Friday, November 21, 2014

Crazy Cat Lady

My husband was a huge animal lover, and even more cool, animals absolutely loved him. They flocked to him. We would go over to other people's houses or just walk to a nearby park, and other people's pets would run up to him and want to play. If we went to anyone's home who had a dog, he was instantly playing with the dog. He always wanted a dog of his own, but because we lived in an apartment that didn't allow dogs, he used to say: "Someday, Boo. When we move to a bigger place or maybe buy a house or condo, I can have my husky/shepherd mix." Well, that never happened.

What did happen was that Don Shepherd packed up his entire life into a moving van in February of 2005, and, with his cat Isabelle in his lap the whole time, drove from Florida to New Jersey non-stop, to start a life with me. His cat Izzy was 13 at that time, and two years later, she got old and sick and we had to let her go. Don wanted to adopt another cat or kitten from the local rescue shelter, so we went there together and found two sisters that were only about 7 weeks old. They told us the sisters were a package deal, and so Don convinced me that we should take them. I was very hesitant about having two cats. I kept saying: "But I don't wanna be the crazy cat lady." He would say: "You'd need at least 3 cats to qualify as crazy cat lady, and crazy cat ladies usually don't have husbands. They just have cats."

Cue the part of the story where my husband randomly drops dead.

But before that happened, we took the 2 kitties home and named them Ginger and Autumn. They were so damn cute, running around and chasing each other, and fighting playfully and lying down at night behind our heads. Ginger was so in love with Don, she literally would hang on him like he was a tree. She would sit on his shoulder or wrap herself around his neck and just hang out wagging her little tail. One day, when they were about 3 years old, Ginger and Autumn were playing and chasing each other like usual. It was the middle of the night, like 2 am. Suddenly, Ginger whimpered loudly and limped under the bed, hiding and whimpering. "Come here, sweetie. We have to see what's wrong honey. It's okay, my sweet girl. We're gonna get you some help." My paramedic husband went into action while I panicked. "Get the kitty cage, Boo. Look up where the closest vet ER is. Something's very wrong. " We drove Ginger to the nearest vet ER, which was a good 40 minutes away, and she moaned the whole time as I tried to calm her while Don drove and talked to her the whole time. When we got there, they took her and we waited. Then a guy in a white coat came back out and took us into a small private room, closing the door. He pulled out an x-ray and showed it to us, and Don burst into tears. "Look, Boo" he explained to me, since I had no clue what was happening. "Her poor little lungs can't breathe because her heart is too big. Her lungs are being crushed. Oh, my poor sweet girl." The doctor explained that Ginger had been born with an enlarged heart, and that she threw a blood clot, causing her to spasm and stop walking on her back legs. He said it would happen again and again, and that she was not destined to live a long life. We had to let her go, and Don and I held each other and cried in that private room for a good half hour before Ginger came back in so we could be with her when we let her go.

Just 3 days later, when it was just us and Autumn, who seemed quite depressed at the loss of her sister which she didnt understand, Don wanted to take some pictures of Ginger back to the rescue shelter where we got her, and where her foster mom worked. He wanted to tell them what had happened. I agreed, although I really wasnt much in the mood to go back there, but we did. We walked inside, and began telling them what had happened, when suddenly, this full grown adult orange male cat, lept out of his cage and ran across the large room, galloping like a horse. He sped through the 12 or so other people in the room, and ran right up to Don. He looked into my husband's eyes, then climbed his 6 foot 4 body, all the way up to his shoulders, just like Ginger used to do. Then he sat there, staring at Don and wagging his tail. Don turned to me with tears in his eyes and said: "You realize we are taking him home, right?"

So there we were, coming home with this 9 year old boy-cat, whose name on his papers was simply "Shawn." We both couldn't stop laughing at that stupid name. "Shawn? Who names a cat Shawn?, Don said on the drive home. "That sounds like the name of some Irish dude from Boston that you'd go and meet for a beer. It's silly. No. He will be Sampson. Sammy." And so it was. Sammy came home, and he healed Don's grieving heart from the loss of Ginger. He followed Don around everywhere. He slept ON his head, almost every night. Sammy could not get close enough to Don. It was like he wanted to sleep inside of his face. That was in 2010. And then, in July of 2011, I found myself running into an E.R. at morph speed one early morning, as I saw a gaggle of nurses and doctors walk toward me. And it was me who went into that small, private room where they closed the door and told me that my husband had a massive heart-attack and didn't make it. It was me who went home alone that night, and forever.

