Mourning Ritual

A Couple of Irish Laddies

I would never have chosen to lose my husband while I was undergoing high dose chemo that, essentially, had paralyzed me and left me unable to lift my head off of the pillow.

I remember lying on my back, in pain from the tumors in my spine and bald due to the chemo, trying to process that the love of my life was gone; his body was laying in a hospital room in Rochester, MN at the Mayo Clinic, but Gerry was gone.

The responsibilities most widows have were placed in other hands; I was physically unable to plan a memorial service, invite guests, or even make many of the small decisions that are necessary during the mourning period.

Andy (nee Hannah) & Gerry, 1997

Instead, I felt as though I was engaged in my own, personal and singular mourning ritual.

  • My head was shaved
  • I was immobile
  • My interactions were limited to less than half a dozen folks

Fear of infection while I was undergoing chemo kept the number of friends I could see very low.  This sickness-imposed separation from the world would continue for months, during which time I would slowly be able to add a few more folks into my circle of visiting friends.

Gerry at Max’s Bar Mitzvah & at HIS 1972 Bar Mitzvah

I was not compelled to return to a job and hear condolences and stories of other folk’s grief.

I didn’t really have to do ANYTHING but lie on my back, and breath, and take my meds every 8 hours.

I was fortunate to have a strong and loving online community, but being unable to even sit up made it very difficult to post, to have an online conversation, or to connect with friends.

Visiting Colleges with Max

It’s been 5 months since Gerry died, and although it’s not been easy, it is beginning to feel like a natural part of life.

I’m certain that caring for Gerry during his 11 years of Multiple Myeloma, a fearing several times that he was about to lose his battle with that blood cancer, allowed my heart and mind to ‘rehearse’ the situation of Gerry’s death.  Earlier in the year when Gerry had two heart attacks in March due to a drug interaction, I think both of us began to realize that he had limited time.

Gerry & Andy/Hannah at a St. Paul Saints game

I’d thought about Gerry’s death so many times that when it happened I was shocked, but not surprised.

I miss him like crazy.  I joke with him (or my memory of him) many times a day, and Andy and I share stories, it seems, with every picture frame or cup or old medicine bottle we sort through.  I lack the strength to do much of the sorting, so that’s fallen to Andy, which is fine.

Anything of Gerry’s that I need to keep I already have within me; his laughter, his sense of fun, his intelligence, his love.

Gerry and I at dinner

So, in a bizarre way, being compelled into some type of unexpected mourning ritual has made this process easier to get through.  I wouldn’t have chosen to pair CODOXM-Ivar Chemo with the loss of the love of my life, but in an odd way the combined pain and confusion from both incidents blended and made my journey through them a bit simpler, if not easier.

26 thoughts on “Mourning Ritual

    • ANNIE I SO LOVED THIS STORY MY FRIEND.. JUST MELTED MY HEART .. WOW YOU HAVE BEEN THROUGH WAY MORE THAN ANYONE I KNOW.. AND SUCH A STRONG WOMAN YOU ARE TO ENDURE WHAT YOU HAVE.. AND STAYED STRONG THROUGH IT ALL.. I SO ADMIRE YOU MY SWEET FRIEND AND AGAIN.. BLESS YOU AND I AM PRAYING YOU KEEP GETTING BETTER AND BETTER EACH DAY OF THE WORLD.. HUGS AND BLESSINGS TO YOU HON AND ENJOY THEY REST OF YOUR DAY.. WOW .. THIS IS AWESOME.. XOXO

  1. Beautiful, loving pictures and story. I can’t even imagine what you’ve been through the last few months. And what a testament to you and Gerry that your children have been so amazing stepping up to help and support you through this long horrible journey.

  2. Annie, I wept reading this. I only met Jerry once, but he was the idea person for you. It was a love story from the minute you met and it will continue in your heart forever. Recover, beautiful Lady, and give old farts like me hope.

  3. Oh, Annie.
    Beautiful, and poignant.
    Keep sharing the jokes and thoughts with Gerry, and make good time with the stories you and your children share.
    Love.

  4. Gerry. I smile whenever I think of him even though I only know him through you.

    He was compassionate, strong, determined, astute, humorous, multi-talented — all the things one could want in a mate. He got to see his children grow to young adults due to determination and the Mayo and you. I think of them and am happy that they had such great role models. Not many can say each parent was the leader of the pack at different times and in different ways, but yours can.

    Keep healing, Annie. Keep Gerry with you and let that part of him that resides within you keep you company. Just keep room in there for all of us who love and care so much for you and yours.

  5. Oh, Annie! I am reading your story as I sit listening to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings Op. 11. Both are haunting works, full of grief, longing, and heartache, and yet inextricably mixed with beauty and acceptance.

    You are one of the strongest women I have ever known. Your writing touches the soul.

  6. Thank you for this story, Annie. You and Gerry shared so much, and you shared so much of that with us. My heart broke when you posted about Gerry’s loss at a time when you were already dealing with so much. My heart brok for Andy and Max, whom you’ve given us the gift of watching them grow up.

    I am so glad that you’re recovering from chemo and cancer and beginning to recover your life.

    Sending much love to you from Upstate NY.

  7. What a beautiful written memorial/mourning of your partner/husband/love of your father of your children. He sounds like an awesome individual whom I would’ve loved to have met him. God bless you and may the fond memories bring you comfort.

  8. Annie, I am sorry for the loss of your beloved. I love your description of what you need to keep of him you already have. Beautiful way of living, Annie. Praying for your complete recovery and for further writing and designing and knitting and yarn.

  9. Annie,

    What you’re writing about is unbelievably painful. The way you write about it is vibrant. Keep writing, as your spirit moves you.

    Jeff

  10. Annie, having lost my husband 18 months ago, I entirely share your pain. I was the one who’d had cancer for 11 years, so we assumed I’d go first, but pancreatic cancer swooped in unsuspected.

  11. I’m so sorry for your loss. I was thinking of you again as I’m packing to attend the YarnFest in Loveland, and thought I’d see how you were doing with the chemo etc. My friend and I met you last year when you demoed “cables without cable needles.” I hope your health and energy continue to improve. Hoping to see you next year in Loveland! (Because that would mean you are so much better!)

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