Lover's Key, Florida

Lover's Key, Florida

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First Snowfall

It snowed last night; not a lot, maybe 3-4 inches, just enough to cover the ground and make everything seem new again.  Gwen and I loved it when there was new snow.  We would go for a walk in it; hold hands like a couple of kids.  We kidded ourselves that we held hands to keep each other from slipping and falling. . .that wasn't the reason at all.  Max The Wonder Dog would be with us, tugging at his leash and frolicking in the snow: dogs do frolic sometimes.  I would throw a snowball for him to chase, and he'd dig furiously in the snow where it landed; then get that puzzled look on his face when no amount of scratching and digging would turn up the snowball.  Those were such good days.

The blanket of fresh snow did motivate me to put out some Christmas lights this afternoon when the sun shone brightly and it wasn't too cold.   Gwen loved decorating for Christmas; outside lights were a bone of contention with us.  She thought that I put them out too soon and kept them up too long. "What's wrong with having a Christmas Wreath hanging on the house on Valentine's Day?" I would ask her.   Now all of that seems so unimportant and inconsequential.

My memoir-writing group went well today; we've become quite a cohesive group and have begun to loosen up with each other.  It's fascinating to hear others tell stories about their lives.  As is the case with writing this blog, I find it to be a good discipline to write something each day.

You wouldn't know it by reading what I've written here, Dear, but I'm very lonely for you tonight.  I was walking through Macy's this afternoon, in the petite department where you always shopped.  I sat on the chair near the fitting room, remembered waiting for you there.  On the way out I saw a sweater that I thought would  look really nice on you.  Then I remembered. . .

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Yesterday I attended a memorial service for my friend Marie.  She was a dear friend and came to my rescue when I found a note that Gwen had written to me 50 years ago, in shorthand.  Marie taught business classes at a community college, and she gladly transcribed the note for me.  The note is precious to me because it describes a time early in Gwen's and my relationship when we were overcome by a feeling we had never experienced before; the feeling of being overtaken by an overwhelming love.   This is a poem I wrote about it; I have revised it from when I first posted it:


The note is in shorthand.
Northern Michigan College
 is printed at the top of the paper

Tuesday night, 8:30,
the two of us, sitting at a table
studying in the library
one of our first dates.

My friend Marie teaches shorthand
at the community college.
She transcribed the note for me.

Here’s what it said:

She wonders, in shorthand,
what I’m thinking about—
about her specifically,
says I give her too much
to think about.

Let’s talk about John and Gwen,
Remember last weekend?
How could I have forgotten? she asks,
I’m confused, don’t know what to think.

I remember that weekend,
remember it exactly,
we didn’t make it to the party,
instead, we fell in love.

(Around that time
she had written to a friend:
I’m “in like” with John,
and it will only get better.)

There, that night, in the library;
 she knew it had gotten better.
News like that takes some getting used to.

The last symbol she wrote in the note
is one that means yours.
She got used to it.

John A. Bayerl, February 21, 2011

 The love we discovered that night, Dear, goes on; not only in you and me, but also in our children, and friends, and everyone who knew you.  How am I to replace that?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Our lives are but a single breath;

 "Our lives are but a single breath, we flower and we fade. . ."  I've written about that line from a hymn on another occasion.  Today it once again had great meaning for me when it was sung at my friend Marie's memorial service.  To me it's a good reminder of just where we are in the great scheme of things; it keeps me humble.  Gwen also loved that line when we would sing it together.  I could feel her at my side when we sang it today.  Although I've been in the church many times since Gwen's funeral, today I had a strong memory of her casket before the altar.  Even as I write this I visualize her lying in the casket, and it still doesn't seem possible.

The church was full this morning, and I was nervous about volunteering to say a few words about my friend, but I did.   The story I told was about how Marie, who was a business teacher, transcribed a fifty-year old note that Gwen had written to me--in shorthand.  The note is precious because in it Gwen reveals that she has become aware that there is something very special  happening between the two of us.  It wasn't long after that when we first happily proclaimed our love for each other.

