There’s not much worse in life, than losing someone we love, as we lose so much. That was my case when I lost Annie. However, sometimes it’s nice to sit back, go over a few of the memories you shared with your loved one in no particular order and just reminisce.  Yes, it might bring on some tears, but that’s okay, you’re healing a broken heart.

It’s been five years, four months, since Annie passed and I’m just now getting to the point where I can relax, look back and share my memories of her, with me, without all the darkness and sadness.

My intention is not to write a bunch of sad tidbits, although there may be a few. This is simply me in the raw, sharing whatever comes to mind. And I’m going to use the old term “KISS,” meaning, “Keep It Simple Silly.”

Just remember, when you get to this point in your grief, although you may grieve forever, you are a survivor. Being able to mix the good memories with the not so good ones and keep things coherent is remarkable, and stable.

Nostalgia

I could write forever on this subject, but I’m just going to write things as they come to mind.

I wish I could see you, just one more time.  I’d like to talk to you, hold you, love you, perhaps whisper in your ear, if only for a moment.  “Precious love.”

misty english coastThe days we spent walking along the beach, the mist, the rain hitting us in the face, the skipping of rocks on the sea, the laughter. “So beautiful.”

Waking up in the early morning to the lovely smell of brewing coffee, wondering where you were, then gazing out the bedroom window, only to see this lovely lady in a muted maxi dress with pig tails picking flowers from our garden for our dining room.  “So sweet.”

I’ll never forget the night you were in the hospital and we were lying on your hospital bed together.  You weren’t feeling well as your blood counts were low and I was worried because tomorrow was your birthday and I had a surprise birthday party planned for you that evening in the hospital. Then around 8 P.M., out of  nowhere this short stocky man in a long white trench coat entered your room. It was your oncologist with words so powerful, emotions just flew from our bodies.  Ann, I have some good news for you. “You are now in remission.” We cried together that night, and you received one of the best birthday presents ever. “So Blessed.”

The night you were fighting cancer and laying in your hospital bed in our living room.  I asked you to tell me a story. You told me about the night we met, how you’d been watching me in the club, but didn’t approach me as you didn’t think you had a chance. And I revealed to you that I’d been watching you too, but didn’t approach, as you had a date. Then you laughed, and said you were so happy I rescued you that night. Strange, how life happens. I remember the night well. I walked out into the hallway heading for the restroom and saw you talking to my friend Jay. I quietly walked up behind you and listened to your conversation with him. When you told him you were not happy with your date, and asked him if he’d take you home, I spontaneously spoke up, startling you as I whispered in your ear, I will. You turned around, gave me the most beautiful smile I’d ever seen, grabbed my hand and we ran out of the club together like a couple of teenagers, hand in hand. We then took a drive to a lovely four bedroom Victorian house in the English countryside, where me and my three buddies lived. I left you sitting on the couch while I went to the kitchen to get us a drink. When I came back you were gone. I searched the house for you, and when I couldn’t find you I went into the living room and sat back down on the couch, thinking, what a strange girl. I thought you’d left as the front door was ajar. You really scared me when you stood up from behind the couch and put your arms around my neck and said “Boo.” I loved you from the day I met you Annie.  And we never looked back. Thirty nine years later, you were gone. The Year was 1971.  RIP-2010.  “So tragic.”

Taking the train to London, “klickety-klack, klickety-klack” all the way, as the wheels turned. It was late November, the frost was in the air, as we took our two young daughters to see the magic of Christmas as, the light switch was turned on and the streets of  London lit up like a colorful story in a Fairy Tale.  The people were everywhere, festive times, Christmas shopping and the aroma of Hot Cross Buns was filtering through the crowds from the many vendors baking on the street corners. The crown jewel was, the vendors roasting chestnuts over open fires, so delicious and they kept our hands warm too.  “So magnificent.”

Telling you I was going outside to clean our vehicle, then seeing your smiling eyes, the look of love with a thought, I’ve just been busted. Opening the back of the vehicle and pulling out shopping bags full of new clothing, you didn’t hide so well. Bringing them inside to your laughter, and hearing you say in your native voice, “I couldn’t help me self.” “So special.”

The look on your face when I walked into the house with two heavy suitcases full of your favorite things. Vintage costume jewelry I purchased while picking. Your eyes lit up like a Christmas Tree when you opened the cases and saw the sparkling little treasures inside. You hands were going from one piece to another in rapid motion, your mind was having trouble taking it all in, sort of like a scene out of the land of  make believe.  “So magical.”

