January 24th: It’s a working day for me

The Villa Rosa blog hop is taking you to these blogs today.

Bernie at https://needleandfoot.com
Joy  at https://shout4joy-shouting.blogspot.com
Electric Quilt at https://doyoueq.com/blog

Now to today’s post.  January 24th, 2019 was a tough one for me.  I look at that day as the beginning of the end.  Today marks the four-year anniversary.

For you long-time blog readers you already know the story of how I finally talked my husband, Kramer, a long-time smoker, into asking his doctor to have a CT Scan done.

The previous six months or so I had noticed my strong energetic 57-year-old husband slowly slept more and tired more easily.  It was nothing terrible.  It was nothing someone else might not even notice.  It was something I tried to pass off as him getting older.  Me, I always had it in the back of my mind that smoking was going to get him so had been vigilant about watching for signs.  I couldn’t help but wonder if this was one of the signs so I pushed him to get a CT scan.

After a month or so of nagging, I finally got him to ask for a CT scan when he was going to the doctor for something else.

He went in, had the scan, and then went back to work.  I was going about my day and the computer dinged that I had an email.  I went and looked.  It was his test results.  Not thinking anything I looked.  There was the test result of his CT scan.  I clicked.  It said he had cancer.  It told all about the location of the mass.  It told where it was located.  It told how big it was.  What it didn’t tell me was how my life was going to change.

The cancer wasn’t little…it was invasive.  It was bad.  I knew it.  The report said it.

As a wife, what do you do with that information?  I had childcare kids at my house.  Do I call him?  Do I call our adult kids?  Do I call my childcare parents?  WHAT DO I DO???

It was the worst feeling in the world.

I ended up… calling my daughter Kalissa.  She lived close and whatever happened, she’d likely be a part of it with either having to watch the kids so I could go out and talk to Kramer or telling him with me.

I started out telling her…UGH.  What a crappy thing to have to do…”Honey, your dad has cancer and it’s bad” isn’t what anyone wants to tell their kid.

It’s so hard…I was about to shatter her innocent world.  Who wants to do that?

Then in the middle of talking to her and trying to make a plan, my phone beeped.  It was Kramer.  The doctor’s office had called him.  They wanted him to come in.  He was coming home and was going to change clothes and go to his appointment.

What do I say now…by the way I’m riding with because I know you have cancer??

UGH.  I asked if they said why he was supposed to come back in…he said they wanted to talk to him.  I didn’t tell him.  I didn’t say the “C” word.   I thought what’s a few minutes gonna make?  I’d tell him when he got home.

He got here…okay.  I need to tell him.  Right??  No.  He went straight to the basement to change clothes.

He comes upstairs.  I need to tell him.  Right??  I need to say that “C” word.  I asked again what the doctor’s office said.  I was worried he knew and wasn’t saying anything because he didn’t want to freak me out.  Maybe he knew and I really didn’t need to tell him…

But, I did have to tell him.  I had to say that “C” word.

I took him to the computer and showed him what I had read.  I expected some kind of reaction from him but there really was nothing.  Did he read what I read?  Did I read it right?  What was happening?  Everything seemed to be in slow motion.  Why wasn’t he saying anything?  I wanted to scream!!  I wanted him to say something…react…something.  But I got nothing.

He really didn’t say anything and I was so confused by it all.  We rode pretty quietly all the way to the office, 30 minutes away.  Trust me, my mouth might have been quiet but my brain was everywhere pinging from point to point.

We got to the doctor.  The nurse took us back to a consult room-not an exam room…She said the doctor wasn’t in yet.  He was coming in special on his day off to talk to us.  That’s when I really knew what I read was right.  He did have cancer.

There is this limbo hell you go through after being told…because the mass has to be biopsied for them to really tell you it truly is cancer.  They tell you it likely is.  They tell you protocol for what happens once the result is back and it is cancer…but they don’t quite tell you it’s cancer.  So then you wait…days for appointments with specialists…then you wait days for surgeons’ schedules to open.  It was miserable….but January 24th was the start of it all, the waiting, the watching, the fear, the end.

Part of me will always hate this day.

Today marks the four-year anniversary of that awful day.  The further away from it that I get, I can see so much more…it’s still a painful day.  It’s still a hard day.  It’s still an anniversary that I have ZERO problems remembering.

