Five Years.

Five years ago on this day, my husband passed away.

Five years.

The first year was so hard…thing after, thing after, thing happened to make it the worst year of my life.

It took five years for the memories to not all look like this…

So many of the memories were of Kramer sick and not himself. They were of me the caregiver, not the lover, not the friend, not the companion, not the life partner…the caregiver. Those of you who have been or are currently caregivers understand. It’s hard to get past the duty, responsibility, and sadness of being a caregiver and remember the life before. Occasionally, I as a caregiver, could see glimpses of the past life but then it became meal time, bedtime, or decision time, and I was right back in the caregiver position, and the intimacy of our past life was lost.

I am always amazed that I lived only 129 days as a caregiver and 32 years as a non-caregiver, but it’s those 129 days that overshadowed life with Kramer over these past few years. The memories were mostly about the last 129 days. Doctor’s appointments, surgeries, disappointments, oxygen tanks, medication…ugh.

All of that sucked out the love, the companionship, the partnership, the joy, the silliness…it sucked so much of that away.

The bad days still surface…but happily, the good days have taken the place of many of those bad memories. It’s taken five years to get to the point that the 32 years together aren’t in the shadow of the 129 days anymore.

Grieving is such hard work. I honestly think the hardest work I’ve ever done.

I am so thankful for the life Kramer and I had. Thankful for the kids…the grandkids…the times when he would grab me up in the butt going up the stairs, the times he would fix and rebuild stuff for me…thankful he provided for our family…so thankful for the 32 years together. It was good in so many ways.

It’s taken time. Today I’m letting the happy memories be in the forefront. I’m so thankful I went and visited my college roommate back in 1985 and that we went to a party where I met Kramer all those years ago.

I went to a graduation party for a family member recently and my nephew was talking about soon celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary. What? It made me realize how much time has passed since Kramer passed away. Five years. We would have celebrated 37 years this year.

Time moves on…the bad memories can move on too if we work through them and let them. I’m so glad I’ve gotten to a place where I can dwell on the happiness Kramer brought to my life and not on those dreaded 129 days.

Well Kramer, I think you’d be happy with where I am today. I’m not so scared anymore and I have some confidence back. I can hear you saying, “It’s about damn time”. I can also hear you saying, “Go and live your life”…or, “It’s just another damn day.” All of those were very Krameresque sayings. (he did swear some…sorry)

I’m trying super hard to do just that…live my life and not be burdened by the hard memories but be joyed by the happy ones.

Thanks for the wonderful memories and the happy life, Kramer. You meant so much to me and always will.

30 thoughts on “Five Years.”

  1. You have such a beautiful and full life and were blessed with so many years with your Kramer. Thank you for your precious post! It reminds me to slow down and love life every moment. No regrets.

  2. Jo, thank you for being brave enough to write this post. Life isn’t always happy but it’s important to put the sad out in the open so people know there is life beyond. Grief is a journey.

  3. Thank you for this post. My husband passed away two years ago and I can only remember the bad days. I know I will again remember the good days.

  4. Thank you for another heartfelt post. Continue to cherish your memories, even though sometimes they seem bittersweet. I so appreciate your honesty.

  5. Thank you for such a honest post. I lost my husband this same time of year – June 6 – 25 years ago this year – in a tragic accident. You are correct – grief is hard work. My life is rich and full now but it took a long time to let go of those feelings of loss. Sometimes I think I still carry them even after all this time. I suppose I do as they are like threads now woven into the fabric of who I am. I lost my parents within the last few years and was primary caregiver for them in their final chapter. Your thoughts on the caregiver’s role were so spot on. Thank you again for all you share and give to the world.

  6. Cynthia from Nebraska

    Thank you for presenting your real self, putting in words what this feels like. It will help us when we interact with those who are caregivers and as our parents age and we take on a bit of that role ourselves.

  7. Yes, the whole experience of my mom’s unexpected illness and passing left me with post traumatic stress syndrome for a whole year afterwards. Time really is the best medicine.

  8. Jo thank you for putting into words what life has been like for you, in good times and bad. You have a way of putting things out there honestly. It is so appreciated. Life isn’t always easy but if we work at it we become a more positive person. That is you for sure.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  9. Jo,
    While I don’t know what it’s like to lose a spouse, I lost my best friend, my brother, on Christmas Eve last year. There are still so many days I want to call him up, tell him I love him, and let him know how my kids and grandkids are. I want to send him pictures and laugh with him. I’ve gone to grief groups, but I’m still stuck in the journey. I can see by your post, there can be an end, and laughter and happiness can be seen and felt. I just need to keep moving forward, and you have given me strength to do that! Thank you for sharing your journey Jo!

  10. Karin Callander

    What a lovely and loving tribute to a heck of a guy. Truly, blessed are the peacemakers (and piece makers!).

  11. I’m crying with you! I lost my husband on our daughter’s birthday last February! Grief is hard, there are so many little things that bring out memories of sometimes joy, and sometimes sadness. You have expressed a widow’s life so perfectly. Thank you!

  12. Grieving my husband was also the hardest thing I’d ever done before. I cried every single day for 5 years. Finally I said that’s enough, you have to let go. I remember him now in a different way than I did at first. I’m so very grateful for our time together and how much he loved me. I’m happy for you Jo.