I also said that what I remember most about Marie was that whenever I met her she would give me a big hug and then kiss me; on the lips.  "I will miss that," I said in conclusion.  Marie had a great sense of humor, and those remarks brought a laugh from everyone.  It was also an emotional moment, and at times my voice broke, but it was important that I do it.  When one is the surviving spouse, as she and I are, the realization comes that there will be no one to mourn our loss in the same way that we mourn the loss of our soul mates.    Family and friends can't possibly feel the depth of the sense of loss the surviving spouse feels, but we do as we must.

Our lives are indeed a single breath, Dear, and we are doubly blessed when we breathe it together. Tomorrow I'll re-post the poem I wrote about the night you wrote that note.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

That was then, this is now.

 Today the football game seemed really long and tiring.  When I got home I was totally exhausted.  Luckily, Anne is still home, and she took me to the game and picked me up when it was over.  As is always the case, I think about Gwen while I'm at the game; remembering our younger years when we would attend them with friends.  Then a part of me says that was then and this is now, and I'm at that same point I often get to when I realize that I still have a lot of life ahead of me, and it's up to me to decide what that will be like.  But, it was so much easier when I had Gwen there to help me.  From the start she was the one with a lot of common sense, and I never doubted her judgment; how could I, she had the good sense to pick me as her life partner?   Is it any wonder that I talk over all my big decisions with her?   This one about who I should be for the rest of my life is one that I ask for her guidance on every day.  She will send me a message, of that I am sure.  We did talk about it, and she does want me to go on with my life.

Anne is home now, Dear, and she is wrapping some Christmas gifts; I see you in her, nothing made you happier than not waiting until the last moment.  You are with us always.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Unexpected Joy

The day after a holiday is always a quiet, down time.  Today was no exception, and I found myself missing Gwen more than ever.  Here it is almost December, and I played golf this afternoon.  I was paired with a young teacher from Westland, and it was quite enjoyable.  Still, I found myself staring into space at times.

Tonight I received an unexpected call from a dear friend.  We talked, we cried, and we laughed.  It was exactly the right thing at exactly the right time.  God is good.

You are with us in special ways during the holidays, Dear;  with some help from Jeanne and Anne I've even gotten a start on Christmas shopping--you know how I love doing that.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011


 It's my second Thanksgiving morning without the love of my life, and I'm home alone; just Mozart and me.  The kids are all gone to run in the Turkey Trot, and I'm left with a couple of hours of being alone before the hubbub and festivity begins.  And, it's good to have some time for solitude and reflection. As I was this summer during my drive out to Oregon, I am comfortable being alone with myself.  It's something I'd rather not have had to become used to; I would so prefer to have Gwen questioning whether or not there will be enough food for all our guests and, in her own inimitable way, wondering if I shouldn't already have the turkey stuffed and in the oven.  And, please, don't put the giblets in the stuffing!
As I do every day, but especially on this day for giving thanks, I am grateful for the blessing of a loving family and friends who call to remind me that they are there.  
This will be another of those days when those of us who grieve put on the happy face and try to act like our old selves.  Grandchildren see through this act.  Yesterday at the movie, when Brooke first saw me, she didn't say a word, just opened her arms for a big hug.  Teenage  Nick loses his self-consciousness as he greets me with a hug.  This morning, as I sat in my chair with my cup of coffee, Izzy came behind me and wordlessly put her arms around my neck and head on my shoulder. .  "Mmmm.. ." was all she said.  She knew, with the intuition  that only the young possess: (Or, is it something placed in her heart by her grandmother before she left?) what was in my heart.  She saw through the facade and came to the core.  There is a real beauty in that, and it reminded me of a poem I read some time ago:
by Meister Eckhart

The rose is without a why
She blooms because she blooms
She does not care for herself
Asks not if she is seen.
Tomorrow is called Black Friday, Dear, and for me, because you left us on a Friday, every Friday is a black Friday.  Yet, every day, as you did with Izzy this morning, you send me reminders that you are still with us. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Day of Mixed Emotions

Today has been one of those days of mixed emotions.  It's been so good to have company in the house.  We all saw The  Muppet Movie this afternoon, and John and Brooke met us at the theatre.  In movie theatres  I still get a feeling of being incomplete;  that Gwen should be there with us.

