The Care Giver Steps Through a Door

I found myself singing this morning.
That wasn’t unusual in itself; years ago I had the unconscious habit, without obvious provocation, of singing out loud, but softly, seemingly oblivious to my environment, startling workmates until they got used to my behavior, singing just well enough to neither attract snarky comments nor applause.
The situations of the last two or three years had pressed all the extra breath from my lungs. My singing had stopped under the stress of taking care of someone with a fatal disease.
In these last few months, the stress has been immeasurably worse.
My beloved wife declined and died. There was a memorial attended by a great number of people who knew and liked her and by a few people who had ignored her during her illness but took the occasion to tell me in choked terms how sad they were that she was gone. The things they brought as gifts I threw in the trash.
The very next day, having decided I must actually live the rest of my life I began to thin our possessions down to just what I would take with me. My plan is to travel for some months and then live in NYC.
For six weeks I woke most days at 6 and worked at giving away or discarding virtually everything we owned. I am taking with me only a few clothes, some books, my cameras and gear, boxes of pictures, a single dresser that I’ve used for most of my adult life and of course my wife’s ashes.
So, in a few months I had lost my wife and given up most of my physical possessions.
I am leaving behind the house where we lived together for 32 years, some very good and close friends and virtually every single personal connection I had. For years my life had centered around her disease, so I had strong ties with in-person and on-line support groups for care givers. Now that she had died, I was out of place. I was not suffering the same burdens, I had stepped through some invisible doorway and was now, perhaps, the object of envy by those left behind.
Was I running away?
Perhaps.
I drove to a small town south of Albany, New York where I am staying for a while with my daughter and son-in-law. They have a large, very beautiful old home on 9 acres; the situation is serene and I hope to become so.
The weather has been too hot to walk around outside much but I spend the day reading or watching Netflix and helping with small chores.
Today it was a bit cooler so, after rescuing a young skunk from the swimming pool, I walked across to look at the small clearing on the hillside where I will bury Jackie’s ashes. Tomorrow I will search for a small teak bench to put there. My son-in-law, who is an artist and also a wonder with his hands, will help me – or I will watch him – put the bench together.
I had stored boxes with some personal goods and a great number of family snapshots in an outbuilding and, on the way back to the house, I stopped to look for a certain book. On the very top layer of a box of snapshots I found that picture above. The picture is of me, at the age of two, and my mother.
I took the picture back to the house to show to my daughter who immediately asked for it as a keepsake.
Then I went into the kitchen and was washing the breakfast dishes when I found myself, for the first time in recent years, singing.
Was it possible that I was happy?
My beloved wife, the center of my life for so many years was dead, but yet somehow I realized that I could go on.
Her memory would always stay with me and yet I could be happy.

15 thoughts on “The Care Giver Steps Through a Door”

  1. Your blogs have helped me through some very tough times and here again you’ve lifted me above my sadness as I slowly see my husband Ms I’ve known him disappear. I too once had a song but it has also been silented by the outburst from him of his blue casket(we have a preneed for us both)

    Sing, sing,sing and live for us all as we muddle through this disease till we reach your new shore.

  2. Sounds like this new chapter in your life is going to give you lots of reasons to be singing again! Wishing you much joy in the coming months of travel

  3. Lew, you give hope to all of us. I am so happy for you that you are finding your way out of the darkness.Keep the light on for the rest of us.

  4. Lew,
    Sing more everyday. I do remember that you mentioned it your propensity to break out in song unprovoked. It sounded fine. Congratulations on your entry into another phase of your life. I would to join you on a photo expedition somewhere in the world when its time to do so.
    Barry

  5. You have been a blessing. So glad you are able to begin a new chapter. I hope you enjoy your travels and your daughter & son-in-law. Sounds like their home is a perfect landing place between your travels. It would be wonderful to read updates from you and see pictures of your travels whenever, or if you are so inspired. We can live vicariously through you until our journey is over. Take care!

  6. I am so thrilled that you have found joy again, in the sense that you can appreciate and rejoice in the simple things of life. Joy is the one thing that I have vowed to keep throughout this horrific journey. I believe music is as important to us as caregivers as it is to those inflicted. For you, singing appears to be a manisfestation of a contented state of being; for me, it is a weapon for my soul to remain joyful despite my circumstances. I believe I speak for many of us as caregivers in saying that we aren’t as envious of the doorway you stepped through as we are rejoicing that a fellow caregiver has survived to live again. We love you, Lew, and will always been connected through our shared experiences regardless of what doors we walk through in the years ahead.

  7. “Her memory would always stay with me and yet I could be happy.”

    It’s time…..time to go on living.

    Peace be with you, Lew.

  8. Lew, I am glad that the clouds have begun to part and that you are once again finding joy in the simple things of life. Keep on singing for it brings gladness to the heart. Best wishes as you move forward with this new chapter of your life.

  9. So true, u r blessing. I care for my hubby with young onset alzheimers. I loved singing but these days I can hardly remember a chorus. Thank u for sharing. Powerful.

  10. I truly hope you find peace and are happy again. We do deserve release in our own way after our spouses are released from their suffering. As always you articulate simply and honestly the journey we are all walking. For me, behind you, it brings me comfort.

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