Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I Will Survive ....

..... even though it did take two years for me to believe it.
I will.
.... even though it took two years for me to want to.
I will.

.... even though I still have days (sometimes weeks) when I'm knocked down by an unexpected wave.
I will.
.... even though I still have days (sometimes weeks) when I'm angry at Jim for leaving (yes, it's irrational, of course he wouldn't have chosen this, but who says grief is rational?) or at God for leaving me here without him.
I will.

.... even though I still have times when I can't stop thinking, "I cannot believe that this is my life".
I will.
.... even though I still have many, many times when I think, "This sucks."
I will.

.... even though I'm not the same person I was "before" and I miss her.
I will.
.... even though I'm not the same mother I was "before" and I sorely miss her.
I will.

.... even though my heart is forever scarred.
I will.
.... even though I sometimes still physically ache from his absence.
I will.

.... even though I still can't quite picture my future without him.
I will.

.... even though this is the most difficult thing I have done in my entire life.
I will.

... even though ....

I. Will.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Another countdown. 40. Six months ago I celebrated 40. Next week would be Daniel's 40th. He only made it to 35, and now he'd be 40. Shit.

Amazingly enough, I think his birthday is harder for me than my own was. Mine sucked in it's own special way, but this is different. I'm actually 40. I'm aging. I'm alive. He's not 40. He's not aging. He's not alive.

My mind plays tricks on me and it seems like only moments ago he was here. I could call him. I could hurry home from work knowing he'd be there. We were raising Grayson together, having a life together. Not anymore. Not for four and a half years. It still sucks.

Grayson and I talk about how funny it will be for me to see Daniel again in Heaven - he'll be young, only 35, and me? I'll be a hagard toothless old lady. Grayson thinks you get to pick how old your body is in Heaven. I hope so. I certainly wouldn't want my heavenly image to be based on how I feel on the inside....some days I feel 90 already. Today is one of those days.

Happy Tuesday - Michelle D.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Owning My Path

"As a widow you will learn that the only choice that ultimately brings peace is walking the path of grief that has your name on it. The only way to walk with grief is to meet it head on and know that those who have walked before you have survived." ~Linda Perrone Rooney

I found this quote over the weekend, and instantly wanted to share it with all the widowed people I know. I used it right away as my facebook status, posted it in my office, and planned to use the quote as the opening of my blog this week....funny thing is I think I would have HATED this quote about four and a half years ago.

When I first realized that the word widow applied to me I wanted to run screaming away from the reality that came with that label. I also was seriously annoyed by the idea that I was not only expected to face the fact that my husband was dead, but somehow own a journey of healing that was horrifying to me. Heal? On purpose? For what reason again? Did you not hear me say that my husband is DEAD?! When a person whose husband was alive and well talked to me about how I was going to overcome this loss and find new joy in my life, I wanted to throw up on them. Or jab their eyes with a pen. Yep, I was willing to own the consequences of those actions.

I guess the trouble I had with taking ownership of my grief journey was the fact that no one asked me if I wanted to embark on this crazy expedition. It is one thing to take ownership of your actions, these are things that you presumably did with intention (or at least acted out due to horrid widowed rage!), but I found it really difficult to accept the idea that healing the wound left by the unexpected loss of my husband was also my responsibility.

Then I began meeting other widowed people, and I could no longer say "You don't understand." Instead I observed where their lives had taken them. I discovered the ways that they honored the love they had for their husbands, and still lived a full and happy life. I witnessed time and time again the courage with which they faced the challenges that life continued to drop on their doorsteps. And then I realized that the only way out of this pain was to walk through it.

Today I still look to my fellow widowed friends when life throws me a grief curve ball. I also have the honor of witnessing hope bloom in the hearts of people who have all lost so much. I no longer resent the fact that my grief journey is my own. In fact, I now welcome the opportunity to leave my mark on the route I must walk, so that the people who come after me on this path will know that hope lies ahead.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


BP stands for Bruce Paul, the almost 19 year old boy I reference in this post
A friend of his designed this t-shirt for him on Valentie's Day
His school sold it. In just one month, he t-shirts appeared all over the world.

“He’s in our thoughts and prayers.”

“We are sending a blanket of love.”

Those are words I read today about a boy, who like Art is

battling his second round of cancer.

He’s doing a better job than Art did

and I’m NOT doing a better job at begin gracious.

Instead, when I read those words of love

And support

Ms. Cynic thinks

“Save your breath!”

“Those good thoughts and prayers

Don’t work.

If they did,

I wouldn’t be writing this column.”

Silly, stupid, people.


That boy died earlier morning on Friday, March 26.

The grief sucked me down its whirlpool, shame followed

And anger was fast on its heels.

Only this time, I bobbed to the surface

Before I got too much water up my nose.

The whirlpool didn’t take me down as far and I am not as disoriented.

I cry because I know where his mom will go

I know the journey of loss

and the idea of someone I know walking it

Makes me scream myself raw

and punch trees

and crumble to the floor and say

“Why her? Why her?”

Brooks….I’m sorry.

I wanted those silly, stupid people prayers to work.

I really wish they had worked.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

He Did It

Michael did.

Not through buildings, books, televisions or how much money he had in his account- but through lives.

The lives he touched with his words, kindness, support. The lives he touched through his love, encouragement and unfaltering friendship.

He did it. He did it without even trying.

He created something that will last forever. If not only through those people who were affected by it, but the places where his feet have set or his hands have gently grazed.

He understood the definition of forever by not aiming for it or trying to reach it as the ultimate goal...he just lived, and when he left, it sat on the front door step for me to bear witness to, to learn from, and continue on his "forever" by slowly creating my own.

