Once Upon a TIME


After one year, six months, and six days,

Almost every thought still begins with you.

I am unable to live completely in the moment,

And, I struggle to be present,


In my mind,

I am endlessly travelling to a better place in time,

Again and again.

I return to this place,

Where you existed once upon a time.

~Staci Sulin~



Time.  It goes on...  

When his heart stopped, the hands of time were unaffected.  I thought I felt time stand still when I saw his lifeless body; but, time itself callously marched on when he died.  Time did not stop.  Not even for a moment - in spite of my circumstance.  The world just carried on without Mike.  But, my world was left in ruin when the life I knew ended.  However, from the wreckage, something bigger than me, dragged me out from the rubble created by my shattered Soul.  I was rescued because my heart is still beating.  My life didn't end when Mike's did.  Life is for the living; and, now, I'm left to figure out how to do just that...

Almost immediately after his death, life demanded things of me.  On a surface level, I was forced to participate in life because children need raising.  Work needs to be completed.  Bills need to be paid.  Dishes need doing.  Laundry needs folding.  Lawns need mowing.  Things need to be said.  I need to show up.  There are people to meet and obligations to attend to.  Life has not stopped because Mike no longer exists here in this dimension.  Time has gone on and I've carried along with it.

Life demands participation - even after your person dies.  Life is unavoidable.  And, in truth, this is a good thing.  At this point, there is no part of me that intentionally wishes to escape living.  I think this is why my heart feels so heavy.  I want to breathe life in again.  I absolutely want to feel alive again; but, re-entering life is much more difficult than I imagined it would be.



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Meeting in Dreams

This past week, I had a pretty crazy dream. It’s the first time of this sort that I have ever had. As many of you know, our Tuesday writer, Mike, is my boyfriend. He lost his wife, Megan, in 2014 to Cystic Fibrosis and I lost my fiance, Drew, in 2012 in a crash. We’ve been dating now a few years, and still nothing like this dream has showed up before.

And then came Mother’s Day last week… and the post I wrote about Mike and Megan’s daughter, whom I am now caring for as my own. You can read that post here, but essentially it boiled down to my deep appreciation for this little person being in my life now and all that she has changed for the better.

So that night, the end of Mother's Day, I had a dream... about Megan...

It was not just any dream. It was one of *those* dreams… and you all know the ones I mean. The dreams that some of us call “visits” because of how realistic they feel. In this dream, Megan was in a hospital bed and Mike and I were on either side of her. He was not a major part of the dream, except to introduce me to Megan at the beginning. He told her that I was the new person in his life. That I was the one chosen to be here, after her. And then, there was this completely real, completely tangible moment of us looking eye to eye at one another. Silence. Hearts beating, a little tensely. Guardedness. Neither yet saying words… she was taking me in. She was taking in this moment of her life that she knew would always come.

And just as if it had been real, you could feel the presence of protectiveness in her. The seriousness of the situation in her. And she then looked forward a moment, took a breath, and began to tell me in a very matter of fact way what was important to her for me to take care of after she’s gone...

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The Hammer

This morning, my cousin posted an image on Facebook of a hilarious guitar magazine parody called "Mediocre Guitar." My husband Don loved music, especially guitars. He owned 7 or 8 of them at all times, and was always hanging out online at guitar websites and message boards, and giving free lessons to his fellow online guitar-enthusiast friends, on his YouTube channel. He would play guitar in our apartment almost daily, especially as a form of de-stressing after a long and stressful day doing EMS work. I am a singer, and we used to play and sing together all the time, learning Beatles and Natalie Merchant and Fleetwood Mac songs. He would strum his guitar and I would sing, and the way he would look at me while I gently sang a new song he was learning the chords to - it was the very definition of love and music. 

We met in a music chat room online. We always connected through music. So when my cousin put up that post today, I began typing my husband's name into the comment section of the post, because I wanted to "tag" him on the post so he could see how hilarious it was. I was halfway through typing his name into the comments, when it suddenly hit me - he is dead. He is still dead. He will always be dead. It will be 7 years this July, and yet, there are still those moments where a part of me forgets - just for a moment. 