Your first trip to America back in 1972.  As we flew low through the early morning El Paso Texas sky, the rays of sunshine just starting to show, your eyes were glued to the windows. When I asked you what you were looking for, you said, all the Cowboys and Indians on their horses like we see on the Tele back in England. You were so naive.  “So disappointed.”

The night you were in the hospital lying stiff in your hospital bed, arms down by your sides.  You were hallucinating a bit from mainlining dilaudid-much stronger than morphine.  You heard this continual noise down the hallway and asked Melissa if you were dead, and she said no, you’re not dead momma.  You said, I am dead, I know I am. As the noise got closer you became more convinced that you were dead and as the noise got even louder and closer you started proclaiming, I can hear the hearse, I can hear the hearse. And when you heard it stop in front of your room, your eyes opened like saucers as the door to your room opened and the nurse brought in your food tray. You looked straight into her eyes and said, I’m not dead, am I.  She just laughed and said, no, you are not dead. In turn you started laughing, saying, aren’t I silly. “So relieved.”

It was New Year’s Eve in England, many years ago, when we were young. We were trying to make plans for the big party night when you abruptly inserted these words into the conversation…I’d like to spend the evening at the old folks home celebrating and having a laugh with them. And laugh the night away, we did.  “So Fun.”

daffodillsWhen I was giving you driving lessons in my new VW Beetle, your mum was in the back seat. We were flying down the A-12, you had both hands on the wheel, while I ate from a large bowl of popcorn sitting in my lap. As we approached a large round-a-bout you got confused on which way to go, and with traffic coming from all directions you decided to keep going straight. We hit the curb head on, as we flew through the air all of us got covered in popcorn, and when the car came down, you still had both hands on the wheel with a serious look on your face as you plowed through the Spring Daffodil’s and Tulip’s on your way to the other side of the round-a-bout. As we flew off the curb you were in the correct lane and just kept on going, looking at me as if to say in the language of the day, “it ain’t nothing but a thang.” Your mum was howling with laughter in the back seat, encouraging you to keep going with every laugh. I tried to get you to stop the car, but a voice in the back seat said, leave her alone Bob, she’s doing “bloody” good.  You did fine Annie, we lived. Great memory. “So crazy.”

In the eleventh month of your journey with cancer you were in the hospital and nearing the end of a particularly bad two week patch, from your stem-cell transplant, where it was touch and go every day. Then the day came, I got the word that I could take you home in a couple of days with the instructions that I had to protect you from falling at all times.  Your platelets were critically low, your blood was not clotting very well.

I wanted to do something special for you, and knowing you loved to shop and hadn’t been in eleven months, I asked the charge nurse if I could take you shopping in the little gift shop down stairs.  She said I could, but be very careful. I came in the room and said, I have a surprise for you.  With your little excited smile and the eyes of anticipation, I told you my plan. It was rather like opening Pandora’s Box and letting out a world of inspiration. It took you close to an hour to put your make-up on, get dressed, and place your Pink NY Yankees hat on your shinny bald head. You looked so cute, and at that moment it started sinking in that even beat down cancer patients need to be loved and made to feel special.

As I wheeled your wheelchair down the hallway to the elevator, every person or nurse we passed, you excitedly proclaimed, “I’m going shopping.” As the elevator reached the bottom floor, the door opened and I pushed you out, and for that moment in time, Annie, you were free from all the pain and suffering as you left the world of cancer and entered the beautiful world of shopping.  As we approached the quaint little gift shop, you zoned out as we neared the metal racks adorned with beautiful clothing.  You purchased a pink and a blue nightdress. Both were covered with colorful ice cream cones. You were so excited, and seeing you pick out those so, not you nightdresses, gave me a clue that you were indeed making the great escape from the world of cancer. As we entered the gift shop, your new enthusiasm created an abundance of chaos for me and the attendant. You kept seeing things above your head and as you tried to stand, I had to place one foot behind the back wheel of the wheelchair to keep it from rolling backwards and balance you with my hands and arms.  You wanted to buy a “pressie” for everyone you knew. I was so in love with you Annie, I just wanted you to go for it.  And you did.

On the way back upstairs as you passed the nurses you’d say, “look, I’ve got a little “pressie” for you.  You gifted so many people, and it was wonderful seeing their eyes light up as you gave them a “pressie.” Your beautiful kind spirit just seemed to radiate love everywhere you went.  After we got back in the room, I remembered a red sparkly clutch purse you wanted to buy, but didn’t. So I snuck downstairs and purchased it. When I came back into the room you saw the purse in my hand and got excited all over again. You remarked, “See!  You’re as bad as me. You like to shop too!” I just laughed and said, “Secretly I’ve always wanted a red purse Annie.” You loved it and laughed so hard, saying, “You are crazy!”  “Annie, thank you for being my wife.”

