Friday, September 30, 2011

old shoes and wooden spatulas

Photo from here....

I've been sorting through our cupboards and closets and purging the least needed/most outgrown items lately in anticipation of living mostly indoors again after a summer in the backyard and beach.

I have found mismatched gumboots, lost flashlights, a dried up snail and the odd coin. Most surprisingly, I have unearthed copious amounts of Jeff's clothing despite thinking that the vast majority of it had been distributed among family, friends and the Salvation Army.

As I have worked on this task, the kids have been playing together...or re-enacting small-scale wars in the back hall. Today, their fighting somehow led to the playroom door (for which there is no key) to be locked.

Since I imagine myself to be somewhat of a handi-woman, I attempted to pick the lock. Failing this, I attempted to break into the room from an exterior window. Then, I removed the door knob not really realizing that the bolt would still be intact...without a knob. After this, I tried to shoulder the door open with brute force. Sometime later, I gave up and called a friend.

As he kneeled on the floor peering through the impenetrable knob hole, I stared at his large sock-clad feet which brought to mind a pair of new, brown leather shoes I had unearthed at the back of the laundry room closet.

"Hey, Dave," I said, "Do you need any shoes?" He turned and looked at me quizzically.
"I found a pair of brand-new shoes of Jeff's at the back of a closet and thought that maybe you could use them."

"Um. Well. Not...I don't know, Jackie," he stammered, "That', very nice of you. But, um, weird." He went on to explain, "I have never had anyone offer their dead husband's possessions to me. It feels really odd...and wrong."

I sat and pondered for a moment. I thought about how uncomfortable I would have felt in the same situation three years ago. How I may worry about accepting some one's beloved's possessions would ultimately upset them or that I may be terribly close to catching "dead".

But then I started to laugh, "Dave, I am sure when we are in our 90s and most of us have lost many of our loved ones and close friends, offering a pair of unused shoes or a wooden spatula that once belonged to a dead person will be nothing short of common place. This is just the beginning, my friend! And really, Dave, I do not think that you have to worry about Jeff needing them back."

But this evening as I washed dishes, I wondered again if it was wrong of me to ask a friend if he had use for something that had once belonged to Jeff? WAS it odd? Did I cross some taboo barrier? Was this a "widow's faux pas"? Am I still too young for my peers to "get" how ridiculous this attachment to a dead person's unused possessions is? Or is my way of thinking off-track?

I truly just wanted someone who could use them to have them....I suppose it will have to be a stranger who will use them. And that is okay too....they won't have to know that the shoes have "dead germs" on them. :)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Today would have been our 14th wedding anniversary.

Written on

Fourteen years ago, I awoke in my childhood bedroom … well got up anyway … I was too excited to sleep much.
My bridesmaid, my Mum and I quickly ate breakfast and took ourselves down to the salon for 'hair and makeup'.
We emerged hours later, coiffed and painted, but still recognisable.
Everyone ate lunch … not me … I couldn’t eat for the excitement.
Then I put on my beautiful dress, remade from the Guipure lace from my mother’s gown.
I looked beautiful.
More than that.
I glowed.
Lit from the inside.
The flowers arrived.
The photographer arrived.

Then we left for the church in a pair of 1970s vintage Holdens.
Dad walked me up the aisle.
Greg was crying: I avoided looking at him so I wouldn’t cry too.
We promised to love each other until death parted us, (never thinking that death would part us after only 12 and a half years).
I felt so loved and lucky that my face ached from the smiling.
and the kissing.
and the loving gazes into his beautiful blue eyes.
I glided through the reception – everything was perfect.
and we left our friends and family at the party to have our own celebration of our first night as man and wife.
Today would have been our 14th anniversary.
and it’s been just over 18 months since Greg died.
I awoke to the screeching of the car alarm of the bogan who lives across the street.
...well, not so much "awoke as "got up anyway". Sleep isn’t so easy for me these days…
I couldn’t open my eyes.
It seems I have conjunctivitis to add to my already long list of symptoms typical of my “holiday illness” (I never get sick during work time, just holiday time).
It seems appropriate that my eyes are already red and puffy.
I had a shower and prised open my red, oogy eyes.
I put on track pants and one of Greg’s old shirts: nobody was going to see me today.
I didn’t bother to do my hair.
but I did brush my teeth.
I look like crap.
I ate breakfast so I could swallow some cold and flu tablets.
…and I sent my mother out to buy my eye drops to fix my oogy eyes.
Somehow, this seems an appropriate way to mark this day.
….the second of many lonely wedding anniversaries….

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

One Thousand, Three Hundred & Seventy-nine Days ....

                                                       Picture from here
.... since I've heard three small words.

I heard, or rather, read them yesterday.
And I was stunned.
I'm still stunned.

I'm not stunned that I was sent the words, but am happily surprised.

I am stunned at the impact those three words are having on me.
I was stunned when I read them and I'm still stunned.

This has been, and will continue to be an emotional week for me.
You know the kind .... where you can feel that the dams inside of you .... one around your heart, one behind your eyes ..... are starling to crack.
I can feel the cracking actually happen.  And the tears have been able to seep through, though just a bit.
But I know that the cracks will soon crumble more and those dams will burst wide open.
And the tears won't be seeping.

Tomorrow I "get" to go to court with one of my children, who made a stupid, stupid decision several months ago, but it recently caught up with him.
The damns crack more every time I think about showing up in that courtroom tomorrow at 9:00.
I think that it's likely that this will go well, so it's not that I'm worried about the event.
It just "one more thing".
I know you get that.

I am SO sick of "one more things".
I should not be doing these crappy things alone.
He should be here.
He should be holding my hand, reassuring me.
He should be here to take on half of the load of stress.

But he's not.
And here I am.

And yet ..... last week I met someone.
For those of you who are nowhere NEAR that point, it's ok.  And so are you.  You'll get there in your own time.
I didn't plan to get here.  At all.
In the first 2 years I found the thought of dating offensive and nauseating.
And then one day ..... it wasn't.
I have no idea why.  It just changed.

So last week we went on three dates over an 9 day period.
And had fun.
We talked a lot.
It's still new.
It's still too early to tell.
But I like him.
And he, evidently, likes me.

Because yesterday he sent me a text.
One small text with three small words.
Words I had forgotten about.
Words my heart has longed to "hear" and feel, but had given up on hearing them again.
Three simple words:

My heart melted and my face lit up with a huge smile.
No one was there to see it, but that's ok.  I felt it.
And have been stunned ever since.
I've missed him after a fun weekend of going out two nights in a row.
But my heart has learned to not say that ..... to not admit it.
I dated one man after Jim died .... 2 years after he died.  For a little over a year.
He never missed me.
So I learned.
For a while.
And then I knew that I wanted someone to miss me.
I knew that I deserve someone to miss me.

So that text was amazing.

Yes, it's still early.
Very, very early.
Who knows where this will lead .... or not lead?
I'm in no hurry.

But this man has warmed my heart .... and made me smile from the inside out.
All because of three little words.

And he has no idea.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sometimes You're the Bug

Found this picture while looking for images that expressed how some of my days have been recently. This one made me laugh out loud! I'm glad to report that it isn't as bad as all that...but there are moments when I feel like the shark is about that close.

I think I sometimes lean heavily on the idea that "this isn't hard, I've experienced hard, and compared to that....this isn't hard at all". It's true. Compared to the loss of your spouse and all your dreams of the future - most of life's pressures are minuscule in comparison. It doesn't mean they don't suck though. I have to remind myself that it is okay to let little things bug me sometimes. I'm human. Widowhood has made me stronger, but I'm not freakin wonder woman all the time. I have a tendency to put on a happy face even when I'm not feeling it, and lately I've been needing that fake face a bit more often. I'm not a great actress, and I'm sure my coworkers are beginning to sense the strain.

