Monday, May 31, 2010

The Meaning of Sacrifice

There was a time that I could not imagine being a widow. There was a time when I didn't know that widowed people come in all shapes and sizes. There was a time that I knew the dictionary definition of the word sacrifice, but I had no idea how that word fit into the widowhood experience.

Since I began leading an organization that creates a network of support for widowed people around the world I have learned a lot about things I didn't know. My own widowhood experience has opened my eyes to the searing pain that accompanies loss. Meeting other people who mourn the death of a spouse has taught me that grief does not discriminate, we all feel like our hearts have been torn out of our chest when we wake up in the morning to an empty spot where our spouse should be sleeping. Discussing the differences in the way other cultures grieve has highlighted the lack of rituals we have here in the US around death and dying. And hearing the stories of women and men who answered the door to two soldiers saying the words...we regret to inform you...has taught me the true meaning of the word sacrifice.

Anyone married to a soldier lives with the underlying fear that their spouse won't come home. Widowed military spouses live with the reality that their loved one isn't coming home for the rest of their lives. They stand up proudly when their hero is honored. They mount the flags that covered the casket of the person they love. These widowed people stand at the head of long lines of mourners accepting condolences from the United States government, and its many agents. Military families may never know exactly how their soldier died. Once a part of the military family, many find themselves a float since they are no longer allowed to live on base after their spouses die. Many are never able to see their loved ones body. Some are haunted by the stories they have heard, others by the ones they will never hear.

Every military widow I have met is a warrior themselves. They carry on the legacy of their husband or wife by marching forward into a life without them. Not only are our soldiers guaranteeing our freedom with courage and conviction, but so are the families who wait for them at home praying that there is no knock at their door.

So on this Memorial Day I bow my head in memory of the courageous souls who have been lost ensuring my freedom, and to the widowed military people I know who have taught me the meaning of the word sacrifice.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


I stumbe upon his stuff.

His filled wallet,
his watch ,
4 sets of contact lenses,
his favorite pair of running/bicycling glasses, a book marked where he meant to begin again,
a note with his handwriting, I pick up each one when I find it.

I examine it, turning it in my hand and then I smell.

Hoping for a trace of him. Gratefully, there is none.

Too close, too soon to feel the bottom again.
I put most of the items down, back where I found it.

Knowing I am not ready to decide what to do with it.
And I close...
the draw, the cabinet, the case
wondering how I will feel next time I stumble upon it.

Wondering when I will be ready to throw it, give it away or wonder

to myself, "Why on earth did I keep this?"

Friday, May 28, 2010

the myth of the broken heart

Photo by Sandyx3

I don't follow a lot of celebrity news. In fact, the older I get the more I have no idea who these people are who grace the pages of the tabloids at the grocery check-out counter. Our society's idolatry of these 'super-humans' baffles me and highlights the blatant differences between 'us' and 'them'.
Recently however, the death of an actress whom I could name was marked on the cover of these magazines. Although I admit I had no idea who he was before this event, I recall feeling real empathy for Brittany Murphy's husband, Simon Mojack, when I glanced at these glossy covers on the way to pay for our goods. I wondered how it would feel to not only suffer the loss of a spouse but to read about it in all the line-ups you were forced to stand in for weeks after. I had concluded that it may be cathartic to know that others had noticed the absense of the one you held so dear as well. That life hadn't just 'continued as normal'. That the spot that my loved one had held didn't just close over unrecognized when they stopped living.
I felt a kin-ship with this man. He had lost the love of his life as well. Simon knew the emptiness that followed. It made him normal and mortal - not the stuff of celebrity but the stuff of the average human.
Then he went and did something that our society loves to talk of as much as we recite stats on these legendary creatures - He died of a 'broken heart'. I felt like simultaneously screaming and barfing at the checkout counter when I read these words. I felt betrayed by someone who knew what this road was like. And the stupid thing was, I knew it was bullshit that he died of a broken heart. He just conveniently died months after his spouse did and made a fabulous and heartrending story for the media to skew.
If dying of a broken heart was possible, each and every widow/er would have been wiped off the face of the planet the moment their spouse died. This man's death is not some measure of how much he loved her and evidence that my love for Jeff must have been lacking. It is an unfortunate event that happened too soon after he lost his wife. In all honesty, I am jealous. I begged whatever possible higher power there may be to kill me in the weeks and months following March 25th, 2008. I WANTED to die after Jeff did....and sometimes still do. But I have never gotten my wish. So like all other widows/ers out there, I know you can't die OF a broken just die WITH one...whenever that may be.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

a voice

on my stomach,

the pillow over my head,

right ear pressed to

the mattress.

i can hear her voice

resonating through the

springs below,

the vibration reducing the

words to nothing more

than a mumble.

the voice,


but she’s not in

the room.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In Every Cloud ....

