Today is Christmas. Tomorrow, December 26, marks the eighteenth month of Joe’s passing. I love that it’s not today. Not Christmas. We get to have this day.
Everything has changed, and yet everything remains the same. Since losing Joe, I haven’t altered or moved much of anything in the house. It’s kind of strange even to say because I’ve always been known for doing just that. Every time my friend, Loree, comes over, she smiles when she walks through the front door. She expects to see change. “I see you’ve changed everything… again. Looks good!”
I would always do the “moving of things” when I knew Joe would be gone for enough time to allow me to get as much done as I could—hunting or going for a weekend fishing trip—though sometimes it was just spontaneous (I know how to move furniture without any help, as I’m sure most women do!) I always wanted to make the move(s) while he was gone because I didn’t want him talking me out of it or telling me why it wasn’t a good idea. And truthfully, sometimes it was just like a good ol’ workout. I’d move every piece of furniture just to end up putting it back right where I’d started because it just wouldn’t work. But hey…A for effort. 🙂
One of the last things I attempted to do while he was still here was to move the television above the mantle (I did need his help for that!) That was during “quarantine” and I was looking for something to do, a way to brighten things up and shift some energy. Joe was not keen on the idea… at all, but he did agree to “see” if it would work just to appease me. It didn’t. It would have, but it was too much for him to take on at that time, and it would have meant, essentially, rearranging a large portion of the house. He needed to keep things the same, so I just told him never mind—not a big deal. So the TV still sits in the same place it has for a long time, and one of my favorite pictures of Joe hangs above that mantle, now. I haven’t moved a thing.
This house is a collection of items that we’ve gathered through the years. When we first began setting up our mobile candle shop at vintage markets across the midwest, we knew we were going to have us some fun! HA! Well… I knew we were! I think Joe mainly was concerned that we had a trailer… ya know… you can fit a lot of goodies in the back of a trailer! But it didn’t take long before he joined in on the fun and he too became a collector.
My passion has always been for beautiful things-fabrics, books, photographs, kitchen items, candles (obviously), and any “old” thing with character or a story to tell. I am surrounded by things that feel warm and cozy. Though minimalism sounds appealing, it’s not my nature. And Joe was always interested in the manly stuff, of course—vintage coolers, old fishing gear, vinyl, bows and arrows, guns, anything he could turn into a light, and sports memorabilia.
As I prepare to “excavate” his man cave and make it a guest room, I’m getting a little anxious. Anxious, ready, and anxious nervous. But I wasn’t prepared for the reaction I got from Charlie, our young grandson when he realized the other day that I would be making big changes in grandpa’s room. As he overheard me talking about it he said…
“Wait, what are you doing?”
I’m turning this room into a guest room.
“What?! You can’t do that…this is grandpa’s room!” And the tears welled up in his eyes and he just began to weep.
I didn’t expect that. I didn’t know he didn’t know. How could I have overlooked this? It was such a raw and meaningful moment with Charlie, as I explained my plans to him and we comforted each other through our tears. It meant the world to me to be able to witness his grief for him. And then I explained that this room will always be grandpa’s room, and… that we get to keep him alive, and in that space by talking about him and telling his stories.
It will always be Joe’s room. I plan to incorporate some of his things into the new space while still making it a new space. It will always hold his essence. And… it will be a place of reflection and joy-not a tomb. We will never forget Joe when we walk into that room, keeping some of his favorite things there to look at, hold, and bring a smile or a laugh. To look back and remember the fond memories of the time spent gathering or using those items. So yes, the dartboard that hangs in that room, the one that Charlie loves to play, will remain.
Going through the seasons of life without Joe for a year and a half now has made me appreciate and respect every moment we are gifted to live. I could’ve never imagined life taking the turn it did on June 26, 2020, but it did. And that is life. Constantly changing, always evolving. Yes. Everything has changed, and yet everything remains the same.
