Posted by: Mike Whitmore | April 17, 2010

Okay For Now

This posting was written as part of my first blog which I started as my first wife, Deborah, was going through her chemo treatments for breast cancer.

During my opening keynote at Social Media 201 on April 15th at Microsoft, I related how I discovered the depth of connection to so many came via the blogging medium. Not only did I find writing very therapeutic to myself, I found that it became therapeutic to many as we walked this road together. My hope is that by sharing our experience that others may find comfort and hope.

This post was written a little over a month after Deborah’s passing.

Originally posted on August 18, 2008 at the Lotsahelpinghands Blog Site

Good evening all! I hope you’re well and at peace. I’m okay and I should explain what okay means for any unfamiliar with the term. Okay means “getting by” or “coping with” or “I’m comfortable with my body image” or “Okay, hands up and pass the chocolate” or something like that. If you’ve seen the movie “Babe” (a favorite of Deb’s and mine) the line, “That’ll do Pig, that’ll do.” comes to mind. I’m okay.

Now there are moments where I’m “Unbelievable!!” and that statement could mean I’m doing unbelievably well or bad or . . . ? It’s open for interpretation. The emotions still flow and frankly if they didn’t I would be concerned. I meet with a grief counselor tomorrow morning to cover things with me and then we’ll talk about the children afterwards.

Did I ever tell you that I actually caught arachnophobia from Deborah? I didn’t think phobias were communicable diseases, but I assure you they are. The infection took time to show up in our relationship, but it definitely matured sometime after 1993.

You see, my dad is a graduate of Key West High School, aka the Conchs. Notice that the school mascot isn’t named after something sleek or fast like the Sharks or the Barracudas or something deadly like the Man’o War or Sea Urchin. No, the mascot is a big, loud, shell. Go Conchs!! Well, I guess that’s a better yell than, “Go Sea Turtles!”

Anyway, in 1993 dad and his siblings flew the family down for his 30 year high school reunion and we made a family reunion of it as well. We stayed in this amazing place that had several villas surrounding a pool in the heart of Key West. The room Deb and I were in was HUGE with a bed that was the largest bed I’d ever seen for both length and width and the ceiling peaked upwards with the top of the peak right above the center of the bed.

As we crawl into bed that night Deb spots a tiny (I mean itsy-bitsy) spider at the peak-point 25’ above our heads. If there was an inconvenient spot for that little fella to be it was right there, because even standing on the bed, with a broom, jumping up and down I couldn’t reach him. To be honest I think that’s why he picked that spot. Safety First!! So I jump and I huck the broom at him with Deb encouraging me (i.e. chewing me out) on the side of the bed. And she let me know there was no way she was getting back in that bed or going to sleep with that spider hanging out right there.

I grab the can of bug spray and it sprays a few feet, but still not enough even with me jumping and brooming away. So I go for a pillow. On the third throw Mr. Spidey decides that Safety First means a rapid descent and with all the commotion he successfully drops behind the headboard of this crazy, massive bed! Now the battle becomes trench warefare, but he’s on my turf and he has no knowledge of my tactics. Deborah had turned me into a trained killer and though I was only in my undies I had the spray and the broom. With Deb straining to keep her screams quiet I finally dispensed of the little fella in the usual manner.

Sweating from the ordeal and exhausted from the fight we climbed into bed. We spoke about the epoch battle as the scent of bug spray hung in the air and bade each other goodnight. And just as we were turning out the lights, that’s when she spotted the gecko . . .

I am so touched by the verbal and written responses I’ve received from these entries that it will be hard for me to stop writing. Thanks for your patience with me and your feedback and I hope these are as helpful for others to read as they are therapeutic for me to write. Many of you have remarked at how well you believe we’re doing as a family and, once again, I have to give credit to God. There’s no other explanation for this.

If I may – there’s a great quote from scripture where God tells us, “. . . men are that they might have joy.” One of the definitions of Joy from dictionary.com is, “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.” So if I’m Okay now when does this Joy come about?

The best way I can relate my thoughts here are to say that I have absolute confidence that God lives and He has a plan for all of us. He shares that plan through many channels including His word whether it comes via answers to prayers, through scripture or through prophets. And I can have perfect faith in Him. That knowledge brings joy to me even in the midst of my despair.

One other quote as to the state of the spirit after death, “Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life. And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.”

When I consider that Joy will come and that Deborah is in that special place then I can be okay for now.

Being okay means I’m also open to talking about all that has happened, so please don’t feel hesitant to talk about any of this with me. I won’t take offense and if the timing isn’t good I will let you know. But so far I find it helps to talk.

It also means I can be spontaneous where we could not really be that way before. Drop in! We’re usually fooling around doing something fun actually. And we have air conditioning, so that’s always a good excuse to come over. We’re hip on visitors.

Hats off to Deborah’s mom who is still here by the way as she has accomplished many mammoth tasks. Susan has organized years worth of pictures into photo albums. Remember when pictures used to come on thick paper? Well, we had two huge boxes filled with double and triple shots that we never organized and she did it. She also organized my filing cabinet (which was a Stephen King novel in the making) and went through all the kid’s clothes in storage. She also started the process of cleaning out Deborah’s clothes and such from our closet . . . frankly, a task that I could not bare to do.

Susan leaves for home this Friday and I’m not sure how we’ll function then. She’s been a huge help for me and the children.

But I’m okay. Deb trained me well as I mercilessly killed itsy-bitsy’s relative tonight in the bathroom.

Love,

Mike

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Responses

  1. Mike – that’s a very moving story and very brave of you to share some of it at the conference.

    Your story, combined with your social media knowledge and humor made for a great presentation.

    Excellent job!

  2. Mike: I, too, found writing to be very therapeutic during my own wife’s cancer counterinsurgency campaign. I’m reminded of the 12-steps adage “we’re only as sick as our secrets”, and I’m glad – though not surprised – that you were able to be open and vulnerable during your family’s challenges around the cancer … and hope that others find strength and inspiration in the way you have faced the challenges.

    I’m sad to learn that the cancer got the upper hand in the case of your first wife’s illness, but am heartened to read of the way you have made your peace with it.

    • Thank you for your feedback Joe and thank you for your insights and for your taking time to read my writings. I’m really quite shocked about how many people suffer with cancer and then how many more are personally connected to them. It’s remarkable. My hope is that the sharing of our story might be of some help and comfort to others.

      All the best,


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