Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Memorial Service

Mark's memorial service was so special to me.  Our pastors could not have done a better job.  It was beautiful and meaningful and personal and truly was a celebration of Mark's life. 

There was a reading of Mark's favorite scripture:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

There was a reading of his obituary, and tributes written by me and by Mark's sister.

The entire congregation sang one of Mark's favorite hymns, Finlandia:

This is my song, O God of all the nations
A song of peace, for lands afar & mine
This is my home, the country where my heart is
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations
A song of peace for their land and for mine

In addition, Mark's college roommate and dear friend played guitar and sang an original song that was just beautiful.  Another cherished friend lead the congregation in singing Ride 'Em Cowboys or whatever the OSU fight song is called.  And to wrap up the service, another close friend acknowledged Mark's personality and love of baseball by singing Centerfield:  "...a'roundin' third and headed for home, it's a brown-eyed handsome man...".  It was the perfect ending to the perfect memorial service.  If you knew Mark, you knew it was him "to a tee" and if you didn't know him at the beginning of the service, you had a good idea by the end.

I had feared that not a lot of people would show up.  The service was in between Christmas and New Year's and so quite a few people were out of town.  And due to the holidays, the newspaper didn't get the obituary published until the day of the memorial service.  Still, the church, including the balcony, was packed.  I couldn't believe it when they escorted us out of the sanctuary, and I turned around and saw all those faces.  It was unbelievable and humbling and overwhelming.  To this day, I'm still overwhelmed by the love that could be felt in that room.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

To Share or Not to Share?

I wrote a post all about how Mark died.  About what made him seek medical attention (chest and leg pain which turned out to be from an aortic dissection), the ten-hour surgery, the days in ICU, and the end.  But then I decided that not everything is for public consumption.  I worry about kids today who don't seem to have ever heard of the concept of discretion.  They put their entire lives on display for the world to see and comment on and pass judgment on.  It cannot be a pleasant way to live, and I wonder if it has occurred to them that there is another way.  It is possible to be authentic and be discreet...they are not mutually exclusive.  Not every person can be trusted (or even wants to be trusted) with every truth.

I started this blog as anonymously as I could, using pseudonyms for myself and everyone else.  When Mark became ill, I accepted all friend requests on Facebook, since that was how I was keeping the world updated on Mark's progress.  In the stress of all that was going on, I forgot that my blog was linked to my Facebook page, and so I outed myself.  Would I have done the same thing had I remembered?  Probably so, because there was no time and space to do anything else.  Although I have had nothing but love and support from the people I know in real life who are now aware of this blog, it leaves me feeling a little vulnerable, a little exposed.  I tend to be a private person in some ways.

And so, I want to tell you certain things, and there are certain things that are too sacred and precious and private to share.  I choose to keep their sad, raw beauty to myself, and the friends and family who were there.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Following are remarks that I wrote to be read at Mark's memorial service:

Mark Bledsoe had the personality of a Golden Retriever. He would bound into room, a big smile on his face, happy to see whomever he would run into, loving life and everyone in it. If he had a tail, it would have always been wagging.

It didn’t take much to make him happy. A chance meeting or a phone call from an old friend could just make his day. He used to wake up Grace by saying in her ear, “Wake up! Something good is going to happen today!” I’ll never forget him sitting in his recliner, feet up, a baseball game on the TV, a good book in his lap, and a bowl of ice cream in his hands, and saying to me, “Life just doesn’t get better than this.”
Although he was easily pleased, he was also the luckiest man alive and won many things: from an Ipad and an Ipod to a sweater for a bottle of whiskey and a year’s supply of powdered buttermilk. The drum set created a brief rough spell in our marriage, but the trip to New York City and a Yankee’s game brought us closer together.
Speaking of our marriage, what can I say? It just worked. We were the living example of “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” We had a lot of interests in common, but were very different in some ways. I’m a little shy until I get to know people, while Mark has never met a stranger. I’m a worrier and fret about things like paying bills; Mark used to say, “We can’t be overdrawn, we still have checks left!” Together, the bills got paid and we didn’t stress over it.
Every once in a while, I would worry that maybe we didn’t really truly love each other, because our relationship looked nothing like the movies. Not that we didn’t have moments of passion. But maybe true love isn’t like the movies. Maybe it’s warmth and acceptance and support and trust and contentment. That’s what we had.

Mark did many things in his life—fireman, disk jockey, lobbyist, association executive, professor. But his favorite job title of all was “Daddy.” His “Sweet Pea,” Grace, was the great joy of his life. For the first year of her life, her favorite sleeping spot was Daddy’s shoulder. He wore his formula-stained shirts with pride. He was always reading books about parenting daughters. He loved nothing more than cheering Grace on from the sidelines of the soccer field, or crawling in her bed with her to read a book together.

Mark was a great collector of things—baseball memorabilia, micro-brewed beers, political memorabilia, books (oh Lord, the books!). But his most extensive and most treasured collection was his collection of friends. He had his political friends, his education friends, his artsy friends, his Scouting friends, his church friends, and on and on. Someone recently told me she thought there is probably only one or at most two degrees of separation between Mark and everyone else in the State of Oklahoma. And he loved to bring people together. One friend would need a job, another friend would have a position to fill. Or he would decide that one friend who is an artist really needed to meet another friend who owns an art gallery. Nothing pleased him more than bringing people together like that. In those awful days at the hospital, I would often spot our friends in the hallways, putting their contact information into each others’ phones. Even now, he is still bringing people together.

