Friday, February 26, 2010

It's been a week

This has been a week that I am not in a hurry to repeat. Overall, it hasn't been terrible. I know that I've had worse weeks in my life. This week has been a week that has been heavy with grief. This week has brought with it new grief experiences. This week has brought with it some realizations that I wish I didn't have to have. So, it's been a week and I am really glad that it's Friday.

On Monday, I had my first ever mammogram. That is one of the issues that MLD 2 wanted addressed. There was a question about something and that question needed to be answered. Thank God that the answer ended up being the absolute best possible answer...nothing.

I will say that I was basically freaking out Monday. I had to draw on every ounce of inner strength to hold on and not go into a complete panic about this test. I know for many it is "just" a mammogram. All women need to have them. It isn't uncommon to have a baseline at my age. It usually isn't a big deal. MLD 2 didn't think it was a big deal. For was a massive deal.

Why? Two very important women in my life have had breast cancer. It runs in my family. I had to look at the fact that breast cancer might be in my future when I was 17. Then my son was diagnosed with cancer...3 times. My husband was diagnosed with cancer and it took his life. For me, a mammogram equaled a test that looked for cancer. Every time some one in my immediate family has had a scan looking for cancer, cancer has been found. It was a massive deal to me. I was trying really hard not to have a complete freak out.

Everything turned out fine. I was freaking out for nothing. I'm so glad it was for nothing. The amount of relief I felt made me giddy. Thank you Lord for answered prayers.

With this test came a new experience with grief. I was faced with the realization that if I ever have to stand and fight cancer in my own body, I will have to do it without Keith by my side. I won't have him to do for me what I did for him every day for 5 1/2 years. My best cheerleader isn't by my side. It was a hard realization to come to. It's an even more difficult one to accept. Have I accepted it? No, I don't think so. I'm still dealing with all of the emotions tied up with this particular grief. It isn't letting go easily.

Another new grief experience I had this week was when I renewed the car tags. It was another first. When I went to make title transfers before Christmas, I forgot about transferring the utility trailer from Keith's name into my name. I didn't realize I had forgotten until it came time to renew the tags for the vehicles. I had to make that transfer of ownership. It hit me really hard that I am now the sole owner of every piece of property that Keith and I owned together. Everything is in my name now...the house, the cars, that trailer.

I feel like he is slowly fading away. I want to grab hold and hang on to each and every little piece of him. I'm not ready to let go. I know that sounds odd since it has been almost 8 months since his death. I'm just not ready to let go.

There was another new grief experience that happened this week. It had to do with the change in routine that Keith's death brought. I haven't had this particular one before this week. I'm still dealing with the emotions associated with it as well. I can't go into detail about it right now. It still hurts too much. I'm already pretty teary right now.

It has been a week. I'm glad it's Friday. I'm ready to wake up to a new day and a new week. I don't know what it holds, but at least this week is behind me.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Taking time and owning up

I am learning, the hard way of course, that I must take time for myself. Not only take time, but MAKE time for myself. That is very difficult for me. Being a caregiver for so many years (14 years to be exact), I rarely thought of myself and what I needed especially while care giving for Keith and Nick during the last 6 years.

Well, that way of thinking (although I don't see it as having much choice in the matter) has come back and bitten me in the rear end. I am now in the position that I HAVE to MAKE time for myself and I don't have a whole lot of choice in the matter. It is overwhelming at times to realize that if I don't follow the instructions of MLC and MLD (there's also a new one in the mix) it will be more difficult to be the caregiver to my son and parent to both of the kids.

Yes, I now have two MLD's (My Lovely Doctor). Number One MLD is the original that has taken care of me and watched over my health from the very beginning of Keith's fight with cancer. He is the doctor who helped Keith on that dreadful afternoon in December 2003 when Keith was writhing in pain. MLD 1 has been in our lives for several years, even before Keith's illness. He has been a constant in our lives and has made sure that someone was watching over my health even if I wasn't paying attention.

The second MLD I mentioned I was recently referred to by MLD 1. Of course, MLD 1 scheduled the appointment for me instead of just saying, "Here's the name, give him a call". I think that means he knows me pretty well. :) MLD 1 referred me to this doctor because I owned up to the fact that I haven't been to a certain type of doctor in a while (ladies, you know who I'm talking about. I'm trying to be discerning about what I say and how I say it.). How long is not up for discussion, but it's been a while. MLD 1 got me in with MLD 2 within a week. Hmmm. See what I mean about the whole knowing me pretty well thing?

