Saturday, October 4, 2008

Mix Tape

Last month when my brother Keith was visiting, I asked him to clean out and organize our entertainment center. Keith is a fastidious fellow, the ideal person for an organizational task. He likes things neatly stacked, artfully arranged, and, by all means, in alphabetical order. While cleaning out the center he came across a "mix tape" I made for Bill before leaving for a nearly month-long tour of Eastern Europe. I suspect that like most guys he acted all happy about the mix tape but, deep inside, thought it was a corny idea.

Mix tapes were an icon of courtship in the '80s and '90s. You knew things were serious when someone made you a mix tape. It was either a great way to cement a relationship or a surefire way to send an ambivilant suitor running, screaming into the night. In our case, it was the former. I looked over the CD and wondered why I had put "Muskrat Love" on it. "Maybe it was the closest I could get to a rabbit in a love song" I thought to myself (Bill had a rabbit named George when we met. He thought the rabbit was a boy; we discovered it was a girl when we tried to have it neutered because it keep trying to mate with my sweaters).

When I finished the kids' nests of gifts, CD, journals, etc. Bill asked, "Have you left anything behind for me?" I felt horrible. I had been so focused on the kids that I had given little thought to leaving something behind for BIll. "What would you like?" I asked. "Just a box of memories," he answered quietly.

I had been collecting a few things. I had a blank Valentine's card left over from a year I was too pissed at him to sign it (I know, I'm a bitch). And I had a an extra birthday card because last year I accidentally bought two; in fact, I bought the same exact card twice. The scarf originally intended for Aidan was transferred to Bill. (My friend Victoria graciously finished it for me when I developed too many hand wounds to complete it myself). Bill is a warm-natured person and hardly ever wears a coat in NC; he will never need the scarf for the purposes of keeping himself warm. But I thought he could keep the scarf in his bedside table and hold it when he missed me. Then I thought about the mix tape. I added it to the pile, but knowing there will soon be no device upon which to play it, I made him a CD of the original tunes (including Muskrat Love) and added several more that have had special meaning over the last 12 years since I made that first mix tape.

I was working on the CD the other day when Bill and I were alone in my hospice room. I asked him to lie down with me in my tiny hospital bed. Fortunately we are both small enough to fit into it together. I played the CD as we lay together and cried. "We've had an amazing life together," I observed. "I have loved every single minute of it," he responded. While I am pretty sure that he did not enjoy the time I tapped him less than gently on the head with the phone (not hard, just enough to let him know he was really pushing me to the brink), I think he was mostly sincere.

"After all these years, I still don't know why you stayed. You knew it would end this way."

"It was too late, I had already fallen love with you. I couldn't leave."

We were silent for awhile. I was basking in his words, running the sentence over and over again in my mind, thinking about how lucky I am that this man followed his heart and not his head.

"We were such a good pair," I whispered. And we were (are). Bill and I complemented each in other in nearly every way. What I lacked, he had in spades and vice versa. I literally cannot imagine being with anyone else but Bill; he is so much a part of me now. And I feel so sorry for him because I know he feels the same way and he has to let me go. I ached for the loneliness he will feel when there is no one there to understand all the inside jokes. No one will else will laugh when he drives by a beautifully landscaped house and he proclaims, "They must be nice people."

I kissed his wavy mane of hair. He's such a good man: loyal and steadfast, loving and dependable, witty and affable. He will find someone new to love. I truly want that for him, but laying in my hospital bed with him as we inched closer to the end of my life I finally felt the very natural sadness that comes with the realization that someone will take my place at Bill's side. He will share the remainder of his life with another woman who will run her hands through his wavy hair, keep him from getting lost, and act as tour guide on trips to foreign lands. And I felt a little angry about this other woman who is already out there, waiting for her cue to enter this tale. I let go of the anger though because, above all, I want him to be happy.

Laying there together in the narrow bed, listening the the soundtrack of our life was bittersweet. I tried to concentrate on the sweetness: Bill's unconditional love and devotion, the feel of his thick hair, the gentle caress of his hand against my arm. I had an urge to cradle him like a baby and let him sob because I know that he is afraid of the pain the will come when I pass away. I wanted to rock him and tell him, "It'll be ok. You will find love again. It won't hurt forever." But these are expressions of hope not truths. And, yet, I believe them, especially for Bill.


