Ch.189 Things Fall Apart.

Ch.189 Things Fall Apart.

February 2023

          “Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.” This famous phrase, the beginning of a poem written by William Butler Yeats, perfectly reflects my current state. Way too much has happened during the last two weeks. I feel a deep sadness at the center of my being. I woke up wordlessly crying this morning, feeling overwhelmed.

          My friend Howard died last Thursday. My friend Richard was given 24 hours to decide whether to place his wife in memory care. My horse Lakota wasn’t adjusting well to his new placement in a senior paddock (an enclosure for older horses), mostly because one other horse kept bullying him. I’ll discuss these three situations in reverse order.

          Lakota. I was assured that Lakota would adjust within a week to his new situation. But each time I visited he was obviously terrified of the dominant horse in the paddock, a small but fierce female. Remember, Lakota hadn’t been around other horses for most of the last twenty years. He didn’t know what to do to protect himself. All  week I woke up in the middle of the night worrying about Lakota. Finally, I called Samantha, the ranch owner, to schedule a talk. But when I visited just yesterday the bully horse was gone. Samantha had seen what was going on and had solved the problem by moving that horse. Lakota looked more comfortable; he came up to me immediately, looking for apples, just like he did at home. Now I could relax – if I could.

          Richard and Judy. I’ve been visiting Richard and Judy every week for at least a year, driving to their home where I could enjoy the company of Richard, his wife Judy (who has advanced Alzheimer’s Disease), and their small dog named Lacey. During this time, I’ve observed Judy’s progressive mental deterioration and Richard’s progressive exhaustion. Judy’s name had been on the waiting list at Azura for a while, but each time a space was available Richard chose to keep her home. This time, though, he realized it was time to say yes. But rational awareness is not the same as emotional preparedness. Watching Richard’s indecisiveness was painful, knowing that only he could make the choice he needed to make.

          Howard. As Howard’s cancer progressed, I began visiting him twice weekly. But now he had come home from the hospital to die, and his many friends and family members were rushing to see him one last time. My final visit was last Tuesday. I had made a key lime pie, our favorite treat, and he was able to eat a few bites. We debated whether the pie was tart enough, as usual. And then Howard needed to rest. He died two days later. His wife Kay and her family invited me to join them for breakfast the next day, an honor I gratefully accepted.

          As I write this essay, I’m realizing why my “center” isn’t holding. It’s mostly grief, but also that my basic routines in life have been disrupted. Howard, Richard and Judy, Lakota: I had established patterns with each of them. Twice a week visiting with Howard; once a week visiting with Richard and Judy; twice a day with Lakota (morning feeding and afternoon treating). I’ve always been a person who likes/needs routines. Regularities like morning cinnamon toast shared with Levi, my collie; Sunday mornings at the pie place with Ed and Judy; going into town every Tuesday and Thursday. These established patterns help me feel grounded. They’ve been particularly crucial for me in this first year of grieving Pat, as well. I may not know what the future holds in this transitional period but at least I’ve had these routines I could count on to help me feel safe.

          Right now, I feel sad and lost. Empty. Missing my friend. Missing my routines. Missing Pat even more than usual. I know this feeling will not endure. Soon my sense of hopefulness and my capacity for joy will return. But, for now, things have indeed fallen apart.