Friday, July 4, 2014

Gone on the Fourth of July - Again.

So, today is the 4th of July. I do not have any plans. In exactly 9 days from now, on July 13th, it will be the 3-year anniversary of Don's sudden death. I think that what happened is that I got so anxious and determined to make sure I had a plan for that day, that I completely forgot about the major holiday that comes the week before, and all the trauma and guilt and anxiety associated with it for me. So now, here I sit, wondering once again, just like last year, how to handle this very complicated day, which brings sadness and numbness to me, usually without even trying.

I am going to copy below, a portion of the blog that I wrote in here last year on this same day. Not because I am too lazy to write something else, (well, maybe that's part of it) but because what it says is EXACTLY the same thing I want to say again this year, because I still have not been able to figure this all out in my mind, and I still don't like "celebrating" on the 4th of July. It is sort of weird that, in this particular area, I feel like I have not had forward motion or any breakthroughs at ALL in my thought process. I had hoped I would feel differently about this day now, than I did a year ago. But I don't. So that is why the exact same words I wrote last year, are just as relevant today. Here is a part of what I wrote last year on this day:

"I have no last words with my husband. No goodbyes. No good morning. No goodnight. We both sort of fell asleep the night before, I think, and I cannot recall anything that was said to one another. The next day, I woke up, and he was gone from the apartment, and gone from this earth. Sometimes it still doesn't feel real. How can someone just disappear like that? And why the hell can't I remember anything about the days and weeks leading up to his death? Was our life really that dull in those weeks that I cant chalk up one happy memory?

I do remember one thing, and it haunts me. It feeds me with guilt and sorrow, and I hate it for having that hold on me. It was the 4th of July. We had two invitations to hang out with friends that night. Our neighbors down the street, a married couple, asked us to come to their apartment, have drinks, and hang out on their high-rise balcony and watch the fireworks. My best friend Sarah and her husband Julio also invited us over to their Long Island home for a night BBQ and fireworks from their neighborhood park. Or, we could just stay home, and walk across the street together and see the fireworks by ourselves.

Don did not want to do any of those things. On that night, he seemed really tired, kind of bored, and had a lack of energy to do much of anything. He was working his normal job as a paramedic, and had also picked up a second job stocking dog and cat food, as well as helping with pet adoptions, at our local Petsmart. He was exhausted:

Me: Boo, let's go to Sarah's place, it will be fun.
Him: You go, Boo. I'm really tired and I just don't feel like going out.
Me: But it's the 4th of July, I wanna spend it with you. Let's go to the neighbors, they have an awesome view from up there.
Him: Nah. I just don't care about fireworks really.
Me: Okay, well you and I can just walk across the street and see them then, by ourselves.
Him: Nah. You go. I just want to stay in tonight, play some guitar, relax.
Me: But it's right across the street. You're saying you won't walk across the street with me to see fireworks?
Him: I'm saying I don't care about fireworks.
Me: But they are right here. All we have to do is look up. You are refusing to look up?
Him: It'll be hard to look up when Im taking a nap. Go to Sarah's house. Have fun, Boo. I'm fine.
Me: Okay. I guess I will then.

I did go to Sarah's house that night, and I felt really sad about it. Don and I almost never fought, and this wasn't even really a fight either, but it made me sad that he didn't want to spend time with me like I wanted to spend time with him. And that he wouldn't walk across the street, simply because I wanted to. But now, since his death, I feed myself with guilt and ask: Why didn't I stay home with him that night? Why did I leave him? I should have stayed home. The poor guy was tired. He was working two jobs. Why did I make him feel BAD that he didn't want to watch fireworks? Why was watching fireworks more important to me than hanging out with my husband? These questions loop inside my heart, over and over, relentlessly.

And it bothers me that THIS is the LAST thing I remember about our life. This stupid, silly conversation about fireworks and being tired. After this night, everything else turns to fog.

And now, today, and every 4th of July, even if the fireworks are right outside my window, I refuse to look up and see them. I don't want to see them. Not without him. Not without my husband. It sounds incredibly stupid, but watching fireworks on the 4th of July feels like I'm betraying him. Like I'm leaving him to go hang out with my friends and look into the night sky without him.

It feels wrong, and I feel crazy, but sometimes crazy is my best friend, because my real best friend disappeared into the night, that night. Gone on the 4th of July.

(pictured: My husband Don is in front, taking this "selfie" of us, with the group of friends we used to hang out with constantly. This was taken at our Jersey apartment, where the fireworks were literally across the street, so our friends would come over and watch with us. This is I think 2008, on the 4th of July, in that life I used to have that no longer exists.) 


