Monday, November 30, 2009

You



I have the very distinct honor of leading a group of the most compassionate people I have ever met. Really. When I tell someone what I do for a living, I am generally met with a questioning look and an awkward silence. Since I don't look like a widow ;) the person across from me generally spends a few seconds trying to figure out WHY I am the director of an organization that supports people who are grieving the loss of someone they love. Many times the assumption is made that I am just that kind of giving person, one who reaches out to the downtrodden, grief stricken, mourners of our world.

But I have a secret. Even though I am a card carrying member (um, the initiation is intense!) of this club, I receive more from this organization than I give. Each and everyone of you are amazing. Our facebook page is filled with support to and from one widowed person to another. The comments left on this blog create the framework for a support network that reaches across barriers of all kinds: geographical, religious, political, situational. Over and over again you all prove the point that we are stronger together. We are facing all of the difficult days in solidarity. Whether our challenge is a National Holiday, a deathiversary, a birthday (yours, your spouse's, your kids), or one of those private heart wrenching days no one else would recognize...we all know there is someone associated with Soaring Spirits that will understand, completely.

This week SSLF is hosting holiday parties in four different states (CA, TX, WA & NY). Why? Because we need each other. And I can't think of any better way to start this holiday season than by being surrounded by people who understand me, and you. I think of attending these parties (and I will be at three of them!) as a way of getting my holiday vaccination! The love and support of my widow community will give me the boost I need to run the race of the next five weeks. I want to take this opportunity to thank my board members (Barbara, Michelle, and Patience) and one special Camp Widow attendee who has spearheaded the party in Seattle (Dana!) for their tireless efforts in support of widows across the country, and around the world.

If you are a widowed person, or love a widowed person, or wish to support a great cause...join us. And if you aren't close enough to come by, know that you are well represented, and with all of us in spirit.

See, that is my secret. I carry all of you with me in spirit. Thank you for reaching out a hand to another widowed person. We are all better, and stronger, for every single outstretched hand.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Take It All


We are all at a standstill. You and me.

You poised to help, not knowing what to do.

Me, on the other side, wanting help, not knowing what to ask for.

Art’s presence has been with me all day.

I just stood in my kitchen crying.

Pallas looking on, hugging me.

"This is so hard." I said

'I miss him too, Mommy." she said.

And I want dinner delivered tonight… food that I would feed them.

And I want my kids fed and washed and put to bed… the way I put them to bed.

And I want the bills paid…the way I pay them

And I want someone to take away his music. I want to hear nothing.

And I want someone to take away his clothes, his everything.

If I can get to the nothing, the longing will go away. The hope that, maybe this time, when I walk into our bedroom, he’ll be there bald and laughing, will disappear.

I want to erase all this.

It won’t hurt if it’s gone.

Fuck.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tough Month




"December is the toughest month of the year. Others are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, October, August, and February." Mr. Twain hit the nail on the head with this quote, but December truly is a month that tests my perseverance more then the other 11 on the calendar.

I think as widows/widowers there are times of the year that are just a straw away from breaking the camel's back. Those times where if someone just looks at you funny you burst out in tears. Plus, the holidays just add to the burn that is already present in one's heart.

December is all encompassing of all I've mentioned above. It's a time with cheer, lights, parties, gifts, family, yada, yada, yada. Overall, it's a time that can be a tad hard to swallow when the person you'd most like to enjoy it with is not around. Add your wedding anniversary, and birthday to the mix and it makes it even more of a test of this "strength" we have.

The first "Hell Week" (Dec. 21-28) was not a good one. The family didn't know how to handle Christmas, I drowned myself in my sorrow, my eyes were swollen from crying and my voice hearse from screaming, "Why!!??" repeatedly. Now don't get me wrong, I went into it hoping to make it one Michael would look down and smile upon, I just wasn't ready to see the "roses and beauty" this darkness of a time held.

The second "Hell Week", was a tad better. I tried a new haircut, shared it with one of my dearest widow friends, stayed up sharing stories, looked at photos, cried tears of joy of things I've been blessed to have, but overall a huge change from the previous year.

This year I have no clue what way the emotional wind will be blowing, but I'm ready to pull up the "sail" and let it take me where it wants me to go. That's all I can really ever do in this life. Good times and bad. Happiness and sadness. January, May, October....December. No matter how tough they may be.

Yeah, I don't even know if there is a message to this. It's kind of a chex mix of a post, so I'll end it on that note :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

musical memories

Photo by Misspiepie


Today, as I scanned through my CD collection in search of something mellow yet fun to listen to while doing housework, I found that every. single. bloody. CD had some memory intertwined in its' melody.
I found myself sobbing due to the fact that I am the one now, the ONLY one, who remembers dancing in the wheelhouse of the boat in the middle of the night to Van Morrison with my head upon his chest. The one who can recall playing "Smooth" in my little truck on the way to Port Hardy and singing at the top of our lungs. The one who has stored in my head the long ago deleted messages of Jeff singing Jeff Healey's "Angel Eyes" for me to find in the morning on the answering machine.
Each of these memories are sacred and terrible. I love them. I want to keep them. But they pain me with a new and fresh pain.
I had been shying away from these memories. Hiding them in the bottom of my brain's sock drawer. So now at 20 months out, I can either play the music, have a big ole pity party for myself that will last god-knows-how-long...or I can buy some new music.
So tomorrow, I am heading to the music store. I need a soundtrack that'll make me light on my feet, not heavy in the soul.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Empty Seat Beside Me



Before Phil's death, Thanksgiving Day was filled with gratitude for the gifts of the present. Then death changed my focus, and the past was were my heart longed to be.

On my first widowed Thanksgiving Phil's empty seat at the dinner table represented only my personal loss. Knowing he would never again sit bside me as we spoke aloud the things for which were grateful, around our Thanksgiving table, made the empty space beside me pulsate in my mind's eye. My heart radiated pain, and sitting through the meal required every drop of determination I possessed. The laughter around the table hurt my ears, the sadness my entire family felt burned my eyes like gas, and every thing for which I was grateful was somehow associated with grief.

The following year when Thanksgiving dinner came around, I found myself feeling more bitter than sad...that unoccupied seat beside me emphasizing the obvious fact that I was alone, and that Phil was still dead. His continued absence baffled me in an inexplicable way. I could hardly look at the seat beside me.

365 more days brought resignation to sit beside me at the Thanksgiving table. Phil's absence was as much a part of my life as his presence once had been, and I found that oddly comforting. We all missed him, we all talked openly about his funny antics, and as a family we learned how to include the joys of the past into our Thanksgiving celebration. I became resigned to the realities of widowhood, but able to be grateful for the gifts surrounding me.

Year four I was taken off guard by the realization that I was okay by myself, not just pretending, or wearing a mask, or making the most of a difficult day...but really okay. I didn't feel less than, I felt whole. Missing Phil had become a part of my daily life without consuming me completely. I didn't know this until I heard myself laughing and turned to the seat next to me without flinching in pain.

Somehow Phil's empty seat has come to represent more than just my personal loss. That seat is now filled with the spirits of the many people who have been gifts to me during my life. Today I count the blessings of both the past and the present. Losing Phil opened my eyes to the many gifts that have come and gone from my life. The gifts I can no longer touch have become all the more precious. I count blessings in a new way, and my gratitude list has experienced some amazing growth as a result.