I've been less patient with them, less patient with G, less patient all the way around. I've written more than a few nasty emails that I've deleted before I hit send...thank goodness I'm not too rash or I'd be seeking unemployment benefits at this point I'm sure. I actually told a co-worker in an "off the record" conversation that I thought another co-worker needed to put his big girl panties on and stop acting like such an spoiled brat. Although I really meant it when I said it, the visual of this guy in his big girl panties was so powerful that I was in a much better mood the rest of the day! ;-) Whatever it takes!

Fortunately for me (and the people in my life), bad days and bad moods such as those are few and far between. I tend to bounce back quickly, I hate being makes me grumpy! So I remind myself of the things I'm grateful for, and let the thoughts of those things buoy me through the rough patches. While lately I'm feeling more like the bug than the windsheild, this too shall pass....

Happy Tuesday! - michelle d.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Meaningful Moments

Lost CPP 1.1.98

This weekend I was out running a few errands with my daughter. We were at Lowes buying a replacement microwave oven. And, because I love gardening, anytime I'm at a store that has a garden section, there you will find me. I was walking down the isle, pushing my cart, and looking at all the varieties of plants. I had something specific in mind, but at the same time realized that I didn't really need another plant, nor did I have a place for another plant.

I began to wonder, what am I doing here? What am I searching for?

Suddenly I felt a bit light headed, and lost. I stopped moving, and looked to see where my daughter was. Within seconds she was walking up to me, asking if I found what I was looking for. I told her that I felt like I was wasting my time away. I felt like whatever it was I was doing at that moment was insignificant.

Why is it that after two years, my life still feels somewhat insignificant? I explained to my daughter that before Michael died, every moment was significant. I was always busy taking care of my family, researching cancer trials, filling prescriptions, and being mindful of every waking moment. Everything I did was either for Michael, or with Michael. Every moment of joy was spent with him. I didn't want to lose a single second of my time with him. I didn't want to look back and regret moments that could have been spent loving him.

I remember how after he died, I felt like time just stood still. It was like nothing else mattered anymore. Now of course my children still mattered, but what I was feeling was about my adult self, my married self. Suddenly my other half was gone, yet the void wasn't half of me, it was all of me. I have since struggled to regain a sense of feeling complete, and finding joy as a single adult once again. And, there is joy, and there is pleasure. Yet at times like this, walking casually down the isle in a nursery, with nothing, or no one to rush home to, time doesn't really seem to have the same value.

The rest of my weekend went the same. I did absolutely nothing. For many people, the idea of doing absolutely nothing is highly valued. Others complain about being too busy, and having no time to slow down and appreciate what they have. Yet for me, at least for now, I still have too much time on my hands. I think that in time my daily life will be filled with more moments of value, but I also think that I'm just not wanting to fill it with a bunch of insignificant moments. I don't want to busy myself, unless I become busy with things that truly mean a lot to me. What those will be I'm not sure.

So, I will continue to remind myself that as long as I find myself contemplating these thoughts while I'm out and about, then I'm on the right track. In time, moments like this will begin to feel significant once again, and I will find myself valuing every one of them.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

He’s Not Here

Last weekend we moved. 
Our new place is smaller, more intimate.
I like it.

It’s simpler to manage. (There are only so many places Ezra’s left shoe can be!)  It makes sorting through the boxes and boxes of stuff I should have sold, much simpler.  (If it stays, exactly where is it going to go, Kim?) 

And I feel lighter here, less weighed down by stuff and keeping track of the stuff so I can find the stuff. 

But today, I walked out of the bathroom, I looked at my bed and I realized…

Art’s not here.

He’s nowhere in this new place.  Not in the decision of which draw to put the utensils in, nor in which painting to hang where.  He’s not in the money spent at Ikea nor will he be in the car when I return a few things. He’s not in the assembly of the shelves, or the finding of the toothpaste.

He’s not in the walk in closet.

He’s not in third call to Xbox Live in two hours about the hook up issue. He’s not there when the electrician, plumber, handy man and old renter all arrive within 20 minutes of each other. 

He’s not in the dinner I cook, the good night kisses I give, or in the bed where I collapse.

He’s not here. 

It was not till I left the house that I see that I have left him too.   I didn’t think I left him. I thought he was coming with us. But here in this new place, I see that he was in every damn thing in the old place: in the walls, in where the toilet paper was stacked and where the breakfast trays were kept. He was in the lights he put up around the large kitchen window that looked out onto the back yard. He was in where the canned soup goes, the best place for the dresser and the fiction book order:  black writer fiction, black female writer fiction, dead male writer fiction and damn good fiction to reread over and over again. (Yes we really had the books divided like that!)   He was in the up high shelf with the extension cords and the bicycle tools tool box.

There was this weird potential, like maybe, just maybe, he'll show up again.

I could hear him sometimes, in the catch of the kid’s voices as if, for just a moment, they might forget and call to him, instead of me.

In this new place, their voices are clear and call, with piercing clarity, only my name.

The potential is gone.  

This feels like this is where it begins.  Where our new family starts, this family of four.

Our dinner table no longer has the extensions out.  It is square: one side for each of us.  Tonight, I looked at each of my kids, one across from me, two on either side of me and sigh. We are a family of four now.  Four sides of a square for four people.

The most weird, unnerving, pleasant and peaceful thing about this observation is that

I’m OK with it.

In 2009 we became a family of four. It was not what I wanted, not what was planned.

In 2011, it is what I have accepted and come to embrace.  It is what we are, it is who we are. It is neither bad nor good. It just is.

My new place just taught me that. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I know the phrase is a little off-putting but I think I'd be in naive in not noting those that have come in and out of my life since Michael's death....though burning of bridges is probably a exaggeration of a statement.

In the beginning of Michael's death, many left or were hurt by the lack of understanding of the pain and loss I was feeling. As time passed others may have been shocked or freaked out by my utter honesty of the situation and title as a military widow. And still, four years later, some will come and go with my opinions on how I want to lead my life.

Each encounter and farewell hurt in a way, as that is never the outcome I would want, but with each, I felt my heart become lighter, my smile brighter, my love more alive...I was being me and following my heart. I was saying what my heart was echoing through my soul and outwardly living it and allowing each opposition to become an opportunity for me to find and become an even more whole self.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I'm Okay

Filling in for Jackie today, she'll be back next week!

Six years ago my husband died in a tragic accident (is there any other kind really?). I woke up the next morning, and felt certain that I had been dreaming. With my eyes closed, I slid my hand across the bed to Phil's side, and felt the cold sheets where his warm body used to lie. I wasn't dreaming.

The pain of his absence was searing. There were so many days when I thought for SURE that the gut wrenching pain would kill me. In fact, to this day, I am still surprised that it didn't. I felt like a zombie that was bleeding internally, and dragging my blood soaked bandages as I wandered aimlessly through life. Attractive, yes?

Day by painful day I put one foot in front of the other. Many days were awful, others were worse. Getting out of bed was sometimes  a Herculean effort, but other times getting into that empty bed at the end of the day took every ounce of strength I could muster. My life was full of these mind-bending contradictions. I wanted to be alone; I hated being alone. I ached to be around familiar friends, but their presence shone a spotlight on the hole left by Phil's death. I wanted everything in my life to go back to the way it was, and yet everything familiar was also torturous. Yes, no, move forward, run back, cry, laugh, cry some more...I felt like a spinning top with endless momentum. When would the pain stop, and who would I be when/if it finally did?