  1. Its our anniversary, one no one else knew. It's when we first kissed, when we became us- two best friends becoming something more. It was after a fourth of July party, we were simply hanging out alone afterwards. And we decided since the 4th became the 5th,we'd celebrate for 2 days. I've actually received 2 invites for this time, our anniversary that was always known just to us. I'll take the kids out for fireworks tonight, as that became part of the celebratory tradition. But then what? The extreme pain reared it's head as midnight passed. I try so hard on focusing on what has to be done, but this day... it's going to be a knock-down drag out fight to get through. And what was once our endearing secret, is now my personal torture. One I would never undo,but will have to forever endure. Peace and strength to you all as you contend with these moments. ~Sabrina

  2. I met my wife 37 years ago on the 4th. Living in the past is just that, time and your life goes on. I now see fireworks alone, not the same, but something I had always enjoyed. A lot of memories we have of the past, not to live in it, but to live remembering..And moving on..

    God Bless..

  3. Oh Kelley, I'm so sorry that this is such a torment for you. My birthday was the week before Dan died and I remember feeling a bit let down that he didn't make a bigger fuss since it was our first as a married couple (I did a treasure hunt for him, around our house, on his birthday a few months earlier). When he took his life and I realised just how hard he'd been struggling (and protecting me from his sadness) I felt like such a shitty person for being so self absorbed. It also really bugs me that I can't remember what we are for our last meal together the night before. Absolutely no idea. It was his last supper, I cooked it, but stuffed if I can remember what it was!!! That sounds like a small thing to some people but it really bothers me. Lots of love, see you in a week!!!!!! Xox

  4. Yes. I cant remember ANYTHING about the last week or so of our life together, and so literally my last real memory is the 4th of July, and how I chose not to hang out with him and leave him home instead. It bothers me so much that I have THAT as a last real memory, AND it bothers me that I cant come up with one moment from our life to recall in the 9 days or so before he died. I dont get it, and I hate it. It makes this whole week leading up to his death just very foggy and surreal and strange .... cant wait to meet you Rebecca! Hugs xoxo

  5. Kelley Lynn, my husband died June 21 of a sudden heart attack in the middle of the night. Like you, there were no goodbyes, no last "I Love You," no closure whatsoever. My husband had friends over for a poker game that lasted until 10:00 p.m. My husband came to bed at 10:50; took the remote to watch TV; I turned over and went to sleep. At 3:11 a.m., I was a widow. I feel your pain for it is my pain as well. July 1st is our anniversary so July 4th I feel nothing but pain, loss, and an ache that will never leave me. Like you, I sit here, July 4th, alone with no plans. Almost all our couple friends are gone and my daughters are into themselves and their lives. My grief journey is my own and I walk it alone. Kelley, I send you a big hug for I know and understand where you are today. mrsmcgoo

  6. Ahh, all the what if questions. They say we shouldn't dwell on the what if, but how can you not? Laura loved to see the fireworks, but hated the loud noise. So, I'll sit in my home office and watch the fireworks from a distance, with their muted bangs. I don't remember what Laura and I did for meals or if we went out to hear some live music during the week before her accident. Our life before her accident was our routine. It wasn't critical to remember, it was just life. What I do remember, are our special occasions, what she liked and didn't like and how comfortable we were together.

  7. Oh Kelley, so sorry that today is such a tough day for you, especially when everyone around seem to be in celebration mood. Hope the fog lifts in coming years and you can remember some trivial but sweet memory from the days that seem to have faded now. Maybe life was so perfectly smooth in those last days for you two that they didn't register in your brain.

  8. Paul. ..perhaps you have the answer. .The day to day was routine. .not critical to remember. perhaps remembering the special occasions should be the focus and not what can't be remembered. ..thank you. ..Linda

  9. How appropriate to read this as fireworks are being displayed on the lake. I, too, no longer care to watch them. I seem to shy away from all the normal things we used to do, too many memories of those better times I guess. Just trying to figure out where exactly I fit in anymore, not caring really when I don't.

  10. dear Kelley,

    I am so very sorry for what your are left with, those memories of Don being tired and you wanting to see fireworks. and I know it must be especially tortuous that you can't remember anything about the days leading up to his death. forgiving our selves for what we had absolutely no idea of what would happen is such a painful place to be.

