Saturday, April 30, 2011


“You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world, that is something you are free to do and it accords with your nature, but perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid.”
-Franz Kafka

I'm at one of our bi-monthly AWP events. Our first night is one of the most interesting. For many of the widows, it is there first time to meet another with shared grief, it is a first to finally realize that they are not alone.

We sit and laugh, cry, smile, share our lives...share our sufferings.

With each one shared, a wave reaction of nodding heads take over the room. And with that nodding comes a silence of understanding, of realization that we are each not alone in the emotions and feelings that come even 10 years after the loss of our loves.

I love these times. Even after realizing many years ago that I am not alone, I savor the times where we sit...and share...and feel alive in our shared grief...our shared pain...our shared survival.

They always say that out of suffering the most strongest soul no other time, than when I am with my fellow widows, is this most this most prevalent.

Friday, April 29, 2011

as I remember

Photo from here...

When telling a story, Jeff or I would occasionally correct each other's rendition of the tale. Although I am always as truthful as possible, there were times when either of us would need a reminder of the facts of a past event and it was comforting to know that I could always ask him some small memory that was remembered by both of us. "How long was Liv's labour?" "Remember that road trip to Hardy? Why did we camp at the side of the road?"

It seems, however, that my grief stricken brain rewrote a little part of history without my consent.

It all starts with the question I would sometimes get after Jeff's death, "When are you planning to take off the ring?"

I'd stare down at it as I had for years and say "I've never taken it off since he put it on...."

It's not that I was proud of this or felt that it validated my love or loyalty for Jeff any more than it would for any other widow. It was just that it seemed so much more...insurmountable because I had never taken it off....ever. I wanted to moment I removed it to be "just right" and I hadn't found that moment yet.

So last summer at Camp Widow, while sitting with Matt and Mel, I slipped it from my finger. My hand felt naked and odd, but no earthquakes rumbled beneath my feet and birds in flight above the building stayed in the sky.

It felt appropriate to be with others who understood and knew just how big this moment was to me....after all, I had never taken it off, right?

And then, recently, while looking through photos from the days just after Jeff's death, I found one of Jeff's ring....enveloping mine. It was not on my hand. It was on the kitchen table. Somewhere deep in the back of my mind, I think I may remember this moment now. Jeff's sister had asked to see the ring, I think, for comparison to his mammoth-sized band.

I find it odd and, truthfully, a bit scary that I had forgotten this. I went around believing that I had never, ever taken it off. I wonder if anyone else noticed my lapse in memory or if it was just me. Who, other than photographs, will be my 'fact checker' now?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

what am i doing?

you know what's

not easy?

talking about what

happened on march 25th, 2008

over and over and over and over


(you people know this better than anyone).

i lived it.

i wrote about it

and now

i'm reading it out

loud to

crowds of people

i wouldn't know

if it hadn't happened to me,

to us,

a little more

than three years ago.

i thought it

would get easier,

as i kept talking...

it hasn't.

but it has been incredibly

helpful for me

to talk about

it and to try to

give people even

a slight understanding

of what i was feeling

in that first year.


that said,

i often wonder

why the fuck i

put myself through

all of this?

is the pain

i endure every time

i open my mouth

at one of these events

really worth it?


it turns out that

it is.

the shared experience.

that thing that

can help us relate

to one another

and convince ourselves

that we are not alone

in this shit

is more powerful

than i'd ever understood.

and the more

i share my experience,

the more people i

meet who can

help alter my perspective

in the most

incredibly meaningful ways.

so i keep talking

and crying in public

and it helps me

more than i could

have hoped.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

One of THE Most Difficult ....

                                                                  photo from here
.... Posts I've Ever Written.

Something has changed.
And I wasn't even aware of it until 2 days ago.
Which is kind of freaking me out, because this change was huge.
So huge that it stunned me when I realized it. Literally.
And then I wondered how I felt about it.

I felt horrible and yet a little relieved at the same time.
And I kept this change to myself, thinking I could never admit this.
Not to anyone.

But then I read Dan's post and I commented to him that I am committed to being honest with all of you.
Yet .... even as I type this .... I wonder if I'll have the courage to hit "Publish Post".

Because although you are all some of the safest people I know .... and we almost always
connect with one another in a way that we don't with those on the "outside", I question
whether anyone will "get" this? And I wonder if you'll think what I first thought .... that I
am a horrible person for feeling this new way.

So .... I'm taking a deep breath and just jumping in. Because really ..... I can NOT be the only person widowed person .... who has experienced this.

Most of you know that I began a relationship with someone 2 years after Jim died. The first man that I met in my "after". We dated for a little over a year and then broke up a couple of months ago. It was very difficult to do, but we both knew it just wasn't working, even though we loved each other. And so we ended the "relationship", but not the friendship.
And we've both moved forward, though I haven't met anyone since .... and I don't think that he has, either.

Anyway, things have been going along well ..... until this past week. I have found myself thinking about him, wondering how he's doing .... wondering if we could make it work if we tried again, having learned a few things. Not making plans or anything really ..... just wondering. You know, wondering about the "what ifs".  Knowing that I'm the only one who's doing the wondering, so of course it won't work.  And that's OK.

But then a couple of days ago, on Easter, I started feeling blue. We'd had a good morning ... gone to church, had lunch and then my oldest son headed back to college. My middle daughter had left early that morning. And the blue started growing darker. I hate it when they leave. Then I started crying as I wandered though the house. I thought it must be that I was missing Jim, especially on a holiday. But then ..... out of the very dark blue ..... it hit me:
It wasn't Jim who I was missing. It was the other man.

I could not believe that thought was in my brain. I can't believe that I'm typing it out.... .... here .... for everyone to read.
And know.

So yes, I was .... and still am .... stunned by that change in me.
I mean, I know .... with every fiber of my being ..... that I still miss Jim. That I'll always miss him. And will always love him.

But to feel a change in the missing of him ..... feels horrible .... and yet positive at the same time.

How could someone who's lost the love of her life .... her first love, the only love she knew for almost 27 years ..... miss another person, a different person whom she loved for such a short time ..... more than she misses her husband? What does that say about her love for him? That it's fading? That she's forgetting him? That she must not have loved him enough? That she's a horrible person widow?

No, that is not what it says.
Not at all.

After the first moments of shock and panic wore off, and in the time since then, and yes.... even as I've been typing these words .... I've realized that it says this about my love:  Jim and I loved each other so much that we felt more secure with ourselves. We knew that we were worthy of being loved. We knew that we deserved to be loved .... and to be loved well.
All because we loved each other.
We loved each other very, very well.

Because he loved me the way he did, the way I needed to be loved .... I am able to love again.
And I will love again. Hopefully.   And I will be loved the way I need to be loved.  Hopefully.
And that turns something that I first thought was horrible .... into something that is positive .... and very good.

And all because .... of Jim.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Not Okay

I remember using the words "not okay" with Grayson when he was little to teach him that something was wrong. I'm not sure why we used "not okay" instead of "bad" or "wrong" - but I'm sure it was in tune with the current kinder gentler way of teaching kids right from wrong. For whatever reason the phrase has stuck with me, and I've used it since then on many occasions.

Over the past five-ish years I've wanted so much to respond that I'm "not okay" when asked the "how ARE you" question....Most of the time I did the kinder thing and lied, "fine" was the rehearsed answer. These days the "how ARE you" question never happens. I really am fine, most of the time at least.