Friday, March 26, 2010

deux ans

Deux ans. Two anniversaries of the day I lost my huge, hairy and hilarious husband.
I've learned so very much in these two short years. A lifetime of lessons. Lessons I didn't really want to know.
I now know that although I did not think in those first few hours, days and months, that I would survive, I did. I breathed each breath with a sob. I grudgingly ate each meal. Each movement was filled with melancholy and loss. So the first 11 months, I call 'survival'.
The first anniversary of Jeff's death was painful, exhausting and anticlimatic. I had hoped that once I had conquered this date that things would be easier. But although I had lost the hollow and vacant stare and I could remember to feed myself, I could not for the life of me figure out how I was going to live again. But I shuffled forward. The first year was about 'coping'.
Now, as I enter my second year alone, I realize that although life continues to be different and harder than it was before Jeff's body ceased to exist, it is easier than the first anniversary. The mourning is less new and raw. I am stronger, more capable and so able to laugh.
So although this new year may be only about 'hoping', it is a big step. A colossal step towards the time when I can start 'living' again.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

its complicated

spent time with a relatively

new friend.

a widow with far

too much in common.

the number 25 shows

up so often for both of us that

i’ve suggested we both

stop using quarters.


she’s in town to

take her kids to

disneyland and the beach,

and i’ve offered

up a few of

my afternoons

to show them around town.

today, my friend

asked me to take

some photos

of her and her kids.

said sure.

i finished up and a woman

walked up to us and said,

“do you want me to take some photos of all of you?”

“no thank you”

i said.

she gave me quite

a strange look.

i said to her,

“no need for a photo. she’s not my wife. those kids are not mine.”

another strange look.

“it’s complicated.”

i said.

she said,

“i don’t want to know.”

as she walked away.

didn’t realize how crazy

that all sounded

until my friend finally stopped

laughing at me and

recounted word-for-word

what i’d said.


now i want to

find that lady and

tell her what’s going on!

ah, forget it.

who would believe us?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Romance, the Second Time Around ....

..... is not a walk in the freakin' park.
Don't get me wrong .... it can certainly be wonderful ..... but it also can really piss me off.

I tend to get pissed at Jim a lot now .... for dying and leaving my in this position.
I wouldn't have to be dating someone new if he hadn't died.
I wouldn't be getting angry at how different this man is if he hadn't died.
I wouldn't be getting my feelings hurt by someone who doesn't know me that well if he hadn't died.
I wouldn't be dealing with the crap of raising teenage boys all alone if he hadn't died.
He'd be here to deal with a son's 10 day suspension today and the fact that he and his car got searched for pot tonight ..... if he hadn't died.

I wouldn't be trying to make a new relationship work with two boys who don't want it to if Jim hadn't died.
I wouldn't be questioning if I should be in a relationship or put my boys' feelings first if he hadn't died.
I wouldn't be feeling that I suck as a parent if he hadn't died.
I wouldn't constantly be questioning myself in every area of my life if he hadn't died.
I wouldn't be thinking that there's no way I could re-marry before the boys are out on their own if he hadn't died.
I wouldn't be wondering if I should end this relationship so that this man doesn't have to deal with my crap if Jim hadn't died.

So romance the second time around is very, very different.
Different in many good ways.
And different in many ways to which I will have to adjust.

But that's all a part of moving forward.
I guess.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

If Every Second Counts on a Clock That's Ticking

Image Credit: Shuttershock 2008

It's a musical Tuesday. This is one that keeps getting stuck in my head, and the meaning of the words isn't lost on me. I'm sure most of us get it. The question that still remains is this: "what will I do with this knowledge?" I didn't want to understand this. I'd have rather lived to be much older without the dark knowledge of the shortness of our lives. But I didn't. I learned it earlier than some. What will I do with this knowledge? I don't know yet, what I do know is that I try to live in the moment. It's challenging for me. I'm getting better at it. I promise to keep trying.

Sometimes we fall down, can't get back up
We're hiding behind skin that's too tough
How come we don't say I love you enough
Til it's too late, it's not too late

Our hearts are hungry for a food that won't come
And we could make a feast from these crumbs
And we're all staring down the barrel of a gun
So if your life flashed before you, what would you wish you would've done?

Yeah, we gotta start looking at the hands of the time we've been given
If this is all we got, then we gotta start thinking
If every second counts on a clock that's ticking
Gotta live like we're dying

We only got 86,400 seconds in a day to
Turn it all around or to throw it all away
We gotta tell them that we love them while we got the chance to say
Gotta live like we're dying

And if your plane fell out of the skies
Who would you call with your last goodbye?
Should be so careful who we left out of our lives
And when we long for absolution, there will be no one on the line

Yeah, we gotta start looking at the hands of the time we've been given
If this is all we got, then we gotta start thinking
If every second counts on a clock that's ticking
Gotta live like we're dying

You never know a good thing til it's gone
You never see a crash til it's head on
Why do we think we're right when we're dead wrong?
You never know a good thing til it's gone

We only got 86,400 seconds in a day
To turn it all around or to throw it all away
We gotta tell em that we love em while got the chance to say
Gotta live like we're dying.

Live Like We're Dying - Kris Allen

Happy Tuesday - Michelle D.

Monday, March 22, 2010

What I Can Do

From the minute I was told that Phil was dead I have been tortured by things I could not do. Initially, the fact that no amount of hoping, denying, praying, or screaming was going to bring him back to life haunted my days. I was obsessed with the idea that the world would be whole again only when someone with a magic wand brought me back my husband.

As the months dragged on my focus on what I couldn't do morphed into a terrible jealousy of any seemingly happy person passing by: families out for a walk, Dads playing ball in the front yard, couples out to dinner on a Saturday night, anyone who dared to hold hands in front of me, and especially little old couples helping each other in and out of cars. My imagination would run wild, and I created dozens of blissfully happy scenarios for these people I viewed through my "I can't have what you have" lens.

