“My husband and I have only been married 5 years, I need more time to show him how much I truly
love him. I want my lifetime with him. I want the fighting, and loving. He has stayed by me though
everything, even when it gets so frustrating I could give up. Though we both are frustrated by my
disease, he has never let that break us. He won't give up on me. He has given up so much to make me
happy and to do what is right for me, never thinking how it's going to affect him first. He would do
anything for me, and this I know because he has done everything for me. I have never been so in love
with anyone else in my life. He is the only one that makes me whole. He is always loving me, and for that
I love him.”
Those words were written by Megan, in October of 2010. At the time, she was incredibly sick. An oxygen machine had sat in our living room, loudly buzzing away 24/7 for about a year so far. More often than not, she wasn’t home, she was in the hospital. I would mix and prepare her aerosol treatments for her, bring her her pills, wash her clothes, cook dinner, and go to work. I’d lift her into and out of the tub, and wash her hair for her. If we did leave the house, I would ensure she had everything she needed, including a wheelchair.
It took a village, make no mistake. Her parents were there for her, for us, whenever she needed. I couldn’t be there at all hours. I had to stay in a dead-end job, with a 2 hour commute each way, just so we could keep our insurance. Even when I would receive offers from nearby and more desirable employers, I couldn’t entertain them, because the 90 day wait for healthcare would have bankrupted us in medical bills. Her parents certainly were focused on her well-being, and Shelby’s, and more than made up for the times that I couldn’t be there.
It was a thankless job...or so I thought.
Do I have to say how much I miss you? Wherever you are, if you can hear me, you must know this, because I say it all the time. Speaking into the ether, perhaps into a void, not knowing if it is received on your end, but always imagining it is, hoping it is.
I see signs from you. At least that is how I choose to interpret the birds that swoop over my path in certain moments, the grasshopper on my door or in my house that appears just when my heart is clenched from a painful memory of what I have lost. That particular song that comes on the radio at that exact right time, and the shooting star that streaks across the heavens at the exact moment I look up into the night sky, thinking of you.
Last night, Mike and I went to a concert. It was a surprise I gave him, to see one of his favorite bands. The entire night was incredible… one of those magical nights you remember forever. The joy in Mike’s eyes was palpable. No one had ever surprised him with such a wonderful gift before he said, and you could just feel the joy and love radiating from him all night. It was a beautiful evening. We had lawn seats at this outdoor arena. Not only was every song amazing and the energy of the crowd amazing, but there were songs from this band that I’d never heard before that slammed into my heart with such deep emotion. They went right to the core of me and touched something so very deep...Read more
I'm in a state of panic. This happens now and again - one of the frightening realities of sudden and shocking death. Sometimes a few weeks or months will go by with me able to escape the panic and anxiety. Then, just like that, something happens - or doesn't - and I am shaking back and forth and my skin is on fire and I'm pacing the floors of my apartment and unable to breathe correctly or get a thought out.
I forgot the song. That's what caused the panic this time. I was in bed last night with our two kitties Sammy and Autumn, that we adopted together years ago, and I was doing my normal (or abnormal, depending on how you see things) routine of singing to them all the songs that my husband Don and I used to sing to them together. The songs that we made up ourselves, and that we would sing to them as part of our nightly routine before going to sleep. As crazy as it might sound, I have continued to sing these silly songs to my kitties, just about every night, as they lie there in my bed with me, all cuddled up and ready to sleep. I want them to still feel like he is here in some way, like he is still and always a part of things, and for them to hear my voice singing to them those same notes and words that I would always be singing with him. It's comforting. It's ceremonial. It keeps him alive in some way.
Except I forgot. I forgot the words. I forgot the words to our song.Read more
I won’t delve any deeper into the spiritual aspects of loss other than to say that I believe that Megan can still witness where our lives are taking us. Last weekend, Shelby, Sarah and I drove to Buffalo to meet Sarah’s sister for lunch, and we decided to take a short trip to Niagara Falls from there, as Shelby had never been to them.
I wrote last week that I had never taken Megan there, and how complicated that thought was. For some reason, I decided to make it more complex, and take Shelby there less than a week later. The thoughts, after processing a while though, have become simpler.
