pegkerr: (Both the sweet and the bitter)
2018-11-17 04:24 pm
Entry tags:

Stay at home vacation = lots of work and new furniture

I took the week off work this week, and with the assistance of faithful family and friends, I removed what I estimate to be 3 TONS of stuff (mostly Rob's stuff) from my house and garage. The truckload weighed in 4040 lbs at the South Transfer Station, and aside from that, I also took a bunch of file cabinets to the scrap yard, gave other furniture away, and threw out so much recycling that I filled my bin, a neighbor's bin and others hauled yet more away to their own bins. The pile in my garage and basement is considerably less, and today, my new furniture was delivered. It looks gorgeous.

It was a difficult week emotionally. I went through drawers and file cabinets and continually was gobsmacked at what I found (really, you're using your file cabinet to store issues of Bench & Bar magazine from 1994? TV Guides from 1989? REALLY?) When we dropped off the file cabinets at the scrapyard, I started crying when we shoved out the file cabinet that had stood in Rob's office/TV room for decades and I watched the steel claw on the crane tear it into bits. I also wept when we shoved the law books out onto a pile of garbage at the transfer station dump.

But today, I had my reward: new furniture was delivered, and it looks just gorgeous. (That wing chair, by the way, is a stealth recliner). Thanks to the family and friends who worked so hard to help me this week. Thanks for the food, the advice, the cleaning, the willingness to take furniture and other stuff, the transportation, the room in your cars and recycling bins, the sweat, the laughter, and the encouragement.









pegkerr: (candle)
2018-10-31 09:58 pm

Samhain Tarot reading

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: (Both the sweet and the bitter)
2018-10-26 11:01 am
Entry tags:

Throwing away the law books

I loved my husband, heaven knows, but he was a hoarder.

By the time he was eighteen, Rob had moved eighteen times. My theory is that this trained him to understand that his home wasn't a place, it was his things. They were what was permanent. Therefore, he had to keep them permanently.

And he did.

When Rob was going to the University of Minnesota law school, he worked at the law library. One day, he discovered that the law library was discarding a ton of huge, heavy law books. Rob volunteered to take them, and the library said sure, they're yours. For free.

When Rob set up his law office, he proudly shelved them in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that covered all the walls of his entire office. To him, they looked cool. They meant that he had made it. He was an attorney.

When he had to shut his office down, he decided to put them into storage. Remember, he is not allowed to get rid of anything. I am ashamed to tell you how many thousands of dollars he paid for storage--he had that storage unit for over a decade. The waste of money aggravated me so much--how much of that money could have gone for our daughters' college tuition instead? Finally, when he lost his job and the walls were closing in, I insisted that he couldn't rent storage anymore.

So the law books and all the contents of his law office came to live in our garage. Rob parked his car out on the street instead of keeping it in a garage as any sane Minnesotan would. And he had to clear the snow off of it and move it from one side of the street to another during snow emergencies. He did this uncomplainingly for year after year.

For years I nagged him to deal with all debris from the law practice. But he never did. There was another TV show to watch, another thing to do with the girls. He told me the books were valuable. "Fine," I said. "We can use the money. Let's sell them." But he could never figure out who might take them. He talked about advertising on Craigslist (do people shop for law libraries on Craigslist?) but never did. It was obviously crazy to advertise online for a national buyer: the books were so big and so heavy that the shipping costs would kill us. Once, when we were holding a garage sale, he put a sign on the towering pile of boxes of books: "Law Library Wall O'Books. $3,000.00."

As if anyone shopping at a garage sale might think, "Wow, a whole law library! I just happen to have $3,000.00 in my pocket, and I should snap that right up. What a bargain!

Then he got sick.

As he became weaker, he fretted about his possessions. And seeing how it was stressing him out, I made a difficult promise: I wouldn't throw anything of his away without his permission.

Now he is gone. I haven't started dealing with the law office files (an attorney I know has promised to help with that, but his help has been delayed because his own father has died and he's still dealing with that estate).

But I have started dealing with the law books.

I tried. I called the Minnesota Women's Prison Book Project, asking if they could use them as a donation. Perhaps women who are working on their appeals might consult them? No. Too big. Too heavy. No space to put them. And (this is obvious to anyone who has worked in the law the last quarter century, and it's why the law library was throwing them away in the first place) attorneys use Westlaw and Lexis now. They don't look up statutes in moldering law books.

I called a friend of mine who works at Thomson Reuters, the successor to Westlaw, the original publisher to ask what value the books might have. "None," was his blunt answer. "Recycle them."