Hope said...

Someday...I want the kind of relationship you and your husband have.

I will miss your insight, your grace and dignity.

You are very much the type of woman I hope to be.

Thank you for your lessons.

albischof said...

Funny, my kids were just asking if you finished the scarf. I am sure that Bill will treasure it forever.

Madge said...

what a gift you have given each other.

Mothers heart said...

Your love for oneanother is like a fairy tale. Bill may oneday find someone new to share his life with but they will never be you. You leave behind very big shoes to fill. I am sure the person he chooses will have alot of simiarities as you. True love never leaes your heart and mind, you will be forever locked deep inside his soul. I hope you made Bill a tape that tells him how much you love him and how much he means to you. Go over the best of times on the tape and he will forever have your memories together. Bill will always have a part of you each time he looks at the children. Enjoy today and do not fret about the future. Live for the moment.
I will always be grateful for the lessons you taught and the love that you have shown.

Kimberley said...

You truly do look at life with new eyes. I know you don't know me, but I feel like your generosity with this site has allowed me to get to know you. Thank you for sharing your humanity and truth.

I am a teacher of 2nd and 3rd grade elementary children. It is a job I adore. As I approach this next week I have spent a long time thinking about your little ones. They are so lucky to have such a wonderful mother and friend. You have not only been there daily, but you are now working on the time after that. You are providing them with treasures that will sustain the journey ahead of them.

Your relationship with your husband is also the road map they will both take. You have set that course for them already. They will always know how to love someone with their whole heart.

Thank you again for allowing me to glimpse into your world. You are truly a treasure of the heart.

Linda Summerfield Crispell said...

Michelle-Your writing is so beautiful and the lessons are so valuable. I hope you turn this into a book that millions can learn from.

Bird Spot said...


My husband and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary on Sept. 19 (while Amy and Will kept our kids, bless their hearts). The week before, we weren't sure we would even make it to the 19th. This summer, my mystery health issues continued to be unresolved and some major health issues surfaced for my husband. We're having a really tough time in our marriage b/c we're both dealing with some very real diseases.

As I read today's post and read about your love with Bill, I thought about my love with David. Much of it is very similar and I am in fact still very in love with my husband. You've inspired me to express my feelings and love for David TO David in no uncertain terms. Because he needs to hear it from me and I don't tell him enough. Thank you once again.

eyesoflove said...

Thank you for the kindness, love and generosity that you have shared with us as you allow us to be with you on your very personal journey.

I am learning how to open my heart by following your example.

I read (and often re-read) what you have written every day.

Sometimes I smile when I read that you wish you had told someone something because I think that in a way you already have just by writing it here! And often I cry because I feel with you. You have given us such grace.

I wish you peace.

Ana's World said...

I am so very happy that you found each other and that you chose to spend your lives together. As a couple of people here have mentioned hearing you makes us appreciate our lives all the more. To look at those we love and remember that we may not have forever with them and to cherish every moment. I've only known about your blog for a few short weeks, but I promise I'll think of you often and pray for your family. All my hope and love for you, Ana

Misti Hall said...

Thank you for the beautiful gift of wisdom that you have so gracefully and generously given to all of us that have peeked into your life. I cherish coming to this blog to read your posts. You inspire me professionally (as a therapist) and personally. You have made this world a better place. Wishing you and your family comfort, peace and love.

Ce said...

This blog is such a gift to all in your life. thank you for sharing-- daniel and i would love to see you but understand-- please know we send much peace and love- celeste

Unknown said...

Hi Michelle, I am just thinking of you this morning and sending you my love.

bigbrother said...

It was great seeing you over the weekend. Your strenth gives me strenth to accept this terrible thing that is happening to you.I know that you will be an angel watching over all of us.If you don't mind I could always use some extra checking on. My gaurdian angel is probably very tired.I love you Anthony

Anonymous said...

