Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My New View of Death

Catchers Mask


This post was originally written on August 31, 2010.

Duality of vision. At least that’s what I’m calling it. As of May 4th last year, my way of looking at physical things has changed. For example, driving into my garage every day I see Maggie’s catcher’s mask she used to wear while playing softball. It hangs just inside the garage door right where I park the car. When I see that mask, I think of the soft plastic that used to touch her forehead, the grill she used to breathe and taunt through, the strap that used to get tangled in her hair…. Such a simple object yet so filled with the richness of her experiences, the richness of her. I also see it as a creepy object a dead person used to wear. Both perspectives exist simultaneously, separately and incongruently in my mind. One of those perspectives exists only in my heart.

Because of what I've experienced, death has lost its cold hard edge for me. It doesn’t scare me anymore. I have no fear of dying. It doesn’t give me the chills or turn me cold. All that which was very scary before has now been replaced by a much different feeling. Instead, death seems to me like it was that day with my baby - the day It happened. It’s warm, soft, peaceful and relaxing. Death has now been humanized and even maybe romanticized. And it’s certainly nothing to fear anymore, not for me. How could I fear that which brings peace? How could I fear that which might bring me back to my baby? I can’t and I don’t.

Lord, I can feel my mother’s blood pressure rising as I type this. Chill, Mom. No, this is not my suicide note. I hope that most who read this know me as quite stable yet prone to over-intellectualizing, even about that which might be considered risqué. I am just trying to describe yet another interesting change and/or step in this journey, one I could never have imagined, like so many others that came before it.

I could never have imagined ever in my life my wife dying. I could never have imagined holding her as she breathed her last breath while I whispered how much I loved her into her ear. I could have never have imagined wishing I could lie just one more time next to her lifeless body, the body of my best friend and life partner. I could never have imagined being happy that she was no longer breathing. How could anyone ever imagine that death could bring such happiness to someone so deeply in love? But yet it’s undeniably true. The warm, soft, impermeable blanket of death doesn’t scare me anymore because death, to me, now means relief. And sweet relief, after what I’ve seen, can be much more meaningful than anything else living could offer.

I’d guess that few others around me share this duality of vision. Instead, the creepiness factor colors all that death touches. The softness I see and feel and experience isn’t typical. Instead, the cold, bitter harshness of death prevails. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it in the eyes of people who have come to the house. I’ve seen it in my friends’ eyes when I tell them (which I rarely do, unless they specifically ask) where Maggie’s ashes are (beside me on the desk as I type this note.) I’ve seen it too, when potential new friends look at me when I say “last year, in May” after they ask “when?” which is typically followed by an awkward pause in the last conversation we share.

I’d guess that other widowers or widows have different views of death than I do. I’m certain many of them still see death as the enemy, as evil… like it stole away their sweetie. No doubt, for their situation, they are right. Oh, I see it so amazingly differently. And if being a widower didn’t alienate me enough, my new and somewhat non-conventional views on death surely finish the job.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day


Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, which was first recorded to have been observed by Freedmen (freed enslaved southern blacks) in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865, at the Washington Race Course, to remember the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War. The recognition of the fallen victims was then enacted under the name Memorial Day by an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic — to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War. Over time, it was extended after World War I to honor all Americans who have died in all wars. Now known as Memorial Day, it is a day of remembering Armed Forces. the men and women who died while serving in the United States.


That is a little bit of history, by way of Wikipedia. I turned to the net to get a clear understanding of what this holiday represents, and how it came to be. Today I was out, just like most Americans, being a part of the hustle and bustle that is the last weekend in May. It is often considered the beginning of the summer season, and signals the onset of weekend BBQ's and family gatherings. I noticed while running around town, that their were a few homes that hung American flags. I began to feel bad, because my flag is still in storage, not that I think to fly it very often.

I was remembering when 9-11 hit, and we as a nation were left stunned. What I remember most, after the communal feeling of devastation, was that we all became quite patriotic. Many of us, including myself, ran out and bought shiny new flags. How is it that we have so quickly returned to that place of disconnect. I don't mean this to be negative, or judgemental,as I include myself in this. Some how, for most of us at least, we forget to remember that for many, this is a difficult day of remembrance.

Today we honor all those men and women, from every walk of life, who selflessly chose to defend this country, and have given their lives in exchange for our continued sense of security and freedom.

Today, we also honor all those who are left behind, who continue to raise their children alone, who continue to seek meaning in their lives, who continue to attend college, or work, on a daily basis, because that is what they are expected to due. These are the survivors, and we must not forget them. Not today.

I just finished my BBQ. It consisted of burgers with two 13 year old boys. The discussion at the table was summer camps, and the daily joys of skate boarding and scootering. How young, and naive they both are. The world is still about the daily joy of doing nothing, or doing whatever they choose to do. I sat there listening to the nonsense that was coming out of their mouths, and hearing the laughter when realizws how ridiculous they both sounded to this old guy across the table.

The meal has finished, and everything has been cleared away for the evening. I returned here to my computer, to finish this post. The sun is still out, and it's a clear indication of sunny days ahead. Yet, for those of you who have lost a loved one due to war, or any type of service to our country, the night is not quite over yet, is it? You still have grieving on your agenda.

When the sun does finally decide to set, I will light a simple white candle, and hold vigil for those that have served, and for you that mourn. You are remembered today, just as they are.

Alone Together

two hands, one love

I just got off the phone with my good friend Dominic. We don't talk to each other too often, maybe once a month, but when we do, I always feel so good. He lives up in the Bay Area, from where I moved from last year. We have been to many of the same places, and always have similar stories to share with each other. He's originally from my new home city of San Diego, so we also often talk about our favorite places here, and share recommendations about places to eat or visit.

I have so much in common with Dominic. We are both gay men, who also happen to be Latino. This kind of grounds our connection in a common culture as well. In our conversations we laugh, encourage each other, and listen to each other's worries of the day.

Did I mention that I have never met Dominic? I don't even know what he looks like. If we passed each other on the road, we would never even know. Well, he might know, as he found me the same way as several other of my newer friends have, by way of my blog. You see, Dominic is also a widower. Not only that, he lost his spouse to the same brutal brain tumor that took my husband Michael.

Isn't life strange. You can live a somewhat parallel life as another person in your own community, and never really have the chance to make their acquaintance. Then you lose your husband, find yourself feel alone, grief stricken, even suicidal, pack it all up, move to another part of the state, get settled into your new home, and BAM, your paths cross. Suddenly, although there are almost 500 miles separating you, that person becomes so central to your life.

This is not the only relationship I have like this. In the past 20 months I have come to know, and love, so many people that I would never have met if Michael had not died. These are such loving, supportive, sad, and joyful people. If you are reading this, then most likely you are one of them too. It's a strange dynamic really. You can talk to them on the phone, share emails online, or trade text messages, and yet, all the while, it dawns on you, "I only know the person, or have them in my life, because of death."

In death did us part, Michael and I, but in death did all of you arrive. Each week seems to bring more and more wonderful, and interesting people into my life, by way of my writing, or by communities formed here on the Internet. Last year I had the wonderful opportunity to meet so many of you at Camp Widow. Let me tell you, it was like magic. I saw familiar faces, or heard voices saying, "Dan?" "Are you Dan In Real Time?" and then I would see the spark of acknowledgment, and be filled with joy. It was the most wonderful experience, and I can't wait to repeat the experience once again this summer.

Camaraderie is the most wonderful of gifts. Camaraderie during times of such extreme need, feels like being bestowed direct grace from God.

You know, in tonight's conversation with my friend Dominic, he shared with me that he attended the San Francisco Brain Tumor Walk. It is an event that is so close to my heart. Michael and I walked with our family two years in a row during his battle with the disease. I then walked the third year without him, and followed up with the same event when I moved here in San Diego. Dominic shared with me that he spoke with people who knew me, either through my participation with the National Brain Tumor Society, or through my blog. It felt so good knowing that they still thought of me, and that I was still a part of their community.