And so now I'm the crazy cat lady. Even though I only have 2 cats, I still say I qualify for the role. I certainly feel crazy most days. I have no idea what I'm doing, Don was the better pet-parent by miles and miles, and they miss him in very specific and obvious ways. Too much to get into here, as it would take pages to explain the many ways in which they grieve for their Papa. But here we are - me and Autumn and Sammy. We have moved twice together, in the 3 years since Don's death. It was very difficult, both times, to find living situations that would accept not one, but two cats along with myself. I kept hearing Don's voice in my head, from when he and I were thinking about moving years ago: "I'd live underneath a bridge somewhere before I'd ever let anyone take my kitties away from me." So where I go, they go. I do my best, and I love them like mad. They are the only living piece of Don that I have. We never got to have our family - we never got to have kids together - so this is it. When it's time to say goodbye to them, I don't know how I'm going to do it. Sammy is already almost 14 now, and showing signs of slow cause for concern. I just pet him and love on him and say "I love you, buddy. I love you so much. Papa loves you too." Autumn sits in the hallway and meows and howls at the ceiling, sometimes for an hour straight. She did the same thing after Ginger died. Don used to say to her: "Are you talking to your sister, honey? Tell her Papa loves her." So now I say: "Are you talking to Boo? Tell him I love him so much." I don't know if I actually even believe anything I'm saying in those moments that I'm saying them. I don't know that I believe Don can hear me or that he knows what we are doing or any of that. I don't know. But it's all I've got, and so I do it.

On a typical night in my bedroom, Autumn sleeps by my side or by my feet, and Sammy sleeps right in the crook of my arm or right up against me, like a person. He is the most lovable cat I have ever known, and just like I was convinced that Ginger was sent to us to help heal Don's broken heart after losing Isabelle - and Sammy was sent to us for more healing after Ginger died - I think that having Sammy here is sort of like Don's last gift to me. It sure feels that way. Anytime I am sad and crying, Sammy helps. He cuddles me and he purrs and he sits with me and says: "I know. I miss him too." Or at least, that is what he seems to be saying, in my crazy, cat-lady mind. But maybe he is just saying: "You're doing okay. Papa would be proud."

Pictured: Don sitting in his "Archie Bunker" chair with his Isabelle. Ginger climbing Papa. Autumn and Ginger hanging out by Don's guitars in their new Jersey home. Sammy sleeping on Don's head. Me and my Sammy-Sam. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Magic Man

I'm writing this on Tuesday. It would have been Mike's 61st birthday. My heart is breaking.

Honestly, I didn't expect it to hurt this much. Last year all I can remember is the day passing in numbness and disbelief. This year somehow I feel more alert to the pain, and it's been very hard. Over the past 21 months - 21 months yesterday, by the way - it's as if the panic and shock of his death have faded into a deeper, more guttural state of grief. A year ago it was still reverberating like a constant ringing in my ears; now, it has settled into a knot in my stomach, or maybe, a hole in my heart that I must learn to carry around with me.

So many people wished him Happy Birthday on his Facebook page along with many soulful wishes he was still with us. How much they missed him, how special a man he was, how he still holds a place in their heart. Some, that they even still feel his presence. That is nice. It made me feel happy to know he affected so many people while he was here...and so deeply sad that he is missing from us now. I know a lot of his friends, not to mention family, still mourn him very much indeed.

My world seems deflated without him. It seems ho-hum without him. You have to understand - when I met him it was like I was suddenly able to perceive another spectrum of light. The world changed for me; something shifted and a bright, sparkly radiance entered my field of vision. And don't get me wrong - not every moment was magical. Some were arduous, yes, as in many relationships. But a lot of them actually really were magical indeed. (No really. You have no idea. He blew my mind from the moment I met him.) It was truly amazing to have been a part of his world. I am forever changed, and will forever feel blessed for the experience. He taught me so much, and I am, forever, grateful.

But much as I know I can have a future, as much as I know I do have a lot to live for, as much as I know there are some really amazing people around me now, and as many fun and lovely moments I can be sure to still feels...somehow...not as bright. Waking up with him each morning was always an adventure. Believe me. But that magic that was Mike, that vivid energy that filled a room and filled my life, died with him, and all those sparkly bits fell to the ground and went out like dying embers. 