As I move through another holiday season without him, I think it’s important to acknowledge that grief does not stop because “all the firsts” have passed. Those firsts (in my opinion) are given too much weight. It may even be worse now, realizing that it is truly FOREVER. Grief does not get smaller. But… life can get bigger. Not necessarily “crowding out,” the pain—not a spiritual bypass, but living big(er). Filling (FEELING) life with both meaning and purpose. And I am hoping that the suffering will ease in due time and that joy will be ever-present, not fleeting.
I’m so happy to have meaningful conversations about life and living, but also about death and dying. It all matters. People think that if they mention Joe or his death, it will make me sad, and they don’t want to “make me cry.” But the truth is, I think about him all the time. I cry for him every day, and that’s okay. It’s normal. It just happens. But it’s not happening all day– these are moments. Some are swift, moving through quickly, and others are easier to predict-I can feel a welling up happening inside. But those tears need to fall. If I have 10,000 to cry, then 9,999 won’t be enough. I want to talk about Joe! I want YOU to talk about him.
I do not write these words to collect your prayers and thoughts—though those are always appreciated! I am sharing because as a society we have lost the “art” of grieving. We haven’t been taught how to experience death, what to say, or how to comfort. You get three to five days off work to mourn a relative, a spouse, a child. You’re “expected” to be “better” in a year’s time. The pain lessens, and the earth keeps spinning.
That is true; the world does keep spinning.
wouldn’t it be nice if all the pain, sadness, and anger dissipated after only 12 months of living it? Thirty years of love do not disappear or become less simply because they are no longer physically present.
I think we can get better at holding space for one another’s pain and the losses we will all surely suffer, at some point.
And the truth is you can both grieve fully and live fully-simultaneously… I am doing it!
The greatest gift you can ever give or offer to a grieving soul is compassion.
That is where I’ll leave you today.
I appreciate YOU more than you know.
“Being deeply loved by someone-Lao Tau
gives you strength,
while loving someone deeply
gives you courage.”
To your healing, and to mine.
xo, and peace.
(If for some reason the video doesn’t link, I hope you’ll look it up. It’s beautiful.)
p.s. If what I’m writing resonates with you, let me know. Leaving a comment here on the blog is the best way to connect. I want to keep writing (I still have so much to say), to keep sharing, to continue healing. This is helping me. I hope that it’s also helping you.
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I just want the pain to stop… (video)
Suicide is not a selfish act. It’s a desperate act.
Please comment below if you have something you’d like to add to this conversation, words of wisdom, or just some encouragement for all of us.
Joyce G Plukas says
Marie, My name is Joyce Plukas. I’m originally from Crown Point, IN. I along with my daughters discovered your candles and when We moved to AZ, I continued to order from you and Joe occasionally. I think I even chatted with you at one point. Your name came upon my heart and I felt I needed to search you out. I have been in a Grief Journey myself, losing not only the Love of my life, Joe seven years ago to brain cancer, only to find love again with Roger. Then last February, Roger died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving me shattered yet again.
So, when I read your blog about your Joe, I was shaken for you. I had just burned my last Creme’ Brule!!
Please know that I have prayed for you. I always enjoyed your adventured spirit and loved those darn candles and your Joe at Frankfort IL fest on Labor Day weekend.
Much love and prayer for peace to come into your heart.
Joyce in Arizona
Hi Joyce. I remember you, and so did Joe. We always tried (and still do) to develop a relationship with our customers. There were many (like you) whose names were always familiar. I am so very sorry that you have been through such a devastating loss, twice. The pain is deep and the world forever changed. Grief is something we will all experience at some point in our life, but until you’re in the thick of it, you simply cannot grasp how difficult it is to navigate. I so appreciate your prayers, and please know that I too am praying for you. I’m burning a Creme’ Brulee this morning. It’s pretty much the only one we would ever burn at s show, so it’s always a scent of remembrance for me. Happy times spent together doing what we loved to do. I hope you will take the time next month to care for yourself as the one-year anniversary of Rodger’s death approaches. It’s so important to do. I am sending you much, much love! And thank you for reaching out.