So I have been going out to the garage every couple of weeks and emptying one box at a time, ripping off the rotting leather covers and throwing the stripped books into the dumpster. It's painful. It's galling (I'm an author. I write books. Destroying them is an appalling thing to have to do.) And I can hear Rob screaming in the back of my mind, "Noooooooo! You can't do this to those books." (Which really means, "You can't do this to me!")

But Rob is gone.

The leatherbound books are large and crumbling. The oldest ones are from the end of the 19th century.





They are stamped inside a stamp for the U of MN library, and also with a name: "William W. Pye."



I did some online research and discovered he was an attorney and bank president who lived from 1870-1965 in Northfield, Minnesota.

William W. Pye (1870-1965)

(And now I'm feeling guilty again like I should have offered them to the Northfield library. They have a room there named after him). Presumably, after he died, they were donated to the U of MN law library. I wonder if his wife wanted them out of her house, too.

I threw away three boxes this morning, which was all I could bear to do at once.

I thought of Rob. I thought of William W. Pye. I went into the house and washed the skins flakes of cows that died 120 years ago off my hands. I managed not to cry.

This is so damned hard.
pegkerr: (I need hardly add that I have rarely bee)
2018-10-03 10:16 pm

Cleaning out the freezer

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.
pegkerr: (Dark have been my dreams of late)
2018-09-19 10:34 pm
Entry tags:

Dream

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's last)
2018-07-25 06:59 pm
Entry tags:

Six months

Today was one of those cry-my-makeup-off days that show up for no good reason. I woke up this morning haunted by images of Rob dying and kept breaking down into tears. I took the afternoon off.

I didn’t understand until I looked at the calendar.

This is the last day of the sixth month. Tomorrow starts the second half of the year since Rob died.

I went home and hauled some of the ridiculous technology that Rob insisted on keeping out of the basement. I dropped several printers and DVD players and monitors off for recycling. Instead of going to work out at the Y as I’d originally planned, I had dinner at the Good Earth, and I’m waiting for the wine buzz to subside a bit before driving home.

Six months. I cannot believe it.
pegkerr: (Rob's last)
2018-06-17 12:05 am

Father's Day Then and Now

This is such a typical picture of Rob: He's sitting at our dining room table reading something, with a daughter on his lap.


A girl sits on a man's lap at a table. Both are looking at a card the man holds.

Specifically, it's Father's Day ten years ago: June 15, 2008. So it's a Father's Day card he's reading, and he's proudly wearing a shirt that the girls colored for him with fabric markers. The shirt reads "Dads Make the World Go Round."

Of course, he kept the shirt. He wore it often. Of course, I still have it, frayed around the collar.

A t-shirt on a bed. The lettering reads "Dads Make the World Go Round."

Today is Father's Day, ten years later.

I think of the shirts you see sometimes for sale at resorts: "My Dad [or my parents] went to ______ and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."

My children's father is gone. Not to Vegas, not to Harry Potter's World at Universal Studios, not to New York City.

He's just gone.

And all I have (apologies to the girls, who so lovingly colored it) is this lousy t-shirt.
pegkerr: (Default)
2018-05-15 08:00 am
Entry tags:

Lilacs

Rob loved lilacs more than any other flowers, I think. He planted the bush in the backyard when we moved into the house, “because of course, you can’t have a house without a lilac bush in the backyard.” Fiona and I spread a small amount of his ashes around the base yesterday, just as the lilacs were beginning to bloom.

Lilacs in a purple vase on a table with lit candle and book about grief beside it
pegkerr: (Rob's last)
2018-05-10 06:33 pm

Our last portrait shoot: The Man in the Portrait

...as she stood before the canvas on which he was represented, and fixed his eyes upon herself,
she thought of his regard with a deeper sentiment of gratitude than it had ever raised before;
she remembered its warmth, and softened its impropriety of expression.

--Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice


I realize that I never posted the last pictures we took for our family portrait. They were taken by a friend of the family and professional photographer, John Walsh, the night before Thanksgiving, November 2017. We had no way of knowing, but that was the very last night that Rob slept in his own bed. I took him to the Emergency Room the next day, Thanksgiving Day, for fever, and he was admitted that day. He never saw his home again. Many of you saw these pictures on our Christmas card.


















The shoot was wonderful, and you can see what a happy, laughing time we had...but I knew in my heart what was coming. When Rob's individual portrait appeared on the photographer's monitor, I immediately burst into tears. I managed to choke out that it was because I so moved by it. Indeed, I loved it--but that wasn't it.

I was crying because I instantly knew it was going to be his obituary picture. And I was right.



