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What Keeps Me Going

Friday, April 5, 2019

February 26 I last came here, to talk about Curtis Loew, new light in my life. Curtis was all I felt like writing about, because everything else was so horribly grim. We'd been living in a whirlpool since Bill's diagnosis with stage IV pancreatic cancer on December 16. And the weeks between my last post and now are none that I want to revisit, save for the almost unbearably sweet time spent with family and friends, sharing love and music in our last days together.

My daughter humbled me last night, as my kids seem to do with increasing frequency, by posting on her blog about what it's like to be on the other side, without her dad. Her post is here  and it is a doozy. I've known since she was in middle school that she was a natural writer, and the surest evidence are that post, and the messages I got from her this morning. Because LaGomera is five hours ahead of Ohio, I get a little flurry of messages from her just as I'm waking up around 5 AM, which is one reason to be happy about waking up so darned early.

"I sat down intending to write something entirely different and that's what came out. I just have ideas pop into my head all day and I turn them over and polish them into single sentences and then if I'm lucky they come together."

Mmm-hmm. I know the feeling. 

"I feel so much better having written about Daddy. I didn't realize how much it was weighing on me that I never really said anything final about his passing."

If I were a cross-country coach, reading these messages would be the equivalent of watching a lean, gracile girl lope by, bouncing off the balls of her feet, eating up ground with every stride. I'm looking at an athlete. She not only wants to write; she needs to write, and that means she will write, for the rest of her life. And here's to more of that.

All blocked up here, with grief and the incredulity of Bill's leaving us so deathly fast and unequivocally. I keep trying to start a post and failing. After writing and illustrating Saving Jemima in a single year, failing at writing doesn't sit too well with me.  None of this sits well with me. But you  have to start somewhere, so I figured I'd start by telling you what gets me through each day.

The gifts that poured into our GoFundMe campaign, to help with all the expenses associated with our ordeal. I have been lying awake thinking about how I'm going to get all those thank-you notes written. Bill is birdwatching's Princess Di. The magnitude of the outpouring for him is overwhelming, and I have to learn to be comfortable with being overwhelmed. There are things I have to do right now, meeting book deadlines, taking care of Bill's accounts, and that's what I'm doing. Please know that we are so very grateful. Just to be able to pay medical and estate planning bills and to get Phoebe here when she needs to be here has been such a blessing. Thank you. You have made life so much easier, when it has been so hard. I'm gonna try to get to those thank-you notes. It could take awhile.

The incredible tributes that pour in for Bill. Here's a brick at the new visitor center at the John James Audubon Center for Art and Conservation in Mill Grove, Pennsylvania. Their sentiment is perfect.

Knowing our girl is safe on her beautiful island, seeing things like this every day,

makes me whole. And knowing she's got sweet, strong arms to hold her comforts me, too.  Go Oscar. You do your thing. And go Phoebe. Keep spreading your joy on your beloved hunk of basalt out in the Atlantic.

 Liam's been home the last two consecutive weekends. He said goodbye to his dad on the afternoon of March 24. We had no way of knowing Bill would leave us on the night of the 25th, but that's OK. It rolled out as it should, went down the right way. They got to say their goodbyes, as did Phoebe and Oscar, back on March 19. 

 I drove over to Morgantown to pick up Liam and cousin/best friend Gus on March 29, for his dad's beautiful interment ceremony for the family in our meadow. More, maybe, on that later. Or not. Too fresh. But it was amazing, and maybe I'll be able to write about it in time. I feel like I owe it to Phoebe and to the countless people who would have loved to be there in our meadow that morning to share that ritual, that gorgeous, heartbreaking sacred hour.

Curtis was there to catch Liam both times he came home.  Oddly enough, the cur is showing up in Liam's art now.

 Empathy: a Curtis Loew specialty.

It makes me happy to know that there was someone I could bring into this equation who would make it so much sweeter and better for everyone. This dog truly seems like a gift from God or Heaven or the Universe or whatever higher power you pick.

The first bluebird egg in our driveway box, April 3, 2019. Still warm when I found it. I was so sad and sick when I took this photo I hardly felt anything, but I'm glad I shot it anyway. I had come down with a wicked respiratory infection just as the last of my funerary duties was discharged Saturday, and it's still got me. Look at the deer hair in that nest. This gal used deer hair last year, too. Good plan to insulate well if you're going to be laying your eggs the first week of April, my girl. Crazy. It could still snow, you know.

I spent some time repurposing week-old funeral flowers into new, smaller bouquets, my faithful pal by my side. 
I believe in bluebirds, flowers, and dogs. 
Curtis will walk up to you and press his forehead into your chest and stand there, tail wagging, for as long as you want to love on him. It's one of the most endearing things he does, and he does a lot of endearing things.
photo by Liam Thompson

I'll leave you with a little video of Curtis, doing what he does best, which is healing hearts. Honestly, I think if it weren't for his wonderful friends at WVU, Liam would be home every durn weekend, soaking up this good dog stuff. In the video, Liam makes a reference to Curtis' shoulder hurting--he wrenched his left shoulder while hunting in the woods on March 24, and it's only just gotten better. Now he's running like the wind again! Enjoy this little gift, all you cur-lovers. xox jz


Julie, dear, I've been following events through every available social media opening--and what it cost you to write this blog post I can't imagine, although I can't thank you enough. You're the reason I care so much about this group of people in faraway Ohio I've never actually met. The Instagram photos of Bill's grave had me weeping into the laptop, for all of you.