At the theatre son John informed me that the wife of a mutual friend died today.  Although I didn't know his wife, I still feel for the surviving spouse.  As I told my son, he will have some hard days ahead as he tries to fill the hole in his life she has left.  Later, when I got home, I received the news that my friend, Marie, died this morning.  She was a sweet, loving person, and I will miss her dearly.  She is the person who helped me with a note that Gwen wrote me 50 years ago, right at the beginning of my relationship with her.   The note was written in Gwen's impeccable shorthand, and Marie, who taught shorthand, kindly transcribed it for me.  Is is now one of my treasured possessions.  Marie missed her husband dearly, and I am sure she is reunited with him now.

Whenever I would meet my friend Marie she would hug me and kiss me on the lips.  This was such a warm reminder of the many times we shared a hug and a kiss, Dear; sometimes you would say, "Don't squeeze me so tight, I feel weak."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The weather is horrible today; cold, cloudy and rainy.  It doesn't matter, Jeanne and Bob and Nick and Izzy will be here soon, and Anne has already arrived.  Thursday will be family time with John, Amy and Brooke.  There is much for which I am thankful.  Yet, there's also a big hole in my life where Gwen was.  I suppose everyone who has lost someone they love feels that way; especially as the holidays approach; the feeling that there was so much more that we could have done together:


How could it have been time
for you to go?
There are so many things
left undone.

We never got around to
ordering that Slim Jim
at the Big Boy.
We didn’t get to see and hear
Celine’s show in Vegas.
There was no made from scratch
German Chocolate Cake
on my birthday.

Had you stayed
we would have done
all these things.

It hardly seems fair
to content myself with gratitude
for hours of pleasure we shared.
Yet, somehow hope remains
as life goes on. 

John A. Bayerl, November 22, 2011

There was a lot we didn't leave undone, Dear; that's the trouble with the good stuff. . . .we always want more.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Memories

Yesterday, in keeping with a tradition begun several years ago, little booklets with blue covers were made available at church.  The little booklets contain six minute meditations for each of the days in Advent.  Gwen and I loved those booklets.  Each night we would take turns reading and then talk about what we had read.  It was a guaranteed way to settle down and find unity between us.  Last year I didn't do this because Advent came right after Gwen's funeral.  (Even now, a year later, it's still hard to type those words: Gwen's funeral.)  I'm not sure just how I feel about reading the booklet alone this year, but I intend to do it--out loud.  It will be good for my heart and my soul to remember those peaceful moments we shared.

Although the temperature was in the 40s today, the sun shone brightly, and I took advantage of the opportunity to play a few holes of golf.  Imagine that; playing golf on November 21!  My mind is in a jumble tonight.

Tonight, Dear, I am especially grateful for the many, many moments we spent just being with each other. Last night I had this dream where I saw you walking a beautiful beach, patiently and joyfully waiting for me.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A long, tiring day.

More than anything tonight I'm feeling tired.  Days at the football stadium, enjoyable as they may be, are still tiring.  Next weekend will be nice; it's the last game, and Anne will be home to drop me off at the game and pick me up at the end.  As is always the case, at quiet moments during the day, even though I'm there with 114,000 people, I feel lonely.  Something comes up that I want to talk with Gwen about, and as I reach for my phone, reality hits me, and I get that sad, melancholy feeling.  It just seems so unfair--and wrong.

I'll get to bed early tonight, Dear, and I'll hold tight to my memories of how perfect you were for me.  Only you know what's in my heart; as you always did.. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Take my arm.

In a letter to a friend recently I talked about how missing Gwen is really about missing little things.  The little things pile up and become a big, empty hole in my heart.  Gwen loved clinging to my arm at social events, and I miss having her take my arm and hold it tight. I never felt that it was done in a possessive way, and I never resisted it.  It was more a sense of pride.  She was saying to the world, "Hey! look who I'm with;" I know that's how it made me feel.  I need to reflect on this some more.

The rest of my day is pretty busy, Dear; first I have lunch with our old Forestbrooke friends, then I have to head over to UM  to take part in a research study I volunteered for, and after that I have my voice lesson.  Tomorrow there is a home football game at noon, so I'll be up bright and early for that.  I'll hold you in my heart all the while.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Being who I was.