I really liked MLD 2, which says a lot because I have NEVER liked a doctor of this type in my entire life. I have always just endured these necessary doctor appointments. MLD 2 found some things that are going on with me that need to be addressed. If these issues are not addressed, it will just continue to get worse. The odd part for me is I didn't know that there were issues. MLC thinks it's because I have spent so much time focused on Nick, Keith, and even Kacie that I just didn't notice. So, I am having surgery on March 22 to hopefully get these issues under control.

I have not been dealing well with the emotional side of this. This news caused the black to circle a little bit during the last few days. Due to some in the doctor's office things, I haven't felt all that well. That certainly hasn't helped my emotions. I also had to take Nick to Birmingham on Thursday, while I wasn't feeling very well. I am missing Keith with a new level of grief. I need him and he isn't here. I'm having to depend on family and friend's to take care of me and my kids while I am having this procedure (which is outpatient, but will require me to be out of commission for at least a couple of days) and the days following.

I know that doesn't sound like that big of a deal, but for me it is! I am the caregiver. I am not a good patient, because I don't know how to be. I've never had to be. On top of everything, my husband isn't here to hold my hand and comfort me. I don't get to have my turn at him taking care of me in the "in sickness" part of our vows. I am uncertain and unsure about making decisions. I've always had Keith here to help me see things more clearly. Then there is the bottom line that I AM SCARED.

I'm not going into any more this time. I'm getting emotional and I need to deal with it.

So, I am taking time to take care of myself and owning up to the fact that, while I did the best I could to take care of Keith and the kids, I let myself fall between the cracks.

Monday, February 15, 2010


I survived Valentine's Day. I can honestly say I wasn't certain that I could. 18 years ago, Keith gave me a promise ring on Valentine's Day. I accepted it knowing, even at the tender age of 17, I was accepting far more than a gold ring with two tiny diamonds nestled together. I knew I was accepting Keith as my future husband. I knew I was promising to love him and no other.

It may not make sense how a 17 year old can know that, but I did. I knew. I realize now it was a God thing. God was preparing me for yesterday, even 18 years ago.

Yesterday was hard. Very hard. I cried, I wrote in my journal at different times throughout the day, I tried very hard to treat myself with gentleness and kindness, I fought the black off that was circling. I survived.

Yesterday was also Keith's mom's birthday. We met his parents for lunch to celebrate. That was hard too. Keith's absence from our physical lives was palpable. It's still that way for me daily.

Keith's mom and the kids planned a little surprise for me. She bought flowers and a card for the kids to give to me for Valentine's Day. They are beautiful. It is exactly the thing that Keith would have done. It worried the kids when I started crying.

Valentine's Day wasn't a day that Keith and I just went wild giving elaborate gifts or anything. It was the day that we remembered the first real commitment we made to each other. I thought about that Valentine's Day 18 years ago a lot yesterday. I remembered the look of love and devotion in his eyes as he gave me that ring. I remembered thinking, "This is the man God chose for me."

Of course, reality also came stampeding in with these memories. The reality of Keith's death. The reality that there would be no more Valentine's Days spent with him. The reality of life without the love of my life.

I survived.

I know that God has a plan for me. Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

My first Valentine's Day without Keith has passed. I can say that I survived or endured... whichever word works.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Homesick by Mercy Me

I heard this song on the radio this morning. It truly speaks to what I am feeling EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY. The lyrics are posted below. The song is number 1 on my play list. I hope you will listen not just with your ears, but also with your heart. I know that it is difficult to understand what is going on with me and how to help me. I think this song describes what I am going through very well.

Homesick by Mercy Me

You're in a better place, I've heard a thousand times
And at least a thousand times I've rejoiced for you
But the reason why I'm broken, the reason why I cry
Is how long must I wait to be with you

I close my eyes and I see your face
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
I've never been more homesick than now

Help me Lord cause I don't understand your ways
The reason why I wonder if I'll ever know
But, even if you showed me, the hurt would be the same
Cause I'm still here so far away from home

I close my eyes and I see your face
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
I've never been more homesick than now

In Christ, there are no goodbye
And in Christ, there is no end
So I'll hold onto Jesus with all that I have
To see you again
To see you again

And I close my eyes and I see your face
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
Won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
Won't you give me strength to make it through somehow

I've never been more homesick than now

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


The seven month mark has come and gone. It has left in it's wake a lot of sadness and grief. I carried a lot of it in those mental boxes on Sunday. It was just too much to handle. Once I got the kids back from their grandparents, we went to the Sunday evening activities at church. I made it half way through the worship service when the sadness and grief demanded to be addressed. I knew I needed to get the kids home, and I wasn't certain that once the crying began I would be able to drive. The amount of sadness and grief felt huge! We left church rather quickly and came home. All of that sadness and grief did indeed come to the surface, but not until I had the kids in bed.

