Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Friendship therapy

Since Gerrit's daughters departed for the Netherlands, I've been:
   at a neighbor's for a picnic lunch,
   to the movies,
   out for ice cream,
   at a friend's for an envelope-stuffing party in preparation for our choir director's 25 anniversary celebration,
   to the cottage with my friend C to spend the weekend with my parents.

And now, this week, I have house guests:  my friend (and neighbor) and her husband and cat moved in Monday morning to spend the week while the floors in their 1920s home are being sanded and refinished. They had planned to move to a hotel for the duration, but I convinced them that I had plenty of room and they were welcome to stay.  They agreed only if I promised to let them know if I suddenly felt the need for "space" and as long as I let them take me out for dinner each night, since that was one of the perks my friend was looking forward to while staying in a hotel.

It's working out well, and it turns out to be good therapy for me, having them here.  It's distraction, in a good way, and is helping me adjust to life without Gerrit.

Friday, August 24, 2012


When we planned Gerrit's memorial service, there were a few things we decided on that I knew would have meaning for me and that reflected a kind of balance, or symmetry, or that seemed especially fitting.

Twenty four years ago, when Gerrit and I were planning our wedding, he suggested that we ask the choir if they would sing for it.  I'd never heard of that, but they were thrilled to be asked and added so much to our wedding ceremony.  And last week when I asked our choir director, who had directed the choir at our wedding, and who has been our friend through all these years, if the choir could sing for Gerrit's service, he said, "Of course they will sing.  There is no question that they will sing."  I couldn't have kept them away.  So the loving voices of my church choir, who sang Gerrit into my life, sang for us in the celebration of his life.

My sister-in-law Maggie, who is a lector at her church, taking her turn every few weeks to read the lessons for the day at the Sunday service, also had read at our wedding.  The passage she read at our wedding is a very familiar one to most people and is often used at weddings, 1 Corinthians 13:4-13.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

We asked, and Maggie was kind enough to read this at Gerrit's memorial service.  And of course it took on new meaning, hearing it at the end of a life rather than at the beginning of a new relationship.

In my remembrances of Gerrit, which were beautifully read on my behalf during the service by our associate rector, I talked about the Safe Return bracelets that Gerrit and I wore.  Safe Return is a program we learned about early in Gerrit's diagnosis which includes an ID bracelet for the person who might be prone to wandering.  The bracelet has an ID number and a toll free phone number, so if the person is found far from home, they can easily be identified and their contact people notified.  I had suggested to Gerrit that we get one for him; though he didn't have any of the symptoms that would indicate a propensity to wander, it was possible that as the disease progressed, his condition might change.  When I was ordering his bracelet, he noticed that the caregiver could have one, too, so he asked that I get one for myself.  I didn't want one, but after I got it I realized it was more likely that I would get hit by a bus and need my emergency contacts notified than Gerrit would wander.  So we both wore our bracelets, always.

His bracelet was returned to me, along with his wedding ring, the day before the memorial service.  He doesn't need the bracelet any longer.  He is safe now: free from pain, free from disability.  In the arms of God, is my fervent prayer.

But I am still wearing my bracelet, because I'm not quite ready to let go of it.  Last Sunday afternoon, just before I took Gerrit's daughters to the airport to start their journeys back home to the Netherlands, they presented me with a gift.  I told them that they were my gift, but they wanted me to have something tangible.  When I opened the box, I found a beautiful silver bracelet, with two charms, one from each of them.  After much hugging and crying and laughter, they helped me put it on my wrist.  

It wasn't until late that night, after I had come home and hugged Oscar and done some straightening up, that I realized:  the bracelet that bound me so clearly to Gerrit is being replaced by a new bracelet - one that binds me to his daughters.  Isn't that a beautiful balance?

Sunday, August 19, 2012



I am so sad to tell you that Gerrit, known to you as G, died very suddenly last Sunday evening.

He had had a very good couple of weeks just prior to that, as the new medicine that he had started taking in early July was really making a difference: not just in his ability to move, but in his ability to think and to speak.  The improvement was quite remarkable, although he was still very compromised.  Since we returned home after our family vacation, I had composed dozens of blog posts in my head about how our vacation had gone, and how things were going now that we were home again, and that Gerrit had started back at the day program...lots to tell you about, but the pictures stayed on the camera and the words stayed in my head.

We had the memorial service for Gerrit yesterday, and right now his two daughters are somewhere over the Atlantic, headed back home to the Netherlands.  They arrived here on Wednesday, and we had an extraordinary and healing time together dealing with Gerrit's death and planning the service.  I had so much support from family, friends, neighbors, and church family, and the events of this weekend felt so right in honoring Gerrit and creating meaning and comfort for ourselves, that I am still experiencing a kind of euphoria.  I know it won't last and that there are rough waters ahead as I cope with this loss.  But I am so thankful that Gerrit's last few weeks, and even up to those last few minutes, were good ones.  And that he is no longer in pain, no longer suffering.