Maybe the hardest part of healing for me has been the fear of what would come after. After what? After I was done. After I was "better." After I reached the semi-dreaded state of acceptance. After I was done being widowed. What would happen then?

I can't tell you what will happen for you when you have lived through 2,213 days of widowhood, but I can tell you what I have learned through these past six years. First, I will never get over Phil's death. I am certain I will always think the fact that he lost his life was a terrible waste and that the world would have been better with him in it. Next, I now believe that my widowhood belongs to me in the same way that my motherhood, and sisterhood, and daughterhood, and friendhood does. Being widowed is part of my life story, and this painful chapter has colored the rest of my life in rich, deep colors. I have met some of my dearest friends while navigating the waters of grief, and I know we will be surfing together for matter what lies ahead. Lastly, I have realized that life will always be delivering a new challenge, another test, a different circumstance to my doorstep. How I handle the package will determine what impact the unexpected bomb, or bouquet, has on the next chapter of my life. Thanks to my widowhood, I know I will survive.

And what will happen after? I (and you) will be okay.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Photo from here

Last week, I fell.


Too many stressors on top of an already stressful life.
…and then the person who keeps work flowing my way resigned.

and I panicked.

Because she is the only person in admin who gets it.

But I met with her, and while she isn’t able to give me more long-term certainty, she moved mountains to keep me employed for most of next term.

….and instantly, my spirits lifted.

I’m happy that I am employed until December, but I’m scared that my emotional health swings so wildly around having job security.

In the past, I’ve never had job security.

I’ve only ever had contract work.

But it’s been OK because a) I’ve never been out of work, and b) I’ve always had Greg there earning an income to provide for us if I couldn’t.

Now, I need that security.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Look Back

 I was looking through some old posts today and this one caught my attention.  I wrote it on December 18, 2008.  One year after Jim died.
I wrote about that year, and how far I/we came in those 365 days.
I thought I had come a long way.
I had no clue.

I still had so much further to go.
But still .... after reading it today .... that's what I thought:  But still ....
It was .... a year.
It was a lifetime .... in 12 months.

Which must mean that I have now gone through almost 4 lifetimes.
At least.

And you know what?
The lifetimes have gotten better.
And richer.
With every passing year.

And I guess that's what I want you to know.
In sharing this.
My life, and all of its lifetimes, has gone from a dark year of just trying to breathe, just existing, just trying to make it from one day to the next and everything that year held ....
to becoming years with more richness and texture ....
and living.
And joy.

So keep breathing.
Keep existing.
One day you'll look behind you .... and be surprised at much life you are living.

Looking Back ....

Well, Honey ...... I'm not sure where to start.
It's been a ride, that's for sure.  And not a ride I chose to get on, or wanted to stay on, but I seem to be strapped in for life.
I started to just write about the year and post pictures from events, but there were way too many to post ..... so many that this entry would've taken several weeks.

     I guess I'll start at the beginning, which ironically, is an ending.
A year ago today.  Around 2:00 a.m., to be more exact.  You were there ...... and then you weren't.
I like to picture you as you are in the above picture .....  up in Heaven, just looking out at everything and taking it all in.  And waiting for me, of course.
Since you left you obviously missed the most amazing memorial service I've ever seen.  I was in awe.  You would have been embarrassed.  You never knew how very well thought of and loved that you were.  I wish you had.  I hope that you do now.
Anyway, you left and then the kids and I left.   We ran away from home, from Christmas, from all things/people familiar.  We took a cruise and skipped Christmas.  I'm glad.  I wish I could've done it again this year, to be truthful.  
So last Christmas did not exist and therefore does not count as our "first" without you.  That is definitely this one.
     We came back home and shuffled forward .... and backward, mostly.  The kids all went back to school.  And we continued shuffling. 

I took the kids to the farm at Easter.  We needed to see your mom, who wasn't doing well.  It was the last time 4 of them saw her.  The next month she joined you and now I picture her standing next to you, waiting.  And loving having time with you.  I'm jealous.

     You missed the letter that told Daughter #1 she gained an interview with Harvard.  You missed that beaming face that lit up most of Texas.  (I'd like to think that you didn't really miss it, but I'm not sure where I stand on that.)  She doesn't beam all that much, as you know, so it was a big deal.  And I'm so thankful that I was there when she got the letter.
     You also missed the letter that told her she got accepted to the graduate program there. One of only four people.  We always knew she was intelligent .... too intelligent for me sometimes, but Harvard?  You would have been so very, very proud.  I'd like to think you are.  She left in July and she loves it.  She's even putting up with the cold, knowing that it's only a wee preview of the cold she'll find in Moscow in February.  Our little girl.  Our first baby ..... going off to Russia.  We did a good job, Jim.  She's very much like you.  :)

     You missed seeing Daughers #2 & #3 in the yearly college program "Sing" .... our first one to not see together.  They were amazing, as usual.  I went with several supportive friends and the other kids.  We had a good time.  Even though I cried through it all.  Another "first".
I hate "firsts".
   In May there were several of them.  Son #1 graduated from high school.  Our first without you.  He had his 18th birthday.  Daughters #2 & #3 had their 21st.  Big birthdays.  You left a big hole in those days.  

     In August I took Son #1 to college.  And didn't cry as much as I thought I would.  Of course, that's what I have Xanax for, too.  
I'm sure it's no surprise to you that he's loving it and that he should've been there at the age of 6.  He is so You.  It's unbelievable.  He would've made you proud in the way he's stepped up to take care of me ..... as much as I let him.  I never want him to feel pressured to be You.  Because he can't.  I think I've surprised him with the things I've done on my own.  Heck, I've surprised myself.  I'm sure you haven't been surprised at all.

     At the end of August I took Son #2 to military school.  I'm not going to lie, Jim ..... I have shed many tears and have had many angry words with you over this.  This is the ONE thing that makes me the most angry that you're not here.  I should NOT be doing this alone.  I should NOT have to put up with the anger, the frustration, the depression, the hateful and hurtful words  ..... not ANY of it .... alone.  Very, very alone.  I do not pretend to understand God's will in any of this.  I do not pretend to understand why I have to suffer losing you and go through this at the same time.  Sometimes I wonder what I must have done to piss Him off so much.  Or what I'm not learning that makes him keep slamming my heart to the ground.  
And so I shuffle. 
Son #2 seems to be trying to do better these past few weeks.  I wish you had been here to see him in his blues uniform.  You would've cried.  Don't try to deny it .... I've seen you cry over things related to the Marines many times.  You would've been proud .... and proud to have tears in your eyes.  I pray ...... sigh, I'm not sure what I pray for anymore when it comes to him.  I mostly cry and pray with groaning, trusting that God does indeed understand those prayers.  
But that son also makes me smile.  And he can make me laugh.  He has a great sense of humor and a deep and faithful heart.  He is going to do something big some day.  God has a firm grasp on that one, Jim.  I just wonder if I'll be around to see it?

And then there's Son #3.  You missed his football season this year.  His undefeated, District-winning football season.  He did a great job.  He's done a good job of helping, loving and protecting me this year.  He takes his job as "only child" quite seriously.  He certainly was God's gift to us, wasn't he?  

The house is much quieter.  After all, last year there were 6 of us living in it.  Now there are two.

