Today has been a good day so far. I love waking up and feeling passion for whatever is going to happen next in my life. Like my daughter saying, “I have a Valentine’s Day card for Dada! Here it is!” As I help my daughter get ready for school, I take a deep breath and remind myself of one simple truth; getting Anisha ready and walking her to school in the sun and snow IS what life is all about! I love that I truly appreciate simple things more, but I still miss so many things about Natasha, such as her food.Read more
My birthday was hard. Thanksgiving was hard. Christmas and New Years were both hard. Yet it is the “Hallmark Holiday” that seems to burn more than build the wave of sadness.Read more
My wife and I have always enjoyed mixing our favourite coping mechanism, comedy, with accomplishing important tasks. Sometimes, the best remedy for the worst life stresses is proactive humour. Natasha came up with the term “cancer card” as a way to deal with life’s day to day challenges. We would often jokingly ask each other a question, “Is this a cancer card moment?” For example, we are waiting for a table for brunch and Natasha tells me that we are third on the waitlist for a table. I turn to her and say, “This is a good time to play the cancer card.” I approach the hostess and say, “Excuse me, my wife is literally fighting cancer right now, so, if there is any way that we could get a table faster, that would be great.” Usually, the cancer card works because the restaurant staff and the other customers are very accommodating—especially if I had told Natasha to exaggerate her fatigue while I get her a chair to sit on. Contrary to popular opinion, some cancer patients are not super thin and emaciated. As in Natasha’s case, the medications used to manage the side effects of chemo can make you gain a lot of weight. As a result, she didn’t always look like a cancer patient to everyone, which is why exaggerating symptoms was sometimes necessary. In the past, when my self-esteem was low, I would have felt pushy, inconsiderate and manipulative using my wife’s cancer to get special treatment. Now, I know whatever I can do to make life easier for my family, I should definitely do. I know this might sound strange, but my wife’s cancer has actually had a positive impact on me: I am much more confident. In the past, I would have spent too much time worrying about pleasing strangers in a restaurant at my own expense—no more! One of the most important things I have learned is that we all have to do what we think is best for OUR family because if we don’t, no one else will. Besides, the chances of anyone else in line for a table is battling post-partum depression, cancer AND has a new born baby is highly doubtful.Read more
The year was 2005, and it was a cold day in February.
I looked out the window of my New Jersey apartment, which sat on the Hudson River. NYC looked back at me.
I put the coffee pot on, and started making the meatballs and sauce. My Nana Mary's lasagna recipe, with bow tie pasta and meatballs and ribs on the side.
I had made it for Don the first time we met in person, about 3 years after we began talking in that music chat trivia room.
He had flown all the way from Florida to Jersey, to meet me, to stay with me for a few days, to fall in love.
I took him into my apartment on that day, and we sat at my kitchen table and shared our first meal together.
That was the first time he said to me: "My Boo makes the bestest food ever! I could get used to this!"
So, here I was , a few years later, making it again, in anticipation of his arrival.
Except this time, I would not have to say goodbye at the end of a few days.
This time, he was staying.
Don Shepherd was moving in with me on that day.
He had his whole life inside that Penske truck that was attached to his 1997 Grand Prix car -
soon he would be pulling up onto my street, and emptying out everything he owned out of that truck and into my small apartment.
Soon, my small apartment would become "our" small apartment.
His cat Isabelle that sat in his lap while he drove, would become "our" cat.
Soon, we would begin our life together.
It was Superbowl Sunday,
and the start of a brand new life.
It’s taken me months and months to bring up the courage to go to dinner with a friend. Sounds crazy but she was Clayton’s favorite coworker and he is all we have in common. I knew it hit her hard when he passed and I knew she would want to talk about it. I guess that is just another layer of widowhood that others don’t understand – We want to see you but the memories you trigger are to strong for us to handle right now.
This afternoon, I was honored to be a guest-lecturer / speaker for a large class of mostly pharmacy students at Ohio State University, who will one day be future practioners. Due to the magic of the inter-webs, I spoke to the large class of students and the professor, from the comfort of my room in smalltown Massachusetts.
They are learning about emergency codes and patient care and medical emergencies, and wanted me to speak about how I was treated by the E.R. staff and the hospital, on the day of Don's sudden death. I got to read a bit from my book about that day, speak with them about the life-altering after-effects of sudden loss and losing your partner to death, and then do a Q&A, in which they asked some really intelligent and thoughtful questions about my story.Read more
I miss the feeling of moving around life’s obstacles as a team of three, as opposed to a team of two; fortunately, I am gradually learning to rely on myself for mental and emotional stability more and more. Natasha and I were good at supporting and pushing each other to revel in the joy of being human. But these days, it is easy to find myself stumbling around and tripping over anxiety, self-doubt and darkness. Without Natasha, I find myself desperately trying to find some light, confidence and peace.Read more
When Tin passed away, my social media was flooded with posts and photos showing just how much he was loved and how much support I had to lean on taking my first steps on this new beach. Each day had been continued support helping me step forward and weather the waves.Read more
Today is my birthday and of course I miss Natasha even more, if that’s even possible. She was always so good at arranging brunch, parties and dinners--Natasha had such a raw flair for celebrations. So, sitting across from my daughter for my birthday dinner is wonderful, but also rather quiet. Why is it just us two? This isn’t right! My love for Natasha has not diminished at all, if anything, it has become stronger as I have learned to let certain marital issues go. Time is so fleeting, so why waste time with trivial life issues? Our marriage was not perfect, but our love was deep. We definitely had our issues, but our kind of love translates into a loss that cannot be put into words. I had to cremate the only person I have every completely felt a strong connection to. It feels like a volcano has erupted and blown the earth’s crust to bits and I am left scrambling to secure my footing for my family of two. And of course, trying to stabilize my little family brings up a lot of fear, fear that quickly turns into anger.Read more