When my husband first died people would say things like, “It gets easier as time passes.”  Oh, that made me frustrated.  I was here now…I wasn’t worried about how I’d be in the future, I was worried about how I was going to be on that very day they said that…in the very moment they said it.

but, the truth is…

They are kind of right…but…
It is not really time that makes it easier.  It’s a lot of hard work that makes it easier.  It’s a lot of blubbery tears that make it better.  It’s lots of successful experiences.  It’s a lot of unsuccessful experiences too.  It’s excessive talking about it.  It’s buying a lawnmower and a car and making insurance decisions on your own.  It’s realizing that things that had been staples, like only one dog in the house are gone because he’s not there and you can do whatever you want.

Time just happens while the people who are grieving do a lot of hard work yet time gets all of the credit for making things tolerable.  It really is all of the hard grieving work that makes it better.

I had to smile when I saw this shirt…


That, to me, defines the age-old question I always get asked…How are you doing?  I think I just might start saying this in reply…

“I may cry but I can still get things done.”

I do a lot less crying these days.  Some people would credit time for making it better.  Me, I am crediting all of the hard work I’ve done.

It’s been 1461 days since I first learned Kramer had cancer and  1332 days since he passed.  I’ve had lots of days doing the hard work.  It’s a 24/7 365 days a year job and I’ve been at the job for four years.  Trust me, I have a lot of work experience.  I will never finish doing the hard work and I know that now.  I can’t retire from it.  The job might ebb and flow.  But the job is always there.  The thing is…now I know the job I’m assigned and the work has become routine.  I feel more comfortable.  I don’t worry that I’m not doing it right.  I don’t have to think about how to do it…or when to do it.  The job has become routine.  The hard work had just become natural and there is an odd comfort in that.

Don’t let that fool you though.  Every once in a while, the machine breaks down, and work gets a little harder again….but eventually, that odd comfort comes back.

I get messages and comments from blog readers all of the time telling me their loved one was recently diagnosed with something hard or they recently lost a loved one.  My heart just breaks.

I am immediately right back there with them.  I’m the woman in the doctor’s consultation room hearing the awful news and truly realizing it is real.  I’m the wife at the graveside trying not to cry.  I’m the woman trying to figure out how to remodel a bathroom.  I’m the woman who feels totally awkward in the first family picture without their husband.  I am right there with you feeling all the hardest feelings.

I’m not going to tell you that time will make it better…it’s not time…What makes it better is every day you show up and you do the work of grieving.  That hard work will truly bring you to a spot where the work of grieving becomes a little more natural…a little more comfortable and a lot less scary…and pretty soon it becomes just a new engrained part of you that sometimes you can forget…but then once in while, on a day like today, that grief becomes a little more.

It’s those days that I’m back to the work.

No worries…I’m totally okay.  It’s just a working day for me…

51 thoughts on “January 24th: It’s a working day for me”

  1. Dear Jo. Thank you. I’ve just begun my hard work. Not due to my husband’s death but his Parkinson Disease. Call the electrician, make arrangements for snow removal, have the gutter guys check the back roof, assist in personal care, and oversee his meds. After 15 years with PD life changed this past fall. And now this is my work. And it is hard. And I can do it. Most of the time. I limit myself to three phone calls a day, give thanks for friends who check on us, quilt (and even cross stitch) as time permits, and try to remember not to worry about tomorrow for God is already there.

    Thank you for being the friend I’ve never met but who reaches out and in sharing your own journey gives a gift of hope and grace to those in need. Peace and blessings to you and yours, Kris

  2. Crying but working, yes! Lost my hubby 2 days after Thanksgiving, I had said goodbye to the man I married 7 and 1/2 years ago when 3 strokes took him away mentally and physically but “he” was still here and I cared for him. It’s still hard and you feel relief and guilt and so many other things. Learning to live without someone after almost 54 years may be the hardest part, I’ve never been “on my own” before, but I’ll keep crying and working and I’ll keep quilting and learn this new way! God bless you Jo, you are such an inspiration!

  3. Dearest Jo – you are continually in my prayers – everyday when I see your blog update, every time I sit to quilt…I wonder how you’re doing and quickly send off a prayer.
    You have blessed us so much and we are so grateful to you and your family.
    Love and Prayers

  4. I just lost my brother on Jan 14th. Not a day went by without him calling me. He had cancer 3 different times. He was getting radiation and chemo for the last year and a half. Slowly he started giving things away in his apartment, saying he wanted to declutter. He was very careful about not getting covid. He got it and with the cancer he just couldn’t fight it. After 3 days on a ventilator he passed quietly surrounded by all of us. It will be hard going forward. Jo you have showed me how to deal with it one day at a time. Thank you for that.