These kind of feelings don't plague me as much anymore. I am able to allow other people to be happy in my presence without wanting to kill them (I am quite proud of this),and I don't find myself counting the ways my life is horrible very often.

But every once in awhile when life gets overwhelming I fall back into listing the things robbed from me by my widowhood. Saturday was one of those days. I set out to run 12 miles for my marathon training. I was tired, hadn't eaten as much as I should have, was leaving behind a long list of things to do, and was generally not in the mood to spend almost two hours running. The park I chose for my run was filled with families. I found myself silently telling the men I noticed being chased by their children or kicking a soccer ball on the field to be sure they watched their cholesterol so they could limit the chances of dying young and torturing their families with their untimely death. As I ran past a party merrily hitting a pinata, I mentally warned the group to be sure to avoid death by head trauma delivered by a wayward bat. After a few minutes of this kind of grim thinking, I laughed out loud. Bitter widow.

There is plenty of time for self-reflection on a long run, and as I looped around a lovely portion of the trail I realized that I was missing Phil. Damn it, he was supposed to be doing this training with me. This was his crazy idea. Why am I left to run for hours on end with no partner? Where is he when I need him? How am I going to get through all of this alone? It seems entirely unfair that he can just float along by my side, and I am the one doing all the hard work. This realization brought a few tears with it, and then the trail opened up. The sun was shining, illuminating the blanket of grass inspired by the recent rains. There was a soft breeze blowing gently into my face. My legs work, I am capable of running. I reminded myself that I have been managing the training along with all the other daily things I do. The kids haven't starved, the house hasn't fallen down, and since I have become a widow my world has grown in ways I would have never dreamed. Okay, I have a lot to be grateful for even though my husband is dead.

At the end of my run it occurred to me that marriage and widowhood are both for better or for worse. Sometimes I have to choose to focus on the better part.

(This photo proves the point that life has brought me some fantastic many people get to pose with their vegetarian daughter in front of the Wienermobile??)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Broken Plate

“My husband doesn’t want to go.”

“Huh! I don’t think mine will either!” a woman giggles.
I smile, listening.
wanting to smack them across their whiny, made-up faces which happen to be attached to well-dressed bodies,
wanting to complain about MY husband,
wanting to scream at the top of my lungs…
“I want to belong to this group again!”
I want to live in happy, oblivion and complain about…
MY husband
And laugh at the expense of…
MY husband
And shake my head at the thought of what
MY husband
would say
But I don’t HAVE a husband.
When I refer to MY husband
it’s in past tense...always.
I stand there with a plastered smile, seething.
Finally I turn
walk to the buffet
pick out some fruit and decide to top it with whip cream
that is sticking to the spoon
so I bang it,
on the plate
too vigorously.
And the plate cracks in half.
I let out a “HA!”
Other woman stare.
I smile.
The grief-rage having exited my body so appropriately.
MY husband would have had a good laugh over that.
But MY husband is dead.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Ring

It is no secret.... my engagement ring is part of me. When he slipped it on my finger that September day, it symbolized more then our unity, but more so our eternal love, undying dedication and taking this journey together...never faltering.

It is a main reason that I wanted Michael cremated with his on. It eternalized it. It cemented what was already done.

When Michael went to pick mine out, he asked "What do you want, baby?"

Of course, being the girl, I had preconceptions on what I though I'd want it to look like, how it would be cut, etc.

But it was in that moment, as his green eyes stared down at me endearingly...that it all melted away.

"I want you to pick something out, that when you look at it, you think of me." I replied.

It didn't have filigree nor was it channeled with many stones. It was a simple cathedral setting with a princess cut diamond.

But as simple as its setting, oh how that diamond glowed. Its facets reflecting colors I had never seen. A simple cut to hide its many complexities.

I stare at the ring so often, and finally see why Michael chose it. It's the perfect combination of us's our ring <3

Friday, March 19, 2010


My family began battling cancer in 2003 when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with colon cancer. Five years later my wife, who was pregnant with our third child, was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. Despite a valiant fight, cancer claimed the life of mother-in-law on April 18th and of my wife on July 23rd. I am now raising three girls all under the age of ten. It's a constant battle between my feelings of misery about the devastating losses in my life, and the gratitude I feel for the gift of three amazing daughters who need me now more than ever. This is my challenge, and these are my thoughts.

I was simply moving stuff out of the basement. It’s time to move. The house is too big for us without Lisa. It’s just me and the kids. The cost is too high, it’s too much to clean, and I don’t have that many hours left in the day to take care of everything that needs to be done here. I need a smaller, less expensive, easier to clean house.

I bring up an old air conditioner from the basement (how long has that been down there). I walk back downstairs to get more junk (is this project going to take me all day?), and grab a broken lamp to bring back up (this lamp use to be in our bedroom. Is she really gone?). Put the lamp next to the front door, pause and take a look around the house (what is going on here, why the emotion, am I really going to miss this place, there is so much sadness associated here I want to leave, don’t I?). Back downstairs again and grab the box of Holiday decorations (ah crap, this is getting difficult, I didn’t expect this. Keep moving Matt, too much work to do today). Place the box next to the lamp and now the emotion is on me like a wet blanket (It’s official. I am starting to rebuild my life. I’m scared). I sit down on the box and breakdown.

I did what I could for 2 years. I tried to keep things as routine as possible for as long as possible. I did it for the girls. I could tell that it wasn’t so much that they lost their Mother. It was “How will my life change?” “What chaos is in store for us Dad?” So for 2 years, I kept the chaos away. I kept living in a house that was too big for us; taking care of a house that is too much for me to clean; paying bills on a house that is more than a now single income family can afford. For 2 years I blocked the inevitable.

