Hamilton

A month ago I went to see this at the Kennedy center, with some great friends, and thanks to my friend Jen’s incredible perseverance to get tickets!  Her husband took this shot of us…. now I’m trying to refrain from the “I’m not throwing away my shot” joke…mvimg_20180809_192341I could not have been more excited.  I’d been listening to the music, and its just so great.  Honestly.  It’s story telling at its best.  Lin-Manuel Miranda rivals only J.K. Rowling in my mind with artistry of words.  But lyrics… to music.  Oh my goodness.  Words fail me.  I would recommend seeing it to anyone who has the opportunity.  So what do the lyrics mean to me? Where I am now, in my life…. in my journey of grief and healing?

Of course Hamilton, an American Musical is about American History, which I love, its about politics; it pushes you to think a little differently about both of those things.  But above all, it is a story.  And it is a story about love and loss and healing.  Romantic love, the love of a parent, the love of a country, the love of freedom, and the ideals of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  Loss through death, loss through War, loss through betrayal, embarrassment and disappointment.

I guess all of us are living a life that is a story about love and loss and healing.  Maybe they all take slightly different forms, but these three things are essentially what our stories are all about.

I could go on at length about what so many of the songs meant to me, but I will pick just three, in honor of Angelica’s “three fundamental truths”…

Aaron Burr is “the villain in your history” and this story of course, but his story is also told in a very relate-able way.  He may not have taken very distinctive political stances but his life was full of love and loss… and hopefully some healing…  This was one of my favorite songs, “Wait for it” which he sang:

Death doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners
And the saints

It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise and we fall
And we break

And we make our mistakes
And if there’s a reason I’m still alive
When everyone who loves me has died
I’m willing to wait for it
I’m willing to wait for it

I am the one thing in life I can control

I hope that I do not spend my life waiting.  But I do need to remind myself sometimes that I am the one thing I can control.  I can’t control anything else, but my own actions, choices, responses, attitude. I also know that not everyone who loves me has died… but  the one who loved me… the one who loved me the most, in a complete 360 degree way, in the way everyone dreams of being loved… he has died, so if there’s a reason that I’m still alive….
OK, I also just have to mention two other songs that I won’t quote… one is “Burn”.. it is so well-done.  The most perfectly eloquent song about response to public betrayal.  Whether or not you can relate personally, it makes you feel so much.  The other is “Non-Stop.” It is a long-ish song.  It tells so much story, and it incorporates almost every other song from the musical together into one song in the most beautiful way, and exhibits how everything comes together.
Also.. the songs King George does are hilarious.  They are so ridiculous… informative and ridiculous… and then when he jumps in with “he’s never gon’ be president now” in the Reynolds Pamphlet… just hilarious.
Later in the play, after the Reynolds Scandal, Alexander and Eliza’s 19 year old son, Philip, dies in a dual.  Unimaginable.  This song could have been called that.  Alternately, it is called “It’s Quiet Uptown”:
There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down
The Hamiltons move uptown
And learn to live with the unimaginable
This.  So very much, this.  Our family’s story was just so very unbelievable… unimaginable.  No one could get their head around it.. suffering too terrible to name.  What else can you do?  But push away?  So often, I have been so deep, when it would have been easier, so much easier, to just swim down.  And yet… I learn to live with the unimaginable.  I learn every day.
You knock me out, I fall apart
Look at where we are
Look at where we started
I know I don’t deserve you, Eliza
But hear me out
That would be enough
If I could spare his life
If I could trade his life for mine
He’d be standing here right now
And you would smile, and that would be enough
This part reminds me in a different way of Tim’s dad.  It’s a different context, for sure.  But how many times I heard him express his desire to trade his life for his son’s.   It is the pain of a parent, that I can imagine, that I have seen with my eyes, but I have not lived.
I don’t pretend to know
The challenges we’re facing
I know there’s no replacing what we’ve lost
And you need time
But I’m not afraid
I know who I married
Isn’t that the truth?  I know who I married.  This time has shown me how very much I know who I married.  For that, I am grateful.
If you see him in the street, walking by her side
Talking by her side, have pity
Eliza, do you like it uptown? It’s quiet uptown
Look around, look around, Eliza
(They are trying to do the unimaginable)
This part reminds me so much of the interesting use of words.  Of their meaning, and of choosing words carefully.  I never liked the word “pity.”  It has such negative connotations in our society.  No one wants to be pitied.  Certainly, I never wanted pity.  Then, a circumstance arose where I could have felt many things… but what I felt was pity.  I didn’t want to say that to the person I pitied though, because it felt mean.  And that’s not what I wanted to convey.  Meanness or ill-will was not what I was feeling.  So I looked up the meaning of “pity” almost for a thesaurus option, and the very definition of the word was exactly how I felt for this other person: the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others.  And then I realized, that I have no shame for all of the pity others have felt for me.  Why should I?  Should I not be grateful that I have people in my life who are caring enough to have sorrow and compassion for the suffering and misfortune my children and I have endured, and continue to endure for the sudden loss of the love of my life, of their father?
There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name
We push away what we can never understand
We push away the unimaginable
They are standing in the garden
Alexander by Eliza’s side
She takes his hand
It’s quiet uptown
Forgiveness.. Can you imagine?  Forgiveness.  Can you imagine?
Have pity… they are going through the unimaginable.
I resound with these words so much when I think about how others see us.  Everything we have experienced, and do experience, I know is (to others) unimaginable.  And yet, to us, it is life.  It is hard to imagine.
May we all experience the forgiveness.  May we all experience a grace too powerful to name.
And the final song in the play… “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story.”  Isn’t that what it is all about? When I have read about others’ discomfort with the widowed finding love again, that is often how it is explained that others feel… would their spouse “move on” so quickly?  What does their life mean?  Who would keep their flame, who would tell their story?  The thing that maybe only the widowed can really understand, is that we may move forward, but we never move on.