I am a strong and fiercely independent woman. I always have been. When I was 18 years old, in 1990, I left my comfy small town of Groton, Massachusetts, to attend college and live in NYC. I wanted to be a performer, actor, comedian, writer, or anything that got me out of that boring and predictable suburban life. I wanted more. So I went out on my own, leaving behind my wonderful family and all my relatives and friends, hoping to make new friends and a life for myself. And I did. I lived in and around the city for years. First, at college. Then, getting apartments with friends in Brooklyn, Queens, and ultimately, New Jersey, just 10 minutes outside NYC. I was 5 hours away from family, and often lonely and scared.
But I never had a problem doing things for myself and by myself, or not being in relationships for years at a time. I was never one of those girls you see who always has a boyfriend or has to be with someone. Nope. In fact, I was usually not with someone at all. I carried my own groceries up the stairs or across multiple streets, lugged my own heavy suitcases, figured out ways to try and keep myself feeling safe on those days I had to come home late at night on the subway by myself. I did all of that for years. Alone. By the time I met Don, and by the time he finally moved in with me so we could start our life together in 2005, I was exhausted. I was so beyond ready to have a man in the house, or, apartment. I am an independent woman, but there is something to be said for what a man brings, what a man gives, and what a man is - in a relationship. It's now been 4 years since my dear husband died his sudden death, and once again, I am exhausted. I'm exhausted from being a woman, who no longer has a man. And at the end of the day, there is something to be said about that.Read more
If I'm being 100% honest, which I always am in my writing about loss, there are actually two of me. Version One of me was born on September 26, 1971, and she died on July 13, 2011. Version Two of me was born on the same day, within seconds even, of version one's tragic death. Version One never saw it coming. A massive heart-attack took her husband away forever, and in that same instant, Version One of me ceased to exist. A new me was born, and, like an infant, I had to start life all over again.
Everything was different. Every. single. thing. The world smelled and looked and felt different. Inhaling and exhaling had an unfamiliar, labored feeling to it. Speaking a sentence felt like a chore, and I wasn't sure what words to use or where they were coming from. When my husband's heart stopped beating, my new one started it's frightening and insecure rhythm. From that day forward, it would be up to me to figure out this new life without Don, and this new version of myself. Yes, there are still pieces of the old me that remain inside the new me - things that are part of the core of who I am. But even those pieces of me changed - some drastically, and some slightly. But they changed. They had to.
Now, just one week away from being 4 years into this new life, I am still taking baby steps everyday, still navigating the terrain to find my way through the thick and humid mud. I'm getting there, but I probably won't ever really arrive. The death of a spouse or partner literally affects every single part of your life. It does. There is no part of your life that this loss does not touch, from finances to jobs to friendships to living situations to parenting (if you have kids) to dreams of parenting (if you didnt get to have kids) to what you eat to how you shop to what kind of health insurance you have (or the fact that you lose it because you were on your husband's plan and now he's dead) to where you go on a typical Friday night - on and on and on. In this way, the death of a spouse is very different than other kinds of death. It leaves no stone un-turned. Every part of your life is now changed, and you are left starting over, alone, in the middle of a field, standing on a landmine, with nothing but endless terror and a blank canvas. And you don't even know how to paint.Read more
I went to the doctor today. I know. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but believe me, in my world, it is. When my husband died suddenly just under 4 years ago, we were living paycheck to paycheck. We shared his beat up old car to get to our jobs, and we had nothing in savings. We lived in a crappy and small apartment in New Jersey, and we were both stressed out and overworked. He was working two jobs to try and get us out of that "struggling" lifestyle, and start bringing us on a road to a better life together. We were working toward something. And then he dropped dead.Read more
There was a time, early on in my loss, where I felt like I was constantly on the search for my husband. Every second of every day was spent , in my mind and heart, trying to locate him somehow. People kept telling me over and over and over that he is always with me, that he is in my heart, and all those other cliche', blah-blah-blah things that people say that make you want to punch them. It meant nothing to me. It meant nothing to me because I couldn't feel any of that. I was not feeling him near me. I was not having dreams of him. I felt like he was here one second with me, and then just gone forever. Sudden, unexpected, shocking death will do that - it will make you feel as if you are going insane every hour of every day. How the hell can someone be here one second, and then just be gone? How can you have gone to bed together the night before, and then wake up to a ringing phone telling you that your life is no longer your life? How can a perfectly healthy 46 year old man just collapse and die? These questions played inside me daily, hourly, for over 2 years. Until one day, they stopped playing.Read more
Chuck used to say to me Miller, get out of your head. You think too much.Read more