I know with all my broken heart that Mark would not want us to be weepy and mopey. He would want us to smile and laugh and hold our loved ones close and do the little things we can to make the world a better place. That really is the most fitting tribute to the best man I know.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Don't Look Down

Better not look down
If you want to keep on flying,
Put the hammer down,
Keep it full speed ahead.
You’d better not look back,
Or you might just wind up crying,
You can keep it moving
If you don’t look down.

--Written by Will Jennings and Joe Sample
Performed by B.B. King

If it is true what the Bible says, and two become one flesh, then losing your partner in life is an amputation. It is brutal and scarring but doesn’t leave a mark. There should be a mark. A permanent mark.  As permanent as your love for him.

Don’t look down. Flying solo is scary.

Don’t look down. Keep your chin up.

Don’t look down. Keep your eye on the prize.

Don’t look down. On anyone, including yourself.

Don’t look down. Step forward into a new life, without him. What choice do you have?

Don’t look down. Stand on your own two feet.

Don’t look down. Repeat the mantra: Left foot, right foot, breathe.

Don’t look down.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Poor Widow Me*

*First off, it's only fair to state that I did not think up that clever title for this post, but oh how I wish I did.  See poorwidowme.blogspot.com .

I guess I was rather less than gracious with that last post.  I have since learned that I can sit and pout or I can take the initative and walk up to people I know and start talking to them.  Without fail, they talk right back and we both get over the awkwardness of the whole "dead husband" thing.

It's been 4 months since Mark died.  It seems like he's been gone forever, and like it just happened yesterday.  Raw grief has given way to resigned depression and too much eating of ice cream.  I'm still struggling with single motherhood--so many things to do and so little me to do them!  I miss him all the time, and not just because of the things he did around the house, although I miss that too.  Life is harder in every respect without him. 

I'm pretty sure I am officially crazy.  I think crazy thoughts all the time.  Such as feelings of jealousy toward my dead mother-in-law and sister-in-law because I half-way believe that Mark wanted to be with them more than he wanted to be with us.  I want to do things I never thought I would do--get a tattoo, dye my hair pink.  I am no longer at home in my own skin.  Everything I thought about the world was wrong.  I thought I was safe.  I thought I had all the time in the world.  I was wrong.

I'm better able to focus than I was four months ago, but it is still a struggle to stick with things from beginning to end, without wandering off to stare out a window and wonder where he is, and if he's ok.  I try to read, and art journal, but my focus just isn't there.  Thank God for the mindless meditation of crochet. 

Shortly after Mark's death, a woodpecker started tap tap tapping on our maple tree in our side yard.  I've never seen or heard a woodpecker near our house before.  After three days, the woodpecker disappeared.  I half-way believe it was Mark, or a messenger from Mark, letting us know he is ok.

I've gone through drawers and gotten rid of socks and undies.  I've donated shoes to charity.  I'm thinking of moving on to shirts and suits.  I've gone through bookcases of books.  But I can't stand to go through the stack on his nightstand.  He would have eight to ten books going at a time.  He would read a chapter in the book on the top of the stack, then move it to the bottom of the stack.  I can't stand to think that he is not coming back, that he will never finish those books. 

In his Rolodex, I found a card with my name on it.  It has the date of my birthday and the date we first met.  It has the date of our first date, and the name of the restaurant where we ate, and the name of the play we saw.  It says, "Likes white roses".  It has dates and notes of other memorable dates.  It has the date of our wedding.  I so wished I had more love letters from him, more evidence of his love.  I will settle for this.

My beloved mother has done an incredible amount of work in getting Mark's office cleaned up and cleared out.  My daughter and I are going to turn it into a craft/computer room.  We plan to paint the walls a fun color and decorate it in wild and funky ways.  A few of Mark's most prized awards wll remain on the walls in honor and memory of him.  We are trying to find ways to go on without him.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Scarlet W

Photo by Leo Reynolds

These days, I feel like I am wearing a Scarlet W on my chest.  I have seen acquaintances who used to speak to me look the other way as if they didn't see me.  Or worse, I have overheard them whispering to others, pointing me out, "That's her, the one whose husband died."  It shocks me quite a lot, and hurts me a little.  Do people think that widowhood is contagious?

But I get it, I do.  Acquaintances don't know me well enough to know what to say or how to comfort me.  And it's hard to see someone in pain...it's personal and private and uncomfortable and let's face it, not pretty.  So I shouldn't be surprised that acquaintances run the other way.  I've been guilty of it myself, in the past.

But I'm here to tell you, those people who don't know me well but say something anyway...I love them for it.  I love it when an acquaintance shares a memory of Mark.  I love it when acquaintances tell me Grace and I are in their thoughts and prayers.  And I think the best approach of all may be one shared by two male work colleagues--one a gruff retired military man, the other a young guy just a few years out of college.  I mean no disrespect to either, but neither would win awards for being especially sensitive.  But both of them, on separate occasions, saw me walking toward them in the hallway at work, pulled me into a big bear hug, then patted my shoulder and went on without a word.  It was the perfect way to show that they care, because truly, there are no words.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

To-Do List for the Newly Widowed

Conduct the business
of carrying on without him.
Wear black
Listen to well-meaning strangers
say inane things like,
"Happy New Year!"
"Have a nice day!"
Try with all your might
not to punch them.
Left foot.
Right foot.
Left foot.
Right foot.