Grief Stew


I inherited an older office chair for my desk, the one piece of furniture I had left to purchase for my home. I am on the Quiet Room committee, where six of us have decided how to transform someone’s old office into a space for grieving families, a meditation spot for staff and residents, and an official calm room for anyone to rest within the bustle of a day. When I first arrived at Kendal, I was astonished to discover that there wasn’t a non-denominational chapel of some kind. I heard there used to be a Quiet Room designated for this purpose, but when the new Memory wing was built, that space had gotten absorbed. Six years later, with the help of others who also felt this to be a glaring lack at Kendal, we now have another Quiet Room. I got the old office chair from there, just for being in the right place at the right time to inquire about its future destination.

The chair is not pretty, and is rather tall and imposing, but it is very comfortable, and adjusts every which way. The two reading chairs I brought with me here from Richard’s Manhattan office are sleek and comfy for those of us who can still rise in and out of cozy low chairs with lower arms. Many of my Kendal friends require the sturdy high arms of my new acquisition for better leverage. It will also nicely accommodate my tall and lanky son-in-law. He has not yet had the honor of sitting there but perhaps he will later this week when he and his mother, who is here for a two week visit, and my daughter, will come to take me home with them for an overnight. I am looking forward to having a broken English/Bosnian chat with his mom on becoming first time grandmothers together in December.

Here is a journal entry from last month. Grief arises at it does, when it does, on its own time.

Diary 7/20/19

Recipe for Grief Stew

serves one:

2 cups tear broth (comes salted, don’t add more salt)

1 small handful of disbelief

2-3 chunks of seasoned sorrow

Distilled years of shredded future dreams (to taste)

½ cup of sweet memories and acceptance

¼ cup of dried loneliness

½ teaspoon of astonishment

3 heaping Tablespoons of loving gratitude (optional, but highy recommended whenever available)

After bringing to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 1½ years. Store in fridge. Eat as necessary when the mood strikes.

Recommended for dessert: a sweet memory.

You are sitting outside on the deck, covered in sweat and the confetti of sawdust from working down in the woods at your portable sawmill. Morgan, the dog, is panting at your feet. Walking in the back kitchen door, you had filled a 12 oz. tumbler with water and brought out a plate with an apple and a chunk of our homemade manchego cheese for lunch. Overlooking the sheep in their paddock, source of the milk that made last year’s cheese, you take off your cap, showering the Adirondack chair with more wood chips.

Drinking down the water in one long chug, you gaze below at the ewes nursing large lambs and chewing their cud, and then up at the mountain across from ours. The cicadas are buzzing, so it must be August. Morgan waits patiently for the apple core that is sure to come, delicately taking it from your fingers at your “OK” command. The cheese is gone to the last crumb. Slapping your cap against your leg, you replace it purposefully on your head. Wiping your resinous hands on a paper towel, after brushing dirt away unsuccessfully from your overalls, you stand up and walk back down the hill to complete what you began. Morgan dutifully tags along behind having lapped up water from his bowl.

Not wanting to track more sawdust in the house, I come out to collect the plate and the glass you left behind, listening closely for the sawmill’s whine. I am relieved to hear the motor is still behaving for you after tinkering with it in the early morning. When it is nearly dark, after feeding the horses and sheep, you will trudge back up to the house and tell me of how many boards you cut from that particular dead oak, and that tall pine you culled last fall. You will list the 2×4’s and 8’s, and 10’s, if they were straight and free from knots, and tell me how you will use them to build the future barn. You hauled the milled wood by tractor to our east facing plateau where you stacked it to dry under the slanted roof you made for the growing pile of lumber.

The barn never got built, but the memory of you is sturdy and clear as day.

Richard’s Birthday


Today is Richard’s Birthday

Entering this day

through the womb

of his memory

is painful

as all births are

I draw my first breath

and another

and another

the day is manifestly


as every day is

were I to always

treasure breathing

on my own.

The day unfolded sweetly from the first thing in the morning poem above; with loving support from family and friends near and far. I am held and loved and swaddled in kindness. Gratitude for what is, nourishes and comforts me. I am truly blessed in both my sorrow and my community.