    1. Dear Jo You have expressed so well the pain of one life’s hardest transitions . For those of us who have already experienced it ThankYou. You are always in our prayers.

  5. Jo,
    Thank you for sharing this well written post. I know it must be so helpful to those who gave lost loved ones and aren’t yet able to get their thoughts organized or express their feelings.
    You are a hero to many.

  6. I recently had an anniversary that most people wouldn’t think of unless you have lost someone. It has been 10 years since I retired, 5 of those years with my husband and 5 without. First it’s just the passing of time that gets you and then how difficult the last 5 years have been on my own trying to make decisions, and get things done. Blessings to you Jo on your daily journey living a life without your partner.

  7. very well said Jo I lost my husband (age 48) 4 2 years ago and life is still “a work in progress”. I miss him but am so thankful for the strengths he helped me develop to make all those decisions, widows have to make alone.

  8. I remember dreading July 3 because that was the day my husband was told he had a very short time to live. We thought he had a mini stroke but it was brain cancer. For about a week before July 3, I would just be filled with dread. Then afterwards I would be OK until September 1 and then I would count the days till he died on the 9th. I never told anyone about these terrible feelings I had, I just toughened it out by myself. I think that is what widows do. I did a whole lot of crying and feeling crazy in secret. I remember a woman telling me how proud she was of me being so strong and I wanted to deck her, I wasn’t strong at all, I just pretended. It’s been 25 years now but I am still his widow even though I remarried. He will forever be remembered and in my heart. Love does not die.

  9. Judith Fairchild

    Dear Jo, you are such a help for me. It’s been 32 years since my husband died. I never knew what to say about it. Now I do. There are times I cry but there are times of joy. Number one joy is my Grand Children and daughter. Getting on with life does help a lot. I appreciate what you have written. Praying for you all.

  10. Thank you – for writing this blog, thank you for crying and getting stuff done. I know you are not perfect just like the rest of us aren’t, but I admire you for all you do, for helping so many people (and dogs!), for being there for your family, for giving inspirations to many of us. Thank you!

  11. Hugs Jo. You describe so well the shocking reality and the WORK that follows. The diagnosis day for sure, is etched in granite. For me, it was Dad not my husband, March 13, 1994 and July 14. A RN, just 33yo but so much older than Kalissa when her Dad was diagnosed. Not at all the same as losing my life partner to be sure.

    I’m so proud of you for talking about Kramer as time goes on and talking about how you’re living your life with the ups and downs. As an Educator, you have an admirable gift for giving people permission to feel the feels. Your mental health and self-care shine.

    1. I can say that losing my dad at 58 this past December was much more difficult that I would have ever expected. Nothing could have prepared us to lose him 1 month after the first sign of illness. Jo always expresses herself so eloquently. It’s comforting somehow.

  12. Jo,
    Thank you for sharing your feelings & your journey with all of us…so much of what you said is my reality these days, too. My Hubby & My Everything for 41 years died suddenly in 10/2021 & it has been a very hard road without him. We never had children with 2 feet but lots with 4 feet & cold noses…the last one is here with me as I type this. I’ll try to take your sage advice & carry on every day…quilting gets me to a calm zone so I thank you for sharing quilts with us, too. Be well & keep going.

  13. Lost is a bugger. Both of my brothers succumb to COVID, due to underlying health issues. Both lived in a different State, but we talked often and visited in personal a couple of time a year. Christmas time this year was tough – no family to visit – no place to be but tears and a can-do attitude got me through, as well wishes of fellow quilters. Then January 22nd was the anniversary of my oldest brother’s passing and yes it was a tough day – the worst – no one to call, no one to visit and hang out with. But your words are wiser than you may think. Cry – but get it done. is the best advice I’ve heard in a long time. Much love to fellow travelers in this aging life, grab a box of tissues cry for a bit and then get up and get’er done.

  14. You and Kramer were so lucky to have found each other and to have had a love like that…..Kramer was so blessed in his life …..And yes Hedy—Love never dies…

  15. Jo, you will never know how much you have helped people with this blog. The honesty, comfort, truth, and work involved shine through. It is a place you never wanted to be, but you stand.

  16. Such words were never more true. I lost mine Nov 2017, not an hour goes by that I don’t realize he’s gone. We move forward, not on, tasking ourselves to keep the pain at bay. But the ugly tears still come, and I don’t see that ever ending. Hugs

  17. What a beautiful expression of grief and growing and getting through every day. Thank you for sharing your life and thoughts with all of us.

