Friday, July 18, 2014


So, last week, you may have noticed that my post was strangely invisible in here.
Yeah. That is because I totally forgot to write one.

I realized this fact somewhere around the time when my name was being called out loud by my friend and Soaring Spirits board member Janine. We were in San Diego. At Camp Widow West. At the Saturday night formal dinner banquet party. Janine was asking the writers of Widows Voice to please stand and be recognized, and as I stood up proudly, something inside of my brain screamed. And then I screamed out loud, to nobody and everybody around me: "Crap! I forgot to write my blog this week!"


But now I'm back. And it turns out, I'm pretty exhausted and, at the moment, almost out of words.
Sometimes, words are not even close to good enough for what Im feeling or thinking or screaming.
Lots of times, only the haunting silence of what was and what used to be and what is, overtake my brain.
The future is filled with fear and anxiety.
The past is gone, and I cant get it back, no matter how much I yell or cry or throw tantrums about it.
The now is the only thing we have, really. But sometimes, the now frightens the living shit out of me.
When I am inside the now, and I actually stop thinking for 15 seconds or minutes, that is actually a place where I feel real joy and fun and glee.
But it is very rare. I think too much.

Sunday was the 3 year death anniversary. It came. It happened. I tried to scream it away, but that didnt work. It came anyway. Maybe it wanted to spite me. Maybe it enjoys mocking me. But it came.

I was in San Diego, attending, and presenting my Grief-Comedy Workshop for the 4th time, at Camp Widow. That morning, on the 13th, I set my alarm to a melodic lullabye-type tone for 5:45am. I made a cup of coffee inside my hotel room, and walked out to the beautiful 9th floor balcony of my room, and waited. I stared into the sky and watched as the sun lit it up slowly and fiercely. It wasn't a sunrise as much as it was an illumination that busted it's way through the darkness and blinded my eyes. It was perfect.

Later that day, I had lunch with a really good friend who lives local, and then even later that night, I had invited lots of my widowed friends out to dinner to honor and celebrate Don, and their loves too. I had each person stand up at the table, say the name of the partner they lost, and tell us something they either learned from them or something they love about them. I went last, and then we toasted to love. Our "group" pay it forward was to pitch in and give our waiter an insanely large tip. I told everyone to put in whatever they wanted to contribute, and we ended up with a 54% tip for our awesomely sarcastic waiter, who was very moved by us and by "Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day," which I created 2 years ago as a way to not only honor my husband and who he was, but a way for me to get through the day.

 He put the day in his phone so that he can recognize it next year and each year after, on July 13th. He will now pay it forward and do an act of kindness on July 13th, in my husband's name. It felt so amazing to do this, and to share this hard, hard, hard day with so many other people who truly "get it." After dinner, we walked to a gorgeous gazebo and I had asked everyone to choose a song lyric that meant something to them and their person, and recite it for us. We went in a circle and everyone had a little story about why that song meant something, and then when it was my turn, I sang my song choice, which was "Longer" by Dan Fogelberg. It was one of Don's very favorite songs, and it was the last song of the night at our wedding. I will never forget slow-dancing with him that night, as everyone stood around us in a circle, taking pictures and coming up and hugging us and just witnessing our love. And now, as I sang the lyrics on July 13th, surrounded by my widowed family of friends, they circled me and witnessed that same powerful love between two people - living on forever.

Longer than, there've been fishes in the ocean,
Higher than any bird ever flew,
Longer than there've been stars up in the heavens,
Ive been in love with you. 

Through the years, as the fire starts to mellow
Burning lines in the book of our lives,
through the blinding cracks
and the pages start to yellow,
I'll be in love with you.
I'll be in love with you.
I am in love with you. 

For a day that is the saddest and most difficult day of my life, it was a pretty beautiful and touching day. 
I could tell you all about the rest of camp widow and what that was like, but I think I'm going to save that for another post. Right now, I just want to talk about July 13th, and the fact that for the first time ever, I did not wake up on that day in a state of panic and anxiety. My friend Michele made the suggestion about waking up and looking at the sunrise. It was a great idea. It seems that it is almost impossible to stare at something of beauty and nature such as that sky and light, and simultaneously think or re-live horrific and awful traumatic thoughts. Somehow, I got through the early morning hours of that day, and even though I was VERY AWARE that it was 6:32 am when it was 6:32 am (the time that my phone rang over and over and my old life died) - It passed by and nothing happened. I didn't sob my face off. I didn't panic. I didn't shake or feel tremendous fear. I felt incredibly sad, because It was the anniversary of the day my husband DIED. It will always be sad for me. Always. 

But I saw a beautiful sunrise that morning, and I ended my night in a circle of friendship and love, just like on my wedding night. What I felt that day was something that felt a little bit like peace, even if for only a day.

(pictured: sunrise on July 13th. me with our very grateful waiter after we paid it forward with a ginormous tip. me with some widowed friends, toasting to our loves.)


  1. Kelley, so happy you have had opportunity to be there with the camp this year. What an amazing group to be a part of. It overtakes anything else, right now.
    I love the pay it forward campaign. I'll put it on my calendar too. It's a beautiful sentiment, one I am sure Don would be proud of. You are an amazing, strong, talented person I hope, hope hope hope hope someday to meet you. There is nothing better, stronger, more important than the relationships we develop that strengthen and support us in these times. Lots of love. (and by the way I love that song.)

    1. We will meet one day Stephanie. Im sure of it:) And I agree - these bonds are so important. It is a huge part of what gets me through.

  2. After reading your posts on here for a year Kelley, it was wonderful to meet you at CW and thank you personally for the impact your posts had on helping me get through my "year of firsts". I am glad I got to hear your firsthand description at breakfast of the sun "bursting" through. In honor of you and Don, I paid it back AND forward on Sunday with a RAOK of a small donation (wish it could be more) to the indiegogo campaign. Long live love as you begin this new fourth year.

    1. That sounds sooooo weird hearing it that way: "this 4th year." Yikes. Thank you Carolyn!!! And it was awesome meeting you too - thats my favorite part of going to camp and going BACK to camp - reuniting with the peeps I met the time before, and then meeting new friends each time. It is so amazing and uplifting. Thank you sooo much for the donation, you have no idea how much it helps. Really. xoxo

  3. dear Kelley,

    I am so happy for the wonderful experience of being at camp widow, and that you felt so much love and support during the very difficult third anniversary of your Dear Don's death. the paying it forward must have been so very comforting; seeing your widowed friends jump right in and join you in honoring Don as well as how you paid it forward with the generous tip to that amazing waiter, who is also joining the pay it forward circle! it will be my pleasure to join you - I've written it on my calendar. now I am off to listen to that special song on youtube! I will picture you and Don dancing and being encircled with such amazing love at your wedding.

    much love,