March is a tricky month for me. While spring officially starts March 20th and signals new buds on plants and trees and an increasing warmth in the morning air, there is a significant number of endings that occurred for me in March over the years. We all experience deaths in our families and amongst our friends, especially as we ourselves age. It gets a little hinky when our friends start passing. It reminds me of my own mortality.

          I don’t mean to be morbid, but I can’t help white knuckle my way through March, as I’ve experienced a concentration of significant loss during that month. First of all, it was my
mother who passed away in March 13 years ago. She had been a lifelong smoker and, fortunately for her, experienced just one episode of emphysema that hastened her death while in a coma. She did not linger in semi-consciousness nor did she have to wheel an oxygen tank around for the remainder of her life.

         Next it was my sister, Christine, who died in March 6 years ago at 62 years of age. She, too, was a smoker and passed three weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. I had just retired when she got ill and I went to stay with and care for her. I tried to do it all by myself and I wasn’t successful. It was the most stressful experience of my life. Eventually her son and others from the community stepped in to assist. I miss Christine; she was my true north. Even when we squabbled like little girls, I knew I could count on her to be there like no other.

          Lastly, two years ago, Chuck died. My partner of 24 years and I weren’t living together the last two years of his life but we were closer than ever before. Being able to keep our personality foibles in our respective homes allowed our love to flourish like it hadn’t in awhile. When Chuck went to the doctor on March 9th for an appointment and straight from there to the emergency room it was a shock. We had been together the night before, and our last words to each other had been “I love you.” But I didn’t get a chance to speak with him again because he had been put into a coma to stabilize him before I could get to the hospital. Less then a week after his admission, Chuck made his transition into his next life. As with anyone who has experienced the loss of a spouse, it was gut-wrenchingly painful. Because we weren’t legally married, it was his family who took care of all the things that needed to be dealt with, and it was understandably difficult for them. I will miss him always and never fully accept that I won’t get the opportunity to learn more from this gentle man who was loved by many.

          It feels really spooky having no one in my family of origin left (my father passed in February 1976). Sure, I have compiled a family made up of friends who love me, and I don’t feel alone or lonely, but when I flip that calendar page and it says “March,” I can’t help but cringe. I am, however, beginning to look at how I can change the white knuckling through March into something better. I’m interested in shifting the paradigm from acknowledging the past to embracing the future.

          I’m looking forward to a beginning when I can see it’s the first of March and am able to smile and feel overwhelming warmth for shared experiences that made up the bulk of my life. Thank you to the people in my life for being my family and for allowing me to feel all that goes with that distinction. I love you all.