On a couple of occasions today I was once again "surprised" to remember that Gwen isn't sitting on the chair next to me.  One was when I saw an article in the paper about one of our friend Marian's grandson making the UM hockey team as a walk on.  Marian died of cancer several years ago; she was a special friend, and we always enjoyed our visits with her--like Gwen, family, especially grandchildren, meant everything to her.  It would have been such fun to read that article to Gwen.  Earlier in the week there was an article in the paper about the nurses at UM Hospitals reaching an agreement on their contract.  Gwen was always very involved with events surrounding negotiating for a contract, and I recall a time when she was on the picket line and I delivered some snacks her colleagues and her.  Gwen was careful to pick her battles, but when she picked one she always saw it through until the end.  Although she lost her battle with cancer, she fought it until the end.  What an example for the rest of us.

Today, Dear, my thoughts have been about trying to re-discover who I was before that magic day when I met you.  It would be silly to say that I can go back to being that person, as I've said in the past, you have made me so much more than I was then.  What I can do is to show my appreciation for the gift of you by continuing to find ways to make a difference in the world.  Who knows?  There may even be a magic moment or two ahead for me.  Now, if I can only remember that during those melancholy times when there is such a deep longing for you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

You're not alone. . .

It's not as simple as accepting that there will be good days and bad days.  There are days when I miss Gwen terribly and want her to be with me.  Then, there are days like today when I begin to feel cheerful and hopeful, knowing that Gwen will always be with me.

A friend sent this to me today:  "You're not alone; even though right now you're on your own."  That is the crux of the problem: learning to enjoy being on my own while at the same time not bemoaning the fact that I'm alone.   Being alone doesn't have to mean being lonely.  I was on my own; then I met Gwen and didn't want to be on my own anymore.  She was not only in my life, she was my life; then we shared our love as we raised a family. Isn't it amazing to be able to say that for more than fifty years I was with first Gwen and then Gwen and the kids, and I was never once lonely?  No wonder I can't get used to being on my own now.

On days like today, Dear, I appreciate anew just what a gift it is that we found each other.  It's OK to be on my own; I'm not alone.

P. S. I looked at my page views just now,  it was 11111--today,when I'm feeling what it's like to be just one, on my own.  Kind of a wink from you, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Trying to live in the present.

 Today at the bereavement group I heard myself saying that progress will be made in learning to live without my perfect partner when I begin to live less in the past and more in the present.  Often I ask myself what Gwen would tell me to do were she here to guide me.  Ever the level-headed pragmatist, I am sure she remains firm in her desire to have me go on with life.  It boils down to faith and trust.  Faith that for Gwen life has changed, not ended.  Trust that eventually all will become clear.

I noticed that I talked about living less in the past and more in the present but that I didn't mention the future.  It seems I've decided that by continuing to face whatever life has to throw at me the future will take care of itself.  Often I feel like I've gone back to being who I was before I met Gwen. Then I realize that, although at times I do feel all alone like I was then, the truth is that Gwen made me into a so much better person than I was then, and that will never change.  And, it's back to square one again--be grateful, few people are given the gift of a deep and abiding love that Gwen and I shared.

When I awoke this morning, Dear, warm memories of you comforted me.  It was as though you had gone to the bathroom and would soon crawl back in bed with me. All will be well. . .

Monday, November 14, 2011

Beginning another year.

Saturday and yesterday were fine, but today it's like the world came crashing in on me.  I've had that sad, melancholy feeling,and I often found myself saying things to Gwen. I miss her with my whole heart and soul.  It also saddened me yesterday when I learned that Marie, who had a stroke last week will be taken home today and put on hospice care.  I'll always have a special place in my heart for her because she transcribed the shorthand note you wrote me that night in the library at NMU.

It was good to get out of the house this morning and spend time observing my favorite student teacher.  Today she was her amazing self again as she taught second grade students about solids, liquids and gases by having them make root-beer floats.  I had no idea that students that age would understand about hypotheses!  A friend had asked me to play golf this afternoon, but then the rains came.  I did what everyone else does on a rainy Monday--went shopping at Target.

Now it's evening, and I'm getting settled down for the  night.  The Packers are on TV tonight.