I've been doing a lot of journal writing during the last few days. I am simply overwhelmed by my emotions right now. MLC told me in my session this morning I am at a point that takes place about 6 months (give or take) after people have experienced a traumatic event. The trauma sometimes has to be revisited. That has been the focus of my thoughts and my emotions the last few days. I am in the process of accepting and processing the reality of Keith's death. That also means processing and accepting the days leading up to his death.

I ask that you be patient with me during the next few days or weeks if I don't post much. I may surprise myself and post more frequently, but right now I am not ready to publicly share what's going on with me. It's just too personal. These are my last bits and pieces of my life with Keith. These pieces are very painful, yet I cherish them.

Pray for me. I don't know how I am going to get through the next several days feeling the way I have for the past few. I have to deal with this pain though.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

We're not in "Kansas" anymore

That's how I truly feel sometimes. This week has been a week like that. When I think of that famous line from "The Wizard of OZ", my thoughts go straight to a sense of normalcy. I definitely am not in a state of normalcy. Not even 7 months after Keith's death. Yes, tomorrow will be 7 months.

This week did present itself with some bits and pieces of what may be to come...eventually. This week was not a horrible, terrible week filled with such overwhelming grief and sadness. I actually had one really good day this week. That day my weary, grief-filled, broken heart felt at peace. The huge, painful cracks in my soul were not nearly as deep or as painful. My soul felt a sense of contentment. Contentment and peace. Two things I have not felt in a VERY LONG TIME.

I also went to choir practice for the first time since June. It was an abbreviated practice due to the choir director being out sick. That was a good thing for me. I didn't have to endure it too long that first time out. I don't know that I will be able to sing in the choir in the morning, but I have sat in the choir loft for the first time.

Wondering why that's hard for me? Well, up until one week before Keith died, he was the sound guy at church. I would sit in the choir loft and be able to look straight to the back of the sanctuary and see my husband sitting at the sound board either smiling at me or trying to make me laugh. Now, I have to be able to sit in the choir loft and know that my husband is not sitting back there trying to catch my eye. That is a hard piece of reality to come to terms with. I took the first step. I don't know if or when I'll be able to take the next step, but I am glad that I took this first step.

Another first for me this week was that I went back into a classroom as a substitute teacher for the first time since Keith's seizure last April. I only worked a half day. It was difficult for me to face. I had to figure out how I was going to write my name on the board. What's hard about that? I didn't know if I could still write Mrs. Baxley since I took off my wedding rings. I'm not ready to be a Ms. yet either. MLC and a very dear friend came through for me. They helped me to see that I am still Mrs. Baxley even if I don't wear my rings anymore, even if my husband has died, even if I don't feel married (but he still holds my heart). I also had to deal with another reality of my husband's death. I realized that I didn't have anyone to come home to at the end of my day to share the funny stories with. I didn't have someone to rub my feet if they hurt because I had been standing for hours. I didn't have anyone to vent to. I didn't have anyone at the end of the day. There was a huge amount of grief that surfaced with these realizations.

I did it though. I subbed. I was exhausted, even though it was only a half day. I had good time. I got my rhythm back very quickly. I am so glad that I did it. I am not ready to do a full day yet, but I will consider working a half day occasionally.

What else did I do? The kids and I rearranged the living room furniture. I also bought a slip cover for the sofa, a small area rug, and two throw pillows. I had to make some changes. I simply could not be in my living room. That is where Keith spent his final night. That is where Keith drew his last unassisted breath. That is where I watched my husband struggle with every ounce of strength in his body to try to draw in enough air to breathe. That is where I felt so completely helpless. Every piece of medical knowledge I have could not help him that night. I just wanted to be able to help him and I couldn't.

Ever so slowly I am coming to terms with the fact that I am indeed not in Kansas anymore. It's hard. It's the hardest thing I have ever been through in my entire life. I miss Keith like crazy every single day. I know that I can not keep being passive with my life. I've never been a passive person. (No comment necessary for those that have known that about me.) I have to allow myself to heal. I can not allow the grief and the sadness to consume me indefinitely. Believe me when I say that it is tempting. It is tempting to let the grief and the sadness continually consume my emotions. It's comfortable. It's where my final moments with Keith are at. I don't want to let any piece of him go...not even the worst parts.

At the end of it all, God is working to heal my broken heart. There is pain in healing. Healing can't take place if I don't let it. I'm trying to let it.