Let me tell you what I wish I’d known
When I was young and dreamed of glory
You have no control, who lives, who dies, who tells your story?…….

But when you’re gone, who remembers your name?
Who keeps your flame, who tells your story? Who tells your story (who tells your story?)

(Eliza) I put myself back in the narrative
I stop wasting time on tears
I live another fifty years, it’s not enough

Wow.  That’s possible.  I could live another 50 years…

I try to make sense of your thousands of pages of writings
You really do write like you’re running out of time (time)

He really did… My Tim.  He ran out of time.

I rely on Angelica
While she’s alive, we tell your story
She is buried in Trinity Church, near you
When I needed her most, she was right on time

Isn’t this the truth? My sister was absolutely right on time, when I needed her most.

And I’m still not through
I ask myself, what would you do if you had more time? (time)

You could have done so much more if you only had time
And when my time is up, have I done enough?

Will they tell our story? (will they tell your story?)
Oh, can I show you what I’m proudest of? (The orphanage)
I established the first private orphanage in New York City
(The orphanage)
I help to raise hundreds of children
I get to see them growing up (the orphanage)

OK, this is something I can’t exactly do but… are there other things that I should be doing?

In their eyes I see you, Alexander
I see you every time

In A, R and D’s eyes, I see Tim.  I see him every time.

And when my time is up, have I done enough?
Will they tell my story? (will they tell your story?)
Oh, I can’t wait to see you again
It’s only a matter of time..

Those last two lines haunt me.  I hear them in my head so often now.  When I miss him the most… I hear them at the gym.  Or when I am driving in my car, alone….. and after all, I guess it is true.

… I can’t wait to see you again.  It’s only a matter of time…

June 11th is coming.

June 11th is coming. Like a storm brewing in the distance that you are powerless to stop.  Just like the freight train that May 16th was… So too is June 11th. I woke up and knew it was Monday.  It’s a week from today.  A week from today, it will be a year from that morning that I had to walk out of the hospital without him, for the last time.

