Grief Reflection: Dave Hitchens in office 2010

This (Time) Too Shall Pass

Monday, June 6, 2011

Grief work takes time. I’d be the first to offer my permission for taking the time needed to synthesize, appreciate and focus on the now to anyone paying attention to their grief. I’d say breath, the other “stuff” will be there tomorrow, this is important mental health care (in sentiment, not in those words!), make sure you will have no regrets later…  Permission is the paradox for those who work in bereavement and face their own loss. We are caregivers to others all day long, but often forget to give ourselves the same permission to take the time grief needs.

Over the last two weeks my time, and most of my writing, has been diverted to the most important laying of the foundation to preempt later grief. Not just preempt grief, but to establish a legacy and perpetual presence, immortality if you will, that gives meaning to Dave’s life work, and the core of his being. With announcement of his retirement, and an impending confirmation of Emeritus status at the Evergreen State college, we have established the David L. Hitchens Scholarship in honor of Frances Marie Rasmussen (his mother) at The Evergreen State College, at which he was a Founding Member of the Faculty,  taught for the past 41 years, and is the last full time faculty to retire.

I can’t explain the deep relief and calmness at the center of this action. Not decision, because we have had this plan in place for a few years. This is taking the necessary step to realize an important acknowledgment of Dave’s accomplishments, his profile, and the philosophy of his life’s work. This is as much a transition to his official retirement now as it is to the future tribute to his life. Over the past two weeks Dave has had to really face saying goodbye to his work as well. For someone who probably would not have voluntarily retired (he was still having fun!), this scholarship is as important to him as to me for healing the hurt. I find a truly humbled man through this review process we are attending; he has a profound sensitivity that makes me love him even more.

On Thursday this week, all six of his kids will be at the ceremony by the college Trustees when Dave will be granted Emeritus status on the recommendation of the entire faculty. I will not be there. I am sure, in the 24 years since Leah’s birth, this is the first outside activity they have done on their own, together. I am deeply happy for them to be finding strength in a new bond. Later this weekend, they will empty out his office.  (Empty out his office. What a difficult phrase for me; the transition to empty.) I am pleased, and relieved, to entrust them to stand for Dave at the meeting and bring home the contents of his office.

Over the last two weeks I have been writing Dave’s stories, summarizing his life, pulling more pictures, preparing our family’s Storybook for Healing on his life. I am planning for his continued perpetual teaching through the scholarship fund. I want future students to know the man behind the assistance. I want to discover and share the stories of how lives intersected with Dave’s. We are pouring our grief into meaningful action. I am learning about Dave differently, as I think he does too, through a retrospective on his life. I am seeing him through an outsider’s eyes, a process that Grief Reflection encourages and embraces in healing.

My mantra for the year is “This too shall pass.” I have to remind myself that this time is the only time today.  Tomorrow, who knows? I feel a tug to be super woman who can juggle the full time work of my business interests and the ongoing emotional work and physical needs of caring for Dave. Plus, I simply want and need to keep energy and focus on my business. Yet, I know there are only so many minutes each day. I know that all too soon I will have more than enough minutes for business and none for my life with Dave.

This too shall pass.

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Note: Click to visit the website dedicated to Dave’s life, career, scholarship development and a guest book for posting memories.

2 replies
  1. Mrs. E
    Mrs. E says:

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!!! What you wrote broke my heart! PLEASE tell me that he is still physically with us.

    Your entire family are in my thoughts.

    Mrs. E

  2. joan
    joan says:

    Yes, Mrs. E., as of this date September 23, 2011 Dave is not only still physically with us but his presence of mind is amazing. In some ways, with the help of our hospice team and Dave’s own tenacity (orneriness), he seems better now than it felt at the time of this writing. (read the latest post on the home page) Last week we celebrated his birthday that neither of us was sure he’d reach. And here we are! You can see for yourself through this recently produced video how this journey has shaped our lives…. Thanks for caring. ~Joan


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