Diary 4/19/19

Last year at this time, I was still recovering from the outpouring of love and and intensity around Richard’s memorial. Gradually my focus turned towards leaving Bearsville, the home of twenty five years of our lives, of his death, and of my childhood since I was 5 years old. His death chapel/living room was filled with boxes of our old life. Every day was an invitation to dispose of what was left after the first go round of auction-able items. Some decisions were easy and clear cut. After Richard’s family and our friends had chosen a few of his nicer clothes, and after we gave away any of his useful work-clothes and boots (and tools, tools, tools) to men he had worked with over the years, all of his other clothing went to a charity organization in our nearby small city. I imagine someone wearing his barely used suit to a special occasion. Or his various coats for the many seasons endured in Catskill Mountain weather, walking around on other people’s bodies. A few of my own dressy dresses also went to that good place. How many weddings would I attend in the very near future? Would antique styles be back in fashion fifteen years from now as grandchildren graduated and got married? At the time, my body was already in rough shape and I couldn’t imagine traveling anywhere, anyway.

Looking back, I can see I made both solid and irrational choices based on “widow mind”. There is a reason that you shouldn’t make any big decisions for a year after losing your partner. Grief renders your executive thinking into unrecognizable mush. The hospice team said,“ It’s perfectly normal to feel crazy in your grief.” Crazy is when you can’t see for yourself that you are not entirely rational. It seemed perfectly reasonable to let go of some things I now wish I still possessed. I only knew if I was to live in one room at this unknown place called Kendal, I probably would live like a nun. A renunciate’s life appealed to me at the time. I had already lost all of my best beloved earthly delights- my husband, my home, and my health. I was more than halfway there. My daughters firmly kept me here and were so dearly supportive of wherever I needed to go and however I deemed best to get there.

At the time, I couldn’t have known that the brutal wounding of my heart broke me open in marvelous ways. Letting go of what was my life, for better and for worse, yielded a reemerging hunger for new life. Not the life I knew before, but the life that was yet in its infancy when I first arrived at Kendal. The reshaping of my identity as Judi took surprising turns. Living in a community with its established celebrations and excellent vehicles for creative expression brought out a dormant fount of my own need to write more songs, poems and essays; even to choreograph a dance. It has been a revelation to see the offerings that have sprouted through me. I saw a need to nurture simply being in the midst of this very actively doing group of people and now I lead weekly meditation groups. They are small but we are fed by our partnership in silence.

This chapter of my life released me from being a wife. Ten thousand decisions ,always undertaken with two of us in mind, fell to me alone. I had been with Richard since I was sixteen. I barely had time to see “me” as an independent person before becoming a “we.”. Waking up to myself is a gift I have been given and I do not take it lightly. I am more dedicated to being alive as fully as I can be. That nun has gratefully shed her robes and entered into the world wearing colors and styles that are much younger than her peers at Kendal. I am more my own age than ever before. My physical compromises pointed me to a necessary inner life earlier than others in my late sixties bracket. I am grateful for the depth of my spiritual explorations: they sustain the me that I am and they abide as my overriding passion.

I am fortunate that I can also kick up my worldly heels at the same time. My body has been re gifted with more stamina to engage. I have a small garden outside my windows that calls me to enduring fertility, nurturance, and flowering. I am going to buy composted soil this weekend to prepare for new perennials I will soon plant. I need to kneel down, get dirty, and be responsible for their colorful lives.

Loneliness and Love

Diary 4/1/19

April is here.There are forced forsythia branches in our morning eatery sunshining up the kitchen. It is sunny outside today, but chilly, and I am watching yesterday’s snow leaving the south facing roofs. Now the grass is slowly peeking through the northwest lawns in my purview. The sky is blindingly blue and requesting my presence. I have a meeting at the far end of the building later this afternoon, and I will bring my coat and continue on out the back door to visit my favorite accessible bit of Kendal’s “wilderness; the Buttonbush Bridge. The pond there is murky and dark after the ice melted, filled with the ratchet of spring frogs, shrill peepers, and too many bird calls for me to discern individually. Last time I visited, the clash of two geese on the apartment roofs behind me, shouted down all other sounds until they slithered down the shingles to the ground and flapped raucously away.