If my world was black and white before I met him, life with him was in color. And now, the colors are fading again. I try to keep a brightness in my heart, the memories of him and what he taught me, as I carry him with me into this next chapter - but it is hard. It will just never, ever be like it was again when he was around.

I tossed and turned all night last night, waking up several times to stare at the ceiling and think about what we would have done together this day. Whatever he wanted, that's for sure. And they were always lovely, these special days. A drive up the coast, or a swim at the beach. Maybe a matinee at the theater. Always a special lunch, or dinner. Usually sushi. Sometimes Mexican, or pizza. A glass of wine on the lanai. Perhaps a small gift or two. But always cards. Greeting cards were just one of our things. We both pored over the racks at the store for each other, and I saved them all. I have a huge stack of them in a drawer, and I kept thinking about them all night. There would never be another card added to that stack.

This morning I dug them out and started going through them. I think I've only done that one other time since he died. It was wonderful to relive, for small moments anyway, the joy we shared giving them to each other. And also terribly excruciating. Each one brought more tears. 

The pictures above are of the one I gave him for his 59th - our last one together. Love is togetherness through time. It was, on that day, a perfect card. Because it's not as if I wasn't aware of the magic and adventure while it was still happening. I was. And learning to live without it has been torture, because I am so keenly aware of what I have lost. You might see a seemingly strong person out there doing her best, but she is, and always will be, hurting inside. I've had to screw my brain back the other way or something...I've had to partially revert back to some older version of myself, even though I'll never be the same again...I've had to try and make peace with an alternate reality, one where magic isn't real again, because the magician has left the stage. 

But I like to think that one day, I will continue the adventure with him, in another magical place I cannot conceive of yet. That thought keeps me going. That thought helps me appreciate what can still be a beautiful experience here, to encourage me to still do good and enjoy it all - because that is, I know, what my magic man believed about his own life.

Happy Birthday, my dear Michael.

(P.S. My grasshopper, which I haven't seen in a couple weeks, made another appearance as I was writing this.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Road Well Traveled~

My daughter and I are nearing the end of our 6 month road adventure.  It will be the end of this particular segment of my Odyssey of Love.  But it doesn't end in Arizona when I drop her off.  I'm going to take a one month break off the road, visit with my son and grand-daughter, meet my son's girlfriend and her daughter (I'm really looking forward to that), and then continue on.

Rae (my daughter) and I were discussing the end of our travels together.  She and her husband are very much anticipating their reunion and I'm happy that they'll be together again.  Their life as a couple can begin again.

There is a part of me, I told her, that used to believe (or want to believe), that at the end of my travels, Chuck would be waiting for me.  Even knowing it couldn't be so, that tiny place in my heart hoped, I guess, that he might be.  Or couldn't believe that he wouldn't be.  After all, we've been apart for almost 19 months now.  It's time for us to be together again....right?

Except, of course, that he won't be waiting for me.  He's dead.  He's gone.  And I can't conceive of settling down into a home without him.  He was my home.  For the last 4 years of our marriage we didn't even have a sticks and bricks house; we lived on the road, staying at military billeting as we adventured the country.  At the end of May, I'll have been on the road for 6 years.  2 of those years will have been on my own as I drove this Odyssey of Love for him.

Chuck won't be there to greet me in Arizona and it isn't home to me, so...I'll continue driving.  I don't know what else to do and I'm convinced that if I do settle down into an apartment, I'll just go inside and close the door and pull the covers over my head and that will be the worst thing for me.  I'll die but not really; just my soul will die while my body lives.

A friend asked me today what I consider home.  My home always has been...was for many years, my husband, Chuck.  It was truly where my heart was and now that he's gone, I guess I'm searching.  Before he died, when I told him I was going to continue traveling on my own and that I would paint my car pink so that he could find me out on the road, he smiled and said he'd be looking for me.  So I'm out here, hoping he'll find me somehow.  That somehow I'll find a way to connect with him again in some way.

My Odyssey of Love isn't done.  There are places yet to scatter his cremains, and in the process of doing so, of knowing where those places are, there is a life to be built.  Wished for or not (and it most definitely is not wished for).

