How many of us had dreamed of being super heroes when we were younger? Pulled between imagining magic powers and wishing we were older so we could do whatever we want and “oh how perfect life would be”. It’s true when they say to be careful what you wish for…Read more
Megan spent a lot of time in her pajamas. It kind of came with the territory, spending so much time in the hospital. When she was home, she often wasn't nearly at 100%, so being in her pajamas was comfortable, warm, and easy. If there was no need to been seen in public, she figured, why get all dressed up and ready? Pajamas made sense.
She was tiny. Five feet, three inches, and at her absolute heaviest (after a double lung transplant and a lot of steroids) she was able to crack 110 pounds. She spent more of the time in the sub-100 pound range. Still, she wore those same big baggy pajamas.
In the final year of her life, she struggled to keep 80 pounds on her frame. Those pajamas fit her in a very specific way. The waistband was tight enough, but the flannel fabric draped off of her like curtains. Her accompanying t-shirt seemed far, far too large, with the sleeves actually hanging down to her elbows.
When I eventually got around to clearing out some of her clothes after her death, I don’t know exactly why I kept some of her pajamas. It may have been a small feeling of comfort in knowing that the things she wore so much weren’t just going away. Possibly, it felt a bit wasteful, knowing that they were so “broken in” that even a thrift store wouldn’t take them.
Mostly though, I imagine there was a lot of “oh, Shelby can wear these someday”
It’s now someday.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.
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
This post is actually about another chapter of my grief story… the chapter about my dad. But I’m certain that it’s something that will relate to a lot of widows, too, because it touches on a really hard subject… GUILT.
While cleaning up the basement the other day, I came across a stack of old greeting cards. I’d known they were there - congratulatory words from many family and friends from back when I graduated college. There was one card I hadn’t realized was in the stack though. As I went through and read them all, one unfamiliar card caught my eye. I opened it, and instantly recognized the handwriting to be my dad’s unique style of very messy cursive. It was short, as he was a man of few sentimental words… but it said “I’m very proud of you”. And with that, I burst into tears.
I sat there, alone on the cold cement basement floor and cried my eyes out… not only because I miss him, but also because of the guilt.
My dad battled depression and alcoholism all of his life. There were some longer periods of sobriety, but from the time I was around 17 on, he fell back into drinking pretty hard. So the dad I’d had before that, who was sober and funny and fun to be around, sort of disappeared around the time I went in to college. By the time that college graduation came around, we weren’t talking often. It was a complex relationship and I didn't know how to deal with it. I had forgiven him for a lot, but I wasn’t willing to let him back in really, so our relationship was mostly distant with a few phonecalls and visits sprinkled in sparingly.
I will never know if that was the right decision. All I know is that I have felt guilty for almost a decade since because I simply never even attempted to have more of a relationship with him in his final years. There WAS an enormous love there between us. He adored me to no end and I did adore him too. But I just couldn't handle the combination of his drinking and his getting closer to death. I think more than anything, I was just so scared shitless about him dying that I can away from it. After losing my mom as a child, I did not know how to cope with being an orphan at 25, and I didn't have the tools to cope in a healthy way.
As a result, I left him very very alone in his final few years… in a retirement facility he was unhappy in and felt very alone in. Instead of being there for him in his last year, and last months, as his health slowly failed and his body slowly faded, I just kept on living my life and running away. I know now, I didn't know what to do. But I know that - at the time - I was very aware I was making poor decisions. I just didn't realize how much I would regret them later.
As I read those few words in the card “I’m very proud of you”, all the emotions and all of the memories of that time period came flooding back in full detail...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
I’ve made it through our anniversary, his birthday, Halloween, my birthday, Thanksgiving and now Christmas. Each one felt empty in ways I couldn’t explain. You truly don’t realize how much a person is part of you until that part is suddenly gone. I made a point for me to be back home with my family for Christmas. My career has made me miss many holidays with family but I couldn’t miss this one. I’d feel too lonely, or so I thought…Read more
So it's three days after Christmas, I've had a terrible virus/cold for almost 12 days now, Im coughing up a lung, and my headache is just irritating and monotanous enough to keep me the appropriate amount of moody, while still somehow managing not to bite off the head of the nearest human.
Seven years post-loss, and Im not even sure how I feel bout this set of holidays. Is it weird that Im kind of sick of talking about it? I appreciate people asking how Im doing, truly, but I feel like Im out of words to explain what it's like to live in a world without your person.
Im also extremely tired this year. Probably from all the coughing and being sick.
Whatever the case, I just dont feel like dealing with my emotions right now.
And truly, Im not even sure what my emotions even are.
I just feel blah and vague about everything.Read more