In a way it sounds kind of odd to acknowledge this, but it also serves to remind me of how fragile and isolated I continue to feel. You know, I have come a long way in the past 20 months, and I have made many new friends. Yet, deep inside of me, I am still that broken, and pain stricken, person that was left standing alone in this world. Now some would say, "but Dan, don't you have three kids? How alone can you truly be?" Well, very alone. Yes, I move about in this great big world, with people all around me, yet at the end of the day, I enter my bedroom alone. I brush my teeth alone. I wash my face alone. I get into bed alone. And, I share my day's thoughts or feelings with, oh yeah, no one. And, even at 20 months out, I still struggle to fall asleep each night in that big empty bed.

Who else really understands this?

Who else is struggling with this at the same time each night?

You.

We are alone, or we are not alone. We are newly widowed or we have been at it a long time. We are very young, or we are considered older. We come from this walk of life, or we come from another. We look similar to each other, or we don't. We might have previously chosen to be friends, or we might not have. Yet here we are. We are reflections of each other. We share that knowing look in our eyes. We have the ability to touch each other's hearts, and souls, in a deep and profound way.

By reading, you have shown up for me. By writing, I have shown up for you. Whoever you are, whether we ever meet, speak, or exchange written words, thank you. I value your presence, and I acknowledge the loss which has brought you here.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Other Ring


About four months after Phil's death, I returned to my nail salon for the first time since being widowed. As I sat in the chair trying to keep it together while idle chatter swirled around me, my manicurist looked up and asked if I was going to take off my rings. Absently I handed them to her (my engagement ring, my wedding ring, and Phil's wedding ring were all crowded together on my finger) and she set them down awkwardly on the table next to us. Then she looked up at me and said, "Isn't your husband dead?" At first I was sure I heard her wrong. "Excuse me?" I said. Turns out my hearing was fine, because she repeated herself.

I almost jumped out of my seat. If it weren't for the fact that one hand was in warm water, the other was being filed, and my rings were out of reach...I think I would have run out the door. Instead I stammered something unintelligible, as she indicated that the only reason she asked was because I was still wearing my wedding ring. I felt like I had been slapped. First with insensitivity, and then with reality.

My first instinct was to let her know that I was NEVER going to take them off. But I couldn't find the words. I just twitched in my chair until I was finally free to go. I ran into the parking lot silently quaking. How dare she? What does she know? That is what she thought was an appropriate thing to say to someone whose husband just DIED?! Forget her, forget that remark, forget the idea that my wedding ring told others that I was currently married. But the seed was planted; I couldn't erase her words. Slowly, every time I looked at my rings I was reminded not of my marriage, but of the fact that my husband was dead.

One particularly tearful evening as I sat crying and twirling my rings, I experimented with taking them off. Looking at my bare finger caused an avalanche of feelings which resulted in me laying on the floor in a ball shaking with sobs until I put them back on. I just couldn't imagine an empty place on my hand where the symbol of my commitment, of OUR commitment, belonged. But I couldn't figure out how to keep the reminder of our amazing love and also avoid the uncomfortable assumptions that wearing a wedding ring encouraged.

My solution became clear sort of out of the blue. Phil and I fulfilled our promise to love each other till death do us part. No matter where else my life may take me, I did that. And so did he. In fact, as far as this life is concerned, I will be his one and only wife. To honor that fact, I decided to re-size his wedding ring and wear it on my right ring finger. Tears flowed down my cheeks as I walked away from the jewelers the day I dropped it off, and it took every ounce of control I could muster not to run back in and tell the kind person behind the counter that I changed my mind. But when I slipped Phil's ring on my finger for the first time, I knew I'd done the right thing. He was with me, his love was with me, and I could literally feel the fulfillment of his promise against my skin.

So what became of Phil's ring when another amazing man placed a beautiful new piece of jewelry on my left hand? It stayed put. When I told Michael about the band I wear, and why I wear it, I followed the explanation with the announcement that I planned to continue wearing my right hand ring for an undetermined amount of time. Then I held my breath. His response: "Why wouldn't you? It is a part of who you are now."

And so it is.

I rarely use words like never and forever these days. What I do instead is honor what I need right now. For the moment I still need a physical reminder of what was, and am grateful for the fact that my present is willing to embrace the past that made me who I am today.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Last Walk




***This was written 2 days ago***

Charlie...

Charlie is more than a dog.

Though my family had him since he was a puppy, in 2004 he came to live with me full-time. He became king.

Always having been an outside dog, he was thrown into a world where he didn't have to fight to get to the dog bowl and got to sleep among pillows and soft comforters. An escape artist, he'd flee and be back with the hour waiting on the front porch. The same porch he'd eagerly await my arrival after class each day. He was my best friend.

Michael and Charlie had a special bond. Something I was admittedly jealous of. Charlie would do special tricks and give extra kisses to Michael. He was a daddy's boy.

When Michael got deployed to Iraq, Charlie was his wingman. Michael had a talk with him to watch over me and take care of me....Charlie never faltered from that agreement they silently made looking into each others eyes before Michael kissed him goodbye for the last time.

When I was sad, Charlie would quietly walk up to me and give me a kiss. He always let me know everything was going to be alright.

On May 21st, 2007, Charlie would have to step up to the plate even more. Michael had been killed and I was shattered. I refused to eat or drink, and Charlie, who never left my bedside, refused to do the same. He was the only reason I would get up....to ensure he'd eat to live another day.

I never thought I'd live longer than Charlie or Maximus. I even have in my will who each are to go to.

In the months following Michael's death, I stayed inside, planning my escape route from Earth. And yet, Charlie, with his deep brown eyes, always found a way to ensure I face a new day.

He's a quiet soul who reminds me of Michael. He rarely barked but was known for being a fighter....literally and hypothetically. He had sent a couple of dogs to the vets whenever they got to close.
(I remember one day, napping, when I heard a barking scuffle outside. Pillow in hand I ran to find Charlie and a boxer going at it. Pillow's swinging left to right, I feared for Charlie's life, only to find that the giant boxer was the one harmed.)

As I ventured into a world I decided to fight for, Charlie rooted me on. I talk to him, you see. He's the child of Michael and I, and I feel he understands what I'm saying...never doubts or challenges.

The next 3 year's I would travel so much in hopes to bring the AWP to life, but no matter what, he'd be there at the front door to greet me and give me a kiss hello.

In October of 2010 things changed. One night while on the carpet with Papa's (one of his 20 million nick-names), I noticed his eye looked weird. Right away I knew something was wrong and asked my parents to take him into the vet (I was afraid to face any bad news).

My dad called me. "Taryn...Charlie has cancer. He has a tumor growing on the top of his head. He doesn't have much longer...."

No.No.NO. Our baby couldn't go. I frantically started making calls within minutes of finding out and set up a meeting with a veterinary oncologist.

Many tests were taken, biopsies done, needles poked.

In November they called to let me know that Charlie had squamous cell carcinoma. I went in to see what the options were.

The doctors told me that I could put him through radiation and chemo. Once done with the treatments it could possibly add no more than a year to his life.

I agreed and so began our new life of waking up each morning for months. Traveling over 2 hours each day. Things would look good and other times I'd bring him in crying, afraid that I had made the wrong decision. But Charlie fought, pulled through, and one night, even ran up to me and gave me a kiss. It was one of the best moments.

The radiation took a toll though, and the skin burned away and then his vision deteriorated.

I cried myself to sleep many nights, but even blind, Charlie would find his way to our bedroom and sleep next to me.

It's been around 5 months since all of his treatments. 5 months I've been able to give him extra belly rubs. 5 months to whisper into his bushy ears how much Michael and I love him.

5 months to have something I wasn't able to have with Michael....the ability to say goodbye.

I returned home two nights ago and Charlie's health had deteriorated within hours. Although he had been eating and drinking while at my parent's house, it became very obvious that he was just waiting to be back with me.

