Susan Bigham Memorial Fund
P.O. Box 186
Walnut Creek, CA 94597
Year One - A Milestone For Us All
Mar 4, 2014 12:17pmDear Friends --
We are upon the one year anniversary of Susan's Passing. She went into the hospital on March 1, and I removed life support on March 4, 2013. I am writing to you all now so that we can share our loss, and recovery, at this milestone. Also, I would like to let you know how the boys and I are doing in our new life. Finally, I render an overdue thank you. I'll start with my story.
WHAT A JOURNEY!
Like any journey, this year has had MANY events, experiences, lessons, and accomplishments. I have let myself grief deeply, many many times. And, I've let myself feel everything as I evaluate my situation.
This has been the year of "firsts" - the first time we've experienced an event without our Susan. Each birthday for the boys, which are in January and July, we mark their heights on a 6' 4" ruler we have mounted on the wall (purchased as a fundraiser for some school organization, of course). This past January, when I marked Jason's height, he was, for the first time, taller than the mark for "Mommy." The emotion caught me by surprise, and of course I wished Susan could have seen how proud he was.
Whenever Susan was in a garden, she would, with the most grace and ease, sit down with her cup of coffee, or beer, and just start weeding a section. I found myself doing this just the other day, along a great stone path in our backyard, and I thought of her love of gardening.
Over the summer we traditionally visit Catalina Island with my in-laws, Linda and Will Gassett. This past summer was no exception. Susan grew up in the LA area and her family sailed to Catalina almost every weekend, and she LOVED the place. It is were we spread her ashes at sea, near the rocky shoreline.
It has been deeply emotional to visit her special place, Catalina. A ritual the boys and I have cooked up is to bring an item of hers to special places we visit, and bury or hide the item as a remembrance. On our way to LA for the first Catalina trip, we were about half way there. I realized we had forgotten to pick out an item for this ritual! I was saddened…and then I realized we were in her car. I opened up the console storage, and there, just waiting for us, was a beautiful, simple, hand-made pewter bracelet of Susan's. Today, it remains hidden behind some boulders along the shore in Catalina Island.
Graham just bridged (graduated) from Cub Scout to Boy Scout. I expected to miss Susan at the ceremony, and did of course. What caught me by surprise, was the first official Boy Scout meeting. I dropped both boys off at 7:30 pm, and it was a proud moment. Then, I headed home. No kids. It occurred to me that this was an accomplishment - both of our boys were away at an event together. Susan and I would have had some time together, and we missed this joint accomplishment.
Very sadly, Judy Howe lost a very dear friend, Rhonda recently. I was driving home from therapy in Marin when Judy called me. She was at UCSF - the same ICU wing where Susan was after her emergency surgery. Rhonda was brain dead after several strokes. Judy needed a friend, but was hesitant to ask me to come to the same place we had all been for Susan. There was no doubt in my mind - I headed to SF. It was an opportunity to help a friend, and Rhonda's family. I was able to provide some comfort, having been down this path. During that evening, I visited Rhonda at her bedside. Entering the ICU unit, the same exact scene as Susan's, I almost fainted. Standing at Rhonda's bedside, it was, in a way, for me, a visit to Susan. In spite of the grief, it was a good thing for me. To help some friends, and to visit Susan briefly.
Along this journey, I've discovered many things about life and myself. Two stand out.
ONE>> Friendships and bonding. I am blessed with many good friends and a few very close friends and family. This journey has put us "in the trenches" together -- the result is a truly new level of closeness, trust, and love. Especially with my boys, Jason and Graham. I am humbled that I have learned first hand, now, what it means to take care of one's child. I don't mean logistically. I mean, to take care of their personal needs, such as confidence, communication skills, trust, consistency, emotional safety, and discoveries. This has not been a burden, but rather a blessing. Fully taking on the responsibility has given me the full benefit - and it is wondrous.
TWO>> Making things happen. Susan and I were caught up in the hustle of mid-life and suburban life. It was dragging us along, and the lack of control left us, at times, feeling trapped. Susan and I had just begun, together, to gain some control. I've now beat this monkey, at least in large part. I take little for granted, and allow myself to be "present." I now drive my actions and commitments based on conscious up-front decisions. For example, for me, it was deeply important to help shephard our Cub Scout Pack forward, which had been faltering. This was something which Susan believed was good for our boys and community. I made time to participate and help. Another example is that I've made a list of things that truly feed my soul, but require some planning (something I traditionally resist). I make plans to do one of the those things each month.
When I make the decision up front (rather than waiting to see what time and resources are left-over) I have the control to eliminate some things and prioritize the important things. It creates youth-like energy to affect my path forward.
Jason and Graham and I have accomplished many things this year, and we are doing very well. I look forward to year number two.
So, the other topic I'd like to share with you... I asked myself recently, what does it mean to each of us, to me, to be at this one-year mark? I think in outline form:
1) First of all, it is very significant, the one-year mark. We are creatures programmed to live and think on cyclical schedules. One year is an ingrained milestone, and often the most significant marker on any journey. I have always cherished my first wedding anniversary with Susan (and, with our dog, Max)!
2) At this milestone, I am marking the loss of Susan -- the loss is monumental, and has several facets. My very identity was entwined with Susan. So, now, I am forming my new identity. Susan was on my side and a reliable partner, supporter, friend, and simply a rock. I know what it's like have to such a gift, and I know that it takes time and commitment to build.
3) Really?? A whole year has gone by? Yes it has, and it's nature calling. It is time to reflect, a time feel sorry for ourselves a little bit, and a time to thoughtfully consider the future. We acknowledge our loss as we slowly turn the corner and head up the hill, wiser than we were before.
4) Susan still inspires us. Susan was an inspiration to many, and your support and cheerleading for the Bigham family shows us what good people do for our world. Susan gave, and we gave to each other as our answer to her passing. I feel very good about how I have moved through this year, and you should as well. We deserve a collective pat-on-the-back for crying together, and honoring ourselves as we uplifted each other through the year.
5) A memorial. At times, we still yearn for Susan. For good reason, tradition calls for a marker. My family, together with the Howe's, will be placing a memorial stone in the nature area, in Susan's honor. It will be very subtly marked out of respect for the space in which it will reside. Susan loved this feature of our school and community, and my family visits there frequently. I invite you to visit. The date and exact location of placement are to be announced.
Finally I want you all to know that I have felt loved and supported by all. It has been very comforting, truly. Thank you for thinking of me and the boys, for bringing food, for watching and entertaining the boys, offering places to stay as a getaway, giving hands-on help at the house, and much more that I cannot recall at this moment. All I know, is that my family, my friends, and my community have been stalwart supporters.
And, by this, I am safe.
(I invite you to post any of your thoughts here on Caring Bridge at this milestone!)
Guestbook signed 0 times today
We cherish your messages. Take a moment to write a note in our guestbook or read entries from other visitors.
Susan's CaringBridge site is made possible through donations. You can make a donation to CaringBridge.