I was chopping vegetables for dinner, silent tears running down my face.

I had just gotten off the phone with my sister. It was cancer.

She was terrified and feeling alone, despite the love I tried to pour through the phone. All I could do was listen and witness her pain. Be a witness to her strength. To the woman she was before this label she was already chafing against: cancer patient. I had held it together for her but after hanging up, broke down. All that was left now were tears and the sound of the knife on the cutting board.

My husband came home. He walked in, set down his backpack, glanced at me and went about his business.

As I cried, he checked his voicemail. Got himself a drink. Went through the mail. When the tears did not stop after 20 minutes, he asked me what was wrong. He stood about five feet away, as if my grief might be contagious. When I told him Anne had cancer, he said with a very distinct remoteness, “Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.” And walked out of the room into the office, shutting the door.

Something in me clicked.

I had, of late, become somewhat resigned to feeling lonely in my marriage. I had struggled for years over the right thing to do. I stayed mainly for my kids and if I am completely honest, also because I was terrified of being in the world again without financial support. But that night, I knew I deserved more. More respect. More love. More understanding. More dignity.

And so I followed him into the office and asked quietly, “Do you still love me?” His answer was no. He thought our marriage was damaged beyond repair.

My Before had just ended, and at my own hands. And the first of many Afters had begun.


Kristine at candidkay

103 thoughts on “Witness

  1. Reblogged this on candidkay and commented:

    Friends, Holistic Wayfarer has featured a post of mine this week. It’s deeply personal but I know I’m not alone in pivotal moments like the one I detail, which is why I share. Would love for you to hop on over to her blog and take a look. Be well . . .

    • Indeed you are candid Kay, but there are times when honesty is the only way to get relief. I have seen others wither and die because they could not share their burden. They may use drugs or alcohol or go to shrinks, but they will always harbor the hurt they cannot unload. Prayers for you and your sister too.

  2. (((Hugs))) I’m so sorry you’re hurting right now. My thoughts and prayers are with you and yours…Good for you for realizing you deserve better…you do…I believe in karma and I believe your husband just got on the wrong side of it…you however, you just earned major karma points for respecting yourself…your sister needs you…your “husband” apparently doesn’t…don’t waste any more of your energy on him…sorry for telling you what to do…I just can’t believe someone could be that cold even if the marriage is “beyond repair”….hang in there….you are doing the right thing. There is a silver lining in all of this and I think this is only the beginning for you. Love yourself and love those who truly love you back. (((hugs)))

    • Thank you so much for the kind words. Truly. Here’s the part that many may not know. This scene played out three years ago, almost to the day. It took me that long to find the courage to write about it and put it out there. I did move on–and am now in the early stages of a very supportive relationship. No matter where that takes me, I now know I have the courage to move on when I need to. I’ll always vouch for staying if it’s possible but when it’s beyond repair, life is telling us something. Thank you for the hugs!

      • You are most welcome and I am so happy you have moved forward. Thank you for having the courage to share. So many people out there are hurting and are looking to relate because they feel so alone. So proud of you! 🙂

  3. Reblogged this on Mental Break and commented:
    Please send your positive thoughts and energy to Kristine. She’s going through what many of us face…but we don’t have to let her face it alone. I urge my blog friends to be the awesome support I know you already are xoxo

  4. Ohh! This is so heavy and heart breaking especially as such a time when you need all the moral support that you can get. So sorry for all the pain that you are going through. God will strengthen you and be with you through this difficult time.

  5. “My Before had just ended, and at my own hands. And the first of many Afters had begun.”

    All I can think of is how pivotal this statement is. It speaks so much of hope– even when the next few months will be tough as hell. And it tells me how much we, as people, can find the strength to move on despite our fears.

    I’m glad you’re over this, Kay, and that you’ve given yourself the opportunity to let someone love you like you deserve. I can only hope that others who find themselves in such situations can find the courage to live beyond the fear.

    *Hugs* and I’m sorry about your sister.