That moment of forgetting - that 2 or 3 or 17 seconds - it is total elation. 

My eyes lit up at the mere thought of sharing this bit of humor with him. 

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2 Years: Gone Today and Everyday

Sunday will be 2 years since Mike died. I keep thinking that I am getting it wrong. It can’t possibly be 2 years already. I feel like I just saw him. But then I feel like I haven’t seen him in an eternity. The whole while I still can’t believe I’ll never see him again. I see his picture and I think, “how can I never see him again; that doesn’t make sense; that can’t be right.” It feels surreal. Yet, May 20 marks 2 years since he died.


What to do on the 2 year mark has been on my mind a lot. I don’t really want to make a day of anything or do anything special at all. I just want it to be a regular day that I go about my life and try to do things that make me happy, as I usually do. Maybe go to the gym, go for a hike or a bike ride. I might do something extra nice for myself but that’s about it. That’s what I’d like to do. I know that may come across in a variety of ways. Maybe it seems that I’m insensitive, in denial, like I don’t care, or even that I’ve “moved on.” That’s the reason why I keep contemplating what to do on the 2 year mark - I don’t want to seem like I’m cold or “over it”. That’s not it at all.

To me, it’s another day without Mike. It is my regular. I miss him everyday. As one of my good widow friends says, “he’s not anymore gone on that day.” It’s a day I think about him and miss him but so was the day before and so will be the day after. Maybe if I didn’t think about him all the time it would make sense to me to set aside a day to think about him or even a day to think about the day he died. But that’s not the way my grief works. My mind will involuntarily retrieve every little detail of May 20, 2016 and the emotions that go with it as if it was happening right then whenever it feels like it. I feel like I am there again. I can feel my gasps for air and my heart beating throughout my whole body. I can feel my weakness as I lay on the floor. I remember the phone calls. The morgue.  I can see people’s faces and hear their voices. Everything. It’s imprinted in my mind. It is horrible torture. I can’t remember anything else in my life in so much precise detail as I can that day. So why would I set aside time to do that to myself? It’ll still be there to ruin me for another day.

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My Beloved

My beloved,

How thin, or thick, is the veil

Between your world and mine?

Is there a world for you?

Or did you just disappear into nothingness?

Are there alternative worlds in which

You and I exist at a different time?

Still together, still living our lives,

Living and loving passionately,

Instead of me, living here, alone,

Feeling all that nothingness that it seems you disappeared into?

Are there worlds beyond the one where we were together?

Is there a world where we’ll be together again,

Or was what we had here, all that will be?

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1,273 days.  


That’s how long I have been a widower, as of this very moment.  It’s an arbitrary number...over 1,000, not quite 1500. Not an even number, nor a prime number.  It doesn’t signify a specific milestone or even an approaching one. It’s just Tuesday, 1,273 days since Megan’s death.  

I’ve now been through 3 of her birthdays, 3 anniversaries, 4 Mothers’ days, and 4 Christmases.  Shelby is 4 grades ahead in her schooling, Megan’s brother is married, with two children, and I’m closer to 40 than 30.  I’ve met and fallen in love with a wonderful woman that is now just as much part of our family as Megan was, and as much a mother to Shelby.  There are at least 1,273 things that have happened since her death. I’ve mowed the lawn probably 80 times. I’ve went to work for 800 or so days.  The trash has been taken out on sunday 180 times, and we’ve bought at least 45 bags of dog food. I’ve hiked over 100 miles. Many of these things are significant as it relates to widowerhood, most of them not.

On second thought...they’re all significant.

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Mothers. It's Complicated.

Mothers.  It's complicated.

Being a mother.  Having a mother.  Not having a mother.

It's all complicated.

The truth is Mother's Day can be a lousy day a lot for some people for various and unique reasons.

Not everyone has a mother on earth.

Some have a mother who is alive, but absent from them.

Some are truant by choice; others are not present because of geography.