The past few days I have not been fine. I've really been not okay. Not for the expected reasons - dead husband, only parent, too much work. This time it's cancer that has me feeling off kilter. The father of a friend from work was diagnosed with cancer two weeks ago. He went from a reasonably healthy 60ish cancer survivor who was feeling a bit under the weather and having some pain to an invalid receiving a death sentence and hospice care in a matter of two weeks. He was running a business and planning his retirement. Now, with the help of his son, he is planning his death.

A friend from work was diagnosed in October with the same cancer as Daniel. It was further along by the time it was diagnosed, and he was at M.D. Anderson within days. Flash forward through life altering surgery, very painful radiation and gut wrenching chemo followed by a heart attack. Mike passed away on Good Friday. He was 60 years old, just about to enjoy his retirement with his wife of 41 years.

You don't have to tell me that death happens to everyone and that the older I get the less surprised I should be when it happens to people I know. I get it. I've lived it. What I still find appalling is cancer. With all of the medical advances we've made, we can't beat this stuff. It creeps in quietly and it takes our lives away. Not in a single stroke though. That would be too humane. Cancer takes away our ability to enjoy the time we have left. And if the disease doesn't make you feel awful enough, the treatment is enough to make you wish you were dead. Cancer sucks your bank accounts dry, saps your joy, kills your dreams and the dreams of those left behind. Cancer scares the shit out of me and I am not okay with it. Not one bit. I'm so sick of hearing of the devastation left in cancer's path that I want to scream.

I'll be attending Mike's funeral this afternoon. I'll have to welcome another poor person into our unfortunate club. It's tragic and I'm not okay with it. Cancer sucks.

- Michelle D.

The goal for the Widow's Voice Blog team is to provide you with a good variety of perspectives on the challenges, and the triumphs, of life as a widowed person. With that goal in mind, I am pleased to announce that I will be sharing Tuesdays with Chris Weaver (who has guest posted for me recently). Chris is a fellow Texan and widowed person who also lost his spouse to cancer. He will formally introduce himself to you next week, but I wanted to thank him in advance for his willingness to share his journey with us. Thanks Chris. I look forward to your upcoming blogs!

Monday, April 25, 2011

When good things happen to sad people.

Sadness & Happyness

Okay, so here is my dilemma. What am I supposed to do when life is going well. Or, well enough?

I have been publicly writing, blogging, for three and a half years now. At first it was to keep family and friends up to date with Michael's battle with his brain cancer. Back then I wrote about medical updates, explaining the next chemotherapy trial, the progression of his tumor, then the ultimate message of his death. During that time I tried to talk honestly as possible, yet also balancing Michael's desire for some privacy. In between the difficult messages, were words of hope, and of true joy. I have to remember that even though our world was turned upside down, there were some wonderful days and weeks. During those two years we had many celebrations, and many reasons to be thankful.

After Michael died I decided that I needed to continue writing. On the evening of our first wedding anniversary, about a month after he died, I started writing my blog about grief. After writing for a couple of weeks here and there, I decided to commit to writing every day, as there was much to share. Basically, it became my wailing wall. When my first year was up I knew it was time to slow down.

Here's what I learned during that year. Lots. I learned much about my grief. I learned much about my propensity for depression. And, I learned how addicting it was to get immediate feedback from my public grieving. Here's what I also learned, sex and tears sell. Doing well on the other hand becomes a bit of a sore spot. When readers are looking for someone to identify their grief with, well, it becomes awkward to talk about good things.. It also makes me feel uncomfortable when the non-widowed take my current good fortune, or well-being, as a sign that it is now all behind me.

In the past year I have made some needed changes, and they appear to be going well. In the past week I was offered a job that I am thrilled about. In the past few days I got through the anniversary of my meeting Michael, the most significant day for us as a couple, doing well.

Am I cured? Hardly. Am I through the worst of it? I don't really know. Am I more optimistic. Definitely. If anyone went back, and read my writing exactly a year ago, they would find that I was contemplating suicide, and being very open about it. I was so lost in my despair that I was having trouble finding my way out. Well, here I am a year later. Alive. Good things have happened for me. I have found a new place to be. This place, my new home, and my heart, still have trouble reconciling all the pain and loss that has brought me here. Yet, in spite of it, I am very much willing recognize goodness when I see it, when I feel it, and when I have it.

And on that note, I close this post.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Personal Look at Death and Resurrection

Resurrection is the theme of the day for Christians everywhere. But whether this day is a religious celebration for you, or a bunny hop, or just another Sunday...those of us who grieve have a unique knowledge of the experience of death and resurrection.

Because when our loved one died, we did too. The person who did not know what living in a nightmare while awake was like, died. The person who could not imagine a life without their partner, died. The person who never cried more tears than they imagined existed, died. The person whose life was once filled with the daily ups and downs of being a part of a couple died to the pain of wishing for just one more regular day with someone who is never coming home.

The death of myself through the process of losing Phil changed so many things about my personality that for a long time I didn't recognize myself. I wondered many times if the girl I once was would ever come back. I mourned the innocence of the 'before loss' me. I mourned the fearlessness, and the hope, with which I faced life before tragedy changed everything. I wanted to turn back the clock for so many reasons, including a return to the woman I was when Phil and I took whatever life threw at us side by side. I was brave then, bolstered by the fact that life was a shared event.

I have written many times about the phoenix that rises from the ashes of loss, but until writing for this post never really thought about the idea that this is a form of resurrection. Each time I got out of bed in those first months, that was a resurrection. For every battle won with the plumbing or the car or the challenges of only parenting, another resurrection took place. With every memory faced, empty bed entered, closet walked through, and hairbrush gently touched I claimed a small part of myself back, because I thought these daily joys from the past would kill me in my new future. But instead, with the dawning of each new day a tiny bit of sunlight made its way into my heart.

It is as if Phil's love planted a flower inside of my soul before he left me. I watered that little bud with countless tears, unaware that I was actually creating something new and beautiful within me. As I made my way in the world without him the rays of courage, resilience, determination, and hope each helped my inner flower to eventually bloom. With every reluctant step I took forward the person I was becoming rose into a new life. I didn't know that I was creating what would be; I thought I was only mourning what could no longer be. The thing I couldn't see is that these two seemingly incongruous tasks can be done simultaneously. You are doing them now.

Phil's love has become an amazing bouquet of experience that lights up my days. I never would have imagined that the word resurrection could apply to me.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Wall

“But mostly, I cried because my life had been going full speed for so long and now it had just stopped, like running right into a big brick wall, knocking the wind and the fight right out of me. And I didn’t know if I’d ever even wanted to get up and start breathing again.”

- Sarah Dessen

This quote embodies the day I was notified and the months and years to follow (and even random moments in my day-to-day life).

I never thought I’d be here.


Living….thriving…without my love by my side.

At first I held back from a smile or a good time, in fear that it would be dishonoring him. But with time and introspection, I realized that by doing so…holding back..I was dishonoring him.

Our loves don’t die for us to shrivel up into a ball, to live in a cave, and become Gallum-like. But in the beginning I couldn’t grasp that.

But the winds of time and his love blew away those mis-conceptions, and with that came the realization that I was going to get up…I was going to start breathing once again.

Man, do I love him, with every ounce of my being.

I still have those choke-up moments in realizing how far I’ve come…how much I’ve lived…
Those moments where I’m shocked at my soul’s capacity to survive…
My face’s ability to smile…
My arm’s ability to embrace…

But even in that astonishment,
I am never,
astonished by my heart’s capacity to pump our love through my veins.

And with that knowledge, nearly four years later, I am able to live.
I am living.

I hit the wall…
But I stood up.
I’m standing.

