If nothing else, 5 years down the road, I still have many questions and few answers. The amount and content of said questions only grows with time. Many of them are “what-ifs”, and still more are “what-woulds”.
“What if they hadn’t died?” is the first question for almost everyone. I can confidently say that it will never be answered definitively. In fact, in the world of multiple-choice answers, the number of choices has increased from A, B, and C, to the point that we’re way through the alphabet, and onto weird, made up characters.
In Megan’s case, seeing as she had a long-term illness, my second question was “what could I have done differently?”. It was the guilt setting in. Misplaced, mind you. There was literally nothing I, or anyone else could do that would have prevented a genetic, debilitating mutation from occurring, but my brain asked it constantly for months, nonetheless, and I felt it was somehow my fault.
I still ask question one almost daily, mostly in passing at this point. I’ve long since accepted that the second question is answered succinctly with a “nothing”, and largely moved on from asking it.
Every so often, however, the “what-ifs” creep back in. More and more frequently, the “what-woulds” are taking over.Read more
the most important part
of the journey
is just deciding to go.”
I read this quote the other day in a book and I liked it. I tend to spend too much time overthinking things and not enough time just doing them. So this was refreshing to read. But it also got me thinking about widowhood, and decisions. And how much of the difficulty about loss in general is the lack of control we have. The fact that there are usually so many decisions that we either did not get to make, or never wanted to have to make. It really has a whole lot of different meanings depending on where you’re coming from.
Most of all, though, this quote makes me think back to on the different journeys that I am glad I did decide to go on. Of how glad I am I decided to date that cocky, goofy pilot. Even though I knew his work was dangerous and he could someday die doing it - which of course he did. Even though I’d been in an abusive relationship before him, and I was scared to get close to anyone again. Even though it all felt terribly scary, and I tried to run away from it, eventually I just decided to go on that journey with him. And once I decided, everything else was the most incredible ride. He changed my whole view of men, and of love, and of myself in the best of ways. And even though he did die, the changes he made in my life did not. That decision changed who I was forever - so he has never left me.
I am glad I decided to leave the city we lived in together, and leave my career, and leave all my friends behind. Even though that was hard too… I just knew, after he was gone, I couldn’t be there without him. I knew I had to decide to just go. And take some new chances. And yet again, once I made the decision, things fell into place to help it happen. His family supported me through it all, and I made new friendships and grew as a person in ways I never would have had I not decided to go.
And then I met Mike, 4 years ago this week actually. I knew within that very first meeting that if I decided to keep knowing this man, he was going to change my entire life all over again - just like Drew had. It was scary for sure, because I didn’t really feel ready for so much change. But I decided to go, and things unfolded. And here we are four years later… miraculously carving out a new life in the aftermath of losing both our partners. On a journey of firsts together, trying to figure out what it means to be in love again and also love the ones we’ve lost. And deciding each day what that means for us, and what we want to create this new love to be.
All of the best parts of my life have always been the results of those moments I decided to just go. And sure, they have also led to an unfathomable amount of pain sometimes… but isn’t that life? We aren’t owed easy. We aren’t owed a perfectly happy, painless life. We aren’t owed anything at all really. I realize that’s not everyone’s favorite thing to hear, but it’s true. It's not the whole story though...Read more
Anniversaries are, in general, a prompt for looking back. They’re an annual reminder to be reminded of the past. While oftentimes, an anniversary is also a milestone, it still remains that, simply put, an anniversary measures the passage of time.
They don’t really MEAN anything to widows. Our person is neither more, nor less dead on their death anniversary than they are on any other day, but damned if we aren’t reminded of the fact that they ARE dead a whole hell of a lot more.
Interestingly, other dates tend to morph into this reminder as well. Shelby’s upcoming birthday? I’m always reminded of the fact Megan isn’t there to see her reach twelve years old. Halloween? Megan loved halloween...she would enjoy being here. The anniversary of the date I was discharged? Oh wow, now I remember how I met Megan a few months after that.