.... there's a silver lining.
Or so they say.
Who are "they" anyway?
I'm guessing not anyone who lost their spouse.

So .... is there a silver lining in all of this?
Hmmmmm .... not really.
Not yet?

Although I guess maybe the changes in me could be considered a silver lining.
I know that time is short and that I can't take anything for granted.
I'm more laid back than I was "before".
I tend to let things roll off of my back more now.
I guess these are all positive changes that have resulted from Jim's death.

But you know what?
I'd certainly give them all back to wake up and find this has all been a nightmare.
I'd give everything up to have him back.
And everyone.

But .... that's not an option, is it?
Maybe one day I will see more of a silver lining.

Today is not that day.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

When It's Quiet

I took a drive last night with the top down. Driving 70 I couldn't hear anything but the wind and engine. The effect was therapeutic in a white noise way. I emptied my mind and just drifted for a few minutes. What I found there in the roar of the wind was a little piece of myself. I had some "deep thoughts" for a few miles and found that I need some maintenance. Life has been so hard and fast lately that I'm not enjoying the little things. I've been in high gear and need to slow it down a notch.
This morning I took a leisurely walk with the dog, listened to the birds, and felt the wind and a few scattered rain drops on my face. It was a sweet 30 minutes and I soaked it up. I've got to remember to do that more often: to take some deep breaths and relax. I'm drinking my coffee as I type this, consciously enjoying the writing process instead of addressing it like a task to scratch off my list upon completion. It feels good.
There is a dove walking around my back porch, the kitchen clock is ticking, and the washing machine just kicked off. My dog is lightly snoring at my feet, and the steam is rising off of my coffee. I'm taking a quick inventory of the things I don't usually notice - normally I am racing around trying to get things done. It's a good feeling, and one I need to recreate as often as I can. The world is a beautiful place when you slow down long enough to appreciate it.
Happy Tuesday - Michelle D.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Seperate Worlds

We have a guest blogger today. Thanks to Matt C. for sharing a bit of his journey through widowhood with us.

A friend of mine told me that his 99 year old Grandfather had just died, and that his wife who is also 99 years old is still living. She wondered how long the wife was going to live now that the husband is gone.

“I’m sure it’s not the same for you, but you hear all the time with the elderly how quickly other one dies after the death of their spouse.”

And it reminded me of one of the more startling emotions I dealt with right after the death of Lisa. I did want to die. And it shocked me that I was feeling that way.

Not suicidal. Not like that. It wasn’t that I was searching for ways to end my life or hoping I could end my life. It was a longing for the afterlife. I was missing Lisa and while I was grieving I was still talking to her, still having a relationship with her when I went to bed and my thoughts would be on our life together. And I had this connection with her that was still very strong. It was half in my world and half in her world. And at the time I was missing so much I wanted to be fully in her world to be with her.

I remember at the time being shocked at my feelings as I assumed this was only for the elderly like my friend was talking about. Only when you reach past 75 do you feel this way. I was 39 and I was looking ahead to the next phase.

As time wore on and the everyday chores of the kids and the people I love still around me, I slowly was drawn away from Lisa’s side. The connection became less and I knew I still had work to do here. While I did miss that state of mind of being half in this world and half in another, I knew I couldn’t be with her now.

I felt like I was in a bad mermaid movie where I am standing on the cliff while the mermaid is in the water, “Come join me, let’s be happy forever.” And I cry out in my over-acting voice, “I can’t, it’s not my world. It wouldn’t work. But I will always love you.”

I love you Lisa. I do want to be with you. But you are no longer in my world and I need to stay here and do some things still. I hope it’s a very long time before I see you again.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I love men.

I love their arms,

their legs (athletic ones).

I love the way they smile when they like me.

I love the way their hand touches,

attentively, the small of my back,

as they usher me through a door of a restaurant

to a car,

out of some kind of "danger."

I like kissing them too.

Yes, I said THEM.

I like how their breath feels on my face.

Or the roughness of their fingers as they stroke my face.

I like their deep voices.

Their assured walks.

And I like myself with them.

I like how I, at 45, feel confident when I am with them.
I like how I know that I am a "good catch" that includes my kids!

I like how I know what I want.

I like how my kids, my work and myself are more important than any of them.

I like the way I laugh when I like one of them.

I like that I am Kim Hamer,



and no, not your lover.....yet.

I like how I don't think about Art but all of this is because of him.
His love for me oozes out of me and I morph into everything he thought I was.
I like that I don't have to worry if they don't put the toilet seat down.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


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 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 live well lived.

I love you all!

Friday, May 21, 2010

come again

I have gone out of my way to avoid the parking lot of our doctor's office for two years and two months. I'd park on the other side of the building and walk the long way to get to my appointment. As I approached the glass doors to the dreaded parking from the opposite entrance I'd avoid looking at one specific tree. This tree marked the spot where Jeff died in my arms. Under the branches of this tree, in our family car he took his last breaths.