But the time has come. This is the first major step. I am starting to rebuild my life. And it’s a horrible feeling.

which way did he go?

Jeff's birthday was on the 16th. The kids and I performed our birthday tradition of making him a blueberry pie. As per Liv and Briar's directions, we lit a candle and stood on the back deck waiting for him (aka the wind) to blow it out. After a few minutes, the kids 'helped' him and blew it out themselves.
It broke my heart to watch them standing there expectantly cheering him on. "Come on, Daddy! You can do it! Blow it out!"
It's moments like this that I so wish that there was a manual to which I could refer. I don't know if I should just follow their lead with their beliefs surrounding death or if I should guide them to some more socially acceptable (and adult) way of dealing with their daddy's loss.
They find comfort in their beliefs. They seem to 'know' what happened to him....moreso than I do. It is with such conviction that Liv believes he is always with us. Always here to share our joy, our pain, our experiences. With staunch stubbornness, Briar declares that Jeff found some joke hilarious or some movement amazing. He tells us amazing tales of the adventures that Jeff has now been on, where his boat has sailed and who worked as crew aboard.
I have become accustomed to their stories of the life that Jeff is now leading without his physical body. I, too, find some amount of comfort in hearing that he is still 'out there'.
But to others less versed in "Death according to Two Small Children", I wonder if they find these declarations shocking or, even, blasphemous.
Until I find the answers to my own questions or until I know which way to guide them, I don't think I'm in the position to be able to 'tell' anyone where we go after our bodies cease to function. So, the three of us will just follow where this journey leads us....and in the end, we'll know who was 'right'....

Thursday, March 18, 2010

the perfect single dad?

well, i’ve been talking to my best bud chrissy over at the storked! blog and we’ve spent a lot of time discussing the differences between single moms and single dads, and of course, dating. she wrote a little something interesting over on her page, with a quote from me that many will find controversial…

so…she asked for a quote,

"i realize that i’m in a privileged position as a single father, especially one made single by chance rather than choice. when/if i’m ever ready to date, there will be more than a few women standing in line. pretty impressive for a man with below-average looks and intellect. some women see in me the husband they wish they had, the father they never had, the man they hope they will someday meet and marry. and i’m not reading between any lines here. i get daily e-mails with those exact sentiments. here’s a public comment that was left on my blog just yesterday: “If my husband knew I crushed on you soooo much (he would be pissed, you are a KICK ASS DAD. I only wished J would care as much as you. The love that you express for Liz is something I could only hope for. You are the perfect daddy and husband.”

am i? i suppose i sound like the perfect man, a man who was/is a devoted husband, a great father, an all-around nice guy. why? ’cause what you read is what i write. and i’ve mythologized myself in my writing. yes, i’m all of the above, but i’m nowhere near perfect. society has also mythologized the good, single father. a man that steps up to his role as father is looked at in awe. single mothers? nothing remarkable about a single mom. they’re just doing “their” job. women are expected to be good mothers. men are expected to be, well, men. just look at k-fed.

soon after liz died i had friends warn me that i’d have tons of female admirers. i scoffed. i couldn’t believe that anyone would ever want to deal with me and my baggage (dead wife, brand new baby, etc). of course i was thinking like a man…what i didn’t realize is that the baggage i have as a single father is the kind of baggage some women want…a built-in family. flip this. how many men are willing to date a single woman with kids?

not too many, i suspect.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I Still Miss You

I Still Miss You

I've changed the presets in my truck
so those old songs don't sneak up
they still find me and remind me
yeah you come back that easy
try restaurants I've never been to
order new things off the menu
that I never tried cause you didn't like
two drinks in you were by my side

I've talked to friends
I've talked to myself
I've talked to God
I prayed liked hell but I still miss you
I tried sober I tried drinking
I've been strong and I've been weak
and I still miss you
I've done everything, move on like I'm supposed to
I'd give anything for one more minute with you
I still miss you
I still miss you baby

I never knew til you were gone
how many pages you were on
it never ends I keep turning
and line after line and you are there again
I dont know how to let you go
you are so deep down in my soul
I feel helpless so hopeless
its a door that never closes
no I don't know how to do this

I've talked to friends
I've talked to myself
I've talked to God
I prayed liked hell but I still miss you
I tried sober I tried drinking
I've been strong and I've been weak
and I still miss you
I've done everything
move on like I'm supposed to
I'd give anything for one more minute with you
I still miss you yeah

I've talked to friends
I've talked to myself
I've talked to God
I prayed liked hell but I still miss you
I tried sober I tried drinking
I've been strong and I've been weak
and I still miss you
I've done everything
move on like I'm supposed to
I'd give anything for one more minute with you
I still miss you yeah

I still miss you
I still miss you...... yeah.... yeah.....

-Keith Anderson

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring Break!

I should be sitting in one of these chairs this week, it's spring break. I'm not, but my little guy will be heading to the beach with my parents tomorrow and he's looking forward to the trip. I am guiltily looking forward to three days on my own.

As an only parent I get very few opportunities to do "me things" without having to ask someone's help or arrange babysitting. I can't go the grocery store, grab a cup of coffee with a friend, or go for a run without arranging for childcare or taking the little guy along for the ride. It is part of the role of "only parent". It is what it is.

My mom does an amazing job of giving me opportunities to get some time to myself without always having to ask for help. She calls me to ask if I'd like for her to pick up Grayson on a random night, and a couple of times a year she takes him on a trip for a few days. Those few days, although I miss Grayson, are like a gift from heaven. For just a few days I am responsible only for myself. I do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I can eat cereal three meals a day if I want, watch rated R movies at all hours, stroll through the house naked, go to work early, leave late, go to happy hour, go for a run after work instead of rushing home etc. It may seem a small thing, but it is a luxury that I take full advantage of.