Dear Michelle,

I have tried several times to read your posts, but most of the time I find myself crying and need to stop. My mom passed away 2 years ago from pulmonary hypertension caused by her scleroderma. I have thought back and really wished that she and my Dad had been more open about what the Doctors were telling them so that our family could have spent more time with her before she got too sick. It took a very long time for them to diagnose her, so the majority of the time she had symptoms we didn't know they were connected or what it was caused from.

I think you are a wonderfully brave person to write about your thoughts and feelings and share your life with strangers on the internet. Reading your blog makes me really sentimental and I think it helps me to understand more of what my Mom was going through. I miss my Mom very much and I will hold you and your family in my prayers as you all go through the good memories and the hard times to come.


JC Heery said...

I am heavy of heart again reading your blog and imagining you and Bill sharing these bittersweet moments together. I remember reading somewhere that those of us who have experienced true love and/or been successfully married will usually go onto a new loving relationship after losing our loved one. But I echo the sentiments of "mothers heart" that no one will ever be able to replace you or fill your shoes for Bill. I don't know that we ever can replace that first true love or the true soulmate of our lives but we would be drawn to another loving relationship--is it because we seek companionship? or that we have seen the transformative power of unconditional love that draws back to that unique bond. Your feelings are normal to feel some resentment initially and yet, as you write you know it is best for Bill to find someone to love--that is a sign of true love!! I think of the words of Mrs. Anna in "the King and I" as she sings "Hello Young Lovers".... "Don't cry young lovers whatever you do...don't cry because I'm alone....all of my memories are happy tonight...I've had a love of my own...I've had a love of my own like yours." That line has always struck my heart as does your blog...I guess it brings to mind if I ever were to lose Sean and how painful that would be and yet like you...I have told him often....I have loved every momemt of our 19+ years together...the good, the bad, the ups, the downs...I regret nothing and hope I have given to him my unconditional love. As I read your blogs and then all the responses to them, I am proud to say I have been able to call you my friend...and sadder still to think of you leaving this life...but my Christian heart tells me it is not the end...and we will meet again in paradise. I pray you are being kept are spending time with those who love you...and our heavenly Father keeps you at peace in your soul. All my love,Jennifer

Thadine said...


Thank you for sharing your life with me, your words are unlike any other I have read. They have touched my soul and heart. What a wonderful gift your giving to your family and friends. God Bless you.

yoly Tockman said...

Hi Michelle,

My prayers continue to be with you. I just wanted to take a minute and acknowledge what a "good husband" your Bill is. He has stood by your side and loved you with his whole heart. He did have the choice to make early on and he chosed to live a life with you, have a family and 2 wonderful kids and go on this journey with you. You have both given each other a wonderful gift.

Bill is a great example of what a "good husband" is and he has done right by you... what a blessing he seems to have been in your life. THANK YOU Bill for been such a blessing in Michelle's journey, I do believe you have completed her and made her life just a lot better.... I know we all hope to have a devoted husband like Bill when the going gets tough....

Have a good night Michelle and Bill.... may your love continue forever.....

Unknown said...

There are no words that can adequately describe how lovely you are to chronicle your journey. You make the world a better place for all of us that don't even know you. My heart is so heavy for all you have had to face but I feel so amazed & inspired by you & your beautiful spirit. God be with you, your husband & children always.
All My Best,
(NE Philly girl in CA)

Nelson Melle said...

I need to reply even though I know you are gone because it important for others to see how much you mean to strangers. This post was so touching and so funny. I make my husband these tapes even though I too know he thinks they are corny -although he'd never admit it. :)

Anonymous said...

I don't even know if you read comments from Michelle's blog anymore, but I have been thinking of your beautiful family and wondering how you are all doing. This has to be a hard time of year for you. As a family, we can relate even more to you 44 yr. old sister-in-law (husband's sister) passed away on August 28th from breast cancer. She also left behind a husband, a son and a daughter. I've been reading through Michelle's blog again and can so closely relate with so much of what you all went through. I continue to keep you in my prayers...especially right now, as the one year anniversary approaches.

Tracy Janetsky
Saginaw, MI