Tuesday, March 7, 2017

#SOL17: 4:30 PM

from my art journal

I.

A year ago at 4:30 p.m., my husband died. It is still shocking that the world continues to turn and does so without Rob.

It was a Tuesday,  sunny and unusually warm--much like the morning my mom died, 16 years earlier. So many details of that day a year ago have been lost, but the sheer beauty of the day remains, along with the closing hours of Rob's life and the final two breaths he made. Devon and I had thought Rob had taken his last breath and a minute or more later we were startled when he gasped and then died. There is no mistaking a body that has died.  The body on the hospital bed was no longer my husband.

Dying is such hard work.


II.

A year later, what best (in)forms my life is remembering Rob chose to live positively in the face of stage 4 lung cancer.  He was fearless and brave, full of humor, and quiet contemplation. When Rob was at home after the first staph infection had been diagnosed, we spent time each day reading from Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn. Other days found Rob watching foreign films with our friend Robyn and old Marx Brothers' comedies with Dev.  He wrote daily in several notebooks and read Walter Benjamin books in order to keep his mind as whole as possible.

He has helped me to understand on a very visceral level that what rests in our hands is always a choice. How we answer that choice colors the life we make.

Rob could well have spent the last months of his life bowed under the weight of the diagnosis and the high probability that he would not live beyond a year. He could have met the disease with sadness, trepidation and at the end of six months, he would still have died. What would be different though is those last six months would have been squandered.


III.

Live brilliantly, he told me 40 minutes after learning his prognosis was terminal. I have thought often about those two words, that phrase. I suspect the meaning will change with time. What I think about now is that Rob wanted me to face adversities as I face the ordinary. He wanted me to understand that at each minute of life, we make choices and the made choice gives us and our lives--definition.

IV.

Somedays, I can almost hear him telling me, Be the poem.

I love you, Rob.

35 comments:

  1. Be the poem, Mary Ann, is a deep and soul-searching thought. I took away much from your piece of writing. "How we answer that choice colors the life we make." My slice today is about a mindful practice to stop worries from overflowing. The choices I make give me my direction, as you so beautifully say. I will go to sleep pondering this. May you be at peace tonight. One year has passed. Another starts.

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    1. Another does. I read your post and loved the set of rituals you have embodied each morning. Soothing. A necessary time out.

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  2. A beautiful man. Thank you and Rob for this, "Live brilliantly." Tears.

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    1. He was a beautiful man in so many ways. Thank you Julieanne for noticing.

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  3. This is so beautiful and personal Mary Ann that I hate to intrude. But I remember this time so vividly because of your words. His strong message to you "Live Brilliantly" has stuck with me. Thank you for your brave sharing.

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    1. I wrote out of such necessity, Carrie. I loved your post today. You are quite the Pied Piper. Reading it brought joy.

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  4. A deeply touching writing. Beautiful. Thoughtful. Emotional.

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    1. Thank you so much. A day to think and remember and to get on with other things.

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  5. Thank you for sharing these powerful thoughts and these precious moments with us. You've left an impression as has your husband. Thank you!

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    1. He was a wonderful person. It is easy to write about hi and us and our son. Family matters so.

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  6. So beautiful and inspiring. I am also touched by his two words to you.

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    1. A friend gave me a bracelet with those two words on it. I wear it daily.

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  7. Live Brilliantly ... yes, so must we all try. The poem of his life is now woven into the poem of your life, and that becomes part of the poem of the world. That doesn't make it any easier, alas. But it is something to hold tight to.
    Kevin

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    1. He believed in a global energy I had forgotten that. Reading what you wrote reminded me.
      Thanks:)

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  8. Your words, so beautifully written are inspiring and brilliant.

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    1. I write as I have to. It helps as do your comments. Thank you.

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  9. Be the poem. You are the poem. Your survival and expression of grief through writing and art offers hope. Rob sounds like a wonderful man. You keep his memory alive through your words.

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    1. Thank you Margaret. I hadn't thought of how my words memorialize him. Thank you.

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  10. Sharing your husband's life is a gift to him, and to all of us, the poem he wished for. Thank you, Mary Ann, for celebrating your husband's words.

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    1. I try. Someday I will find the courage to read what he has written in those many notebooks he kept. Not today. But someday.

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  11. What a legacy:
    Live brilliantly, he told me 40 minutes after learning his prognosis was terminal. I have thought often about those two words, that phrase. I suspect the meaning will change with time. What I think about now is that Rob wanted me to face adversities as I face the ordinary. He wanted me to understand that at each minute of life, we make choices and the made choice gives us and our lives--definition.

    IV.

    Somedays, I can almost hear him telling me, Be the poem.

    This is what you carry with you always...
    Bonnie

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  12. Mary Ann, what a beautiful legacy he gifted you with...be the poem. It sounds like you are choosing just that.

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  13. Mary Ann, what a beautiful legacy he gifted you with...be the poem. It sounds like you are choosing just that.

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  14. You have been living and writing brilliantly, Mary Ann. Rob's words and spirit are very much with you still.

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    1. His words are with me. Someday I will be brave enough and healed enough to read his notebooks.

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  15. I'm sure this was a hard post to write....but his words...and now your words are vitally important for us all.....LIVE BRILLIANTLY ...what great advice for all of us! Thoughts and prayers on this day.

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    1. Thank you Anita. Appreciate the prayers.

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  16. This and other posts you have written about Rob teach me, and I'm sure others, much about living and dying. I think about death often. Not out of a sense of morbidity but out of a deep knowledge of how temporal life is. Thank you, Mary Ann, for sharing this personal journey and for living and writing w/ brilliance that lights the way for myself and others.

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    1. I never expected to be here. But I am. I see what I write as a way to heal and a way to honor my husband. Thank you Glenda:)

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  17. You are so brave and so strong. There are tears in my eyes. Thank you for sharing. ~Amy

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  18. Mary Ann, as always, your writing resonates strongly with me. I always take something meaningful away from your beautiful words. I know I don't know you well, but I feel as though I have been shadowing you on this journey -- this struggle to be whole when you feel as though the best part of you has been rent; and I feel like it has prepared me for the big losses I know I have yet to face in my own life. Thank you for that.

    But today I want to say to you "You did it!" You survived this year! And I'm certain that a year ago, you wondered how you would. I know your the love for your son helped you make the decisions you needed to make to be strong, to embrace love, to remember your truth, and to survive your broken heart. I know that people experience loss all the time; I know everyone has to find their way through it and get to the other side; to follow the light ahead, however dim; but you have done it with such grace and dignity and I admire that of you more than I can say. Thank you for sharing your pain and your journey. Thank you for showing us how not to lose sight of that light.

    Your husband would be so incredibly proud of you!

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    1. Leanna, thank you so much for the words you write here. I wrote so often out of need that it still surprises me that anyone else reads what I am writing and more so--connects with it. I do think Rob would be proud of me too. Thank you for your words.

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