And year five? I have realized that there will always be an empty seat around our family table. There is no other person who can fill the space that Phil occupies in the hearts and minds of every single person who loves him, including me. Now I know that his seat doesn't need to be physically filled for his presence to be felt. I can see that he has been beside me all the time, but I was in too much pain to see him there. He was a very patient man, and I can imagine that he just continued to sit in his seat, rolling his eyes, waiting for me to notice him.

Now I can see you honey, thanks for waiting.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks ....


.... is not something easily done on this path of widowhood, is it?

I have plenty of reasons to not be thankful ... and we all know what the biggest one is, as I continue my march toward the second year of his death. This Season is difficult enough for each of us, but for those who's spouse died during this time of the year it can be excrutiating.


But, as I have said before, there are so very many negative and crippling things on this path, that it's nice to sometimes stop and notice what's good.


So today I will focus on what I am thankful for. It's a bit difficult because I am spending this holiday in the home where Jim grew up. I know that the memories and the grief will slam into me several times over the next few days.

But I will try to focus on what is good .... even though this week will be mostly "matter over mind".


I am thankful that I had Jim for as long as I did. Even if I were able to go back and live this life again, knowing how it would end, I'd choose it all over again. If he is the only love I will ever have in my life, his love will have been enough.


I'm thankful that I have 6 healthy and relatively happy children (how happy are teenage boys anyway?). I'm thankful for the father that they have and the example he set for them, especially for my sons.


I'm thankful for my family. I love each one of them, even though I don't always express it or call often enough .... and hope they know how very much they are loved.


I'm thankful for my friends. I would not be here today if it were not for the love, support and time that they've all given to me over the past 23 months. I love each one for the special things she or he did and/or said. Even the friends who are far away, and those who aren't in my life as much anymore. Each one has left a fingerprint on my heart.


I am thankful for the other men and women on this path. Each one I've met, whether in person or on line, as been such a source of support and strength and comfort to me. I know that I am not alone, nor am I crazy for feeling the way I feel. I know that I am understood .... sometimes without even having to speak.


And most importantly, I am thankful for my God. He was with me before I knew Jim and He's with me still .... even though I don't always feel Him. My head knowledge has been able to pull my heart along on this path some days (months).


I could go on and on .... which, now that I think of it .... is a very good thing.

Isn't it?

I will refrain from saying "Happy Thanksgiving" and will instead wish that your Thursday is as good as it possibly can be.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Serenity Now....


Remember the Seinfeld episode where George's dad keeps yelling: "Serenity Now"? He's supposed to be chanting it in a low melodic voice but instead yells it during times of stress.... I think I'm going to try it! ;)

The last month or so has been very stressful for me, and I've lost focus on the things that should matter to me right now. I've been running in circles trying to do it all, and in the course of it have managed to do all and nothing at the same time. Work has been intense, homework and school activities are constant, home responsibilities and chores, (lions and tiger and bears, oh my...). I've made some time (thanks to several of you who know who you are!) to do a few fun things, but I'm so worn out that I almost don't enjoy them. So far I haven't been too grumpy with Grayson, so that is a good thing. But, the challenge is finding the soft spot, something has got to give, and all of these demands seem like non-negotiable responsibilities owned by me alone.

The whole situation is making me less tolerant and grouchy. Case in point: I met a new neighbor this past week, a nice enough lady from across the street. I've been here three months and have never seen her. Her comment when we finally met was "I heard you work, so I guess that is why I haven't seen you....." She repeated this phrase: "you work..." three times throughout the course of our two minute conversation, and each time the judgement was implied: what kind of woman works instead of raising her children full-time? Who knew a working mother was such a novelty in the 21sth century...Good God I wanted to punch her. Of course I smiled, and said "yes, I do work" while inside I wanted to scream Frank Costanza style "Serenity NOWWWWW!" I guess I'm a little on edge. ;-)

I find myself trying to list the things that are going well and the balls that I'm not dropping in an effort to calm the screaming inner voice. I'm looking forward to the long holiday weekend and the time with my family for Thanksgiving. I need a bit of grounding, and hanging with my parents and brother will make me feel a bit more "home" than I have been feeling lately. It will be a great way to carve out some quiet time and give thanks for the many blessings I have in my life.

I'm looking forward to coffee at sunrise looking out over the Gulf of Mexico and concluding in my mind "serenity now".

Happy Thanksgiving ya'll - Michelle D.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Being Okay With Me



Last week was very difficult. More than one person took issue with the way I handled an issue or a choice, and one of the questionable decisions involved my opinion about the man who killed my husband. Finding out four years later that my choice was not appreciated hit me hard. And I found myself floundering in the abyss of grief once again.

Being widowed for over four years has provided me with a certain grounding. Most of the time I feel confident about the person that I have become since losing my husband, and my post-death self recognizes that life is too short to waste time trying to please everyone. I don't hold grudges, I say I love you (even when I am angry or annoyed) often, and I attempt to honor the good in myself and others. These are things that death has stamped on my heart, and lessons that have been reinforced the hard way. So, when my world began to spin wildly this week I was taken by surprise.

My solid footing was shaken by the idea that someone doesn't think I did right by Phil. Having spent every minute of the last 449 days in an effort to leave no doubt that Phil's life mattered, that my love for him remains, and that my life is a reflection of the many things he taught me just by being himself...this was devastating news. I cried, I reflected, I questioned myself (both the old me and the new me), and I felt that awful need to curl up in the fetal position and give in to despair.

Then I remembered. I can't please everyone. Those simple words gave me the strength to stand up for myself. For some people nothing I do will ever be good enough. No memorial to Phil will ever embody his entire spirit. There are people who will never understand the depth of my love for him. Every choice I make as a widowed woman will be questioned by someone. In some circles the fact that I am in love again will mean that I am over Phil. I am certain that people around me will wonder if I will be done with this widow thing now that I have a plan for my future.

The answer is NO I won't be done with this widow thing. I am a widow. I will always be a widow. I will continue to honor the love I have for one amazing man, even as I love another one. I am certain to do some things wrong. I may not honor Phil in the same way others do, but I will do my best to remember the lessons death has taught me, and to act on them in my daily life.

And no matter what anyone else thinks of my actions, my choices, my work, or my words~I will be able to sleep at night, because I will be true to myself. Phil would be proud.

**This is a photo of me with my nephew Miles. Who could give in to despair when looking at that adorable face??**

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Whose Name?

Whose name

do I put

on the school forms for the kids

in the space

where it says...

In Case of Emergency?






---

The 11th day is 6.5 hours from being over.

I am not dressed. I did not do my hair. I have not put on my contact lenses.

I wear a pair of Uggs, sweatpants, a long john shirt and a fleece. The plumber will just have to deal with it.

I do not want visitors. I do not want to go out. I am sure that if I open his closet and smell him, I will stay in it until my back hurts or the kids come home.

I sat in the living room today, opening cards and crying. I napped and dreamt my daughter almost died.

I've lost all of his memories, his half of the kids. Our reactions to poopy diapers, temper tantrums, funny word orders. I don't remember them all. Now, part of my children's lives are gone. Part of who they were has just disappeared.

