Things are not exactly looking up yet, but I’m doing . . . okay. Sometimes terrible, but often okay. I’ve benefited from some good advice from a number of quarters, including one acquaintance who has become a friend in recent days. Christine writes a beautiful blog called My Literary Playground relating how various things she’s reading impact her as she processes her own grief. Definitely check it out here.
I too have been doing a lot of writing lately, mostly journaling and writing letters to David, which may sound weird, but you’d be stunned at how many bereaved recommend it, and it actually really helps. It was a suggestion both in my grief support groups and in the wonderful book On Grief and Grieving by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler.
Then I jumped at the chance to enroll in a writers workshop offered in Denver free of charge for cancer patients and their caregivers by Lighthouse Writers in conjunction with UC Health. I’ve only had one session so far, but loved it, so we’ll see how that goes. While awaiting the beginning of the workshop, I started reading Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer, in which the author mentions a sort of parlor game. One of her friends said he’d heard that your favorite fairy tale or children’s story turns out to be the key to who you are. An oversimplification, of course, but I was intrigued by the concept.
I have a lot of favorites, but it would be hard to beat The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, about a tree that keeps finding new ways to give more and more throughout its entire lifespan and the boy, later man, who benefits from the giving. If you’re not familiar with it, you’re long overdue. It was originally published in 1964 and remains a classic of children’s literature.
Japanese Garden, Portland, Oregon
Well-rooted in La Rochelle, France
When I think about the story, though, and how it might relate to my life, I think it would be much more accurate to say David was the giver and I was the demanding little boy a LOT of the time. If not exactly demanding, I certainly knew expressing a wish in David’s hearing was a pretty sure way of having it granted. Ironic and beautiful, really, that his final gift to me was allowing me to give to him.
For it is in giving that we receive. ∼ Francis of Assisi
Brittany and I finally got our act together and asked Matt, the worship pastor at our church and all-around tech guy, for help getting the slide-show, plus the goofy videos of David put on YouTube. He’s calling it “David Collage.” Brittany and I were thinking that some people might appreciate a bit more context for the video clips, so see below for that, but if you don’t care or can’t wait, here’s the link: Click here.
Be sure to keep watching when the slide show is finished — there’s a black and white slide that lasts about 20 seconds before the videos start. (It was a nice way to end the slide show during the celebration of life, where we didn’t show the videos.) The slide show plus the videos were playing all evening at the reception, so you may have already seen this. The whole thing is 13:41, and the videos start right about 8:11.
I love the slide show, especially with the music (“Save a Place for Me” Matthew West and “Leave This World Behind” Third Day). It really is a collage of David’s life, although we couldn’t put in every photo we would have liked to include. Here are a couple of photos I received too late:
Really, there are so many more photos, but thought I definitely should share these two of Tom and Christy French with David, since they are a couple of our dearest friends, but I didn’t find any photos of them with David for the slide show until Lexi sent me these a few days after the final version was done. Oh well. I promise we love you, Tom and Christy!
Brittany and Chelsea were especially good at trying to catch David on video once his cancer was diagnosed in August of 2016, and we happened to have a couple of earlier ones from other family get-togethers. Here are the videos you’ll see:
The Wheelchair Race — May 2013 — This was an interactive station in a children’s museum, I think in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Notice how the adults are TOTALLY into it. I especially love David’s delight and Felicity’s cheerleading.
Dark, Dark Place — Thanksgiving 2016 — Courtney had teasingly drunk the last of Chelsea’s favorite wine, admittedly out of Chelsea’s glass, which may have crossed a line. Oops.* Chelsea . . . was . . . well, not amused. Since Courtney’s humor had backfired, she was feeling down, so David was trying to cheer her up when Chelsea came over to join the conversation. Once David started his melodramatic retelling, it had to be caught on video.
*Postscript: This bit of strife did eventually lead to the most amusing and memorable Christmas gift of 2016: One dozen bottles of Chelsea’s favorite dry Riesling, all individually wrapped in various sizes of boxes and bags, so they looked like they contained anything BUT wine. They were all gifts to Chelsea, but every single bottle had a large sticker on it saying “Courtney’s Wine.”
Jimi Hendrix Tribute — A few days before Christmas 2016 — This was a gift Chelsea and Brian bought for his toddler niece and we were all laughing about how much the parents were going to HATE it. Definitely love David’s guitar face and head banging. And of course the laugh.