You see, I've wondered often if my actions to keep him here, to do everything in my power to keep him with me, was selfish. I asked Michael during the rough times to just let Charlie go in his sleep. But on Tuesday night, I asked Charlie to let me know when he was ready, and at one moment, he looked up at me...blind, but as though he could see, and I knew.

I knew that it was time to do for him something unselfish, and take him out of his pain. I think he breathes for me, suffers for me, feels indebted to his loving father to stay with me....I want him to know it is okay.

I've had him for 15 years. He's been through every life-changing event of my life, but tonight, at 6pm, on his favorite spot in the house (the cold tile of the fireplace), Michael will have his 2nd love join him.

My dearest friends and family by my side, we will wrap him in Michael's uniform (the one he slept underneath in the closet after Michael died.) Fill the pockets with letters to him and our loved ones he'll be joining and spread his ashes with his father's.

I'm in pain...but Charlie is in more. And tonight we will celebrate his furry life. Remember random memories, like how when I took him running he always ran faster than me, making me look even slower, so I had to buy a really short leash. Or the moments when a spurt of energy would hit him and he'd run around like a banshee. Or the time he sat up on Michael's knees and kissed him farewell. Or how much you simply adore window surfing.

I love you so much, papas. I know you're outside sleeping with the wind on your face, and maybe by the time you wake up, it will seem as if we were not parted for long.

You have fulfilled you daddy's wish and taken care of me better than anyone or anything. I know I am strong enough now...and so much of that is because of the loyalty and love you have forever shown me. You are the epitome of unconditional love and I hope to embody your strength.

I love you. We love you.

There's a stone I had made for Luke at the top of the hill road, where the pasture opens wide and the setting sun highlights the words carved into its face. "That'll do, Luke, that'll do." The words are said to working dogs all over the world when the chores are done and the flock is settled: "That'll do dog, come home now, your work is done." Luke's work is done too. He took my heart and ran with it, and he's running still, fast and strong, a piece of my heart bound up with his, forever.


-Patricia McConnell



Friday, May 27, 2011

if you were here


There are times that I torture/comfort myself thinking of all the things I would say or do if Jeff "came back"....or was at very least able to hear me. It's a little game that hurts and heals simultaneously:

If you were here,
I'd slap you for not going to the doctor sooner.

If you were here,
I would curl up safe and warm in your arms.

If you were here,
the kids would know their daddy in reality...not just through the stories I tell about you.

If you were here,
I'd make YOU mow the lawn.

If you were here,
I would never, ever let you go.

The imagining of our conversations and interactions somehow makes him "real" and closer again....But it also stings when I allow the loss to sink back in. I wish I could just exist in the state of imagining him walk through the doorway, laughing at the dog's slobbery kisses and the way I jump up and down with glee at his arrival.

I don't know if this practice is beneficial in the long run...but for now, it's a way to hold him still. And imagine what life would be like if the worst had never happened.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

in response to the old man in maryland.

the early worries,

physical in nature,

disappeared long ago.

it's impossible to know

that she was born

7 weeks early,

but now it's the emotional

that i most worry about.

honesty is the route

i've chosen with her,

no stories,

just facts,

which (i believe) will be

helpful later,

but it doesn't make

now very easy.

a few weeks ago

(out of nowhere)

she said,

"my mommy died and now you are with me."

a simplified understanding

for sure, but

an understanding.

i think it would

be easier to have

some sort of

happy explanation for

her, some sort of

hopeful narrative

drawn from centuries

of folklore,

but i'm a non-believer

and that means

that i don't

have any mythology

to help her

interpret the world

around her.

just my version

of the truth, based

on science and experience.

it doesn't mean

i'm right or wrong,

and it's not a judgement

on how others

deal with their lives,

but it's how

i've chosen to handle things.

and this?

consider it my treatise

for raising

my child.

oh.

and it's my response

to the old man who,

after a talk i gave

(during which i discussed many things, including my lack of religion and how i choose to handle telling maddy about her mom),

stood in line

(ostensibly to get his book signed)

and said to maddy,

"do you want to know where your mommy really is?"

'no!" she yelled

back at him.

i was ready to pounce,

not to tell him

he's wrong,

(because i refuse to pass judgement on such things)

but to protect my daughter.

her response

made me think

that i should wait,

that i should let

her take care of things.

he tried again.

"leave me alone!" she

yelled back at him.

he persisted.

(this 3-year old can clearly handle herself)

but i stepped in

and politely told him

to go away.

i wanted to say

something far different,

but i bit my tongue.

my daughter's response

though, had me worried

less about her

emotional state

than the mental

state of this old man.

i still signed

his book

(i even wrote something nice inside).

i looked over at

her and she

was happily playing with

her new pirate toys,

unfazed by what had

just happened.

obviously her response

to the man was

more about the fact

that she hadn't

slept much over the

past few days

and that he was

interrupting her

playtime, but i can't

help but think

i'm raising a fiercely

independent child

who will stick up

for her beliefs

(whatever they may eventually be, and even if they end up differing from mine).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On the Humor of Our Grieving ...

.... and a paragraph about a dream.


This is a post I wrote back in March of 2008, three months after Jim died.
The kids and I traveled to Oklahoma, where Jim was born and where we both grew up.  Well, he grew up in one part of Oklahoma, I grew up in another.


Anyway, we went to the farm where Jim was raised for a very solemn purpose.  
We were going to spread half of his ashes there (the other half were to be spread later, at our lake house in Texas).
Jim's brother, sister-in-law and their daughter were also there from California.  Jim's other brother and his wife, who live nearby, were also there.  So it seemed like an appropriate time to attend to this gloomy task.


I have to tell you ..... in case you haven't realized it by now, I have a wicked sense of humor.  As do my children.  As did Jim.  
Thus, it's difficult to know who they got it from.  
But I digress.


The following post is about the spreading of Jim's ashes.  Or at least the spreading of half of them (and truth be told .... the spreading of the second half wasn't much different than the first).
I wish we had taped it.  Someone offered to take pictures, but I found that thought to be a little morbid.
That was before what shall henceforth be known as "The Spreading".

     We are back.  This picture is from Easter 1995 with Son #2.  This is where we played with the kids on the farm, flew kites, played football with the boys and uncles, etc.  This is where the original family house stood (the current house is behind me, the picture-taker).  This is where Jim's ashes are (some of them).  That was difficult and humorous and difficult some more.  I wasn't sure what to do -- I've never done this before.  No one wanted to be the "one" to do it.
Except for Son #3, who came right up and said, "I'll do it.  Do you want me to do it?"  I asked him if he was sure and he said yes.  I have amazing children.

I need to point out that Son #3 had, of course, never done this before, either --- and it was apparent.  He would put his hand in the bag and then spread them out around him, kind of shaking his hand a little with each release of a few ashes.
My father-in-law muttered, "He looks like he's feeding chickens." and he was right.  That's exactly what it looked like so everyone started chiming in and making suggestions, while trying in vain to not crack up.  I had of flash of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" when Mary and the gang went to the funeral of Chuckles the Clown (and yes, I realize that I am truly dating myself with that reference).  It is very, very difficult to refrain from inappropriate laughter during times of stress.
Very.
There was a fair amount of wind so I suggested that Son #3 throw the ashes up in the air, which he promptly did.  Right over his head.  Then we all started yelling for him to get out from underneath the ashes that were coming straight back down, which he managed to do -- barely.
By this time the laughter could not, and would not be contained.
I thought I was going to wet myself.
And am not certain that I didn't.

Oh, and every once in a while Son #3 would look at his hand and then wipe it on his jeans .... much to Daughter #1's horror.
She kept yelling, "Stop wiping your hand on your jeans!!!" and everyone laughed.  No, "laughed" isn't quite the right word.
We were actually guffawing (well, by "we" I mean everyone except Jim's dad).
We were almost hysterical at the thought of 'Dad/Jim being on the Son's jeans'.

It was not a serious affair.
Not.
At.
All.
I think my father-in-law was disappointed in us.
But I know, with certainty that Jim was happy.
Very, very happy.
As I said before .... he had a wicked sense of humor.
And .... as Daughter #1 said, "We already had the service.  We have already gone through the eulogies and the talking and the grieving at his "Goodbye".  I don't want to do it again."
I thoroughly agreed.