Those thoughts, comments, memories, all the things that I couldn't remember about our kids are gone. They went with him.

This is what they mean by lonely. I had no idea.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving



With the holidays upon us I started creating a list of things for our organization to make this time a more bearable one. I thought I'd share it with you all below:

The holidays have a way of magnifying our loss and can be a difficult and confusing time of year. “What to do? How to act? How to wake up and seize the day?” are just a few of the thoughts running through our widowed brain. With Thanksgiving kicking off the rollercoaster ride we’re all on this holiday season we thought we’d put together a list of ideas and things to do to make this time one you can enjoy.

· Help Others

o Bake Goodies to Donate to a local organization or charity that is helping to feed the needy this holiday season.

o Having guests over? Ask them to each to bring clothing, books, canned food, etc. and donate them to local shelters (women’s, homeless, animal).

o Deliver or hand out food for a local church, VFW hall or hospital or shelter.

o Volunteer in a Thanksgiving Trot or local festivity that may be going on that day.

o Host local military personnel that may not have a place to eat.

o Visit these sites:

§ www.volunteermatch.com is a great resource to find something in your area.

§ www.craigslist.com >community section also is a good site to find volunteer opportunities.


· Give Thanks…to yourself and others

o Go to www.legacy.com/soldier/home.aspx and leave a message to a stranger who made the ultimate sacrifice as well, or visit www.letssaythanks.com and send a free postcard to military members serving overseas.

o Start a Gratitude Journal. It's pretty simple. At the end of every day, write down five things that have made you happy or appreciative that day; not necessarily big things, even small ones count. For example: 1) nice weather, 2) being thanked by a customer at work, 3) my pet, 4) having people who love me, 5) or a funny joke to tell everyone.

o Be grateful for old traditions but don’t be scared to start new ones. Ask your kids or friends if they have an idea.

§ Here’s a site that has ideas on starting new traditions on Turkey Day: http://aginggrandparents.suite101.com/article.cfm/new_thanksgiving_traditions

o Don’t feel pressured to celebrate if you’re not in the mood. Be thankful that you recognize your boundaries and know that there are not right or wrong decisions. There’s only the decision to follow your heart and what you can bear.


· Remember

o During Your Holiday festivities, go out by yourself or with your children and pick out a candle. Square, round, scented, unscented, whatever you like, and light it at dinner or whenever you choose, as a representation of your loved one who can’t be there. Light it when you miss him, light it when you feel him, light it when you need to feel the glow of his love.

o Write a message to your hero of all that you are thankful for that he made possible or did to make your life better. Tie it to a balloon and send it up to him.

o If you’d like, you could do an empty place setting for your loved one at the photo, as they do at military balls and other military functions. Here is a link to read more about it:

http://regimentalrogue.tripod.com/srsub/mess_dinner_organization_c.htm




· And Most Importantly…..Relax

o Stick in a favorite movie or go to your local theater.

§ Visit http://www.google.com/movies to find your local showtimes.

o Hog down on turkey, stuffing, and pie till you pass out, while watching the Macy’s Day Parade on TV.

o Not cooking but still want a Thanksgiving Feast? Cracker Barrel and Denny’s are two spots open that day that serve all the fixings and more. Check your local newspaper for other places in town that may be doing the same.

o Don’t want a Thanksgiving meal? McDonald’s is open for all your Big Mac and french fry needs. Also, Chinese Take-Out is a sure bet on this day as well.

o Pick out an outfit to go shopping in on Black Friday and buy yourself a gift for surviving your 1st, 5th, 20th….Thanksgiving without your hero. You deserve it.

o Cry, scream, laugh, sleep…. Do whatever you need and remember to breathe.




Other Useful Links and Articles:

Thanksgiving Day on a Dime:

http://ezinearticles.com/?Thanksgiving-Dinner-on-a-Dime&id=3294143

What to do with your leftovers:

http://www.chow.com/stories/10812

Thanksgiving Day Games and Crafts:

Friday, November 20, 2009

on the brighter side


In a bid to exercise positive thinking, I have borrowed an idea I read on another widow's blog (unfortunately I can't give the widow credit as I cannot, for the life of me, find were one of my midnight rambles through the blogosphere took me - If it was you, please let me know, so I can give you credit!) and list some of the better positive ....not-so-crappy things about widowhood and the experiences that have happened. I DO, however, wish with all my heart that I weren't a widow. That Jeff were here holding me now and that my children and I hadn't had to go through this. Anyhow....


1. I am 'glad' that Jeff died in my arms. I was there with him. I held him. He knew he wasn't alone. I know what happened. There are no questions for me and no hazy details that cause more agony. (This was the heavy one. The others are much more...vacuous and light-hearted, I promise).

2. I am glad that I now have the insight to know reasonably well what is 'small stuff' and what is 'just crap'. I thought I knew before. I didn't. I still have difficulty at times staying 'above' the ruckus. But I often have the realization that the issue won't last or even be remembered later that day....If I breathe, I can let 'it' go more easily than before.

3. As with all marriages, our identities were intertwined. I loved this. I loved being a unit, a team, husband and wife. Although now, I find I often feel that I am standing naked in a crowd; I also find that the fear and confusion of being alone is off-set with the feeling that I can reinvent myself. I can release what I didn't like about myself or my life before and start new and fresh. I can try on new hats, use different words and exercise internal muscles not used in such a long time. I loathe the necessity to change because I am only 'one' now, but if I look in a slightly different light, I can feel a slight excited tingle in "What can happen now?" Maybe the kids and I will travel (one can dream, right?), maybe I will write a children's book as I have always wanted, maybe I will cut the firewood myself this year, maybe I'll be able to support the kids comfortably on my own.....It goes on and on

4. I can load the dishwasher MY way. I can tuck the sheets into the bottom of the bed. I can get a goat if I want to. I can feed the kids tofu. I can have not one dollar of this household go to cigarettes. I don't have to listen to WCW in the background as I sew. I can buy organic food without justifying why organic strawberries are better for the kids. The small stupid things that caused tiny ripples in our household, now not only mean so little, there is also no one to bicker with them about. Bittersweet.

5. ................Okay, I am done. I am trying to find more positives. I am trying to BE positive. But it's hard. Number Four was hard. It made me think of those times that I listened grudglingly to WCW as I sewed. I could see Jeff in the reflection of the window above my sewing table elbows on his knees in rapt attention. I'd snort and scoff at the phoney throws and pins. I'd say, " I CAN'T believe you watch this!" He'd always say, "I know it's fake, but you're wrecking it!!!....And besides they are amazing athletes to be able to do any of this stuff!" Now, I miss the childlike wonder with which he watched it. I miss his laugh and his unconscious eating of some snack. He'd eat fast when the match really heated up. Slower when they were circling and cat-calling. His buddy, Finnegan, and he would call eachother mid-match, "Did you SEE that?" They were like two little boys. God, I miss him. I so miss what he brought to me, to our family, to this home.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

the dvr



there are

odd things around

the house that

trigger memories of liz.

on the refrigerator,

behind some mismatched magnets

is

a recipe with its

accompanying ingredient/grocery list

and

a list of things

to do around the house

before a dinner party

thrown long-ago,

(all in her hand writing).

