The number of journal entries written, and not posted – it’s a pretty good number.
I look back at what I have half written, think about all the sentences I’ve written, and then deleted. The title of this journal entry? I wrote it at the end when I finished. I had no idea where this journal entry would go, and again – I’m questioning posting it. What sort of filter do I really even care to apply? Why do I hesitate to post anything? No matter what I write, I never feel like I have the right words. I stare at them, delete, retype, delete again.
Ultimately – be forewarned – while I present a good front, I’m putting a few things on my sleeve on this one.
The past few weeks have been a blur. No, they’ve moved as slow as pond water. Somewhere in between? No. It’s really been indescribable.
The immediate days after 5/18 were extremely busy. I was driven toward important, meaningful goals. Arrangements. Logistics. Writing the obituary. Photo slides. Funeral print-out/write-up. Writing the eulogy. Winging the eulogy. Viewings. Ceremony. Reception. Done. All done in such a blur. There wasn’t time for anything to sink in.. But yet, it all sunk in.
Silence. Stillness. The quiet of the house. The first few nights, the kids and I camped out on the living room floor. I didn’t want to let that continue on for too long, so I encouraged them all to head back to their rooms. I had to eventually head back to my room as well. I hadn’t slept in my own bed since March.. Ever since we got the hospital bed from hospice, I’d been sleeping on the couch next to where Stef was. I never noticed how uncomfortable our bed was.. Or was it just different? It is different. It’s not comfortable now.
The first couple of nights, I was disinterested in everything and anything. I went to bed early.. Woke up very early. Was having a few coffees before the kids even woke up. Sleep patterns have changed however. The most recent weeks it has returned to being awkward – to the degree where I find myself unable to sleep. I wander the house a bit, looking at scrapbooks that Stef put together, seemingly clinging to anything that she might have done. I eventually fall asleep, but am still waking early – not because of an alarm, just like I said before – it’s uncomfortable.
We’ve stopped the “meal-train,” which Kara had set up for us. It ran through the end of June. I want to extend a massive THANK YOU to everyone who helped with that. We’re trying to adjust now, and meal planning, cooking, etc is something which I can use as a distraction.. I was always the cook and grocery shopper in the house anyway. Unless I wanted Stef’s pre-cancer favorite – noodles and cheese, or ice cream. (That gives me a smile thinking about that).
A lot of people ask the question, “how are you doing?” I am often a liar when I answer this question. It’s a knee-jerk question and answer. It’s like an instinctual greeting and response. There are times I often feel like I have a massive hole through the center of my body. As if my entire chest is hollow. When I’m standing, maybe walking, I sometimes feel very light and unsteady – actually thinking about and making a conscious effort to put one food in front of the other so as to not fall over. That hole – it’s the massive loss I feel. Massive. There are times where I could be surrounded by people, including the kids, but I feel so entirely alone and empty. There are times when things aren’t so painful. The feeling is still there, of course, however I can potentially be focused on something else which gets my mind off of things.
I have another feeling where my entire chest feels like a lead weight, things are completely tight, and it’s as if I can’t fully take a breath of air. I think this is more anxiety – which I have for nearly anything that is planned.
Then there’s another feeling that cycles through – it’s like a helplessness/anger/sadness type of thing, all wrapped up together, and it’s the worst one. I want to scream or yell – sometimes I actually might. I know how this feeling starts, or what triggers it, and I try to be careful to avoid it. It’s vivid torture – I almost say that I sometimes need this (typed/deleted/retyped/deleted/retyped). I don’t know how to describe that feeling – as if I need that feeling, I think it makes me feel like I am still connected.
Stef and I were often indecisive, which worked well for us, we’d talk to each other about decisions we needed to make and one of us would have the right solution. Teamwork. Now, ugh… I wander around, often thinking or asking aloud – “what do I do? what should I do? help me Steffy…” I try to think of what she’d suggest… I wish I had one more day to talk with her and ask her all of those things. Stef and I had talked to that topic a few times in the months while on hospice, however whenever we got to the heavy part of “hey, when I’m gone….” – we both fell apart, unable to really continue to talk.
