"Thanksgiving Without Julie"...gets down to the nitty gritty, doesn't it?
You can imagine very easily that I am NOT going to be having a "Happy Holiday". This soon after the passing of Julie - it was exactly one month ago today - you know that it will be a time of sadness...and probably bitterness. You know that I am definitely NOT going to be in a "Thankful" mode.
And...you'd be wrong!
Oh, you're right about the "sadness" part...the empty feeling...no Julie to talk to, to laugh with, to...cook!
THAT HURTS LIKE HELL!
But...don't you for a second think that I will not be giving THANKS this week!
I have been blessed to have spent almost 40 years in the company of the most beautiful, the most intelligent, and the strongest woman I could possibly imagine! Unlike last Thanksgiving, when she couldn't get out of bed because of her pain, could not eat (much less prepare) her traditional dinner...this Thanksgiving, Julie has attained everlasting peace. And...most importantly, this Thanksgiving, I HAVE FAITH...faith that someday...on God's schedule...WE WILL BE REUNITED!
Folks, they say that traumatic experiences change people.
I now speak from experience...it is true. As you have seen over the past month, Ron Newell cannot keep his mouth shut about his personal life! You KNOW that is NOT "normal". WHEN, over the past 38+ years, have you EVER heard me talk about my personal life?
Well, today I'm about to lay it ALL on the line...bare my soul if you will.
Is this change for the good or the bad? I guess time will tell. I do know that it has helped me cope with Julie's passing, at least in the short run. Telling you these stories has helped keep her memory alive for me. Hopefully, this new "openness" on my part will continue to give me strength. God knows that I need it!
In short...it's time for me to reveal my "cemetery experience".
Of course, we shall first have another of my "prefaces"...to set the stage for the main story. Please bear with me...
It is well known, that desperate people will grasp at straws. And, who would be more desperate than a person who married the only woman he ever dated and spent more than 33 years in almost daily contact...both at work and at home.
Yeah...I would be a prime candidate for "desperate person"!
Would I be the type to go looking for "evidence", a "sign" that my loved one was NOT just lying in a grave, with no hope of eternal life? Hell, I was too busy grieving, just trying to get on with life...to go looking for anything!
And...I am a skeptic!
Julie was a believer...
Julie believed that certain people had "the power"...the ability to make connection with the spirits of those who had passed from this world. Oh, she wasn't really "out there"...didn't go to séances, do extensive readings...any of those things that would make you think that she was "weird".
When she went to DC to visit Rachel, she DID occasionally drop in on a psychic for a reading...at first, mostly for a hoot. However, the psychic shocked her with some things...VERY specific information about her life and those around her...living and dead.
Julie told me of these "readings"...and, again, I was a BIG skeptic.
I accused Julie of "being had"...that the psychic had weaseled information out of her without her knowing it through subtle questioning and body language. Julie, of course, denied it...said that she didn't tell the lady anything except name and birth date. (Of course, I had her right there! "Julie, if she's a true psychic...why did you have to tell her your name and birth date? She should already know that!")
Well, we never got near the "couch stage" on that topic, we just agreed to disagree.
Julie did talk about an aunt...who supposedly "had the power". Julie mentioned her own mother had seen and felt "things". Julie, herself, claimed to hear sounds...footsteps...attributing them to her brother, David, and her mother and father. She even claimed to have seen some things...mostly glimpses of movement...no actual apparitions.
And, nope...I never heard or saw anything.
We DID have an extraordinary number of light bulbs burn out, and it became our "sign"...a sign that David or Eloise or Lewis were restless. I didn't bother arguing the matter...and I DID know that Julie had electrical surges! (See previous postings!)
If you have ever seen John Edward on TV...
John Edward is alleged to have "the power" or "the gift". He goes on his show and starts talking about how he is receiving word from beyond. (I'm not getting the terminology right, but I think you get the idea.) Somebody in the audience basically jumps up, gasps, or whatever...it's their loved one! Again...desperate folks. Mr. Edward then starts asking specific questions of the "volunteer" about their loved one...to send them a message from beyond (and convince the viewing audience of his powers and ability.)