    • I can’t say I went through it with as much grace as one could, but a lot more than I anticipated. I tell people going through similar experiences that if you only focus on the ending, it stalls you. But if you see it as a new beginning, hope floats:). Thank you for the kind words and for reading. I truly appreciate it!

  6. All my words suddenly seem so trite. You are finding depth through your pain. Caring and loving makes us so vulnerable. You were there for your sister. Please know that matters, especially because it hurt so much. Your pain matters so much to us, your readers and kindred spirits. Sending you all good thoughts and hopes I can muster for brighter days.

    • Your words are anything but trite! Shared pain is so much more bearable than that we shoulder alone. Thank you for the kind words. And here is the silver lining–this event happened about three years ago. I just couldn’t bring myself to write it then. I have moved on and a lot of healing has occurred. While I still would not ever have wished for this, I have become stronger for it. I hope others are out there doing the same thing . . .

  7. Your courage and strength in sharing this story is remarkable. It is so beautifully written and I sincerely appreciate you sharing your experiences. Thank you.

  8. A very poignant moment. Difficult to share, I’m sure. Sometimes, the best part of life is beyond our misery and all we have to do is look forward while on our way. It takes time, often the thing we are most unwilling to give ourselves.

    • Oh, time. Yes. Not a gift I’m very good at giving myself ever. It was difficult to share but I am sure has been played out in some way, shape or form in so many homes around the globe. Thank you for reading and the kind words.

  9. I ache for you! You were so brave to share this poignant post in hoping to reach out to others who are going through similar things. My prayers and thoughts are with you over this time! I too have listened to the song Stronger by Kelly Clarkson many times! For different reasons, but have it memorized and also like the quote, “If what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, I should be be able to bench press a Buick 🙂 Hope that made you smile. Thanks again for sharing your heart.

      • Years ago.. That once new pair of shoes were your favorite… They are comfortable and then they get worn, I ask people if they have the same pair of shoes from 15 years ago and most say they don’t. People out grow each other unfortunately…

  10. Such heartfelt words, in light of the sadness and grief you experienced back then. I remember the day I found out my sister had cancer too; gripped by fear and helplessness, my life suddenly ground to a halt, trivia fell by the wayside, my focus turned to helping her (even if from far away). When you most needed a shoulder to cry on, a heart to open, you took a chance and then… that one moment in time, that pivotal transition, led you down a healthier path. You are one courageous woman…

    • Thank you. It’s true that trivia and even things that might be important in your usual day to day life fall down the ladder of priority. It’s hard to hear courageous because the situation was forced upon me. But I guess, yes, I passed muster:). I hope your sister is healthy again.

  11. How sad. It’s hard enough to get one of those calls from someone who’s just been diagnosed, but then to have no support from your nearest family member? If my husband came home and found me crying, he would immediately want to know why – and he wouldn’t just walk away once he learned the reason. I know this, because we’ve been through the exact same scenario – the phone call, the crying – but our scenario advanced to hugs and talking about how to help the family member with the cancer. I’m very sorry that your story ended differently – but I’m glad that you’ve moved on into a better relationship.

  12. Sometimes one tragedy announces another but change is generally for the better. Sending best wishes for your sister – and your husband, well, stay strong. I’ve been there.

    • I do believe those of us that have been there are best able to offer support to those currently there. It almost feels like a duty–and I don’t mean that in a bad way. But to share the learning, the pain.

  13. Wow Kristine. Your courage is beautiful. Would a hug have been too much for him at that point regardless of what he felt about your relationship? He seems devoid of human emotion and you deserve this new supportive relationship. I hope you are getting a bit more than hugs though… ‘wink’

    • Hugs were not in the cards at that time, Kristine. I think part and parcel of accepting where we were at the time . . . mum’s the word (couldn’t resist:)) re: what I’m getting:).

  14. Well done. This was like reading the whole of a marriage in just a few lines. To convey so much depth is truly a marvel. I love how you ended the piece. And of course I’m sad to read about your sister having cancer.

