Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

Dear Ellen
It's Christmas Eve. A year ago, a lifetime ago, I wrote on this same evening about your decline, about your slipping away from us. Can it really be a year ago? I didn't think I could live ten minutes without you and yet here I am, still learning to deal with the loss, but learning so much in the process. I've cried an entire river of tears, but I've found a strength I never knew I had.

I've thought over and over again "why". There's no answer to the question and there never will be. Or at least, not in this lifetime. All I could ever do was accept and move forward one inch at a time. I listened to what I thought was your voice, loud and clear, reminding me to pick myself up, stop feeling sorry for myself and get busy. Very busy. Somehow, I thought anything less than giving my best effort would be a disappointment to both of us.

I think there was something you were to learn here on this earth, there was a reason you were taken from us so young. A lesson I will never comprehend because it was yours alone. Is it my lesson to accept loss? To learn from it? Is this your final gift to me, to teach me I'm stronger than I thought? That I can take something so painful and use it to make me a better person? Is it what we choose to do with loss that defines us, shapes us, allows us to move forward?

I believe there was a reason we were placed in each others lives. I can't comprehend the reason, but I know we cared for each other and I do believe something good must come from losing you. I think I've spent the better part of the year trying to understand this.

A year. A year to learn so much.

Merry Christmas Ellen.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A years journey

Dear Ellen
Your birthday party was perfect. Lots of laughter, a few tears, great stories and memories to share. It was exactly the way I wanted to honor your day and I think it would have pleased you to know we were together, missing you, but remembering you in such a special way.

My birthday is Thursday this week. Last year that day was one of the most difficult days I think I've known. It was the day I lost hope. I realize now you had let go weeks before and was simply waiting for me to realize it too. After months of fighting to keep you, of thinking there was a chance with the last chemotherapy, of refusing to accept losing you I finally realized there was no hope. You were dying and nothing was going to stop it. I couldn't stop it. You weren't capable of many words then, but your eyes said it all. I realized something as I watched you sleeping on the sofa during that afternoon. If I kept fighting my own fight you would be alone in your journey. If I let go, I could walk a least a little further with you. I wanted to help you through to where you needed to go and I wanted you to know you wouldn't be alone to get there. So I let go.

It was the hardest thing I've ever done.

In letting go of you I let go of myself too. What I knew about me, about us, about life in general was lost. In the days and weeks after you died I felt I'd never find my way back to living. I spent the better part of this year trying to figure out how to begin again, how to breathe again, how to figure out who I'm supposed to be in this world.

How to find hope again.

I dreaded December for a long while until last month when I realized I had to think differently about it if I wanted to survive it. So, a birthday party for you and yes, a birthday party for me. I have to take back my birthday. I can't remember it as a day of loss. A birthday party with cake, good food, great friends and many reminders life is still worth living. Maybe hats and a birthday dance too. Maybe a birthday shuffle conga line.

There's no escaping some of the emotions, the feelings, the sadness during this month and I'll feel all of it. But there's a balance now that I didn't feel before. There's good too. There's laughter again.

There's hope.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Birthday Wishes

Dear Ellen
Wednesday is your birthday. You would have been 54. I have been trying to remember the many birthdays we shared in the years before your diagnosis, celebrations of a life well lived, surrounded by love, good friends and laughter. It's the way I want to remember your day, though I admit I also find myself caught up in the sadness of last year at this time. The day of your birth in this world, the day you celebrated your very existance should be a day of hope and joy. And that is how I want to celebrate it this year too.
So a birthday party is planned at your favorite restaurant. A gathering with family and dear friends to celebrate you and what you meant to all of us. Probably a few tears will fall, but I know we will all be remembering the Ellen who was full of life and quick to laugh. The Ellen who was always ready for a good time, a good meal, and perhaps a glass of good wine. The Ellen who would spend hours fixing her hair, putting on makeup and going through every cute outfit in the closet to wear for the occasion. The Ellen who would lite up a room when she walked in. That's the birthday I want for you.
I am asking our friends and families to send you a birthday wish. When you were so sick they would join together and send you messages of hope, prayers and love. The positive energy was always felt and you were so touched by those reaching out in kindness. You felt loved and I think that love helped you find the strength to deal with the fear, to find some peace around it. Honestly, I think the love of your family and friends kept us both going when things were hardest.

So, sometime on Wednesday, a moment of stillness large enough to contain a loving thought, a prayer, a memory of Ellen full of love and laughter. A message sent in streams of love to you on your special day. A birthday you would love.

I know you'll be the happiest one at the party.
Happy Birthday dear Ellen.