It's hard to believe that I'm beginning my second year without you, Dear.  Although I miss you terribly tonight, we'll find a way to smile and get through this together.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

In loving memory.

I am blessed with many friends. One of them, a dear Internet friend in Canada, sent me this tribute to Gwen.  Her website can be pasted into a browser:


The word anniversary is not in my vocabulary when days like today arrive.  Anniversaries celebrate joyous occasions.  Today, on WUOM, our local NPR radio station, an announcement from me is being read.  It simply says: "In loving memory of my wife, Gwen."  I just heard it now, and it made me smile.  Also, this morning my doorbell rang and a local florist delivered a single, long-stem rose.  I don't know from whom it came; the enclosed card read::

Proof That True Love Lasts,
Remember To Find Your Smile.

I'll post a picture of the rose on  my blog tomorrow.  I'm a lucky guy to be blessed with friends like this.

Today I'll try to keep it normal.  This morning I'll mow the lawn and chop up leaves, then I'll watch some football on TV, and at 5:00 I'll attend a Mass for Gwen.  This evening I'll remember what happened a year ago, and grieve the loss of the one who made me complete.  I've also prepared a poem for today:


The cold November sun
fills my house with grey today,
so unlike a year ago
when the same sun
warmed our hearts
as we rose to greet the gift
of another day together.

Go play in the warm sun,
but don’t be too long,
you told me.
I’ll take a nap.

You awoke from your nap
I was there, as promised.
We shared a meal,
not knowing
it would be our last.

A year later, you wish
for me to play again
in warm November suns,
and I do—
but not today
when the sun is cold and grey.

John A. Bayerl, November 12, 20111

A year later, I  miss you more than ever, Dear.  Today I am filled with gratitude for the friends we have made, and, for our children and grandchildren: I see your love in them every day.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Final Moment

There was a final moment when the world stood still.  It is too sacred and profound for me to attempt to write about it.  It was the moment when I saw Gwen lying in bed, no longer breathing.  Truly, everything in the world stopped; our long and loving journey together on this earth had ended, and she waits for me in the next.

A dear friend sent me this poem:


Forget me not
When I am gone.

My memories in stone.
When day is done
And you are all alone
Forget me not

For good times shared.
The nights we were but one
Forget me not.

With each rising moon
And the setting of the sun
Forget me not.

As you grow old
The days, they just seem longer.

Remember with each passing moment
My love for thee is stronger.

~Author Unknown by me~

Now, Dear, I will go about my business for the day; some gardening, visit my student teacher, a friend's retirement party. You will be with me. <>

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I've never been so happy. . .

I've already written about moving to Portland, Oregon, with Gwen and our young family during the third year of our marriage.  It was an an exciting, tumultuous and happy time for us.  Immediately after our wedding we lived in Marquette while I took a class that was needed in order for me to attend the NDEA Institute at the UM in the fall.. Then, we spent a year in Ann Arbor where Gwen was employed at the Veterans' Hospital  and I attended graduate school.  A year and a week after our wedding our son, John, Jr., was born.  In the late summer of that year we moved to Reedsville, Wisconsin, where I was their first guidance counselor.  At the end our our year there our daughter, Jeanne, was born and we prepared to move to Portland.

Gwen stayed with her parents in Gaastra while I drove to Portland, found us a place to stay, and began attending classes.  This was the first time we had been apart for an extended period, and, in spite of frequent telephone calls, we were anxious to be reunited as a family.  A week after I had arrived in Portland I drove to the airport to meet Gwen and the kids.  This was an era when air travel was still a pretty big deal, so it was quite an adventure for Gwen to take that flight alone with two children, one a month-old infant and the other just beginning to walk.  We were so happy to see each other that I never took the time to appreciate what an effort it must have been for Gwen to have made that trip.  Many years later, when walking became difficult for Gwen, on more than one occasion I wheeled her through airport terminals in a wheel chair.  In a sense, we had come full circle, and I was merely repeating what she had done with two children, one in a stroller, so long ago.  I see now what I didn't see then--sacrifices made in the present will echo through the history of a relationship and become opportunities to demonstrate our love for each other in ways we had never expected.