This week I'm going to South by Southwest - a music festival here in Austin. I'll stay up late during the week, go to work exhausted and hung-over, and be just an adult person for a few days instead of a hard-working only parent. I will miss Grayson. I always do. But, I will have a blast while he is gone, recharge my grown up batteries, and be ready to see him on Friday when I pick him up. He and I are headed to Houston for Friday's Rockets-Celtics game. After three days apart, a little mother-son NBA time will be a great ending to a great week.

Happy Tuesday - Michelle D.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Phil died a violent death. Though my brain acknowledges this fact, I have tried to shield my heart from the reality of his final moments. I am not a person who ever felt compelled to explore the details of the exact location of his body on the pavement, or the number of seconds it took the driver to pull over after the accident. My imagination tends to run wild with very few details; I feared a minute to minute account would only lead to an ever playing mental video that I might not be able to turn off.

For many years I have been able to live in a sort of insulated fog of ignorance regarding the what, when and where of Phil's death. But last year our court case was finally heard by a jury, and I was no longer able to ignore the painful details of Phil's last moments. There were times when I sat in the courtroom with tears streaming down my face wishing I could plug my ears like a willful child. At other stages of the testimony I was overcome with a desire to rewind the clock to those last moments. Maybe I would have said something different to him as he lay quietly on the grass if I'd known I was speaking the final words he'd ever hear from me. Of course I don't know, but it took months after the trial to stop having flashbacks of his death with the aid of the new images dancing menacingly in my head.

Yesterday I headed out for a long run, and the course I wanted to take passed the accident site. I have been there on foot only one other time. The last visit to this location resulted in me sobbing, and heaving huge gulps of air as I attempted to run past the same grass on which I last kissed my husband. That day I ran/cried all the way home. So I was reluctant to take the route again, and also afraid of what my newly powerful flashback ability might do with the exact patch of grass where Phil laid almost five years ago.

But I try not to let fear make decisions for me. I have committed to walking through my grief, and not giving it a wide berth...only to have to revisit the pain in a few weeks, months, or years time. When I recognize something as a hot button, I (some may say foolishly) usually choose to push it. In the early months after Phil's death I think I pushed the button to test the reality of my situation, was he really dead? Later I pushed the button to be sure I still HAD a reaction, thereby proving my love for him was still in tact. Yesterday I wasn't able to identify my motive at first. Was I trying to prove something to myself? Did I still have a need to proclaim my love by purposefully diving into painful memories? Or was I thinking that my response might be altered by my new found happiness, and feeling drawn to test this theory to be sure?

As I ran up the road my mind recreated the scene of August 31, 2005. I could visualize the cars lined up on the street. There were ghost like spectators pacing back and forth along the sidewalk. I could feel the stares of everyone at the scene, as they wondered if I was his wife. Each tree I ran past reminded me of the way I tried not to screech dangerously up the road that day in my haste to get to his side. As I approached the spot on the grass where I kneeled beside him to whisper that last, "I love you," my heart rate acclerated, and I steeled myself for what was to come. But as I cleared the curve in the road and conjured up the image of a man lying still on the grass with his head turned toward a woman leaning over him whispering in his ear, I was surprised to discover a beautiful feeling of radiating love.

Then I knew why I felt compelled to pass this spot again; now that I knew the details of that fateful day I needed to decide whether I had done enough on that August evening. Did I care for him well? Was he aware that I was beside him? If I could do it again would I do anything differently? In his final moments did he feel alone?

And as the love that was vividly present at 5:45PM on August 31, 2005 swept over me on a quiet Sunday afternoon five whole years later, I knew that what I have learned since losing Phil is really is stronger than death. The deep sense of sorrow over what was lost that day was still present, but no longer an overwhelmingly powerful feeling that shut down all of my senses. The love that accompanied Phil to his next life has sprung up and taken residence right next to the sadness. And that love is bigger, and more beautiful, than I ever knew.

The memory I have of yesterday's run is a flashback that I hope lasts a lifetime.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Skipping Out

"You have cataracts." my eye doctor declares.
"I what?"
You have cataracts, she says, this time a little more slowly since I obviously don't understand her the first time.
"But I'm 45 years old" I think.
Out loud I say, "Aren't I a bit young?"
She says "Yes but it was probably bought on by the low dose steroids you've been on for years due to your asthma.
There is silence.
She continues, "In 2 - 3 years, you can have this surgery that will repair your eyes to seeing better than you did when you were 20."
I'm not listening.
Who is going to take care of the kids and me when I have surgery? Who is going to help us for the days afterwards? Who is going to drive me to the doctor's office, go grocery shopping, look over Langston's shoulder while he's on the computer or do Pallas's hair.
And the rage punches me in the back.
In sickness and health, in sickness in health!!
What about my sickness Art? Huh!
I did your sickness, what about mine!!!
I leave the office deflated and feeling old and
full of rage.
"You @)(*#$! You skipped out on ME!"

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Door

March 24th, 2007-

I sat in my office, blaring music and talking to a fellow Army wife on IM. Wearing my pajamas, which consisted of Michael's basic training sweatshirt, I swirled around on my wooden office chair with the sun creeping through the blinds.

Underneath the rumble of music I hear something...another noise that I soon decipher as a phone ringing.

With Michael deployed, I had to be alert to any calls that may be him calling from Baghdad, so like a robot on crack, I shut off the music, ran to the living room (which was only 4 feet away, though I felt out of breath with the possibility of hearing my love's voice), picked the cordless phone off the same red chair that Michael had proposed to me on nearly a year and a half before, and pushed the "Answer" button....

