My Dragon’s Gone–Now What?

birdanddragon_frontcover_33Those of you who have already read my first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: a Memoir know that the book takes our romance from the moment I first saw my Sy to the moment where I danced with him and said my last good-byes. So what happened next?

I want to sprinkle pictures of Sy through this blog to show the phases in his life and therefore the phases in my life. But the story will be about what happens when the Dragon is gone. Okay we have said our physical body good-byes and now it is time to look at the finances. Sy was a federal employee so he had a pension and social

Sy Kessler early in the Marriage
Sy Kessler early in the Marriage

security. What you may not know is that when you go to the funeral home to start preparations for the funeral the funeral home must report the death to the state and in turn the state reports the death to the federal government. My income stopped the day he died not the day when the government received notice of death. Now I have no income to buy food for all those people that may be coming back to the house after the funeral or to pay any of the household expenses that continue relentlessly death or no death.

Sy died a week before Thanksgiving in 2013. As you may have read in my book, Sy and I had invited the people on our street for a housewarming/dessert evening for the first Friday in December. Then there was Christmas looming and right after that my daughter Felicia and her Joe’s wedding. How was I to pay for this? I rummaged through Sy’s files, he was a good record keeper, but when you are in devastating emotional shock you could put your hand on the information you need and still never see it. I finally found the federal telephone number for spouses of deceased federal workers. I dialed it and it rang and rang and rang! I learned over time that was all you could expect from that telephone number. Once I did get through, I found that I needed but had never memorized my social security number, and so by the time I got back with the number the government representative was gone. Now what? The world is still turning.

Sy as grandfather of small children

Thank goodness I had a small money market account with unlimited access that Sy and I had set up with the money that my mother left to me when she died three years earlier. I had to drain that down until I was horrified that I might not be able to make it financially.

While all of this is going on, I’m also chasing social security. I didn’t do too much better there until just before Christmas. One time a lovely woman answered the phone, listened to my terror and told me that she would look up my accounts and to hold on, she’d be back. She was and she told me that I was close to being processed but she would put an alert on my account and if nothing had changed after she was back from her Christmas vacation, I was to call her and remind her that I had a daughter about to marry her high school sweetheart. She would see what she could do to speed up my account. I did have to call back and she remembered my story and things happened quickly after that.

Now I need to explain that I’m not a total dunce with finances but in my relationship with Sy I carried the check books and handled the household expenses and the paying of the bills. Sy did the taxes, bought the cars, and the houses, and made the decisions about large expenses, usually after a mutual discussion.

Sy at one of the girls weddings

So now we are up to January. We bought our dream house in Forest North, a Senior Community in mid-September and paid the necessary property taxes at that time. I saw the figure and felt we could handle that. What I didn’t know or realize is that was the figure for a half year. I’m into January and my new town wants the same amount of money again! I’m floored. I didn’t know the taxes were so high on a dream house bungalow built out in the middle of farm country in a somewhat sleepy New England town.

But now back to the federal government. I still haven’t gotten a hold of them and that is where the bulk of our income exists. Back through Sy’s files again—and of course by now I’ve gotten them out of order. The brain is so sketchy when you are grieving. I found a request form for a change of address which Sy had never sent in. It had the addresses I needed!! I sent in the change of address form stapled to a letter explaining how long I had been trying to reach them and how lousy their telephone set up was. I got a telephone call!! And then paper work, and then the proper forms, and finally the dam broke and my retirement money was coming in retroactively. I replaced a good part of my mother’s money and began to breathe again.

Sy at his Seventieth Birthday Party

That is one part of the story. The other part is as a therapist I know that one needs to grieve and carry on and do whatever yelling and screaming and fist shaking at God or anyone else they need to do to release the emotional charge of pain. I know this, but I come from a good old Yankee family and one doesn’t make a spectacle even in the privacy of ones bath. So by that following July I got bitten by a Lyme tick and all that non-discharged emotional pain went into being sick. Two years later I’m still in a lot of physical pain but gaining on the Lyme disease.

Through this life transition,  my years of owning and attending the workshops run in our book store Merlin Books, on every metaphysics topic you could dream up, did teach me that my Sy was only gone in body not in spirit. A Beloved may be present at the funeral and then they seem to draw away—we were taught that they go through a life review and make decisions about returning to earth or not returning immediately or ever. This was a tough time for me. But over the months I began to

One of my Last Pictures of Sy

feel he was back again. I had already learned that my mother loved to blink a lamp light when she wanted you to know she was visiting. Not just any lights but always the same light. And with time, I have found Sy does the same thing and he doesn’t use the lamps my mother uses. About a year after Sy’s death I had a lamp on a sideboard and a chair beside the sideboard. I would often settle there to read my mail and I soon got into the habit of saving the mail I didn’t understand—medical statements, insurance statements, etc.—to read while sitting in that chair. I would say something like, “I just don’t understand this stuff,” as I eased into the chair and he would blink the light. So then when I had a problem I needed to discuss I’d go sit in that chair and he would blink the light. He also blinks the guest room light when Annie, the youngest daughter stays in that room, or when our grandson, Andrew stays over.

Over time I find that Sy, in spirit form, is riding on my shoulder just as he did when he was alive. And I can’t wait to get home and it is bedtime so I can tell his picture on the nightstand about the day’s adventures. Those of you who have not gone through a loss like this are saying the Shrink is crazy, but those of you who have lost loved ones, I believe, can relate to what I’m sharing.  And at the same time I feel so close to Sy I also know that should someone come along wanting to be a loving partner with me, Sy will just slide over in my heart and invite the new man in. Love in its truest form is a really beautiful thing!!

The Bird and the Dragon in Loving Exchange





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