And, as one among the many, many GoFundMe donors, I can say for myself that thanking us all individually should be the least of your worries at this time. We know who we are, and that's enough. Do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself in general and get rid of that respiratory bug in particular. Love and hugs to you, Phoebe, Liam, and the wonderful Curtis Loew.


So delighted to hear you laughing. Lost my husband in 2004 in a car accident and I understand the ups and downs you are going through. I mmet your family a long time ago, Liam was very much into trains, in Grand Forks, ND. One day, one bird, one wet kiss from Curtis at a time. Betsy

Ah Betsy I’m so sorry you lost your husband without a chance to say goodbye. I never got to have the talk I wanted to—too many visitors to share him with. But that’s a good thing for him. He loved a crowd. Liam still loves trains just a little more covertly. Xox jz

I haven't made it through Phoebe's post yet. I will...

So good to 'hear' your voice again...
Sometimes life seems so utterly random, but Bill's life gave it the stamp of meaning and purpose. 40 years ago I played Neil Diamond's "Done Too Soon" over & over again upon the sudden death of a friend... FWIW, for Bill I've been listening to Eric Clapton's "Tears In Heaven"

Just a wonderful video! Thank you for sharing your life with all of us♥️ So much I’ve learned from you about love and loss and grace♥️ Thank you!

Oh that dog. That right dog at the right time pup.
He's a gift.
Phoebe's tribute had me spellbound and wiping my eyes. Heartfelt,powerful, and grateful for time well spent together.
My thank you note arrives Everytime you post a picture or blog musings.
Save a stamp and check me off your list.

Holy moly I love that video. Tail-tapping ever so gently as Liam shares the cur-love. These are the moments that life’s all about. And, I love listening to your voice and your laugh, that sound like ME! Joy to you, my friend. BIG hugs and grace. 💞

I'm so so sorry for your loss. Inadequate words.I knew Bill in college and it sounds like he hadn't changed a bit - the energetic center of every space, radiating outwards. My own long marriage ended abruptly and utterly on an October evening a few years ago and the loss felt like a shotgun hole through my chest. For me, healing through grief has been a deepening in understanding some of the enduring Truths that I blithely but barely understood before. I can't wait to follow your contributions to this unwelcome but probably necessary canon. I admire you so much. xo

I am so very sorry for your loss. My sympathies and prayers for all of you as you learn to walk with grace in this new world of 'after' ...

I am so sorry for your loss. The bird world is really going to miss Bill. A quote from your last post which I agree with wholeheartedly,

I believe in bluebirds, flowers, and dogs.

May God bless and keep you, Julie, Poebe, Liam and Curtis.

He knows; that's what I kept thinking. Curtis knows what you need and he brings it to your family in the purest form possible. This is the essence of love, I think; the purest form of grace and love that meets you right where you are. Lifting you, Liam, and Phoebe with prayers of peace and comfort. as you ease out of each day into the next, moving through the shadows to navigate a life without your beloved beside you.

I feel like making a copy of R.Power's comment and pasting it here. He writes so perfectly what is in my heart. Every word. Every tear. Been thinking of you and the family everyday, Julie, everyday.

Dear Julie, thanks so much for posting again. I don’t quite understand how I can care so much about you and your family when I have never met you, but there
it is. I’m a long time reader of BWD and your writing is the first thing I turn to. You have a gift and I appreciate your blogs and reflections. Print up some thank you notes, gather some friends to address and stuff and get it done when you can. Be gentle with yourself and keep looking for the little glimmers that make life worthwhile. Hugs to you and Curtis.

I'm glad to see you posting here again. My thoughts have been with you and your family and I've seen your posts on Facebook, but I was hoping for a longer post on how Curtis is doing. Obviously he is absolutely wonderful. That tail....and the eyes. You got a good one there. He will help with the healing. Just keep on with the birds, flowers and Curtis.

Well, I love this, about writing, about loss and grief and it all being too fresh to speak, about dogs and children, art and generosity, the happy moments. Thank you.

Liam's drawings ~ wow. I have this huge sense of gratitude at having known Bill and spent a week with him on a sailboat, cooking our asses off in the galley. Billy in his frilly apron or nothing at all. Compliments of birth, timing, education, and talent, there are some people in this world who end up doing exactly what they should be doing in life. And sometimes that thing they do adds so much to the world and to people's lives that you feel like you should thank them for just being themselves every time you see them. Alas, not possible. Those of us who gave to your family's GoFundMe account did so as a thank-you to your entire family for being the generous, crazy, loving people that you are. So screw those thank-you notes. All of you, take care of yourselves.

thank God you got a new dog! I have been afraid to read your blog ...yeah I am a wuss.

I am humming peace and love to you always. Thank Dog for Curtis coming in to your life and family when he did.

Oh Julie. For reasons I don’t understand, this winter I stopped reading many of the writers who I most love and who have sustained me. Yours was one of those. I only now read of Bill’s illness and death. I can’t tell you how sorry I am for you and your family, but I’m also grateful your and your kids are close and all so wonderful for each other. And Curtis - a very large virtual hug to you and Curtis.

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