Pressing Your Luck — Christmas 2016 — Brittany was sneaking this video, so had to slowly ease the phone into better position without David noticing. Brittany’s dog Bega is not actually allowed to jump or climb up on people on the couch, but somehow manages to broaden the scope of permitted behaviors every time she stays here, hence the “pressing your luck” question.
2013 New Year’s Eve Ball Drop — In this video we’re helping Courtney move into her condo, where as you can see, she has no furniture yet. But it’s New Year’s Eve, so we’re trying to make the best of it. There was no TV, so someone had the bright idea to have our own ball drop, hoping for a dramatic shatter at the bottom. This is what happens when the ball is tiny and plastic. Brittany is trying to videotape while keeping time, then chasing the ball, then helping hold the ball. Maybe you had to be there, but this one still makes us laugh.
I Love You . . . . . — Thanksgiving 2017 — David is noticeably weaker here, but still making us all laugh. Chelsea had wanted a video of him telling her he loved her, but he said it before she started recording the video and she asked him to repeat it, so he’s teasing her a bit by naming EVERYONE in the room, except her.
And how well he did love us all.
And how much we love him still.
One of the definitions of collage is an assemblage of diverse elements in unlikely or unexpected juxtaposition. Doesn’t that sound a lot like life? What a privilege to share so much of mine with this dear man.
If you’ve been following my updates on CaringBridge, you already know that David’s ordeal is over. The last bit was hard, so I have to be glad for his sake that that part was not prolonged, but being without him seems to stab me at odd moments, and I can’t quite seem to catch my breath.
Time yet again to remember all I have to be grateful for.
We had a lovely Christmas with our daughters, granddaughters and future son-in-law, even though by then, David was not strong enough to leave the bedroom. We all visited him regularly throughout the day and he gave us a few smiles, more precious than any other gift.
The 26th was busy with rearranging the bedroom to make room for a hospital bed. It turned out David only used it for one night, but it was helpful and we were glad to have the loan of it. David and I shared a few perfect moments in the evening, which I already related on CaringBridge, but here it is, in case you didn’t see the CaringBridge post:
During this entire sixteen months, whenever I didn’t know what to say, I’d say, “I love you” or “I love you to the moon and back” or “I love you to infinity and beyond” or “I will love you forever.” Even when his voice was a mere whisper, he would say back, “Love you.” Until the 26th. He was finally comfortably installed in the hospital bed and it was just the two of us quietly together. Even though he was clearly listening and I felt he was very much with me, he was not replying. When I got a bit teary and mentioned that he wasn’t saying “love you” anymore, he immediately tipped his head up, opened hiseyes wide, looking directly into my eyes, and said, strong and clear, “I love you very much, for all time.” It was the last complete thing he said.
On the 27th, I sat next to David and updated CaringBridge, talked with the hospice nurse when she visited, did various caretaker tasks, updated David’s brother Doug when he arrived in the early afternoon from Portland, Oregon, and generally just watched over David as he slept. I thought we were settling into a new pattern, even if just for a few more days, but just before 4 p.m., David took a few irregular breathes and suddenly was gone.
I’m not sure how to describe the next few hours, except to say they were tender and piercing, touching and wrenching, all at the same time. I had precious time alone with him, but mostly we were all there with him, saying our goodbyes in a peaceful, I’d even say holy space that is so rare in this life.
I don’t really remember the next day, except that it was quiet (no more wheezing, thumping oxygen concentrator) and everyone was very gentle with me. I had a few necessary tasks, but the others managed everything else, taking care of the young ones, providing food for all. Best of all, in the evening, they did something David would have LOVED . . . ↓
. . . laser tag with glow bracelets and necklaces, out among the trees on the dark golf course. I wasn’t quite up for it, so declined, but every one of us could absolutely picture David, all in, dodging from tree to tree, giggling like a maniac. The next day people started heading home, so that was our last night together during this bittersweet Christmas holiday. It was strangely perfect.
*A Celebration of David’s Life will be held on the 19th at 4 p.m. at Council Tree Covenant Church in Fort Collins, with a reception to follow at our house. More details and a chance to let me know you’re coming here.