The kids are interesting. How can they just go? How are they able to function right now? 8, 10, 12 – “fascinating bundles of innocence,” I’ve called them. The kids schedules remain as busy as they were. I am grateful to have so many options when it comes to juggling them – having them ride along with friends or teammates to their activities. Ultimately, life goes on for them, fairly regularly – with the exception of them needing to deal with me on short sleep with emotions hidden behind an extremely shallow, yet fairly rigid surface..
I’ve picked up a few books, based on recommendations from folks. When Bad things Happen to Good People, by Harold Kushner. I read this, and while I admit it wasn’t an easy read to start – it gave me license and liberty for some of the feelings and thoughts I was struggling with. “Fair” – what is fair, what is not fair? I guess I just had a perception that nothing was fair, so thus I had avoided using that word. “This isn’t fair.” Who’s to say? Screw that. This was not fair at all. The book helped me understand that it was okay to say that. It also pointed out a few things that I had bottled up. I’d read something in a card, or someone would say something – all with best intentions – but I’d have very conflicted feelings. “God would only give a challenge like this to someone who is strong enough for it.” Well crap, I wish I wasn’t so strong. “God must have needed Stef more right now.” Shoot, if only I needed her more! And this one might strike some conflict for others – “God has a plan, this was all part of his plan. ” No. Nope. Absolutely not. This was not a plan. God has been there for strength to cope and help deal with the last 2+ years, and God continues to be there for the same purpose now. I admit I prayed for a cure. I prayed that Stef would be healed. I prayed that the Drs would have the wisdom to to guide us to the right treatment. I prayed for another day, and another.. Should I be upset that we didn’t get a cure? Should I be upset that Stef wasn’t healed? Yeah, I’m upset, and I have license to be that way. But I’m still going to pray for the strength and guidance to get out of bed tomorrow morning, to help guide the kids, to try to do things to make Stef proud.
I’ve also picked up Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. Written by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. In 2014 she lost her husband, suddenly. They had two young children, and she’s written this book in the aftermath. I’m about 3/4 way through, and it’s got some good points here and there. I’ll have to re-read it a few months later though. The theme can be summed up with a pair of quotes from the book: “Option A is not available. So let’s kick the shit out of option B.” “When life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface and breathe again.” I’m getting little gasps here and there – I can’t say they’re more frequent yet, but I do welcome distractions.
Had a birthday over the weekend (last Saturday). Thanks to everyone who sent birthday wishes and thoughts. Owen needed to be dropped off at a Region ODP soccer camp that day, so thanks to Jamie and Hektor for riding up with us – dropping off both Owen and Hektor – I would not have done well driving by myself back.. Then, when I returned home, additional friends, the Byrds and Scott H. distracted me the rest of the evening.. The day, while it was my least favorite birthday ever, passed while I was essentially distracted.
In her memory and honor:
As I mentioned, the first few days after 5/18 were very busy. I was doing something that I felt had a true important purpose. I’m trying to capture that with Stef Ripple. I must thank and acknowledge a team of folks which have put together some tremendous efforts which have resulted in us nearly completing the registration of Stef Ripple as a non-profit which will be focused on providing hope, encouragement, awareness and support for Ovarian cancer patients and their families by sharing the principles of Stef’s life; be thankful, be helpful, be kind.
We’re still working out some details, however we’re planning on our first annual Stefanie Ashdown Memorial “Do Your Best” 5K on September 9th. As part of our fundraising goals, we’d like to provide camp scholarships to children/families who are battling cancer. Down the road, we’ll plan on doing awareness and hope kits for families impacted by Ovarian cancer. (Along with some other exciting initiatives as well!)
Our website will be launched soon, and when it is, I’ll migrate all of the Caring Bridge journal entries there, and I’ll continue to provide updates and blog entries..
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged; for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
I found this on Stef’s phone in one of her notes, and we had it printed on the prayer cards from the funeral home. I know the strength that she had. I repeat this to myself and at the end I know that Stef is with me wherever I go as well.