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Death Wish

Filling in for Jackie today with a post I wrote almost four years ago. Even today, I can clearly remember the feeling of wanting to be dead. It would have been terrifying if I were capable of feeling anything besides empty, but in that moment all I wanted was to be with Phil. Of all the words I have written over the past 5.8 months the ones I share here remind me most powerfully of how far I have come since the day that one life ended, and another unwillingly began.

It is an odd and frightening sensation to wish you were dead. After Phil died I fervently wished I could die, too. The first time I read that grieving people sometimes fantasize about death, I was relieved. My entire life I had appreciated the gift of life, to suddenly and frequently wish it away was a disconcerting and lonely experience. When my husband, Phil, was hit by a car, the initial shock provided a buffer to the complicated emotions that would gather to haunt me in the days and months to come. As the buffer of shock wore off, I was struck daily by the realization that Phil wasn’t coming home. It felt like Groundhog Day—everyday I woke up with the expectation that the day would somehow go differently, and I would discover that Phil wasn’t really gone. Day by day the reality of his death ate away at my desire to live.

There is a difference between wishing to be dead and being suicidal. My death wish did not come from a desire to stop living. It didn’t even come from a desire to stop hurting—though the pain was so intense at times I hoped it would kill me. My death wish came from a desire to be with Phil again. His physical absence was like a phantom pain in a limb that was no longer attached. My death wish became a part of my daydreams. Jogging up a street, I would mentally challenge cars to run me over. On a plane, I would imagine a fiery crash that I didn’t survive. Hiking in the mountains I looked for wild animals that might want to make a meal of me. Driving alone in the car, I visualized my car flying over any ledge I passed. Every brush with imagined death was followed by the disappointing result of still being alive; continuing to jog down the street, landing as expected at my destination, a safe return from hiking adventures, and no crash over the nearest ledge. The longing I felt to be with him was a constant ache; the only cure I could imagine was joining him wherever he was.

As time marched on, the call to live gradually grew stronger. In the early part of my grieving I desperately held on to two reasons to live; my kids needed me, and I didn't want my family and friends to have to grieve me, too. All my reasons for wanting to live were about someone else; if it were up to me....beam my up Lord! There was not one personal reason that I could think of to continue living—but healing has a way of sneaking up on you. Eventually I recognized that my husband lived his life fully, every moment. He had an awareness of the value of life that influenced his daily choices. Reflecting on how he lived his life reminded me of the gift that life is, and he became a role model for me. As I have begun the process of creating a life for myself without him, I have had to find reasons to live that are my own. I want to be a mother to my children. I want to make a difference in my community. I want to weave my husband’s spirit into the fabric of the person I am becoming. I want to bask in the joy of being in love again. I want to experience the adventure that life still holds for me. The woman my husband married died with him. Grief has changed me, but I am proud of the woman that is emerging from the ashes of loss. Life is a gift to me in a way it never was before. The nuisances of life don’t bother me as much as they once did. Age old adages like, “Take time to smell the roses,” actually mean something to me now. The world can’t be the same place it was two years ago, because Phil isn’t in it—somehow that comforts me. What I am learning is that though many things around me are radically different, I can still be a whole, happy, grateful person.

Ironically, my death wish has become a steely will to truly live. Phil would be glad to hear that.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

not me.

after all that's

been happening

the last week,

i'm pretty sick

of talking about myself,

so here's life

as viewed through

someone else's eyes.

(i'm pretty proud of her).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"It Can't Take Away What You've Lost ....

 * I originally posted this on my blog in March of 2009After watching today's "Oprah" I was reminded of it .... again.

                         Jim and me .... at the huge surprise party he managed to truly pull off, for my 40th.

... but it is something."

The above title and sentence was a line from last night's episode of "E.R.".*
It stopped me ...... I literally stopped and stared at the screen.  And no, it wasn't because it was George Clooney who said it.
He was playing his doctor-self, Dr. Ross.  
He was sitting in a private waiting room ...... you know, one of THOSE rooms ...... a room which you really know you don't want to walk into.  Like the one into which I was half-carried, half dragged.

He was sitting with a grandmother, who's teenage grandson was on life-support.  He was brain-dead.  Very, not-ever-coming-back, brain-dead.  And she didn't want to let go.  She didn't want to give up hope, even though hope had walked out the door a long time ago.  She didn't want to talk about donating his organs.

They talked for a bit and then he asked, "What was Billy like?" And she talked a little about him. You could see the light growing in her eyes as she continued to describe her precious grandchild.  He's smart, funny, handsome, loves to play music, has a lot of friends, has a wonderful heart, etc. 
Dr. Ross said, "He sounds like a great kid." and she replied..... "Yes".

Then, he very quietly asked ........ "Generous?"
And she struggled with the pain of that answer.  She couldn't look up for a minute, couldn't say what she knew was the truth.  Then she looked up and the pain was over flowing ....... and she finally whispered, "Yes" ....... and then asked what organs could be used.

They continued talking for a bit and then he said, "It can't take away what you've lost, but it is something .....".

And I heard myself repeating that sentence .... aloud.  Son #1 looked up at me ..... probably thinking I'd had one too many glasses of wine. 
I looked at him and said, "It IS something.....".

And then the memory of my moment in dealing with that came back to me.....

It was the day he died ..... had to be, of course.  The same day I had to go to the funeral home to make "arrangements" ...... the day he died.
 So completely inhumane ..... (our practice of "making arrangements").

I don't know what time of day it was, I just remember someone walking into my bedroom, where I was lying on the bed, and hearing that someone from the hospital needed to talk to me on the phone.  
I don't remember who told me ..... there were many people in my home that first week ..... many.  I can't remember all of the faces, but I remember that they were there.

And so I walked into the kitchen, sat down on a chair and picked up the phone.  
I laid my head down on the desk and I kept my eyes closed.
And began a conversation with a woman who's job I would hate to have.

Of course since Jim died while in surgery there weren't any major organs that could now be donated.  But you would be surprised at how very much of the body can.

And so she painfully went down the very long list .... one item at a time, while I, too, whispered .... "Yes", to every item she brought up.

Because ........ although it couldn't take away what I had lost ......  it WAS something.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Home Destruction

Today's post was written by Chris Weaver...thanks Chris...please forgive the delayed acknowledgment!

On my way to my morning breakfast taco place, I had to dodge a large truck in the road carrying a huge backhoe. Oh brother, I thought. They are going to tear something up. That’s going to be an inconvenience for someone. And I didn’t pay another thought to it, at least until I drove by on my way back home just thirty minutes later.

The beast that was once on the back of a flatbed truck was now dancing on top of wreckage that just moments ago was someone’s home. What just a few minutes ago was a place of family, birthdays, and rocking chairs had been, in mere minutes, reduced to a pile of crushed wood, steel and stone. Where just minutes ago sat a place of warmth, happiness and holidays, now was a treacherous wasteland filled with splinters, shards of glass, and razor sharp edges no one would dare explore.

It shocked me how fast it happened.

On December 9, 2006, while preparing for a huge birthday party to celebrate her 31st birthday, Maggie grabbed my hand, put it to her chest right below her rib cage and ask “Does this bump feel weird to you?” “Oh”, I thought, “This might be an inconvenience” but didn’t think much more about it and we had a great party that night.

It shocked me how fast it happened.

By the following weekend, she was having pains. By Christmas break she couldn’t keep food down. By New Year’s Eve (the one in New Orleans with friends we had been planning for months) my once vibrant wife was having difficulty walking. And by January 6, 2007 we were in the hospital. That big ol’ backhoe, the one parked right out on the street in front of our house that we didn’t pay much attention to, had just taken its first crushing scoop out of the side of our happy home.