Well, I've seen enough of his shows (because Julie wanted to watch) to know that Mr. Edward missed on an awful lot of his questions. The person would say that, no, that wasn't the case...nothing like that ever happened. But, that didn't phase Mr. Edward. Of course it happened, you just didn't know it...or forgot it.
Anyway, during the course of the dialogue, Mr. Edward invariably hones in on a message...a message that just overwhelms the audience member. I mean, they interview this person after the show and they are just in awe...HE (meaning John Edward) just talked to my friend, relative, whatever and let me know how they were...that they are happy...etc.
I remain a skeptic!
These folks didn't mention, probably did not remember, that John Edward missed as many as he hit...and the hits were usually follow-ups to something the person "volunteered" to one of his misses. In short, John Edward seems to be very good at playing "Twenty Questions".
Better do a disclaimer...don't want to get sued by John Edward...I'm sure he "feels" me typing this right now. I don't have a clue whether his "gift" is real or not...but I remain a skeptic.
So, what does all of this have to do with me, the cemetery, and "a sign"?
Just pointing out that although I may be in a "fragile state", having lost a loved one who was as close as close can be, I am not one prone to believe in the "supernatural". I have been pretty desperate on many other occasions. (Some of those teacher strikes come to mind! No...just kidding about that!!!) Julie had been gravely ill for a long period and had almost died on several occasions, but it didn't cause me to start trying to contact the spirits of the dearly departed for help! (Incidentally, Julie DID relate that she had one of the proverbial "out of body experiences" during one of her many illnesses. She described the "light", the gathering of dearly departed relatives, the pull to leave this world.)
Granted...Julie's passing does raise the desperation level to CODE RED, but I really don't think that I've "lost it", thrown all rational thought aside, and am ready to call the psychic hotline!
So, what happened at the cemetery?
What you are about to read are copies of two e-mails that I sent to a few friends on the day in question. I wrote them immediately after the "incidents" and have not gone back to alter them to make them fit better. I wrote them while the events were fresh in my mind so that there would be no "convenient memory or amnesia". Again, it is what it is...
October 29, 2007
“Send Me A Sign…”
Was having a pretty good day...full of positive thoughts...even wrote Bill Rogers an e-mail paving the way for my return...in a couple of weeks. After that, I decided that I needed to finish the project that I started yesterday...going through 5 boxes of pictures and cards from "back in the day".
Got to the last box...
There were some pictures - of visitors during Julie's 1997-98 lupus flare period...folks wearing surgical masks to visit. She had "framed" them by pasting them to construction paper and clipping the edges with her "fancy scissors". I thought...whatever...pitch 'em...I've got the originals and can scan them into the computer...hey, it's the 21st century! Started to pitch the whole stack, but knew that sometimes an errant picture will wedge itself in. So...flipped through them one-by-one...like I really wanted to remember how it all began.
Then...a piece of paper turned up in the middle of the stack...picked it up with the intent of "filing it" with the rest...
Okay...I'm not getting all doo-dee-doo-dee-doo-dee-doo-dee on ya...and I'm NOT losing it. So...don't ya'll descend on the house for another damned vigil.
Some would call it a coincidence...some would call it a sign. I choose the latter.
You decide for yourself...I'm off to visit the cemetery!
ps: Julie blew the third and final bulb in our light fixture in the "wine/beer room". THAT was our own personal "sign" that the spirits were restless. When I replaced it, I told her...okay...they are all brand new bulbs. If you want to send me a sign...blow one of those suckers. I'm waiting...
Note: Immediately below is a copy of the "piece of paper" which I attached to the above e-mail...
October 29, 2007
“Send Me A Sign…The Sequel”
Okay, I'm back...
And, now, we WILL get into the real doo dee doo dee doo dee doo dee stuff...