one of the

worst triggers is

the goddamned dvr.

a source of constant

disagreement for two people

with widely different

tastes in tv/movies.

reruns of the gilmore girls,

episodes of the real world,

the hills

and more

all on “series record” mode,

all chosen by

liz.

i’m never going

to watch any of

this garbage

(didn’t when she was here, won’t now that she’s gone).

but,

how do i delete the episodes

she recorded

but didn’t get to see?

she’d be pissed

at me if i deleted

her shows.

so the dvr

continues to fill up

and i feel too

guilty to stop the

shows from

being recorded.

another thing

that really hits me

is that i’m

still getting her e-mails

on her blackberry.

i’ve already mentioned

the e-mails from

babycenter.com

but barack obama

and his supporters

e-mail liz way more

often than,

babycenter.com,

macy’s,

bloomingdales,

neiman marcus

and pottery barn

combined.

just today

michelle obama wrote

liz

asking her to help

“register and mobilize voters”

i know

liz

would have been

happy to work

arm-in-arm

with the future

first lady,

(obama was going to get her vote in nov.).

but

i’m not sure

liz

would be an

effective mobilizer

right now.

maybe i should

send michelle an e-mail

letting her know

what’s goin’ on.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mind Over Matter?

I used to believe in that phrase. After all, if you just tried hard enough, if you just had the right attitude, if you just pulled yourself up by your bootstraps .... your life would be better. Right?
Well, this phrase worked for me until mid December of 2007. Then my life was shattered, along with my heart, and my life became "matter over mind".
I was no longer capapble of changing the way I felt by just thinking positively. I barely had the strength to breathe, let alone pull myself up by any bootstraps.
I found that I could not rise above my grief just because I wanted to. The waves did not cease slamming into me just because I willed them to stop.
The tears did not stop flowing simply because I was tired of crying and wanted to be dry-eyed for at least an hour.
The day that grief came in my door, and in my heart, I met something bigger than myself .... something that I could not will out of my life no matter how hard I tried.
I learned that in many situations life is a case of "matter over mind". There are many people who don't get that, just as I didn't get it before I was thrust onto this path. They think that we should be rising above the situation and enjoying this time of year now. They don't understand that it's impossible to force yourself to enjoy "the most wonderful time of the year" when your heart is half gone. They don't "get" why this "season of family, joy & happiness" is not that kind of season for us.

But the day grief walked into my heart, something else came in, too. It, too, has changed the way I look at things and at people. It's called "Compassion" and it's a gift from being on this path. There are so many painful and negative things on the path that it's nice to sometimes stop and note the gifts I've received. I had compassion "before" but nothing at all compared to my "after" compassion. It's changed my eye sight. And it's changed my heart.
So .... even on the days when I cannot accomplish "mind over matter" during this holiday season, I can know that I'm not alone and it's OK to feel the way I feel. The season will be over soon enough and maybe next year's will be just a bit easier.
One season at a time, right?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What Do You Need?

(Me, Andrea, and Kim at the Rock and Roll Half Marathon on Sunday)

In a recent conversation with a friend about my interest in ever dating again, I was asked the following question: "You are so strong and so independent, do you ever really need someone else? You don't seem to need anyone for anything." It actually started a month long internal dialogue with myself that hasn't quite been resolved.

What do I need? I'm not sure what the answer to that question is right now. I can more easily define what I miss. I miss the feeling of "coming home" when I would see Daniel after a day at work. I miss knowing that out of everyone in the world, he'd choose to be with me, day after day after day. I miss feeling "known" - inside and out. I miss knowing him in that way and being linked in heart and mind. I miss being a part of a team with a common goal. I miss Team Dippel.

I've read the statistics that say people who were happily married are more likely to remarry after losing a spouse. I'd agree this seems logical. I know how fun and happy a truly great marriage can be. I'm not opposed to going that way sometime in the future. I will say though that my standard for what is good enough seems to be impossibly high. I'm not sure if it is artificially high. Am I trying to make it impossible for anyone to be a part of my life? Or have I just not met anyone who meets the standard? I guess we may never know. When it is right for me, it will be right for me.

What do I need right now? I need to thank my friends for helping me redefine what is home for me. I'm not even close to finished, but it gets a little more clear every day. Thanks to my wonderful friends, like Kim and Andrea above (and many others who didn't run with us on Sunday), who are running this very personal race with me, and trying to understand my various twists, turns, bumps in the road, back tracking, stops to stretch, etc. I appreciate you all being on my team.

Happy Tuesday - Michelle D.

Monday, November 16, 2009

When there are no thanks to be given

Leaf in puddle #5

Michele is on vacation this week. Filling in for her this week is guest blogger Candice.

Candice was only 27, her husband Charley 28, when he crashed into a pole and died instantly during an organized bicycle race in July 2005. She writes about her widowhood journey on her blog, Crash Course Widow.

------------------------------------------

As any of us widows and widowers know, one of the most trying times of the Annual Widowed Calendar is upon us. It’s impossible to turn on the TV or walk into any store without having it crammed down our gagging, grieving throats:

The holidays.

That formerly joyous, happy, oblivious time of year where we got to focus on fun, holiday frivolity; mindlessly giving thanks for all we have; and spending time with those most important in our lives. But for the widowed—especially for those stumbling through the quicksand of the first year of widowhood—this time of year is downright excruciating.

As a four-year widow, this is my fifth time around for all of these holidays. And I do have to say that they have gotten easier over time. Not consistently and not in a steady linear improvement each year, but by now, they aren’t as painful as they used to be. I can make it through most of the big actual holiday days while smiling and enjoying myself, thinking remarkably little about my husband.

But it certainly hasn’t always been this way. And ironically, over the years I’ve almost struggled more with Thanksgiving than I have Christmas. Four years ago, as a brand-new, four-month-old widow, Thanksgiving 2005 was my first introduction to a holiday without my husband. And that’s the year when the knife began to twist in my heart about the notion of “giving thanks.”

How on earth can you give thanks for what you have when every fiber of your being is still screaming for the one thing—your beloved spouse—that you can’t have? I knew what I was supposed to feel thankful for: my daughter, the love and support of my family and friends, that I was able to stay home full-time with my child, the life insurance money that gave me options, my health, my home, all the good memories and good times I had with my husband, blah, blah, blah. We’ve all heard the litany of blessings for which we should, in our widowed state, bend over backwards and kiss the heavens.

But what always made me want to scream about Thanksgiving was that nowhere did I hear one honest, authentic allowance for grief, no acknowledgment for the wrenching reality I was feeling inside my heart and still facing every day…even especially as it became years after Charley’s death. Nor did I ever hear my husband’s name uttered even once on Thanksgiving. I was alone, it seemed, in my inability to be “thankful.”

It got so bad that, by the third time I had to face Thanksgiving, I boycotted it entirely—a choice I could tell my family didn’t really understand. I refused to spend it with them (after all, it was a year I was supposed to spend it with Charley’s family but wasn’t) and instead I went to a restaurant with a widowed friend of mine from my support group and one of her teenaged sons. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it was also the timeframe where I felt at my lowest in grief, the absolute worst of this entire now-four-year journey. I think my misery and anger were the only things that allowed me to rebel that year. I just couldn’t put on that hated mask—you know, the public face, the game face, the “no, everything’s fine…we're good” fa├žade—for one more holiday.

