I got back from Kona last night after a grueling three-hour dress rehearsal and then a short break before a sold-out performance of the Kona Choral Society concert (Schubert, Mass in G and Handel, Messiah). Unfortunately the dress rehearsal and the concert had to be scheduled on the same day due to logistics, and couldn’t be helped. It was not ideal — I myself was already exhausted by the end of the rehearsal — but there were many good musical moments during the concert.
Then today I spoke to two sections of the hospice class at Iolani School — a most unusual elective in a high school, don’t you think? We had actually scheduled a time for the students to visit Carl during his home hospice care, but the visit never happened because of his rather sudden move to a hospice facility in Ewa Beach following his apparent stroke. What I was touched by was the personal notes the students wrote in two sympathy cards sent to both Carl and me, even though none of them had met either of us personally.
I began my presentation (augmented by a slide show and audio) by telling the students how my husband, Carl Crosier and I met, what we had in common (our music, of course), our love of travel and giving hundreds of elaborate dinner parties, and our journey together with his pancreatic cancer. It was January 28th of this year that he announced to me, “We are going on a journey …”
What I was most interested in telling them was what steps I have taken during this year to prepare myself for the inevitable, his death and funeral. Since even today (December 8th, more than three months after Carl’s “transition”) I received yet another sympathy card and memorial check, I continue to hear from people who wish to convey their sense of loss upon hearing the news. So perhaps you might hear what I told the students:
- The first thing I did was to keep a diary of how I was feeling, the outcomes of doctor visits, and other happenings related to my husband’s illness. I didn’t write something every single day, but did so every 2-3 days. Writing became very therapeutic, especially when he allowed me to post news of his illness on this blog. (He received the diagnosis on January 28th but we only announced it on the blog on August 6th.) Yes — I was finally sharing it with “the world” but I have received the support of hundreds of people.
- I took pictures of him almost daily, and as his disease progressed, I could compare those with earlier photos. In the eight months of his illness, he lost 60 pounds, and at the end, I thought he looked like a holocaust survivor — a skeleton with skin.
- From the time of his diagnosis, he reminded me about his desires for his funeral — like telling me what he wanted to wear, and what he wanted sung. I started prepping myself by seeing a vision of him lying in the casket. Like practicing music, which improves by constant repetition, I reviewed over and over all the steps that would be necessary for me to get through this journey.
- About three weeks before his death, I asked Carl if I could start typing the bulletin and have that all ready, and all I’d have to do is put in the date. He told me, “I’m not ready to be put in the ground yet!” So I had to wait until he had passed. Here’s the link to the program: Carl Crosier Requiem Service Booklet
For months I searched through my 16,000+ digital photo library for the right picture to put on the front of the funeral program and only found the one I ultimately used about a week before he died.
- Carl did, though, tell me who he wanted to sing in the choir, and it was on his direction that I contracted the singers about two weeks before he died. I joked with him then, “Well, do you want to rehearse the choir, too?”
- He also told me to what charities he wanted any memorial donations to be given — and it has turned out to be a windfall for all three charities, with donations now totaling $20,000.
- Except for a few days off, I went back to my regular routine of work, teaching and playing. This helped me focus on things other than the loss of my husband. In addition to my regular routine, I had to deal with all the legal paperwork, requesting refunds from the airlines and the travel insurance, changing the names on the accounts, cancelling his cell phone and health insurance, etc. as well as writing about 200 thank you notes for people who gave money. I have been absolutely overwhelmed with people’s generosity; nearly 500 people wrote to me or sent sympathy cards. And they keep coming!
- I put together a 125-page photo memory book, containing excerpts from my diary and blogs, over 200 photos, and notes from all the sympathy cards, emails and facebook comments people sent me. If you would like to see the book online, you can click here.
- This may sound crazy, but I have his picture posted in every room of my apartment, on the refrigerator, in the kitchen, in the living room, and in the bedroom. I even have his picture as wallpaper on my phone!He is always with me.