some things are meant to be

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Destiny in the palm of my hand 2

Destiny is tattooed in the palm of my hand…

On January 1, 2005, my ex-husband and I officially separated. I still feel sad about that.

We married on January 9, 1993, after having lived together for about seven years. He’s a great guy, and I was crazy about him. We were a partnership for almost 20 years in total, most of it amazing. We laughed, cried and partied. We traveled the world. We shared joys and sorrows. We created an abundant life full of interesting people, rewarding work, and intimate moments. We danced often. We rarely fought.

In January 2003, I suggested we renew our vows to mark our tenth wedding anniversary. I was as in love with him then as I had been on the frosty day we married a decade earlier. “Nah,” he said. “What for?” Over the next two years our marriage crumbled for reasons neither of us understood. I asked him to go for counselling with me. He declined.

I couldn’t fix whatever was wrong with us by myself. Had he acceded to my requests, I believe we would still be together. But he didn’t, and we’re not. When we split up, people were shocked because we were such a “great couple.” I was shocked too, and devastated. But splitting up, agonizing though it was, freed me to do things I never would have done had he and I stayed together – among them was caring in a special way for Mom.

From the time we moved overseas in 1993, my ex and I spent four to six weeks each summer with Mom at her home in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. We could do that because of the extended holidays afforded by his work, and the fact that I had my own business. After he and I separated in 2005, I returned to Canada to be with Mom for four to six weeks at Christmas in addition to the time I spent each summer. Essentially, I lived with her for a quarter of the year for the next six years. I couldn’t have done that had I still been married.

In 2011, I returned to Canada for good to care for Mom 24/7. I couldn’t have done that if I had still been married. On November 16, 2012, Mom was placed in a nursing home. I saw her virtually every day after that until she died on Wednesday, August 17, 2016. I was free to choose to remain close to her because I had no other attachments or commitments. I was by her side, holding her hand, when she drew her last breath.

The decade-long journey as Mom’s care partner was a tortuous, joyful, and painful roller coaster of emotions, challenges, loss, and healing none of which I would have experienced had my marriage not ended. I think about that a lot. I wonder about destiny, the Chinese characters for which are tattooed on the palm of my right hand; I had that done in the summer of 2004, six months before my marriage ended.

I’ve decided some things are meant to be. Others are not. Paradoxically, I believe some things are worth fighting for. Others, not so much. I also know from experience it can be devilishly hard to distinguish between the two.

Other times it’s as crisp and clear as a fall morning or a mid-winter night.

38 Comments

  1. Lorrie Beauchamp on

    Ah, the wisdom of hindsight. If everything happens for a reason, Susan, then you are the reason so many of us are coping better as caregivers and/or as people with dementia. Regardless of how, why, or when….here you are! And we’re so grateful. I’ve been trying not to over-analyze my past, with all its inherent relationship blunders. We learn something from each person we meet in life, and what I learned in my last disastrous relationship will benefit someone else in my future. Onward we go, no looking back except to say – Good lesson, what’s next?

  2. Hi Susan – After reading your lovely poem, I started to dig around your site. I had to stop and comment on the first post I read.

    This journey has shaped me and taken me in a direction I could never have foreseen. I do believe there is a greater plan out there for us and often we don’t understand why things happen.

    I am a woman of faith and found many great things have come to me in “god time” vs good time. They aren’t always on my schedule or what I would have chosen for myself, but I’m constantly being surprised by my blessings.

    Keep writing and inspiring! Thank you.

  3. —–Susan,

    I believe we are meant to be exactly where we are.

    For example, God has great things for you to accomplish, which you could not have accomplished without your husband’s support.

    I look forward to see, read, and experience more of your adventures, wisdom, & insights.

    xx

  4. Audrey Barber on

    Dear Susan, this is so close to my heart too. I too had to give up on a relationship I cherised mine is that he wanted out and did not want further commitment lived with him for many years and then told to leave. But split up was good I got away and found my self I became my own master. Until i found some else who wanted me for keeps who valued me dearly BUT then fate is a real bitch Susan, In the year 2000 he was murdered in front my very own eyes he died saving me he sacrificed himself for me that was how much he cared. Again the experience made even more stronger and i found a way to use that experience to better others lives.

    Your real life stories I follow closely Susan as you inspire me, and give me more strength and courage to move forwards in my life as well.

    • Audrey, I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and suffering you have gone through. What a testament to your courage and determination that you have turned it into purpose.

