I have just returned from a long weekend of Camp Widow where I met a true extension of Jacob’s soul and someone I feel like could be and is developing into one of my closest friends in life – Élise from Montréal – we have done voice memos/ videos/ or facetime calls nearly every day to talk about our soulmates who are very similar (we also have very similar stories of loss as well) and I am going to visit her in Montréal (she has the sweetest french accent, and is helping me keep my four years of French stay fresh in my brain). I want to visit Montréal and go to all the places Jacob wanted to visit there in Montréal – the places we talked about visiting together (Leonard Cohen’s first apartment, his museum, the park where he spent many hours as a child, wrote many poems and spent time writing his first novel, Beautiful Losers, which Jacob always said was the most underrated book of all time.) He loved that book, and when he gave it to me in Christmas of 2016 he wrote me the most beautiful inscription. I read it every day. And Jacob and I both really wanted to go together (and planned on it in winter of 2018 since we lived so close from Boston) especially after all the years of watching one of his all-time favorite documentaries… Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen (it is free on youtube, trust me – watch it.) Jacob watched it on loop junior year of college and it also changed my life- and I cannot think of anyone remotely close to Jacob on this earth EXCEPT Leonard Cohen, he is truly the only one that reminds me of Jacob. And Jacob agreed in a very humble way – that is why Jacob always turned to art and artists – to find himself reflected. We also wanted to visit Montréal in winter because the documentary was shot during winter. Jacob was so cute like that. Anyway, just the fact that this fellow young widow, who I now refer to as my dear, dear friend who I love with all my heart, Élise (my age, without kids, whose spouse was a writer) knew of Leonard Cohen is beyond belief (that reminds me of another Jacob story…) The fact that I could be in the same room with a friend drinking wine listening to Leonard Cohen blew my mind. Actually, it brought us both to tears. In addition to telling our horrible, painful and miserable stories of loss – but in the backdrop hearing Leonard Cohen – it was as if I was with Jacob. Why this is so important to me is I have never done that with anyone but Jacob in my entire life – because he was my best friend. My only friend. In addition to being my lover and soulmate. I never had a “girlfriend” that was ever even remotely close to a soul like Jacob… this is why I watch and read Leonard Cohen interviews and books all the time – to feel closer to him when Jacob’s words to me, photos of him and me, and videos to me and of us leave me wanting more and more (which is always…) But my darling friend Élise who I met this past weekend had a piece of Jacob’s soul in her – and so much of her is because of her spouse, just like so much of me is from Jacob… For instance, she said she wouldn’t have known about Leonard Cohen if it wasn’t for her darling soulmate Lukas, just as I wouldn’t know of him if it wasn’t for my Jacob. But more on that later (I promise, it deserves its own post – and it will when I visit her in Montréal and see all the places Jacob and I wanted to see, which will be painful but at least I can be with someone who understands, I can cry with and who can hold my hand in my suffering – we can hold each other’s hands in suffering. Jacob would love her and I can hear him saying, “Thank you for helping my baby coos” – I feel like Jacob brought us together in some cosmic way. I felt him while I was with her. A connection that was of course in no way like me and Jacob’s but it felt like Jacob was there if only for a few moments. How wonderful to feel that way no matter how fleeting – a way I never thought was possible.
So, I also started an intense procedure this week on my brain-super fun, right? No. Super fucking shitty. And painful. Feel free to ask me about it in the contact section of this blog. I’ll probably post about it when I finish. So, mentally, I am honestly not ready to talk about or even process all that happened in the last week and a half… but one thing I can offer you is something I heard this past weekend which was: tragedy + time = comedy. This is a phrase Jacob used to tell me a lot… so it was kind of a Déjà vu moment. In fact, I remember Jacob saying this is why the Jewish people are so goddamn funny – they have been through so much tragedy over time. It is a really hard concept for me to believe now, but I kept being reassured by other widows that will change. Like I said, hard to believe. I am really sick of “things will never get better, but different bullshit”. BUT – I am going to give you an excerpt from Kelley Lynn Shepherd’s book (who I met at Camp Widow in Toronto, and who also did the wonderful Ted Talk, “When Someone You Love Dies, There Is No Such Thing as Moving On” – she is very quick witted and makes you laugh at the RIDICULOUS SHIT people do/act/say/think/project while you are in grief. Jacob would find this story incredibly funny (and her incredibly funny) and I actually laughed out loud because I have gotten similar comments in the vein of “Be glad you have your health!” FUCK YOU. This story seriously made my day – week – month? And I could hear Jacob laughing – also, my mother-in-law was the first one to witness me laughing at it, I couldn’t even get the sentences out they were so funny and close to home. She hasn’t seen that since Jacob died. I didn’t think I could even laugh that hard anymore – not without Jacob with me every day. So, enjoy…yeah, I hate that word too.
