decisions… but for much of the time, at least at this point 4 weeks in, its not happening multiple times a day anymore. Its now coming up on 10:30PM, and so far today, I may miss it entirely. Yes!!! but no doubt I’ll pay for it tomorrow. Alas, identifying the problem is often times a big step in solving it, so at least we have that.

Alas, neither of us are into random plodding along, a game plan, even if it might well fail is needed…

So… You need to go on vacation!
Um, I don’t do vacations
Well, I don’t either

So, that doesn’t work too well, but the concept of a massive stimulus out of my element to clear my head, followed by jumping back into a safer area is really the key… the stimulus bit is the challenge. If this were early May, I’d go spend a week or two doing Bible camp prep somewhere, its not so much out of my element as much as its massive isolation combined with massive workload for a week or two. Alas, being its coming up on memorial day weekend, the logistics sort of kill that idea. There’s also the issue of a boatload of aviation coursework I’ve got to get done before June 1… so that adds another layer of complexity too. Alas, one way or another, I will have a game plan before June 1… even if its crazy stupid and failure prone.

So then its like, so what are you going to do with all the medical stuff you picked up over the years… good question, as at my age, med school is not practical, being I wouldn’t start making decent money to pay off loans until I was retirement age. Sort of wish I’d pursued the DO thing way back when, but it is water over the dam. As such, this is a good question… but the opportunities are limited. I’m not sure the PA thing is a good route to follow with my science and independence focus, and nursing is out of my scope.

A good conversation, more questions than answers, but its all good.


Sharpening like my Grandpa

One of the guys in my CAD/CNC group said something profound today. “Its  like running your outboard at full throttle, and then loosing the prop… ” Yep, that pretty much describes it. Caregiving over the long haul pretty much demands full throttle all the time… and when your spouse passes away, not only do you have the inertia of the rotation assembly, but the grief part easily turns into a overspeed situation with a high probability for runaway… Big picture wise, I saw this with my neighbor after his wife passed some years back… it was only a few months before he joined her.

I’ve sensed overspeed once before after a car crash where my head got to do some banging around on the roof of the car as I went end over end a few times. The seat belt kept me in place, but its design criteria assumes A the roof won’t collapse very much, and B, the seat belt won’t break during the rotation period. Despite such, my only injury was a sliced up head… and for the next couple weeks, talk about major overspeed.  Being the blatant opportunist, my thinking was wow, how can I monetize this and ride it out for financial gain… but its very situational. I could fly through some projects, and others I’d just stare into space and/or get flustered. Overspeed is not all unicorns and daisies.

This time however… overspeed was there, but leveraging it for financial gain was the last thing on my mind, at least in the short term. My thinking was to ride it out… and as the initial grief waned, try to put it to some positive use. Alas, this didn’t work out too well, as overspeed + runaway started seriously messing with my physiology… I was almost thinking I may need to go see a doc, which got me thinking about my neighbor today. He just rode it out, and just like me, he viewed going to see the doc as anathema, but it didn’t end well for him. One big difference of course is age. He was quite a few years my senior, but the pieces make a whole lot more sense now.

Apparently all of the above was obvious to an old friend of mine… who got me to slam on the brakes in a huge, albeit unconventional way where in I morphed into grandpa mode last weekend. Amazingly, or perhaps more so, logically, the physiological stuff disappeared almost immediately. What truly was amazing though, is the productivity aspect… in part as the grief fog is starting to clear, but in part also as hair on fire mode is not always as productive as it appears.

I remember growing up, whenever we needed something sharpened, it would go to grandpa. He could make shears, saw blades, mowers, pretty much you name it as good as, or in most cases better than new. My dad called it magical. I’d always assumed it was the result of 50+ years of farming… but was curious, so I’d go hang out and watch grandpa sharpen stuff.

At 85, he was no speed demon, but you could drop off a bunch of things to be sharpened one day, and the next day, he’d have them all ready for you to pick up. Even more so, short of garden tools and drill bits, he rarely used a grinder.

1. Grandpa believed the factory guys knew what they were doing, so when he sharpened something, he made sure to keep the angles the same as the original factory edge. Such is easy to do by hand with a file or stone, its near impossible to do free hand with an electric grinder. Even if an edge has been massacred by a youngster with a grinder (me), there will always be bits and/or clues as to what the correct angle needs to be.