  5. Thank you for this inspiring story. Before I read this story I have always thought the opposite way, what would my life be like today if my husband had not left me after 7 yrs of marriage (10 yrs total together). I would try ways not to think that way (was very tough & our son & I not treated well @ all from his family during the last 17 yrs. Although I am re-married, I now look @ things as focusing on things that would NOT HAVE happened & moments shared w/my husband now had I stayed w/my 1st one. I feel so much better & 1 of those memories are of my Mom & I. I lost her 7 1/2 yrs ago, but we had a special night we shared (Monday’s) while helping her w/things. I may not have had those Mondays had I still been w/my 1st. Praying you continue w/inspiration, happiness & only positive in your life. Thx again for sharing : ).

  6. What a beautifully written post Susan ……..makes me think back to decisions I’ve made ( and that I often still question actually ) I don’t know if I’m where I’m meant to be or not or even which road lead me to where I am – I only know there’s joy and sorrow wherever we end up – it’s trying to hold on to one and letting go of the other that can be difficult at times…..
    Much love to you
    ( and your Mom )
    xoxoxo

    • Thanks Suzan. What you write is true, there is joy and sorrow along the way and at the destination too. What’s working best for me is to try to embrace both rather than to let one go. I must admit it’s WAY easier to embrace the joy! Love right back at ya’ and thanks for your great blog which brings me lots of laughter and ideas <3

  7. My mother was diagnosed in 2009 with moderate to advanced Alzheimer’s. She moved next door to me soon after my father died in 2001 and of course she was coping quite well as she was having meals with us and I was doing a lot for her ( this gradually increased more and more over the years) so we didn’t really take too much notice of her condition. Later that year she had to go into hospital for a month and unfortunately the Alzheimer’s progressed at an alarming rate. I had put in my resignation from my job in order to care for her. Early in 2010 she had progressed to a point where she needed to go into a home.
    In February 2011 we were devastated by a major earthquake and lost our home. This is not yet resolved four years later. In June 2011 I realised my husband was showing the same symptoms and he was diagnosed soon after leaving me responsible for two of them as all our family members live away from here.

    Medication is not widely used here as it doesn’t often help.

    I write a blog to try to let them know what is happening with the progression of the disease. I also try to say about things I, as a caregiver, find works. I found your sense of humour very readable and I can certainly relate to your story. It makes people, like me, feel less isolated in our endeavours to do the best we can for our loved ones.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. As well as helping people like me it helps other people gain an understanding of this disease.

    • Wow Diane! Thanks for sharing your story from the other side of the world. I’m so sorry you have to cope with all of this disease in disaster all at once and on your own. I’m glad you found me and that we can hold hands even though we are so far away from each other.

      It’s good to know that medication is not widely used in New Zealand; I have come to believe that giving it to people with dementia is cruel and abusive and, as you say, it doesn’t often help.

      I visited your blog the journey to another world and would love to follow you. However, there is no option to follow the blog other than through Google plus. May I suggest you add another follow option to the blog, or a subscribe widget that allows people to follow by email?

      I think this would help you to gain followers like me!

      • Thanks so much Susan. I have added an email feed as you suggested, great idea and I just hadn’t thought.

        I was in the home today seeing my mother and mentioned your site to other visitors. I just think it is so important for all of us to gain info from each other and as we all agreed so many of the medical people do not have a great understanding of this disease.

        Strangely enough seeing that you are from Quebec, many of my students cane from there to do post grad diploma ( cheaper!). We had some great students from there. A visit is definitely on my bucket list. NZ is rather at the bottom of the world but I promise you it is also lovely although very small.

        As I said before I am really enjoying reading your site and I can relate to so much of it.

        On the music side, my Mum is asleep in an armchair most of the time now with very little language left. I got her two MP4 players ( one for me to charge while she uses the other). I insist that they put it on, with head phones when she is sitting in that twilight type sleep. As soon as they do that her toes start tapping to the music and she tries to mouth the words. What you are doing for your Mum, with the music sessions, is lovely and obviously so beneficial. Something else we do is that Mum has a massage on her legs and arms/hands each week. They use lavender oil and she loves this and becomes so calm and relaxed

        Thanks so much for all you do for all of us out here

        Diane Brooks

        • Diane, I think I’m your first subscriber! For others who might want to subscribe, here the link: http://thejourneytoanotherworld.blogspot.co.nz/

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas about music, I also got Mom an mp3 player, but I still have to load it with music…

          I know just how beautiful NZ is – I was there for six months in my early twenties. I adored it. Lived in Little River (near Christchurch) for a few months. Was also in Oz for year after that – lived on Magnetic Island and then Adelaide. I must admit I preferred NZ 🙂

          Thanks for spreading the word about the blog, will do the same for you this side <3

  8. This post has gotten me thinking about paths we do and do not take. Mostly I think there are very few ‘bad’ paths, just different ones. The one you are on is the one you are on and it is because of past choices, some painful, some joyful.

