pegkerr: (candle)
Today is the anniversary of the awful day that Rob and I learned that the suspicious PET scan he had recently received was not lymphoma coming out of remission, it was leukemia (caused by the first chemotherapy he'd received) that would go on to kill him a little less than three months later.

It is Samhain, the day when the souls of the dead are said to approach as close as they ever do to the living, Halloween, the day before All Soul's Day.

It seemed to be an auspicious day to do a Tarot reading, and given the day, the anniversary, and the fact that I most usually use my Harry Potter tarot deck, it seemed right to find a Deathly Hallows Spread. I found one quickly:


1 2 3



1: The Elder Wand - something that is both winning and losing
2: The Resurrection Stone - what has been lost and will not, cannot, come back
3: The Invisibility Cloak - what you've come to accept

Here is the Tale of the Three Brothers and the Deathly Hallows:



I drew three cards. All three were reversed. I thought about the reversals, but the reading seemed clearer if I just ignored them.

1: The King of Cups



The King of Cups. The book about the Harry Potter tarot says this can be the archetype of the injured King, the man who fell into guilt and learned wisdom through pain and suffering.

Well, I don't know about guilt, but this card to me is plainly Rob. Cups are water. Rob was born in November, and that is under Scorpio, which is a water sign. Wounded, pain and suffering: check. He won because he defeated lymphoma, but he lost, defeated by leukemia. And I lost him. Cups seems right, as he is right at the center of my grief (emotion, love).

Edited to add: I've thought more about why Rob's card would be in this position, the Elder Wand position. The fact is, when it came to fighting cancer, Rob thought he was undefeatable. And for a while, it looked as though he was right. He went through four or five chemos, radiation, four surgeries, immunotherapy. He beat the odds to an extent that it astonished his doctors and his--arrogance, I guess, that he would always beat them almost irritated me. At one point, I asked him how long he thought he would live with lymphoma. "Oh, fifteen to twenty years, I guess." Eyebrows raised, I asked the doctor. "I met you a year ago," the doctor said, "and in that year, eighty percent of my patients with your diagnosis have died."

Like the eldest brother in the tale, Rob was undefeated. He beat lymphoma; he was lymphoma-free when he died. But he was taken out by a stealth opponent, who betrayed him, arising directly as a result of his chemotherapy.

He fought cancer for four and a half years, but I think he only really understood he was going to die when the doctor told him so the day before. Like the eldest brother in the tale, Rob died in his sleep, rousing only the last few seconds before his breath stopped to see me and Fiona, keeping watch over him.

2: 6 of Cups - Happiness



What has been lost and will not, cannot, come back? Well, the thought that happiness is lost and never coming back — isn't that a kick in the teeth. Yet, yes, the happiness I had being married to him is over. That is what grief is about. Note that this card specifically references Felix Felices. We always said that Rob was lucky in his fight with cancer...until he ran out of luck.

Another tarot book talked a bit about how this card (if you ignore the reversal) is about the past, previously, formerly. Memories. Thoughts of past loves. Faded, vanished. Longing, yearning. Traumas, mistakes.

As I enter this season of the anniversaries leading up to Rob's death, this also feels right. This feels like I'm looking back at those painful points (Halloween when we learned of the leukemia, Thanksgiving, when he entered the hospital for the last time, Christmas, when we were so sad to be apart, and the end of January, when he died).

Edited to add: After thinking about it, I realized: Harry used up the Felix Felices (gone, never to come back) to appeal to Slughorn on behalf of his mother (gone, never to come back) in order to get a truth he needed. An interesting play off the concept of memory/nostalgia incorporated in the card.

Thinking some more about why this card is in the Resurrection Stone position. The second brother in the story could not stop looking backward toward his lost love (nostalgia), feeling that all his hopes of happiness were tied to her. But she was gone, and the knowledge destroyed him. This card is a warning, like the warning that Dumbledore gave Harry when he was spending too much time gazing into the Mirror of Erised at his lost family: "It does not do to dwell in dreams, Harry, and forget to live."

3: Princess of Disks



This card, I'm pretty sure, is me. Luna is a character we meet in the aftermath of grief. The book says,
"Love, warmth, protection, being in tune with nature, being at rest with oneself, caring, growth.

The Princess of Earth (Disks)
[I was born in April, under the sign of Taurus, which is an Earth sign] is a somewhat shy but very creative and warm-hearted young woman. She is trusting and open to new ideas and willing to follow through on her plans, no matter what. She is reliable, kind, and in tune with the cycles of nature within herself and within the world around her. Her insights are powerful, not necessarily at a superficial intellectual level, but because they express a deeper sense of truth....while her unshakeable belief of nargles and blibbering humdingers exposes her to the ridicule of her fellow students, it expresses a deeper truth: that this world is full of magic and surprises, if only we open our eyes and believe. She also acknowledges that sometimes knowledge is only achieved through pain. She can see and befriend thestrals because of the death of her mother."
Yes. I can see thestrals now. And yes, I think my pain and my grief has led to a lot of growth in the last year. I would hope I am reliable and kind. I would be honored to be like Luna in these ways.