I did not think I'd EVER be able to enter that parking lot again. So very time appointments were scheduled only to be attended late because of my pathway of avoidance.

A few days ago the kids and I were running so very late for a visit with our doctor to deal with a run of pinkeye through our house. I sped like I was competing in the Indy 500 only to be stuck in a line-up behind an accident. I had planned to park in our now usual parking area to maintain my avoidance of the scene of our loss but as I screeched around the corner, I was suddenly struck by just how silly this was. I was going to be even later for an appointment because I was afraid. Afraid of what? The worst had already happened in that lot. Was I afraid I would relive losing Jeff all over again? I already do this on a regular basis. Was I scared that I would have a panic attack, not be able to breathe, lose the plot right there in the parking lot? I didn't have this luxury. My kids were with me. I am bullet-proof when my kids need me to be strong for them.

So, in a split second decision I faced that lot down. I didn't park in the exact spot as I had that day in March 2008. But I parked nearby. I grabbed Liv's hand, picked Briar up and ran for the doors. To anyone watching I would have looked like any other mother late for an appointment. They wouldn't have known of the demon I had just conquered. My triumph was unnoticed by anyone but me. My visit to that lot was so very quiet and quick - so unlike the day Jeff died.

I visited the scene of the crime. I'm okay. We're okay. We'll live. I will never forget or enjoy the memory of that day but it can't hurt me more than it already has.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

where's my towel?

for the second time

in less than a

week there was

no towel waiting

for me when

i got out of

the shower.


because i left the

damn thing hanging

on the door knob

in my bedroom.

first instinct,


13+ months after


died was to yell,

“hey liz! can you please bring me a towel?”


when does that

go away?

the fact that

i left my towels

all over the house

really used

to piss


off, and i can

still here yelling

from the other room,

“no. sorry! you’ll have to air-dry! this is what happens when you don’t return your towel to the bathroom after your shower.”

she always ended

up bringing me

a towel, but

she always made

me suffer before

doing so.

instead of

getting a towel

delivered to me

by my wife,

i shook

myself like a

wet dog,

and made my

way to the linen

closet where i

found a towel.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

We Missed Him .....

.... at this little girl's (the one in purple) college graduation this weekend.
Very much.

But I didn't cry.
If you don't count the night before.
That was the toughest time. For me.
He should have been there.
These "big events" are both sweet .... and difficult.
I never pictured doing them without him.

But it was good.
We celebrated.
We celebrated a couple of things this weekend.

In spite of missing him.
In spite of his absence.

We are learning to celebrate again.
In spite of.

We celebrated a birthday:

And we celebrated a prom:

It's taken almost 2 and a half years, but we are learning to celebrate more than we grieve.
Don't get me wrong .... we do grieve.
Each in our own way.
But we're learning to live again.
And he would want that.

Life has a lot to offer.
I forgot that for a while.

But now I'm remembering.
I'm remembering what it is to be happy.
In spite of.
I'm remembering what is it to celebrate.
In spite of.

It's coming back to me.
One step at a time.

In spite of.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thanks for Being You

Grayson and I had a great day on Sunday. A relaxing morning of pancakes and hanging out around the house, followed by a crawfish boil and dinner at my mom's. As I tucked him in for the night, I hugged him tight and said the words: "thank you for being you". He asked me what I meant and I told him how much I love him for being just the way he is and how special he is to me. His little face lit up, and he said the words back to me, smiling a sweet little smile.

As I walked back downstairs, I remembered that Daniel used to say those words to me all the time. The realization made my heart hurt. He'd say it in so many contexts: when hearing about someone else's troubled marriage, after a fun night out just the two of us, after I had said something way too blunt and slightly embarrassing, or I'd told a joke that was more than slightly over the line of decency...... he liked me for who I was. He appreciated me, warts and all. Although I'm sure I had some habits that were annoying to him, and life wasn't always hearts and flowers, overall he felt like he'd won the lottery when he married me, and the feeling was very mutual.

Hearing Grayson say those words made me realize how much I miss hearing them from Daniel. It's been a long time since I've felt so loved and so accepted. No one knows me the way he did. He could see into my soul. I miss it so much, and I miss knowing him in the same way. It's much lonelier being me without him, that is for damned sure.

I had a strength and confidence as "Daniel's Wife" that I have had to re-learn. I've had to learn to value myself and know that not everyone will get me, or understand what I do. I have to be okay with me. It has been harder to do as a team of one. It was much easier when Daniel had my back. Now, I have my own back (with the support of some wonderful friends!).