"Hello?" I say, breathing as if I'm some overweight cop who just chased down a convict.

"Baby....." And before he could get a word in I was ecstatic to hear soul mate on the other line!

"Baby!!! Oh, I've missed you so much!" I say, cutting him off.

"Baby, can you open the door?" he replies.

And with a sense of panic, I lift my head to look up at the glass door, and there he is. The most perfect specimen. Six foot, 2 inches, clad in his Army Uniform, with nothing else on him but a smile looking through the pane.

I can barely breathe. Tears of happiness hit the floor and take my body down with it. I unlock the first door and lay against the wall in shock that he is here. 7 months we sat and stared at each other through computer monitors, and here he was.

"Hi, Baby." slips out of his mouth. A phrase and voice I could hear all the days of my life.

"Baby, can you unlock the screen door?" ( Because of course, I was still on the floor)

And then it happened. He walked in, picked me up, and I wrapped my legs around him. Felt him. Breathed him in.

In the tunnel vision of my love, I didn't see his family outside (which I apologize if I may have mooned), but they drifted off on the other side of the door and we were alone.

He came into our room, layed back on the bed and just looked at me, as I sat on top of him just touching his face, absorbing that he was real, he was here, and he was mine.....

It was the best thing to ever walk through that door.

Friday, March 12, 2010

you were mine

Previously posted on Mothering Nature

You were mine.
I am yours.

Until this body,
marked by the love you laid upon it,
In every fold,
The softened belly,
Stretched skin,
and in this frailty
Falls and follows you.

Only then,
no longer will I be...yours.
It will be past.
But with you,
In you,
Through you,
I’ll be.

I’ll wait.
A shadow.
Your shadow.
I’ll trail behind you.
A dark ribbon.

But you were mine.
And I am yours.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


spent the evening talking

to someone in the same predicament.

sometime during the call

i felt this incredible guilt,

realizing that i had driven

past the city



remains are housed

when i drove to/from

my cabin the tuesday of my fishing trip.

can’t believe i didn’t

think about this

as i drove past

the town.

what an asshole.

how could i not think

of this in the moment?

not sure what i would

have done if i


i wouldn’t have driven

to the funeral home.

or anything.

i just would have been

extra sad i suppose.

(so glad she’s not on my fireplace mantle or something. that would really suck).

the other thing

that contributed

to an awful day?

got a letter in the


the surgeon general sent

a certificate of appreciation with


name on it,

thanking her for

“giving the gift of life, health & hope”

she was an organ donor.

what the hell do they

expect me to do with this?

frame it, put it on my wall?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is It Worth the Effort?

I am in a relationship.
It's been about 5 months now and it's mostly going great.

I am finding that having a relationship while still grieving for what I do not have is very, very difficult.
Of course it's difficult to blend the children. Some of mine are making it WAY difficult.
His (he has been a widower for over 8 years) have been great.
But that's not it.

It's me.
I find it difficult to NOT expect what I had before....
To not expect to feel the way I felt when Jim and I fell in love (yes, that was 29 years ago .... my life--and I -- were a wee bit different).
To not wish that Jim were still here so that this would be a moot point.
To not compare the two men .... sometimes.
To not think, "Jim would/would never have said/done that."
To not think, "Jim knew everything about me ... even before I opened my mouth to speak."
To not think, "I (still) can NOT believe that this is my life!"

I try.
I think that I'm getting better at all of this .... little by little.
But it's a very long road.
Very long.
I am grateful that this man is walking on the same path that we all are.
He understands.
He is incredibly patient with me.

And while there are some days when I ask, "Is it worth the effort?" ...... there are other days when I can say .... without a doubt ..... "Yes it is."
Very much so.

But then, I don't think there's much in life that isn't worth the effort.
We just have to make a choice.
And today, this day, I choose love.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

In it for the Long Haul

For the longest time the question that haunted me was: "why him, why not me?" - for a while, the question was more often "why not take me too?". Michele and I used to talk about the big black ship that would come pick us up and carry us away to wherever Phil and Daniel were. I told myself I'd jump on that boat and race away without a second glance.

I knew, even then, that it wasn't true. I wouldn't jump on the boat and ride away to see my man. As much as I wanted to see him (and still do, every day), I had one big reason to stay here and see it through - Grayson. In the early months, Grayson was the only thing that kept me from throwing myself on the funeral pyre (or off the nearest bridge). I knew Daniel would never forgive me if I didn't take care of our little man. Daniel was counting on me to be strong for Grayson and carry on. I needed that guilty knowledge to keep me focused on survival.

It's funny, but for a while after Daniel died, I was fearless. I dared God to take me. I was defiant and bullet proof. I mean, really...what were the chances that I'd die too? And, did I really care? Most days, not so much. Four years later, my greatest fear is dying. But, not for the reasons you might think. I don't fear death. I'm ready for it when it is my time. What I do fear is leaving Grayson without a parent. I pray almost daily that I get to live until I'm really, unnaturally old so that he doesn't have to lose both of his parents when he's still young. I want to watch him grow up and live a long and happy life.

I know I can't protect him from all pain, and I wouldn't want to - life is the whole package, the good and the bad. I'd prefer it though, if the most painful thing he ever has to experience has already happened and it's all downhill from there. A girl can dream, right? In the meantime, I'm grateful to be here, watching the little guy grow up too quickly.

Happy Tuesday - Michelle D.

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's Track Season Again

I always associate the first blooming flowers of Spring with the start of track season. Phil lived for track season in the same way some people live for football season. He attended every live track meet within driving distance of our house(mind you this takes all day), watched professional meets on TV, knew the names and times of world record holders, and could list the types of events and the order in which they would be run in any given track meet. He was also a coach for our community track club, and was set to begin his tenth year of coaching the Summer he died.