So it's been a year.  A year of many, many "firsts".  Some horrible, some easier, all lonely.
Some days I can't imagine feeling any worse and then I get up the next day and .... I do.  
Some days I can't imagine feeling anything good and then I get up the next day and .... I do.

I have learned many things.  First, never expect things.  Just take each day as it comes.
And appreciate the time I have with our children.  And our wonderful, supportive friends.  Their acts of love, kindness and support would also have made you cry.  And you'd be proud.
I've learned what an awesome man you were.  I mean, I always knew that, but not to the extent that it goes.  
There are people from all over the world sending notes to me to tell me what you meant to them.  To tell me how you impacted their lives.  One of your accounting professors even called me at home the other day to tell me what you meant ..... way back then.
And tomorrow there will be a dedication in your memory.  A building here has your name on it.  Go figure!  You will go on impacting our school district, its teachers and its children for many more years.
I thank God for you every day.  I did it when you were alive (I'm so thankful that I always knew how blessed I was to have you)...... I do it still.  
There are no words to express my love for you, for our children and for the life we had together.  You were my heart, my soul and half of me.  I'm so thankful to God for putting us in that Speech class together 28 years ago.  I'm so thankful for the time we had, for the children we have, for the fun, laughs, tears, joys, frustrations, travels, love we had.  And for the love the kids and I still have for you.
And will always have.
And that, my Love, will carry me on into the next year.  God is still doing mighty things through you, Jim Eggers, and He is using the loss of you to do good.  
I love you.  I miss you.  I cry for you.  I smile and laugh at the memories of you.
And I can NOT wait to be with you again, hand in hand.
Give your mom a hug for me.
All of me,

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Business of Change

Today marks 869 days since Maggie’s Angel Day. Being that specific implies more preoccupation than is truly representative of my mental state. But being that specific makes me think about how far I’ve come and how far I’ve still to go. (I’ll save you the math: 869 days is roughly 124 weeks, 29 months or just nearly 2 ½ years. From official diagnosis to her Angel Day, 850 days passed. So as of today, 20 more days have passed since her Angel Day than the length of her “official” illness.)

For nearly 2 ½ years I’ve let a bouquet of roses sit on the counter on her side of the bathroom. To me, those dried flowers were just part of the room. I can’t even say I really noticed them every day. Beside the vase that held the dried roses sat her driver’s license, placed there the day I stopped carrying it around in my pocket several hundred days ago. Several hundred days - it’s uncomfortable to call that out but it’s very real. It’s my life.

So, without fanfare or grand circumstance, I made a change. No lighting struck. No drums rolled. No sad music played. It was just me, the puppies and my staid emotions as I carried the dried bouquet of roses to the back of our my house. I grabbed the bunch by the stems, crunched them together as the brittle peddles disintegrated, and tossed them onto the compost pile. It was done.

How is it that I’ve been ok with a bouquet of roses that has been sitting in the same spot for years? My psychologist, the one I’ve seen weekly since Maggie became very ill, calls this state of inertia “business as usual.” In my professional life, I’ve never stood for business as usual. Yet, in my personal life, I had a bouquet of roses sitting on the counter in my bathroom for years – more than 850 days. From now on, business as usual is now the business of change.

What started in the bathroom has been spreading. A few days ago, the business of change overthrew a pile of crushed dreams in the corner of the kitchen that has gathered much dust. Stacks of receipts from closed bank accounts, letters from the court, change of relationship forms, and unused death certificates have lied where they fell after completing their last call of duty. Now, untouched for probably more than a year, these papers have become a pile of pins and needles that I occasionally ran my hand through but mostly avoided. As of today, that pile is gone and its contents appropriately sorted and filed in the filing cabinet under “Crap That Sucks.”

While I was meddling in that area of the kitchen, I took down five pictures of Maggie that I had taped up to the tile years ago. In some of the pictures, she was cuddling Nurse Jolie’s new-born daughter Anya making loving baby faces I’d never get to see as she held our own new-born children. Another picture was a favorite that she had given me to keep in my briefcase as I traveled. Her glowing smile reminded me of happier, more-innocent days. All those pictures are packed away now and that wall looks bare.

It’s an odd feeling, doing this. Yes, I feel sad but I also feel a sense of cleansing or of refreshing. I don’t feel like I’m betraying Maggie and that’s the best thing. I really thought I’d be struggling with that but that specific feeling is conspicuously absent and its absence is, well, welcome. In fact, I feel less like I’m putting away and more like I’m making room.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Another What If.


This past week I was experiencing some health problems. Of course it was an emotional week, as most of you are now aware of, so I was already feeling emotionally vulnerable. Like any time we are not feeling well, or are experiencing changes in our health without explanation, we begin to worry.

Like any other man, I kept telling myself that it will all blow over, and I'll be just fine. Yet, as each day passed, and the problems persisted, I began to worry. It's always a matter of either wait and see, or make an appointment to see the doctor. Being that I am new to my job, I don't have many sick hours on the books. Any that I do have need to be used when I take any of my kids to their doctor appointments.

As each day came to an end, and the symptoms persisted, and no movement to get help, I began to worry. Yet, here was the problem. Who do I share this with? I didn't want to worry the kids for no reason, and I didn't want to call anyone out of the blue. It's a difficult position that we are all in. For most of us, we no longer have another adult in the home. We no longer have that other person around to share our worries, whether they are great or small. And, by the end of the week, I of course, began to diagnose myself.

Cancer. Of course that's what I thought it was. Isn't everything related to cancer these days? Every time we turn on the news, or go in the Internet, or talk to others, there is always a concern about something leading to cancer, or something being a sign or symptom of cancer. Now, of course I didn't have cancer, but that's where my mind went.

I began to wonder how would I manage if I did have something that serious? Which also had me thinking about how I would respond if ever given a diagnosis of cancer. I have been down that road already, right? Not my own cancer, but his. I realized that in the past I would have been very scared, and would have feared death itself. Yet, in these past few days, as my imagination would take control late into the night, I realized how peaceful I was feeling about such a possibility.

Now, I don't have a death wish, but I also don't fear it. I began wondering what really happened after death. I have all the beliefs planted in my mind that I was taught growing up. I have all the images that I read in preparation for Michael's death. I had the expectation that a guide would appear to take me to the other side. I had the words that others have shared with me often, how Michael would be there waiting for me when my time came. Yet, in these few days, I began to really worry, not about death, but about the prospect that all those stories and beliefs were wrong.

What if he isn't there waiting for me? Will I be angry and disappointed? Hell yeah.

I suppose I have plenty of time to settle this internal debate, as I'm perfectly healthy. Well, healthy after filling a prescription the doctor recommended. And, feeling a bit silly, for waiting so long, and worrying so long, before seeing a doctor. Yet it all has me wondering, do I want to continue to be single, and have to get through real health scares in the future alone? I think not. Will I get through such times if I am alone? No. I will have to ask for help. Will he be there waiting for me when my time comes? That remains to be seen.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Closer

Special thanks to guest author M,atthew Croke, for his excellent guest post today! Kim is moving and will be back next week!

I want to be a closer in baseball. Or at least I want to think like one.  I was watching a game on TV and one of the best closers in baseball gave up back to back home runs and his team lost the game.  The next night he gets another chance to close out the game. This time: he walks the first batter, hits the second batter, and the third batter hits a double which scores two runs.  They lose again.

Reporters swarm the closer after the game, hoping to get a swearing, out-of-control athlete who will throw equipment and have a meltdown for all to see.  The network news will then reply his weak moment over and over again, happily letting the world see a man who has failed.  The viewing public will stop everything they are doing to see this piece of entertainment every time it’s shown.