Annie and I were living in the insane world of cancer, and anything I could do or say to make her laugh was so important to her emotional stability.  She was my bright and shining star, and I loved her more every day. She was so helpless, defenseless, and precious. In my mind, she was a gift, and I was beginning to understand love in a way that many people never will. As I was starting to find, true love penetrates deep into your soul. There is no anger and no resentment. It isn’t conflicting and I found it very spiritual. It seemed my goal in life was to keep Annie safe, and to share every minute I could with her in happiness. I always loved Annie, however, I had to realize and accept that I never really knew the true meaning of spousal love until now. As chaotic and sad as our lives were, we were always taking the time to “Smell the roses.” Sometimes, we would look at each other and laugh for no reason. We’d both found true love, but what a price we were paying.  “So Amazing.”

baby in a blue blanketIn May of 1973 you were 9 months pregnant, your mum had flown over from England to be there when the baby was born. After over a week and nothing happening with the pregnancy, we decided to get you to drink a bottle of Castor Oil and take you on a ten mile drive across a rugged mountain road in our VW  Beetle, hitting every bump on the way, trying to induce labor. That was so much fun and we all laughed so much that day, I think your mum wet herself a bit. Two days later the labor pains came, your water broke, and you were placed in a birthing room at Seaside Hospital. Your mum and I were only allowed to sit outside in a hallway waiting area while you gave birth. After the birth, the nurse said we could go look through the 5×5 window in your door but not go in. I became emotional and started crying. Mum and I kept banging our heads together trying to have a look at you holding the baby through that silly little window.  All we could see was what appeared to be a baby wrapped in a blue blanket. I eventually entered the room first and walked straight over to your bed. When I looked into your eyes I was so mesmerized I, just couldn’t stop staring at you. So amazed at the gift you’d just given me. I hadn’t yet looked at the baby, but you got my attention when you said, “well, look at her then!” I don’t know why they wrapped a baby girl in a blue blanket, but I didn’t care. I was overwhelmed with pride and love looking at you and this little miracle we produced. When I asked you what name you’d decided on you said, Natasha Sunshine. Mum being older and not of the hippie era interjected herself into the conversation and said, that’s a silly name, and to her she looked like a Melissa. So out of respect for mum we let her name the baby girl, Melissa Ann.  “So precious.”

Then there was the afternoon–I was wheeling you out of the cancer center to the elevator. As we approached the elevator, the doors seemed to magically come open, and the first thing I noticed was two tall, very well dressed men inside, one on each side of the door.  As I pushed you in, while turning your wheelchair around to face outward, I said rather loudly and abruptly—“Don’t worry Annie, I’ve got your purse!” My gosh, the elevator exploded with laughter as you and the two men lost it, in laughter.  Traveling down the three floors was a moment in time I shall never forget. As the doors opened the men were still giggling, one man walked away, the other stood outside the elevator and waited for me to push you out. He looked at us, his eyes flipping from me to you while saying, “Thank you, I needed that.” “So inspirational.”

The paragraph on Annie’s first shopping trip in a year didn’t actually end there. The next morning she had a few hours before I took her home.  So I asked her if there was anything I could do for her while we waited, thinking there wasn’t.  And that question was a typical caregiver trap.  She said is a bashful way, “I fancy a bit more shopping.” So with a grin on my face, I got permission, and took her shopping again.  Over the two trips she spent close to nine hundred dollars, and when I casually mentioned that to her, she said, “I don’t think about all the money I’ve spent, I think about all the money you saved over the past year when I couldn’t shop. “So priceless”

In closing this article out, it would be appropriate to add that Annie was an impact patient.  She had a profound impact on the doctors, nurses, medical personnel, but more importantly she was a true inspiration for other cancer patients. The world of cancer at the cancer center and in the hospital is like a small community, where it appeared there were not many secrets. They all wanted to tell their story if given the chance.  And Annie was always a willing listener, and would even cry with them while reaching  her little toothpick arms out and hugging them, never wanting to let go.  She would take on the burdens of others, saying, those people are really suffering. She wanted to save them all, but in the end we couldn’t even save her. She made many friends in the cancer world and many of them died.  My hope is that they are all together having a good time in the afterlife. “Perhaps.”

Annie’s online memorial: Over 75,000 visitors. If you’re dealing with grief or anticipatory grief it will help you.


Hear the whole story in Bob’s book, Because of Annie. All proceeds are donated to cancer charities.

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