And I had a wonderful dinner with my friend. For the first time on a Thanksgiving, I got to be honest about my mixed feelings about the holiday and how hard it still was every day to live without my best friend and husband, got to hear the same sentiments echoed back to me from my friend.

And the world didn’t end because I honored my grief and my need to be authentic during the holidays. I felt better for taking off that mask for a change. But what was key for me was that I finally had to speak up about it. I had to start mentioning that some holidays—like Mother’s Day, like my daughter’s birthday—are still hard for me every year because my husband was (gasp) still dead and that I couldn’t always do things simply because they were my family’s traditions. I had to be willing to say out loud the things that, earlier in grief, I’d been unable to voice. I had to be brave enough to accept and admit to other people—even ones who didn’t really get it—that I was still grieving, no matter how long it had been since my husband died. I had to be willing to risk upsetting people and feeling self-conscious.

I’m not saying it was easy. But over time, it has worked…for me, anyway. And as the grief got better over time, the holidays have gotten easier to face. With the raging grief mostly an historic footnote these days, I can honestly say that I now can give thanks on this particular holiday. I’m thankful for my beautiful daughter, my wonderful husband, the endless support I still get from the faithful friends who have stuck by my side throughout this journey, my ability to write what I’m feeling, my family.

And I’m thankful for all of you reading, for knowing that I’m part of a larger community, a family of the broken- and healing-hearted who do understand what it’s like for your world to end when you least expect it, what it feels like to live with death, loss, and grief and to still have to learn to live again, every day.

I’m thankful for each and every one of you. I wish we'd never had this reason in common to "meet" in the first place, but I'm so thankful, each and every day, that I'm not alone on this path.

And I'm truly thankful that the grief does get better over time and that Thanksgiving now is far easier than it was four, three, or even two years ago. I'm thankful that I can now give thanks in my heart again, without feeling like a traitor or that I'm being unfaithful to my husband or in my grief.

I wish each of you as much peace as possible over the next weeks.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Grasping at Control


It hasn't been 48 hours yet. I want to change....
something; move the piano, cut my hair, paint the ceiling, rip everything off the shelves. Sell everything....today! Start over.

I want my outside world to relfect my inside turmoil. The calmness that is slipping away, the trepidation, the impending emptiness that slowly lowers its vail and the grief that I no longer have the strength to keep at bay.

It's all coming. There is nothing I can do and I am scared shitless to loose control.

---

It's been 10 days since he's died.

It's the physical manifestation of sorrow that leave me winded: the always present stomach ache, the feeling like I want to shred my skin, pull at it, take it all off. It's the heaviness of my voice, and how I can't get my eyes completely open.

Everything is so dull. When I laugh deeply I am surprised by its sound and depth and fullness. I am embarrassed by its bawdiness.

The ceiling of grief hovers closer, as do the sides of it, closing in. My mother left today, my in-laws leave Monday. I pick up Art's cremated remains on Tuesday. I am pretty sure that on Wednesday I will not be able to get out of bed.

Funny, even now I am "planning" for collapse.

"This contract is to set forth the terms of grieving. Grief can be had after the following conditions have been met:
  • Weekly laundry is finished
  • I have made an appointment with a grief counselor for me and the kids
  • His remains have been picked up
  • Meetings have been had with the Social Security office AND I have filed the proper paperwork with ....

If, and only if, these conditions have been met can Kim Hamer lay in bed, overcome. The time allowed for bed laying is -----. It shall last no more than --------."

God, even here, in this space truly between living and mourning I need control. It is the only thing I can hang on to.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Release



I am a teapot (minus the short and stout)...or should I say, a tea kettle.

There are moments in my day, week, or month where the "pressure"/emotions inside of me become so overwhelming that they have to find some outlet to release all that is about to combust inside of my heart. Since I am unequipped with a whistling spout, in most cases it is released through my tear ducts, other times through screams, and sometimes through laughter.

The last few days I have felt an astounding amount of Michael's love. Of course I know it never leaves me, but there are times where it sits stagnant in my heart. The last few days it has felt as if he's been stirring the cauldron of my heart to make sure I know that he is here. Not so much for the long run....more so the eternal run.

All of that "stirring" the last few days heated up my kettle, which resulted in a "release"( in the form of tears mind you). Of course, you'd think after many of theses occurrences I'd have them down flat. I don't.

When the feeling starts pushing to the top I talk out loud to Michael. It's as if he is sitting right in front of me saying "I'm here, what do you have to say about that?". All I can say is that I love him, I feel him, I wish I could see and touch him, but I have learned those are not necessities for our love story to continue.

I think when my tea kettle "whistles" it is him letting me know, undoubtedly, unquestionably, that we are on this journey together. It took me two years to realize that, it'll probably take me much longer to get used to it, and forever to be thankful for it.


There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love.
-Washington Irving

Friday, November 13, 2009

mine. all mine.


I wonder how many decisions we make a day on average. Five? Fifty? Five hundred?

The small ones have never been of much consequence. Brush my teeth or not? Wear pink high heels or brown loafers? Watch The Nature of Things or 22 Minutes?

The larger ones are the tough ones. As a teenager, they were pretty easy. Hear what my parents had to say...and do the complete opposite. In my twenties, I winged it, thinking I was invincible, capable and brutally independent. But when I became part of a pair, a marriage, I began to forget my desire to make plans on and of my own.

I grew to need the sounding board and the agreement from my husband. The comfort in knowing that I was not the only one who thought I was 'right' was immense. Even when we didn't agree, I was able to voice my feelings and listen to the pros and cons from someone I trusted.

Now, learning again to make decisions alone is daunting and uncomfortable. I want someone else's agreement, validation and support. But who do you ask for this? Your parents?! You friends? Your neighbours?

I am just beginning to feel the exhilaration of 'choosing' on my own. I am still frightened and nervous, but I am feeling again that glow of confidence in myself and the choices I make for our family. I am secure in my knowledge of Jeff's morals and views on many things. I can use these remembered traits to guide my decisions....or I can do it how I want.

For now, I take comfort in following the path that we had chosen together....But I am thrilled to be able to load the dishwasher how I want to and leave the car in the driveway begging for gas.

Since Jeff died, the largest decision I have made alone was the choice to trade in our car for a mini-van (something he was loathe to do). I am proud of myself....and I think he would be proud of me too (once he got over the shock of driving around in a 'mom-mobile').

I am working my way up to bigger and better things. One day, I am sure I will make a decision that I have no guidance from him through my memories. I will be flying solo. And those choices will be mine. All mine. Terrifyingly, excrutiatingly, possibly excitingly mine. And I know he will smile down on me as these rusty wings of mine fly again.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

five weeks



5 weeks ago

today.

things were perfect.

healthy, happy family.

11 minutes after 3:00pm

on that same day,

my world

fell apart.

since then,

lots of sadness.

lots of happiness.

but mostly sadness.

liz’s

death

has really

fucked me up.

people keep asking,

“how are you coping?”

multiple answers:

“i just am.”

“by talking to people.”

“the kindness of strangers”

“by writing.”

“music.”

“madeline.”