It has been a difficult process, but I'm finally at the point when I truly feel comfortable in my new skin. In the words of Popeye the Sailor - "I am what I am." That is good enough for me. Hey me: "thanks for being you."
Have a great Tuesday! - Michelle D.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Seven years ago Phil and I decided to climb Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States. We recruited some other crazy hikers; we worked out a year long training schedule (he chose the trails and I planned the distances and elevation order); we went on several exploratory hikes in search of good training climbs; we ate, drank, breathed, and lived hiking for the majority of one year. On the day of the climb we woke at 3:00AM, packed 50 pounds in each of our back packs, gathered our group at the base of the trail...and headed up the ginormous mountain for a one day out and back adventure.

Phil and I trained religiously for this climb. We were both in great shape, had become pretty fast hikers, and were confident with the other's ability. But when we hit around 12,000 feet in elevation my head began to swim. The higher we climbed the less I talked. As we approached the fabled switchbacks on the trail I leaned into the rock walls to keep my balance. Every step felt as if I were wading through water while wearing one hundred pounds on my back. I began asking myself who the current President of the United States was over and over in order to convince myself that altitude sickness was not setting in on this of all days. Phil walked along in front of me looking over his shoulder like he had a twitch, taking weight out of my back pack to lighten my load, and handing me his water bottle every ten minutes like clockwork.

What we both knew was that if I couldn't complete the climb he would have to turn back too. Leaving another hiker who is struggling alone on the trail is dangerous both for the ill person, and for the husband who knew that his wife's mother would surely strangle him if he didn't bring her back alive and well! I pushed myself so he wouldn't have to turn back, and he held back unsure if I would be able to go on.

Finally we approached a place on the trail called "the windows," two stunning rock sculptures that arch majestically across a very narrow dirt bridge that drops off thousands of feet on either side. If you fall off the ledge on this part of the hike the chance of survival is slim to none. We stood together side by side facing the reality that I was not in the best condition to continue. Phil took me by the shoulders, turned me to face him, looked me in the eye and said, "I am not letting you cross that alone. If you insist on going forward I am going to tether you to me and we'll walk together one step at a time." Then he took a deep breath and without even chocking on the words continued with, "And if you don't think you can make it we can turn around here." With the peak so close we could feel it, I knew what saying these words cost my compulsively competitive man.

Every ounce of my fiercely independent self resisted the idea of being tugged up a mountain that I was completely capable of climbing on my own. But my husband was hearing none of my protesting. So this stubborn woman was tethered to her husband's belt and led to the summit of Mt. Whitney. Yes, I know ignoring how I felt and continuing up the mountain was not the smartest choice. What I didn't know at the time was that this experience would be one of my most powerful memories of my partnership with Phil.

There have been days when I wished that he could still tether me to his belt and drag me through the myriad tasks, challenges, and tumultuous emotions that living without him have brought into my life. And there have been other times when I feel the pull of his love like a tether reminding me that I can do anything if I believe in myself, and accept a little help from my friends.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Card Carrying Member

I have one

and I use it.

I do.

When I'm tired, overwhelmed, or just feel like giving the moaning, complaining-about-their-cellulite-people around me a wake-up call.

I work it into a conversation and I slap it down.

Then stand back watching with internal glee (most of the time)

as others stumble, fall over themselves,

or stifle all objections.

I love this card.

I love what it does to people:

how they squirm, and flounder and try to change the subject.

I love that I use it.

So when you think your life is shitty

when you want your husband to "just once, just frickin' once! DO THE LAUNDRY!"

and you have the nerve to complain and do NOTHING like actually ask him to do it,

I pull it out.


The widow card is slapped down.


Goes your self righteousness, your complaints.


I don't have to bring cake or desert.

I can be late and harried.



my husband's dead.

Saturday, May 15, 2010



Three whopping years since it happened.

Since my soul mate went to the other side and I ventured out in the unfamiliar world called widowhood.

The Angel-versary is always a time where I look back on the time that has passed, things that have been conquered, feelings that have been realized, and growth that has taken place. As I drove in my car one evening, thinking of these things, thinking of THREE, one thing took precedent.

In the rehashing of all that has transpired, what came to mind the most were the three words that have got me through it all. Three words that he said to me for the last time on May 21st, 2007. Three words that have not only carried through my grief but helped me soar above it's grasps into a life where smiles are more prevalent then frowns, and memories are recalled while making new ones.

Three words that on this three year anniversary will be heard in my heart and felt in my veins. Three words that have defined my being.



Friday, May 14, 2010


I have been packing. Due to various circumstances beyond my control, the kids and I are moving house. I am determined to make this one of the most organized and tidy moves of all time. This is because the only people who will be available to assist me in the move on the big day are other mamas. Changing phone numbers, applying for education bursaries and attending job interviews have taken up any quiet moment.

I am so excited for the new place, however. I am trying to not focus on how much I'll miss 'our' home; but to experience the thrill of a new chapter. I am excited to have time return to a slightly less chaotic pace, however.

