What Greater Gift Than Love? Grief and Honoring

 
 

I’m so sad. More than I ever expected. I have never professed to be the animal lover of our family. But I have gotten especially close to Scout, our tiger kitty, in the past several years. He’s been my cuddler and nudger out of bed. Today, we had to have him put down. He was 16 years old and was the best companion our family could have asked for. He was dropped off at the end of our driveway shortly after his birth with a very bad eye infection. We got him healthy and he’s been that up until a couple of years ago. You are going to be so missed, Scouty. Thank you for loving us so much.

 
 
 
As it’s been the past two blog posts writing responses to the five prompts from A Chronic Voice’s Linkup Party for People with Chronic Illnesses, July 2020 has found me completely changing what I was going to write about because something else is heavy on my heart. 
 
The past couple of weeks have been ones of loss for my family.  First, my Uncle Bill who was a surrogate father and now our Scout, our silly tiger kitty for the last 16 years. Today, I write from grief that comes from deep within. 
 

 

BOTHERING

Every morning as if he could tell time, Scout would hesitantly (at first) nudge his wet nose into my ear, purring like a little motor. The morning routine was started.  I then, rolled over, pulling the covers closer to covering my face, but often leaving one arm out above my head, hand dangling.  He’d get a bit more persistent, butting my hand over and over with the top of his head. 

 
As of late, that isn’t enough to get me fully awake. I roll over again.  So now, he knew he had to get tough. Scout would leave my head and walk over to my nightstand, knocking one item off at a time. First, he would paw my little statue of the Eiffel Tower I had actually bought on Kel and my 25th anniversary trip to Paris. I would hear the metal slide, slide, slide until it plunked to the carpeted floor below. He would then come back to my head, purring into my ear to see if I was going to get up. I had begun to ignore this first attempt, so he would go back to bat the next item to the floor.
 
Kelley and I feigned being bothered by this morning wake-up, but really it was nice knowing we were needed and not forgotten. 
 

 

DEMANDING

It was my 40th birthday, and the kids were outside playing with the balloons from my party. There was a tiny little orange dot at the end of the driveway. The cars zoomed down our street not even noticing that a kitten lay helpless in the gravel. Andrew and Chelsea, 15 and 13, were outside with the neighbor kids when they heard a tiny mew demanding to be heard. They walked nearer to the end of the drive, with the feeling that there was something that needed their help. When they reached the orange fuzzball, they found Scout, eye glued shut from infection.

“He can’t be more than two weeks old,” my husband said as Chelsea cuddled the shivering kitten in her arms.

“Can we keep him?” Andrew asked, the longing in his blue eyes. He knew that we traveled too much to have a dog, but he was hoping that we’d allow them to keep the kitten. Kelley looked over at me with a Well, what do ya think? look, and I shrugged. “I guess…, but you guys are going to have to take care of him.”

 

 


NOURISHING

As Scout grew, he became more and more a person. His wacky personality was a favorite of conversation. He got a bit chubby, loving to eat like he did. However, he was also very energetic and athletic. A few times a day, he’d stampede through the house like an orange streak, zipping up the stairs then back, skidding across the kitchen floor. He’d chase his own wily tale as is the snake-like thing eluded his every move.

One of his most incredible feats is when jump to the highest banister in the house, defying death as he hefted his belly up onto the balance beam. Our three-story home had an open banister from the top bedroom level to the living room. Scout made like a drunken, clown on that highwire beam above. It was amazing that he never fell!

In addition, Scout nourished each of my children’s hearts. He gave love to each of them. Scout made sure to sleep with each kid equally during the night. He’d cuddle one and then leave to cuddle the next. Chelsea and Andrew each felt that he loved them best of all.

 
My husband and son brought home Willow,
a black long hair kitty, a few weeks after we
found Scout.  The two have been together ever
since.  Willow is going to need a lot of extra
loving with his cuddle buddy gone.

 

TOLERATING

I’ve never been a “pet person”. My little sister loved animals much better than humans, she still does. Me, while I may appreciate them now and again, an animal just isn’t going to win my heart. So, for me, having an extra being to care for was just one more responsibility to this full-time working mom’s life. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Scout, it was more that I saw him as a chore on my to-do list.  And so, for many years, I was just tolerating the extra work of scooping out his litterbox, cleaning up the hairballs, or filling his food and water dish.  I didn’t really consider myself one of his companions or he mine.