But before we finished I asked if anyone wanted to say anything and my father-in-law did.  He talked to Jim in kind of a prayer.  And we cried.

And then we were done.


That night I had a dream.  When I remembered it Friday morning while I was getting ready to leave, I stopped and smiled.

In my dream Jim suddenly appeared to me.  Out of thin air.  I looked at him in surprise, but not shock (it was a dream, after all).  He said to me, "Don't worry -- I can see you all of the time and I'm here with you.  I'm watching you and the kids.  It's OK -- I'm here."  I asked him if that was really true and he said yes.  Then he was gone.  I'm not sure exactly what happened next, but I was in some kind of situation.  Afterwards, he came to me again.  He told me exactly what had just happened and what I had done.  He said that to prove to me that he actually did see me.  And I was happy.  Very, very happy.   And I was happy to remember it.  I told the kids about it, and I told Jim's mom about it.  Her eyes lit up again at that thought.

So do mine.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Yes




I think for a long time I thought that I'd feel happiness through some sort of thick membrane - see it, sort of touch it, and even be able to experience it in a distant way, but I doubted I'd ever feel genuinely happy again. I was certain the lessons that life had taught me would keep me removed from true happiness - I just wouldn't be able to let it in, or I'd always be waiting for the doom to set in.



Thankfully, I'm a pretty happy person by nature, and as the weeks, months, and years ticked by I returned to my more naturally happy self. I think Grayson has been a huge part of that transition. It's tough to stay sad and scared about the future when faced with the daily joys of a small boy who loves his life regardless of the tragedy he's experienced. It rubbed off on me, and I'm forever grateful for it.



I did doubt that I'd ever find love again, and I said that out loud to more than one friend. I just figured it wouldn't happen for me. I had it good once, I shouldn't expect it a second time. I didn't really want it. I was too afraid of the reality: we die. There is 100 percent chance that my next relationship will end in death, either his or mine. That thought was a daunting one. Being widowed sucks. Being widowed twice? God help me. I was afraid. I'm not generally a shrinking violet, so fear isn't usually a good demotivator for me. This time though, this fear...it was a big one. I didn't realize how scared I was until I was suddenly faced with Carl. The right guy. The one who I could really see a future with, and he was clearly on board with a future with me. Holy crap. Now what?



Imagine a woman who thinks her way out of most problems...imagine this woman analyzing the undeniable logic of death.


  • Death happens, it sucks, but there is only one way into this world, and one way out of it.

  • We all die.

  • I'm afraid of losing people I love.

  • If I don't love people, then death won't hurt so much.


    Clearly the logical solution is to avoid love. When people die (and they will die) it won't be nearly as painful if you don't love them. My brain saw the logic, but fortunately for me, my heart didn't buy the argument. My heart had already made the leap of faith while my brain was still mulling it over. I think that's why they call it falling in love - you don't actually look around and choose to jump - your heart pushes you off the cliff before your brain knows what's going on and suddenly you're falling.....



    I still can't quite believe my luck. I'm stunned. I'm ridiculously happy. I'm shocked by it all and oh so thankful. Thank goodness my heart took over months ago and told my scared logical brain to shut the hell up. Thank goodness when the question was asked, my heart jumped for joy, and my brain said "Yes" without a single doubt. I said Yes! :)



    Happy Tuesday!
  • Monday, May 23, 2011

    Bromance

    bromance palentine

    Well, I'm dating.

    Okay, maybe I'm not really dating. I'm just not quite sure what to call it. It's been awhile since I dated anyone, and, it's been awhile since I have felt the need to qualify exactly what I am doing with another person.

    It's kind of odd, going out with someone, talking, and texting several times throughout the week, wondering what he is doing when we are not together. Wondering who he is talking to, texting to, having dinner with, when I don't see him during the week.

    Am I being vague enough? I don't exactly know what to call it, this thing we are doing, because, he isn't gay.

    What?

    You know, I put a profile on Match.com awhile back, and have corresponded with a few guys, but none of them led to any type of date. Then one day I get an email from this guy, who says he read my profile, and liked what I had to say. He was interested in talking about the book I am reading, and thought maybe we would hit if off. He was right, we did. The complicated part, or maybe the uncomplicated part, is that for the most part, he identifies as straight. So what was he doing roaming the pages of gay guys in the area? I'm not completely clear, but I have really enjoyed having a guy to hang out with, to talk to, go walking/hiking with, and potentially to start cycling or running with.

    So, what do you call this? Funny, it feels like dating. Well, of course, without the heavy petting that is often expected after a nice evening out. This weekend my son finally met my new friend, and as soon as he had the opportunity to ask, he did. "So Dad, are you guys just friends, or what?" It's a fair question. I'm sure that he remembers that last time that I brought a man home that I had been spending time with. Actually, I ended up marrying that man, didn't I?

    Earlier I had a very nice telephone conversation with my brother in law. After we spoke about everyone else in our families, he wanted to know truly how I was doing. He mentioned that he had been keeping up with my Facebook page, and was pleased to hear that I would be starting my new job. He said that it seems that I am doing well, but wanted to know if the appearance matches my reality. You know, I have not been asked that in a very long time. I let him know that life has been considerably better for me these days, and that many good things are happening for me. Yet, and there is always that "yet," I told him that I miss his brother more than ever, and that my life feels far less than happy. I acknowledged that I still cry more than people would expect, and that I am still unpleasantly surprised by my reality every now and then. He told me that it is still that way for him, and that if he is missing Michael that much, he can only imagine how I am feeling each day.

    During the writing of this last paragraph I took a very short break, as my new gentleman caller Instant Messaged me. We chatted about how the rest of our weekend went. He gave me props for all the hard work I did on my yard, and he joked about my being a big strong guy. I responded that I was more like a not-so-big very sore guy. I was able to laugh, and to feel good that someone was thinking about me, and taking the time to keep involved in my day to day life.

    Two men, reaching out to me, making me feel like I matter. You know, they may not be the types of relationships that will ultimately fulfill me like the one I had with my husband, but they are men that are here, playing a part in keeping me tethered to this life, and this world. And for that, I am feeling quite blessed.

    Sunday, May 22, 2011

    Every Sunday


    (Written 2/2011)

    Every Sunday it happens.
    I go into my office to print out the grocery list.
    And find myself on the computer
    Searching for……
    a distraction,
    a reason,
    a gift,
    something that will ease the unease.

    I read the past week’s posts of the other widows.
    I look at my emails.
    I answer the ones that don’t take much out of me.
    Finally, I refocus but not before I feel
    Overwhelmed
    by the emails
    that require me to plan, to think, to notice that I have to do it again
    alone.

    I have to make lists that will get checked off
    by
    me.

    Before I get stuck in overwhelm, I force myself to remember what I came in for.
    I print out the grocery list and begin the routine.

    Weeks meal plan
    Three grocery stores
    To Do List for the week

    Every Sunday, I feel empty and alone.
    Every Sunday I use my computer as a way to run from it
    and every Sunday it doesn’t work.

    This Sunday I went further
    I tried ice cream, hoping the cold creaminess will make me
    forget the
    cold
    emptiness.

    It didn’t.

    So I tried alcohol.
    Hoping the gentle relaxation would allow me to weather the
    insecurities, the fear, lesson the weight of the world that not only sits on my shoulders
    but my spine,
    my stomach and
    my knees.

    It doesn’t.

    I call a neighbor. “Do you have anything?” I ask.
    He runs me up a little something to smoke.
    I look at it. I go to light it and I stop.
    I know it won’t work either.

    So I call this guy I know. This friend.
    Strong hands, a comforting hug, a good kisser
    I go to him.
    I want to know that I matter to another man.
    I want to feel his arms around me, to sink into the testosterone, the power
    the protectiveness of him.

    It works
    but only for a little while.