However, to the dismay of news producers, the baseball closer sits at his locker; ten microphones shoved in his face, and without flinching, tell the reporters what they don’t want to hear.  “If you are going to be a closer in baseball, you have to have a short memory.  You walk off the field and take the loss, you forget it happened and get back out there the next day and do your job.” He says picking a piece of string off his jersey as if the cameras don’t exist.

“But you’ve blown two in a row, do you feel you’ve lost your confidence?” barks a reporter from the back, trying his best to get the player to lose his cool.
The closer, looking at the piece of string before tossing it over his shoulder, looks back at the reporter and shrugs his shoulders.  “Those games are over, they’re irrelevant to me.  Tomorrow I will wake up and start all over again.”

A few nights ago, I had a bad night putting my kids to sleep: they took forever getting their pajamas on, they were playing instead of going to the bathroom, and every time I’d get one in the bedroom I would see another one come back out to play. By the time I had them all in their room to read stories, I was yelling and told them “no books” and left the room to crying children as I turned off the light and barked one more “Go to sleep.” for good measure.

I went upstairs and without turning on the lights, sat in the living room; the darkness allowing my brain to form a complete thought. It didn’t take long for me to be disappointed in myself for not having enough patience.  I wanted to the day to be over and what were kids being kids, I used as an excuse so I could get out of going through their entire nighttime routine.  It was the end of the day and I blew the final inning. I walked the first batter, hit the second, and then gave up a double to lose the game, kids crying and all.

“I blew the game tonight.” I told myself. “I need to have a short memory, for when I go to bed and wake up in the morning, I will be given the ball again, and if by chance, I happen to blow it two nights in a row, then the day after that I will go back out and try again.”
The difference between a Hall of Famer and a player in the minors isn’t the blown saves, everybody loses games. It’s the ability of the Hall of Famer to walk off the field and forget about it before he steps into the locker room that makes the difference.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Third Year

**This was my post from ACL 2010. I'm here for my third year with three of my favorite widows and all the same feelings exist :) **

ACL 2009

**Written Oct. 2010**
This weekend I'll be at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. 8 stages, over a hundred bands, but to me it is so much more.

Last October, my best friend (and fellow widow) and I ventured out on the green grass, drinking wine from sports bottles, listening to amazing music, having a grief/stress free time.

Of course, since Michael's death I've had many days that way. Worry free, almost to the point where I forget that he's even dead, but what differentiated that festival weekend from anything else was the affect it had once the 3 days were over.

You see, after Michael died, the future was unbearable fathom. Minute by minute was as far as my mind and heart could comprehend. As time passed I could maybe look a month or two ahead, but after ACL happened the amazing happened. I went and bought tickets for the next year's festival over a year in advance.

I couldn't believe it, but it felt so good. 2 years after my soul mate's passing, I had seen the possibility of looking forward to something not only in the future...but a year in the future!

So you see, this weekend is more than a music festival, it is a marker of what has allowed me to see and plan and get excited for life again. It is 3 days, that year ago allowed me to look 365 days ahead, allowing me to be set free from the fear of having to face another second without my other half.

“My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there”
-Charles F. Ketering

Friday, September 16, 2011


Written one year after Jeff's death - 3 years 5 months ago.
Picture from here....

We made it. Through all the firsts. The firsts without Jeff at birthday parties, Christmas morning, through illnesses and accomplishments. His absence has been an aching void....almost a presence in itself.
But time has continued its' slithery journey. I look back over the time without my love and see that 365 days have gone by and no time at all seems to have passed. But it has and I have grown stronger.
I will try to look forward to the future. To make plans. To smile more often. To remember my sweet, loving husband but without so much of the ache that goes along with the remembering. To rejoice that he was, not cry that he is now gone.
I am going to hold my head up. I have no more firsts -which fills me with both relief and sadness. It is time to go forward and hold my head a bit higher. I know that my path will be full of potholes and the occasional mud pit but I am going to stop crawling. I will walk. I will walk tall and hopefully be able to jump over the puddles now and then. I'll stop and rest when I need to but I refuse to be as broken as I have been. I refuse to be crushed. I refuse to remain broken and beaten. My children need their mommy to be strong and to show them that tragedy is hard but it will not defeat us. That daddy would not want us to fall. He would want us to smile again one day and notice the sun on our faces. I will try....I will try my damnedest. I am not and will never be 'over' this terrible loss, but I will carry it, like a scar and it will shape who I am now. And then maybe, I can use it for 'good'. Maybe something I can manifest something 'good' from this. Maybe I can help someone. I would so love for there to be some 'meaning' to this nightmare. So, here I go....

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Its "RUOK?" day in Australia today. I wrote this on my blog as an initial gut response to some facebook "friends" who flippantly asked me the question in a facebook message.....

RUOK is a great concept … for other people.

But if someone asks me today, I may slap them.

I. Am. Not. OK.

And asking me will not make me OK.

and if I am not OK

I will not tell them anyway …

Sometimes life really sucks and it means more to have someone who can listen without trying to make it all “OK”.

Which is why I blog …. bloggers listen and know better than to use some cutesy text-talk question.

I am not OK and asking me will not help.

Helping me will help.

But flippantly tossing me an acronym really, really won’t.

(addendum - if the question is asked using the guidelines given on the website, it's a great idea. But nobody I know in real life (on facebook) seems to have read the guide ... and telling a widow to "not worry" is completely useless ... as you all know).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Maybe It's Just The Week ....

                                                                                  picture from here

.... that is causing so many of us to feel so many more emotions right now?

I don't know.
I still don't know how this grief thing works.
Or, more pointedly, how it doesn't work.

All I do know is that it sucks.

It sucks that Dan's "date" was yesterday (I just can't use the word "anniversary" to describe the annual reminder of such a horrific day).
It sucks that the hurt still hurts.
It sucks that there's no magic pill to take to make it stop hurting.
No magic words to say, no magic actions to perform.
It must just hurt until it doesn't hurt quite so much.

And it really does get to that point.
I promise.
But there are still times.
Times when that wave comes rolling in behind me, quietly so that I can't hear it coming ..... and then it crashes over the top of me, knocking my head down and my body to my knees.

Yesterday I found myself on my knees, trying hard to push myself up out of the water so that I could grab a gasp of air before falling back down again.

I had to drive downtown yesterday with one of my children.
I didn't want to be driving downtown, but it seems that I had no choice.
Not a good parental choice anyway.
One of my children made a very stupid decision.
Incredibly stupid.
And then said child forgot about said decision.

Unfortunately, life sometimes has a way of reminding us .... and others ..... at the very worst possible moment .... of those decisions. And they come to light.
And it did.
So I was driving downtown to go talk to an attorney.
A defense attorney, who might represent my child.
I felt very emotional .... and very much alone.

I haven't driven downtown much in the last 3+ years.
At least, not during the day time.

Downtown + daytime + emotions trying to be pushed back while driving with a child I'm angry at + feeling alone, vulnerable and taken for granted + seeing lots and lots of men in suits walking around, just like Jim used to = one huge, gigantic wave.
Bigger than any I've felt in quite some time.

And yet I managed to keep it together.
Sort of.
I did cry half way during the meeting when asking this nice (and really good looking!), yet expensive attorney why I should hire him when I doubt that my child will not make another "stupid decision" in the not-too-far-distant-future.
(I love my children. Fiercely. Hugely. Unquestionably. Always. No matter what. But I do not always enjoy being a parent.)

Yes, I cried.
But it wasn't the ugly cry.
That came later.
After the meeting.

