Grief…and Loss

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” 

 – Marcus Aurelius

Hello, everyone. It’s been a very long time, hasn’t it?…but today, I finally felt like it was time to drop in for a little bit. If you follow me on social media, you already know some of this but if you don’t, get yourself a cuppa, sit down, and read on…I am very sorry to say that I have sad news.

On the morning of Sunday, May 8, my sweetheart Patrick joined the stars in their heavenly firmament. It was not his intention to leave this earthly plane quite yet; he had plans. We had decided that once he got over this latest beast of a health crisis we were damn well going to go do something for fun, just the two of us. Our anniversary was coming up, too, and my birthday. He was deep into mulling over just what he was going to make happen for that. Whatever it was, I’m quite sure it was going to be big. Done with love and every care for detail from the immense well that was his heart.

We have known each other since 1974, when we met briefly in our senior year at college. We did not “take to” each other.  Apparently the universe had other plans for not too much later we were thrown together again under circumstances neither of us had planned for. Somehow, it was the catalyst, the early tendrils of what would become a long and tensile thread that has bound us together ever since. Through good times and bad. We have had plenty of both.

In our early days, I was so proud to be the girlfriend of this lovely man to whom people gravitated as if he were the sun. I could not understand how I, the shyest of violets, could be so very lucky. I still can’t. Nearly 50 years later, I am still proud to be his girl. The past 7 years, the “transplant years,” were what many people would say were tough, and they were, but in actuality, they were the sweetest years we ever had. They were years gifted to us by a miracle of modern medicine and divine intervention. We never for a moment took that for granted. He was not just thankful to be alive; he wanted to live. Everyone thought he would, once again, beat the odds this time… But it was not to be.

They broke the mold when Patrick McCarty was born. Honestly, that’s a terrible loss for this world we inhabit. I described him as a Renaissance man when I wrote the obituary for the paper and he was. Patrick was: a philosopher, writer, musician, audiophile, music archivist, voracious reader, and a gentleman. He loved people and cared deeply for them. He had a dry wit, a wicked sense of humor, and loved to laugh. He was a deep thinker. He was a romantic, fiercely loyal, and he loved profoundly. He was singularly thoughtful of others. A man with a generous heart, he liked nothing more than preparing and sharing meals with friends and neighbors. If you were his friend, you were a lucky person indeed.

Patrick was all of those things. Yet for me he was more. Was he perfect?  Of course not. But he brought out the best parts of me, giving me confidence to step out from behind shyness and shaky self-esteem.

He was my protector, though I sometimes foolishly chafed at the idea of needing it. He was my support system; my editor (who, by the way, is probably trying to figure out how to get my attention while I am writing this); and my biggest fan. He was my political discourse buddy, professor, and survival kit all in one. He was a master at the little things, which, of course, are, in truth, the big things. He was enormously sentimental. And, oh, so generous. He was able to reduce me to out-of-control laughter, even if I was angry. We laughed quite often, actually. My God, he was funny. He very often would tell me how pretty I looked, even if I resembled something the cat had dragged in. And rarely was there a day when he did not ask: “have I told you today that I love you?” 

I’m not capable, as I write this, in this moment, of the words to properly describe the fullness of his being.

Patrick was everything… my best friend… my great love… my world. The person who understood me above all others. The only person with whom I have ever felt as though I was truly home.

Many of you have been holding us up along this journey. Some of you never got to meet him. I wish I could properly express how much your support meant to both of us. Your generosity of heart has held us up. Thank you.

Four months ago my world suddenly and unexpectedly changed forever. Losing your parents is sad, awful, and life-changing, but losing your mate is in a category of awfulness which surpasses anything I could ever have remotely imagined. I now fully comprehend that until it actually happens to you, you don’t have a clue as to what it’s truly like. 

This grief is omnipotent. It is an uninvited guest, a sadistic shape-shifting trickster, and it invades you both physically and mentally.  You never know when it is going to silently creep up on you and strike – and it does that often. I told someone that it’s like having to wade through a field of snapping turtles – they grab onto you and don’t let go. You have unwanted thoughts and questions swimming around in your brain, and they torture you. And then there are the several layers of this misery. Because it is not just about what has happened to me (in fact, I have barely scratched that unthinkable surface yet). It’s also about what happened to him, the unanswered questions, and the fact that he still had so many things he wanted to do in this life. And it is about the suffering he endured for so long. It all, every bit of it, breaks my heart.

