On Thanksgiving Day my cousin, Michelle, who lost her husband to cancer about a month ago, had a post on Facebook stating how Charlie had loved Thanksgiving, had been the main meal planner, did the shopping, cooking, and eating. Not only was she grieving the loss of her husband, but their family tradition every year involves going around the table and each person saying what they are thankful for. Michelle posted that she wasn’t sure how she would answer this year because every year she always said the same thing…her family, her job, the love of her amazing husband and that he continued to kick cancer’s butt.
Michelle and Charlie – Photos “stolen” from her Facebook Page
This year Charlie didn’t kick cancer’s butt, it kicked him. Hard. He was still working about two weeks prior to his passing. He went down fast. When I read her post I didn’t even hesitate, I just started typing. My comment to her was:
“I know what you are thankful for, it is the same thing I am thankful for. Neither Charlie or Ron are sick, nauseous, in pain, or in any way suffering from that horrid disease. Maybe they have found each other in heaven and are getting acquainted by trading photography tips and stories.”
After I posted the above response the reality hit me. I may have used my ankle surgery as an excuse for choosing to spend the holiday solo, but the reality was I didn’t want to do the meal preparations alone, at least not this year. Ron and I had always prepared it jointly. I stuffed the bird and baked the sweet potatoes. Ron did the potatoes, sometimes re-baked, sometimes mashed, sometimes both. Ron made the fruit salad. I did the green bean casserole. One of us made the gravy, and the list goes on.
Last year I did it all alone, but that was different. Ron was too sick to participate in the preparations in 2015, but he was still here. He came to the table, had a few bites of food, and went back to the couch. Austin (our 9-year old grandson) spent most of the day sitting next to Ron. Eleven days later Ron was gone.
I realized that regardless of how well I have adjusted there will be moments when things hit me, and sometimes I won’t realize it at the time. What I posted to Michelle in the comments is true. I am glad that Ron is no longer struggling to swallow, weak, or sick from the combination of chemo and the disease itself. I have moved on with my life, I have made the adjustment to being alone. How do I know?
Another question that Michelle had posed to me a week or two earlier was how I handled going through Ron’s belongings. She was struggling with that step. My answer, you will know when you are ready, because it will be just another task, not an emotional roller coaster. I only recently started cleaning Ron’s clothes out of the closet. I told Michelle that I hadn’t unpacked the bag of Ron’s clothes I brought home from hospice the day he died until a few weeks ago. That bag had been in my closet unopened for 11 months. I was finally ready. No emotions, just clothes to put away.
Everyone is different and processes loss at different levels. From time to time there will probably be something that triggers a memory or an emotion. We are, after all, human.
So in answering my cousin’s post in an effort to help her cope with her loss, I gained insight into my own reasons for being so adamant about not preparing the meal this year. Next year will be different. If I don’t have people here I will be gone and doing something. Possibly volunteer at a kitchen that provides meals for the needy. Home alone will not become a habit of mine, of that I am certain.