....And you know, I worried I would feel that I would be 'leaving' Jeff behind if I left this house, but I realize now that he'll come with us. Many of our memories of him are in this little house, but his heart will always remain in ours. If he's 'out there', there is no way he'd not accompany on us on this new adventure. And I think he'd be proud of us and all we are doing.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

new refridgerator

i bought a new

refrigerator a couple

of weeks ago

to replace the one

that had been

fixed twice and

was still leaking water

all over my floor.

a few days before

it was delivered

i looked at the

old one and

realized i needed to

clean it.

both the inside and the outside

needed cleaning

so i removed the

photos, wedding invitations,

recipes, and hand-written

lists of things


wanted me to do

around the house

or pick up from

the grocery store.

and then…

underneath a magnet,

behind a torn piece

of paper with

an e-mail address and

phone number from

the past, there

was the card,

included with some flowers,

that i had

asked the

florist to send to


back in september 2007.

i was in india

at the time,

on another business trip,

during what would

be her 30th and

final birthday.

the new fridge

has been delivered

and the old one

has been removed.

many of the things

on the inside have

been thrown away.

but the stuff

on the outside…

the photos, wedding invitations,

recipes, and hand-written

lists of things for me

to do, are

on the new one.

and so is that


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dreaming ....

.... would be a much better thing if we could control it, wouldn't it?
..... or would it?

I'd love going to sleep each night if I knew that I could dream of Jim. I would choose to dream about him as much as possible.
Good dreams.
Dreams in which he'd be alive.
Dreams in which our lives had never been altered .... or rather, ripped to shreds.

But maybe that wouldn't be a good thing.
Maybe I'd sleep too much.
Maybe I'd never want to enter my reality if I could escape to him.
Maybe I'd stop living so that I would never stop dreaming.

While I would have loved that idea a year ago (to stop living) ..... it's not as appealing to me now. I've moved farther down the "road".
I'm enjoying life again.
Most of the time.
I'm getting stronger each day.
Most days.
I cry less often.
I'm living, rather than just existing.
Even while I grieve.

Dreams are sometimes good.
Sometimes very good.
But I guess that it's a good thing that I can't control them.
Because living in a dream-world really wouldn't be living.
No matter who was in it.

And living gets easier.
I promise.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


It's been four and a half years. I have lived 1, 650 days without Daniel Dippel's voice in my ears, his hand in mine, his presence at my side. I have bought and moved to two different houses and owned two cars he's never seen. My child has grown 20 inches and advanced 4 grades. I have wrinkles I never dreamed of and travelled to places he'd only read about. Life has continued to happen, and Grayson and I have adjusted everyday.

Four and a half years ago, our life was altered 100 percent. Daily life changed in ways I could never have imagined, and the "new normal" I live now was only a figment of my imagination. I couldn't envision the day ahead of me when I woke up in the morning, much less imagine next week, or the week after that. I remember at that time, people walked around me like I was a landmine...about to explode under the slightest pressure. I remember the awkwardness when they said his name - and the look my direction to see if I was going to lose it. I remember the relief they seemed to feel when they realized that I welcomed the conversation. At the time, people seemed to avoid saying his name, for fear I'd forgotten about it for a minute and they might cause me sadness by making me remember. It was a sweet consideration, but definitely wasted effort.

Have you ever forgotten your spouse was dead? (other than the occasional grabbing of the phone to call him/her with good news or a funny joke - only to be jolted by the sudden realization - I friggin hate those moments...) I mean really, would someone talking about him be so bad? I loved talking about him then, and I still love it now. It is comforting to me. It keeps him alive. Oddly enough, there are people in my life who are still uncomfortable, still awkward about it. Really? I mean how many years have to pass? I think it is easier for me in some ways because I deal with it every day. I wake up without him, go through my day without him, and climb alone into my bed at night. I cannot pretend he isn't gone. I have to deal with it all day everyday.

In some ways, I think the constant reminders that he is gone have sped up my recovery - or at least given me such a strong dose of reality that I can't help but deal with the loss. Maybe that is a good thing? Others are not so fortunate. They can hide from it - temporarily. Some of them hide from me, and I know that as sad as it is, I make them uncomfortable. Grayson and I make them face that Daniel is gone - we are living proof that he isn't here. It is hard for them, and they avoid us when they can. But, they can't avoid feeling it forever. Grief finds you, and eventually you will have to deal with it - like it or not.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Still Hurts

One of the very few tasks I completed myself in preparing for Phil's funeral was personalizing the "guest book." I clearly remember someone asking me what kind of book I would like to provide for the people who attended the funeral to sign. Suddenly visions of a wedding guest book popped up in my mind and I began to cry as I realized the huge difference between the book we had at our wedding and the one I was being asked to provide at his funeral. Ugh.

On one hand I knew that I would want to give the amazing people who loved Phil a place to record their name, a way to say they stood up in memory of him and all the ways he touched their lives, and I thought I would like to have a safe place for the loving words of our friends and family to be stored, and cherished. On the other hand the very idea of signing in at his funeral made me sick to my stomach. So I compromised with myself, and made his funeral guest book into a scrapbook of sorts.