For the next 850 days we carried on with our lives, defiantly ignoring as best we could that cold, metal backhoe bucket as it methodically turned our loving home into rubble. With its final swipe, it left me holding my angel sitting stunned on top of a heaping mound of twisted steel, crushed wood and broken glass that covered the happy memories of what used to be our life together. Now, it’s just me, alone.

It took a while, a long while, but now I’m no longer sitting. Daily I scoop and sweep. With a lot of tough work, I’ve cleaned off a small area now where I live. The rubble is still here and some areas are quite treacherous. But the foundation is still strong – we built it solid and reinforced it with lots of love and respect and smiles, although it sure is chipped up and I just don’t know what it can be used for now. And I still have a whole lot of cleaning to do. But I’m cleaning and (shudder) eventually rebuilding.

I think I’m going to put up a big sign that says “Watch This Space!”

Maybe if for no other reason than just to remind me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ranting & Raving. But Not Mad.

Portrait Colin Rave

I sat earlier in the week in my parent's living room. I watched as my mother struggled to move about the house with her walker. I watched as my father tried to anticipate her every move. I saw how carefully he has to think about where she will sit, and will she feel comfortable there. I sat as she talked about her pain. I sat as her thoughts became confused, and I wondered where she was drifting to. I saw the look in my father's eyes, fatigue, frustration, worry, concern. I saw how he jumped up when my mother decided she needed to move back toward their bedroom, how he was right behind her so that she would get there safely.

I sat there thinking, "I know the drill. I know these trials. I know where they are headed." Something is very wrong with this picture. Why is it that their son is sitting there having already lived through a significant part of life, and is now watching his parents follow in his footsteps? What the fuck happened?

I sat there wondering what each of my brothers were doing at the time. They were likely each arriving home from work, meeting up with their wives, and preparing for their dinner together. There were probably not even giving it a second thought, taking for granted that they have lived the charmed life, and feel safe and secure in their relationships. I'm sure they think of our parents, and marvel at how wonderful it is that our parents have been happily married for 55 years. They are likely telling themselves that they are well on their way to having this same experience.

I on the other hand, am sitting on the couch, alone, having lived through a relationship/marriage, that lasted only three and a half years. Looking at statistics on marriages, anyone would not be surprised by this number. It is likely that most relationships don't even last that long. Some people likely looked at my relationship and thought to themselves, how sweet, it is almost like a marriage. They probably were surprised that I had what appeared to be a very conventional relationship for a gay man. They are probably thinking that I should be happy for what I had.

Who am I kidding? They are likely not even giving me a second thought.

What's in the past is in the past. Right? I'm the guy who looks like he just bounced right back. Right? I'm the guy who always comes out on top. I'm the guy who has done so much for the gay widowed community. I'm the guy who is always thinking of everyone else.

Well, obviously, I'm also the guy who still resents the hell out of life. I'm the guy who's relationship ended in death.

Am I moving forward as they say? Hell yes. Do I have a choice?

I feel like all I do is field phone calls from all my family members, letting me know how every one's life is going each day. They want my advice. They want to make sure I am kept up on all the latest news, concerns, and special events that are taking place all around me. And oh, how are things going for you?

Would it matter what I said? The answer is no. When asked how my weekend went, I usually say the same thing, nothing much happens around here. When asked how the kids are doing, I say well, life is still very complicated for them. When asked how I am feeling, or how am I getting through life without Michael, oh, how silly of me, nobody asks that.

But I'm okay. I have accepted my fate. I am forever grateful for what I have. I am looking forward to all the good things that are coming my way. I am storing up a wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and empathy, that will all be put to good use one day. I know that a new love is right around the corner for me. I know that God is going to reward me. I know that God doesn't give me more than I can handle. I know that there is something fantastic in store for me. I just have to be optimistic.

Well, at least that's what they say.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

730 Days

Written on April 15, 2011

729 days and 22 hours ago…

we were dancing in his room.

We were drinking beer, watching American Idol

and eating.

I can’t remember what.

We were laughing together,

his sister, his best childhood friend, my friend and I.

And then one of us would look at him,

and cry.

I tried to forget all of that today.

I told myself that I will “ignore” tomorrow.

I had decided that I would ignore this anniversary.

The 730th day.

730 days since my life


became Jell-O under my feet,

since it ended up on a different life plane.

And those memories of the last hours of his life

can’t be stopped.

I tried eating my way into ignorance.

I tried drinking my way past them.

And yet, there they are,

those pointy edges,

those fragments of memory,

pricking me,

making me bleed tiny little droplets


as I bleed out,

in comes the physical response to the grief.

My spine aches,

my eyes feel prickly.

I feel fuzzy, unclear and surreal.

Just like I did 729 days ago.

I am filled with the same joy too. It was us, the four of us there, in our cocoon. The world stopped at the hospital door. Those three were there with me, we were there to help him leave this life. It was beautiful those last hours.

His leaving so black, so unknowing. Sarah McGloughlin reminding me to:

“Hold on.

Hold on to yourself.

This is gonna hurt like hell.”

I remember the nurse telling me that I wasn’t cooping well.

And I yelling at her, “I know I’m not cooping. My husband is dying! Now get him more morphine!”

I remember all of it

It pours into me.

There is no stopping it, no deciding to ignore it.

So I sit still

Let the tears come in their sporadic, unpredictable rhythm,

dropping down my cheek and onto my shirt.

I use my hands to swipe at them, smearing the wetness onto the back of my hands then onto my cheeks and then my pants or the bed duvet cover. Tissues …I can’t. Placing something clean and white under my eye to safely contain the grief feels absurd.

Grief is messy and wet and unpredictable.

I want these tears to represent all of it.

And then I want to cry not just to honor what has been lost,

but what




I can’t be one without the other.

730 days.

730 days.

730 days.

730 days.

To be followed by 731.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

How Did You Two Meet?

Filling in for Taryn today...told you I wouldn't be gone long! ;)

Recently I spent eight days with one of my favorite people in the world. You all know her as our Tuesday blogger, I call her tacalla. You've heard one or the other of us use that term here on the blog (tacalla is the Spanish word for two things that share the same name), as a way of explaining our shared Michel/lleness. Just imagine for a minute the hilarious looks on the faces of our fellow vacationers when we introduced ourselves. Hi, I'm Michele. And I am Michelle. Yes, we both said Michel/lle. No, we are not twins. Yes, we confuse people all the time. No, we aren't sisters...our parents did not suffer from a serious lack of creativity or a desire to adhere to an age old family tradition. After several questions to determine why we share a name the person being introduced to us inevitably asked THE question...well then how did you meet?

Now this is where things get really interesting. Because whenever we are asked this question (we've been asked by honeymooners, couples celebrating anniversaries, people celebrating all manner of birthdays, relatives, friends, friends of friends...mostly in circumstances where the word death causes stunned silences) we make a quick joint we tell them? Michelle and I have gotten really good at this over the years. When someone asks the loaded question, we quickly glance at each other. Should we? Will you tell or will I? The whole story or only one part? A quick blow or a longer version of the hows and whens? All this we communicate in one quick meeting of the eyes. Then the predetermined bearer of bad news takes a deep breath and dives in to the murky waters of men who died too young, kids without dads, women who you'd never guess were widows (widows really?!), and the uncomfortable shifting of weight from foot to foot, eyes that dip from our faces to the floor, and the silence we so often fill with the description of the gift we Michel/lles are to each other.