I've created a Widow's music playlist. Many of the songs explore the myriad aspects of grief. I like playlists that follow a narrative arc: the beginnings songs focus on widows who want nothing more than to follow the beloved into death (the first song on the list is "I Am Stretched on Your Grave") and the last one that closes it out is a song that is suggestive of the sort of wisdom that Luna has mastered, understanding death as she does. (One my Harry Potter fanfiction stories puts it this way: "Because you know death...Because you've faced it and fought it and feared it and denied it and accepted it and you understand it, as much as anyone still living still can.")

Danny Gokey
"Tell Your Heart To Beat Again"

You're shattered
Like you've never been before
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you're never gonna get back
To the you that used to be

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday's a closing door
You don't live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you've been
And tell your heart to beat again

Beginning
Just let that word wash over you
It's alright now
Love's healing hands have pulled you through
So get back up, take step one
Leave the darkness, feel the sun
Cause your story's far from over
And your journey's just begun

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday's a closing door
You don't live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you've been
And tell your heart to beat again

Let every heartbreak
And every scar
Be a picture that reminds you
Who has carried you this far
'Cause love sees farther than you ever could
In this moment heaven's working
Everything for your good

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday's a closing door
You don't live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you've been
And tell your heart to beat again
Your heart to beat again
Beat again

Oh, so tell your heart to beat again
pegkerr: (I need hardly add that I have rarely bee)
Today, I threw away the turkey dinner in the freezer.

We got our Thanksgiving dinner for four years from Open Arms of Minnesota, a service which offers free food to families dealing with life-threatening illness. They offer their clients a full Thanksgiving dinner each year. You can choose whether to have it delivered fully cooked or frozen so you can cook it yourself.

Rob's family, knowing he was gravely ill, had flown in from all over the country to see him. Our plan was to spend Thanksgiving dinner at his brother's and to cook the dinner Open Arms had given to us sometime later, just for Rob, me and the girls. A nice celebratory dinner for just the four of us.

But on Thanksgiving Day, Rob woke up that morning with a fever of 103. I called his brother's, hoping that at least my girls could go over there while we were in the emergency room, so they could see their grandma who had flown in from California. Nope. One out of town relative who'd flown in had a terrible cold, and we couldn't risk the girls being exposed to something they could give their daddy.

So I arranged for the girls to go spend Thanksgiving at my sister's celebration instead, and then took Rob to the Emergency Room. We spent the entire sad day in the ER, getting hungrier and hungrier (all the restaurants around the hospital were closed by the holiday), tormented by the pictures of the family gatherings and feasts that our families texted to us.

Rob was admitted to the hospital hours later. His mom and brother delivered Thanksgiving leftovers to him later that evening.

He never went home again.

That frozen turkey and pumpkin pie and all the rest of the fixings have sat in my freezer ever since. At first, when we hoped he would be home soon, we thought, "We can cook it for Christmas." When he died in January, I thought, well, I'd get around to cooking it eventually. It'll keep okay in the freezer. Even though my girls were gone, Fiona to a new apartment, and Delia back to college. Fiona said she'd take it and cook it for her roommates, but every time I asked her about it, she put me off. Too busy. About to move.

Finally, I took everything out of the freezer tonight and threw it out, because I just couldn't bear to look at it any longer. And I cried my eyes out for about a half hour. All that kindness, all that hope, all that celebration, all that tradition. Gone into the garbage, leaving just me, alone and with a broken heart behind.

Dream

Sep. 19th, 2018 10:34 pm
pegkerr: (Dark have been my dreams of late)
Just before my alarm went off: I dreamed I was standing in the middle of the street, looking down the block. It was dusk, and I saw people in costumes going door-to-door, trick-or-treating.

The sight made a terrible pain well up inside of me. I said aloud, “I’m so lonely. This is hurting me and my girls so much.”

It was on Halloween last year that the doctor broke the news that what we’d seen on the PET scan was not Rob’s lymphoma coming out of remission. It was a totally new cancer, leukemia, caused by the first chemo he’d undergone four years previously, and Rob now had perhaps two months to live. (He almost made it to three.) And then the doctor kindly left the room to give us some privacy so we could cry in each other’s arms.