    Before I married my husband 25+ years ago, I lived with a man for 4 years. I fully expected to spend the rest of my life with him, but it didn’t work out that way. And when we parted I had no clue what doors I could now open because I had closed that one.

    I admire your choices and your sharing them on your blog–thanks!

    • I think you’re right Heidi, the paths are different, not inherently better or worse. And yes to all the rest of it too. It’s funny how we think things are going to be a certain way and then oops! they turn out completely different seemingly for no reason whatsoever sometimes 🙂 But maybe there is a reason…

      One of my three favorite books of all time is the Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut Junior; it’s all about fate, destiny, choice, and how much or how little of it we really have… Such a great existential question!

    • Welcome aboard Susan.

      So thrilled to hear your comments about NZ as so many people have little or no idea of our country. Little River is a lovely tranquil little place, mind you apart from Auckland most places are pretty tranquil (earthquakes we are ignoring at present). Someone visited NZ early last century and raved about the wonderful scenery and things here. As he said at the time everything can be found in other places but here it is possible to be at the beach in the morning and up skiing in the afternoon as well as glaciers hot springs etc all within easy reach.

      I am slowly working my way through your web site and finding it interesting and informative as well as reinforcing ideas for me which actually needs another caregiver to understand

      Thanks
      Di

      • Yes, NZ is like Canada in the variety of its geography, landscapes and beauty – and yet everything is so much closer and easier to access. I loved that <3 It's a splendid place which I thoroughly enjoyed.

        Yes, I know what you mean about sharing experiences with another caregiver - people who haven't done it really can't understand it ..or at least that's been my experience. It's important to have one's thoughts and experiences validated, especially when one is swimming against the tide!

        I left a comment with some links on your blog, on the post about aggression. I don't see it there so it means you haven't approved it yet. You should get an email when you have a comment to approve - just a heads up. Have you seen an email or a comment? Once you approve it, it should appear on the blog.

        From reading some of the things you've written, it looks to me like we share similar views on many things...

  9. Shouldn’t be crying but I am. I relived some if these moments while reading it. You are a courageous beautiful generous soul. Miss you sooo much. Hugs

    • Oh Elise! I hope we will see each other in person again one day. I remember all the great dinners we had in Dubai, the laughs, the tears… I often wear the beautiful abbaya you sent me – whenever I do people compliment me on how fabulous it is. I think of you all the time <3

  10. Susan,
    Thank you for sharing this story, it brings me comfort to connect so closely to your journey. My husband and I also divorced about 4 years ago, of which neither of us could explain. I still miss him, however, it’s allowed me to care for my father with Lewy Body Dementia, and accompany him on this painful, heart wrenching journey to Heaven. I’ve become closer to him than I ever would have otherwise. We’ve shared experiences and a love greater than understanding, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks for sharing your journey with us so that we can not feel so alone.

    • Vivian,

      Thanks so much for your comment which validates for me what I’m doing here. I suspect our experiences are very similar. I never would’ve chosen this path, but now that I’m on it I’m making the best of it and discovering blessings and joys I never would’ve expected in a million years. Still, it’s also more challenging than I ever thought it would be once I embarked on it. I invite you to subscribe to the blog and keep commenting – let’s hold each other’s virtual hand!

  11. Some lovely words, Susan. Gosh, it’s been quite the journey for you since you’ve left our sandy shores. But its really delightful how everything you state here is filled to the cusp with quiet certainty. Reading this left a warm little glow for a bit.

    Stay well. xx

    -Hisham-

    • indeed it has Hisham, indeed it has! Thank you so much for your kind words. I hope the glow stays with you for the whole of 2015 🙂 Love to you and your beautiful family <3

  12. Ah Susan great article and yes you are where you are meant to be – no doubt in my mind – who are we to question why a different path was suddenly put in front of us when we look back and see that it was meant to be? You have truly been an incredible caregiver for your mother and I admire you so for the path that brought you to this point in your life. We never know do we? xo

    • No, we never know. I was just listening to a harrowing real-life story on the radio in which the heroine of the piece remarked: “Anything can happen to anyone anytime.” So true. And you know from your own experience how life can throw curve balls! Thanks as always for being an inspiration and for all you do. XOX

  13. “Memories, real and irreplaceable, all of them. The happy ones, the bitter ones, the terrified and the poignant” –

    • I love you Lynn and so appreciate everything you have done for me and for your continued support from afar. You are a rock <3

      And are those your words? Or borrowed from elsewhere? Either way, they're beautiful, just like you <3

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