When Gwen and I greeted each other as she left the airplane the two children she had in tow were temporarily forgotten as we kissed and then held each other tight.  "I have never been so happy to see someone in my whole life," she whispered in my ear.  The "I love you." that I whispered back hardly seemed sufficient to express what was in my heart.  It was another of those sacred moments that happen in all loving relationships when time does stand still and nothing else in the world matters; two people are one.

Later that evening, Dear, after we had settled into our apartment, you met Bub and Lou Ann, Mario and Joan, Paul and Jane, and Dick and Peggy; all classmates of mine and their spouses.  We all lived in the same apartment complex.

 After that, when the kids were fed and off to sleep, we finally had a chance to be alone with each other.  The sweet love we shared that evening was a testament to the miracle of our love; I've never forgotten it.  Time stood still twice for us on that day.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Today is one of those cold, cloudy rain days when it is easy to think about spending time with Gwen; not doing anything in particular, just being with each other.  How many times I took it for granted that she would always be there for me to reach out and touch.  This poem is about that:


I awaken, and, as I often do,
imagine her lying next to me.

She might roll on her stomach,
ask for a back rub
and maybe. . .

Slowly she relaxes under my touch
breathes a sigh of pleasure,
that feels so good, she says,
as my hand once again follows
the contours of more than a body
I never ceased to love
even as it aged beneath my touch.

Alone in my bed
I wonder how many times
we shared the pleasure
of discovering places
that only people long in love
know exist.

I understand now
how the joy of
mutual touch,
shared in a loving moment,
is stored away forever
for times like this.

John A. Bayerl, October 17, 2011

 How often, Dear, we would stop what we were doing and share a hug, or just hold hands at a movie.  We liked being in touch with each other.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

After the storm.

Gwen's fourth pregnancy was progressing normally when she began experiencing headaches.  We saw her ob/gyn doctor and he thought that perhaps there was too much stress with three children at home and being pregnant.  He sent us home with a prescription for Valium.  Later that evening Gwen became sick to her stomach and began to vomit.  She was also very thirsty, and when I called the doctor he said to give her juice to drink.  All we had was Hi-C fruit punch in the refrigerator and I gave that to Gwen.  She promptly threw it up, and was becoming unconscious.  At this point I found someone to stay with the kids and took Gwen to the E. R.  A short time after she was admitted to the hospital I was told that she had been diagnosed with Type I diabetes.  What a shock that was!  She was given insulin, and soon recovered.  She went off to sleep and I went home to be with the kids and arrange for a babysitter for the next day.

When I returned to the hospital the next morning I was happy to see Gwen awake and alert; enjoying her breakfast.  Then the doctors came in with more bad news.  The baby she was carrying hadn't survived the diabetic coma she had gone into the night before.  Gwen would have to go through an induced labor.  I sat with her as she received the medicine that would cause labor to begin.  I don't remember the details of that, but am sure we consoled each other about the double dose of bad news we had received.  Then Gwen was taken to the delivery room, and I took a seat in the waiting  room.  Her doctor came in and asked whether I wanted to be in the delivery room with her.  In a decision I have always regretted, I tearfully responded that I didn't think I would be able to witness the delivery of a baby that I knew was dead.  This was forty years ago when it was quite uncommon for a father to be in the delivery room.  I saw no point in doing it.

After Gwen came back to her room I was told that she would need to rest, and I left for home.  I called Gwen's mom and told her what had happened, and she promised to come stay with us until Gwen got back on her feet.

The next morning I was at the hospital bright and early.  Gwen was alone in her room, wearing her pink negligee and duster that she always insisted on having "just in case I go to the hospital."  She was sitting in a chair, hair done up, and looking more beautiful that I had ever seen her.  She stood up and opened her arms to me.  I went to her and we embraced and wept without saying a word.  I'll never forget the feel of her warm, soft body as we clung to each other.  It's again hard for me to find the right words to describe this moment.  It was another of those moments when we were united in every sense of the word.  We mourned the loss of our child, while celebrating the fact that although Gwen would have to take insulin the rest of her life we were still two people in love who would live a long and full life together.

A few months after this, Dear, you came upstairs from doing the laundry and said: "You know, John, we don't have a lot of money, but we do have a lot of love and three healthy children..  Let's adopt a child."  We did, and, our family was strengthened and blessed by the addition of Annie B.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Back home.