And I remember standing at his bedside, singing to him, and telling him it was ok to “let go,” it was ok to “sleep well” and telling him I wouldn’t make a big deal of the date. Promising. Because he thought recognizing deathaversaries was ridiculous. He teased me about my “obsession with dates.”

But that was before I was widowed at 36.  That was before my love, the man I gave my heart, who I had babies and plans and dreams with, died in my arms.  That was before I was in the hot young widows club and was familiar with the word “deathaversary.” I think of how he responded when my friend died.  How he felt for her husband.  And I think he would forgive me.

But I think I can honor him by not making a big deal of June 11th with the kids.   We have the baseball game coming up next Saturday, followed by Father’s day.  Where we will honor him, we will celebrate and remember, like we did for his birthday.  But I think the idea of them noting his deathaversary he would have really disliked.  I decided to take the day off work.  I could plow ahead, and work that day.  I worked May 16th and 17th… I’m sure I could do it…but when I considered taking December 11th off for The half year mark, and didn’t go with that… I ended up with R in the ER the night before and taking off anyway.  So I took the day off.  And we’ll see how that goes.  But I am not telling the kids I took off, because I don’t know how I’m going to be.  And if they learn that I didn’t go to work, I am definitely not going to tell them why.

I worry about them all, constantly. This time last year top priority went with A, when her interest in what was happening was heightened… That it wasn’t just a party with friends showing up at the house all the time… But something was really wrong. And why could everyone else go to the hospital to see daddy and she couldn’t… Right now she’s the one I’m worried about most too. Will she know or find out what Monday is even if I don’t tell her? Last night she did something that upset me for the first time. At a girl scouts end of year pool party we had pizza, then she asked for a cookie AND a brownie. I was fine with it so long as there was still enough for everyone. Maybe another parent had said one or the other (my standards have dropped in the last year) because a friend said to A “no fair.” And I heard her say “don’t you know what happened to my dad?!” I was shocked and I let her know. Only one other parent heard it and it was a brownie’s mom so I’m not sure if she knows… I went over and told A that what happened to her dad is incredibly sad but it does not mean she gets extra desert. They are completely unrelated. Goodness, sometimes I have no idea how to do this.  We had another sad, sweeter moment over the weekend where I chose to sit down and look through her selfies with Dad book with her. I hope it helped. Without completely understanding the calendar, I can’t help wondering if she feels what this time of year brings.

June 11th will come.  I can’t help that I know what day it is.  But I think I can honor him by not telling them.  But I also remember that these tiny humans I look at every day aren’t only half-Tim.  They are also half-me.  So I have to hope they forgive me for not telling them what day it is.  Some day, they won’t be able to help knowing, and they can chose to do as they want with that information.  But for now, I will keep it to myself.  And we’ll see how this goes.

“You have stolen my heart
And from the ballroom floor we are a celebration
One good stretch before our hibernation
Our dreams assured and we are, we’ll sleep well… sleep well… sleep well… sleep well”
~ Dashboard Confessional “Stolen” (Our wedding song)

Terrible, thanks for asking – Perfectly

I’ve mentioned before in my What Grief looks like post how much I love the podcast American Public Media Podcast “Terrible, thanks for asking” with Nora McInerny, Yesterday, they put out a new episode and it hit home to me in such a profound way.

While I was at the hospital, the infectious disease physician was one I often really liked to see.  She seemed to understand what I was thinking sometimes, even when I couldn’t say it.  I asked a LOT of questions.  She felt my guilt over whether I should have gotten him in earlier.  She told me that she was a physician, her husband was a physician, and she doesn’t think she would have brought him as early as I did.  That was immeasurably comforting and yet… a part of you has to wonder if that’s true.  That same physician described to me what happened to Tim as a “perfect storm” of negative occurrences with a disastrous outcome.

