Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Death in the family - Again

Death in the family - Again

Gary Steven D, age 61, my second eldest brother, died after a long illness last Sunday. A short statement and one that cannot hope to encompass a rich life, that cannot capture how much his family loved him, that cannot capture how much he loved others, how he loved life.

Gary had a joy for life, a zest for it. He was a competitive swimmer in his youth, played baseball, and was a city star in High School football, often playing both offense and defense, a true 60 minute player. He was a Boy Scout, one of the youngest Eagle scouts ever, and a member of the Order of the Arrow along with earning a wealth of merit badges. The outdoor life suited Gary, he loved doing things and watching things and making things and learning about the world about him. He was also an excellent cook and once made a Thanksgiving dinner which his family still remembers as one of the best ever eaten, no mean feat among so many decades of holidays.

He won a football scholarship after High School, but was not ready for college at that time. He joined the United States Marines and did a tour in Vietnam in the artillery. He was lucky enough to escape physical injury, but the experience troubled his spirit. For all his ruggedness and outdoor spirit Gary was a sensitive man, moved by a good poem or movie. Moved by his love of family and friends. Moved by art and beauty.

Following the war, he returned to school, joined the United States Navy and became an X-Ray technician, working in several hospitals both in and then out of the Navy. However, he was increasingly plagued by ill health, some possibly due to his service in Vietnam. He faced each problem and each crisis with courage and perseverance. Finally, his body was too tired and he passed away from us, his loving and loved daughter by his side.

In the novel "Two Years Before the Mast", by Henry Dana, he relates an incident. A self important captain of a small coastal steamer, a carrier of cheap tinware and the like, was in the habit of hailing all ships he met to boost his own small ego. One day he hailed a ship dimly seen in the morning mist, crying out in his small and squeaky voice, "What ship is that, and whence, and whiter?" Out of the mist sailed a tall and majestic schooner laden with billows of snow white canvas sails, and a deep booming voice replied, "The Begum of Bengal, 128 days out of Canton, China, carrying the spices of India to Boston Harbor, homeward bound! What ship is that, whence and wither?"

This just crushed the little skipper and he humbly replied, "Only the Marianne, two hours out of harbor, bound for Kittery Point and carrying nothing in particular." He was humbled, as we all are at times. Humbled as Gary is, as we all are, by death. But for most of his life, Gary was not the humble Marianne, he was the majestic Begum of Bengal, 61 years out, heading for harbor and rest.

I miss him.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

And so it goes

I survived the medical treatments and am, while not exactly healthy, better than I have been for a long time.

I also leave today to meet a sweet friend and ask her to come live with me and share the rest of my life. She knows my flaws, including that I am still getting over the death of my wife last year, and still wants to be with me. I fly today to NM and then we will drive back to Charleston SC together. A large blonde Lab will occupy the rear half of the car, if not slightly more. It will be nice to have love, laughter, and a dog in my house once again. Correction in our house, no more lonely.

I will probably post once or twice more here, and then I will let it die out. I hope to let this chapter in my life wind down. It will never end, there is too much history, and grown children and grandchildren to remind and be reminded. It is time to move on, time to stop crying except when I want to cry.

Suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness and leaves pain in its wake. If anyone reading this is considering suicide, please seek help. A cliche, but true none the less. If anyone reading this is the victim of suicide and needs to talk, write here and I will try to reply. I will continue to check this blog for that possibility.

To well wisher and friends, thanks. I made it this far.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

And still more good news

Liver is fine. Initial blood tests showed issues but cat scans and follow-up tests have shown it is normal.

Only thing left now is thyroid. If I can find someone to accompany me, I can get that scheduled soon. Not sure why someone has to take me home, i.e., sign for me. I have driven home from worse things. Ah well, just something to be solved and I really should not complain.

All for now.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

And a little more good news

Thyroid has to go, and sooner rather than later, but evidence for cancer is small, as the cancer should be, if present at all. Treatment for the thyroid, radiation kill, should make that issue moot. With any luck, will have the treatment/surgery by the middle of August. Short recovery period and then back overseas to work.

Liver is still iffy. Blood test show something, cat scan does not. Still working on it.

Just wanted to share some good news.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Things to Do

First off, sorry did not mean to sound so mysterious on Pharyngula. I am just going to be away for an extended period and got a little sloppy sentimental. I have enjoyed that blog and (most of) the people. I may be back before xmas.

I am not fine, I am not truly well, but I am probably not in mortal danger. I am going to focus on my health, mental and physical, for a while and that will take most of my attention and probably a little hospital time. If I am well enough, I will head back to work in Autumn. My work is overseas in various trouble spots and the available bandwidth in such places is usually barely capable of supporting email. Even if I am not truly well, I have to work - personally and financially.

Best news for last. I have found someone who loves me without conditions and knowing exactly what I am and what damages I carry. I will talk about this more later. It is a good thing.