Yet, through all of this, I have found that, perhaps surprisingly, it is still possible to experience joy and to laugh. We celebrated Patrick’s life in June with about 100 people, in a beautiful garden setting; it turned out just the way I had hoped: joyful and full of love. 

I have been so well taken care of by friends, neighbors, and family who have gone beyond the bounds of ordinary friendship. I’ve received scores of heartfelt, lovely letters and cards. People are still making the time to check in on me. I’ve got an affectionate, precious, ridiculous little tiger pants kitty cat (who, I just realized, you have not met yet! Her name is Bonny Christmas Cracker, we adopted her on December 30th and there is a whole other story about that, which I will relate another time) to keep me afloat. And I have our garden, which was my sanctuary through the Covid years, and now, through grief. Never, when I first started working on it 27 years ago, did I dream how important this little postage stamp of real estate would be to me one day.

The grief doesn’t ever go away but perhaps it loosens its grip a bit so that sometimes you can get through most of a day fairly decently. In July, I had a birthday – one of those milestone ones. Of course, it’s a milestone in another, dreadful sense, too. It was beastly hard to think about not having the person who has celebrated with you for just shy of 50 years there for company. But I was well taken care of by old, dear friends and it was a nice day. I’m still straddling two worlds: the one your head tells you is real and the one your heart keeps hoping is just a terrible dream. Because it is still too painful to think the one your head believes is true. 

The sages all say I will come through to the other side and I do believe that is true. In my heart, I know it will be a long journey.  This world is a bleak, lonely place right now. Patrick was my moon and my stars, my North, South, East, and West.  And I, by a stroke of incredible fortune, was his. Right now, all I can see is a vast, dark sky. I am uncertain how to navigate it; I suppose I must float along in the blackness until the day comes when I will look up, notice the stars twinkling in the heavens, and know he is running free with them.

I am getting ready to get back to work – hopefully this week! – though it will be different this year. For the first time in my life, I am going to go at my own pace without apology. It is time to take care of me for a bit. I have regretfully let my dear friends at Beekman 1802 know that I will not be able to make wreaths for them this year, except for one wreath that will hang in their Shop in Sharon Springs, NY. But I AM going to keep my date with The Mistletoe Mart in Westminster, MD for November 10-12. I think it will do me a lot of good to get out and see friendly faces. And, yes, I will be creating new things that I’ll have on the website but they will most likely dribble in at a more leisurely pace. Stay tuned – especially to IG and FB – for updates as I have them. You are all lovely people and I know you will understand. I thank you for that and for your caring, generous hearts that have been there for me for so many years. I do hope that all is well in your worlds. I will be back soon. Love, Cackie

Just a few of my favorite photos of Patrick

And to end on a happy note…a little peek at darling Bonny

Bonny Christmas Cracker

20 thoughts on “Grief…and Loss

  1. I have tears as I read this. Cackie, what a beautiful tribute! I hope to see you maybe next spring or fall. Sending love, light, and prayers from upstate NY, MaryJo Czarkowski

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dearest Cackie, Part of me feels as though I have known Paddy, even though we never met. I think of you often and know we will see each other again. We love and miss you. Please keep in touch. Chuck, Edie and Chip.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dearest Edie, Thank you so much for your always steadfast love and kindness – I feel as though you knew him, too. Let’s hope that 2023 will be a year we can reconnect in person. Love you back – give Chuck and Chip a hig from me. And, of course, one for you, too! xo, Cackie


  3. My heart goes out to you Cackie. I can relate in that I lost my husband May 6 after being together 48 years. You aptly describe how the grief affects you. I loved reading about your beautiful life with Patrick and it’s so wonderful that you found each other those many years ago. My prayers are with you in this most difficult time Cackie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Heather – I am heartbroken for you, just so, so sorry and sad. To think we lost our loves within 2 days of each other…Please know that my prayers are with you as well – it is the hardest thing to get through and I send you my wishes for peace. I will have you in my thoughts as I continue on this journey. Please take care of yourself – hugs, Cackie