And, it must be acknowledged that not everyone is a mother.

Some are not mothers by choice; others are without children by fate.

Further, not every mother has her child here with her on earth...

And, not everyone has a mother who is emotionally available to them.

Not everyone has the mother they wanted.

And, some are not the mothers they want to be.

There is guilt.

There is love.

Mothers.  It's complicated.


Many of us are walking down broken roads we never expected to be on.  Days like Mother's Day can pronounce what we've lost, what we want, or what we never had.  Days like Mother's Day can enunciate what is missing in our lives.  I am fortunate.  I have children and I celebrated Mother's Day with them.  I know this is a luxury that not every mother has.  So, why did I still feel unsettled? 

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You Have Been my Best Surprise

This amazing little girl came into my life quite unplanned 3 years ago… when I hadn’t even expected to find love again, much less a child. Now I’m waking up on mother’s day morning, and I am the one being celebrated. This is still so surreal to me.

Of all of the hard or scary things in my life, this is one that I chose. I didn’t choose to lose Drew, or my parents. Or a lot of other hard or scary things in my life… But I did choose to be in this little girl’s life after she lost her own mother - and after her dad lost his beautiful fierce wife. And I now know that this choice was going to require all of me and then some… in a way I couldn’t have understood before diving in. This choice was going to change everything.

It has changed the way I view all of the mothers in my life… my mother who raised me until she died when I was 9, and all the surrogate moms that I have had since then who have stepped in to guide and love me. It’s changed my appreciation for each of those mothers in my world, and deepened my understanding of their choice to be in my life. It’s deepened my relationship to my sister, as a mother of three strapping boys, and just how incredible of a job she has done in raising them.

I think before this little surprise came into my world, I had a certain amount of resentment for everything related to motherhood - because my own mom was no longer here. I avoided Mother’s Day. I had a difficult time really being around moms and their children. I disliked kids mostly. I didn’t even want kids. I felt cheated out of my own childhood and wanting nothing to do with other children. I still do have some resentment to some degree really, and probably always will a little bit.

This little person has helped me with that resentment in ways she cannot fathom right now. Being able to give her my love in the absence of her mom also gives something back to the little girl in me.

I could have never imagined that my fiance’s death would lead me here… or that his leaving my life would bring healing to parts of my heart that I thought could never be healed. It turns out, they could be, but not by him. And not by my new partner… only by this little surprise, now 11, and growing taller by the day as she buries herself in the fantastical worlds of books and runs fabulous 5K’s.

Still though, it’s not easy...

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Losing a Friend

So the book I have been writing about my husband's death, and life in the aftermath, is finished. It is now in editing, and should be ready for publication for July 13th. One of the sections in the book is called "Words About Don", where I asked a handful of his close friends and family to write up a few words/couple of paragraphs or so, about a memory, or what Don meant to them, or anything they felt like saying about Don Shepherd. I have been receiving the last of these writing pieces over the past few weeks, to be added to my draft. Yesterday, I received one from Don's very best friend - his EMS partner on the ambulance for years out in Florida, and his Best Man at our wedding. This man and his wife drove 24 hours from Florida to New Jersey, on very short notice, to be there at Don's funeral and honor him. They were the kind of friends who felt like and thought of each other as brothers. 

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Pretty Lucky

I’ve heard that when you feel you are struggling with your writing it is because you are writing what you think you should write instead of what you truly feel. I can’t find the actual quote right now (it was much more eloquent than that) but that idea has been on my mind for a while. Since I saw it really. I’ve wanted to write and share about something but I’ve been nervous. Anxious for a whole bunch of reasons. Nervous that it’s too easy and good to be true. That it’ll soon disappear. Anxious because I’m less cautious than I use to be and although I like it I’m still getting used to myself. Nervous because with change comes emotions and more changes and I’m adjusting.

But at the same time, I want to share. It’s what is on my mind a lot and it’s hard to write about other things when it’s not really what I’m thinking about. I’ve mentioned here and there about it but not really fully shared.

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