If you have been following David’s battle with pancreatic cancer on CaringBridge, you have heard the devastating news that he is now on home hospice and not expected to make it to Christmas. Considering the fact that we are currently at roughly fourteen and a half months and the original prediction was nine to eleven months of survival, as heartbroken as we are, we are still very grateful to have had this additional time. That said, I can’t pretend we will ever be really ready to let him go.
So many thoughts come flooding in as he rests. Sometimes I need a distraction to keep from pestering him with questions on what I can do for him: if he needs pain meds, if he’ll drink a bit more Ensure or Powerade, etc. Right now seemed as good a time as any to write a post I’ve been meaning to write for months.
In July we flew to Michigan to celebrate the life of David’s cousin Pete (another dear one cancer has taken from us). After a touching evening with family, the next day David and I took a small road trip south for a bit of nostalgia. Brittany was the only one of our daughters able to join us, but two of David’s brothers, Eb and Doug, had one night to spare, so we drove two cars down to Dayton, Ohio. We were actually headed more specifically to Oakwood, the suburb where David and his sister and brothers grew up. First stop, Marion’s Piazza for lunch . . .
. . . then a stroll around the old neighborhood.
Since we were standing out front of their old house, Doug decided to go ring the doorbell to let anyone inside know why we were lurking and taking photos. The woman who came to the door was so kind, she actually invited us in, so we had a chance to see the setting of so many of the stories we’ve heard over the years.
After a few more stops, we sent Brittany with Doug and Eb, since the three of them had flights the next day home from Detroit. David and I had an extra day, so we headed to Indianapolis, where we met in 1978.
Definitely on our agenda was the Indianapolis Museum of Art where we had our first date. The grounds were still as beautiful as we remembered . . .
. . . but the Garden on the Green restaurant was no more. The building is now only available for special events. Still fun to see the building and remember that we were sitting right inside these corner windows . . .
. . . when we both realized we would marry each other. This was four days after we met. I know, sounds crazy, but it did work out rather well! Our 39th wedding anniversary is this Saturday, the 18th.
Later that day we started heading north to get back for our flight home from Detroit the next afternoon. It was a quick trip, but what a sweet one. This little nostalgia tour was all David’s idea, and I love that we had a chance to make a few more memories and revisit the scenes of old ones.
In case you have not yet had the chance to see it, below is a YouTube link to a tiny video of David a few days ago on the 12th. He had a pretty good day, which was nice since it was Brittany’s birthday. He gets a bit confused occasionally and sometimes uses one word when he means another (you’ll hear him say “gracious” when he meant “grateful”) but overall thought you might like to see this word of thanks from David.
So sorry! It’s been a while since my last Movable Assets post. As you know if you’ve read the last two, most of our attention these days is focused on David’s battle with pancreatic cancer. For the time being, though, I’m VERY happy to report he’s doing remarkably well. Regular updates are on CaringBridge.org.
The number and frequency of house guests has diminished considerably as David has improved, but we did host our girls and granddaughters at Christmas . . .
. . . but since David ended up in the hospital on December 26th and for the three days following, the above photos are about all I have to show for the Christmas visits. Fortunately, David bounced back quickly from that bug.
February was challenging, with David . . . er . . . enjoying a week-long hospital stay, but his chemo has since been adjusted and he is doing very well now.
Which brings us to this past weekend’s return guests: David’s brother Doug, of course, and David’s mom, Helen. They had flown in from opposite coasts, so we decided sitting around in the living room was not quite entertaining enough. David is doing so well these days, we were able to drive down to the airport to pick them up and head into downtown Denver for lunch at the Ship Tavern in The Brown Palace.
Then Saturday, we drove down to Longmont to the Cheese Importers where we had lunch in the bistro, perused the stacks, shelves, piles, heaps, mounds of goods for sale (most of it about or from France, which I love!) and finished with a quick trip through the chilly cheese room, where we stocked up on not just cheese, but also my favorite butter with sea salt crystals. Yum. You can see the butter choices on the right in the photo below.
Saturday evening, we decided to revisit the venue for Doug and Kristl’s rehearsal dinner and treat Helen to a bit of excellent jazz, one of her favorite things. Unbeknownst to us, we were about to be treated to a special Fort Collins appearance by Linda Briceño, renowned Venezuelan trumpeter and vocalist, playing along with Myles Sloniker on bass and his dad Mark Sloniker on piano. We knew we would enjoy hearing Mark and whatever group he had for the evening, but the three of them together were an amazing, rare treat. Boatloads of talent in that trio! Loved it!