    1. Cheers to the good memories of Kramer! What a guy he was. Thank you for sharing your journey. Can’t believe that 5 years have gone by already.

  13. So good that you have reached that point. I am sure those 129 days were not easy and thankfully, I can only imagine what they were for you. On another note, you can be thankful for those 129 days, days in which you could say goodbye. I read of one wife who didn’t have that time, and it is doubly hard. So both are extremely hard and glad you are now on the other side of the dark days.

  14. My husband and I have been married 50 years. A year and half ago he was diagnosed with dementia and I have become the caregiver, financial advisor, the protector and it’s hard. Hard watching the one you lived with and loved more than half your life slowly disappear. You give me hope that one day things will be better, not that I’m wishing to be a widow but have peace. Thanks for your insight.

  15. Cindy Wienstroer

    I am facing what you did 5+ years ago. I am now the caregiver for my husband, who is/will be facing death from glioblastoma (brain tumor). He is currently doing radiation & chemo after surgery, but the caregiving is taking over life as you said. I hope I can deal with grief (ongoing) as honestly as your example. I too have kids and grandkids but mine do not live near us. I am trying to remember the good times of 45 years togethers as this stage of life moves forward. Thank you

  16. I know what you are going through my husband just passed away in November 2023.
    We were only kids when we married back in 1962 I was 13 and he was 16 everyone said that we would not make but we did and we were happy until the end
    Like you I am still felling the last few months Dr appointments hospital stays oxygen tanks people coming in to take care of him
    I keep telling myself that it’s going to get better and after reading your blog I see that it will thank you so much for sharing

  17. Thank you for posting this. My husband died of cancer in November 2022, and I haven’t even began to feel normal. You have given me hope that things will eventually get better. I think you have done very well, and I’m so happy you are happy again.

    1. Carolyn, it was a fake it until you make it situation for me. Keep working through it. Thinking of you…

  18. For all those who are grieving I recommend a book called “It’s OK that you’re NOT OK: meeting grief and loss in a culture that doesn’t understand” by Megan Devine. She also has Youtube videos. It was recommended to me by a grief counsellor. I am finding it helpful as I cope with the aftermath of many years of my father slipping further into dementia and adjust to him passing away in Sept 2023 and then my mother suddenly passing away in February 2024. The book has made me more comfortable with the idea that getting used to the changes will take time and there is no timeline that I have to meet to be “grieving correctly”. I appreciate Jo’s and everyone else’s stories. We have to (as a society) learn talk about grief becuase it is part of life and shouldn’t be hidden away or brushed over.

    1. You are so right about how important it is to normalize talking about grief. Its a big part of life and we all go through it at some point in some capacity.

  19. Thank you for being honest with us all about the loss of your husband, his being sick and how to go on. Grief is a process. I’m glad you can now embrace the happy loving life that you shared with Kramer more than those 129 days.

  20. Mine has been gone almost 7 years and the pain is just as raw today as then. I didn’t realize that I have let my caregiver days overtake my wife days. Thanks, love ya

  21. Caregiver –yes– been there–done that–and had my husband and I had a year between diagnoses and the end -11 days I think after his 50th b’day. It
    will be 39 years 10/1 –still missing him. Lost my oldest daughter 11/28/23
    63 yrs old, completely unexpected. another time to go through the grieving phases. Son had Non Hodgkins Lymphoma 6 years ago- so far so good, but that was close too. Grateful for the 29 years I did have with hubby–and the years with daughter–but wanted so many more. We can’t help but wish for that I guess. Yes, it all takes time and it’s different for each one of us. Glad that now you are able to feel and think about that time with a little more ease.
    I would say “Ditto” to all the other comments. We have to learn to roll with the punches I think.

  22. Shirley from Calmar

    I am so happy for you. Thankyou for putting into words your feelings of sadness and happiness together. Through your words, I realized I had the same memories of of the caregiver. Probably about 5 years is when I, too, started remembering the good things. My husband’s health went downward for the last 9 years of his life. Those first 5 years were full of memories of his care, and the guilt or worries if I made the right choices on his care. Then there is the guilt of relief for him of his suffering. It has taken 10 years as wodow for you have made me realize those dark memories have dwindled down to just the few of caregiver days as actual happy, but still serious memories. Memories of me losing grip and basically dumping him into the tub, instead of gently helping him. No harm or injuries, but we laughed uncontrollably. Happy memories when I was able to get him and wheelchair to the park, for a surprise birthday party. Know that mostly good days of caregiving are rembered. i Very few of those hard days. I still remember it was tough, but not much else. I have the memories of good times. So funny you mention the butt grabbing. Men could be so silly. I remember that also and we know it was the silly times of their affection. My husband wasn’t a romantic, but was expressing his romance in a silly way. It’s been 10 years, and I can honestly say sad and hard days of caregiver are very deeply buried and over shadowed but the good memories are plenty. Bless you. Enjoy your romance. I’m sure Kramer is very excited for you. He will always be a part of you. It’s OK to be happy for your good memories. It’s OK to to make new happy memories.

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