And here was a story about a woman who’s life fell apart suddenly very similarly to mine… a woman who’s husband had a very similar set of circumstances also come together “perfectly” and lead to his death.  His death, essentially from sepsis, on the table in her ER.,, because she was an ER doctor! I can’t imagine it happening at your work.  And yet, on the whole, I can imagine,  I lived it. And her guilt over whether she brought him in sooner… but she and I could have easily traded places for any of it,  She even talked about being jealous of a family who got the chance to prepare for the end.

And I certainly get that.

The emotions in all of this are so complex.  Some days, I think I’n doing great.  And then a song, or a memory, or an issue with a kiddo – or a podcast – will bring the pain and the loss to the surface.  And all I can do is sit in it for a while.

“Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.” Albus Dumbledore through J.K. Rowling

Photograph in Music (Alternate title: I’m not Dead)

I am falling behind.  I have a hundred blog posts in my head and half started, but this one was longing to be written.

This weekend I officially joined a fitness place, and went to a class Saturday morning.  I like it because the music is good and motivating and they tell you what to do constantly so you don’t have to think.  During the floor exercises, when I was lifting weights I saw myself in the mirror, and somehow in the combination of music, adrenaline, and tingling of my soft muscles that had gone unused basically since November, I looked myself right in the eye and thought, “You are not dead.”  “I’m not dead.”

I felt like a piece of me, half of me, sometimes more, died last June.  In my post 6 months, an open letter to my love, I mention that sometimes I feel Tim would be disappointed in me.  I don’t think he’d be disappointed in me when I do what I have to do to heal, or to survive, when I allow the kids more screen time than I ever would have “before,” but I think he’d be disappointed in me when I do more of the holding on, the feeling sorry for myself, the wallowing.

Tim had a complicated relationship with death.  I believe now it was mostly a result of not ever experiencing it up really close.  I think he was mostly afraid of it.  Having experienced it up really close, as close as it gets, I can say there is a beauty in the sadness.  This is something I’ve heard from other widows too.  Living up close to death seems to be the only thing that can truly rid us of our fear of it.

But it is a challenge to always look at the positive, look for the good, find the silver lining.  When I hold on too much, is when I think Tim would be disappointed.  When I do things for other people, or for appearances.  He always hated that.  He’d tell me if he could to keep living.  He’d tell me that I don’t have to wait a certain amount of time for anything; that there is no formula; that weeks, months, years from now, he will still be dead.  He’d tell me: Don’t miss out on anything today because you are simply missing me and feeling sorry for yourself.

I can both love Tim, and be alive.  I can stretch, strain, and push all my muscles.  I am reminded of this in music.  And I felt like it was a nudge from Tim that gave me that thought.  It may seem overwhelming how much life I have left without him.  But I have it.  I have to accept that.  I am not dead.  And there is great beauty in that if I can find it.  And live it.

My sister-in-law asked me after Tim died if I hear every song differently now, and I really do.  Every love song has a different kind of meaning by me ears.   All of them.

I really love Ed Sheeran’s song Photograph, and when I heard it the first time after Tim died, I heard it with new ears, and it resounded with me in many ways.

Loving can hurt, loving can hurt sometimes
But it’s the only thing that I know
When it gets hard, you know it can get hard sometimes
It is the only thing that makes us feel alive
We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts are never broken
And time’s forever frozen still
So you can keep me
Inside the pocket of your ripped jeans
Holding me closer ’til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone, wait for me to come home
Loving can heal, loving can mend your soul
And it’s the only thing that I know, know
I swear it will get easier,
Remember that with every piece of you
Hm, and it’s the only thing we take with us when we die….
~ Ed Sheeran, Photograph
If love is the only currency we take with us when we die, then Tim died an incredibly rich man.  He lived big, and loved big and openly, and people loved him back.  So many of us loved him.  He loved life.  And life loved him.  He took so much love with him when he died.
I can only try to live my life so that I can be as rich on the day I die.