Life with a semicolon

Sometimes you get a glimpse of a semicolon coming, a few lines farther on, and it is like climbing a steep path through the woods and seeing a wooden bench just at a bend in the road ahead, a place where you can expect to sit for a moment, catching your breath.  ~Lewis Thomas, physician, educator. Dictionary.com Columbia World of Quotations. Columbia University Press, 1996.

I hate semicolons.  Don’t know how to properly use them.  You won’t see many, if any, here in this blog.

I feel as though I’ve just experienced a semicolon in my life.  I hate them there too.

We started this blog as a way to be frank and honest about what has been going on in our lives after Francis’s cancer diagnosis.  I didn’t realize just how fitting the name of this blog would be to my life.

I have said good-bye to and buried my best friend and love of my life.  I now begin to figure out where to go after this hated punctuation mark.

If I’m honest, I’m struggling to catch my breath and see the start of the path ahead.

The chaplain from Big Bend Hospice came for a visit a few weeks ago.  Francis was able to join us briefly before heading to bed and leaving us to chat further.  The chaplain asked me what inspired my honesty.  I told him that I have nothing pretty in my life behind which to hide.  I also told him I was worried about losing that honesty in the midst of my grief.

This blog has been a way for me to share what’s happening to us.  It’s also been an avenue for me to steal a few moments and process my own thoughts.  I hope to be inspired to continue to do this.  I also hope that through the blog I can hold on desperately to the honesty that was helpful to me and to others.

I’ve spoken to people who have been grateful for the words I’ve written, and I’d love to be able to continue to be a help to those who read this.  As I grapple with processing my own loss, I plan to use the blog to write about what my life “post-semicolon” is like.  It will be my own, and without a doubt unique in the path along which it takes me.

To kick it off, I can only reflect briefly on what the first week of grief has been like.

Once Francis passed away and in the days that followed, the house was a flurry of activity.  The drugs, medical equipment, and removal of his body all had to be addressed.

I had gone to the funeral home a few weeks earlier to make preliminary arrangements, so those decisions were already completed.  There were still hundreds of decisions, if not thousands of decisions, to be made.

There were emails, phone calls, texts, Facebook posts, and visitors that had to be faced.  There was a trip to Jacksonville and a service and celebration that had to be planned.

In all of this activity, I didn’t have time to face the fact that Francis was really gone.  I went to bed exhausted and my mind was racing the moment I awoke with all the items I needed to check off my to do list for the day.  The next day was just a repeat of the previous.

Then, the day of the funeral arrived and I couldn’t get motivated to get out of bed.  I felt like throwing up all the way to the cemetery, and felt crushed by my grief at the service with Francis’s coffin sitting before me – a painful reminder that our lives had gone so terribly off track.  I was exhausted by the time the public celebration of Francis’s life was set to begin that afternoon.

Somehow, I was buoyed by the hugs and well-wishes at the celebration of Francis’s life.  That continued into the evening, spent with family and friends.

Since that time, I’ve struggled to really understand this new stage of grieving for a lost spouse.  I move from a sense of denial that Francis is gone to an intense awareness of my aloneness.  I often feel that I should be a crying, broken mess because that’s how I have pictured grief.

Perhaps though, my perception of grieving is a bit off.  More often I feel as if I’m just lost.  I wander through my day without a real clear direction or motivation to do much of anything.

I’m sure the tears will come, perhaps often.  I’m sure there will be tear-free days as well.  There will also be days filled with laughter with Couper an Riley.  All of these things are okay.  I just need to understand that the grief I feel today is all part of the process.

After all, the rest of the path follows this semicolon, and I don’t know what the rest of the journey holds.