The track kids called Phil "Coach Powerbar," because he ran faster than most of them and even the ones he couldn't beat, he could push. If he was on the track behind them, they knew not to slow down if they didn't want to be passed. To see him run was to watch grace in motion. Partly because he was technically good, but mostly because he absolutely loved to run.

When Phil and I were planning our wedding we worked around the running club's meet schedule. We were married on June 16, 2000 because that was the only free weekend between the regular track season and the start of post season competition. We spent half of our honeymoon at a national championship track meet, and I can guarantee you we talked about track a good portion of our drive up the coast to our vacation destination.

So when the flowers bloom and the track at our local high school begins to fill with runners, I always feel a bit melancholy. I know the big red practice oval is missing a very special person, and I can feel his absence every time I drive by the back gate of the school. Phil lit up the faces of every kid he coached. He cared about their grades, and their families, and whether or not they ate lunch. He pushed them to give their best effort every single practice, and didn't measure success by whether or not each kid won his or her race. He told jokes, ran backwards on the track, and always wore a kids running jersey instead of a coach's polo shirt. His runners thrived because they wanted to make him proud. And he bragged about them for days, weeks, and months after every season ended.

Phil changed the lives of the kids he coached because each one genuinely mattered to him. Every track season that goes by without Coach Powerbar leading a huge pack of kids around a 400 metre circle reminds me that the world is just not the same without Phil in it.

I hope they have an extended track season in heaven honey, and run a really fast 400 for me.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Happiness- Provided by Me

“I define comfort as self-acceptance. When we finally learn that self-care begins and ends with ourselves, we no longer demand sustenance and happiness from others.” -Jennifer Louden

Let me just say how much I love this quote. I really should print it on cards and hand it out to those who make the snide remarks that I will not be able to be happy until "move on" or somehow refuse to acknowledge the smile on my face when they see no one is standing at my side.

In my later years of college, single, partied out, and facing a world sans boyfriend...I found self-acceptance. I learned to love ME as ME. Flaws, bad decisions and all (and believe me when I say made a few). That was a trying time; I believe we sometimes are our worst critics. But I did, I peeled the layers of my onion and saw a new life before me, one like play-doh; bright, colorful and ready for me to mold.

Well, a little less then 9 months later Michael came back into my life. My own personal happiness was there, but enhanced by my soul mate...caught on fire. Maybe that's why separation did nothing but enhance our relationship, not strain it, because the happiness never faded, and still hasn't to this day. Others just seem to have a hard time grasping that "sustenance and happiness" still run through this widow's veins.

So as I walk on this journey, I've dusted off my "self-care"...which was gathering dust...and decided to continue the path of happiness I found on my own, found enhanced by my soul mate, and found resurrected like a phoenix out of the ashes.

A Thought For The Day

"Life is filled with both love and loss, but love is always stronger." ~unknown

Friday, March 5, 2010

the little things

It's the 'little things' can that drive you mad or madly in love.
The way his jaw clicks when he chews. Or the way he tucks your hair behind you ear as he assures you that it will be okay.
The way he feels compelled to tell you how to solve a problem when you're venting. Or the way he stares at you from across the room with a smile touching his lips and you know without words that he loves you.
It's those little things that hold you together - a pair. The little secrets. The little stories. The little comforts.
When your love is gone, dead but certainly not forgotten, those 'little things' sometimes remain.
Today, I found one of those little things....tucked into one of my books. One of the hidden messages that we'd hide for each other to be found at some unknown later date.
And it reminds me that it's the little things that can soothe a soul. Mend a heart. Dry a tear.
So today, I'll do some little thing. And maybe it'll make a someone some time.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

doctor visit

it was time to

go to take my perfect

child to the doctor.

that perfect child

started screaming as soon

as i put her carseat

into the base.

tried to give her

the pacifier while driving

(exceedingly difficult while driving a car with manual transmission).

that didn’t work.

tried holding her hand.

that didn’t work.

tried rubbing her cheek.


we arrived at the doctor’s office,

madeline still screaming.

nothing like a widowed

father carrying his screaming,

inconsolable baby into

the waiting room.

oh the looks i got.

a father turned to me and said,

“you’re brave to do this without mom”

i turned to him and said,

“i have no choice. her mom passed away”

instant tears for

the man and wife.

madeline’s name got called,

the crying couple

wished me luck.

and i carried my

not-so-perfect child

into the room.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

It Should Have Been Me .....

I hesitated quite a while before I wrote this post.
I don't know why .... I know without a doubt that you "get it".
Actually I do know why. It's because I don't want anyone to read this as a "poor me" post, or as an attempt to get sympathy.
It's not that.
It's just .... reality.
And I'm ok with it.

It should have been me.

How many times have you thought that?
Any at all? Hundreds?

I think it still, even as I move forward with my life and enjoy life more.
It's something I know without a doubt.
I don't question it .... it's what I know to be true.
It's something I can say calmly and sincerely.

Life doesn't make sense, because it should've been me.

Jim was a much better person than I am.
He would've made more of a difference in this world.
He was a better parent than I am and I think the kids would have been better left with him.
Without a doubt.

But he's gone.
And I am here.
It just doesn't make sense.

Most days I can just flow with the senselessness of this, but sometimes I ponder.
I wonder what the difference would be if it had been me and not him.

He would have been a better widower.
He would have made wiser financial decisions.
He would have taken better care of the house.
He would have taken MUCH better care of the lawn.

He would have been calmer with the kids.
He would have been the strength they've needed.

He would've made a heck of a lot more money.