Today, I thought of this treasured picture of Rob as I was listening to this song, from Austen's Pride, A New Musical of Pride and Prejudice. (Listen to this song here. The lyrics here are from the first minute and forty seconds. Listen to the whole thing: it's gorgeous.)

Who are you?
I thought I knew
The man in the portrait
You appear and seem to be
All the things that I refused to see
And you said you loved me.

Who are you?
Is it true
The man in the portrait
Is thoughtful and good?
If I knew then
What I know now
I might have understood
But that was then
Now I’m face to face
With you, the man in the portrait
In your gaze, I can see
The way you used to smile at me
And it says, you loved me.


I was open with the fact, I think, that Rob and I had our struggles, as happens of course in any marriage. It was very difficult particularly through the years of unemployment. But my respect for him grew so much as I watched him battle cancer, and somehow, this photograph captured something about him and made it visible for all: his nobility, and his suffering, and the love that shone out of him. The lines I've bolded above say it well. I told the photographer that I will treasure this photo for the rest of my life.

I cried a lot today.

photo credit John Walsh
pegkerr: (Rob)
2018-05-08 08:07 am
Entry tags:

Clocks and time

Rob and I each had our own alarm clocks, on our respective dressers. He kept his running about twenty minutes fast, which drove me nuts, but he insisted was necessary so he wouldn't be late for work (it didn't always work like that).

It took until today, over three months after he is gone, to correct it to the actual time.

But why do I have two alarm clocks anyway?
pegkerr: (candle)
2018-03-07 10:30 pm
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My Weasley Clock has lost a hand

We had a Weasley clock that Delia made and gave me for Christmas that hangs in our bedroom. Tonight, I took down Rob's clock hand, and I mounted and hung it under the clock.


pegkerr: (candle)
2018-02-26 07:36 am
Entry tags:

It's been a month

It's been a month, and grief is still absolutely kicking my ass. The girls are struggling, too.

I'm still wearing black. Well, I put on a gray jacket today, and that feels almost...frivolous.

My email box is overflowing. If I haven't replied, know that I have over 700 unopened emails.

This is so goddamned hard.
pegkerr: (candle)
2018-02-01 10:06 am

New Soulcollage Card: The Widow

I have been working on creating this card both before and after Rob's death:

The Widow - Committee/Council Suit
I am the One who has no comfort to ease the pain of his passing, who lingers on in darkness and in doubt as nightfall in winter that comes without a star. I dwell bound to my grief until all the world is changed and the long years of my life are utterly spent.

I am the One who has no comfort to ease the pain of his passing, the one who lingers on in darkness and in doubt as nightfall in winter that comes without a star. I dwell bound to my grief until all the world is changed and the long years of my life are utterly spent.

This one is composed of three overlaid images: 1) Arwen in mourning standing by Aragorn's sarcophagus (at 1:35 in the video below), 2) Arwen's head, bowed, in a mourning veil, (1:47 in the video below) and 3) my left hand wearing both my and Rob's wedding ring.

I became sort of fascinated with this scene in the movie (The Two Towers) after Rob developed cancer. I have a "Death" musical playlist, and I ripped the .mp3 from this scene and included it on the playlist (and cribbed the words for the description).



I like it that the images are "veiled" by being superimposed on each other, just like Arwen's mourning veil.

Rob's funeral is tomorrow. Details are in his obituary, which can found here.
pegkerr: (candle)
2018-01-28 09:24 am
Entry tags:

Memorial Service for Rob

Rob's memorial service will be held on Friday, February 2, 2018 at Lake Nokomis Lutheran Church, 5011 31st Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55417. Visitation with the family will be at 10:00 a.m. and the service will be at 11:00 a.m. with a luncheon to follow.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial gifts to The Minnesota Science Fiction, Society, Inc., (Minn-StF), Carleton College, or Open Arms of Minnesota.
pegkerr: (Rob)
2018-01-26 04:48 pm

Robert F. Ihinger, Jr. 1955 - 2018

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)
2018-01-24 06:06 pm
Entry tags:

Rob is in critical condition in hospital ICU

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)
2017-12-23 10:20 pm
Entry tags:

Rob's kidneys have gone on strike

Another setback.

Read more at CaringBridge here.
pegkerr: (Default)
2017-12-16 10:24 am
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Still in the hospital with a new setback

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)
2017-12-02 08:54 pm
Entry tags:

Back to the hospital

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)
2017-11-25 10:04 pm
Entry tags:

Surprise! Rob is back out of the hospital

Everything has changed. Again. See CaringBridge post here.