That’s the thing, it’s like I can’t have an anniversary or holiday anymore without feeling the pressing need to remember Megan and either A) remember how she was on that day, or B) point out the fact that she’s not there.
But today’s anniversary? It’s different.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 an instruction that Sarah has given to me as I walk out the door to work more times than I can count. Sometimes, it’s fairly innocuous. Other times, it’s said with a fervent, if not pleading “PLEASE don’t die today”; usually after waking up from a particularly emotional dream.
It’s not a “tic” or meaningless, repetitive saying. She means it. She is constantly and consciously aware that at any moment, I could be gone. Any of us could, for any reason. Is saying it going to change fate? No, but it does indeed absolve her from responsibility in the event the worst occurs...like a pre-emptive “I told you so”.
Interestingly, I don’t say it nearly as much. I do say the far less instructive “Drive safe” often, but it is rarely “Don’t Die”. I think there are a few observations I’d like to make.Read more
It has been almost a month since I last posted on here. Sometimes, life can get in the way of all of our commitments to others. Between the holidays, the busiest time of year at my work, travel, and budgets, sharing my weekly thoughts and anecdotes about life after becoming widowed took a significant back-burner.
But the primary reason I hadn’t shared is that my mind, in fact, my very being, was consumed by something that I couldn’t write about at the time.
An impending proposal.Read more
It has been 7 and a half years since my beautiful husband Don Shepherd's sudden death.
About 18 months ago, I found new and wonderful and beautiful love.
Somewhere in the first few months of the relationship with my new love, the topic of "Don's things" came up. I think I was the one who brought it up. We were in my bedroom talking, or kissing, or something. I forget. But in that moment, I looked over to my nightstand next to my bed, and noticed, as if for the first time or through my lover's eyes, the shrine that it was to Don. Our wedding picture was there. The American flag folded up and in it's frame from the Air Force funeral. The framed certificate from the Sharing Network for being a tissue/organ donor. And his rally monkey stuffed animal that was his lucky charm. I asked Nick very honestly: "Does it bother you that I have so many of Don's things all over my bedroom? Is it weird for you? I feel like it must be weird. " He paused for a minute, and then said just as honestly: "He was your husband. And he died. I think it's normal, and I don't ever want to be someone who would ask you to subtract anything about him from your life. I don't believe in subtracting . Just adding. " Then we talked about how we both looked forward to the day when we have started to build our own memories and private jokes and "things" that could be added to my life's collection.
I remember loving his response that day. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and it was comforting. It also made me fall in love with him just a little bit more.Read more
I’m not sure if it is just a part of the process, self-preservation or something supernatural but I caught myself of guard the other day. You see, I was quite surprised when an acquaintance walked by me at work and in front of everyone he grabbed my shoulder and asked me how I was. It might not seem much to some but everyone at work registered something was different. He acted like we knew each other very well and we only said hi in passing. The moment passed and everyone asked if we were friends outside work and were we seeing each other. They were shocked to hear me say no and the speculation began.Read more
As I sat down to write this morning, as I usually do, I read a few of this previous week’s posts. On a day like today, where my mind is somewhat blank, it often helps me to zero in on a subject. Once I have that nugget of inspiration, I can usually let it flow.
This week, I’ve been inspired to write about something from a different side of the same coin. Olivia and Staci had spoken about the triggers of lack of contact with a loved one, and the desire and intricacies of revisiting places and events they once shared with their person.
Perhaps its the different circumstances...long-term illness versus sudden, surprising loss, but I don’t feel the same way as they do.Read more
Last night, I saw the film "Bohemain Rhapsody" with my love, Nick.
Everything having anything to do with music always makes me think of Don.
It just does.
Our connection was largely based in music. We met through music. We played and sang music together.
We introduced each other to lots of musicians and artists to listen to.
Don used music and strumming his guitar, as his biggest coping mechanism to get through the trauma he saw on the job.
To get through most hard things.
He would disappear into music, play his guitar for a couple hours in solitude, and then he would be okay.
Don and I connected through music.Read more