wings and things

Getting back on my feet

on September 26, 2017

One of the most unsettling things about Anthony’s quick death, after so many years of him outliving his various prognoses, is that I had prepared myself, psychologically and emotionally, for many more years of life. I had made lists of ‘things-to-do-in-the-nursing home’, like sorting out photos, collating everything I had already written about dementia and Anthony into book form, transcribing Ming’s dialogues with his dad, finding a new comedy series to watch, getting my mother to teach me how to make hairpin lace shawls – those sorts of ongoing things.

I had planned, in advance, all of these things … to do in the nursing home, side-by-side with Anthony, so the disorientation I have been experiencing since he died is understandable I guess. When I went to see our doctor for a bit of a debrief, he, too, was surprised at how quickly Anthony died after being given morphine (for the very first time) for his pneumonia. Then the doctor said that he had noticed a deterioration over the last several months and we laughed about how, whenever he said that to me, I would always reply, “Oh no – you just got him on a bad day – he is amazing!” Perhaps I was in denial but I don’t think so because Anthony would always, always, come back.

That night – the night Anthony died – there was a distinct feeling that he was pulling away from me. At the time, I thought I was probably holding his hand too fiercely, too tightly, so I loosened my grip and felt his hand press and release mine until I let go. It was then that I went outside with Ming and Amber to discuss whether to ring Ming if Anthony died in the night. As I’ve already said, this was a moot point because of course Ming wanted me to ring him and, anyway, I didn’t expect Anthony to die that night as I had only just gotten used to the idea that he may only have a few more days to live.

We were only out of Anthony’s room for a matter of minutes when the nurse came outside and said he was gone. The disbelief of that dreadful moment still resonates but I don’t feel guilty for not being in his room when he drew his last ragged breath, because he always knew that I would be back. It is impossible to know, of course, the philosophical wherewithal of that timing. Could Anthony only die once I was out of the room? No – well, I don’t think so.

The fact remains that he died, full stop. Anthony died and the more I remind myself of this resounding truth, the more able I am to find my feet again. During the first two days of the retreat, I kept tripping over these feet and bumping into doors, my feeling of balance askew. But gradually I regained a sense of physical balance and was able to go for walks in the surrounding bush, my legs and feet transforming from a toddler’s to an athlete’s. And my breath came back as if I had just found air after being submerged.

I didn’t want to continue to blog about grief but I can’t seem to help myself. The sharing of laughter and memories and anecdotes with friends and family have been both healing and invigorating. But, at the end of every day, here I am absolutely lost without Anthony’s aliveness.

Walking is going to be my new ‘thing’. I have already found some walking trails nearby and I am going to walk and walk and walk and walk.


27 responses to “Getting back on my feet

  1. susanpoozan says:

    I am perfectly certain that walking is very healing, go for it!

  2. mimijk says:

    It’s a new rhythm – one that your soul has to adjust to. Time, time, time – and patience with yourself. Grief is a dance we all learn, despite hating it as a partner. You write what you want, when you want and how you want – we’re all here for and with you.

  3. ksbeth says:

    and just keep walking , you will find your pace again –

  4. Lois Watts says:

    Walk and keep walking Julie, until your shoes wear out, then buy new shoes and keep walking, it’s good for the soul, you will come to another door eventually, when you will find things are a tad bit easier to cope with. Give yourself time to grieve, breathing all the while, in time you will feel better. You will be walking one fine sunny day, when once again your beautiful smile will light up again, and your love of all things beautiful will return. But in the meantime please continue to blog.xx
    Much love to you and Ming, love and massive hugs to you both. Tell Ming to prune the

  5. Walking and writing is good for the soul. If you loved as deeply as you did grief never ends – sadly… But you will get used to it. It will become a new way of life. Much love my friend.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Walk, but keep on talking too. To us in your blog, and to your family and friends face to face. And keep writing to Anthony, those private wonderful thoughts that are just for him. Gossamer threads of healing weaving a new fabric even more delicate and beautiful than the one just completed.

  7. Vicki says:

    I can only reinforce the act of ‘walking’. Lois articulates it well.

    Walking, (specifically in nature), has to be one of the most healing things I did after being forced to take early retirement in early 2010.

    I know being chronically ill and in pain is nothing like grieving from the loss of a loved one, but when I was forced to quit working with no hope left (of a future), it was like dying and being re-born as a different person. I think it took something like 3-4 months of walking to really feel the effect.

    Walking. Each breathe……..and the extra oxygen…….. revived me where nothing else could. Some days it can be hard to get out the door, but with Spring in Australia, hopefully at least the weather will be kind to your outdoor space. As soon as you actually start walking and become aware of the breathe, it will get easier.

    May I suggest that a short daily reading of quotes like the following is a good starting place. Solitary walking in nature gives one time to really ‘stop and smell the roses’. Maybe that’s an over-used expression, but its true. Smelling the delicate perfume (on the way to somewhere else on your life journey), is not the same as stopping to be in that Moment and smelling, or feeling, nothing else BUT The Rose. There is no past. There is no future. There is just that intoxicating aroma and awareness of The Rose.