Excerpt from the book, My Husband Is Not a Rainbow: The Brutally Awful, Hilarious Truth About Life, Love, Grief, and Loss by Kelley Lynn Shepherd (which by the way she is someone I completely relate to on so many levels of her personal grief story – robbed of children, a future, and growing old together without the only person she wanted those wonderful things with.) Quick aside: Jacob used to say, “I think you and I will be great at the whole becoming senile together thing – we are already so cynical already.” I always laughed when he said that and responded that, “We are 65-year-olds trapped in 25-year-old bodies Jakey.”
Okay here is the excerpt – I hope you find it as funny as I did. And validating for that matter…
“… Months ago, I posted on Facebook this: “Need to attempt this life thing again without Don. Not looking forward to it. Wish me luck!” A lot of people did wish me luck, told me to hang in there, and a bunch of other really nice things. And then there was this comment:
“Be glad you have your health, Kelley. Remember that some are living with diseases which make it difficult to just get out of bed. I’ve got rheumatoid arthritis, but some have it worse.” Well, alrighty then. What the hell is THAT supposed to mean? What does your rheumatoid arthritis got to do with my husband’s death or ANYTHING for that matter? Nothing. I don’t see the connection. Because there isn’t one. They are two completely different issues. It makes zero sense to bring up one when talking about the other. I suppose the purpose of saying something like that is to make me feel “grateful” for all the things I could be dealing with that I’m not dealing with. But honestly, I never saw the point to that argument. It’s like when you were a kid, and you didn’t want to eat your vegetables, and your mom would say, “Eat everything on your plate! There are starving children in Africa!” Okay. Whether or not I eat my green beans, they will still be starving. My eating or not eating my food has nothing to do with them being starving. Starvation will always be an epidemic, and the only way to combat it is to help them! Send donations. Put programs together to help solve the ongoing issues. And guess what? These beans are still disgusting, and I’m still not eatin’ em.
So if I tell you my husband just died and you say, “Well, at least you don’t have rheumatoid arthritis!” I’m going to look at you like you’re fucking nuts. Unless you leave it as a comment on Facebook. In that case, I will just THINK you are fucking nuts and say nothing and then write about it in my book later on. No, I don’t have arthritis. I also don’t have lupus, lyme disease, or a weak bladder. And hey, at least I am not headless! You know, some people are walking around earth without a HEAD! So be grateful you have a head! And legs. There are some people who have no legs. And if they grieved the loss of their legs, would you say to them, “Well, be grateful you have a torso! You know, some people don’t have a torso! Or eyes. At least you have eyes! I know a guy with no eyes, no torso, no legs, no arms, and no face. He’s just a foot. So be grateful. You could be just a foot.”
I mean, where does it end? Your problems are your problems, and my problems are my problems. The death of my husband is what I happen to be dealing with. He is gone forever, and my life is forever different, and every day, I’m stuck trying to get up and figure out another reason why I should stick around. I’m sorry if, at the moment, I’m not feeling very grateful for my lack of rheumatoid arthritis.
“I don’t understand the need that some people have to compare pain. If I tell you my wife died just 4 weeks after her diagnosis, and you come back at me with some story about someone you know who suffered longer with the same illness before dying- what am I supposed to say? “Okay – you win! That pain is worse than my pain.” There are no prizes when everyone is dead.” – Joe Harris.
That quote is how she ends the segment –
Jesus Christ, thank you, Kelley – I get this shit all the time- not only the “be grateful you have your health” but the “people have suffered much worse, and for much longer” or the “people have suffered much worse and how selfish can you be lying in a bed for 14 months doing nothing?” or “people have suffered much worse with much fewer resources and have gotten through it.” All from the same goddamn person.
I hope those of you in mourning found this excerpt somewhat funny and at least a slight distraction, validation, and connection to the author and fellow widow. She gets it. She has turned it into humor. And I can hear Jacob’s laugh.