All for now, cheers to all.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Health Issues

Some people have expressed some concern about my health issues. Well, not grim, but not good. Thyroid will have to go whether it is cancerous or not, so that should work out OK. Liver problems are still being looked at, but most of a life spent in some of the less salubrious parts of the world means I probably should not be surprised.

Good news, BP responding to drugs, my heart is in good shape, and my cholesterol level is the envy of all who hear it.

I do not blame Cyndie's death for my health problems. At worst, it only exacerbated them. It is too easy to blame everything on that trauma. That said, last year at this time I was in perfect health, especially for an overweight smoker with a fondness for fried goodies. The truth is, I stopped taking care of myself for months after she died.

Anyway, I will survive. Cancer or just thyroid removal. Liver issues are a little more iffy, but they can also be treated, I hope.

Every time I talk to my kids, I say I love you. My health issues have not changed that, always done that.

I am coming out of the tunnel. Sometimes I walk, sometimes I run, and sometimes I am reduced to crawling. Whatever the speed, I am trying to get back into the sunlight.

Ciao all

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Boredom of Sadness

Pain is boring at times. Sadness and depression are boring.

Going through a bit of a bad patch. Not sleeping well and what sleep I have is crowded by dreams. I can still dream of Cyndie and wake to look for her, wanting to talk to her, forgetting for a moment that I cannot. Reality crashes you hard in the face when that happens. They are not all nightmares, most, recently at least, are just innocuous dreams.

I have had nightmares. One was spectacular. I have PTSD and one particular bad memory/dream is having someone bleed out under my hands, I was a medic at the time, with nothing I could do to stop it, too much damage, too many holes, too much blood. There is lot more to the dream than that, but this is enough. After Cyndie's death, I had that dream come up to the surface again for a while, the horror stops were all pulled out I guess. The wonderful (heavy sarcasm) variation was when Cyndie's face started replacing my dying buddy's face. Luckily, that only lasted about two weeks. Rarely have either version now.

There is a boredom to this. I am tired of being sad, being caught unawares and dragged down into depression. I have gone whole weeks doing well, then get blind sided by something simple, like finding a chapstick she used. Or just a stray memory. You try to avoid those things, but you still get caught. I know I am better, much better than last November. Better all the time. However, some of those times , these times, just suck. Tired of it, and that in itself is depressing.

I do see a mental health professional and I take anti-depressants. It helps.

PS - Do not be afraid to make comments, I only bite the people who deserve to be bitten.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Back Again

Trip from hell in some ways. I found a job, saw some of my friends and saw some of my family in the area. That is all to the good, but lots of pain too. I also fell ill which really, really sucked and kept me from seeing two of my granddaughters.

I think I have to stop taking long car trips. I am so used to Cyndie next to me on a trip of that length. We traded driving, lit cigarettes for each other, opened snacks and sodas and listened to music and played "chain letter" on a thousand topics. Amazing the things that end up being hard to take. On that note, I have only been back to the beach once since she died and I keep putting off going there. Maybe tomorrow.

I went to the beach once near mid-April this year. I made a promise to scatter her ashes in Spring at the beach - she loved the beach. I went out early, sat for a while, then opened the package of ashes, walked into the surf and let her ashes go - into the water not the wind. I also wired our two wedding rings to a lock, for weight, and tossed that as far out as I could. The inscriptions read, "Always and forever", guess that was wrong. The water is pretty cold that time of year, but it felt good. I sat back down in the sun for a bit and then went home. The mark on my ring finger still has not faded.

In mid November 07, at her viewing, while looking at the empty husk that had been my life for twelve years, I promised her and the kids that I would scatter her ashes in April. Actually, the promise was for me. I made a promise to do something, a task, something I was honour bound to accomplish because I made a public promise. That helped keep me from killing myself for a while. I hoped that giving myself about five months would get me past the danger point. It did.

Goals were and are important for me in dealing with this. Waiting until April to do the ashes was a big one, but I also had smaller goals. I only bought food and cigarettes for one day at a time for months. Grief might make you forget food, but nicotine is a harsher mistress. So, every day, showered, dressed, and got out. Some days the trip was literally only to buy cigarettes, 20 minutes out and back. Some days longer, and then longer and longer. I judge my progress by noting that I now buy cigs a carton at time again.

We bought this house in March 07 and moved here from our first retirement location. We moved in in April 07. I left for overseas at the end of September 07. She killed herself in November 07. I have now lived in this house alone longer than I did with her. And it is still so empty.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Changes and changes

Well, off today to DC to seek a new job overseas. My other contract, which took me to Afghanistan, has been canceled so must look elsewhere.

One thing, I get to see two of my children, their spouses and two granddaughters on this trip. Looking forward to that. Also get to see a couple of old friends, some of whom may offer me a job.

So, about a nine hour trip via car from Charleston, SC to DC. This allows some time to think, but outside of the shell of this house and my current existence. I used to love car trips, now they hurt in an odd way. That empty passenger seat needs filled.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

What Not to Say?