    I get back into my car
    And I am crying
    And praying to God

    “Please help me!
    I can’t do this anymore. I can’t take the weight, I cannot make one more decision on what we will eat this week by myself I can’t!”

    And even as I say it, I know I am lying.
    I’ve done it every Sunday for over 52 of them. I can do it for 100s more.

    Every Sunday I wonder, is this it?
    Is this what surviving grief looks like?
    Is this what I worked so hard to get too?

    Really?

    Saturday, May 21, 2011

    Parenthesis


    ***If you're reading this, it is officially May 21st, 2011. The four year angel-versary of my love. I'm writing this a week in advance, and hopefully have succeeded in doing my fourth skydive jump on the 20th (If I don't blog next week, I'll tell all your loves "hello" ;D ). This has become an annual event for the military widows of our organization and I know there company will ease the sharp bite of the last day my soul mate graced this earth with his life. Thank you all for continuing to read the blog and taking this journey with me. And with no further ado....the blog I posted after last year's jump and angel-versary.......***

    5/21/10
    As noted last weekend, the 21st marked 3 years since my hero's death, but tradition continues of being around amazing widows leading up to or after the date.

    This past week we were in Fayetteville, NC for our annual golf tournament for the organization, followed by our annual AWP Skydive!

    Like all of our events, we have a definite melting pot of women at all different places in their journey. We spent time racing around in golf carts, talking till 4 in the morning, and lastly, suiting up to jump 13,500 feet out of a perfectly good plane for my 3rd year in a row.

    During all of the festivities, I have to say that I have never laughed so hard in the 3 years since Michael's passing. Not just laughing, not even snorting laughter (which I'm known for), but hurled over holding my belly laughter.

    Each year that I can make on notch on the widowhood belt, I'm left amazed at all that my fellow widows do for me in the continual process of healing a heart that has gone through the most devastating of losses.

    As the trip came to a close, sleep deprived, in need of a shower or two, and smeared eyeliner accompanying the proud bags underneath my eyes, I looked in the mirror to see a noticeable change after my three, not long enough, days.

    Not just a brighter sparkle in my eyes, but even more evident, very well defined smile lines on each side of my mouth. Two lines that we're a parenthesis to the grin that never left my face during my time with them. Lines that I proudly wear and look forward to deepening as the year's pass with my fellow widows, who help me make the stories that form the evidence of a life well lived.

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    expectations

    Painting from here...


    As humans, it seems that we all expect to have more than we do. More possessions. More time. More love. More help.

    I don't know if it's just my human-ness that makes this desire for more so prevalent...or if the fact that I am a widow makes this expectation almost obsessive.
    I have quite happy having few possessions, however (or at least I think I am until I want a new pair of jeans....).

    But I had expected life as an adult, a parent, a wife to be different.
    And even after finding myself widowed, I had expected that I would be able to hack it with grace, strength and alone.

    But really, I had expected more. More time with Jeff. More help in the yard. More rest. More money to be able to fund dance lessons and hockey practise.

    I have expected myself to be able to give everything of myself to my children - I mean, face it, they didn't expect to here with only one parent who often does a losey job in the patience and time department. So I let them sleep with me even if this means I lose my sleep. I let them eat my share of the dinner occasionally if they are still hungry and I have food left on my plate. I forgo a night out with friends because of the guilt I feel for leaving them with someone else when I could certainly be home.

    And then, often, I begin to feel worn out. Frustrated and sorry for myself. Poor me.

    I wish I could get to a place that I always could not expect anything. To just "be". And to exist in what has unfolded in front of me without regrets or expectations. Because maybe the energy it takes to imagine life "as it should be" just takes the energy out of enjoying it as it is.

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    last monday, in a bookstore.

    on monday i came

    face-to-face

    with a teenage

    madeline, and madeline

    at age 38.

    two different

    people, different

    from the madeline i'm

    raising right now.

    but the same.

    they were still

    living with what

    madeline will be living

    with the rest

    of her life.

    ...

    teenage madeline stood

    across the table

    from me,

    holding a copy

    of the thing

    i created for my madeline.

    smiling, braces on

    her teeth,

    i had no idea

    it was madeline

    i was looking at,

    10 or so years

    in the future,

    until her dad

    (me?)

    told me so.

    she talked about

    her life since

    her mom died,

    her dad

    and another woman

    (her brookie?)

    by her side

    smiling proudly

    as she talked

    of sadness, happiness,

    and ultimately, survival.

    i didn't know

    what to say,

    staring back at our

    future, hoping that

    my madeline would

    turn out as

    well as the one

    standing in front of me.

    i did the only

    things i could

    think to do.

    i thanked her,

    and told her that

    when my madeline

    is her age,

    i will be counting on

    her to help

    her through with

    words that will

    make her feel

    not so alone

    in this.

    ...

    38-year old madeline

    came later,

    talking to me

    first about

    her brother

    (a friend of mine from college).

    next, explaining how

    her family came to be...

    her mom died,

    years earlier,

    then everything that

    happened later.

    unlike teenage madeline,

    there was no dad,

    no brookie standing

    next to her.

    she was an adult,

    still working

    through it all.

    like teenage madeline,

    38-year old madeline

    talked of sadness, happiness,

    and ultimately, survival.

    she handed me

    something she was

    working on,

    her way of continuing

    the process of processing,

    the start of something

    that i hope

    my madeline writes

    for me someday,

    to show me how

    far we've come since

    the day after she

    was born

    (and to prove there's another writer in the family).

    ...

    i didn't imagine this.

    it happened.

    last monday.

    in a bookstore

    a few miles away

    from where her

    mother and i

    grew up.

    and as difficult

    as it was

    to see future

    madeline standing

    before me,

    two different times,

    two different ages,

    it made me feel better

    about her future.

    ...

    three year old madeline

    was there, too.

    later that evening,

    she sat in my

    lap, swiped the microphone,

    from me,

    put it a little

    too close to

    her mouth

    and said,

    "daddy! daddy! tell me a story!"

    i had finished

    telling a room

    full of people

    the story that

    happened to her,

    to us,

    the one i had

    written for her.

    but she wanted to

    hear something different.

    so i made up

    a story about

    her and her

    current favorite

    cartoon characters.

    she laughed.

    "more, daddy!"

    yes, madeline.

    more to come...

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    Sharing Something ...

                                      picture from here


    .... that many of you have probably read before.  But it's always good to read again .... and be reminded of it, just in case you come upon someone else who needs it shared with them.
    And for those of you who've never read it .... you will, as always, relate to every line.


    "How You Can Help Me"
    Please talk about my loved one, even though he is gone. It is more comforting to cry than to pretend that he never existed. I need to talk about him, and I need to do it over and over.

    Be patient with my agitation. Nothing feels secure in my world. Get comfortable with my crying. Sadness hits me in waves, and I never know when my tears may flow. Just sit with me in silence and hold my hand.

    Don't abandon me with the excuse that you don't want to upset me. You can't catch my grief. My world is painful, and when you are too afraid to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I most need to be cared about. If you don't know what to say, just come over, give me a hug or touch my arm, and gently say, "I'm sorry." You can even say, "I just don't know what to say, but I care, and want you to know that."

    Just because I look good does not mean that I feel good. Ask me how I feel only if you really have time to find out.

    I am not strong. I'm just numb. When you tell me I am strong, I feel that you don't see me. I will not recover. This is not a cold or the flu. I'm not sick. I'm grieving and that's different. My grieving may only begin 6 months after my loved one's death. Don't think that I will be over it in a year. For I am not only grieving his death, but also the person I was when I was with him, the life that we shared, the plans we had for our children, the places we will never get to go together, and the hopes and dreams that will never come true. My whole world has crumbled and I will never be the same.

    I will not always be grieving as intensely, but I will never forget my loved one and rather than recover, I want to incorporate his life and love into the rest of my life. He is a part of me and always will be, and sometimes I will remember him with joy and other times with a tear. Both are okay.