It is always a revelation of an experience larger than myself. I leave touched and opened. I did so today, learning why those two geese had caused such a fuss on the lawn behind the pond. They chose this pond as the spot to lay their eggs. It was now their territory. The mother goose created her nest right on top of a muskrat’s nest. The mound had been there last week and looked even bigger and sturdier now. Sitting on her eggs, the goose reached out her long neck from time to time gathering more strands of duckwweed within her reach to add her contribution to the mound.

Both creatures don’t know that this is a vernal pond, and by midsummer, it will be dry or reduced to a very small puddle left in the middle. How they will get on with one another I can’t imagine. Geese are very aggressive and muskrats are very shy unless cornered. Perhaps the upstairs/downstairs arrangement will work out for them. One enters by air, the other by underwater doorways. I wish them both well in starting their new families.

Three days ago I awoke with such a longing for the simple human intimacy of being with Richard. This initially painful gift is also a heart opening. Only when I drop down as deep as the pond, am I touched by Love, an equally welcome though differently painful opening.

Diary 3/30/19

Morning loneliness

seeps through the skin

foggy tendrils of sorrow

grasp coiling around

your ghost

Your breath is gone

you hands your smell your voice

the empty spaces

exuding lost masculinity

intimacy of humor

the steadfast love of you

not here not there

Pulling me

through the illusion

of separateness

into restful

arms that hold

for a moment

nothing and everything

Such Intimacy

I can hardly bear



Diary 2/9/19

The emotional prelude to the first anniversary of Richard’s death has begun. Kindness from new and old friends undoes me. The smallest gesture of friendship breaks open my heart in stuttering bursts of love. I am extra vulnerable since I have understood the steadily increasing pain and inability to walk, sit, or stand, is due to spondylolisthesis (Greek for “spine + to slip or slide”). For years my vertebrae at L 4-5 have been slipping over each other and then clicking back into place. The clicking stopped some time ago and today they are permanently overlapped. L5 has shifted so far over the top of 4 that it presses directly down onto my spinal cord, severely pinching the nerves feeding information below.

This has reduced my capacity to participate in my new life here. I cannot bear to go to an informational meeting (and there are many to keep this large village informed) that is less than stimulating. Boredom keeps my pain level front and center in my brain. Only if I am truly engaged or entertained can I withstand being part of a group. Even eating a meal with others has been challenging. Sometimes I prefer to get a tray and bring food back to my room. Trying to socialize while paying attention to my meal at the same time as noting the pain, is getting harder to do. I am tired of lying around and it is good that this upcoming sad anniversary is the same date as my second meeting with a back surgeon in the Cleveland Clinic. I need to hear if, how, and when, surgery may bring me some much needed relief.

I originally went to this doctor a few months ago for the stenosis (narrowing of the spinal cord. again due to vertebral impingement) in my neck, C 4-6. That, too, is increasingly causing weakness, tingling, numbness, and pain in my hands and arms. I may end up as a titanium wonder of fusions or with disc implants from stem to stern. I have steadily used every alternative method possible to deal with the early stages of these problems, thinking it was all somehow because of having MS. A lot of muscular weakness to hold my bones in place is because of past MS lesion activity. But my MS has been quiescent for several years, and now I understand the progression of compromise much better than before. Twenty years ago, I once had a Pilates instructor say, “Judi, your spine is a train wreck.” Not what I wanted to hear, but in hindsight, she was right. It is.

I am not unhappy, and when people ask “How are you?”, as we do when we pass one another in the halls, I say, “ I’m fine, but my back is a real problem.” I surely have had moments of despair as I adjust to yet another level of pain and restriction. Overall, I’d still say, I love being alive. And I do. Somehow through all the loss and total restructuring of my life, I cannot relate any longer to that piece of little Judi who always thought it would be easier to leave than stay here in a world full of suffering. After surviving my recent bout with The Nasty Virus, I was so grateful to my animal body that insists on surviving despite immediate misery. I came out of it with a renewed sense of claiming that “I am here”.