Drive on~

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Secluded Paths

Maggie kept the beat in our relationship when it came to social engagements. She injected me into a lively social world that held me captive to weekends packed with activities, most of which were not optional. Now, without her overwhelming influence, I find myself woefully disengaged with what I think most people would consider normal life.

We had no children so I don’t benefit from the continued social pressure that comes with little ones. The lack of children also often filters me from events in which I’d otherwise be included. Well-meaning friends intentionally don’t invite me to birthday parties and other kid-thick events “to protect my sanity,” so they say.

Except for the brave and determined, friends who only knew Chris as half of Maggie and Chris have had difficultly making the transition. Most fell aside quickly after Maggie’s Angel Day. My guess is that they were battle-weary from the 850-day fight. However, for me that was just the climactic end of one major battle in the still on-going war.

So here I am with my solitary habits but now with fewer friends. Fewer friends mean fewer easy opportunities to be social. Gravity has temporarily dragged me into a lonely world.

Thankfully, if there’s one thing that seems to be constant, it’s change. Life is transition. All of this will change and it will likely change again. The New Reality will become the Old New Reality. Rinse and repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

The picture that I chose for this post was taken on one of our many happy vacations. A framed version hangs by the front door of my downtown condo and right below it sits a patient walking stick I cut from a tree that grew at the house where we lived together happily for almost ten years. Every day when I leave the condo I glance at that picture. Almost every weekend, I take that walking stick on a mini adventure. Both remind me that my journey isn’t done; I’m just in transition.

I consider myself a world traveler. As of this writing, I’ve visited 11 countries (with three more coming up next month.) Every one of my journeys has involved at least one secluded and often scary path. Each time I’ve been delighted at what I found at the destination. Life is a grand adventure. I also consider myself one of the lucky ones because just like you I’m forever blessed to never again walk a path alone, even when I’m the only one leaving footprints.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Left Behind

Two years ago, on November 17th, my husband and I were getting married. It was a chilly autumn day, and the rain paused long enough for us to gather at the registry office in New Mills for our simple, beautiful ceremony. Later, we brought close friends and family to our local pub, The Beehive, for a reception and delicious dinner.

No one from America was with me at my wedding, and Stan knew I would be missing their presence, so he put together a slideshow with pictures of them and played it on a screen at the party we held later in the evening. It was a sweet and thoughtful gesture, his attempt to bring my old world into our new, shared life.

Eighteen months later, we gathered at The Beehive, again, to mourn my husband’s passing.

All of Stan’s family and friends were there. But my son and his girlfriend were the only ones who could come, on such short notice, from America, to be with me.

Our second anniversary falls on a Monday, this year, and, though I knew others would remember it, I didn’t feel I could ask them to take time away from their working lives to sit with me on that day, to help me commemorate it, and I did not want to face it on my own.

So I decided to come ‘home,’ to rest, to be surrounded by the people with whom I was raised, and to try to heal a little bit. I’ll be here for Thanksgiving, too, that distinctly American holiday, a day I don’t even pay attention to, when I am in England.

I am here in Indiana, at my brother’s house, who lives on the street where we grew up. Yesterday I walked down that street and recalled the names of each of our neighbours as I strolled past their homes. I walked through the subdivision where my childhood home once stood, and looked up at the pine trees that I used to climb when I was little. I walked down the hill to my muddy creek, a creek I spent a lot of time with, as a child, skipping rocks across its waters.

The world I inhabit, when I come to America, is so much different than the world I have in England.  It is a known world, with wide, spacious streets, giant yards and houses, chain stores and franchise restaurants, the familiarity of fifty-two years of living. And though I love the life I have in England, and I cherished my life with Stan, I settle into the rhythms and ways of America very easily when I am here, and there is a certain comfort in it.

It is a world that, aside from two, steaming weeks in May of 2011, my husband never knew.

Sitting here, on this cold, snowy, Indiana morning, I wonder if I did the right thing, coming here to spend our second anniversary.  I can’t feel his presence here. Stan and England feel so very far away.

I feel like I have left him behind.

Six months ago, in May, I was back in America for my son’s graduation from a Master’s Program in Music. Stan had not been well, having only been in the hospital a few weeks before my scheduled trip, but he was well enough to return to work, and so I decided to go ahead with my plans to be there for my son. I kissed my husband goodbye at the Manchester airport on May the 2nd.

My days in New York were filled with activity. We hiked around the falls and gorges there, I attended my son’s graduate recital, beamed with pride at his many accomplishments, met up with some old friends who lived nearby.