The dream plunged me deep into my grief all day, and it made me realize how much I’m dreading Halloween. I’ve already planned to take the death anniversary off work, in January. I think I need to make some cope ahead plans for Halloween, too.
pegkerr: (Rob)
Rob passed away peacefully this morning at 9:15 a.m. in the presence of his family.

We will announce the details for his upcoming memorial service on his CaringBridge when we have them settled. Click here to read more.
pegkerr: (Rob)
There had been a rapid deterioration over the past week. He's gone from the TCU to the hospital to the ICU in just a couple of days. Read more at CaringBridge post here. The next 24-48 hours will be critical.

I love him. He's fighting so hard. But he has been through so much.
pegkerr: (candle)
Another setback.

Read more at CaringBridge here.
pegkerr: (Default)
Rob isn't yet in remission so has received more chemo. New issue now, too. Read more at CaringBridge here.

Peg is still looking for someone local who can store Rob's car for the winter. Can anyone help? Her contact info is on the CaringBridge post.
pegkerr: (Default)
Rob has been back in the hospital again.

We had family pictures taken last week by the highly talented John Walsh. Good thing, too: Rob's hair started to fall out today from the Decitabine chemotherapy, and so he shaved it off today. Click here to see Rob's new look and to learn about the PET scan.
pegkerr: (Default)
Everything has changed. Again. See CaringBridge post here.
pegkerr: (Deep roots are not reached by the frost)
Rob is going to be in the hospital for the next two months.

We are now going for bone marrow transplant.

Read more at our CaringBridge post here.
pegkerr: (Rob)
Here's an account of the past two weeks, as well as a request for help: Rob has a series of appointments at the U of MN three times a week (M, W, F afternoons) and we're trying to schedule volunteers to drive him so Peg can return to work.

Read more at the CaringBridge post here.
pegkerr: (candle)
Everything has changed, and we are in all new territory. The clinical trial is off. Click here to find out why.

We are trying to be brave. It is difficult.
pegkerr: (I told no lies and of the truth all I co)
Here's a new card I made tonight that I quite like.

I've taken the Strengthsfinder test, and my very top strength is "Strategic."

The Woman Who Copes Ahead - Committee Suit
I am the One who plans ahead to make the future as successful as possible. I can instantly plot the best path through the maze. I am the Ant who brings in the harvest, who keeps an eye on the clock and the calendar, who saves for emergencies and retirement and always remembers to pay the insurance bill. I am gifted, wise, confident, and clever. My family benefits from my foresight and organization.

I am the One who plans ahead to make the future as successful as possible. I can instantly plot the best path through the maze. I am the Ant who brings in the harvest, who keeps an eye on the clock and the calendar, who saves for emergencies and retirement and always remembers to pay the insurance bill. I am gifted, wise, confident, and clever. My family benefits from my foresight and organization.
pegkerr: (Deep roots are not reached by the frost)
Rob is not doing well. And we have had more bad news: cancer has now reached Rob's bone marrow.

Read more at CaringBridge here.
pegkerr: (candle)
We had a PET scan report today, and it wasn't good. Rob's remission lasted five months, about as long as the one he had two years ago did.

Read more at CaringBridge here.
pegkerr: (Both the sweet and the bitter)
New CaringBridge post: Rob has had two more clean PET scans. Yay!

Unfortunately, we have had a new complication. As a direct effect of the treatment he has been undergoing, Rob has now developed diabetes. Read more at CaringBridge here.
pegkerr: (Glory and Trumpets)
Rob has achieved COMPLETE REMISSION!

And I have been offered a JOB! I will be working for the Minneapolis ELCA Synod (the local governing body of the Lutheran Church). I will be, among other things, assisting with the administration of the process to call new pastors to Lutheran Church.

Details at CaringBridge here.

This has been the best week, like, ever.
pegkerr: (Default)
Rob's PET scan yesterday was good enough to allow him to continue with his clinical trial. See the details at his CaringBridge.
pegkerr: (Deal with it and keep walking)
If you've forgotten your CaringBridge password and so you're not reading these posts, hey, you can get CaringBridge to send you a new one.

Rob's cancer has progressed further and is now is found in the ulcers in his stomach. Since it has been proven by biopsy that he has "progressed," he's being taken off the study he's been on for the past 14 weeks and will be placed on a different one. It means we'll be spending much more time in Rochester, which, no offense, is a very nice city. But...we'll be spending a lot more time in Rochester. Thank you, Kyle and Mary, for putting us up.

CaringBridge post.
pegkerr: (Default)
We finally caught up with Rob's oncologist who interpreted the PET scan from two weeks ago for us. Rob has put on a waiting list for a new clinical study. He may get called to go in for tests sometime in the next 2-8 weeks. He would be a good candidate, but he may be ineligible because of his participation in an earlier study. Read more at our CaringBridge post.

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