Each page holds a photo of Phil...being Phil. Under each snapshot is a caption, written by me two days after he died, that describes where he was when captured by the camera and how the photo reflected his big personality. Now this book holds page after page of joyful memories punctuated by the pain of loss evident in the tear smeared ink. I think the blurry words are as precious to me now as the timeless images.

When I sat down to write this post I planned to talk about a whole different topic. But those thoughts will have to wait for next week because when I opened the scrapbook otherwise known as the funeral guest book to scan a new photo to add to my blog, I rediscovered the treasure trove of memories held in my little blue book and wanted to tell you that even in all my current happiness, missing Phil still hurts.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day?

Kids and I on a hike. 2007

Since Day 365 I have been haunted by Art. It’s like making it to that day I somehow expected that he’d show up at the door and yell “Just Kidding!” …at which point I would beat him to a pulp and then cover every bloody inch of him with kisses. After Day 367 that fact that he's not coming back is more real, almost tangible. And it makes me so very, very sad. It’s like this low level hum, not quiet irritating, not quite clear, but there, vibrating fast of enough for me to know it’s present, not loud enough to make me crumble. It seems to make my movements, my speech and my joy, not less bright but well, less something more empty perhaps. Like they are in a shadow.

Happy Mother’s Day!

(But where is the guy who helped me become a mother?)

This is a day we honor all mothers

(He’s not coming back, is he.)

You are special.

(Not special enough to bring him back.)

Today is the day we honor what you have given to the world.

(His mother would dispute that I’m sure. That world took her son.)

You are the unheralded heroes who raise our future citizens.

(This hero found nothing to say when her youngest was crying about his missing father today.)

You are amazing, full of courage and fortitude.

(OK I’ll take credit there.)

The world is better because of your guts to grow and change and adapt and then change some more.

(True again. I did make to Day 365 which means I will make it to Day 730 and beyond.)

Your love for not only your children but for others determines how we love ourselves.

(Huh. Ya know… getting through this I have learned a lot about self love, about my own
strengths, about how to shine.)

How much we do owe you for your kisses that heal wounds both physical and emotional.

(Not all wounds can be kissed away. I am a mother, not God. But thanks anyway for the kind words.)

So make sure that you honor yourself on this Mother’s Day.

(Two years ago, wow now I say two years ago, he was gonna arrange for me to take the car (minivan back then), fill it with mother friends and head to the mountains for a long hike that would ended with us, the mothers, toasting to ourselves with mimosa and cheese and crackers. He was good, no?!)

So this Mother’s Day honor…

(I will honor. I will honor him for helping me to become a mother. This Mother’s Day I will say thank you to him for making me, the mother of his children, happy, angry, disgruntled, joyful, daring, faithful, tough, humble, fierce and too many other things to be named.

This Mother’s Day I will honor the way good, the bad and the way ugly of our 14 year marriage.

And next Mother’s Day

When I will say "three years ago,"

I will go to the mountains with mimosa’s and cheese and crackers packed by me but enveloped in his love.)

Happy Mother’s Day to me.

Happy Mother’s Day to you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of us.

We matter more than we will ever know.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day Memories

Our guest blogger today is Jo Rozier who lost his wife Deltha to a brain aneurysm on 3/16/2006. Jo is the single father of two teens, a founding member of our Widower Match program, and as he says, "a fellow traveler" on this road called widowhood. Thanks for sharing Jo.

Dear Kids,

Mother’s Day, our fourth since Mommy died.

So often you share your memories of Mommy with me by saying, “remember when Mommy….”

Well, so much has happened over the past three years and it seems like so much is happening right now that this Mother’s Day I wanted to share with you the things that I remember….

I’ll never forget our first Mother’s Day without Mommy? No way we were going to church or anywhere near a restaurant but we didn’t want to stay home either. That hurt too much. We agreed on going to the beach, Mommy’s favorite place. I remember walking slowing, silently near the surf and when I suddenly bend down and wrote in the sand “Happy Mother’s Day Deltha” you both came up and signed your names in the sand beneath my words. It became our “card” to Mommy.

I remember the second Mother’s Day. You awoke early, came into my room and showed me a card you’d gotten for mommy. It was one of those pop-up birthday cards. The front asked the question, “Mom, can you guess how much I love you?" Once opened, two paper arms reach way out on both sides and the card reads, “…this much!” Later we went to the cemetery and cried together at Mommy’s grave and it rained on us? It was as if the sky itself was crying with us.

I remember last year when went to church on Mother’s Day for the first time in three years and we celebrated the fact that God gave you the best Mommy ever and later gorged on our favorite takeout foods.