When we met five years ago Michelle and I didn't know how much we would need each other. When I sent her a card two months after Phil's death, and two weeks after Daniel's (at my sister's request because her husband is Michelle's cousin) I did not know that she would become my lifeline as we surfed the turbulent waves of grief side by side. In fact, I didn't even know what to say to her. All I knew then was that grief was eating me alive...I wondered at the time if you are supposed to say that to someone whose husband just died. But anything less seemed unfair. Why pretend what lay ahead for her was pretty? Or easy? Or even just terrible? I finally decided to write her a note and tell her I would be available (as a stranger to her I was pretty sure she'd never call) if ever she wanted to talk. Four months later, to my surprise, she did. And we haven't stopped talking since.

The funny thing is we spend about 90% of our time talking about life, not death. We taught each other how to pick up the pieces of our shattered futures, and begin again. As every day passed we listened, even when the words spoken hurt one as much as the other. We poured out our pain in a long stream of e-mails that we both have saved as a part of our history. But woven through the pages of agony, were always glimpses of hope. That is the gift we continually give each other. And the sunny spot we point to when our dark history overshadows our joint introductions.

Really, I can't blame unsuspecting folks for their reactions to meeting two 41 year old women, with the same name, similar features, and dead husbands. But these mind bending statistics are not the most amazing part of our story. The really cool piece is the fact that one relationship is the basis for a movement that has touched hundreds of thousands of grieving people around the world. Hope is a gift that keeps on giving. Michelle and I first gave this gift to each other unwittingly, and that light has been passed from hand to hand ever since.

So reach out, even when all you see is darkness. Find a friend (we can help Follow the light, however dim. Know that pain shared really is lessened, and joy (there are still joys spinkled throughout the lifestunting pain) shared doubled. For Michelle and I that joy just happens to share the same name.

Friday, April 15, 2011

i'm a jerk...a widowed jerk

Picture from here....

I am strong. I am brave. I am a survivor. I am usually empathetic and kind. But...... Sometimes I'm an angry whiner. I wallow in my self-pity and the life that I now exist in.

I realize that life is a gift and that we must be grateful for the amount of time we spend with our loved ones and upon this Earth.....But there are times I can't help myself but to gnash my teeth and spew angry thoughts of self-pity.

Such as:

You find "single parenting" exhausting? Try "sole parenting". Being the only one to dry tears, the only one to prepare cupcakes for the bake sale, the only one arranging childcare, the only one there to get up in the night, the only's especially fun when you are sick!

You were heartbroken when your grandfather died? Yes, it IS awful. But it is NOT the same as losing the love of your life when you were supposed to grow old together and BE grandparents together. It's an entirely different grief.

You find making your pay cheques spread across all the bills difficult. Do it with one check while needing to pay for the same amount of things as if you were two - hydro, gas, groceries, laundry detergent, etc. You wish you could find someone to fall in love with and share your life with? How about finding that person, loving them with all your heart, warts-and-all, and then unexpectedly having them drop dead. Now you're lonely, sad....and still in love. But with a dead person.

I know that these thoughts are horribly belligerent and one-sided. I realize that I am being a jack-ass. But sometimes, I don't want to hear their shit. I want to wallow in my own well-earned self-pity and flip the bird at any other person's troubles or griefs.

*Please admit I'm not the only one with these thoughts.....

Thursday, April 14, 2011

for madeline.

on saturday

some of the most

important people in our

lives will be with

us as we

celebrate maddy's third birthday.


(yeah, maddy's birthday sort of runs from her actual birthdate of march 24th to her estimated due date of mid may).

she and her friends

will be beating

a piñata,

eating cupcakes,

and throwing things

around our backyard

while the adults

laugh at them.

she'll probably

get a few gifts

(even though i asked people to donate to our favorite charity instead of giving gifts...some people will go ahead and do both as they have in years past).

(even i couldn't follow my directions...i bought her a mini drum kit).

but today is the day

that one of

my most important

gifts to her

goes public.

she's seen it already.

she's held it

in her hands.

i've asked her who

the little girl is

on the front.

(she yells, "maddy!").

i've showed her the

page that tells

the world exactly

who it's for

(the page says her name...she recognizes the m).

i've told her what

it is.

and what it means

to me.

but she's many years

away from

truly understanding.

at age 3 years

and a few weeks,

she just wants to

color on that mostly

empty page

dedicating my gift to her.

and she'd rather

read the book about space

that she insisted i

buy for her.

but someday

she'll get it...

and i hope

it means the world

to her.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Even Deeper ....

 ....  purging.

Last week I told you that I was purging my home and attic and getting things organized.

What I didn't tell you .... was how deeply I was purging.

You can see that there's a lot of "stuff" in my garage, but you most likely can't make anything out (due to my fabulous skills as a photographer).
But there's something there .... on the right side, close to the middle.
Something that is symbolic of how deep this purge is .....

Jim's hiking boots.  (and no, the man didn't hike much, as you can probably tell by the years-old boots that still look new.)

It's not the boots themselves that are the topic.
It's all of his stuff.
Mostly .... everything.

At almost 3 1/2 years out .... I'm down to the last things to purge.
And I am hugely surprised .... by how it went.

Just a month or so after Jim died, I boxed up all of his clothes and put them away.
I hung all of his suits in the back of the coat closet, where I wouldn't see them.
See ........ that was key.
I couldn't see his stuff.
The pain that sight caused was too much for me to handle.

Thus, after only one week .... I cleared all of his "stuff" out of our bathroom.  Off of the counters.
Yes, even his toothbrush.
And his cologne.
I have yet to meet anyone who's done it this early, so sometimes, in the beginning, I felt I had to defend my decision. (I don't any longer.)
The pain of walking into that bathroom every day ..... several times a day, and seeing his toothbrush .... sitting in the cup by his sink, right where he left it ..... was like a knife in my heart.
Every single time.

That toothbrush was not only a painful reminder of Jim's absence, it also felt as if I was being mocked by the universe .... as if it was saying to me, "Hey!  Look at his toothbrush!  Guess what?  He's NEVER coming back!"
And so I removed it.

His closet was the same thing .... only a million times worse.
If I opened the door, which I sometimes felt myself being drawn to do ..... I just crumbled onto the floor and cried.
I couldn't take the sight of all of his clothes in there.
And more .... I couldn't take the scent of him in there.
But .... as I said .... sometimes it seemed I had no power to avoid opening the door.
And so .... I had to clean it out.
And then put other things in there.
So it wouldn't be "his" anymore.

As the days turned into weeks, months and then years .... I would notice that one of Jim's jackets was being worn by shoulders that were not quite as wide.
His cowboy boots were worn on teenage boy feet .... feet that were not as long as Jim's, but being worn the same.
I've noticed a couple of his hats being worn.
And a couple of his ties.

I think I've just mostly watched this quietly .... not saying anything to the Sons, but noticing.
And being ok with it.

And then, the urge to purge hit.
And so the boys cleaned out the attic, bringing all of Jim's stuff down.
And they looked through those things.
I have no idea what was saved.

I thought that was it.
I thought that part was done.
Until I hit the coat closet last week.
The last thing I have purged.

I brought his suits out and then remembered that there were several huge boxes in the back of the closet.
I had forgotten.
I brought all of the boxes and and then sat down on the floor among them.
I opened one box at a time.

Those boxes held all of Jim's more personal clothing.
His t-shirts, jeans, socks, shorts, caps, etc.
I had indeed .... forgotten.

I opened up one box at a time and braced myself for the meltdown.
But .... it didn't come.
The waves didn't hit.
There was a slight amount of undertow going on .... but nothing so big that it took me down.

I went through every single item in every single box.
I chose some items to keep for myself.
I set some things aside to give to the Sons.

