First Time For Everything

First Time For Everything by Kim Campbell for CareLiving.org

Glen passed away three months ago this week and I’m trying my best to adjust to life without him. Needless to say, I’ve been somewhat without him for years, but at least I could still kiss and hug him and look into his eyes any time I wanted to. Recently I’m finding myself experiencing the shock of the finality of his passing and facing some firsts that I never expected I’d be dealing with at this point in my life.

Although my journey as a caregiver has ended, the new challenges ahead seem to be just as daunting – but inspiring at the same time.

I’m just beginning to settle in with my newfound independence and the responsibility of being the only parent to my children – and on top of that, I’ve started a new foundation and have an entirely new vocabulary of terms and skills to learn so that I can better serve others. I also have the unique task and privilege of preserving Glen’s musical legacy and continuing his quest to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s.

This is the first time I’ve been on my own since I met Glen when I was 21 years old. Since then, I’ve shared most of the biggest milestones in my life with him. Not just holidays, anniversaries, vacations and the glitz and glamour that comes with marrying a celebrity, but the births of our children and grand-children (notice I didn’t say ‘weddings’ … Ashley, Cal and Shannon, are you reading this?) as well as the hardships of overcoming Glen’s addictions and eventually dealing with his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. I did all of these things WITH Glen. Every new chapter in our lives, every new house, new car, new dog – everything was done as a team.

On October 25th, about two weeks ago, I didn’t celebrate a wedding anniversary with my husband for the first time in 35 years. I’ve been ‘doing the remembering for him’ and sending myself cards for the last six years, but this year I tried not to think about it at all – as an act of courage – but that idea backfired and just made me feel painfully empty. Not all firsts are good ones.

Two weeks from now, I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving with my children here in Nashville. This will be their first Thanksgiving without Glen. Thankfully, Ashley and Matthew (my nephew) will be doing most of the cooking while I make Glen’s favorite pecan pie regardless of how badly I burned it last year. (*note: pouring bourbon over it only made it worse!) It’s a tradition that I will keep in his honor – for better or for worse. It’s my way of feeling a connection to him.

I know that it might take some time to get adjusted to my ‘new normal’ as things change, new traditions form and new memories are made. As I look ahead to 2018, I’m both excited and a little scared about the path ahead of me and how I will face the challenges without Glen as my partner. Thankfully, I’m very blessed to have a great family and incredible friends who support me, cheer me on, and help me stay focused on the positivity that sharing my personal caregiving journey is bringing to others. Although it was a bit scary at first, writing my blogs on CareLiving is the first time that I’ve opened up about being a caregiver and has provided me with a new community and feeling of purpose and meaning that makes the risk worthwhile.

I’m looking forward to the holidays, although I know they will be different this year without Glen. The family will still sing songs and eat too much, and maybe this year I’ll even manage to bake the pie without having to use the smoke detector as a timer…

THERE’S A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING!

13 Comments

  1. God bless you, Kim. You’ve been in my prayers. I’ll make a pecan pie (my favorite) in your honor.

  2. Catherine Cepuder says:

    Your husband Glen is still with you in spirit, smiling from on high. I hope this thought will warm your spirit . You strike me aa being a strong spirited lady moving forward but not alone . Thank you for all you are doing in supporting the crucial role of Caregiver in today’s society…

  3. Susan W McCallum says:

    Kim, your blog took me back down memory lane to the firsts after my Wade died. Take heart and be encouraged that although the names are different and the circumstances are not the same, you are not walking this journey by yourself. I am continuing to pray for you and your children as you figure it all out. Peace and joy to you and yours! Susan

  4. Barbara Oster says:

    Thank you for sharing. I have always been a fan of Glens growing up with his music which means a lot to me. Right now I’m a caregiver to my husband of 37 years and have heartbreak every day seeing the slow but steady changes we are experiencing. It’s a very scary disease &I I’m learning gentle responses to many actions that are naturally distressing. Thank you again for sharing your life. It definitely helps. We also listen together to glens songs which can be very emotional but can also open a dialogue.

  5. Thank you for sharing your persnal journey. Following your story reminds me to take a deep breath enjoy the fewer “normal” moments that we have and the strength to prepare for what lies ahead.

  6. Very touching and oh so true. My husband and I almost made it to our 37th anniversary until cancer took him. It has been a year and 4 months so we are just past all the tough “firsts”. There are challenges everyday but with the help of friends and family, we do get through it. Keep up the faith and we will see what God has planned for us. Take care.

  7. Gail Lyons Grier says:

    So beautifully written, thank you so much Kim for sharing journey and the support you are showing others with your organization. I lost my dad and brother, my only other family members, 10 years ago, my father to Alzheimer and I was also his full time care giver. Yes, life will be full of firsts and they do seem to become easier with time. My prayers to you and your family God Bless you.

  8. You’re an inspiration to so many of us. For me, it’s the fact that despite all of the challenges you were there for Glen. I know it must have been hard at times but love never fails. I’ve also been married for 35 years, since the age of 20, and recently i have been focused on the things that went wrong rather than the many things that went right in our relationship. This has been a reminder to me that time is short and in the end all that remains is the love that we shared. Glen will be right there with you all at your thanksgiving table and I’m sure he will be smiling his beautiful smile at the legacy he has left on this earth. God bless you all while you adjust to your new normal. You’re in my prayers. Sincerely, Jill

  9. Carol Swartz says:

    Hang in there, we all miss him not being there. We all have so many memories! God Bless you and the family! With love, Carol S. Winter Park, FL.

  10. Angela Vitulli says:

    Kim – I love this new post. I have been waiting to hear how you are doing since your dear husband Glen Campbell passed away. It sounds like you are you are doing everything with purpose and passion as always, while getting through the grieving at the same time. You are so blest to have had the true love of your life in Glen. And in addition the fruit of marriage: your children
    They all are really special. I feel that you are an encouragement and a blessing and that you have demonstrated great courage – or as Glen’s song title says ” True Grit” throughout Glen’s journey home to the Lord. God knows your efforts Kim and He will guide you as always. Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

    Angela Vitulli – New York

  11. Hi Kim, I was blessed to hear you speak this past Thursday in Bethesda, Maryland. My husband has died also, after battling frontotemporal degeneration/dementia for a very long time. He too, was a very talented professional musician. We both admire you and Glen. You burn the Thanksgiving pie, and I’ll keep my tradition of burning the marshmallows on top of the sweet potato casserole, lol. Our precious daughters are both 19. Our family abandoned us for the most part, during Stephen’s illness. That made it all even more difficult. God bless you and your family. I’ll be thinking of you on Thanksgiving.

  12. Hang in there, As time passes, the pain will become less sharp and farther apart. I believe you did all you could do for him when he lived and now he is resting . His mind is clear and he is without pain. Enjoy your family this Thanksgiving and remember your husband with joy. Hand the pain to God and he will help you through it all. Your family and friends here in Carteret County will be praying for you.

  13. Kim I know exactly how you feel!! I lost my husband to leukemia 3 months before our 35th anniversary. Now 3 years later I still feel a piece of myself is missing. I was 21 when we married & all my FIRSTS were with him too. It’s certainly not easy to go on but with God’s help & friends & family you do. I was his caregiver for 15 years with his disease & I floundered without that purpose. Thank you for your encouragement & transparency. It helps!! I have been a fan of Glen’s since I was 10 years old & I still listen to his music. Hang in there…the holidays are bittersweet!!

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