But you know what else I remember? I remember Mommy’s happiness when she learned that she was going to be a mommy. I remember how determined she was to be the best mommy possible. I remember the joy she experienced over every single thing you guys accomplished… walking, talking, pooping, sports, music…no matter what it was, little or big she was your biggest fan and loudest cheerleader. I remember her excitement over you growing up. I remember the prayers she said over you. I remember how much she loved you.

No matter how busy I get or how crazy things seem at times, know that not a day goes by that I don’t remember Mommy. I still love and miss her too.

Know what my favorite memory is this Mother’s Day? I remember that because God blessed you with Mommy, I now have you two. That is a memory and fact I would never change.

Happy Mother’s Day,

Love, Papa

Friday, May 7, 2010

give me one reason

Photo by Algo
Also posted on Widow's Voice

You know the term "It happened for a reason"? I hate it. I have used it myself. But I hate it.
It seems to say that everything, good or bad, was supposed to happen to make way for some 'better' purpose. It's sappy and it sucks. It's almost up there with the "He's in a better place".
With this rationale, maybe because Jeff died, a cherubic little one was born into the loving arms of its' parents. Maybe he died to stop the excessive amount of fossil fuels being consumed by his gargantuan beast of a truck. Maybe he had learned all he was meant to in this lifetime and had to go to 'Heaven' to process it.
I say "BAA HUMBUG"! I hate to sound....evil, but those parents can have some other kid because I'd rather have my big hairy guy back. I would have let Jeff drive my little gas-meiser. And I can tell you, there were still a few things I had left to tell Jeff so he certainly didn't know it all yet.
I don't think there was any bloody reason. I think it just happened because it was 'meant' to. Good or bad, there was no 'reason'. It was just the way it was/is/will be.
And I think I just have to suck it up, pull up my socks and forget trying to find 'reasons', meanings or any other message hidden in his death. He's gone and it's the way our lives parted. Nothing I can do about it.
So I'll be a big girl (at least for a few moments) and carrying this backpack....and if there is any reason, I'll realize that it was to make me and our two little ones strong, empathetic and remind us to not take life and love for granted.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


not sure why.
somehow i got to thinking
about the notes that liz
used to write
to me in the
blank cards
she used to buy.

i think i have
them all.
or at the very
least, most of them.
can’t look at them yet.
can barely stand
to think about them.
i will never
see another.

she would come across
them, months, years later
(usually while cleaning my desk)
and would say,
“why do you keep this shit?”
“i don’t know.”
is all i could
ever come up with.

but even before
she was gone, this ephemera
from these important moments
was something that
i knew i had to keep.
i just couldn’t
articulate why.

recently i
came across a couple
of notes i had
written to her
before heading off
on business trips.
they weren’t in
fancy letter-pressed
cards or on that
expensive-ass stationary
that only a woman
would buy.
they were scrawled out
on 8.5×11 paper,
or on sheets of
lined notebook paper
thoughtlessly torn from one of
those composition books
i’d stolen from work,
the ones with
the black and white covers,
or on any scrap
of paper i could
find as i ran out
the door to
catch my cab.

as i find these
things i think,
“why did she keep this shit?”
i wish i could ask her.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Floundering ....

.... in a sea of change. That's the name of this picture I found on the internet and it describes me perfectly .... this week.

I live in a sea of change. Sometimes it's a peaceful sea, sometimes it's choppy .... and sometimes it's so full of storms and waves that it threatens to drown me.
Thankfully those times are fewer than they used to be.

I feel like I'm floundering. It's like I'm at a cross road in my life and it's time to choose what I want to be when I grow up.
Jim is gone. And sadly, he isn't coming back.
My children are continuing to grow and leave the nest.
What do I want to do with my life?

People encourage us to follow our passion .... but I'm not sure what my passion is anymore.
I used to know what I was passionate about. But Jim's death seems to have changed so much in my life that I don't know this new me. I don't recognize her and don't know what makes her tick.
I'm clueless to know which way to turn.
I'm floundering.

It's very frustrating .... and yet also a little bit exciting.
I can do anything (well, almost anything) that I choose. I have so many choices .... so many possibilities.
I just wish that I knew in which direction to head.
I wish I knew myself better.
I wish I could firmly move straight ahead and not sometimes wistfully wish for my old life .... my "before" life instead.

I wonder how long this "floundering" will last and if it affects many widowed people.
I wonder how, or if, I'm going to discover my passions in my "after" life.
I wonder if I'll ever feel firm again.

And while I'm wishing and wondering ... I'm also feeling thankful.
Thankful that I do have choices.
Thankful that I have love in my life .... in so many places.
Thankful for everything Jim gave my heart.

Thankful that even as I flounder .... I feel blessed.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

No Evil?

I've had the "get out of jail free card" conversation with more than one friend and more than one fellow widow....I mean really, after all we've been through, don't we deserve a "get out of jail free card?" I think I've cried enough, felt dark enough, and struggled enough for an entire lifetime.