    I don't have to accept the death. Yes, I have to understand that it has happened and it is real, but there are some things in life that are just not acceptable. When you tell me what I should be doing, then I feel even more lost and alone. I feel badly enough that my loved one is dead, so please don't make it worse by telling me I'm not doing this right. And remember, I was a capable adult before his death and I still am.

    Please don't tell me I can find someone else or that I need to start dating again. I may not be ready. And maybe I don't want to be. And besides, what makes you think people are replaceable? They aren't. Whoever comes after will always be someone different.

    I don't even understand what you mean when you say, "You've got to get on with your life." My life is going on, I've been forced to take on many new responsibilities and roles. It may not look the way you think it should. This will take time and I will never be my old self again. So please, just love me as I am today, and know that with your love and support, the joy will slowly return to my life. But I will never forget and there will always be times that I cry.

    I need to know that you care about me. I need to feel your touch, your hugs. I need you just to be with me, and I need to be with you. I need to know you believe in me and in my ability to get through my grief in my own way, and in my own time.

    Please don't say, "Call me if you need anything." I'll never call you because I have no idea what I need. Trying to figure out what you could do for me takes more energy than I have. So, in advance, let me give you some ideas:

    (a) Bring food or a movie over to watch together.

    (b) Send me a card on special holidays, our wedding anniversary, his birthday, and the anniversary of his death, and be sure to mention his name. You can't make me cry. The tears are here and I will love you for giving me the opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough about me to reach out on this difficult day.

    (c) Ask me more than once to join you at a movie or lunch or dinner. I may say no at first or even for a while, but please don't give up on me because somewhere down the line, I may be ready, and if you've given up then I really will be alone.

    (d) Understand how difficult it is for me to be surrounded by couples, to walk into events alone, to feel out of place in the same situations where I used to feel so comfortable.

    Please don't judge me now - or think that I'm behaving strangely. Remember I'm grieving. I may even be in shock. I am afraid. I may feel deep rage. I may even feel guilty. But above all, I hurt. I'm experiencing a pain unlike any I've ever felt before and one that can't be imagined by anyone who has not walked in my shoes.

    Don't worry if you think I'm getting better and then suddenly I seem to slip backward. Grief makes me behave this way at times. And please don't tell me you know how I feel, or that it's time for me to get on with my life. What I need now is time to grieve. Most of all thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your patience.

    Thank you for caring. Thank you for helping, for understanding.

    And remember in the days or years ahead, after your loss - when you need me as I have needed you - I will understand. And then I will come and be with you.

    --Author Unknown

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Maggie's Angel Day v2.0


    Maggie and I loved to travel and we made a great travel team. One of our favorite activities was hangin’ with the locals in local restaurants and pubs. I was the shy one. She, however, met no one but friends. One evening, somewhere in Greece, Spain, Italy, Mexico, New Orleans or somewhere else, we were chatting it up with one of the locals. “What do you think about all the tourists?” I asked.

    He thought for a second and then, no doubt influenced by beer-flavored truth serum, answered “People come here to have a good time. They leave their homes and jobs to experience a different world - our world. They pretend, just for a little bit, that this place is their home. They eat, drink, dance and celebrate how great it is to be here and pretend that they understand our lives. Eventually, the hangover kicks in and their plane takes off. Back they go to their real life. I’m thrilled that they are able to visit and see what our life is like. I’m happy that they want to come, too. But one thing they don’t really seem to understand is that they are just visitors here. They can leave. We stay. This IS our home. Yeah, they come here to escape but I LIVE here.”

    “I live here.” What a perfect description of Wednesday, May 4, 2011.

    May 4th was the second anniversary of Maggie’s Angel Day. On that day, people posted on my Facebook page thoughtful comments. People posted on my blog more of the same. Some people even sent me cards and text messages, all sweet and supportive. But what they don’t realize is that to me, May 4th is just another day. Of course I miss my baby but that’s no different than it was on May 3rd. Sure, I’m sad. But heck, I was just as sad May 2nd and May 1st - no less and no more. May 4th was just another day that I missed my baby something fierce. Yes, I suppose it’s good in some ways that on May 4th so many people were thinking of and missing Maggie. But they don’t really seem to understand. While they are just visitors, this is my life. I live here. To me, May 4th was just another day.

    Whereas on May 4th, people think back to parties, dinners and happy hours Maggie attended, I go to sleep in an empty bed every night. Whereas people think back on how much fun it was to talk to her on the phone, I miss the other half of my brain. Dinner parties with Maggie were loads of fun; I eat dinner alone almost every night. Happy hours, dinners, parties, dancing – all great weekend memories people share, the absence of which is noted but not life-changing. But every Saturday and Sunday morning when I wake up in a big empty bed, the reality is all too… ever present. I live here. This is my home.

    May 4th will always be a day for people to remember to be sad that Maggie isn’t here anymore. I suppose in some ways I look forward to when May 4th will be a reminder for me to remember her (although it’s hard to fathom such a thing right now.) Perhaps May 4th will become more significant as my daily emotional noise lessens. As the little reminders, the firsts, the lasts, and the landmines fade from daily to rarely, maybe one day I’ll forget to remember. Then May 4th will remind me, you know, in case I forgot.

    (Oh, man. Please give me the strength to forgive myself the day I forget to remember. And someone please remind me why it’s ok that I forgot.)

    The hardest thing for me on Maggie’s Angel Day was watching other people be sad. It just hurts to watch people suffer. I once told my (and Maggie’s) friend Martha about watching an older man grieve over Maggie’s death. It curled the edges of my heart watching him, his face wracked with hard emotions while trying to contain and control the wild forces that were tearing him apart. It hurt me badly to witness such pain and know there was little I could do to extinguish that fire. Martha responded “Now you better understand how we’ve all felt watching you over the last few years.” Humbling.

    Yes, Maggie’s Angel Day was quite a day. But for me, it was a day of watching people reflect and hurt. My increased suffering was because I hurt watching so many other people be sad, not because my sorrow for the loss of my sweet wife was any more intense. I wanted to hold them and comfort them all. I couldn’t. But, thankfully, they were just visiting and, after the very long, very difficult day came to a close, they all went back to their homes and families and friends.

    I live here. Here, Wednesday was just another day.

    Monday, May 16, 2011

    Exhaustion

    So very tired

    This has been quite a week. It was one of those weeks that took so much inner strength, and perseverance, to get through. For one, my now 13 year old has recently fallen so behind in his school work, and his grades were literally tanking. He has some issues, one of which being significant ADHD, which requires a real team effort on the part of his teachers and myself. I have found it increasingly challenging to keep him on track, deal with the emotional fallout of doing so, and not let my anger get the best of me. The same can be said of my ongoing battle in getting the state retirement system to see fit in completing the process of paying out my late husband's pension. I believe that I finally did succeed in making some movement with them, but until I have the check in hand, I will have to remain ever vigilant in my quest to put this matter to rest. I wrote, or better, vented, about this on my Facebook page, and have chosen to re post it here. I thought it might be of use to others in understanding the ongoing challenges of being widowed, and how the business of being left behind, can be quite taxing.


    I am so furious with the state CalPers program. It has taken them this long, and many of my unreturned phone calls, and me becoming irate, for them to suddenly say that yes, you are due your husbands retirement funds, and that we will mail it out. And oh, we will pay a penalty fee for the past 6 months since we had the info. needed to calculate and pay out the funds. What? Six months? I submitted my request in Nov. 2009. Where have my husbands funds been since then, and who is collecting the interest on those funds while you fail to pay them to his surviving spouse? Another call, another irate me, another supervisor angry at me, and hanging up, to then get another supervisor to say that okay, we cry uncle, and will pay penalty fees from 45 days after Nov. 2009. My then question was what rate is being used to calculate the penalty fees. Another irate conversation, then me finally taking a deep breath, and receiving the first direct answer of the day.