“i’m not.”

i think the last answer is most

accurate, but

i’ve also used music

to get me through.

i’ve been listening

(almost constantly)

to

let it be

since picking up

the ‘mats

reissues after

liz’s

service last saturday.

the words below

resonate with me…

stolen almost word-for-word,

(but adapted for my own purposes),

from “answering machine”

’cause westerberg describes

the emptiness better

than i can…

how do you say,”i miss you” to no one?

how do you say “good night” to no one?

how do you say “i’m lonely” to no one?

i only wish

liz

could hear me.

i know she can’t.

instead,

i talk to madeline.

she doesn’t understand

a word that i say.

which is fine,

’cause most of what

i have to say

doesn’t make a whole

lof of sense

these days.

but,

madeline can hear my voice

and that’s all

that matters.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I Didn't Sign Up For This .....

... but then, neither did you, right?
It's been one of those weeks ... and it's not even half way over yet!
I am totally sick of being a single parent. I'm tired of having to do all of this on my own when I really don't know what the hell I'm doing a lot of the time. Teenage boys?? That was supposed to be Jim's job. I handled the girls and their problems and we made it through their teenage years (granted, they were pretty easy teenagers) but this is a whole different experience. Jim was supposed to be here for the times when I feel out of control, when I don't know what the answer is to make my son want to study and pass a class, when I feel like screaming .... or when I am the one being screamed at. It wasn't supposed to be like this.
And I hate it.
I hate doing this alone.
Sometimes ..... and I'm going to be totally honest here - because I know I can ..... sometimes, I feel like Jim took the easy way out.
Does that make me horrible? I don't think so.
I think it makes me human.
A human being who, like you, did not sign up for this life.
But a human being who will keep putting one foot in front of the other and will keep looking for the good in a day.
Even on the days I hate.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Who's Writing This Anyway?


So I checked out the uplifting song of Musical Monday, which I listened to several times last night...and it did inspire me and lift my spirits. Thanks Michele and I hope your are busy writing your next chapter right now!

I am still suffering writer's block. (I love this analogy). However, I am getting more comfortable with the idea that the future is mine and it is unwritten. I can let others write it for me and be along for the ride, or I can choose to actively draft my future. I am generally in charge in most areas of my life. I think I am beginning to want to be in charge of this too.

What adventures will my next chapters have in store? I don't know either, but I'm beginning to have an interest in finding out. I have made comments before about "resting in the riddle" and trying not to plan. However, I think I've also been feeling fearful of having my plans waylaid and have been trying to avoid the issue altogether. I am trying to decide if I am avoiding plans because I should for a while, or if I'm avoiding them because I'm afraid of the disappointment. I've had my share of disappointment. I should also know that avoiding commitments doesn't spare us that disappointment. Shit happens whether we are planning it or not. It's a circular argument in my head....I'll keep you posted on my progress.....

In the meantime, happy Tuesday everyone. - Michelle D.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Musical Monday



Much of the music that spoke to me right after Phil's death was important because the lyrics articulated feelings I was incapable of expressing. Even now, after writing countless words about my journey through the loss of my husband, there are times when nothing communicates my inner turmoil like the phrases penned by someone else.

When I first heard today's song, Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield, tears ran down my face while I drove along the freeway. If you haven't heard this song before you may be surprised by my tears, or not since most of you are all too familiar with random, unexplained tears! My emotional response surprised me because this isn't a typical tear jerker song. The tempo is upbeat, the message is positive, and the concept is meant to inspire. Why cry? Because the first time I listened to these lyrics I was struck by the idea that I was in charge of writing the story of my life, and that thought terrified me.

When I was married to Phil my life story was already outlined. There were many chapters yet to be lived, but the main characters were in place. I knew the plot would likely twist and turn, but the death of the story's hero was not on my story board.

My grief chapters were oddly easy to compose. I knew what the heroine was supposed to do. Shock, terror, despair, girl overcoming daily challenges...these came naturally because I FELT them. Grief became the villainous antagonist, and I nobly tried to slay the beast. This story line made sense to me.

The jaunty lyrics of Unwritten reminded me that only the early chapters of my life have been recorded...now what? The main characters were dead or irrevocably altered, the plot line was no longer laid out, and every attempt to kill the antagonist was met with defeat. How could I write a happy ending when I could not imagine one? My ability to dream up the demise of new supplemental characters was highly developed, but the task of beginning a new chapter caused immediate writer's block.

Slowly I have realized that the message of this song is not so much, "What is next?" as it is "Open your heart." I spent the first several years of my widowhood with my arms wrapped protectively around my body, shielding myself from the possibility of experiencing more pain. I teetered every day on the edge of my pain threshold. The slightest injury to my damaged heart could have easily thrown me over the emotional cliff of despair, and I had no confidence in my ability to survive the drop. As time has passed my protective grip has loosened, and my confidence has increased. Welcoming new people into my life has become easier. The nagging fear that someone I love is on the brink of extinction doesn't surface as often. My ability to be open to possibility has increased with every risk taken, and each difficult lesson learned. Writing my own story has becoming an almost appealing project.

One line of Natasha's song still gets me every time..."Reaching for something in the distance, so close you can almost taste it..." Because sometimes I feel that real contentment--the kind that settles deep in your bones--is so close I can almost taste it. Writing my happy ending will require all the couage I can muster.

Here is the link....sorry there was no embedded image available...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lFXy5bIiSA

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The End Comes

April 12, 2009

Art is back in the hospital.

Friday was when it happened. Low white blood cells, he started a fever.

Today, Sunday, yes. That is the day today.

He has viral menengitis.

He's ... no words to describe. They are giving him support (drugs), helping it to leave his body.

It could take 24 hours.

It could take a week.

I would say I am scared, only, I .... I don't know what I feel.

I sleep here with him tonight. The kids scattered at friend's houses.

Family reinforcements arrive tomorrow.

I read to him.

I sang to him.

I held his hand.

Now I will sleep for him.

Hoping that when I wake up, I will find it was some kind of really mean joke he'd played on me.

Better that than this reality.

----

April 13
4:45 am

"Can someone come take his vitals please?" I ask.

I ask again, 15 minutes later after no one shows up.

When vitals are taken, his o2 level was 84.

Art lies in his bed, oblivious to the stress he’s causing, eyes open, lids red, the whites of his eyes, looking like a weird colored map of water, rivers painted red instead of blue. Not seeing or hearing a thing. Fingers swollen. Hands swollen, wrists too. Left arm in a constant tremor.

There was a flurry of activity. The nurse, the charge nurse then the doctor show up.
Dr. Taj, his name tag said was young, gave little eye contact, and was straight forward.

“Does he have code order?” he asked. He turns to me, to make eye contact for the first time. “Can we intubate him and give him chest compressions if we need to?”

A code order? I stammer.

“Intubate him (pause) if he codes (shutter). The kids need to say good-bye. We need to keep him here for the kids.” (long sigh)

Holy shit…it’s like I’d practiced these words before.

What’s happening?

Art's leaving.

He's done.

An Xray and an EKG are order.

Art has been sequestered to a negative pressure room. A series of two rooms an outer/hallway room and then his inner hospital room. Viral meningitis (which they think he has) is contagious especially to other immune suppressed patients (people who have low white blood cell counts) A negative pressure room, keeps the germs inside and filters them out.