I want to experience all of life- including the attending pain and sorrow, and the despair and helplessness. I delight in joy and pleasure and hope, and the deepening peace I find within Silence. I less and less misuse my spiritual explorations as a way to get away from the pain in my back or my heart. I open to all of my personal issues and to those of being a world citizen The horror of losing species after species, habitat after habitat, resulting from the fear-induced denial and greed of our world leaders is also part of being alive in this time and place. I want to live every day as if it was the last one to bring in a new paradigm of stopping human and planetary extinction. I believe it must be that day for all of us.

I want to live as fully as I can as an antidote to potential extinction of the human race. I embrace that I am alive, even as the world as I know it, is unraveling. I welcome all the new souls coming into the world and am curious to see what they bring to the table of apparent Last Suppers. As distressing and sickening as it, I want to live through it all, giving what I can to reeducate and heal. Let us embrace reality; nurture joy, pleasure, and hope, and not delay doing our part. Take action wherever you can. Today.

A Room for the End of Days

It is a dreary fall day that feels like November already but without my former northeast reference points of snow sprinkled mountaintops already stripped of leaves. The smell here is different- the species of leaf rot is not the same. Nostalgia is an inherent aspect of the season and next week our clocks will ‘fall back’. Barely gray by 6:00 a.m., now it will be black, both early and late. The days of rising under the stars as they finished their wheel over the barn are long gone, as are mornings of feeding the animals, coming in to rouse the girls, the bustle of breakfasts, packing lunches, remembering homework projects and backpacks, dropping them off for their ride to school, Richard bidding me farewell as he drove off to work in the city or finishing his last cup of coffee as he went into his home office. Me; I’d go off to my own office after finishing the breakfast dishes, and putting in a load of laundry to run while I gave sessions, too.

Now those two grown women rise to their own days to lead their own lives. Richard is altogether gone from the world of time and seasons, leaving me to remember that the world turns without him. I lead my own life in my small hamlet of the Care Center within the larger town of over 300 Kendal residents, along with the hundred daily commuters of nurses, social workers, PT’s, OT’s, carers, and the staff, from administrators, to cooks, to laundry workers, who run this sprawling organization. My first winter without Richard is coming. The first Thanksgiving is almost here. The first Christmas will be just me and my younger daughter, Marion, together at Kendal while my older daughter, Emilia, and her husband, Zoran, will go to Texas to be with Zoran’s sister, mother and their many friends from their school days.

I let the movies in my mind play out and then I am quiet. Empty. At first it is painful and lonely. Then there is a rush of gratitude for exactly how things are. Emilia sent me the sweetest text saying she wished I lived even closer than the 40 minutes distance between her home and mine. There might have been time for a quick morning hug before she dove back into grading papers. Sitting in my chair for a while longer, I meditate in the silent moment of no season, no loss, no gain, and feel the relief of Being, shedding ownership of anything at all. I arise opened and internally still.

After breakfast, I am going to listen to a radio program with my friend down the hall. This is partly to share the pleasure of her company and partly it is an ongoing ploy to convince her cat that I am no longer her evil assailant. For a while, I helped her owner subdue the flailing paws, and opened Miss Kitty’s reluctant sore mouth in order to administer antibiotics. She doesn’t run as far away from me as last week, but is still no where near to happily accepting grooming and petting from me as she used to. We figure the more I come and just sit quietly, the more she will accept me as her non-enemy. I am fine with however long it takes. She is a survivor, this rescue cat, and her instincts have served her well. My identity as a safe lap will come again in her time.

Big news! for me is that I am moving down the hall permanently into a new room. In a few weeks they will have repainted the walls and refurbished the floor. The former occupant, who I only got to know briefly before she died, had the room painted a bright “Goldfinch” yellow orange. Since the room gets little direct sun, I actually liked it a lot. Once I spent some time time in there looking around, I instead chose “Forsythia” from the paint samples. Imagining some of the artwork I own on the walls seemed to need a little less red in the paint, though I will keep the small kitchenette the color it is. Yes, I will have a small fridge, sink, and cabinets which will help me to attend to my dietary needs going forward. The new room is much larger, has storage space under the window seat, an additional window and closet, and the bathroom is not a hospital bathroom, but also is bigger and has a vanity with drawers. It is painted a deep lavender and I will keep it that same luscious color.