I picked each piece up, held it, remembered him wearing that item .... and smiled at the memories.
I brought many of them up to my face, breathing in deeply .... to see if they still had his scent.
They didn't.
My heart was beating pretty quickly .... yet I never lost it.
I just .... remembered.
In a good way.

And I was .... stunned.
In a good way.

I've cried since then from missing him, so I know those moments (hours) were no indication of my sudden "healing" of grief (I don't believe that's really possible).
But I think it is indicative of how much stronger I've become.
Of how much easier it is for me to carry my grief, without being brought down by it.

Because .... really?!
Who would've thought that I would one day be able to do actually go through my husband's things ....
my dead husband's things .... and not have dark, painful thoughts and millions of tears blinding my vision, making the task impossible to complete.

I purged.
And I didn't drown.

I just ........ remembered.
In a good way.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Through the Pensieve

I'm fresh back from a wonderful week of vacation (thanks Chris for guest blogging last week - great post!!). I went on a cruise and visited three tropical islands. By odd coincidence, the stop in St. Thomas fell on Daniel's 41st birthday. This coincidence is only odd because St. Thomas was one of his favorite places, and I'd never been there. We'd intended to go together, but as life would have it, we ran out of time. When I found out our port on his birthday was in St. Thomas....I decided it was density - I mean destiny :) I was psyched.

I remember Daniel telling me about Magen's bay and how beautiful it was, so we booked an excursion to the spot. Before you actually go to the beach, the tour takes you to Drake's Seat, which overlooks the bay (picture above). It was a breathtaking view, but that was to be expected. What was unexpected was the intense feeling of borrowing a memory from Daniel for a moment. I was struck by the idea that for just a moment I was seeing something only he'd seen.

It might not sound that incredible, but we started dating at 16, and neither of us had a lot of adult memories that didn't include the other - this memory was one we did not share. I have his photos of the trip, and his journal that he kept of it, but I've not seen it for myself. Sitting at the lookout and staring down into the bay was like a short trip down Daniel's memory lane - like looking into the Pensieve in Harry Potter and pulling out a specific memory belonging to someone else. I was sad for moment, but mostly wistful. It would have been great to have been a part of that memory, not just a borrower of it.

I was on vacation, so I made a memory or two of my own. Magen's bay did not disappoint, and swimming in the clear Caribbean water and laying on the beautiful white sand was a fantastic way to spend an afternoon. It was the perfect spot to be on that day, and I'm glad destiny brought me there. Happy birthday Daniel Dippel, it sucks that you couldn't be here to celebrate it, but somehow I feel like you managed to celebrate somewhere anyway.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Yellow Roses

bouquet of flowers

The day this posts, April 11th, is my daughter's 20th birthday. No longer a teenager. Maybe not quite a full adult, but a day to let her know how much I love her, and how I wish for only good things in her future.

Rather than buy her some new gadget, I decided to spend a little extra, and let her know what I truly thought of her. She is my diamond. She was our diamond.

Many years ago, when my husband Michael and I were first dating, the day arrived for my daughter to celebrate her confirmation at our church. Even though we were new to each other's lives, Michael and I knew that we would be together forever, so we bought our daughter something special, something that would last through time. We bought her a beautiful white gold cross, with a single diamond in the middle. My daughter loved it. She cherished it then, and especially now. It has never left it's place around her neck.

Today as she opened the box that held two small diamond stud earrings, placed in a delicate white gold setting, her eyes beamed, and a lovely smile came across her face. Funny me, I didn't think that it would automatically take her to a sacred place in her heart. As I looked into her eyes, they began to change from pure joy, to bittersweet recollection, as her hand gently moved to embrace the cross that hung close to her heart. She looked down, but just as quickly raised her eyes back up to me, then moved across the table to give me a strong embrace.

We held each other silently, then she gave me her thanks. She began remembering the day that she received her first diamond, the first gift from us as a couple. She knew that this simple gift was an indication that there were now two of us where there used to be one. And though there were the typical bumps in the road that occur when a single parent begins to share his time with a new love interest, she, and her brothers, quickly realized the benefits to having two loving parents by their side.

As she sat back down in her chair, I could see where her thoughts were leading her, and I hoped they didn't take her to a dark place of grief. Instead, she allowed her thoughts to linger in a place of loving remembrance. "Dad. You know, if Michael were still here I would have received a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses." Yes daughter, I know. "Michael always gave me yellow roses. Every birthday. Every special occasion." We both took a deep breath, and smiled that knowing smile. Let's choose to be joyful.

Funny how a simple interaction with our children can be such a great teaching moment. Most people think of teaching moments as time for us to impart a lesson on our children, but in this case, I was the one taking in the wisdom through observation. I know that I won't always be in an emotional place to embrace such a lesson, but for today, I am wanting to emulate my daughter's approach. I want to smile, and remember the simple joys that Michael brought into my life. I want to place my grief gently beside me, knowing it will always be there, but giving myself a moment in time to smile, to appreciate, to remember.

My husband, all of our spouses, was so much more than a deceased spouse. I know it's so hard to remember this at times. I don't like that in my mind, he is now mostly thought of as the one who I lost, the one who died. I want to remember that he was very much alive, and that in my heart he can continue to be very much alive. I don't wear any jewelry, so there isn't anything for me to hold onto when wanting that tangible connection. I will have to seek it elsewhere. It will have to be found deep in my heart, and through my recollection of special moments, and simple little gifts.

Like yellow roses in a beautiful bouquet.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sex, Sensuality and Sadness

I accidentally posted this on Saturday, the wrong day!! Sorry Taryn!

Sex. I’ve been thinking about it lately.
And I really miss it. I miss the animal-ness of having another sweaty body pressed down against mine, the sounds, the smell.

I miss being openly desired, I miss teasing, I miss all the foreplay that comes before. I miss being sexy. I miss being a sensual woman.

And I find myself unsure if I even know how to be sensual outside of him.

I know I don’t have to be. After all I’m a widow. Good widows don’t crave sex. Good widows don’t take about that need. Good widows move forward but do so looking back and sighing. Good widows leave their best years behind them, and walk bravely into the future. Good widows don’t talk about their “toys” either.

Sometime when people ask me how I’m doing I want to say, in a pleasant soft voice with a sweet smile, “I’m horny as hell and really want to get laid.”

I’m a shitty “good” widow.

But it’s not just about the sex. It’s about the desire to be desirable. It’s about having a man openly want me, it’s about my wanting him back.

It’s about being sensual and here is where I struggle. For all of our sex, for all the times we made love, I can’t say that I was ever sensual, I mean really, really comfortable enough to be sensual with Art.

And I’m scared.
Art’s death has splayed me open…. I am raw to the touch, to any emotional breeze. And in a weird way I feel the fool. Foolish for laying there letting anyone see me.

And yet in the fear strangely comes courage and the desire to use my second chance to embrace what I have always wanted to be but been too afraid to try.

It’s the bravery I turn into Sensuality here in Cancun. I love the word, it captures it’s meaning in its pronunciation.

I have dared myself to practice being sensual this whole trip. And in doing so I try to see my body the way Art did: beautiful, soft, curvy and expressive. It’s difficult to ignore the familiar, mean, internal messages. “Your thighs are too big. You have too much cellulite. And good Lord, whatever you do don’t lean over! Your three child stomach skin will hang down like elephant ears.”

My sensuality fights to stay present, in front of me.

On the beach, I study other woman from other places like Brazil and Atlanta. I watch them move in tiny bathing suits with bellies and thighs and bosoms that are the complete opposite of the waif thin I think I should be. And I watch the sensuality float around them, magnifying their sexiness.

