I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Florida Stewarts

Although the reason for me being here in Florida is difficult, the family visiting is wonderful. Here's Allison reading to Lexie, who is now eight months old. She's a delight to behold, to play with, to help in healing all the loss this family is feeling right now. For those who don't already know, a quick rundown of why I came to Zephyrhills, Florida: my brother-in-law Pete who has been sick with emphysema for almost a decade went downhill quickly in a few weeks and died on February 10, a week after his 67th birthday. Then last Tuesday my sister's little long-haired chihuahua was hit by a car in her front yard and killed. The three of them were inseparable. Now Norma Jean is the one left behind, and when I heard about Moose (their dog), well that was it, I had to get on a plane and come to join Norma Jean with her daughter Allison and son Peter.

Today is the celebration of Pete's life, a two-hour reception for the friends and family to reminisce and share Pete's passing with some of those who love him. Most of the Stewart family lives in Texas, and Norma Jean will be going there in the near future for a week or so to be with our brother and sisters who live in that area. They love Pete too and are honoring her wish not to be inundated with family during this time. We are close in age and were, as I wrote in my post last week, constant companions as we were growing up. I was given the go-ahead by Norma Jean to come and be with them.

I'm so glad to be here, but I would give anything for the circumstances to be different. Much different. While Pete's passing was expected, Moose's was not. She is unable to sleep because every time she wakes up she relives the scene of the car taking another part of her life away. She is more than devastated and it breaks my heart several times a day to see the intense grief she is experiencing, both her life partner gone, and her little six-pound bundle of unconditional love... gone, too.

Her son Peter decided to fence in the back yard with a dog run in anticipation of Norma Jean's next dog, which we all hope will be sooner rather than later. When she decides to go to Texas, Peter will come back here to Florida and do some much-needed work around the house as well as dog-sit for his mother. She has already been on the local dog rescue websites looking to find the right one.
Here Norma Jean and Peter are working on the fence, doing what is necessary to keep the mind occupied with tasks in order to wear out the body so sleep will finally come. (Norma Jean is preparing the poles, those are not crutches.) Yesterday, Norma Jean woke in the middle of the night and was unable to get back to sleep. I got up at 4:00 am and saw she was awake, so I joined her and we talked until the sun brightened the early morning sky. I will post some pictures on my other blog after today's gathering so that my family members will be able to be there in spirit.

I know that the grief is normal. I've waded through whole pools of it myself (to paraphrase Emily Dickinson) and know that the only way forward is on the sharp jagged shoals of pain. But the family is strong, and Norma Jean is going to make it through to the other side. She won't be the same, none of us ever are after the loss of loved ones, but I'm so blessed to be here and experiencing it along with her, Allison, and Peter. I'll be here until the 8th of March, so I've got time to spend in the glorious Florida sunshine and soak up the healing rays with Norma Jean.


Stella Jones said...

Nicely put D-Jan. It must be nice to have a large family at times like this! The event with Moose being killed is tragic but if Norma can find another dog, that will help greatly, I'm sure.
My best wishes to you all.

Teresa Evangeline said...

"The sharp jagged shoals of pain." Very descriptive. Is there something your sister has always wanted to do, but hasn't? Perhaps she might want to look at the possibilities. You know, another door opens.... I do not mean that callously, but Life does keep opening to us. Perhaps there's a door she might like to explore...when she's ready. My Best thoughts to all of you.

CiCi said...

Working on something in order prepare for a future is so healthy. I know you are relieved to be part of this right now and being with your sister is helping all of you. I wish I could take away the pain but we cannot do that for each other so all I can do is tell you how much I care.

Anonymous said...

Visiting your siblings in Texas would also be healing for you, too, DJan. What a great family reunion that would be. Have they all met Smart Guy?

Healing prayers for Norma Jean!

Linda Reeder said...

It's so good for all of you that you are there.

Buz said...

That’s awesome about the fence, and I’m glad Norma Jean is already checking out rescue dogs. After losing Murphy and Buster, I thought I might go without dogs forever just to avoid losing them. Thankfully, Phyllis had much greater wisdom and understood the healing power of bringing more bundles of joy and life into our homes. I know Norma Jean learned that lesson long before I did; I’m just glad to hear confirmation that she is moving forward.

Peter looks great. Ah, to have such long hair, but it just gets too hot down here in Texas. Tell him that “sprinkle” of salt in his beard will become a major spill before he knows what hit him. ;-)

Thanks, Jan, as always. I’ll be waiting patiently for your other post.

Red said...

Again great of you to be with your sister and her family and add your support. It's needed .
When you're in such a situation you feel so alone... as if no one else has to suffer like this. So hang in there. As you say you do come out the other side in some changed way.
The fence is a good project.

#1Nana said...

The blessing in the loss of a family member is that it pulls remaining family together to make new memories. Perhaps it's the intensity of emotions, that sense of being on the edge, that creates the opportunity for us to experience life more fully. It's a roller coaster that forces us to recognize what we are most grateful for. I hope that your family and the wonderful Florida weather ease the pain of your loss.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Thinking of you and wishing you well!

The Retired One said...

She is so lucky to have you by her side..and since you know grief in intimate terms, you truly are one who can tell her you have "been there" and know just the right things to say to her...or just be silent and hold her hand when she needs it.

The Good Cook said...

Grief shared is grief lessened. I'm so happy for your friend that she has you at this time in her life. Mourning is a rocky, twisted road and it helps to have a friend who has a map. Blessings to all of you as you journey through this difficult time.

Whitney Lee said...

I'm so glad your sister has you with her. Busy work must help as well. As much as anything would, I guess. I can't believe that Lexie is already 8 months old. Where does the time go? I guess, right now, it's creeping by. I am thinking about you often, and hoping that you are pulling one another through the grief.

gayle said...

Once again I am so very glad you are there with your sister!

Donna B. said...

So glad you are there with Norma Jean. There is something so comforting and unconditional with sister love...

I am heart broken for her loosing Moose. That just makes me sick. I hope she finds the right dog soon, to come and brighten her days.

I agree with Teresa, "The sharp jagged shoals of pain." is so descriptive and right on, describing pain.

Enjoy the sunshine and the time with your sister. Save traveling my deal friend.

Grandmother Mary said...

What a tough combination of events. Blessings on you and your family. Your good to stay and be with your sister at such a time. Presence helps.