He should be here.
But "should" doesn't seem to matter.

I could come up with a lot of "shoulds" .... especially over the past 2 years, but that would be a waste of time.

As much of a waste as thinking ..... "It should have been me", right?

But it really should have.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I remember a time not too long ago when I couldn't taste anything, couldn't notice the sunshine, couldn't appreciate the beauty in anything. Getting out of bed and making it through the day was all I could handle.

As time passed, I noticed a beautiful day - the first gorgeous day I noticed was ruined by a crying fit (how could it be this beautiful if he isn't here with me)...whatever, I noticed. I was just starting to wake up from the bad dream. Eventually, I became aware of my surroundings again, began to notice the life going on around me. It became clear to me that time was marching on, even as I drifted in my fog. At first, it just pissed me off. How dare things go on? How dare the sun rise and set as if nothing had happened? What was wrong with everyone? How could they smile, laugh, live?

I was bitter. I was envious. I was jealous of the "perfect" lives other people had. I resented old couples. I resented young couples. I attended weddings and wanted to scoff during the vows: "yeah, til death do you part - hold on sweetie it might be a lot freakin sooner than you think..." I'm not naturally a bitter person, so this particular stage didn't last too long (but longer than you might think!!). The darkness lifted, and I began to smile again at old couples (thank goodness, you should go to hell for wishing the evilness on old people that I was wishing!) - young couples with babies didn't make me want to cry, and I became....what? I don't know what I became. Resigned? I don't think so. Although I think the bitterness was still there, and sometimes resurfaces, I believe what happened is that I became less repelled by the sweet. I became more accepting that Daniel's death didn't remove all of the sweetness from the world.

For a couple of years I had forgotten most of the things that I liked - or at least I had forgotten to actively like them. My awakening came in stages. For a while, I chose to like only those things that Daniel had liked. At least, I thought, I can do that much for him. I'll always do the things that he liked and it will be like he is still here. That lasted for a while, but I don't love yard work ;) , I've never enjoyed watching poker on TV, I don't enjoy reading "finding wealth" books, I'm a terrible carpenter, and I can only drink one Jack and Coke before I want to switch to something else. Soooo, gradually I started to get back in touch with me. What did I like? At first I couldn't remember. What did I like? Just me. Not Daniel. Not Grayson. Just me? What did I like? It was tough to figure out at first. Eventually though, and with practice it came back to me.

These are a few of my favorite things (in no particular order):
  • plain old white daisies - nothing is more simple or pretty
  • hot coffee on the porch
  • little boy laughter
  • smart comedies (and some not so smart ones too)
  • the smell of fresh rosemary
  • a good run that leaves you sweaty and tired
  • cooking with friends
  • a pint of Guinness sitting at the bar
  • sunrise or sunset on the beach or on a boat
  • long phone conversations with people I miss
  • feeling like I've helped someone
  • fire in the fireplace
  • outdoor music festivals with very cold beer
  • chips, queso, a frozen margarita with salt
  • being alone in my house - music as loud as I want
  • movies in bed
  • bubble bath, candles, red wine
  • little boy hugs
  • insanely high heels
  • old houses with original wood trim
  • Saturday mornings

I didn't realize I'd forgotten these things. I'd forgotten to even care. These days, I don't forget. These are the things that keep my inner-fire stoked. Really they aren't anything special. There is no revelation here. These things are just me. Oddly enough, as much as I feel like I have changed, these things haven't changed from the "before" me. They are exactly the same.

Happy Tuesday! - Michelle D.

Monday, March 1, 2010

In Awe

I have experienced using the word death, or the word grief, or the word widow and having people physically step away from me. I have been told that since I am young the death of my husband isn't as large a tragedy as it might be if I were older, since I am sure to remarry. I have been asked whether or not I am "over" my husband. People have looked at me from behind walls, sunglasses, the back of their cars, and then purposely walked the other direction. I have been told that finding another man to love would mean that Phil was not my soul mate, because how could you replace a soul mate? I have been asked to explain why I still talk about my dead husband when I have a new one waiting in the wings. I have been asked how I can possibly listen to the stories of other widowed people day in and day out without wanting to jump off the nearest bridge.

Yes, I have definitely experienced being misunderstood, but I have also been introduced to the power of a compassionate community.

This weekend Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation held our first Board of Directors retreat. I am humbled and honored by the love and dedication these ladies show our cause. We talked about where we are going as an organization, and how we will get there. We discussed why this mission is important to us personally, and how to explain to people outside of our group WHY this work matters. Because frankly, finding support for the programs we run has been the most difficult professional challenge I have ever faced. There is an expectation that we will all just, "get over it." Somehow a perception that grief is a short lived time period that can be managed by pulling up the boot straps has pervaded our society. There is no general sense that people who grieve need on-going support.

But everyone who reads this blog knows better, in large part because of the courageous way our bloggers share their personal walk with grief. We all have learned that the only thing that lightens the load of grief is understanding. The one thing that most impacts understanding is community, and the most powerful type of communal support is created by connecting those who have a shared experience. That means we need each other.

So the board of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation set an impressive goal...we endeavor to become the leading worldwide resource for providing peer based grief support programs. The very idea makes my eyes well up with tears of gratitude, and honestly a bit of disbelief. We intend to change the world.

Death has taught me that we are on this planet for a finite amount of time. Grief has taught me that I need a community that understands the complexities of losing the man I love. Widows have taught me that community heals.

We can't accomplish this goal without you. You are the reason we exist.

(Oh, I forgot to explain the photo...we are testing recipes for the Widows Rock! and Death Sucks cocktails for Camp Widow. Yes, thanks to Ms. Dippel, we have a very tasty drink for you to test out when you arrive!)