  18. Sheila Fernkopf

    Sending you hugs. So grateful for your honest sharing of what it was/is like for you. Beautiful comments from others above mine. You are so loved by us all!

  19. Shirley from Calmar

    You say it so well. I have a hard time expressing exactly what grief is about. It is work continuously. You and your life changes forever. It is 9 years since my husband passed away. Several years of watching him deteriorate before that. Those days were work also, but so different after they are gone. Though we gain so much having life with them, there is so much that has gone with them. The biggest is having someone to share it all with. I understand how your world changed that day. I do not know of your actual chaos, mentally and physically, but I understand. Everyone experiences it differently. It is a daily job, even after 9 years, but you are correct. You learn and adapt every day. Thank you for expressing it so well.

  20. Thanks for sharing, Jo. It really is day by day isn’t it? You hate Jan. 24th, I hate Jan. 28. That’s the day our 43 yr. old son suddenly & unexpectedly passed away in 2020. Sometimes it seems like a long time ago and other times it seems like it happened just yesterday. We keep on going don’t we? Our DIL will be getting remarried this summer to a really nice guy. She is happy, our two 9 year old grandchildren are happy and he accepts that we will be part of their lives. What more could we ask? Our daughter is a grandmother now and we have two precious great grandsons as well as the three older grandchildren. We miss our son and dearly wish he was still with us but there is still a lot to look forward to.

  21. Jo, Thank you for your insightful feelings through your words about a subject that people tend to “bury.” And thank you to your many readers who have also shared their words.
    I am saving this blog for the future. My mother is 98 and will be 99 in February. She is relatively independent at this time. But, like anyone, I don’t know when my world will fip and spin out of control. Again, thank you.

  22. I just read Jo’s post from yesterday and all the responses. I have quiet tears tracking my cheeks. What an inspiring blog ! Jo. you affect so many who you will never meet in person. You write with eloquence and power. Thanks for all you do. You are a true inspiration.
    Chris

  23. Thank You Jo for sharing — and I say “EXACTLY” -everything you wrote. It’s been 37 plus years since I lost my husband to that dreaded C , he’d just had his 50th birthday. He was my “rock”. It was just take it one day at a time and try to get on with life–with 4 kids and 2 still in high school, 1 in college–and sure had plenty of pitfalls and mountains to face and climb -up/down. Still do…I believe he’s watched from Heaven and is proud of what I managed to do -am sure I surprised him. Yes, thinking such things brings on the tears. Plus I believe that our loved ones are always near -Guardian Angels.

  24. This is a wonderfully well-written post. Thank you for sharing these deeply personally and heartfelt experiences. As my husband I are getting older, I often think about the day one of us stands alone. Your words will stay with me and I’m sure will be helpful when that day comes if I’m that one . Bless you.

  25. Susan the Farm Quilter

    Today’s post just revealed to me why I am so drawn to your blog everyday. It is like spending time with a dear friend as we navigate through the road of our lives, potholes and all. Your honesty about what you are feeling and dealing with helps so many of us be more honest about what we are dealing with. Your ability to get to the heart of a matter, deal with the hard stuff, and with kindness say the hard things with such clarity, really helps so many of us. Know you are an important part of the lives of your followers and we hold you and your family in our prayers.

  26. Dear Jo, my thoughts and prayers are with you and the family. Jan 24th is the day I buried my brother, who died suddenly , with out a reason. Just had his 62nd birthday and was fine. It hurts like hell I had not spoken to him as I was busy. “Well I am busy” has gone out the window , I make sure I keep in touch with my elder brother and friends and tell them how much they are loved and give hugs.
    Thank you for sharing, it helps a lot.

  27. My thanks also. Mine is a different perspective. First a little background. I have two great “children,” 63 and 61. I raised them without a husband but with plenty of loving grandparents and aunts and uncles.
    My daughter, my firstborn, is my caregiver and rock. I live in assisted living and she does all the “outside” things for me, visits me a couple times a week, and is the one who puts the normal in my life. My son is about 2500 miles away, he visits me a couple times a year. he is also a great support.
    My concern has been I will not be here to comfort them, especially my daughter, when I pass. I am going to print this post and leave it for her to open when the time comes. I know she will need it, as will my son and my grandchildren.
    I encourage your blog friends to consider this and either use your eloquent but frank essay or write one of their own.
    Jo, also remember this day as the day you helped us immeasurably.

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