    What is wrong with this system? Why am I having to jump through so many hoops. Has anyone else had to do this? This has been my experience with all death benefits from the beginning. Which begs to question...would it have been different if my name had been Danielle? Remember folks. I was legally married. Equal rights and treatment under the law? It's clear to me, that my type, which ever form that may be, can please stand at the back of the room, and be patient


    So, that was a few days ago, and I have since calmed down. Yet, it is indicative of how losing your spouse is difficult enough, but you have to continue to also push onward when you are felling beaten down. This can be so difficult to do, especially when we are left alone to deal with such frustrations. The same can be said for parenting. I know there is a lot of talk in our widowed world about being the "alone" parent, but I was a single parent for most of my adult life. I already knew how to do it alone, yet truly began enjoying, and befitting from, sharing the parenting responsibilities, only to get thrown right back where I started.


    I apologize in advance, as I am extremely exhausted, sitting here attempting to write my Monday post without much ability to focus. I don't like feeling like so much depends on me, as I still do not feel like I am back in game form. Yet that is what I desperately need to be in, game form. I have to continuously advocate for myself. I have to stay on top of the kids' needs. And, I also need to remain open to what lies ahead. It's exhausting work, and I'm just not always feeling so sure of my ability to press on. So with this in mind, I wish that I had something more to say here, something insightful, or with better clarity perhaps, yet I just feel tired, exhausted, and unable to remain awake to be honest. I think life can sometimes take a more challenging turn, and you can either fight it, or go with the flow. Either way seems exhausting me, but what do I know?

    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    The Ring




    I have The Ring.
    The one that binds all rings together.

    I’ve been looking at it lately
    Playing with it.

    Putting it on my left hand, where there has been no ring for over a year
    And it feels…not right anymore.
    It feels wrong on my left finger because it doesn’t feel like…
    me.

    The Ring.
    The one that binds all rings together.

    I had Art’s wedding band, my wedding band and the engagement diamonds all
    melted
    together
    to form
    something else.

    The something else says “14 years of marriage.” It says “Trust, love, anger, disappointment and fortitude.”

    The Ring says “Family of 5, union, and heartache.”

    The Ring says
    “Has been
    fiercely
    loved!”

    The Ring says “Incomplete, not finished and part missing.”

    As I reached up to touch the adoring face of another man, for the first time the ring stung…of guilt and shame! The ring cannot touch this man. I cannot feel this way about this man.

    With all the other men I dated, it had never reacted like this. I stared at it, puzzled.

    When the man reached for my hand, The Ring changed. It said, “Aaahhh.”

    Now when I reach out my right hand to touch this man on the chest, to stroke his back or his hair, The Ring says…
    “Yes!”

    The ring says
    “You were loved and are loved again.”

    The Ring says “This is your new life.”

    As The Ring travels across this man’s fit, strong shoulders
    The Ring reminds me ... where I have been is not to get in the way of where I am going.

    The Ring says “Let him in. Let him love you.”

    So tonight, as I stood hugging this man good-bye, The Ring glinted in the moon light and it said

    “Relax,
    enjoy.”

    The ring said “It’s time to expand, to open, to make room for this one.”

    It’s like all of Art’s love is what was supposed to happen to get me to this place, a place in the life of another amazing man.

    I have The Ring.
    And The Ring says “This is good.”

    Saturday, May 14, 2011

    It Holds On


    I've been getting everything ready for our upcoming AWP event these past two weeks.

    One of the neatest components to the time is the golf tournament. I know...golf....not synonymous with anything too exciting, but at each hole is a sign. A sign that bears words from a fallen hero's wife. Words on his life, his character, his soul....even his favorite beer!

    I've been preparing them the past three years, and never not smile with pride to know that I know these men through their widows.

    I wrote the content of Michael's sign three years ago, never changing it. Mostly due to lack of time, but when submitting them to get printed, I took a moment to look at it...read it once more.

    The content was perfect and defined him perfectly and I ended it with a latin quote. A quote that over the years I forgot translation of (widow brain).

    So yesterday afternoon, I searched for its meaning. The results couldn't be anymore perfect, and was something I needed to read again, as the days shave off closer and closer to the day Michael was killed (plus, it reminded me of how much I wanted to get it tattooed!).

    Quos amor verus tenuit, tenebit.

    True love will hold on to those whom it has held.

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Are YOU a Widowed Blogger?

    Soaring Spirits is thrilled to announce a unique opportunity created by a coalition of widowed bloggers. Read on for details and if you (or someone you know!) are a widowed blogger, this is a great chance to be a part of a weekend you will never forget!

    Widowed Bloggers -- win a ticket to Camp Widow!



    Write a post sharing WHY you want to attend Camp Widow 2011. LINK your post to the homepost to make sure we see it (you can also send us a note when you post it, to supa.dupa.fresh AT gmail.com).


    Camp Widow is a exceptional weekend for widowed people of all ages. We will choose one (possibly two) bloggers to receive a PARTIAL scholarship that covers Camp registration and some incidental expenses. NO ACTUAL CAMPING IS INVOLVED. Learn more about this event, which is in its third year, at campwidow.org.

    How do I enter?

    Please write and publish a blog post telling the world WHY you wish to attend. You can include topics such as how you expect to benefit, or share about some of the widowed people you've already met. You do not need to demonstrate financial need though if you wish to write a separate note discussing your financial circumstances, you may do so. Send those notes to supa.dupa.fresh AT gmail.com.


    Who is eligible to compete?

    Widows and widowers of all ages who started blogging before 4/1/11 and who are interested in attending Camp Widow 2011.

    Please note: you should be prepared to pay for and arrange your travel to and from, and your lodging in San Diego. (We can help you find a roommate to reduce costs). If our generous donors can pay more, they will, but please don't apply unless you are prepared to make the trip (including arranging child care, taking time off work, etc.).

    Schedule:

    You must publish your blog post AND notify us by midnight EST, Tuesday, May 31.

    We will notify the winner(s) within 2 weeks.

    Camp Widow will be held August 12 to 14. Details are at campwidow.org.

    Winner MUST arrange and purchase his or her your own travel and hotel reservations. Scholarship covers Camp Widow registration fee plus some incidentals.

    Questions? Want to help fund this scholarship?

    We want to hear from you.

    Supa.dupa.fresh AT gmail.com.

    (Disclosure: This competition is hosted, managed, and funded by an independent group of widowed bloggers. We're not being compensated for creating this competition and those judging entries are not eligible to win.)

    Saying "NO" to the Fanny Pack

    WV has experienced some technical difficulties with Blogger over the past two days, which has led to late posts and Michele posting some of the blogs. We think things are all set now, thanks for your patience. Today's blog was written by Jackie, and posted by Michele. Teamwork... just one way we make it through the widowed experience!

    I took part in a 10K race the other week. can’t say that I ran. Technically, I did run…for about ten steps. Then I walked. I couldn’t run because I was overly prepared.


    I was afraid that I would get thirsty. That I may trip and need a bandaid. That I may require a dab of sunscreen or lip balm aside from the initial application pre-race. That I may lose consciousness and need my ID for emergency personel. A snack in order to keep my blood sugar up. I kept all of this essential equipment stashed in my very stylish fanny pack. Yes, you may laugh but I was ready for any emergency.

    As I started on the race, I congratulated myself for my preparedness. But when I started to run….I was totally annoyed. The stuff in the pack shifted noisily and the water bottle slapped against my lower back. As I watched other “racers” fly past me, I envied their freedom. Their ability to run.

    I finished the race walking and marvelling at the metaphor that the race had become.

    Fear had kept me from “flying” along with the rest of them. Anxiety that something would happen to or around me caused me to think about every possible scenario and attempt to remedy it before it even happened.

    I think that my fear of not being prepared for all the eventualities that life has to offer is affecting my and my children’s lives. I couldn’t stop Jeff from dying. I couldn’t keep my children’s lives “whole” and “nuclear”. So I will burden myself with all the equipment/knowledge/paraphernalia I can possibly endeavour to possess in an attempt to control the uncontrollable.

    And this need to hold everything together is making me fall apart. I want to live. I want to run!

    Goodbye fanny pack. Next 10K? Commando.