  4. I am so sorry to learn of your husband’s death. I know it is a part of life as ‘they’ say but it doesn’t make it any easier on those left behind. My hubs and I have been married for 56 years now – a lifetime! He has Alzheimer’s now which I know can be a long and winding road. He is at the point where I am still able to see the humor in the things he asks and believes but I know from experience that it won’t stay this way! At any rate, I am hoping for the best of memories for you. I think getting back to work is bound to help. 🥰

    Sent from my iPhone



    1. Dear Paige – thank you for all your lovely words and kindness in reaching out to me. I am deeply sad to read about the journey you are currently going through and have no doubt that it is heartbreaking. I send you my best wishes for strength and peace. Cackie


  5. This is a most beautiful tribute. Those of us who have endured loss such as this share your grief and hope it may lighten your load to have many hugs and hands to hold along the way. Deepest sympathy.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “losing your mate is in a category of awfulness which surpasses anything I could ever have remotely imagined. I now fully comprehend that until it actually happens to you, you don’t have a clue as to what it’s truly like. “ yeap, one month after losing my husband , I completely agree with you. Very sorry about your loss. It is very hard. But the memories live on…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Allessandra – First, I am deeply, deeply sorry that you have lost your husband – and just a month ago. I think we both are in for a pretty rough ride for awhile. I’ve decided that it is something to honor and not fight against….we all grieve differently. I regret that you have, unfortunately, joined this awful “club.” Sending you my best wishes for peace – Cackie

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a beautifully written tribute and a true reflection of what it’s like to lose the single most important person in one’s life. My husband of twenty-two years died suddenly of a stroke just three years ago. Am I slowly building a new life–a life he is a vital part of every single day. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am deeply sad to hear of your loss – especially one that was sudden and completely unexpected. Your words give me hope, though. I am heartened that you are able to begin a new chapter – and, yes – still with your love, though not in the way you really want.

      To hear what I wrote touched you is the hightest compliment I could receive. Thank you, and thank you for writing. Best wishes to you on your journey, Cackie


  8. What a lovely tribute to a man so loved. Cackie, you are a gifted writer. I was so touched with your words that I read it to my husband and shared it with friends. I had just finished reading your article during my lunch break at work recently when my dear boss at the financial advisory and planning firm where I work came in my office and told me that my job was ending. Your article prepared me for that news. I realized that my husband and I needed to have more adventures before old age takes its course. He has been retired for 4 years and I have continued to work until now. Thank you for a sad but lovely article that reminded me that my time with my husband is precious and that I need to focus more on him.

    PS I have followed you through the years and you inspired me to make vintage Christmas topiaries, wreaths, and ornaments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Pam, Thank you for your lovely words and, may I say, I am sorry about your job! But, you are right – life is precious. Sometimes those things that seem bad on the surface can turn out to be good things after all. I do remember your name and that you have been with me for years – thank you for that and for your kindness in writing such a heartfelt note. Now go have some fun with your hubby! Best wishes, Cackie


  9. When I met you at the Westminster Mistletoe Mart I instantly felt a connection to you. After learning that it was soon after losing your husband, I knew why. I have always felt people’s energy and I could feel your grief underneath your determination to do the show. No one can know what you really feel, but I have a close idea, as I lost my husband of 40 years. I will tell you it’s an emotional roller coaster. I could not laugh or feel joy for three years. Finally, slowly, the heaviness lifts- and after 7 years I have found myself, am feeling joy, and remembering who I was before I was a wife. You are an amazing woman- a talented writer, besides being an amazing artist. I wish you a future that eventually will be joyous and peaceful. I, like you, am not offering apologies to anyone and am traveling at my own pace. Best wishes- so glad we met!! 🤗 Dar

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, my gosh, Darlene – you’ve brought tears to my eyes with your insightful kindness. I remember speaking with you at the show and was struck then by what a lovely character you have. Thank you so much for the encouragement and the honesty. It certainly is a rocky, winding path, that grief. But I am incredibly fortunate to have many people – like you! – on my side to help me get through to the other side. Sending you my deepest thanks and best wishes, Cackie
      PS Hope to see you next year!


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