Helen and Doug have both gone home, but Doug says he’ll be back again before too long. He’s a VERY easy house guest–when he’s not setting our toaster oven on fire–so always welcome. We supervise his cooking now!
In other news of returns, Chelsea will be soon be back again, this time for the foreseeable future, maybe for good!
She’s moving back to Colorado and hopes to be here by Easter. David’s cancer was the impetus for reevaluating how far away she wanted to live, and the answer was NOT that far. Bonus: Brian also lives here in Colorado. She’ll fly to DC a few times a year for work, and we enjoyed our visits there so much, we may even join her sometime, but mostly we are very much looking forward to having her closer. Brian’s pretty happy about it, too!
And yet more news of returns: We will be returning to our beloved La Rochelle (France) at the end of April and have the blessing of David’s doctor to stay for the entire month of May (stellar timing–Chelsea can house-sit). I promise more regular Movable Assets posts while we’re there!
Love makes you see a place differently, just as you hold differently an object that belongs to someone you love. If you know one landscape well, you will look at all other landscapes differently. And if you learn to love one place, sometimes you can also learn to love another. ∼Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces (Love that book!)
There is certainly a LOT of love going on here. Beloved family and friends visiting from far and near, emailing, sending cards, commenting on my posts here and on Caring Bridge, praying and thinking of us so faithfully. And now we have a chance to go back again to see our very dear friends in La Rochelle. I’m hoping to astound them and my tutor/friend Natacha with my improved French. On verra! (We’ll see!)
Wishing you excellent times with people you love in places that resonate deep in your soul!
Since the end of August, when we learned that David has stage IV pancreatic cancer, we have been sustained by an outpouring of love and support. We’ve received so many cards, emails, texts, as well as wonderful life-giving comments on his Caring Bridge site www.caringbridge.org/visit/davidbridge. Be sure to check it periodically if you’d like updates on how he’s doing. I try to update it at least once per round of chemo.
We’ve also received LOTS of visits, and this seems a better place than CaringBridge to share about that. I know there are some who would like to visit, but are staying away out of sensitivity to David. It is unfortunately true that even simple conversation can be exhausting. Anything over 30-40 minutes can begin to tax his strength, so thank you for being considerate about that.
But of course our daughters visit as often as they can . . . ↓
And David’s brother Doug has been a regular . . . ↓
Fortunately, they do much of the laundry, vacuuming, even grocery shopping, to spare us extra work.
Thanksgiving weekend, we were able to host the aforementioned regulars, along with David’s brother Eb and his mom, Helen, who pretty much NEVER lets anyone take her picture, so ENJOY this one! Looking pretty great for 89 years old, don’t you think?
Thanks to kind friends, we had enough Aerobeds to go around, tucked into random spaces, and had a really great time. David was given an extra week off from chemo, so was doing quite well for the most part. When he occasionally ran out of steam, he went to the bedroom for a bit of quiet or a power nap. We are so very thankful for how well it all worked out.
What a journey this has already been, now roughly three and a half months in. David is feeling much better now than he was at the beginning, so the chemo so far is working, and the side effects have not been much more than cold sensitivity, fatigue and loss of appetite. The original “11-month average” life-span estimate now seems unnecessarily pessimistic, but we know the future remains uncertain. I find myself on an emotional roller coaster way more often than I’d like, and David has got to be tired of seeing me bursting into tears at random moments, sometimes only seconds after laughing together about something. Sheesh.
But when those emotional times come, we remind each other of all our blessings, and they are MANY.
Each new sunrise brings one more day to enjoy with each other. We had never before experienced this profound gratitude just for waking up feeling pretty good and being together. And as the moon shines down on us after another good day, we remember all of you who have taken time out of your day to reach out with a note or a text or a meal or flowers or a home-maintenance task completed or an encouraging comment after a blog post, and we are very grateful indeed.
Doug left this on our magnetic poetry board after one of his visits:
yesterday, as then
you, my friend, sing of eternity
needing no voice
devouring our languid winter away
He never said a word about it, but what a beautiful image to discover during the quiet of a lull between house-guests. What would we do without all of you, our dearly beloved? You are the hands and arms and feet of God in our lives. Thank you.