When Kendal was founded 25 years ago, there was no such concept as assisted living. The wing with larger rooms designated for this new category was added around 5 years ago. The room I am currently in is a very nice for a hospital room, but without storing things at E&Z’s house, there is no way I could have brought all of my meager possessions with me. Exactly because I do not have seniority (I am now the third youngest resident at Kendal), the Powers That Be determined I should have the larger room because it will be my home for longer than other candidates. The former resident of my new room certainly had seniority once she moved from her apartment into the Care Center and was a well known musical member of the community. She sadly died about a month or so after she had moved in.

None of us can know when or where we will enter our last days, but surely this new room will be my final home. It is sobering to consider and also inspires a moment of gratitude; to have landed safely, and to be well cared for. I believe that Richard would be very pleased that his loving care baton has been passed into the right hands.

River Stones


River Stones

I was more affected by the UN collective announcement of our dire climate change situation than I would have thought. There is so much ongoing information on the topic that I suffer, as many do, from information overload. But this one is harder to put in the same box on the same shelf, labeled “I know, but am helpless to do anything about it!” It is so unpleasant to experience helplessness on such a large scale when I already experience it moment to moment in my own small daily life.

To paraphrase the childhood educator, Joseph Chilton Pearce, “The intelligence of a species can be determined by the way it serves to promote the continuation of its own species.” By that measure, we humans seem to be scoring very low marks. We have always gone for domination of resources for our own particular tribe over the welfare of the larger whole. Thus it has ever been. Civilizations rise and fall, continually rebuilding over the ashes of the one that went before. Stars explode as supernovas providing new available materials for new planets to form within their own galaxies. This all may be true, but NIMBY, or NIMcountry, or NIMplanet!

We live in ‘interesting times’ as the Chinese curse goes. And in my lifetime I do not think there will soon arise a global response to the problems we face. May I be utterly wrong for the sake of a potential grandchild and all current and future generations. May leadership emerge to inspire a change of lifestyle that can turn this huge ship around to sustainable living for all who inhabit this great planet Earth.

Meanwhile how do I handle my personal helplessness? I was helpless to save my husband from dying, to save my own body from continuing diminished function, or my own country from electing the face of the frightened helpless among us, looking to blame their disenfranchisement on the “others’ in every guise. Another quote from JCP is, operate within a new form of science that asks not just what is possible, but what is appropriate—appropriate to the well-being of self and Earth. Such a question does not originate in the mental realm but the spiritual, and is felt bodily, once our senses and heart are attuned. So the central part of our being that simply must be allowed to function and be attended is the heart.” 
― Joseph Chilton Pearce, The Heart-Mind Matrix: How the Heart Can Teach the Mind New Ways to Think

That is what I endeavor to explore every day in every circumstance. It is what I bring to Kendal with me, and I am grateful that like-hearted fellow explorers are asking to join my new meditation/contemplation groups. It is a sharing that I have to offer, and it is also a way for me to anchor my own heartful explorations in the company of my fellow residents. I look at how I have so far organized my weekly life here. Caring for my body through PT sessions, craniosacral massages, PT pool exercises, sleep and diet, group classes to hone my creative skills in writing prose and poetry, and singing with others. In addition there is regular socializing with those who are in various stages of dementia, decline, or are mentally present, enjoying community events and other’s creative offerings.

These activities I have committed to are indicators of what I use to harness my devotion to navigating the world with an open heart. My week is dotted with heart opening reminders, Wake up! Pay attention! Now and Now and Now!

River Stones

by Judi Bachrach 10/3/18

I stepped into this unknown river.

He is not here to hold my hand.


I had not even been to Ohio before.

How deep did these waters flow?


How swift was the current?

Is there another side?


Hesitant and dripping wet

from ceaseless inner storms,

I searched along the bank while I stood shaking.


Here the riverbed widened out and I saw the stones.

Choosing which way was best for me,

a path was revealed, stone by stone.


New hands reached out for mine

Steadying, supporting, also wading through the unknown.


