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Keep on keepin' on.

“In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop

By drop upon the heart until, in our own despair

Against our will, comes wisdom through the

Awful grace of God.”


I had a dream about Bill a few nights ago. In this dream, I was with someone in my house. I opened the closet door and Bill’s shirts were gone (In reality, they are still there.) The person with me asked, “Where would Bill take his shirts?” I said I didn’t know but that I knew he’d never go anywhere without his underwear.

We opened his underwear drawer and it was empty. I then walked to my front door. Bill was standing on our sidewalk that leads to the street. He was facing the house and looking at me. He looked 20 years younger and had that big old “Bill” grin on his face. He looked healthy, happy, and at peace. I woke up and just laid in bed and cried.

This is the second dream I’ve had about him in 11 months and, in both, the message was that he was happy and at peace. This last one just spoke to me. I feel that he was confirming for me that while I have his physical stuff, he isn’t coming back. The fact that he looked so handsome and happy and young gave me some peace.

On October 22, I’ll hit the one year mark of his death. I’d planned to go to Cape Cod to stay with our longtime friend, Rob, himself a survivor. I first met Rob and his surviving sibling at a Sibling Seminar in the mid 1980’s. We have remained strong friends all these years. Bill and I would visit him at least twice a year for quite a while, and he’d visit us when he came to Chicago.

I’ve been on 4 short trips with friends in the last 2 months. Seems my max amount of days away from my home is 3 nights. I found myself dreading the upcoming 6 nights on Cape Cod. Too much time away. Like all survivors of any kind of death, the first year creeps closer and closer. We ask ourselves if we want to be away in a different environment or if we want to be at home. Our minds go back and forth. I keep thinking, “The best laid plans…” I had it all covered. I wouldn’t be at home.

As luck would have it, I had an appointment with my grief counselor the day after the dream. I cried all the way there. When I announced that I was dreading going to the Cape and told her about my dream, she said, “Since the day I met you, you’ve talked of your home like it’s a sacred place. You’re like a native American….your home and yard on the Fox River ARE sacred to you. You need to be there as you grieve the days from October 10 (when Bill went into the hospital for the last time) to October 22 (when he died at home). She’s right and just those words confirmed what I’d been feeling.

What do I tell survivors? You can’t outrun it. You had to face it square on. That deep pain is a reminder of our deep love.

Bill and I bought our house in 1995. It was an absolute dump BUT as he kept pointing out, it’s on the Fox River. We worked that entire first year taking it down to it’s bones. Over these many years, we’ve continued to add on and remodel. The house itself was built in 1850 so whenever ANY workman comes to do anything in it, he/she finds old, old, pipes, wiring, etc. Our lot extends almost 2 full feet to the Fox River. Our chairs still sit by the river where I often walk to sit and ponder. The gardens I’ve built, the lawn he mowed, the trees we’ve removed, the back porch we added….we are both in every square inch of all of it. The deer come often. Now there are 5. Another time, another column, I can talk about the deer but I know that Bill is in them. They comfort me.

As I, the seasoned suicidologist, the grief counselor, the human being going through this process yet again, I don’t always recognize or acknowledge what is happening to me. My therapist says I’m to forge a different path for what life I have left. I agree. I continue to think of the closing read at SOS:

“I don’t like it.

I don’t have to like it.

What I DO have to do is make a choice about my living…”

Bill, like my mom before him, didn’t want to take me with him. He wants me to continue to lead a good, productive, happy life. That’s what all of our loved ones would want for us. My mom made a choice about her life because her emotional pain became overwhelming. Bill’s body wore out…

I feel the love of family and friends. My work family is extraordinarily supportive. I will never cease to believe that when death claims our loved ones, the love and support of family and friends remains. Yes, we may lose some friends but we gain others…

Keep on keepin’ on…

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