My child rode home with a friend who met us for the meeting.
He wanted to spend some time with this child and talk about stupid decisions.
And of course I agreed.
I needed time and space to succumb to the wave.
And succumb I did.

That wave crashed down on me inside the car and it, and I, filled the car with a lot of salt water.
The wave crashed so hard that the parking lot attendant who had left a ticket on my windshield (I thought it was a free lot--stupid me) looked like he was going to approach my car, stopped, stared .... and then seemed to think better of it and disappeared.
Smart man.

I sat in that car and sobbed.
And sobbed.
And sobbed.
I sobbed for missing Jim.
I sobbed for the stupidity of my child.
I sobbed for doing this, all of "this", alone.
I sobbed from the sheer exhaustion of it all.
I sobbed for the things yet to come that I'll be doing alone.
I sobbed for all of us and the unfairness of all of "this".

And then I started driving.
Rush hour.
In Houston.
It was a long, wet drive.

By the time I made it back to my neighborhood the wave was gone.
Well, mostly gone.
I think it disappeared sometime during dinner.
Dinner with a few friends.
And two very strong and very welcomed margaritas.
No, not a magic elixir for taking away the hurt.
But a great combination for shaking off the effects of a wave.
At least it was for me.

I hope this week is going better for most of you than it is for some of us.
If not, know that the waves will pass.

And heck, you might want to try a couple of very strong margaritas.
They couldn't hurt.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Virtual Hugs

This is for you Dan, and everyone else who is needing a little something extra today to remind them that they can survive this. I'm sending out a big fat virtual hug. Love to you Dan as you reflect on this day and miss Michael. Love to us all, we deserve it.

"When the walls fall all around you, when your hope has turned to dust, let the sound of love surround you, beat like a heart in each of us"

Camp Widow - Stand Up

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sending out an SOS

I'm not sure if this is the right thing to do. But I'm falling apart here at work. I need to express myself without speaking, as I am unable to speak without tears. Heavy tears.

I came into work today expecting it to be like any other day. I am a family court counselor, and I meet with parents to help them reach agreements regarding the custody of their children. Sometimes they reach agreement, other times I utilize my skills as a counselor to give recommendations back to the court.

Today an odd case was assigned to me, and it arrive late, without adequate time to prepare. There was no father and mother sitting before me. The two parties were the mother and paternal grandmother, as the father died last year. We were discussing issues regarding a 12 year old son. I tried my best to work with these two parties, and needed to take a break to get some supervision around some of the goals of our session. In discussing these, I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into my own issues and grief. I let my supervisor know that I need to maintain some distance, and be aware of any counter transference that might be occurring. As I began to explain this, all I had to say was that tomorrow is the anniversary of my husband's death, and the dam I had built began to break.

With those words, I fell apart. Sobbing.

This has never happened to me before. I have always been able to be in complete control at work. I am the ultimate professional when it comes to utilizing the skills and experience I have attained throughout the years. My supervisor was wonderful, immediately taking the case from me, and telling me not to give it a second thought, that she would take care of this. She suggested I take a break, yet I can't wander far, as I am on-call to testify in court any minute. So here I sat, at my desk, knowing that rather than let go, and get out what I need to emotionally, I needed to pull myself together, and find another way to deal with this.

I'm having my own issues with my 13 year old son. He is going through a difficult time, and I am having a difficult time adequately addressing his issues, as we are both continuing to grieve. Unfortunately, each of our grieving process is not always going to end each day with a sense of growth, peace, or resolve. It is going to be a very long process, and I, as the now only parent once again, will need to rise to each occasion knowing that I am still quite broken, and ill prepared for what life throws at me.

That's it. I need to get through the day. I need to get through tomorrow. I also need to learn that I am human. Even now, as I sit here, I am beating myself up about losing control of my emotions. I am judging myself because of breaking down here at work. I am worrying about how this family is being served, knowing that I was already told not to worry about it. This is definitely something new to work through.

So while this is not something I usually do, I need to put this out there at a time when I usually focus solely on work. This is my outlet right now. All I need to know is that someone is reading this, and you understand. Thanks.

UnHappy Anniversary

iris blue

Not sure where to begin.

It's definitely a time of reflection. Tomorrow, Tuesday, will be two years. What is appropriate for a two year anniversary?

The first year is paper. Last year at this time I was ...wait a minute. Don't you usually 'celebrate' anniversaries? Seems like the two words, anniversary and celebration, go hand in hand.

Yesterday for some odd reason I was thinking about my Widow's Voice day, and realized it was going to land of the eve of the second anniversary. It had me thinking about all the eves, such as Christmas Eve, and New Year's Eve, and The Three Faces of Eve. Okay, if you are young you won't know what the hell I'm talking about. Can you tell that I'm in an odd mood? Anyway, I was thinking about the excited anticipation that the eves entail. There is always so much planning and preparation. Sometimes there are gatherings and rituals.

This time last year I wasn't working, so I had lots of time on my hands. I was planning a contemplative day to myself on the first year anniversary of Michael's death. I had decided that I would get up early, and just drive around my newly adopted city, and spend time walking, and sitting, in silence. I carried with me a pocket full of Michael's ashes, and where ever I went, well, so did he. I would talk to him, and sprinkle a bit of ash where ever I went. Eventually I ended up at the beach, and spent a lot of time walking through the water, and crying.

This year I have no plans, other than to work. I forgot to request the day off, and by the time I thought about it I had a full calendar of appointments. I decided it might be good to just go with the flow, and not try too hard with this anniversary.

You know, when Michael died, it was just one month shy of our first wedding anniversary. We had been together longer than that, and previously celebrated the day we met as our anniversary, yet who knew that for a brief moment the state of California would see fit to allow our love to be sanctioned, and blessed, by way of a wedding. Yet for us it came a bit late. I knew when we took our vows that there was a good chance I would lose him by the time our first wedding anniversary arrived. So by the time that day did arrive, October 19th, I was alone. There was no romantic dinner. There was no champagne. There was no intimate expression of our love that night. Instead, I received a simple, yet traditional gift of paper. A death certificate.

As I sit here, I am wearing what I'll consider the proper second year anniversary of Michael's death gift. Cotton. An old cotton t-shirt of his. It says Maui. It was from an early vacation we took. Earlier today I was looking at a picture taken of us on that trip. In the photo we are both so naively smiling. Who would have believed that this would be where I am today; Sitting here, on our bed, pathetically wearing an old beat up t-shirt that used to belong to my now dead husband.

Alright. I supposed it is time for me to stop with all this nonsense, and apologize for the ridiculous way I have been carrying on here. The reality is that I have been in complete agony these past couple of days. Two nights ago it all hit me, and I spent the whole night wailing out of control. I haven't been in that much pain for such a long time. I don't really know why it all came down on my like that. Well, maybe I do. I have been providing online support to another recent gay widower, who lost his husband just a few months ago. We have been trading our thoughts on the support network I provide for other gay widowers. It hit me that night, as I read his very raw emotional words, that he was talking about the man he loved and lost. Reading his words must have put me squarely into a place of remembrance, for his husband's name was also Michael. Here I was, reading those painful words as if they were my own.

I felt so lost that night. I had no one to call, or no one to know that I would be here in my room, crying my eyes out. Of course, I suppose there were people I could call, yet I didn't. And, there were people in the house, my son and daughter, yet I did not seek their support either. I was alone, and I knew that no matter who came to my side, it would not be the one that I desired. I know it's where I'll be again tonight. I know it's where I will be again tomorrow. And, I know that when I get through all of this, I will be okay.