Nobody knows how long

but we do not travel alone.

Come to the Kabaret

Diary 8/31/18

A friend suggested that I write a sit-com based on my adventures with the seniors who live here with me. There is certainly a perfect set up for an ever evolving series. I live in the Care Center section of our continuing care retirement facility, meaning there are many nurses and ‘care partners’ around who attend to feeding people, making beds and assisting nurses, and interns who set up daily activities, or make sure people get their walkers and head in the right direction for their rooms. They are some terrific characters all by themselves. Dealing with a panorama of elderly humans that are perfectly rational one day, and shouting, “I don’t live here, take me home!” the next, invariably brings out their own issues, no matter how much training they have.

Watching people around me includes observing the sobering decline of dementia in action. The aggressive demise of their minds is painful and poignant to watch. A sit-com episode might include the following exchange when I first arrived here three months ago. This white haired shaky woman half-falling sideways out of her wheelchair, greeted me at the lunch table. We did the “Hello, where are you from?” exchange and then I timidly inquired, “ I am here because I have MS. May I ask why you are here?” Thoughtfully chewing the same mouthful for many minutes, she replied, “Well, I am here because I get much better radio reception in my room than I did when I lived in a cottage.”

“Ah, of course.” Now that I know her better, I found out that she was in charge of a huge public library music research department and that she listens to non-stop opera and other music on said radio. Obviously she has a lot of compromising physical issues, but that was not what had significance for her. Sadly, she has now been put under Hospice care though she can still be rather sharp. She has subsequently shared childhood stories with me which were far from peaches and cream. Her life gives a glimpse into why she retreated early on inside of her once masterful musical mind.

Then there are the folks who live independently in cottages surrounding this large campus, and those who live in apartments attached at the opposite end of the facility from the Care Center. When people are recovering from back, knee, or other surgeries or a bad fall, or more seriously, a stroke, then they live among us in the CC briefly, waiting to be released back to their home. For the most part they have a hard time accepting their current fate and see their time here as an unfortunate episode which will quickly pass.Then they can get on with their real lives. Their emphatic denial of the aging process is also fodder for that tragic/comic edge. This one was a well-known chemistry professor, another one an Ob-Gyn, or an editor or an economist.

Others are more philosophical and freely embrace this temporary compromise as an inevitable chapter in their journey. Husbands or wives come to join them in our Care Center dining area. I see everything from pushy unaccepting spouses, “Eat this, not like that, pick up your hand, no, your other hand, use your napkin, etc.” which is silly and also hard to watch. Others are openly shaken and sad to be living alone in their homes without their partners. Wives say, “It is hard to watch the weeds grow, walk the dog, or face financial conundrums without my husband to take care of it.” Many husbands generally look lost and uncomfortable, and seem relieved when the meal is over and they can finally take charge of getting the rollator or pushing their wives back to the room in their wheelchair.

As I become more active in the community, my life is interlacing with more of the Independent Living folks. I signed up to participate in a variety show, another event to celebrate Kendal’s 25th year founding anniversary. It has since been labeled the Kendal Kabaret because a well-known former set designer resident created a splashy Cabaret style flat with a sparkly gold curtain for our entry onto the stage. To bring our disparate offerings (barbershop septet, recorder ensemble, a number of songs including a gospel written by yours truly, a Can-Can line?!, piano/violin duets, etc.) into some semblance of cohesion, a very capable women in charge bought styrofoam top hats, feather boas, feather hair clips and ribbons to create a semi-costumed Kabaret look.

To watch us all, like any gathering of performers, claim this or that boa/hat/feather combination, worry about mics, music stands, lighting, how we would physically manage to get on and off the stage at the right times (also me, again), was a delight. We do and do not take ourselves seriously to entertain our fellow residents. We seniors sure know how to have fun. This will make a great finale for the end of season one. Due to the numbers of aging Baby Boomers, it might well make it past the pilot season.*

  • I am also dedicating my song to my dear friend David Moskowitz whose birthday falls on the day of the show.  He very likely will not live to see that day, but I am singing “Love What a Short Word” to him, wherever he will be.

