The end of 2023 and beginning of 2024 have been difficult. My sister, Libby, lost her beloved husband, Martti, after a sudden and rapid progression of Martti’s MS. After almost two weeks in the hospital, he came home to hospice mid-December. He passed away on January 8th. Martti’s presence in all our lives is deeply missed.
Libby and Martti were soulmates. They were married for over thirty years. Their love story is one for the ages. You can learn more about it in this brief YouTube video. What stands out is the deep love they had for each other, and how they approached all their challenges with humor.
A few years after Libby and Martti married, Martti was diagnosed with MS. I don’t recall exactly when he started using a power wheelchair fulltime, but it was at least fifteen years ago. I loved having a brother-in-law that always saw me eye-to-eye and that I could kvetch with about the lack of wheelchair access and basic services. We also laughed a lot together despite our frustrations.
Martti was the kindest person I ever met and also the most upbeat when he had every reason not to be. A few weeks before he died, I got into an accident when a woman driving an SUV tried to illegally pass the car in front of hers and slammed into my rampvan. Home, in hospice and barely able to speak, Martti asked to see the photos of the damage to my van.
Martti used to be a master mechanic and worked on high end exotic cars. When his MS got too bad, he had to close his business. But he never lost his love of cars. Drawing on his knowledge and old connections, he gave me advice about what to do and where to take my van for repairs. Mind you he was literally on his deathbed at the time. Most people would be focusing on themselves.
The car accident shook me up, and I did get hurt in it, but think I’ve almost recovered after two months. My van is repaired now, though giving it up for a week caused all kinds of logistical problems. I can’t simply rent a car, so I was homebound for I thought would be a week. It ended up being a few days shorter because the auto body shop prioritized my repairs.
On top of everything mentioned, I got COVID again after just having it in October.
It's easy to be overwhelmed when any one thing upsets your daily life, let alone one problem after another. I find a way to get through these rough times is to write poetry. As you can imagine, many of the poems I’ve written during this period are about death and loss. Though, I was privileged to read a poem I’d written about Martti at his service.
Since Martti died, I keep thinking about how sad my sister is and have tried to write persona poems to help deal with all her grief. At some point, I’ll share them with her. Now, when the loss is barely bearable, is not the time. But the poems are helping me. And I know that writing them is allowing me be present with her in her grief. And isn't that what we all want when we suffer such a loss. Someone to be there with us and acknowledge our pain.
The promise of rebirth is just around the corner, made even more imminent as the groundhog didn’t see his shadow. While this period has been difficult, it is a time that I am reminded of how precious life is in all its states. We must embrace it all, what we perceive as good and as bad, because the combination of both is what creates the power and beauty of our time on planet Earth.
I’d love to hear from you about times poetry has helped you deal with and explore different emotions. Leave me a comment and share some poems if you like.
Be well and keep writing.