I tell you. I can only say I will be okay because of all of you. It's because no matter how alone I feel, or how alone I actually am in the middle of the night, I know that each and every one of you know what I am going through. Each of you have had those nights. Each of you may still be having those nights. And, each of you will make it through them. I know, because I have, over and over again.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


9-11, 9-11, 9-11, 9-11

It’s everywhere. 

I, like the rest of the country I suspect, am afraid to write the wrong thing, aware that I do not know what it’s like...

And that is where I stop myself. 
I do know what it’s like.
I do know what it feels like in the dark hollowness that filled the first months. I do know the effort it takes to place a foot, then the other on the floor.  I can talk with knowledge  about leaning into a day that would be “another” one without him.

And yet, I feel uncomfortable sharing this space with those 9-11 widows. It’s feels like Art’s death is minor, less than, overshadowed by their losses in such numbers on that day.

I feel like a freshman trying to get the senior girls to think I’m cool, that in some way, I’m just like them.  Did I say it right? Is there enough respect in my tone?

Somehow, their husband’s (and wive's) deaths feel more valuable than Art’s death.  Their losses were so public, mine a private little matter,  insignificant in comparison. Their losses marked and mourned by millions, by photographs, by stories of others. My loss only remembered by a few hundred.  Their losses such a turning point in our countries history, mine a single point in my little history.

My loss feels less than in comparison.

This is where I stop again.

Because I know them, those widows. 

They know me.  

They are me and I am them. If I met one of them, I am sure we could have a conversation about grief and getting through, under, over, and around it.  I am sure I would see them and think 10 years.  In 10 years I can be like them! 

Maybe I just need to remember a widow is a widow is a widow is a widow.

And there are no words for
the grief, 



or mine.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


They happen...sometimes more than I think I can handle.

Those moments where it feels like I'm in a well, with all the walls caving in on me.

The sad thing is I see it when I'm being lowered the bucket on the rope.

I anticipate what will happen and still am lowered further and further down...feeling as if there is no one at the top to help pull me up.

I reach the bottom and know that my soul and spirit will collapse with the walls around me....

I look up once more, taking that last glance at the light that seems so far away.

I bow my head to come to terms with the unwanted fate I have found myself in.

I close my eyes to become acquainted with what will be my new scenery.

And then...when I've made peace with the happens...

Something hits my heart and my arm...

A rope..a bucket...a hope...

And as he pulls me eyes readjust to the light, the warmth, the life still before me.

The air is inhaled a bit deeper, my heart opened a bit wider, my willingness to keep going a bit stronger.

"The Buddha said that suffering was caused by desire, we’d learned, and that the cessation of desire meant the cessation of suffering. When you stopped wishing things wouldn’t fall apart, you’d stop suffering when they did.”

-John Green

Friday, September 9, 2011

the "d" word

Photo from here...

In preparation for my son's first day of Kindergarten today, I attended an interview with his teacher yesterday. It mostly entailed questions of, "Can he tie his shoes?", "Does he feel shy in new situations?" and "Can he wipe his own bottom?"

At the end of our little meeting, his teacher asked about his special interests. I listed off his favourite play things (Lego, cars, his bike), the things he likes to do with his friends (swim, play hide-n-seek, jump on a trampoline) and his favoured topics of conversation (monster trucks, chickens and death).

His teacher stared at me for a moment after the latter item. "Oh...," she replied, "What does he say when he talks about death?"

"He often ponders over what it feels like or what you see when you die. Sometimes he wonders when he or I will die," I told her in a tone that suggested this was common-place and not really worth a huge amount of detail.

She listened with a faint look of concern on her face. This look turned soft as she asked, "Do you think he would benefit from speaking to our school counsellor?"

I suppose with the fact that this, death, is such a common topic in our house it hadn't occurred to me that this type of conversation might be cause for concern at his school. I thought for a moment about her suggestion. An avalanche of thoughts tumbled around in my brain, "Is it bad that he talks about death? But I want him to feel comfortable talking about his concerns! Are other parents going to be upset when their child quotes my son's occasional morbid thinking? I can't guarantee that he will even say anything to other children. Are his questions abnormal? This IS normal to him!"

All night I thought about this conversation. It struck me as odd how as parents we are instructed to talk to our children about their bodies and how they work. We are expected to teach them how to be healthy and strong. We even teach "sex ed" to ensure that our children are aware of all that our bodies are capable of in a reproductive sense.

But we do not talk to them about the end of our body's life. We do not talk about the imminent eventuality of our body either wearing out or "breaking" prematurely. Although it will happen to each and every one of us, we treat death as a possibility. Not an unavoidable inevitability.

I don't think dodging the subject or treating death as a four letter word is the appropriate way to help our children, or ourselves, develop a healthy view of death. It's unfortunate for them that sex is more accepted as a topic when it is not even a guaranteed act for every human on this planet. But death, well, it will happen to each and everyone of us. I don't want to shy away. I hope to let them know that it's okay to talk about it. It's fine to wonder, to question and even to worry about what and how it happens.

So I've decided that unless my son develops a habit of hiding books about death under his mattress or giggling about it with his friends in whispered tones, I am perfectly happy discussing it with him and I do not think that he requires a counsellor to tell him what to believe or when is an appropriate time to talk about the "d" word. He is sorting that out himself....and he is talking to me about it as he goes.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


This past week has been tough.
Really tough.

I was doing OK for a long while, surviving birthdays, parties and mother's day ... but this past week has brought me crashing down with a thud.

There are many reasons for this – my son’s upcoming “procedure” and the worry over his ongoing health, my sister-in-law having some very scary health issues, my job being so uncertain...

....and Father's Day being last Sunday just days after the 1.5 year mark.

That was tough.

But despite picking myself up after each blow, I am starting to wonder if there will come a time when I can't pick myself up again.

I find myself waiting for that next blow. The one that knocks me down so far I can't get back up.

And I feel scared.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

If Widow's Voice Has Helped You....

This is me with Chris (one of our Tuesday writers) at Camp Widow my t-shirt??
Before 8/31/05 I didn't think much about non-profit organizations. I admired people who worked for great causes, donated here and there, volunteered my time fairly regularly, would probably have clicked on a "vote for us" link to help a friend or co-worker win one of those contests...but the mechanics of the non-profit world were unknown (and of no interest) to me. Then Phil died, and I landed on another planet.

As the months passed and I looked at the scattered remains of my life I searched frantically for proof that I could survive the loss of my husband. I wanted living proof...who survives this kind of pain? Where are they? Why don't they wear badges or something? How do I find widowed people out in the regular world? They must be here somewhere right? Oh, please tell me that I am not the only one. I can't be the only one. Right? 

I began seeking other widowed people out of desperation. And I found a community one person at a time. After each interaction with another widowed person I felt less alone. No matter what was different about our story, the sameness of the fact that we both found ourselves asking the pivotal question of what?...tied us together in a uniquely powerful way. My widowed community saved my sanity; they walked each step of my grief process beside me; each and every one of the people I met gave me hope for the journey ahead; and eventually I knew that the people who came after me needed this community too. So I started a non-profit called the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation in order to provide the people who would walk this road in the future with access to the hope that saved me. Because hope really did save me.

I had no idea what running a non profit would require. In the beginning, I lacked all kinds of essential things (like funding!), but the call to do this work was something I could not ignore. SSLF began with one program (Widow Match), and the idea for a conference where widowed people could find each other...lots of others....proving that they were not alone and providing them with tools to answer the what now question. Friends helped, my family became volunteers, ideas grew into programs and I am very proud to say that three years later SSLF now touches over half a million (we are SO not alone) widowed people every year, with no operating budget. And the need for our one-of a kind programs continues to grow every day, because hope will always matter to widowed people's recovery. Count on that.

