Six Weeks of Hell, aka, Let’s Never Do This Again

So, it’s been a little while. Sorry about that. I was busy all summer, but good busy, and into the fall, but then October hit.

October of 2012 shall go down in infamy.

It started relatively normally- the 1st was the second anniversary of the death of my maternal grandmother, the 2nd was our 8th anniversary. We were busy and a bit panicked, because we knew we were moving on the 15th, but the end of September had been all fun and games. Camping, a delightful house guest, some magnificent concerts. Packing would happen; I’ve moved 20 times in 29 years, I know how to pack a box on short notice. Then on the 7th, my last surviving grandmother died.

It wasn’t unexpected, but it hit me harder than I thought it would; I’m no good with intense emotions as a general rule- I repress like crazy, and wouldn’t know an authentic grief response if it walked up and wiped snot on my collar. But, it got me. I knew I almost certainly couldn’t go to the funeral, which I felt terrible about, but we had just emptied our savings to pay the deposit on the new apartment, and last minute plane tickets are exorbitant. I resigned myself to being the bad grandchild, and spent the afternoon looking through photo albums and sniveling.

The next day I went to work, space-walked myself through my tasks, and got ready to leave, only to see my husband walking toward me with a wary, tense look. He’d had a text from his family- his uncle was missing. By 7pm, the uncle was found, and the funeral would be on Saturday.

It was never really a question- he needed to go to support his family in a way that I did not. Gramma’s death was sad, but expected, but James’ death was sudden and hard. Also, a train ticket to Oregon was financially feasible in a way a plane ticket to Tennessee was not. We took the 8th off work, booked tickets, and packed.

Thursday evening I put my husband on the train, and Friday I used my bereavement leave to pack and pack and pack. After all, Saturday, I was moving. All I can say about the move is, thank all the gods for my friends. One picked me up and brought me tea and took me to get the truck, others loaded the truck, still more unloaded it. One took all the pictures and wrapped them in paper. Some of them turned up the next day to help me get the last of it, and return the truck on time. I could not have done it without them. Literally could not.

In spite of having collapsed on Saturday night, I hadn’t realized I was anything other than profoundly stressed, but as the week went on, I realized I was (and had been) actually sick- I’d simply ignored the symptoms. But it was ok! K had come back on Sunday, the 14th, all of the furniture had been moved, we still had two weeks to clean the old place. We were over the hump. We could do this.


Saturday the 20th, near midnight, my sister called me.

“Have you heard?”

“Heard what?”

“There’s a fire. At 9th and Hearst. A church is burning, I’m pretty sure it’s yours.”

How do you dress on the morning you know your temple has burned to ashes? Like any other morning, I supposed. The church had been gutted by a three alarm fire; there’s nothing like the smell of wet, burned, sacra. The structure was standing yet, but the inside was ash and melted relics. We held service in our untouched parish hall, our shoes covered in cinders. After coffee, we spent hours picking through the remnants, ripping shreds of vestments from the melted pile of hangers, lifting blackened icons from the wall.

The rest of October passed in a haze- the elections happened, and I began to feel some measure of relief (yes, I supported Obama, but it was a repeat of the 2000 indecision that I was literally having nightmares about). It began to feel like we might be in the clear.

For the most part, we were- I did get quite ill in the beginning of November; I started a new medication that happened to have the side effect of dehydration right at the same time as I got the flu, and got severely dehydrated without realizing until I was having fainting spells and heart palpitations. I’ve since been tested thoroughly, and seem to be ok (EKGs are interesting, never had one of those before).

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and there are still boxes. I still feel a bit shell-shocked when I think about how it’s now December, and how I barely remember anything but panic, stress, and grief of any of the fall. But the tree is up, and I feel like I’m slowly beginning to dig my way back out of the abyss, claw my way back to doing the things I had been doing.

The new year is coming. We are in the new place; the church will be rebuilt. I will always feel bad that I couldn’t be there for Gramma Julie (either in her life, or for her memorial), but it will live comfortably with all my other familial failings, and I will always be glad that K was able to be there for his family when they needed him.

Life goes on, as it does.

Perhaps with more blog posts.

One thought on “Six Weeks of Hell, aka, Let’s Never Do This Again

  1. Pingback: AWOL « nmkerr photography

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