    You become aware of every sound, smell and taste. You hear every bird call and feel every breathe of wind whispering through the tree tops. Eventually it can become Walking Meditation and you’ll arrive home feeling totally refreshed and ready to move on.

    I can assure you that one day you’ll suddenly feel different, not better or worse, just different. There’s nothing wrong with Different, its neither good nor bad, its the Middle, The Balance of Living and Acceptance.

  8. In times of sorrow, grief, joy, laughter, whatever the times, do what soothes your body and soul. Walk dear Jules and let walking soothe you until the next thing appears and the next – let each step lead you to the next step. Many hugs.

  9. Walking connects with nature and is very healing for me. My sense it it’d be same for you. Bless you sweet Julie. ❤

  10. Luanne says:

    Julie, I’m so sorry for your loss. You’ve shown us how to live with dementia in the family and now you will show us how to live after the loss. Sending much love from Arizona.

  11. everyone copes differently as you know. My MIL passed away after my husband had come home for some sleep. He was her main carer and I think she waited until he had gone to slip away. I do hope you can walk and enjoy nature as I find it very healing. Wish I didn’t live half a world away and I would take you cycling too.

  12. I appreciate everything you share with us Julie. I hope you continue to share whatever it is you need/want/can at exactly the time you need to.

  13. tootlepedal says:

    Walking is good. I would recommend cycling too but I know that your roads aren’t conducive to safe cycling.

  14. Judy says:

    Thinking of you, Julie, as you slowly journey down that long pathway of grief. It’s a road you’ve been trudging on for a long time now. You still felt that Ants was with you, despite his illness. Now you truly are traveling on your own. But nothing has changed. Ants is still with you.

  15. thesoulscare says:

    Thank you for your lovely, thoughtful blogs! Though I have not commented in the past I have enjoyed them and felt a kinsmanship with your family. I was saddened by your lovely Ant’s death. Thank you for the courage to keep blogging and do not feel apologetic about your subject matter. The Lord will move you on when He’s ready. In the meantime there is always someone who needs these words and to see the realness of grief. God’s rich blessings as you take your time moving forward with life.

  16. halakm says:

    Dear Julie,

    I just want to express my deep condolences; to me you are a symbol of love, faith & loyalty.. what you offered your dear beloved husband before & during his sickness & suffering ought to grant you clear, relieved conscience..I assure you that if he would have had a chance, he would have thanked you & expressed his gratitude for all what you gave him as a devoted, sincere & loving wife..It’s your right now after this long journey of self-denial &-dedication to feel not only comfortable but -allow me to say- proud with what the kind of wife you are.. I myself have learned a lot from you.. I was happy to follow your posts all the way as well.. and I thank you for that.. may God bless Anthony’s soul & keep you safe & happy for your dearest Ming.

    Hala Kamal A.Muawwad >

  17. Writing and sharing your thoughts during this very difficult time… just as the letter you wrote to Anthony, I believe will help you in the healing process… Diane

  18. batgurrl says:

    Jules – walking is a moment of serendipity. Take your camera and tell us what you see. The door has opened and you need to step into the Alice Wonderland World. Leap down the rabbit hole.

    On a more somber note, I have to thank you for your sharing. It has helped me prepare for life ahead for all of us. We ALL have love ones who will leave us. Your coping is going to support us for years.

    Praise your bravery.


  19. Walking is amazing and will help your heart heal and I think he may have waited till you left the room to die because he didn’t want you to watch him die and I know that may sound silly and I am sorry if it does, it is just my thought

  20. Thinking of you a lot. From my own experience you will keep reliving certain moments over and over but the memories won’t be as intense after some time. By not rushing through grief, by continuing to write about it, I think you will help yourself and other people. Friends who have lost loved ones have shared thoughts about how people want them to recover much too soon.

  21. Judi Lynn says:

    My September’s been so busy, I got behind on everything, so I was so shocked when I opened your post. I’m so sorry to hear that Anthony died, but I’m so happy for him that his death was fast. That’s such a blessing in the last moments. Your whole life has revolved around him. My mom’s did, too, when my dad languished year after year. Grieve in your own way and take as long as you need to. Walking is good.

  22. I only learned of Anthony’s death today and I am so sorry for your loss.
    You have touched so many hearts with your blog and you continue to do so, speaking from the heart. Thank you. You are an inspiration.

    I shared in the care of my mother for ten months before she died. My siblings and I were with her round the clock, yet the final moment came when we were all out of the room and she was alone with her brother (my uncle). For me it had been a short bathroom stop and I had been holding her hand only moments before. I felt so guilty that I had left her side. For months I grieved about not being with her at the end. However, the more and more I thought about it, I decided that she chose that time herself. It was almost as if she could not let go of us (her children) and so she couldn’t go while any of us were there. For me the deep grief about not being there was a distraction from facing my real grief – that of losing her. Grief works in such strange ways.

    Take care Julie

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