    Thursday, May 12, 2011

    normalcy

    week three of

    my trip around

    the country

    talking about

    that thing I worked

    on for madeline

    it's been a week

     since i've seen

    my baby.

    (well a week since i've hugged my baby. I saw some photos that her grandma broccoli sent my way of maddy covered (and i mean covered) in temporary tattos, and some more that the other grandparents have sent my way.)

    it has been

    awful to be

    away from her,

    and i have been feeling

    terribly guilty

    but then i reminded

    myself that if

    things has been

    different, they

    probably would

    have been the same.

    (but yeah different).

    i would still

    be at my old job,

    still traveling

    to and from india

    every few months,

    still missing some

    important moments,

    still missing my baby.

    all of it

    to give her the

    kind of future

    she deserves.

    so even though i

    miss her more than

    i can adequately describe,

    it makes me

    long for tomorrow.

    (something i never expected).

    and i hate to say it

    bit its nice to know

    that i can

    (finally?)

    find some

    normalcy in our situation

    (something i never expected).

    Written by Matt, posted by Michele due to some technical difficulties....

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    My Heart Breaks Just a Little ....


    .... every time I see how much our children look like (or act like) Jim.

    The above picture is of our youngest, Son #3 and his prom date this past weekend.
    I was not here to witness the event (he's only a sophomore so it wasn't THE prom).
    I was in Alaska, taking care of my brother who had surgery while I was there.

    This young lady's mom sent me the picture.
    I smiled at it and then showed it to my brother.
    He looked at it, then did a double take.
    And looked at it again.
    And then said, "Oh my gosh!  I thought it was Jim!"

    I had not looked at it closely.
    But at his words, I looked again.
    And saw it.
    And my heart broke .... just a little.

    I love to hear those words, "He/She looks so much like Jim." or "He/She reminds me of Jim."
    But ..... at the same time .... they cut my heart.
    (Yes, I guess this is much like last week's post .... "A Double Edged Sword")

    As I looked at the face of Son #3 in that picture, I had to bow my head a little .... and carefully wipe away the tears.  I didn't want my brother to see them.  I didn't want him to think that he had hurt me.
    Because he hadn't.
    The "hurt" had already been done.
    Back at the end of 2007.
    But I realize that my broken heart may never really fully heal.
    Because of the 6 reminders that I have of Jim.

    The 6 very special and wonderful reminders.
    Three girls.
    Followed by three boys.
    They are 6 very important reasons for me still being here.

    They each carry so much of Jim in them.
    And on them.

    Seeing them, especially in pictures ..... makes my heart swell with love, pride and gratefulness.

    And yet .... seeing them .... seeing him in them ..... breaks my heart .... just a little.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Last Person Standing

    A week ago I showed up for a meeting in a different state, that was planned over a month before, to find that the person who was in charge of the agenda was missing. The reason for her absence was that she just found out her best friend has cancer, and her dear friend's diagnosis was delivered to her around the first anniversary of the death of her brother from the same awful disease.

    Later that day,  I was able to sit with my fellow non-profit director and listen to her tell the story of her friend's diagnosis, the heavy reality of the prognosis, and witness the stubborn look in her eye that said, "I will be there until the very end." I just sat in awe of the strength and grace that is required to be the last person standing....the one who will empty the bed pan; the one who will read or joke or sit quietly depending on what the mood calls for; the one who will give a pedicure, wash the hair, and brush the teeth of the person they love; the one who will relish the 'good' days and stay steady through the bad ones. What a priceless gift to give to your loved one, caregivers are heroes. I realized as we talked that I was not only looking at a person who was capable of this courage, but that I have become that person as well.

    You see I literally watched my husband die, but I did not have a chance to nurse him or feed him or comfort him. In fact, up until a year ago I was almost sure he felt no pain when the car hit him. I believed his life was literally knocked out of him. But through the trial process I discovered that in the moments after his death one tear rolled down his cheek. I wish I knew what that tear meant, and more than anything I wish I could have been there to wipe it away. But that was not our course.

    I have been asked countless times which is worse...to suffer a long good-bye or to get no good-bye at all. To be honest this question makes my stomach turn. Death is a personal tragedy, time and time again. Who am I to say what is more or less painful? People argue about this, because our logical minds want to make some sense of death, when there is none to be made. The eternal question of why will not be answered in this lifetime, nor will comparing one death to the next mitigate the pain of either party. Death sucks in every form and someone somewhere will be left reeling in its mighty wake each time a life ends.

    So though I never uttered a good bye to my Phil, I know for sure that given the opportunity to say a long good-bye to someone I love in the future that I will not hesitate. I won't waste time wondering if I am strong enough, because I am. That crazy truth is another lesson learned through grief. I know the meaning of courage. I know the value of facing my fears. I know that avoiding the end won't avoid any of the pain of loss. I know that I will want to be the last person standing. Thanks for that strength grief, before I met you I didn't know I had it in me.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    I am filling in for Michelle today because she is in the hospital after having her appendix removed. I will confess to many moments of anxiety (because of all the lovely lessons grief has taught me!!) as I awaited the news that she was out of surgery and recovering well, but I am happy to report that she is and if you'd like to leave her some get well wishes please do in the comments and I will pass them on!

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    In Between

    THIS CHARMING MAN

    I'm currently in between jobs. Because I wasn't exactly sure when my new job would begin, I had to play it cautiously, and give two week's notice to my most recent employer. It was a matter of jumping through many pre-employment hoops, then play the waiting game of all the required documentation to be returned to the Human Resources office, for them to then schedule my initial orientation. Well, all the doc's didn't return as quickly as I would have liked, so now I have two weeks of no work to deal with.

    Everyone was keeps telling me how fortunate I am to suddenly have two weeks free. Everyone seems to think that having time on my hands is a good thing. Everyone but me.

    You know, I'm doing really well these days. I'm making all kinds of progress, feeling good about myself, and making strides to propel my life forward. What most don't understand is that it is all very carefully choreographed, and the slightest change can set off a flood of emotion. I need my daily life to be full. I need to keep busy. Too much time, and the flood gates come crashing down. It's sad to admit this, but it is so true.

    Open time. Free time, creates cracks in the facade of strength. Tears can overcome me at any given moment. Just today, I'm driving back from paying my mother a Mother's day visit. It's a two hour drive home, and my 12 year old is fast asleep in the seat next to me. It's too quiet in the car, and it's too damn quiet in my head.

    Tears.

    I come home, and find a huge, I mean three feet by tw0, card, with a lovely bouquet of roses, sitting on my front porch. It is a Mother's day gift from my daughter, letting me know that I'm the best mother she could possibly have. A big smile on my face. Then without much thought, massive amounts of tears.

    Why does this have to happen? I look at the beautiful flowers, and think about the roses I used to receive from Michael on every special occasion.

    Massive amounts of tears.

    I pick myself off the bed, go wash my face, and tell myself to just keep moving.

    As I previously said, I'm really doing quite well these days. I'm not just in between jobs, I'm in between the world of being widowed, and being single. I've joined the world of Internet dating. I learned early on that loudly stating my widowed status was a real turn off to most guys. I changed my profile to appear less dark, aiming for something a bit more uplifting, which my life actually is, and placed the fact that I am widowed further into the description. It feels like a better fit actually.

    I am learning to become more comfortable with my in between status. I don't always need to be hiding at home in my mourning clothes. I can reclaim my fun and sensual side, shed the darkness, and can even be a bit flirtatious. I'm enjoying the pursuit. I'm finding that it is better to pursue others, than sit at home feeling less desirable as the widowed guy. I'm finding that when talking to new guys, I can quite comfortably talk about what I am looking for in a potential relationship, and at the same time talk about what I am going through with the loss of my spouse. It feels quite geniune actually.

    Being in between is kind of freeing. I don't have to feel married to any particular role, rather, just be who I am, and speak from where I am, at that given moment. Is it always going to feel this way? Maybe not. Yet, just knowing that it doesn't always have to be gloom and doom, is a good awareness to have. So, for me, a good place to be right now, is in between.