    • Thanks so much, John. I’m happy to report my sister has been cancer free for a couple of years now, even after a relapse. And thank you for the kind words. Love to write and when it hits someone, it always means something.

  15. Words are not enough to you how I feel right now after reading your story . I know a woman who is going through the same situation . This post could help her . But i’m scared now . So no couple loves each other till they die ? Or such things are restricted to just movies and books ?

    • Ah, yes. Logical conclusion but in my experience, not true! Thank goodness. I know couples who are just as in love as they were years ago. I have not yet determined the “magic” that makes this happen for some but not others–but I will tell you what you’re not reading in this story. The extenuating circumstances. There were some. I do think our notions about love and marriage have a long way to go, though, to be able to survive our long lifespans and how life has changed from many years ago.

  16. This is an awful way to have realized the intensity of his emotional unavailability, at a time when you needed even just a morsal of empathy. I read your responses to the comments that followed and am glad to hear things are better in your life and your sister’s.

    • Thank you, Susan. When young, emotional availability was not something I really thought about in a man. I just assumed it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized many men struggle with this–and I have no interest in playing their version of Dr. Phil:).

  17. Walking thru a fire, alone, we grope for hope and will of any kind. It isn’t until we look back at our charred landscape and realize, “I am stronger than I knew.”

    Hugs to you. I’ve been thru the fire, the aftermath and the onset of the second blaze. We woman are stronger than we know. Thank you for sharing your journey.☕️❤️

  18. How very strange this scene played out for your 3 years ago. I swear it is a page out of where I was 3 years ago – just it was my father and not my sister.
    And I tried, so hard as I know you did.
    But then I realized I was stronger than I ever imagined.
    I broke the mold in our family for “no divorcing when you have a child” and I was there for my daddy with my son. My ex was not. I think realizing someone you once loved so much could be so heartless when you are so raw and hurting makes you take stock of your life.
    THANK YOU so much for sharing. I needed this. Many hugs to you. You are truly someone I look up to. I think we need drinks and good food together!

    • Oh, honey. I am so sorry. Parallel lives, eh? Mine has not been one you’d want to be parallel with the past few years. I admire you for being there for your father and your son. And yourself. So many times we desert ourselves. Glad you didn’t!

  19. I’m glad to see in the comments that your sister has been cancer-free for some time and that you’ve moved on and are starting a new relationship.

    There are moments in relationships where people reveal themselves. Your ex revealed himself in this moment, and having the courage to write about it and share it gives strength to others who may also be in a relationship that is less than they deserve. Thank you for sharing.

    • One of the hardest parts of divorce, for me, has been letting him reveal himself and accepting what is rather than trying to change. When young, I think a lot of us think we can just change whatever needs to be changed. Ha. And yet, he is not an awful person. He is the good and the bad–just like all of us. They exist in the same person. That’s the part that is sometimes hard to wrap my head around.

      • “And yet, he is not an awful person. He is the good and the bad–just like all of us.” So mature of you, Kristine. It is difficult not to view people one-dimensionally when they’ve hurt us so much. I think esp with our parents – hard to see them as more, as people who once were children themselves and who had complicated lives to juggle.

  20. It is wonderful to hear about “your happy” after the heartbreak. (Thank goodness for comments to share the “After.”) It was moving to learn about the disconnect in a marriage that should be the most intimate relationship for all of us. So much so, that I am reminded to check my own marriage and remove any walls that over time could create a prison of loneliness.

    • Those walls creep up on us, don’t they? Because we rationalize away that inner voice we should always listen to; we allow ourselves to be told we’re overreacting or reading too much into things. I’ve learned to trust that voice. I get into trouble every time I don’t.

  21. Kay this is so heart-breaking that you didn’t get the support you needed at the time you most needed it. But I’m glad that you found a way out, through the fear, to a better future. Thanks for sharing this very powerful post.

  22. So much going on in the spaces between your words ….

    One of my favourite sayings (I don’t know who to attribute it to), is:
    The world is round, and that place that seems like the end, may very well be a beginning.
    Your story reaffirms this.
    Thanks for sharing.