Opening the Cocoon

Diary 7/28/18

Struggling. A long delayed relapse of MS symptoms has infiltrated my life. Perhaps it is a sign that I am safely home at Kendal and can let down into the ensuing affect of the days, weeks, and months of stress around Richard’s illness and death. Before that calamity, my own health issues were causing us both stress in the last few years before his cancer diagnosis. I was the one who was pulling away into a declining body unable to easily move about the world for practical or social engagements. Once it became clear Richard was now the one in dire straights, I somehow arose to the critical occasion and surprised everyone, especially myself, by handling the unraveling of our former lives.

I had enormous hands on and moral support to accomplish any of it, but still, I was turned inside out to face the world. My translucent inward facing stance surrendered to the solid gravity of my life. I was pulled firmly earthward to embrace his death and my own clear choice to live. My body seems to be the battleground for playing out my personal version of the duality of life/death. An MS lesion on my spine at T6 (nothing new, I have been working with my physical therapists for years around muscular issues at this site) is very inflamed and is causing back pain, limiting the expansion of the muscles I use to breathe deeply, and creating a general MS malaise all too familiar to me.

I landed here eager to remain outside of my cocoon and launched myself like a newly energized butterfly investigating new activities, meeting hundreds of new people within weeks and enjoying conversations with strangers at every meal. With no Richard as my back-up for quiet, existential intimacy, it has been quite a stretch. Lately, spending lots of time alone in my room has felt fine though even after the short time I have been here, people did wonder where I had gone. I am not willing to withdraw from life in the ways I did before, and this is not a place that encourages it. On the other hand, no one has bugged me behind my closed door and I am not much on the nurse’s radar because I do not receive daily medications from them. Which suits me well. As long as they see me going on my way to and from meals, what I do before or after them is not questioned.

Struggle diminishes the minute I don’t see this re-balancing of inward and outward focus as a problem. I can feel ill and remain quietly alone, replenishing my introverted well. I see now that I will spontaneously move out into my new world when I am ready. Both directions are fine, neither one better or worse than another. In fact, in moments of clarity, I don’t see much of a difference anymore. Inward or outward lose directional distinction when I embrace the underlying silence of being that I am courting and being courted by.

Kendal Birthday


Yesterday my daughter and son-in-law closed on their new house in Lakewood, a Cleveland neighborhood not too far from the lake. Lake Erie, that is, the shallowest of the inland freshwater oceans in this part of the country. Their realtor gave them a congratulatory bouquet of flowers which they brought to me last night when we went out for dinner. Since they won’t be living comfortably either in their current apartment or in their new home for a while yet, I am the lucky recipient.

The luscious Easter and calla lilies, and fuschia zinnias are standing on the bureau in my room beneath the photo of Richard on the wall. It is the same picture we had in front of the sign-in book at his memorial, the same one of him that I use on my screensaver. Because it is his birthday coming up it feels more like the flowers are for him. The dual purpose floral arrangement is fitting as he and I helped a little to fund this house that will also become the family home for me and Marion at holiday time.

He will never turn 68 years old. My brain still has difficulty processing this obvious fact. Sunday marks his birth all those years ago, and I am unclear how to hold what used to be another appointed date for us to celebrate him. It will be day for me to do that in his absence. Against the sorrow of my personal loss and the enormous continuing loss of our country as we knew it, I do celebrate whole heartedly, the fact Emilia and Zoran have bought their first home. It was a joy for Richard to know they had been searching for a house before he died. He would have been overjoyed and right in there with suggestions for them on how to fix it up to their liking and how best to maintain it.


I woke up with these words this morning:

For Richard

Kendal Birthdays

This is his first not birthday

A day I never imagined

Has arrived

Not a dearth of imagination

But a surfeit of love that blinds

The inevitable as impossible

The day that mortality

Counts coup in passing through

Time and space

He no longer inhabits

I do


The bed I wake up in

Could be anywhere

But it is from here

I will continue lose him

To gain the unimaginable

Not a dearth of imagination

But a surfeit of Love

Opens my eyes

Beyond time and space

Death has no birthdays

The red wing blackbirds

Shrill by the pond

My new home