Sometimes Life Shakes Us Apart


The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalms 34:18

I haven’t posted updates for several weeks for complicated reasons. Bradley, my husband, was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year. Respecting Brad’s right to privacy and protecting his dignity have been two values that have been of the upmost importance to me. Their definitions seem to change almost daily as Brad and I struggle to come to terms with death.

Shocking Changes in Brad

It has been painful to see the changes in Brad if I compare the weekly state of his overall health and well being. The outgoing, cheerful, joke-cracking person has been replaced. His level of pain is extreme, his fatigue is increasing, and his interest in food is beginning to wane. He is no longer driving and there are just a few loose ends at work and home that he feels are undone.

I keep thinking about where Brad and my life was headed last fall. Our house plans were nearing completion, the piece of property we bought near Knapp’s Street Corner that was to be the site of our future home had been cleared, we had finally moved out of our home in Rockford, and Kellin, our youngest, was starting his senior year at Rockford High School. Retirement didn’t seem that far off. Brad was looking forward to the next eight years left at Owen-Ames-Kimball Co. and was starting to think about what life beyond work might look like. He had always loved golfing and took a keen interest in it last summer. He was planning to make it an even bigger part of his future. I remember feeling excited, like we were on the cusp of some large and exciting changes. I was correct, but just not in the direction that I had thought.

Shocking Changes for Me

I think I cry almost every day now. My feelings vacillate from fear, shock, numbness, rage, and tremendous sadness. Back in the graduate school days I had learned that grief moved in stages from shock to denial to bargaining to anger to depression and finally to acceptance. I wished grief was that tidy. Instead my emotions bounce from place to place and from stage to stage. Considering that Brad’s feelings are doing the same thing and that we are rarely in the same emotional spot at the same time, it’s pretty tough. I am thankful for the sweet moments when we are able to share a similar psychological space, whether it be tenderness, sadness, rage, or anxiety.

Facing Changes in the Future

I am finding the experience of losing Brad to be extremely painful and very stretching. I feel thin, to the point of nearly being transparent. I don’t think I have ever felt so fragile or so terrified in my life. One of the huge sources of comfort has been sharing this terrible experience with other cancer caretakers on a Facebook website for Whipple survivors (the surgical procedure Brad underwent). It is helpful to hear that I am not alone. I now regularly talk to them and about them to others as if they have become new members of my family. I crack a smile when I read about their children’s antics or cry when their loved ones take a turn for the worst. Isn’t it sad that it took this terrible disease of cancer for me to get the picture that we truly are all a part of one great big family? I don’t think I will view my fellow human being ever the same.

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