The Complicated Dance of Looking Back While Moving Forward

It’s my blog’s birthday! In leafing through some of my writings this morning, looking for an inspiration for this week’s post, I came across my “Christmas Letter,” written in January of last year in which I, among other things, talked about the “birth” of this blog. Now that year is over, and I have come a long way in my grief journey. Thinking about this, the wheels in my head began to turn. I decided that since now is when we look back on the old year just past and look forward toward the new one that lay ahead of us, perhaps I should do some reflecting on where I now find myself in my grief journey and where I see myself headed. Revisiting that letter and the year that followed might be just the very thing I should write about today. So, welcome to my head — full of thoughts, memories, dreams, and hopes.

That letter starts out like this: This year I decided to skip the traditional Christmas letter and send New Year’s greetings instead. For me, Christmas 2021 carried with it a deep sadness because not only is there an empty place at my table this year, but an aching, empty place in my heart as well. For those of you who are not already aware of it, Brian’s fight with his Parkinson’s disease ended on April 1 when God said, “Enough” and called him Home. Between the isolation of the pandemic, having to put valuable therapies on hold, and the loss of the all-important socialization piece, all of which, together, helped to control the progression of his PD, his symptoms rapidly worsened between January and April. When, on March 19th, he took the last of many falls, he ended up in the hospital and then eventually home on Hospice for three days before he died, befitting for him, in the early morning hours of Maundy Thursday. It has been a tough journey for me over the last nine months, but I try to keep hearing his voice telling me that, while he wishes he hadn’t had to leave so soon, he has claimed his reward in Heaven. I am eternally grateful for all of the support and comfort everyone has extended to me on my grief journey thus far.

I have always felt that when something negative happens to me, I need to learn from it and then use that knowledge to help others. So, in keeping with that, I have become very active in working with the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, helping to educate others, especially healthcare workers, about dealing with the disease, not just on a daily basis, but in a hospital setting as well. I participated in a 6-week training course to become certified as an Aware in Care Ambassador. As one of only two Ambassadors in Iowa I can help make hospital stays, like Brian’s, safer and less extensive by educating others, including medical professionals, on ways to deal with the many and varied symptoms of Parkinson’s. I was also able to participate in a training for a new program that works with PWP (People With Parkinson’s), helping them manage physical symptoms such as rigidity, smallness of movements, and changes in their ability to use their voice/speech. I also continue to facilitate the PD support group here in Washington that Brian and I started in 2019. This spring I will begin a two-year term as a member of the board for Parkinson’s of the Heartland. While none of these things will bring Brian back, my goal is to use the knowledge I have gained over the past thirteen years of our Parkinson’s journey together to make the journeys of others a bit easier. And last, but certainly not least, as a part of my personal healing, I have been doing a lot of writing and have started a blog. My hope is that, as well as being beneficial for me in my quest for healing, my writing will help others, too.

And that is pretty much all I remember about the past year. I am cautiously optimistic that the new year will be a much better one. If I could leave everyone with just one thought, it would be this: “We are all merely cogs in the great circle of life. How many trips around the sun we are granted is up for grabs, so enjoy the ride — no matter how bumpy it gets.” (author unknown) And, I might also add, don’t take any day or anyone for granted.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

And now, here I am. It’s January 2023. I haven’t written that New Year’s letter yet, not because I don’t want to, but because it seems like there has been so much to do. It has been a year of accomplishments for me, that, when I think about the place I was in the grieving process last year, seems nothing short of a miracle. So, I’ve dug back in the archives of things that I have written over the past 20 months. While these were written in October of 2021, just six short months after Brian died, I can see that, even then, I knew the path I needed to take to move forward . . . I just had to convince myself to do it. That is were I am now, at the beginning of this new year; finding my way and carving out a new life, taking with me memories that I wouldn’t trade for all the world, even if they are sometimes painful. I have come to appreciate this great quote by Drew Barrymore: “In the end, some of your greatest pains become your greatest strengths.”

Different Drummers

As we all work to find our way forward,
we march to our own personal drum.
Some of us are ready to break out in song
while others can still only hum.

There is not a "right way," 
nor is there a "wrong." 
No grief is too short
or too long.

The secret of living our life where we are
lies not in the "then," but "today."
And the sooner we grasp that this truly is real,
the soon we'll start feeling OK.

For our story's now written on a totally new page,
one devoid of so much from the past. 
And if we but listen to the song that life sings,
our heart will be set free at last.


I need you here to hold me close;
to wipe my tears away. 
To gently stroke my hair and whisper, 
"Sshh . . . it's all OK."

I need you here to share this night,
the sky, the sounds of fall.
But you are gone, and I am here
with none of that at all.

Warm summer nights are memories now,
and autumn days fly fast.
Winter looms, and like our lives,
shows good things just can't last.

So, I'll dry my tears and raise my eyes,
my gaze turned towards the sky,
and hear your voice say softly,
"Hush now, sweetheart, please don't cry.

I may be gone, but that's OK.
My struggles there are past.
But you have life you've yet to live,
and it will fly by fast.

So, make the most of every day.
It's what you have to do.
And when I see  your smiling face,
I will be smiling, too."

Here’s to 2023 — May yours be memorable in many wonderful ways!

2 thoughts on “The Complicated Dance of Looking Back While Moving Forward

    • Hello, Marshall! I am way behind on checking and responding to comments, as you can see, but I wanted you to know that I truly appreciate your comments, and I find my greatest joy in writing my own blog posts as well as reading those of others. Next year I am determined not to teach the community college course that I am teaching now. I need more time to write, promote, see friends/family and just generally do whatever! Thanks again for posting such a lovely comment! I hope this finds you well!


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