2. At 85, Grandpas energy was limited, so rather than trying to get everything done in an hour, if it took all day and he missed his tv show, nap, or worked into the evening, such was ok by him. In other words, he worked at a constant pace, and he was not going to let day to day things interrupt the stride he initially set… but he was more than willing to take time to explain to me what he was doing. Such also kept him from getting overly tired, or feeling the need to take a break due to a faster pace.

It turned out grandpa taught me well… when things would get slow at the airport, I’d go into sharpening mode. I remember my boss being really impressed after he brought in his home mower for me to sharpen one day… he was so impressed, it got to be that at a couple times of the year, all I’d do was sharpen customers blades rather than work on planes. He called it ensuring customer satisfaction in a humorous way… they could learn to fly, get flight checks, or just rent out planes, and as a novelty, we’d sharpen their mower blades for free.

So, this last weekend, being I had some mower blades to sharpen, I did it grandpas way. It turns out, that even when I run up on thicker grass, the mower no longer bogs down at all. Such never happened back in the day when I’d just touch up the edge with an angle grinder. In fact, I kept up a pretty constant pace from mid morning until into the night, pretty much just as grandpa used to do… and when all is said and done, the lawn hasn’t looked this good in years.


I think there is a lot of wisdom in Grandpa’s approach.

Its been 3 weeks

Today, its been 3 weeks since my wife passed away. I’ve started to blog, and then shut things down so many times… A large part of it is due to how scrambled my thinking is. Ie, its near impossible to write something that doesn’t ramble on or venture into multiple non-related subject areas.

Otoh, if blogging is to be a healing thing, rather than a communication method, adhering to the protocols and such ends up being more counterproductive than helpful… add in that I don’t have a huge following, chucking the rules aside, and writing for the sake of writing is the path I think I’ll take… but for how long remains a pig in a poke.

I’m also going to bring up some of the unfinished, or unthought through posts from the last 3 weeks. In googling around, it seems there is very little for folks dealing with the initial stages of loosing ones spouse… likely as its just freak out time. Well, it is… but maybe some of this might help someone, maybe making it public might help me somehow, or maybe its just cluttering up the blogosphere…

Grief sucks

St Joseph the Workman Cathedral and God Winks

I think daily mass is way cool… before my wife got too sick to get out much, even on her ambulance stretcher, we used to go to the adoration chapel in the middle of the night, and then would catch morning mass before heading back home. There is something incredible cool about daily mass… and even though I couldn’t receive the elements, not being a Catholic, just being in the presence of others doing so was pretty powerful  Alas, we hadn’t been to daily mass for many years, it was difficult enough to make a trip to church once in a while, and in the last year, even Christmas and Easter proved difficult.

As such, when I was out chasing down some specialized tooling, I thought hey, I should check out daily mass once again. Not just because its cool either… initial adrenaline has worn off and grief stuff is a ton suckier this week, so I’m poking here and there to deal with it.

A bit of googling, and I got a church and time so I was good to go. I’d never been to this particular church before, which was cool in a couple ways. First, visiting churches is always a blast, you never know what you will run into. Secondly, I’m very much in the grief arena where solitude is much preferable to being out in groups… and church visits often times means one can go in, worship, leave, and no one will even notice. It looked to be a win win all around!

and my mind was blown…

The sound, oh wow, the sound, the organ, the natural reverb, it brought back memories from one of my profs talking about Revelation 4 as a zone like experience. I mean we read the text and it very easily comes across as boredom city in isolation… but within the context of uber awesomeness, such is not the case, it becomes a zone like thing. He used the example of being at a Vikings game and totally enthralled with the experience… not being into football, well that analogy didn’t work for me, but I did get the point he was making. The zone was there at St Joseph the Workman… wowzers^5

The sound, the scripture texts, the experience was awesome!

and then came the homily…

Ok, this is not a homily compatible with sola scriptura, or pretty much any lutheran type beliefs. Apparently this is an old school type of parish, with a major focus on Mary, tradition, the saints, Holy Days etc… a huge contrast with my wifes parish, which while very much Catholic in liturgical practice, the homilies often times could just as easily be said at an evangelical mega church, short of a a few bits here or there.

And while a homily on Our Lady of Fatima etc was not my cup a tea, where the priest ran with it proved fascinating, but first a bit of background.

The days leading up to my wife’s passing, and the weeks since have been filled with what appears a string of near impossible coincidences… enough to make me really take notice and wonder what on earth is going on.