Well, oddly enough, writing a bit more.

I have been thinking about my experiences in dealing with other people after Cyndie's suicide.

First thing, I know you all mean well (however, see below), but about the worst thing to say to me was, 'I know how you feel'. Really, the love of your life killed herself while you were in a combat zone? You lost your future in a rush and without any warning? Your heart was tossed on a bonfire? You cried for weeks and had to literally force yourself not to commit suicide for about a month?

No, you do not know how I felt or how I feel. I will not know how someone feels who undergoes almost exactly the same thing as I did. We are too different. I was much better with phrases like, "I cannot imagine what you are going through". You know what? When I heard that, I would actually listen and respond with something like, 'If you have experienced loss at all, you do understand some.", and then I would smile, and then I could talk.

No, you do not know how I feel, how I felt. However, if you are normal and of adult age, you probably have lost someone you love. Loss is loss, pain is pain, and even puppies cry over puppy love. I think what is different with suicide is the time it takes to accept the loss. There is an huge amount of anger to go along with the pain of loss that we all feel. There is a lot of guilt to get through, the "what did I do wrong?" questions that plague the late night and pre-dawn darkness.

One thing I did not want to hear is your story of loss. Sorry, it did not make it better. Now I can talk to someone about their own loss, but in the three-five months after it happened, I just did not give a damn about your loss.

I also did not want your prayers. I appreciated the idea, and most casual friends/internet friends did not know I am an atheist. However, when someone says they do not want to pray with you, take the fucking hint!

A special sub-group of the above. More times than I thought possible, I have had religious people tell me they pray for me and are sorry my wife went to hell. I have been good up to this point, but the next person who says that is going to be crippled, possibly for life. I have plenty of frequent flyer miles, so will be glad to hunt you down if you post such a comment here. I am not fucking kidding.

Rambling, rambling. Maybe this is the best way to deal with this. Certainly not a coherent blog.
You, y'all, the big other, ordinary people, everyone in the world - you do not know how I feel. I hope you never do. Ordinary loss is bad enough. Suicide sucks the soul out of the survivors. Suicide is the most selfish act I know. I do not mean medical suicide by a terminal patient, that is seldom a surprise. What I mean is going from looking forward to a life together, finally retired, working just enough to have money to have fun, finally being together except for four months a year and only two months at a time, finally getting to love you as much as I want to, finally thinking things are going to be OK. And having that all taken away in a flash. No, you do not know how that feels unless it has happened to you, and even then you do not know how I feel.

Enough for the day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A little more

I have found it almost impossible to work on this blog. I have created and destroyed many posts, over and over and over again.

I have not learned to understand my wife's suicide. I am learning to accept.

It has been seven months now. In the past few months I have removed and thrown away Cyndie's makeup, clothes, shoes, purses, and other items. Oddly enough, the makeup was in some ways the worst as these were very personal things. Lipstick that touched her lips, and perfume that is so familiar, and the many day to day things she touched and used. Shit, I am crying now and I have learned to hate crying. Trash goes out on Tuesday night for Wednesday morning pickup, so one thing I learned was to toss things on Tuesday so they would not hang around. It took much strength to not dig in the trash for the perfume.

I saved two items of clothing, both old and rather ratty. Eventually those will be stored away some where. I still have her main purse to go through. I went through it once, and then just packed it away. In the purse, I found the first picture of me that I ever gave her. After that, I just put it away, the pain is still too fresh.

Suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness. She left me and her children and grandchildren behind. She left a note for each of us, but it is not enough. My note created more problems than it solved for a while. She said she feared our marriage was failing and did not want to wait around for it to die. Neither I nor the children understood that. Later, I did understand. She had an affair. I found this out while searching her laptop for clues to the big WHY? In fact, I found this out the night before the viewing and subsequent cremation. Not sure it made it worse at the time. Right then, it was just another bee sting in a face already full of tears.

I was in Afghanistan when I found out she killed herself. I went from war to a series of plane rides to home to her death. It was mostly a fog. A friend took me all the way from Kabul to Charleston, SC, we look after our own. I was away for a two plus month job and was due home in about 20 days. My friends took my gun away and watched me until the plane ride. I was close to walking out into a mine field, might have if not watched.

I was close to my own suicide for several days, but could not do that to my children and granddaughters. Wanting to kill myself is long past now, except for a few moments in the dark before dawn.

This is a ramble, but have decided to let the ramble stand. This is purely an expression of pain. I see no moral, no story, nothing. It is just part of acceptance. I may never write again, I may tomorrow. I just do not know.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


My name is Jeffrey, I am in my mid - 50's, semi-retired, and at a confusing place in my life. My wife committed suicide in Nov 2007, after living with depression for most of her life. I don't know if any of this will be useful, but maybe just writing "out loud" about things will help. I hope so. Suicide leaves such a huge amout of debris in its wake. More to come.