Through the wonder of technology, I was able to connect, often, with Stan via FaceTime. But the difference in time zones made planning for those connections difficult, and we did not always get to chat. I was immersed in the American world I knew so well, and did not always find time for my husband. I knew we would be together soon, when I returned to him in England, and my focus was on my son.

When I returned to England, Stan told me he had felt left behind. He could not share in my world and he missed me sharing in his. I guess I became a bit defensive, upon hearing this, and I was not as kind to him as I should have been in response. I told him I had so little time with my son, and that sometimes I felt torn between the two worlds. I did not want to have to choose one over the other. Both worlds were important to me.

Three weeks after I returned home from America, my husband was dead.

Inevitably, when someone dies so suddenly, loved ones pour over missed opportunities, experience longings and regrets.

I cannot put into words how much I regret those last few weeks. I feel terrible that I spent two weeks away from him when he was not completely well. I wish I had taken time to connect with him, on those days we did not talk, that I had been more mindful of his need to hear from me. I wish I had known how short our time would be.

If only I had known.

But I didn’t. I thought we would have many more years together. I planned to work harder to integrate my two worlds in the future, and we talked of taking the next trip to America, together. I hoped that my husband would come to understand my American life, eventually, and come to share it, with me.

There wasn’t time for all of that. And sitting here, amongst the familiar voices and sounds and surroundings of my childhood, I must try to forgive myself. It is not easy to live between two worlds. I had only lived my life in England, with my husband, for a few short years. I got swept up in America every time I came here.

It was only natural that I would.

Today, the 17th of November, two years after we married, I will try to bring my husband’s memory here with me. I will look over our wedding photos, light a candle for him, help those here to know him a little bit.

I know Stan would be telling me, in his kind, gentle, way, to forgive myself, to let go of regrets. He knew that I loved him, and that I would never, truly, leave him behind.

And I have to hold onto that.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

That which doesn't kill me...

Yesterday was one of those days in this after life that was both incredible and heartbreaking all at once. Earlier this year, I started going to the gym and took up Crossfit to try and get into shape. I hadn't done anything for over a year since he died and was really out of shape. Not to mention I've never really been athletic my entire adult life.

So yesterday was big because I went to my first Crossfit competition. And it was cold. And rainy. And I had a cold. And I somehow still didn't back down and I did all three of my workouts to compete. I was on a high all day... The very fact that I was even there was amazing. The fact that just a year ago I'd never have imagined I'd be doing something like this was so fulfilling. 

I didn't win anything, I did probably somewhere around mediocre compared to all the other women. But that didn't matter. I showed up. And I worked harder than I ever have. And I beat my own practice times by a lot. And I did it with a layer of grief underneath it all. 

My team mates were all so supportive. My best friend came out to cheer me on. My in-laws even came out to watch me... And oh, the sound of his Dad's voice cheering me on is one of the best feelings I've had in a long time since neither of my parents are alive to see me now. It was incredible.

I learned something about myself I never thought to be true too - that I'm quite a feirce competitor. I may not be strong enough to do everything yet, but the fire within me is a lot stronger than even I realized. When that timer went off - I went somewhere else entirely. Razor sharp focus. The feeling of pride I've been given by this experience is amazing. It reminds me to keep on surprising myself and that we should never put limits on ourselves and what we can do.

It's a bit ironic that I needed Crossfit to remind me of the fact that I'm incredibly strong. I mean duh, we have all lived through hell and back losing our partners, yet somehow it's so easy to forget just how strong that has made us. It really has. The kind of fight I have for anything I care about now is tenfold compared to before my fiance died. 

This morning of course, as the excitement of yesterday's events wears down, the deep sadness is setting in. The horrible kind that cuts to the bone with the truth that he isn't ever coming back. That he will never know this newperson I'm becoming more and more as time passes. He will never get to see me as an athlete, and cheer me on from the sidelines. And embrace me tight in his arms after I finish a workout and tell how proud he is of me. Which he would be. So proud. I hate that he would have loved Crossfit too and we probably would have done it together if he were alive still. Then again... If he were alive, I'd have been too comfortable to ever try something so extreme. 

I hate that I can see myself changing - slowly but surely - into a woman who was not the woman he knew. A more amazing and beautiful version of myself that he will never get to have and hold. I really hate that. It breaks my heart.