See, I’m a bit skeptic and somewhat cynical on a lot of things… not quite to the point of being an open theist, but leaning that direction a bit. Said beliefs as to Gods direct intervention in the here and now, used to cause my wife and her friends a certain amount of frustration with me as I didn’t really get with the program so to speak. Ie, I’m not a believer in free will when it comes to the big deal stuff as the scriptural support as well as tradition / early church writings, and of course Luthers bondage of the will are pretty rock solid… but for the smaller stuff, I was thinking the free will / open theist folks might not be all wrong. The last few weeks have caused me to do some major rethinking on this. I’ve even gone so far as to order via inter-library loan, a book on God winks / coincidences that a friend recommended.

Getting back to the priest’s homily and Our Lady of Fatima… he talked about the crazy coincidences involved and how God shows us things through the seemingly bizarre. It turns out Fatima was named for the daughter of Mohamed… and then for Mary to appear in that city, wowzers, what a ton of messaging to ponder.

Obviously this is all prompting a bit of a theological rip up and redo… while man’s will or lack there of is not a major theological game changer, the profound aspect of God stepping right in the midst of our lives in a huge and visible way is a pretty big ball game.

God winks all around

My wifes alarm just went off

For the last 12 or so years that my wife was bed confined, I’ve been her caregiver at home 24/7/365. The longest we were ever apart was around 7 hours once when my car upchucked and another time when I had to go to my Moms funeral. In order to deal with the often times massive sleep deprivation on my part, I relied on a series of alarms on my Palm Pilot. Ie, its easy to know what to do when woken up in the middle of the night, or day if you crashed, when you get a screen telling you to do A, B, C or whatever as you don’t have to think too much. I then got the wise idea to give her a Palm Pilot of her own… which worked out really well, as she could program things exactly as she wanted, unlike the far too often cryptic messages I used on mine.

As I mentioned on facebook, she passed away in the hospital last Thursday afternoon… a snippet of which is below.

My wife likes to say we’ve been married 21 years, as she does some creative gymnastics (or at least that’s what I call it) with the zero point. Technically as of today, we’ve been married for 20 years and 4 months exactly… Alas, lesson #1 in marriage is the wife is always right, so I concede 21 is reasonable being we are in our 21st year of marriage.
At 3AM this morning, I had to authorize a change in her care orders to comfort only, as curative care had reached its limits. Sadly, while holding her in my arms at 3:45PM this afternoon, she breathed her last while listening to “Behold the Lamb of God” from Handel’s Messiah. One of her favorite pieces of music (we used parts of the Messiah as our wedding music way back when)….

Each anniversary for the last 10, Jan said she wasn’t sure she’d make it to another one… and God blessed us with 21. Pretty amazing.

As such, I’ve got a meeting with her priest this afternoon and have been working like crazy to put the service together. The two tricky bits I’m working on are songs and the scriptures… and then her alarm goes off and knocks me off balance for a bit.

I decided to keep the alarms up and running for a while to maintain a routine. I’m not sure if thats a good or bad thing, but its what I’m doing. I’ve got an artists drawing of her from years ago just beyond my computer too. Grief is hard, very hard… so before jumping back into the funeral work, I figured I’d blog just a bit.

When it comes to the songs, I looked at theological content with a strong leaning towards ease of congregational singing. As the funeral is likely to be during the workday, its pretty likely not too many folks will attend. In addition, over the last few years, our outside activity has dropped to near zero… and folks move on as well, so numbers of singers in the congregation wise will be limited and complex music won’t cut it… but I found some great songs that my wife enjoyed and a couple easy hymns that totally jibe with her Christian walk.

Scriptures are tricky. Electronic Bibles are a great thing, but they don’t lend themselves to timestamped breadcrumbs. Ie, you don’t know when something was read from a timeline pov… so I rolled back to her printed Bible, and based upon the types of bookmarks used, I got a timeline together to assist with sorting the scriptures. Paper towel bookmarks were one of her last inventions when we ran out of post it notes before transitioning to electronic scriptures.

Alas, a bookmark while a good thing, doesn’t lend itself to zeroing in on the content at hand. I’m under some time pressure to get this done, being I’ve got to be on the road in 5.5 hours and need at least a couple hours sleep…

A bit of googling, and wowzers, a reverse lectionary. I can scan through the bookmark pages to church A,B, C years and see what the lectionary gurus thought was an important text. It has allowed me to zero in on key scriptures pretty quickly…. I wasn’t able to do this earlier due to the whole grief thing going on, but am getting back on a roll… I hope I remember everything to bring everything else along.

In other words, the reverse lectionary rocks.