It's been a long day.  I so enjoyed my visit out East, and was sad in a way to come back to the empty house.  Yet, in a way it was comforting; Gwen is everywhere here.  Tonight I've been feeling pretty bummed out; I've been fighting a cold, and I think that has a lot to do with it.

It makes me feel so sad when I think that just a year ago Gwen would have been sitting here with me, and there would have been no indication that in a few days she would die.  Why does that still seem so unreal?  There was also a moment while I was driving home today when it suddenly hit me that Gwen won't be there to help me when my time comes.  At least, she won't be there physically.  That isn't a scary thought so much as a sad one.  It wasn't always easy caring for Gwen, but when it was time to settle down for the night she was there in the room with me, and I could kiss her good night.  Tomorrow I will write about another magic moment we shared, and that will make me feel better, I am sure.

There are times, Dear, when I am keenly aware that my partner and pal isn't with me--could have used your navigating skills in the car today when I wandered off the freeway; you know me, my sense of direction stops after up and down.  On Friday I drove through State College, and had a nice visit with Bob's parent, Tom and Ann.  It's at times like that when I so miss your cheerful presence.  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

No Silent Sunday

In a way it's been kind of nice not having access to my computer or my e-mail.  We can live without them. This morning Mike and Deann have gone for a walk with four of their "kids."  It's a chance for me to use Mike's computer to do an update on my trip to Pennsylvania.  Yesterday was a rewarding day.  First I met with Joe and his wife, Jenn, and their daughter, Caroline, as well as his mother-in-law, sister-in-law and brother-in law.  They made me feel most welcome, and I enjoyed being with them..  Nice people.  After that, I drove a sort distance to visit with Jim, Liz, Max, Luna and Anna.  My goodness!  How those youngsters have grown; and they are as loving and affectionate as ever--the whole family.  Then it was back to Hershey for dinner with Mike and Deann.

I've come down with a cold; I can't remember that last time I had one.  Today I'm going to just take it easy.  It's a beautiful day, sunny and bright.  Gwen is near me here.  There are so many reminders of times we visited here; she always enjoyed it so.  The bed I've slept in the past two beds is the same one that she and I slept in.  The green comforter that is on the bed is one Gwen picked out; I think it may have been an anniversary gift.  Good memories all of them.

Sometimes I do pretty good things almost by accident.  This trip is an example of that.  I have really wanted to drive out to visit with Mike and Deann for quite some time now.  It is always easy to be with them, and then there was the additional bonus of spending time with my nephews and their families.  In that way, I'm a really lucky guy.  On the night Gwen died, I had gone to answer a phone call from Mike, and when I returned to her bedside she was no longer breathing.  Somehow it is fitting that I am here with Mike as November 12 approaches.  I'll write more about that later; it's one of those moments when time stood still.  Now, I'm going to watch Mike shoot some arrows at targets, and then we'll visit his office at the hospital.  Bright and early tomorrow I will be on my way back to Ann Arbor.

I'ts been good to feel your presence here, Dear, you are so much a part of all this.  Just this morning Mike told me that it flashed through his mind that we ought to give Mom a call.  Anne, Jeanne, and John have had similar experiences.  We are family.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Another trip.

Today I will drive out to PA to visit with Mike and Deann.  I'm excited about seeing them--it's been a while.  Then, there's the other side of it; being there without Gwen for the first time.  Mostly, though, it's always good to be with family, and I've been feeling a little restless lately.

The car is packed, and I'm ready to go.

You'll be there in the car with me, Dear.  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

One Thing Didn't Change

Lately I've been thinking about how much life has changed in the past year since Gwen died.  Soon it will be a year since I first faced the reality that it would no longer be John and Gwen; just John.  What has been harder; becoming accustomed to being without Gwen today, or re-living memories accumulated over 50 years of having her with me?   Earlier today I heard the Rolling Stones singing Ruby Tuesday.  Instantly I was taken back to a car trip when our whole family sang that song on our way to the U. P. for a visit with Gwen's folks.  (I wonder why we sang that song instead of Over The River and Through The Woods; must have been in the summertime.)  Reality comes crashing in when I remind myself that that was then and this is now.   And, the battle between what was and what is goes on with the hope that over time the what is will become as joyful as the what was.

