U is for Unfinished Business: #atozchallenge Day 21

Tangles Beyond Corporeal

Papers from God is what he searched for

Papers strewn about in rampant tangles

Tangles in his mind that blended dreams and tasks

Tangles of unfinished business that he never tended

Tended to us as long and well as he was able

Tended toward chaos in his personal spaces

Spaces grown longer between lucid thoughts

Spaces filled with stacks of papers in jumbles

Jumbles of memories more real than ebbing life

Jumbles of lighters flashlights and pocket knives

Knives of cancer slicing apart his liver

Knives of pain slicing into my heartsick soul

Soul turned inward or outward where I couldn’t go

Soul to soul we once were until his slipped away

Away into dream visions that were his alone

Away to a new reality I couldn’t see or share

Share the business of life for so many years

Share the stuff of living too soon no more

More much more left to be tended to

More letters to finish and policies to find

Find every stack I could lay hands on

Find the inner grasp of growing panic

Panic that wasn’t really about the insurance

Panic and beg him to please help me search

Search through drawers and bins gathered

Search through decades of our shared lives

Lives represented by batches of ephemera

Lives so long intertwined now coming unraveled

Unraveled I yelled and demanded and blamed

Unraveled lucidity and fraying understanding

Understanding nothing now of what I needed

Understanding faded away beyond my reach

Reach for the edge of the drawer now unseeing

Reach desperately for wherever his soul is wandering

Wandering fingers aimless and futilely stretching

Wandering eyes disconnected from here and now

Now I see what I’ve been hiding from in this mission

Now I ask do you know what we’re looking for

For the papers from God he says and he means it

For him that’s all that still remains unfinished

Unfinished business doesn’t include crumpled papers

Unfinished bits and pieces of his unneeded material life

Life and death intertwine as we once we woven together

Life becomes porous and uncertain as death approaches

Approaches slipping and dancing in the tattered shreds

Approaches and swallows up all that is corporeal

Corporeal matters no longer any of his business

Corporeal life ending and yet still unfinished




It seemed so very urgent at the time – those life insurance papers I couldn’t seem to find. I’d given them very little thought over the years. They were something that lived far back in my mind – so much so, that when Jim told me he was changing the policy from one carrier to another, and why, I agreed that it made sense to me, too, and didn’t even pay much attention to where the new policy was coming from.

But when he was diagnosed with terminal metastatic pancreatic cancer, they suddenly seemed like the most important thing in the world.

I begged Jim to find them while he was still feeling somewhat well. But he was busy with other things then – making a bucket list and planning trips to Oregon to see his family and his childhood homes one last time, and to Arizona, where he and I met, so we could share the Grand Canyon and Sedona with our children, flying first class, and maybe even renting a houseboat on Lake Powell, which had been a dream of his for decades.

He was also doing things to see to our well-being – filing for SSDI, arranging to begin chemotherapy to give us the most time together, even climbing up on the battered roof to patch it yet again.  He did some tidying of personal spaces, but there were doctor’s appointments to keep and calls to his family to make, and friends to touch base with while he still had the chance…

And then it was the first day of chemo, only a couple of weeks after the initial diagnosis – and Jim reacted badly to two of the infusions, and ended up in the emergency room. The eventual verdict was that he’d had a minor heart attack, because his liver was too compromised by the tumors consuming it, and it was forcing his heart to work harder than it could manage.

Chemo was canceled, and liver stents were placed to attempt to help the bile ducts bypass the tumors and give him a bit more time…

But it wasn’t to be. Ten days in the hospital, and Jim left visibly yellow from growing jaundice, and on hospice care.  He’d grown weaker and less capable in those days, and, though he rebounded a bit once he was home and could do as he pleased when he pleased, he continued to fade – and my efforts to chivvy him into taking care of the things I thought he needed to failed more and more often.

Sometimes, the unfinished business is only exiting life, and nothing else matters.

As it turns out, I still haven’t found the policy, but I did find the charge on our bank statement, and that was enough for me to eventually get the ball rolling. We’re still waiting, but getting closer to resolution.

It wasn’t the big deal I thought it was. Most things weren’t. I’ve learned that I can work through them, a little at a time.

Just the way we live…

Join us tomorrow, when we explore living our vows.

Unpack more unique U posts!


    • Thank you, Gretchen. That means a lot, and I’ll hang onto it in those moments when the unfinished business – physical and emotional – becomes a little too abundant and evident.

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