I want that. I want to dip myself in it. I want to be amplified. I want to see what Art saw in my body. He didn’t see the stretch marks, cellulite, the wrinkled belly, or the saggy small breasts.

All he saw in that single minded male way was a woman, who he loved with breast that were just right, with a belly that was curvy in all the right places, soft, expressive and holy delicious to look at, to kiss, to stroke.

With those thoughts, Sadness creeps in. There is a man on this trip that I’m interested in. It will be a one night stand. And suddenly standing next to this man, I am lost, not sure how to do this or even if I want to. I am scared I will do something “wrong.” I am still splayed open. I feel unattractive and needy and fuck….vulnerable.

It is here that I see for now, I am trapped between my dead husband and a world that is out there. A world I see and occasionally venture into but for most of the time it waits for me to figure out how I want to engage in it.

And with that, the sensuality is gone. I am a widow. A scared, lost, confused widow. Not sure what to do or how to do it.

I've been here before. I'll figure it out.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


I was looking for the perfect quotation or saying for a friend going through her hero's angel-versary and came across this excerpt.

May you remember your love in the best of times and worst...and may your lives be enhanced through that action...As the four year mark creeps up on me, remembrance has been one thing to get me through the present.

This quote reassures and puts into words what my heart has felt, and it makes me smile.

When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me. It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.

Sex, Sensuality and Sadness

Sex. I’ve been thinking about it lately.
And I really miss it. I miss the animal-ness of having another sweaty body pressed down against mine, the sounds, the smell.

I miss being openly desired, I miss teasing, I miss all the foreplay that comes before. I miss being sexy. I miss being a sensual woman.

And I find myself unsure if I even know how to be sensual outside of him.

I know I don’t have to be. After all I’m a widow. Good widows don’t crave sex. Good widows don’t take about that need. Good widows move forward but do so looking back and sighing. Good widows leave their best years behind them, and walk bravely into the future. Good widows don’t talk about their “toys” either.

Sometime when people ask me how I’m doing I want to say, in a pleasant soft voice with a sweet smile, “I’m horny as hell and really want to get laid.”

I’m a shitty “good” widow.

But it’s not just about the sex. It’s about the desire to be desirable. It’s about having a man openly want me, it’s about my wanting him back.

It’s about being sensual and here is where I struggle. For all of our sex, for all the times we made love, I can’t say that I was ever sensual, I mean really, really comfortable enough to be sensual with Art.

And I’m scared.
Art’s death has splayed me open…. I am raw to the touch, to any emotional breeze. And in a weird way I feel the fool. Foolish for laying there letting anyone see me.

And yet in the fear strangely comes courage and the desire to use my second chance to embrace what I have always wanted to be but been too afraid to try.

It’s the bravery I turn into Sensuality here in Cancun. I love the word, it captures it’s meaning in its pronunciation.

I have dared myself to practice being sensual this whole trip. And in doing so I try to see my body the way Art did: beautiful, soft, curvy and expressive. It’s difficult to ignore the familiar, mean, internal messages. “Your thighs are too big. You have too much cellulite. And good Lord, whatever you do don’t lean over! Your three child stomach skin will hang down like elephant ears.”

My sensuality fights to stay present, in front of me.

On the beach, I study other woman from other places like Brazil and Atlanta. I watch them move in tiny bathing suits with bellies and thighs and bosoms that are the complete opposite of the waif thin I think I should be. And I watch the sensuality float around them, magnifying their sexiness.

I want that. I want to dip myself in it. I want to be amplified. I want to see what Art saw in my body. He didn’t see the stretch marks, cellulite, the wrinkled belly, or the saggy small breasts.

All he saw in that single minded male way was a woman, who he loved with breast that were just right, with a belly that was curvy in all the right places, soft, expressive and holy delicious to look at, to kiss, to stroke.

With those thoughts, Sadness creeps in. There is a man on this trip that I’m interested in. It will be a one night stand. And suddenly standing next to this man, I am lost, not sure how to do this or even if I want to. I am scared I will do something “wrong.” I am still splayed open. I feel unattractive and needy and fuck….vulnerable.

It is here that I see for now, I am trapped between my dead husband and a world that is out there. A world I see and occasionally venture into but for most of the time it waits for me to figure out how I want to engage in it.

And with that, the sensuality is gone. I am a widow. A scared, lost, confused widow. Not sure what to do or how to do it.

I've been here before. I'll figure it out.

Friday, April 8, 2011

give me one reason

In any tragedy, early loss or hard lesson, we look for a reason behind it. The "why". Over the last three years I have searched for the explanation, or rationale, for Jeff's death and all the aftermath of his loss. Not the reason written on his autopsy certificate or the coroner's report. Something deeper. Something less concrete but still as real...and "good". I have searched for a sort of justification for his loss. Some signal that the repercussions for his death were not all negative and in vain. I have felt the flicker of atonement when an acquaintance had heard that Jeff's reluctance to go to the doctor resulted in his death and insisted her husband go to the doctor for a persistently bothersome throat...only to find out that he had cancer and possibly had a chance to catch it in time. I felt some sort of rationale - maybe Jeff saved someone else's daddy in a round about way. While signing a co-worker's life insurance papers as a witness after telling them of our life insurance debacle and how life would be so different for the kids and me if I didn't have to worry about money, I felt an acknowledgement for our loss. Someone wouldn't have to face widowhood with children and not know how they would provide for them financially. After singlehandedly installing six fence posts correctly in our backyard with only the help of a postpounder, a level and a ladder (plus an extremely zealous four-year old boy), I wondered over whether I would have not only been able to do this before Jeff's death and if I would have had the confidence to unquestioningly tackle the project alone. I certainly feel that will never be a good enough reason for losing my beloved...But there may be some other purpose behind his loss. A string of positive happens that would not have happened if I were able to hold him just a little longer. Hopefully, each loss of each of our spouses has caused some amount of positive to ripple through humanity. Because I need some amount of rationale. Some amount of explanation. Some amount of knowledge that my love's life did not go unnoticed.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

one week from today.

i'm one week away

from the day that

my gift to madeline

becomes something that

people will publicly

judge, both

positively and negatively.

some will praise

the "story," some will

criticize the writing.

some will find

something to

relate to and

others will wonder

how the hell

i "did it."

i'm ready for all

of that,

but more than

anything, i hope that

someday my daughter

reads it and

realizes just how

much i love her.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Purging ....

.... is rather a "loaded" word, is it not?

Those of you who follow my blog or me on Facebook know that I have spent a lot of time over the last few weeks purging and organizing my home .... and my attic.  I find that I get the urge to purge about 2 or 3 times a year, and when that urge hits .... I just go with it.  Quickly.  And I work like a mad man woman until the urge leaves.   Everything from inside the house and attic now sits in the garage.  Well, everything but the trash, which I purged from the garage for 5 1/2 hours yesterday.  Now the rest is ready for donating.
Although I found another closet today (which is now cleaned out and organized!) and some cabinets that still need to be hit.

As I thought about what to write about for this post the word "purging" came to mind.  Of course it's been in my mind, and many FB updates, for a while now.
But I thought of it differently today.
I realized that every week I purge myself when I write my Wednesday post here.
And, like the purging of my home, the purging of my heart here is a good thing.  It helps me.
And sometimes it helps others.

When I purge here I think I get rid of a lot of "junk" that's in my heart and then I have more room for some nicer things.
We all have a lot to purge, don't we?
I'm very glad that we have each to purge on (that brings to mind a disgusting image, doesn't it? Sorry!).
But really, I can take your purging.
And I know that you can take mine.
Not everyone can, you know.