Got to the cemetery, walked to the grave carrying the copy of the "Death" story...felt like I wanted to read it again while there. Just as I opened the folder that I had put it into (which coincidentally was one of the folders they give you when you get your pictures on a cruise ship...the ultimate cruise?)...all right, that wasn't even supposed to be part of this story...THAT I think IS a coincidence.
Anyway...when I opened the folder, two yellow butterflies fluttered down and landed on Julie's grave. If you go back to the copy of the "Death" story, you will see that there are two butterflies as decorations. Okay...a day for coincidences. The butterflies stayed about a minute and flew off. I read the story aloud...like she could hear it, right. Anyway, as I finished reading, I noticed a shadow cross the ground. No nothing supernatural...no rising from the grave. But, as I looked up in the sky, two birds (no...one wasn't white and one black)...two identical looking birds soared overhead...coasting on the wind current. I watched as the two birds flew side by side for a distance...maybe Route 51...and as they crossed the road, they parted...one flying to the South and one flying to the North...they did not come back together...just went their separate ways. As I looked back down at the grave, a solitary butterfly...this one dark...landed on a yellow flower on the grave and just sat there for a couple of minutes before finally leaving. I then walked back to the car...and as I paused...a solitary yellow butterfly landed momentarily on the ground...then flew off along the direction of the road out of the cemetery.
I know, I know...desparate people will grasp at any straws, but there were a few too many coincidences going on this morning.
By the way, the clincher did NOT take place. Have to admit, when I got home, I went downstairs to to wine/beer room and flipped on the lights...all three are still burning brightly.
So...coincidences or a sign...you decide. I've already made my decision...
Postscript: Call it what you will, these events and the last week of Julie's life have allowed me to accept the thing that I never, ever thought that I could...my loss of the person who gave me reason to live.
When we first got the diagnosis of Julie's terminal illness, the dread began. I dreaded the loss, but morbidly, I guess, I started thinking ahead...to the visitation and the funeral. (It's strange the things that you focus on at times like that!) I just knew that I would not be able to "greet" well-meaning relatives and friends who were going to offer their condolences and say the thing that people always say..."Well, Julie is now in a better place."
I knew that I didn't want Julie in a better place...I knew that Julie did not want to be in a better place. I wanted Julie with me! I knew that Julie had fought all her life...TO LIVE! She loved life...she didn't want to die. That's why Julie went through all of the pain! Julie could have given up a long time ago, saved herself years of pain, if all she wanted to do was to go to a better place. I didn't want to hear that...stuff!
And...on the night Julie passed...what was the first thing I told the people whom I talked to...whom I called...BEFORE they could get the words out of THEIR mouths? Yes..."Julie is now in a better place!"
I truly believe that Julie did that for me. Julie fought on...labored to breath during that final week...waiting for me to get ready...to prepare myself.
During Julie's last week, after I took the "night shift", Rachel would come in and relieve me. I'd do a few things and then I would have "breakfast". I'd go to the refrigerator and allow myself one beer...take it out back, onto our deck, and have a talk with God. I remember the first day I did this...the tears flowed. Ironically, it started to rain. Yeah, I took it that God was sharing my moment...He could feel my pain! I asked God to give Julie "strength and comfort"...but I did NOT tell Him that He could have her! Julie was still very much MINE!
Finally, on the Friday of Julie's passing, I allowed myself an afternoon beer. (I had skipped breakfast.) I sat alone on my deck...and cried like a baby. Finally, I looked skyward, and through my tears, said "God...You can have her." Two hours later, He came and got her!
If you want another coincidence...
Some of you may have noticed that you got an e-mail almost immediately after Julie passed away. (WAY too focused on the computer and e-mail? Maybe.) The reason for the "early notice" was that during one of my "down times", while Rachel was standing watch, I started roughing out an e-mail...knowing that I was NOT going to be able to talk to many friends when the time came...would be way too emotional. So, a couple of days before, I had gone through our address book and inserted the addresses of everyone whom I thought would want to know. I then saved that e-mail as a draft.