    I have read you personal blog from the beginning to the present time. what I've read has touched me deeply because it's not just the story of loss, it's the story of how incredibly in love you were with each other, how good you were to each other, and how the bond of love you both had for one another had such a meant-to-be-ness. I love when you quote so many conversations you and Don had about so many things - the tenderness, the mutual back and forth lovey/teasey humorous things that show how much you knew each other's hearts and minds. and how Don could always make you feel better if you were sad or scared or royally pissed off at the world. and here's what I imagine from all that you have written; that Don would want you to forgive yourself, that he holds you and your sweet heart and everything about you in the highest light of love, that you, his Boo, was the best thing that ever happened to him, and that he would never want you to suffer the awful pain you are in. perhaps if you ever find your way to forgiving yourself, it will allow the other memories, the good ones, the ones of contentment in ordinary days spent together, to come forward and into the light. I will hold you close to my heart, and hope with the biggest hope that somehow, some way, some day, you will find peace.

    much love,


    1. Karen, Im in tears reading this reply from you. Good tears. Thank you so much for taking the time to help me forgive myself, and help me to the beginning of seeing this in a new light. I guess when I write about the relationship and love that Don and I had/have, sometimes I dont really think about it too much. Meaning, I was INSIDE it, so I dont think about how it comes across to those reading about it. Im simply telling my story. Im so glad to know that as the reader, you can FEEL the love we have, and Im so glad that its NOT just a story of loss, but of that love. Thank you for reminding me about the power of that love.

  11. I totally can relate to this post. There were things I did in our relationship that I wished I had not done. Ways I acted - for lack of realizing how I was making him feel because i was too caught up being selfish. They were never major things, except for one. And it happened on the 4th too.

    July 4th, 2011, our last July 4th together, we were having a pool party with a bunch of friends when he got a phone call. He stepped off to the side to take it and then we all suddenly heard him yelling and he punched the gate of the apartment pool so hard he dented it! I ran over to see what happened - this was VERY abnormal behavior for him. It was his mom calling to say she had found his uncle, who has shot himself in the head and killed himself. And she had been the one who found him. He was very close to his uncle and it was devastating for him.

    Aside from the event itself, his anger was making it hard for me to be there for him - since that is one of my biggest triggers from the past abuse I'd been through. I was VERY uncomfortable being around people with their emotions. And worst of all… a few days after it all happened, my brother arrived from Cali to stay with me for 3 weeks, and instead of being there for Drew, I put my brother first. My brother was just on vacation. And not going through a serious trauma. Instead of telling my brother I needed to go be with Drew at his place at least every few nights, I totally left him alone with his grief. It nearly destroyed our relationship in the 6 months following, until we finally had a huge fight and a deep talk about it all, and I began to really work hard to overcome my fears so that I could learn to be with him while he was going through stuff.

    But the moment he died. The moment I got the phone call about HIM, i suddenly knew what he was experiencing the moment he got the phone call about his uncle. I'd never experienced sudden loss, and I had no idea what a trauma like that felt like. And now, I knew exactly what it felt like. And I knew exactly what I had left him alone to deal with. It is something that tore me apart for about a year after his death. Devastated me beyond belief. Even though I did make it right in the end in his eyes, I never fully did in my own. And even though there were logical reasons to why I acted the way I did and in the end it brought us closer together, a part of me will always carry a very small amount of sadness for having abandoned my best friend in his time of greatest need.

    So the 4th always brings up all of that for me. And it can be really hard to want to allow myself to enjoy any of it. I did choose to get out and enjoy it this year, and it was good for me. But that event in 2011, and the way I handled it, will always remain in my heart. Because it should. I don't think that we should ever forget our regrets. I don't think we should always punish ourselves for them either, or feel like we are betraying them by not punishing ourselves, but for a time - as we work it out - that's what we do.

    We should always remember our regrets even when we decide not to blame ourselves for them anymore, because they help us make better choices about loving the people in our lives today and for all of our days. In the end, I think that is the gift of regret, it makes us choose differently, choose better, and gives purpose to things that we cannot go back and change.

    1. Sarah, this is such a great point you make, about that we should never forget our regrets, and about how they can help us choose better and give purpose to things we cant change. I have never heard anyone say that before about regret - most people just say regretting things is pointless, but I see now that it ISN'T a pointless emotion at all. I have never seen regret as a gift before. Until today. This is big. Thank you!!!! I love you!

    2. Sarah. ..This whole thing about regrets is beyond anything I ever has made a BIG impact on me. ....
      Thanks for this. ...Linda