Most people are not in the same club we're in.
Lucky, lucky them.

I found that many people could take my purging in the early days.  But that ability seems to wane after a couple of months or so .... at least for what seems to be the majority of the population.
It's ironic that as our friends' ability to take it fades, our need to purge grows.
In the beginning we're too shocked to know what to do, let alone how to react, what to say, what not to say ..... and who to say or not say it to.

But then we get a bit stronger, though we seem to feel weaker .... and worse.  And we begin to purge.  Hopefully we find someone upon whom we can purge.  But young/youngish widowed people are difficult to find.  And if we don't find one, we most likely will find ourselves purging upon the wrong person/people.

So again ..... I'm glad you're here.
I'm glad I'm here.
Well ..... not glad in the sense that we all have a reason to be here but ..... you know what I mean.

And that's exactly my point.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Playing Cards

Please welcome our guest writer Chris who is filling in for the vacationing Michelle today. Thanks Chris!

Sometimes when people learn that Maggie and I did not have any children together they say “Oh, that’s good.” Other times they say “Oh, that’s too bad.” Either way, it’s very odd to me that they feel the need to pass judgment on whether or not we have kids. It was just timing. Really! Just timing! Before Maggie’s diagnosis, we did not strategically avoid parenthood, we just weren’t there yet. Actually, pre-diagnosis, we planned on getting pregnant as soon as I was out of school (I was headed to the Acton MBA program just after she graduated from Baylor law school.) Aggressive chemo to fight The Cancer pretty much killed those plans. What’s the ol’ saying? “We plan. God laughs”? Yeah, timing, not choice, put the cards on the table with which I now play the game.

I’ve wondered often what parenthood might have been like with my wife. We always had so much fun together so I was excited about raising kids with her, which I’ve never told anyone before now. My feelings were less “Hey, cool, we’re gonna have kids!” but more “Oh, this will be a fun, new adventure with My Sweetheart!” Now, just days after one of her best friends delivered her first and weeks after another of her best friends delivered her second, I’m reminded daily of the cards that timing dealt, and the adventures I’ll never get to experience. I’ve always been told having kids brought a new adventure every day. I always had so much fun with my trusty, and spirited, adventure-buddy. Damn, I miss our adventures; both the ones we used to have and the ones we never will.

Funny thing, all the soul searching in the world couldn’t tell me whether the cards I have been dealt add up to a royal flush or just plain crap. While I can definitely see the cards (they are kinda hard to miss at this point), I don’t know the rules of the game. Heck, I don’t even know the other players, really, or who might eventually show up to the table. And when they do, it’ll be interesting to see what cards they bring. Fortunately, (and this is a little bit of Maggie rubbing off on me) I tend to lean toward “everyone wins” instead of a winner-takes-all type of game. So, IF someone shows up at the table AND they have the right cards, maybe we can put our cards together and have another crack at this game. Or maybe we can even play a new game, a game with less thinking, like Go Fish.

Monday, April 4, 2011


365 307 - alone. again.

I received an email from a friend today. She decided that she needed to be direct with me about the status of our friendship. She said that she doesn't know how to be in a friendship with me anymore, and that she has felt this way ever since Michael died. She feels like any pain, loss, disappointment or loneliness that she has experienced in her lifetime, just doesn't rate in my mind. It has made her feel like she has nothing to offer me, or that there is no room for her to share what's going on in her life, especially if it is something positive.

When I first read this I felt quite hurt. Then as I sat with my thoughts and feelings awhile longer I came to the conclusion that she is right. I haven't made room for her experiences to be of comfort to me. I have closed myself off to people that used to be in my life. I have felt anger and disappointment with how friends responded to me in the aftermath. That said, there is nothing I could have done differently.

I have not been a very good friend to anyone these past 18 months. Well, that's not true. I have been a good friend to my fellow widowed bloggers who have taken center stage in my support system. I can do that because they are going through what I am going through at the same time. There is no need for explanations, no need for expectations, and no need to apologize for my ability to engage or not engage.

The other side of this is that I have not, and still do not feel, like I have much to offer to anyone right now who isn't widowed. I am so broken, that I am somewhat immobilized. I often don't return calls, and rarely reach out to connect with anyone. This is because I am so lost. When I look at myself from the eyes on the non-widowed, I feel like a disappointment. I feel like I am failing to move on. I feel like I am not willing to separate from my widowed role long enough to see the positives in life. I am a failure.

I know that I should be reaching out, but don't. I know that I should start giving back to those who gave to me early on. I know that I should stop waiting for old friends and family to come find me. I know that I should be willing to put my grief aside long enough to make room for their happiness in spite of my loss. All this said, I still don't know how.

Earlier today I was visiting my parents. My father has been in the care taking role with my mother for a very long time. I see how it is affecting him, and I see how sick and miserable my mother is. I do reach out to them, and try to help as much as possible. But, in the end, I know that in spite of their ongoing predicament, they still have each other. While at their home one of my cousins dropped by with her husband and two daughters. My cousin has the same illness that my mother has, and so has taken to bringing my parents a meal now and then, and to compare information about their individuals treatments. I sat there, with my parents on one couch, my cousin and her husband on the other, with me across the room on a single chair. I felt sorry for all the challenges both couples are going through, but my empathy kept waning in the process. I couldn't move away from the fact that even though they are not well, and have many worries, they at least have each other.

I feel like a bad person when I recognize this. It's the dark side of grieving the death of a spouse. How do you continue to interact with couples, who in spite of difficult times, still have so much? I feel like everywhere I go, I see people who have it better. I see people that truly have happiness. I see people who have, or got to have, their spouses for many years. I see couples who have children with not so many challenges. I see people who are having a better life than the one I have been given. Am I angry and disappointed like my friend said? Yes.

I look into the eyes of my children, and I also see disappointment. I feel like I have let them down. I feel like I have put myself ahead of the line too many times. I feel like I should be able to will myself better, if not for myself, then for them. I sometimes wish that I could just disappear so that I wouldn't have to see that look from anyone again.

I also don't know what to do about my writing anymore. Clearly my friend has been reading my personal blog, and taking some of what I say personally. All to many times, friends have said that they are needing to catch up with me by reading my blog. This is often said in a quick email, or on a Facebook post. I think that many have become used to reading about my life rather than actually asking me about my life. My blog is my wailing wall. It is quite personal. It is quite honest. It is not filtered. It was not meant for their eyes. It was meant to give me a place to purge my grief as I experience it. It was also meant for you, my fellow widow(er)s.

I'm not sure where to go with this at present. Do I stop writing? Do I start editing myself? I don't want to carry the burden of those around me not knowing how to connect with me. I don't want to worry about how I make them feel. I don't want to hurt anyone, and I don't want to turn anyone away. I feel like I either need to kick myself in the ass and move on, or completely let go of old relationships. I know that it doesn't have to be one way or the other, but I end up feeling so guilty for the way I have responded to my loss.

Bitter. Angry. Resentful. Envious. Hurt.

Have I closed the door to possible joy? Have I allowed myself to be defined by my loss to the point that I have turned people away? Someone recently said to me, "oh, so you identify as a widower?" The question felt so judgemental, even though I know that is not what the person meant. But, it really has stuck with me. Is it not okay to identify as a widower? Are people asking widows the same thing? Or, is it because I am a man that it comes into question. Am I supposed to just man up, not take on the descriptive identity, and carry on as a single person who just happened to have had a husband who died?

I am so lost and confused. What am I doing wrong? Everything?