 Soaring Spirits is the parent to this blog and five other programs. In the three years I have been writing this blog and running this organization I have never openly asked for help for our programs.But today I am asking for your help because SSLF has a great opportunity, and the way to help is easy. If this blog or any of our other programs has mattered to you  or to someone you love please help us continue to help you/them. 

Pepsi Refresh offers grants to non-profit organizations based on public support via Internet voting and Pepsi Product purchases. It may sound like a gimmick, but I assure you it is not. Pepsi is giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of great ideas to Refresh the world. SSLF is in the running for a $50,000 grant. This would be a game changer for us. Funding is essential to both day-to-day operations, and to future growth for a grassroots organization like ours. How do you help? Here is a list of ways to support our effort to secure this grant:

1.) Follow this link ( to vote for SSLF and Camp Widow every day until 9/30...only 23 days to go!

2.) Purchase Pepsi Products with the "Power Vote" logo on the packaging. There are codes inside these products (under the cap or inside the box) that can be used for up to 100 votes each! Collect them from your friends, give Pepsi away as a gift...gather codes and enter them all at once by registering HERE.

3.) Don't give up. Vote every day, buy Pepsi products (I know this is a shameless plug) and use those codes to support SSLF. We need you to make this happen!

Maybe you are like the before me and have never given much thought to how non-profits do what they do? The hard part is not just coming up with the idea and managing the is finding the funding to get the support programs going and then keep them going. This grant would do just that. We've made it easy for you to vote...just look for the Pepsi badge at the top right of this blog. We need thousands of votes to win. Lucky for us thousands of people read this blog every day...if each of you support us for the next 23 days what a difference YOU can make....for me, for you, but most importantly for them. The ones who don't need us yet. Vote for us so we can help them.Thank you for reading, for voting, and for believing that hope matters.

If you have questions, or feel called to help support SSLF in other ways too, just follow click here for my contact information...I'd love to hear from you!

It's Not My Fault ....

                                  picture from here

.... that my children became orphans on December 18, 2007.

OK, they didn't literally become orphans.
But technically .... they did.

They lost both of their parents that day.
Yes, I was here in body, but only in body.
My body was empty of any resemblance of me.
All it held was the cold, black grief that enveloped every part of me .... grief moved into every space, every cell of my being, and took over.

I was not, could not be,  the person I had been.
So there was no way I could be the same mother.
There were many times when I beat myself up over that.
In spite of .... many things.

But I have moved past a lot of that.
My grief no longer occupies my body.
My grief is no longer in control.
It no longer makes me believe that my children would be better off if I, too, were actually dead.

And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I could no more have altered my grief, my grieving, than I could have reached out, touched Jim's body, and brought him back to life.
I did not choose my grief.
I did not want that grief.

But I got what I got.

And so my children managed to somehow keep growing and moving forward, without a parent to guide them.
That was something they had never, ever done before.
And I was powerless to change anything.


I am no longer powerless.
I am very much mostly back to the parent I was "before".
Not all.
I will never be all of the same person/parent I was "before".
But that comes with pros and cons.

Last week was one huge con.
Last week I experienced the incineration of the wall of trust that had encircled one of my children and myself.
The wall was built out of my trust.
That wall no longer exists.
Yes, it can be built again, but that's up to my child .... and it will have to be built one brick at a time.
I think it will.
I hope it will.

But until that time .... here I am .... left to deal with the fallout.
And the consequences.
And all of the crap that one must deal with when a mistake has been made.
And I deal with it .... alone.
Very much alone.

And I hate it.
There are no words for how very much I hate it.

I hate that Jim's not here to share the good times, the big events .... with me.
With us.
But I hate even more that he's not here to help me navigate the storms .... the crap.
The crap that I had nothing to do with, and yet impacts me .... a lot.

A couple of years ago I would have been out of my mind with thinking that this "mistake" was my fault.
Because I was no longer the same.
Because I could not parent the way I did "before".
Because I had somehow failed them.  My children.

But now, here in this place I've fought tooth and nail to arrive at, I know differently.
Crap happens.
And it happens no matter how many parents a child has.
Or how many he/she doesn't have.

Yes,  I am (mostly) back.
Much to the chagrin of my child.
And I am no longer going to the be the only one dealing with consequences.
I am strong.
And I am pissed.

I'm pissed that Jim gets to miss out on all of the crap.
I'm pissed that I can't play "good cop, bad cop" with my kids anymore.
Because there's only one cop.
I'm pissed that, in dealing with this kind of crap, I am very, very alone.

But .... on the flip side .... I'm good.
Because now I know .... no, now I remember ..... that in the same way I could not alter my grief, I cannot alter the minds and decisions of my children.
And truthfully, I never could.

And then there's this:  I asked one of my other children if he/she thought that this choice might not have been made if their dad were here.
To which he/she replied, "Ummmmm, no, Mom.  Teenagers are just .... teenagers and I know this would've happened whether or not Dad was here."
And now, looking back on things .... I realize that my child is 100% correct.

Mistakes would still be made ..... whether my children had two parents or one parent .... or no parent.
And so I am less .... pissed.

Which is a very good thing.
Because I doubt that there's anything scarier than a pissed-off widow.
Trust me.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Breaking the News

I find I’m still reflecting on my experiences from Widow Camp. In those few short days I feel like I moved forward leaps and bounds down the healing path simply by being surrounded by others who share similar past experiences. The friendships I made there still stand and the conversations haven’t stopped. The reward has been well beyond the investment.

One theme that has popped up in the discussions I’ve had with my new widow/er friends was the breaking of the news of Maggie’s death which reminded me how difficult it was to do. No matter the social context, it’s a challenge. About three months after Maggie’s Angel Day, I wrote the following post about a surprise phone call and how I dealt with breaking the news.

From August 2009:

8:30 AM
Phone: Ring, Ring!!
Me: “Hello?”
Voice: “Hi, is Maggie around?”

Oh, I’m wide awake now!

Me: “Uhm, can I ask who’s calling, please?”
Voice: “This is Jim.* I’m an old friend of Maggie’s and wanted to say hi. This is Chris, right?”
Me: “Hi, Jim. Uhm… Jim, I guess it’s been a while since you’ve talked to her. I’m sorry to say but…..”

* Jim is not his name. I’ve changed it because, well, I don’t know why but it seems like a good idea.

I’ve developed three modes of relaying that particular news. Mode I is pretty callous and nearly an attack. I’ve used it with bill collectors, mostly. I call it the I-Hate-You-And-Want-To-Hurt-You mode. Funny thing, though, if I’m throwing death-news daggers, it probably is at someone who will never be bothered by my pain. I might as well be throwing cotton balls at them.

Mode II is less of an affront and more just getting the information out. I use it with those who need to know but don’t know her, like, the Department of Transportation, AT&T, or Wells Fargo. Mode II is my default delivery method mainly for my own protection. It’s easiest and requires the least emotional commitment from me. Selfish, direct and over quickly.

Mode III is the most difficult. I only use this method when I really, really have to because the person I’m telling knew Maggie or me (or both!) well and I consider them worth special effort. I’d rather eat scalding hot pizza than use this method. Mode III almost always makes me and the other person cry.

For Jim, I used Mode II. I should have used Mode III but I just didn’t have it in me. I’m sorry, Jim. I hope the rest of your morning went a little better.