  23. Thanks for telling your story. It is one others share. I congratulate you for making you own new beginning. I’m three years into my new beginning and feel blessed by the support of family and friends. Best wishes.

    • I’m so glad you’re three years in! Amazing the difference it makes and I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t foresee the joy. I hoped for it, but it was hard to see it able to happen . . .

  24. Once upon a time, I realized, like you, that it can be more lonesome to be with someone than to be alone. Add a cold indifference to a bruised heart and you have the epitome of loneliness. Really excellent writing; everyone reading this can imagine how one would feel and will, perhaps, be more aware of their own sensitivity for other people.

    • Thank you for the kind words and for sharing your experience. You’re so right. Alone doesn’t mean lonely most days for me, but sticking with someone who is or has become emotionally unavailable is very lonely.

  25. What is it about those times when we most need support, and a person in the relationship uses that time to bail out? I had a friend nurse her mother through 3 years of cancer treatments. The day after her mother died, her husband walked out of the marriage. Your story is heart wrenching. But it’s so wonderful to see how far you’ve come since then.

    • I don’t want this to sound trite, but I’ve begun to think of it as life forcing your hand. So many times, I think we ignore the small signals and inner voice–and it takes the one-two punch to get us to move out of our comfort zone.

      • I completely agree and do understand this. It’s only when things get uncomfortable enough that we finally take action. Just as you said.

        Pain is a great universal motivator, even though it sucks.

  26. Thank you for sharing with us this most vulnerable of moments. So much cracked wide open at once. Glancing at your blog, it sounds like you are very much journeying into the afters.

    • Yes. Thank goodness, after three years, I am in the Afters. Some better than others but I look back and realize that moment was a gift. A horrible, wonderful, precious gift. Thanks for reading and for checking out my blog.

  27. You captured so painfully what your marriage had devolved into. I know that moment of surrender to your circumstances and triumph in your truth was only the beginning of great hardship. But I love the joyful resonance in your voice today, K. It’s been a hard-won second life, and in your fight for it you still had it in you to tend to him when he (so ironically) found himself on a cancer bed. I’m so glad you got to tell this story. And I caught every word of thanks.

    • Kind words. Thank you so much. Yes, the universe delivers us all what we need, so they say. I am still trying to figure out the cancer bit and why it was that I showed up. But the reassuring bit, for me, is that I continue to prove to myself who I am. That does not seem to waver too much. And to me, that is comforting. I know I’ve earned every bit of this second life and then some. I plan on enjoying it to the fullest–and feel the best truly is yet to come. No cliché there.

  28. What an achingly beautiful capture of what must have been a series of painful moments. I get the ‘befores’ and ‘afters’ – Amazing how memories of pain are how we mark the passage of time. Diana finds the best writers! Glad to have crossed your path.

    • Thanks so much, Michelle, for your kind words. I wish I could mark the passage of time the way I used to–by the joyful passages. But it seems the painful ones are the true growth mechanisms. Thanks for reading!

  29. Pingback: My Article Read (10-11-2015) | My Daily Musing

  30. I wish you all good things as you forge a new path. When you accept what you cannot change and stop pouring energy into it then that energy is freed up for the things that you can. Your spirit shines through your words and I am sure there are many treasures in store.

  31. I hope your sister is on the road to recovery, and that you are well on the road to your new you. It will be rough but I can tell you from experience that the other side is so much better.

    • The beauty is, this incident happened several years ago. It’s been a long road but I’ve traveled it and stayed in one piece. I am more than what I was then. Or maybe I always was and have just recently discovered that fact. Wouldn’t relive it but can now be thankful for the insights it brought. Thank you so much for commenting.

  32. It doesn’t seem possible, but this too shell pass, your life will go on, healing will takes place. You had been cutting vegetables earlier there could have been a whole lot different ending to that chapter. Prayers for your family cancer treatments, our youngest daughter is taking treatments at this time.

    Stay strong, God bless, take one day at a time.

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