I'm sure that the fates would not agree with me. The harm that stands in my way will stand there regardless of how deserving I am. Understanding the unfairness and unpredictablity of life has had an interesting effect on the way I think and react to the world. I'm less impatient about lots of things now - in that cheesey "don't sweat the small stuff" way. On the other hand? I'm more impatient now in a "life is too short to put up with this bullshit" sort of way. On the one hand - I am less stressed about bad things happening, I realize that I can't control them and that they happen whether I am worried sick or not. On the other hand, if I don't know where someone is I assume they are likely to be approaching death somewhere and the call will come soon enough...

Other paradoxes? I feel intensely vulnerable in my understanding of my own mortality, death can find me anytime. And yet, I often feel invincible - I mean, we're all going to die right? It might be today, but it is just as likely not to be. I've got a 50/50 shot.

I guess you could interpret this as a perfect balance! I'm equal parts optimist and pessimist. It makes for an interesting combination of thoughts in this muddled brain of mine. I'm a sunshiny person who hopes for the best but is absolutely unsurprised when the worst happens.

Happy Tuesday, I really do hope you have a great day (but I won't be surprised if you don't!) ;)

Michelle D.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Toasting Alone

Tonight I toasted my youngest son's confirmation with me, myself, and I. The ceremony was really beautiful, we enjoyed a lively lunch with our family to celebrate, and at the end of the day I felt peaceful and content. So, I popped the cork on a bottle of champagne, and toasted to a joy filled day.

As I poured my solo glass of bubbly, I laughed at myself for opening the bottle just for me. I also struggled with a slight sense of melancholy since I was once again reviewing the highlights of the day alone.

One of the things I missed the most after becoming unwillingly single was having someone with whom to share the "look." You know the says "Did you just see that?" or "I am so proud of her." or "This is the most fabulous concert ever!" or even, "That kid is in so much trouble!" There are so many messages that effortlessly pass between two people commited to sharing the ups and downs of life together. Every once in awhile I see a look pass between strangers that indentifies them as partners, and my heart aches a little with the tenderness of the moment.

I have to admit that figuring out if I missed having a life partner, or if I specifically missed having Phil as my life partner was not easy to do. The idea that both could be true didn't occur to me. For years I knew that my heart longed for daily companionship, but I couldn't figure out how to acknowledge that need without the disloyalty alarm sounding. For awhile I ignored my desire to find another partner. For an even longer time I pretended that being alone would be fine. But after awhile lifting my glass to the heavens became so lonely that I stopped toasting.

My greatest fear in entering a new relationship was that others would assume that I am now fixed. Phil's death, and the aftermath that followed, seemed diminished somehow if I wasn't actively in pain. What I have discovered is that loving one man doesn't replace the love I have for the other, that being alone for the rest of my life because my husband died doesn't work for me, and that what other people think was never under my control anyway. So for the record, I am not fixed. But I do look forward to toasting life's wonderful moments with the new man in my life, and I am pretty sure that there will be a time when we both tip our glasses to the heavens.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I'm avoiding...
my bedroom, my pillow, my scrumptious flannel sheets (its been cold in LA)
cause he's in there, waiting for me and I don't want to see him
feel his emptiness,
be held only by his memory.

So I'm up. It's one am. I will sleep less than 4 hours tonight and tomorrow I will continue running,
and running some more,
until the loss of him catches me
and I sink into the hole
of grief.

I will make phone calls so that others can remind me how far I've come, that I don't stay in the hole for long. That I

Does this cycle ever end?
I know it doesn't and that is why I duck and weave. Thinking that maybe I can outsmart it, thinking that maybe once it will pass over me and I won't have to be reminded that

he's never coming back.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Another and Another

With my 3 year angel-versary in the coming weeks, I thought I'd dig back into posts I wrote in the first months.


Friday, boring as usual. Going through another day trying to make it as bearable as possible. People are people and I am still the same. Sitting in a coffee shop trying to shave off a few more hours in this day to day life of mine. I do no longer know what true friends are for the only one I knew solidly is gone. Expectations are set and expectations are broken. Comments are made and some things are never said. Friends are foes and silence is your only companion. This is my new life. You fight off what you have never known or wanted to believe, but then realize that it is all that you are left with. It is the only thing in which will always be there. I have realized that we have something or someone, that makes are life solid. Puts a stake in the ground and stops the world from shaking. My stake has been pulled and all that was growing near it was uprooted as well. I have tasted reality and laugh at all those who try and deny it. Not only do most take it for granted day to day, but when it gets closer they deny it even more. Maybe they will be shielded for some amount of time but the reality is that there is no hiding from it, just dodging. I never dodged, neither did Michael. The irony of our love story ending is unbearable but is there. I’m off for now to subtract a few more hours off this doldrum of a life and make me that much closer to my soul mate. I love you baby.