I leave the room as the portable Xray tech does his job and wait in the outer hallway, I stand next to the EKG guy, waiting for his turn to hook my husband up. I cry.

I follow the EKG guy in, take pictures, and read the printout over his shoulder. He hands me the print out to sign when he’s done. He thinks I knew what I was reading.

I think “Ha…see, I could be a doctor.” I consider signing it but then decided against it. It would be more fun if Art were aware to witness this little ruse.

I think about the kids.

"Honey," I whisper in his ear, after the EKGguy is gone, before the doctor returns “You can go if you need to but… please wait, please wait to say good-bye to the kids.”

The guilt floods in.

I should have had the friend over to video Art leaving life messages to the kids. I should have visited on Saturday with the kids, even if they were sick or no matter how much of a break I needed. I should have, I should have, I should have….

And I realize like I've been hit, NOTHING is perfect. Death doesn’t happen like it does on tv.

Illness doesn’t happen like it does on tv. I knew that.

Sitting here typing with one hand, as my other is a swollen, clenched sweaty fist, I feel it.

This is not perfect. My life with Art is not perfect. It is ending, undone, incomplete, not part of the plan.

We are unfinished.

---


Monday, April 13, 2009
Daytime

our oldest says good-bye

They told me to bring the kids in. They told me to bring the kids in. It’s over and I, I, I just ….

I
feel
nothing.

The hardest part about this... No wait, the right now hardest part about this is watching them grieve. My heart is in shards, little sharp deadly pieces.

Doctors and then Dr. Lill, Art’s doctor, comes in. He used the word


die.

Finally SOMEONE used that word!

Death, even in a hospital is whispered, in euphemisms – passed, gone, left, not there. None of those words speaks the truth. My husband is going to die.

Soon.

And when he does, he will be DEAD. Period.

No euphemizing that!

There will be no one to check my spelling. No one to wait for my call, saying I’m on my way home.

Oh God, I don’t want to be one of those single mothers whose kids are out of control!

There is a Sarah McGloughlin song. Only lyrics I can remember are

Hold on
Hold on to yourself
This is gonna hurt like hell

She’s right. And I know I don’t know what I’m doing.

I stand at this place, knowing I must fall into the gorge. I’ll survive, it’s just right now, I don’t want to go.

I just want to vomit.

----
April 15, 2009

Steve Odefy gave his childhood friend, my husband, his last shave. It was the first time he had ever shaved another man. He did it with a kind of grace and tenderness that made all of us in the room silent.

I am confused. Family and friends come in and out of the room. I'm tired. I don't know what day it is. I don't care. I like this world. It's small and simple. There is a cot for me to sleep on, which I don't use. There is food in the cafeteria for me to buy, which I don't eat. There are people I call and tell. "He's going." I say. And then they are confused.

And there are moments of 50/50 clarity. The moment I meet his parents at the hospital door, they just having arrived from the east coast, weary and frightened. Their oldest son is dying. "I'm so sorry" I sobbed. The moment when we all stood around the bed and repeated the 23rd Psam. The smell of his breath, sickly sweet as his body begins to shut down. The chill of his hands.

I want to photograph all of it. It's the only way l will ever believe that this is really happening.
Because, really, this can't be happening. It just can't.


---
April 16, 2009


Art left this world early this morning.

I watched him take his last breath. I watched his lungs and heart stop. His lungs, the ones with all the cancer in them were the last to give up. Even his heart quit before them. They were amazing lungs.

He changed color and I cried. I was so relieved. I was afraid he would look in death as he did in life. It would have made leaving him hard.

His sister and childhood friend where there as well. I washed his body afterwards.

I am full of relief. Finally, this is over. It's all over. A door has been shut, another one has opened. No more half open, one big toe in, the rest of the body out, door not really closed stuff.

I can move now. Life is not in limbo. It's gone.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Why?



Why:
adv. For what purpose, reason, or cause; with what intention, justification, or motive

Now we know there are definitions, but in this case it is three letters that come together to become a word that has a way of haunting those of us who have felt cheated of a lifetime with our soul mates.

"Why him?", "Why me?","Why us?", "Why so young?", "Why so suddenly?", "Why so violently?"
...and the list goes on.

In the first months this was a word that I loved. I loved it because it fed off my grief...my pain. It was a word that I could use to sulk in my new life, and it was a word that helped in hindering my journey, it was a word that was my companion of woe.

With time though, something prevailed; a voice, a knowing, something that had always been there but came out of hibernation, came to reign where it always should have....my heart.
The "Why's?" I was using after Michael was first killed had clouded my heart, clouded what was the one truth in a world of lies, but finally the truth showed through.

The "Why's?" that fill my mind and mouth now are "Why have a been so blessed to have him in my life? ", "Why did I get so lucky to find my soul mate and know true love?", "Why have I been blessed to know such happiness?" And I must say, it's a route I much more prefer.

It's funny how one's mind turns a switch to only find the sadness in life after loss, and hard for outsiders to understand how one can wallow in that sorrow. But when the time comes, the switch is turned on to the heart you always had that guides you back into the thoughts you are meant to have, the thoughts your spouse quietly whispers as you sleep each night, the thoughts that get you up in the morning to face each day....and that is one "Why?" I will not challenge.

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
-
Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, November 6, 2009

the hardest part


As a widow with young children, the worst thing about parenting now is NOT watching fathers whirl their delighted little girls around in the air or push their little boys on the swings. It is NOT arriving to your child's dance recital alone and wishing that someone was there to experience the joy and pride with you. It is NOT that you are now the only one to remember the day of your little one's birth or what their first word was. It is NOT the strange and uncomfortable silence when your child announces to the check-out clerk that "daddy is dead". No, the worst thing about being a widowed parent is that you can't fix that their other parent is gone....forever.
All parents want to fix their children's injuries, soften their disappointments, explain any misunderstandings and replace what is broken. But no matter how hard I've tried, I cannot bring him back. I can't make it better. I cannot take the pain away.
Nineteen months since my husband, Jeff, died and our seven year old daughter still cries for him often. I can often tell when it's coming. When missing him has overwhelmed her. She becomes angry and combative. She screams and yells at any small injustice, whether it be her three year old brother adding his own embellishments to her drawings, my requests that she keeps her fingers from my nostrils (she is a true pest - like Jeff was).
When the crash comes, she sobs. Her little shoulders shaking as she asks me for the millionth time why he died. She rages at the way things are and screams that 'it's not fair'. I feel helpless. I want to soothe her little heart. I want to offer some remedy for grief, a magical elixir.
Last week, she asked me if Jeff and I really did have Santa's phone number. I was confused by the change of direction in our tear-filled conversation. I misunderstood. I thought she was tired and just saddened by the world in general and had a desire for some toy. But no. Our little Bean wanted Santa's phone number because Santa "knows everything" and Santa would know Heaven's phone number. She wanted to talk to her daddy.
That night, I tucked her into our bed, with his shirt swaddled around her little body, the necklace containing some of Jeff's ashes clutched in her hand and a hotwater bottle nestled into her back. She fell asleep with tears on her cheeks....as I did - not just for the loss of Jeff, but for the sadness that my little ones bear.
What I have learned in these last nineteen months is that the best, and really, the only thing I can do for her is to be here. To let her lean on me. To hold her hand. To bring her tissues and hot water bottles. To hold her on my lap and listen as she cries. To assure her that we will smile again and that I will be here whenever she needs me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

why I wear her ring



forgot to mention

what happened

when i went to

the doctor with madeline,

a woman sitting next to me

on the phone,

talking very loudly

(to a presumably disinterested party)

about nothing.