This all just sucks. It feels incredible to feel so strong while I'm in the arena fighting hard to compete. I feel grateful the entire time just to be there. To have a healthy body that allows me to do this. To have worked hard for 8 months at the gym continuously despite the many waves of grief that have slammed into me during that time. To have not give up on myself and on living again when it's sometimes so tempting to want to do. Don't get me wrong. It feels incredible. All of it. But... 

At the end of the day, I am still a heartbroken woman who misses her best friend more than anything on this earth. And every single new step - no matter how fulfilling - is so excrutiating. Oh how I wish people really understood that. I wish they knew what it took for me to have the courage to do what I did yesterday... Without him there. Or with him there in my heart, as he always is, but "in my heart" is never really enough, we all know that. I wish they knew I was not such a ballsy person before he died... And truly I don't want to have to be, but being this way now helps me through my grief.

I wish they knew that I could barely sleep the night after because my whole body has been raging with grief and anxiety about him never returning. My whole beautiful experience of the day swallowed up by grief once more. It is so exhausting. But I will not give up on me and this life. Or in sharing the good and the bad with you in hopes that we all become stronger together. Somehow... Through this horrible storm, we do become stronger. 

So no matter how shitty it feels this morning, I'm going to hang on to yesterday. And to today. I will not give up on striving for things that do bring me joy, Because to live boldly is the best way to honor his life. I just wish he were here to see it, dammit. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Wish You Were Here, Uncle Dan

My usually quiet, peaceful and tidy sanctuary of a home has been turned in to a messy playground for two boisterous little boys this weekend... and I'ver never been happier to have my orderly life turned up-side-down.

You see, Dan's sister is visiting from interstate with her husband and two young boys, aged two and four, and it's just been lovely to have his family so close.

All of Dan's family and most of his friends are based in Sydney, where he grew up and lived until moving to Brisbane for work, a year or so before we met.  Being more than 1000 kilometres away it would be easy to feel quite isolated in my mourning of him.

However, I'm one of the very lucky widowed people who have been embraced and supported by my  in-laws.  Over the past (almost) 16 months since his death I've had regular phone calls (at least twice-weekly), more than half-a-dozen visits and have been made to feel like I'm a firm and permanent part of their family.

The boys were aged 18 months and three years when Dan died.  The oldest one remembers him well and the youngest recognises him from photos and understands he was an important person.  There have been a few challenging moments with questions about death and heaven and, as is the way of children, these are usually blunt and come at unexpected moments.

To be honest, I love talking about Dan so this doesn't upset me, instead I like it when they bring him up.  I'm grateful that they know he was important and will grow up aware that they were very loved by him.

We answer the questions as best we can, but it's a fine line between satisfying their curiosity and not giving them information that will scare or confuse them further, given their young age and limited understanding of how the world works.

It's making me think about how difficult it will be when the time comes where the questions will develop, as they grow, into queries about how and why he died.  Ultimately it will be their mum and dad's decision on when Dan's suicide is explained and knowing what wonderful parents they are, I know they will handle this will tact and honesty.  My heart breaks knowing how painful this will be, both for my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, but also for my nephews.

Dan adored these boys so much that he would get tears in his eyes when he spoke about them.  When we visited Sydney, he was bursting with excitement to see them.  His phone screen-saver was a photo of his nephews, because he missed them so much; and he couldn't wait to be the best uncle possible as they grew up - playing sports with them and giving them advice about girls.  

Seeing what good uncle he was helped me fall in love with him (not that it was difficult) and I couldn't wait for him to become a father to our own children.  I look at his nephews, one of whom inherited the same beautiful chubby cheeks and mischievous, sparkly eyes as his uncle and my heart breaks that I will never meet our children.  I'm sad that these boy won't know their uncle and we won't get to give them cousins to play with as they grow up.

I wish he'd gotten the chance to be a dad.  I wish he'd been able to live the life he deserved.  I wish he had of been here with us over the past couple of days as we visited the zoo and played at the beach, to help me spoil our nephews and give their weary parents a bit of a break.

There are so many ways to miss him.  Today, I miss Uncle Dan and my tears are for myself, for him and for our beautiful nephews who will miss out on so much by him not being here.

On that note, it's time to pull myself together because I can hear little feet running through the house and sweet, little voices calling out 'Untie Becca, it's time to go to the markets!'