The years went by; Andrew and Chelsea got busy with their adult lives. Little Scout wasn’t on their minds as they moved out to college and the lives beyond our home. Kelley and I filled the food and water dishes. Kelley changed the kitty litter. Scout began to lay on Kelley’s legs every night as he sat watching the TV. 

 
Little by little that lovey fella became my buddy, too. When I was down and out, laying in bed and feeling lonely due to a Fibro Flare, Scout was always nearby.  His warmth often eased the pain in my gut as this was a favorite place for him to lay.  
 
In the past year, as I began to get stronger, pour Scout was getting thinner and thinner. We tried special food and medicine, feeding him both morning and night.  But, after we got back from our four-day trip this past week, we knew he couldn’t keep going on as he had been.
 
 
My aunt and uncle had just come
home to Michigan from quarantining in Arizona, 
so I made this video for him of 
me playing Take Me Home, Country Roads.

 

 

TELECOMMUTING

The last time I saw my Uncle Bill was two days before he passed.  He was lying in a hospital bed in a facility that cares for the elderly.  His mind and body were giving away to dementia.  He had stopped eating.  He kept his eyes closed.  
 
I arranged a Skype call with the activities director.  She brought in her iPad.  Seeing his drawn features and closed eyes, I knew it would be my last time to see him.  I had practiced most of the quarantine on the old wooden ukulele my aunt had given me.  It had been his.  He told us, kids, the story of when he would go and play the old tunes for his mom and the other residents.  Even when his mom didn’t know him anymore, he said she recognized the songs.  And so, I played Take Me Home Country Roads by John Denver.  It was hard for me to make it through without crying.  Uncle Bill never looked at me, but he did grab at the iPad and pulled it closer to him.  All I can imagine is that he wanted to let me know he heard.  I told him I loved him.  And then I asked the nurse to make sure to play some upbeat music.  He loved music. 
 

Grieving and Honoring

And so I grieve.  But, I do know that I loved both my uncle and my Scouty well.  And, I know that they loved me.  This is what it means to live FULLY.  So, I will allow myself to feel the pain of losing them both during these last weeks.  I honor our connection through my memories.  I will continue to practice the ukulele; it sits in the corner of my living room. Uncle Bill, his smile, and music will remain a big piece of my life. I will think of Scout every time I begin to wake, honoring him by living each day with uncompromising love and honesty. 
 
Those of us who live with chronic illness know what it means to mourn loss.  Those of us who have dared to love, know what the ache when we lose those we’ve let into our lives. “We bereaved are not alone. We belong to the largest company in all the world–the company of those who have known suffering.”-Helen Keller
 
 
 

The format for this post is thanks to A Chronic Voice link-up. This month, the topics were searching, hoping, traumatizing, honoring, and responding. Each writer takes the given topics and gives them their own spin. Check out these wonderful writers at July 2020 Linkup(scroll past the prompts to find the linked up posts).

 

Thank you for visiting my blog today. 

 

 

 

Thank you for visiting my blog today.  I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays.  However, as you know, my new normal means that sometimes I have to listen to my body and am not able to follow through as planned.  Thank you for your understanding.

Sharing is caring-as my granddaughter tells me:)

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A Love Story: Stronger Together


Waking up this morning with pain, I cried. Pure frustration. My poor husband asks, “What do you want for me to do?” At first, I asked for a massage.  When he asked where,  I just whimpered, “Nevermind.”  Reality is, he can’t possibly help.  The pain seems to have no spot to massage. It’s just everywhere.

So, I ask for my Yoga Tune Up Therapy ball, hot pad, and water, and meds.  That helped me to calm down.  Then, he drew me a hot bath with Epsom salts. And, as I soaked, he brought me some tea. 

This is love. 

 Our Love Story

Our first summer together 1983
in Chelsea, MI at Camp MUCC.

I met Kelley when I was 19. He was 22. I was the waterfront director at a fairly unusual summer camp for kids. Camp MUCC, Michigan United Conservation Club, which for those of you who might not know, is a hunting club. Being I had never even thought about hunting before, this was an odd place for me to land a job. But I was there for the water.  Kelley, on-the-other-hand, having studied Wildlife Management at MSU, was hired as a riflery and hunting instructor.


This was to be my home for the summer before going off to college. I had just left my foster family’s home never to be a dependent again. I knew I was now on my own. Kelley was on his own, too.  Everything he owned was in two luggage boxes.  This was to be his home before he ventured out to find his “real” job.