 

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9 responses

  1. Janice Shaffer | Reply

    Dear LeeAnn:
    You and Francis have been in our thoughts and prayers for the several months we have been aware of your struggle with this cancer that came so unexpectedly and undeservedly on your family. Francis’ mother, Frances, was a good friend to me when we were young Army wives at Ft. Benning, GA, many years ago. So she has shared her anxiety about her son as well as her pride and happiness that you have been the helpmate and advocate for Francis throughout these critical, frightening months. How fortunate she is to have had you to stand by him in this last battle of his life. You have been a noble ally, dear girl. My husband read your blog with regard to Francis’ death to our Sunday School class last week (May 19), and this tough old Army Colonel could not finish it without crying. So here we are in Kansas, unknown to you totally, but somehow loving you and feeling your anguish. We were so touched by the message (sent by a friend through your blog) in which we were able to see glimpses of Francis’ life and especially to visualize your wonderful and loving relationship. What a great honor, that the Congress paid tribute to him! We are certain that the Lord will see you through the difficult days and months ahead, and that though Francis will always be a part of your life, you have so much love and intelligence and hope and cheer and strength to offer to the world you will meet. May the Lord bless you as you take each day, one at a time.
    Finally, prompted by Dr. Thomas’ words at the top of your blog, I wanted to share this poem by Robert Louis Stevenson— “Verses Written in 1872″

    Though he that, ever kind and true,
    Kept stoutly step by step with you,
    Your whole long, gusty lifetime through,
    Be gone a while before—
    Be now a moment gone before—
    Yet doubt not; (sure) the season shall restore
    Your “friend” to you.

    He has but turned the corner—still
    He pushes on with right good will
    Through mire and marsh, by heugh and hill
    That selfsame arduous way—
    That selfsame, upland, hopeful way,
    That you and he, through many a doubtful day
    Attempted still.

    He is not dead—this one—not dead,
    But in the path we mortals tread
    Got some few trifling steps ahead,
    And nearer to the end;
    So that you, too, once past the bend,
    Shall meet again, as face to face, this one
    You fancy dead.

    Push gaily on, brave heart, the while
    You travel forward mile by mile,
    He loiters, with a backward smile,
    Till you can overtake;
    And strains his eyes to search his wake,
    Or, whistling as he sees you through the brake,
    Waits on a stile.

    Mal joins me in extending to you our profound sympathy. As you meet the tough days ahead, please remember you are in our thoughts and prayers. Because…
    For the courage and hope you bring to the world, we are remembering you with love now and thankfulness always,
    Janice Shaffer

  2. Dolores Strickland | Reply

    Something happened to my comment. It didn’t go through so I will try again to tell you that it will take a long time until you can be almost normal. My sister-in-law was just like you when she lost her dear husband. Go to grief sessions, LeAnn. It did help my sister-in-law after quite some time. You are so young to have this happen. Help is needed. How I wish you could meet with my sis-in-law. Sent with caring love. Dolores

  3. You’re an amazing young and strong woman! Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts with all of us that have followed along the path of the semicolon life. You write so well that it’s easy to feel the days and even moments you go through. Yes grief as you know comes in and out of stages. Look to Couper and Riley often. They’ll get you through.

  4. Sherry Michaelis | Reply

    Old phrase….but very true….one day at a time. Do not try to figure it all out at once. Rock your babies…sing them a song…read them a book…indulge yourself in some “me” time. You deserve it. Let your mind rest and do not try to figure everything out at once. You are a strong lady, and you will make it through this part of your life. Have patience with yourself.

  5. The poem that Janice Shaffer shared is absolutely awesome. Oh, how I wish I could see the world in this way. Thankful that people share their perspective and experience so that others might learn. LeAnne, thank you. I hope the sweet breeze shifting the trees here in Pensacola is doing the same in Tallahassee and you feel in it the whispers of those gone before you.

  6. You are not alone. God is always with you. And friends continue to keep you close in thought and prayer. My heart breaks at your loss. How fortunate Dave & I are to celebrate so many years together. Take it one day at a time. Seek out grief counseling. Hug your kids. Take time for yourself. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Today is all you need. Tomorrow will become today soon enough. Above all – remember you are loved and God will carry you through till you can once again stand on your own.

  7. Praying for you and kids LeAnne! Love, Lee, Rach, Sam & Zach

  8. Dear LeAnne,
    We are keeping you in our prayers that the Lord will be with you and help ease your pain.Love and hugs, Nancy Smith

  9. LeAnne. I can only tell you what your blog has meant to me. You are amazing and we all are so lucky to be blessed to know you. Each day will be a different feeling and going through it, not like you with Love of your life, but Father,Mother,and Sister you have to do the whole process,whatever that is for you. Know that all of us are praying for you and Couper and Riley, even those in Bible Study in N.C. and Amelia. So, know if you need any of us for anything- all you have to do is ask. Love. Sandy Burrows

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