when she hung up,

she turned to me

(with madeline in a carseat on my lap, anya to my right)

and said,

“are you wearing your wife’s rings because they don’t fit on her finger?”

not knowing what

to say,

i turned to her

and said,

“no. my wife passed away the day after my baby was born and…”

before i could

finish the

sentence

she started bawling

and hurried out of

the waiting room

(leaving behind her teenage-daughter to watch her two-year old).

the rest of the

folks in the waiting room

seemed a little

shocked,

and also started crying.

the thing is,

i don’t really

know the best way

to answer

such a question.

i mean,

i could have made

up some crazy fucking story

about why i’m wearing

liz’s

rings

but,

the truth is

far crueler

than fiction in this case.

so i went with

the truth.

now…

the rest of the sentence,

the parts i didn’t

get out of my mouth

were the utilitarian reasons

i have

for wearing her

rings…

first,

i need to keep

them near me,

’cause i don’t

have a safety deposit box

and

second,

after having been burglarized

once already,

i can’t leave

them unattended in the

house.

(yes, i know it sounds irrational…i likely won’t get burglarized ever again, but i’d be seriously pissed if something happened to them).

besides,

after my unexpected

weight loss

(still down 22 pounds from the days before liz passed away)

the rings fit

perfectly on my pinkie.

anyway,

what self-respecting dude

doesn’t need a few

diamonds on his finger?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

It's a Matter of Perspective ....

I was talking to someone the other day about the change in my perspective on things. Many things have changed in my life and in my mind since December 18, 2007. The biggest thing that has changed is my sense of fear. It seems that I don't have one. I wonder if it will come back? I think that I've suffered the worst loss a human can suffer .... half of myself ripped away, so I don't fear going through anything else.
Not even, and especially, death.
Not many people get that, but I know that each of you does.
It doesn't mean that I sit around planning my demise .... I don't.
It also doesn't mean that I don't enjoy life now ..... I do -- a lot of the time.
But I have such an amazing sense of peace when I think about leaving this earth ... about finally reaching my final destination, which I believe is heaven.
At first I wanted to go there because I know Jim is there.
Now it's not even that. It's going somewhere that will be oh, so much better than anything I can imagine here.
It's knowing that this is not the end but only a temporary stop.
It's knowing that everything can change in the blink of an eye.
It's knowing that love is not something to be wasted .... not for one second.
It's a calmness and a waiting.
And learning to live again while I wait.

It's taken me a while, but I am slowly learning to wait ... and to live again.
At least it seems to me that it's taken a while.
I guess it's all in your perspective.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Well the countdown is over and today is the day. Four years ago today I watched my husband die when only moments before, he had asked me to climb into the hospital bed with him and he’d told me how hard this battle was for him and how much he loved me. We thought we were leaving the hospital the next day; he was only in for dehydration issues from his chemo. We’d only just been told he had 6 months to 2 years. We thought we had more time. We were wrong.

It amazes me how easily I can transport myself back to that hospital room, the sweet moments before, the awful horrible devastating and bewildering moments of, and the horror and numbness after: calling the whole family at 2am, waiting for everyone to arrive, sitting alone while they “cleaned him up.” I sat, hunched over myself, rocking, staring at the friggin ugly green hospital socks I was wearing, saying over and over in my mind: “this isn’t happening, this isn’t happening, this isn’t happening”.

I am almost hyperventilating just typing this stuff, and I still find it hard to believe it happened. Yet, here I sit drinking coffee, typing a blog post for a blog for widows. Who would have thought? Certainly not me. Today I am taking the day off. I'm walking Grayson to school, having coffee with a friend, lunch with another. My mother-in-law and I (and Grayson) are driving out to the cemetery this afternoon. We'll talk about the past and laugh and cry. It sucks that we have to, but is so good that we can do it together. The cemetery is by the wonderful old church we were married in; it's beautiful out there and I always feel a bit more peaceful when I leave.

I've survived the march for another year. I'm glad it's over. In celebration, a group of us will head to Wursfest on Friday - one of Daniel's favorite fests of all time. What could be more fun than a bunch of great people, drinking beer, wearing ridiculous hats, eating fried pickles, and listenting to polka music? I'm looking forward to it.

Happy Tuesday - Michelle D.






Monday, November 2, 2009

Growing Pains




For Halloween this year each of my teenagers were occupied with their own pursuits. What used to be a kid focused holiday full of parental supervision, has become a mom on her own holiday hoping the kids are safe throughout the festive night. Though my boys were close by, I found myself sitting on the back of my car handing out candy at our Church carnival. Alone. To my left was a large family (moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas, kids of assorted shapes and sizes) and to my right was a man eagerly decorating his car while waiting for his family to arrive. The way the cars were arranged, chatting was not managed easily, and we were all quite busy with the kiddies coming and going from our decorated trunks.

I sat, tucked into the back of my car, greeting little ones and their parents, commenting on cute costumes, and generally attempting to be involved in the activity at hand. But I was lonely. There was no one with whom I could enjoy the pageantry, whatever thoughts popped into my head just rumbled about between my ears, and the only person I could reach out and touch was Jack the Pumpkin King. As I watched the world go by from my perch I thought to myself...this is not how I want my life to be.

Dreaming about how Phil would have helped decorate the car, being certain that he would have found a way to meet all the "neighbors," knowing that he would have loved the Mexican themed decor of one big SUV, or thinking about how much fun it would have been to hear his comments on all things Halloween was not enough. Somehow missing him used to fill a void. Now missing him just emphasizes the emptiness in my life. His absence has become a different sort of pain.

Jackie's post this week really spoke to me. Kids experience all sorts of growing pains, and I am discovering that widows do too. Healing has led to growth that I did not expect or desire. I have always feared the grief stage of "acceptance." I don't want to accept that Phil is dead, but he is. I don't want to accept that life will go on without him, but it does. I don't want to accept that my body will evolve and change while his stays exactly the same, but the proof is in the mirror every day. I don't want to accept that if Phil were to come back today he wouldn't know many of the most important people in my life, but four years later that is definitely true. I don't want to accept that one day I will need more than memories as my daily companion, but that truth is becoming more clear every day.

Knowing that today I need more than the memories of Phil can provide hurts. Knowing that the time we had together is all we will ever have hurts. Knowing that I have to make the conscious choice to move forward every day hurts. Acceptance does not cause the ripping pain that accompanied the first realization that Phil was really dead. Nor does this phase cause the drowning feeling I knew so well as I learned to tread the waters of living life without my husband. I imagined arriving at this moment throwing a massive temper tantrum. Instead I feel resignation. Acceptance isn't what I thought it would be. Now I know that there is no such thing as 'done' when living with grief, but I also know that growing pains actually do lead to growth.

Somehow a monkey, a giraffe, two lady bugs, several princesses, a few pirates, and a really cute guitar pointed out that growing up is a life long experience.