On that fateful Friday evening, I had "done my duty"...taken Julie's blood sugar, injected her with insulin, and called her doctor (who was out and so I left a message), to alert him that I was afraid that we were going to have a blood sugar crisis in the wee hours (Julie's sugar level was over 400 and climbing.) What should we do?
While waiting for him to call back, I figured I'd finish up the previously mentioned e-mail. Again, I had inserted addresses, but I hadn't yet typed the message. So, I sat down at the computer, called up the draft, and typed...
"Years ago, Julie had me put an affirmation on her cell phone that said: "I will fight until I drop." She was true to her word...
Julie passed away this evening at..."
At exactly the moment that I typed the "at" in the above sentence, Rachel came to the computer room doorway and said "Ronnie...I think she's gone."
And, yes, it was true.
After hugging Julie and kissing her one last time, I walked back into the computer room and typed the "6:20 p.m." and clicked the send button.
As for the cemetery...
Call it what you will, but I truly believe that Julie's spirit remained for a while...watching over me...making sure that I didn't do something stupid. (I told you previously that I have always been a "glass is half empty" type. You can draw your own inferences from that. They would probably be true.)
I truly believe that Julie was keeping an eye on her "Ronnie". JULIE needed a sign...an assurance that all would be well before she would depart. I believe that Julie's spirit saw/heard what she needed the day before...
The second weekend after Julie's passing, the family was finally going to give up the "vigil". Fred left on Saturday. Rachel was leaving on Sunday...and then it would be just me. (I could NOT have made it without them...I was truly blessed. But...as I made clear to them during the previous week...I would also need time to be alone...to cope with my thoughts...to work through my grief. They were reluctant, but - I think - they understood.)
Over that final weekend, we did a lot of talking. Rachel (as she described so eloquently in her blog) was having a tough time convincing herself to leave...convincing herself to go back into the world to do her thing.
If anyone could hurt as much as I, it was Rachel. For Rachel had lost her "mother", her sister, and her best friend. Julie was the one person who gave her unconditional love and was always there for her in her times of need. Rachel, frankly, did not WANT to go on...did not see HOW she could go on (and I could definitely relate.)
So...on Saturday, I gave Rachel some advice...advice that I was to repeat on Sunday. I told her, "Rachel...WE have to go on with life...we HAVE NO CHOICE in this." Rachel looked at me and I could tell she wasn't totally convinced. So, I added the following eloquent incite into WHY we both WOULD go on. I said, with great compassion and sensitivity: "Rachel, if we just lay down and give up, Julie is going to come down here and kick our collective asses!"
I meant it when I said it, and, more importantly, Rachel knew that it was true. Julie Newell never suffered quitters lightly!
So, Rachel and I said our goodbyes - for a while - that Sunday, each painfully aware that the future was, well, different. Both of us had depended on Julie for support and guidance - me for over 30 years; Rachel for all of her life. Now we would both have to stand on our own two feet, trying to lead our lives in a manner that would honor and respect Julie's memory.
And, Julie could be one tough task-master, because Julie Newell would not accept a half-hearted effort. Julie Newell did not believe in "showing up" and going through the motions. Julie Newell wanted nothing but the best...for Rachel and her "Ronnie".
So, the next day - Monday, October 29, 2007 - when I went to the cemetery to visit Julie's grave...and had my "experience", I truly believe that I received a sign - a sign that Julie's spirit felt that it could finally leave this earth...leave all of the pain behind. Because, you see, Julie's purpose in life had been accomplished, including her most cherished purpose...giving her loving sister and beloved husband reason to continue living despite suffering their ultimate loss.
Goodbye, Julie...for now. We give thanks for the memories of the wonderful time we spent together. Rachel and I will continue to support each other as we follow your example...and we look forward to the day when we are all reunited once again.
God bless you, Julie...we love you!