The week of training, before campers arrived, we hit it off right away. And from there, on the weekends, once the campers had left after breakfast on Saturday, we often were the only ones left at camp.  Being we were poor as college-students, but we had food and shelter on a small lake in the quaint town of Chelsea, MI. Life was good. 

Kelley was from Manton, MI,
  so he brought me to meet his family before our week’s journey.
 His older sister was shocked
when he showed up at her door with a girl!



At the end of the summer, before I headed to college and Kelley off to Arizona to try to get a ranger job at any national park, we went on a week-long canoe trip, just us two, down the beautiful Manistee River.  It was probably the most wonderful week of my life.  At the beginning of the trip, Kelley asked, “What if I asked you to marry me?”  I snorted, “I’m too young for marriage. I’d say no.” Nothing more was said about that all week.  However, at the end of the week, as Kelley was taking me back home to Grand Rapids, his car broke down near the Cedar Springs exit.  



We stayed the night at the campground just off from 131, Kelley covered in grease as he worked on the car to get it going. I remember him looking up from the engine as I stood there talking to him and handing him tools as he requested.  And that was when he decided it was the perfect time to ask, “Will you marry me?”  I didn’t hesitate, didn’t even recall what I had said one week earlier, “Yes, I will.”  


We were engaged, no ring or anything at that point.  We didn’t tell anyone we were for at least half a year.  Kelley was leaving for AZ in the coming week, and I would be at UofM forging a new life.  Not sure we knew how things would work out, but I know for sure we both knew we were going to be together through it.

This was before the Internet and email was a thing in your average person’s life. Kelley and I were poor.  I was living off my savings from the $1000 I had made over the summer, Pell Grants, and student loans.  Kel was living with his mom and step-dad (both very supportive of him finding a National Park job) and odd jobs he found in Phoenix. We could not afford long-distance calls and so we wrote. 

I’ve kept these in a binder from that time.
There are over 100 letters, notes, and cards.



Kelley was and is a guy who shows his love through what he does and generally doesn’t say lovey-dovey stuff.  Surprisingly, when given a pen and paper and no way else for us to connect, and he poured everything out.  I, too, found that writing allowed me to fully express my thoughts and emotions, much more so than when we were goose-bumped, love-struck-dumb in the presence of each other. (Ah, new love!) And so the letters (long, long letters) flowed.  

After six-months apart, Kel not finding a park job and me really struggling at school, he decided to drive back to Michigan.  The red Pacer he was driving was glued and tied together for the most part.  But he was determined to get back to me.  He drove straight through on what would be the equivalent of several Monster caffeinated drinks (but his was black caffeinated capsules).  By the time he got to Ann Arbor, his eyes were buggy and bloodshot and his hair a greasy mess.  He called me at the dorm room letting me know that his car had conked-out on the highway.  

Being I didn’t have a car, my good friend, Mindy drove me to get him.  She was ever so kind to let this wild-eyed, unsavory looking man into her car.  She had really only heard my stories, saw me writing him letters, and making him mixed-tapes of love songs, but she really had no idea who he was at this time. 

We laugh now (she and her husband have been good friends all these years later) at how she out of pure love and concern said, “Katie, are you sure you want to marry this guy?”  I was sure.  I loved that scruffy, red-bearded man, and I knew he loved me. 

Now, that’s some car!


It was that February (Groundhog’s day) that we bought my engagement ring and our wedding rings. That next summer, we did one more stint as camp counselors at Camp MUCC and then the next spring, 5/25/1985, we were married, surrounded by our family and friends. 

We’ve been married 34 years. Down days like the past few, make me appreciate the love we share.  We’ve had so many twists, turns, ups, and downs on this journey together.  We’ve grown so much from those homeless babies back when we first met.  The life that we’ve built together gives me strength, courage, and purpose.  

Being parents to two amazing children,
and then being blessed to bring in
our daughter-in-law and now our grand-daughter,
makes everything make sense, you know?

Kel this morning at his desk of our shared office.

We continue to journey together. This year finds us with more twists and turns.  Ever stronger together, we will find our way.

I almost didn’t write a post this week.
The first two paragraphs were written on Monday.
I was too out-of-it and down to write after that.
Until today.  The direction of the post took
a totally different turn as I thought about
how much my guy means to me
and just how much he supports me and has
from the very beginning.
Thank you for visiting my blog today. 

I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays. 
However, as you know, my new normal means that some times,
I have to listen to my body and am not able to follow through as planned.
Thank you for your understanding.


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