Then I am reminded of what a beautiful day it was when Gwen and I promised to love each other forever and always.  Also included in that promise were the words "until death does us part."  Who thinks about what those words really mean on their wedding day?  However, at some level we always knew that sooner or later one would go and the other would stay.  After all, life is all about change.

There were subtle changes and dramatic changes as our marriage flourished and four children came into our lives. Gwen and I finished college and we entered long, rewarding careers.  In many ways we became far different individuals than the two young lovers who promised to love each other until death parted us.  The outward trappings of the love that formed the bond between us certainly changed over time.  However, the "I love you" that Gwen and I said to each other on her last night on earth was the same "I love you" that we first said to each other on a warm spring night in Gaastra.  Here on this earth, for us, it was the one thing that never changed.

Now I take great comfort, Dear, in the faith that life has not ended for you; it has changed, and our love goes on.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Things remembered.

Grief continues to be its sneaky self.  This week I've played golf twice at the Barton Hills Country Club.  People who know Ann Arbor will know what it means to play golf at Barton Hills.  Through a series of events involving one of the ushers with whom I work at UM football games I was invited to play at this exclusive country club.  That's neither here nor there; when I entered the clubhouse I was reminded of a time when Gwen and I had attended a holiday party there.  This was when she was an OR nurse at Kellogg Eye Center.  One of the surgeons with whom she worked was a member at Barton Hills.

Memories flooded over me when I walked into the reception and dining area.  Gwen was dressed in her finest, and I was so proud of her when people with whom she worked talked with me about what a fine person and professional she was.  Gwen never blew her own horn; she went to work and did what she was supposed to do without a lot of fanfare.  Occasions like that were the only time when I got a glimpse of her that I rarely saw.

When I was driving home later, I once again re-lived those wonderful times.  Luckily, I was on a road through a sparsely-populate area, and was able to pull off onto a side road and have myself a nice cry.  Will the time ever come when I am no longer surprised by my grief?  Do I want that time to come?

It's still so strange, Dear, driving home and thinking about how excited you will be to hear about my day.  Then, that devastating moment when I remember that there's no one waiting at home for me.  It's a strange feeling; the one of complete freedom.  I've thought this many times:  "Now that I can do anything I want, there's nothing I want to do."  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Two are one.

All day today I’ve been thinking of our wedding day.  Everything had gone perfectly; aside from a little shower (Rain at a wedding promises fertility.), it was the bright and shiny day we hoped it would be.  We left the reception as man and wife, and changed clothes at Gwen’s folks’ house.  It felt so natural to have Gwen ask me to unlace the back of a garment she had worn under her wedding gown--and so good!

We then drove a few miles to the Valley View Motel in Crystal Falls; where, as is said, we consummated our marriage.  How could anyone forget any of that?  I surely haven’t.  Finally, we kissed, good night, said "I love you" for the zillionth time that day, and curled close to each other as we prepared to spend the first of what we knew would be a lifetime of nights together.

As Gwen lay close to me and we began to drift off to sleep, one of those magic moments occurred when time seemed to stop.  In the most unexplainable yet joyous way possible, I felt Gwen’s body next to mine as though it were part of my own; there was no difference between her and me.  A feeling of contentment and deep relaxation came over me.  “All of her is here, with me, next to me,” I thought, and the feeling I experienced was one of great gratitude that she loved me and accepted me into her life exactly as I loved and accepted her into my life.  For the briefest of moments time stood still and all that mattered in the world was there with us in that bed, nothing else was important.  The joy we had anticipated for so long was real, and it was ours.  As my dear wife would say, “It can’t be explained with words; it’s love, plain and simple.”

As I recall that miraculous moment with Gwen, I am also reminded that, every night, especially during her long illness, all my cares of the day would disappear into the soft warmth of Gwen lying next to me.  The word grief is simply inadequate when trying to describe what the absence of that feels like.

You are with me each night, Dear, as I settle down to sleep. For just a little while the world goes away and it is just you and I, alone, lying next to each other: I again feel all of you there with me.