A Hundred Miles Uphill – My Journey through Grief
My husband Devin died at the age of forty after a three year battle with leukemia. Our young son Davis, with wispy brown hair and eyes that resembled caramel apples, was left without a father. Yet, Davis alone was not my only means of support during this painful period in our lives.
A month prior to my husband’s death, I wanted to continue with the writing I had already happened upon. I had been journaling off and on through Devin’s journey and my caregiving. We both knew our account would become a book some day as he had seen the fire in my eyes that tears of grief would never quench.
In the months leading up to his death, Devin had presented me with a pen with the following inscription – For Inspiration – From Davis. Davis was my reason for rising in the morning. But to get to day’s end, I would need to write the stories that would free my fears, celebrate my love and recall who I was before I came to feel so old.
I began to research writing opportunities in the Greater Cincinnati area. A newspaper reporter had written a story about Women Writing for (a) Change (http://www.womenwriting.org/.) But I didn’t want change in my life nor had I felt the need to make change happen in the world. I would need a place for when change, BIG change, would be thrust upon me and at the present, I had no where to run but a hundred miles uphill.
I signed up for the class, paid my deposit and weeks later, was forced to cancel my attendance. The unavoidable change in life had just been thrust upon me – my husband had died and I had to make a change. The writing of our book had always been an unspoken creed between Devin and me, an agreement that he would fight his leukemia and live and love his life. If, in the end, his effort was in vain then I would pick up the work and carry on.
I waited only three months before signing up for class again. I decided upon a Monday night because I needed to look forward to the week ahead. The first night of class we were asked to respond to the prompt Why Write? I devised plenty of excuses to write and plenty more to not. The reasons balanced out until I found myself proclaiming, “Now is not the time to keep busy, as we had done for three years through three cities, two doctors, and countless medications.” There would be no more running from the waves of medical appointments and insurance paperwork. “Now, now is the time to sit still.”
I have continued to attend Women Writing for (a) Change classes over the past six years, serving on its foundation board, recruiting new writers through my own simple admission to why write? The program is open to any woman (and now men, too), but its core mission clearly supports those who grieve and allows them to hear their voices and not the beeps from the IV pumps and monitor which kept their loved ones alive. Not only have I, the writer, learned to sit still and heed my own voice. But there exists the practice where every woman is asked to “sit still” and observe the voice of others. My words have been heard and cared for in the same way I cared for my husband. I carry the words of other women and hold them at night in the same way I hold my son.
I did finish and publish my book – I’ll Be in the Car: One Woman’s Story of Love, Loss and Reclaiming Life. (www.illbeinthecar.com) I am working with the local chapters of Hospice and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to share my words with a broader audience. But the women of Women Writing for (a) Change sat with me and cried my tears when I didn’t have the courage to do so. They healed my heart when I was left with no desire to love. They carried my words on their shoulders one hundred miles uphill where I could retrieve them when I found the strength.