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
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.
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
Yes, tildes are a thing. Unlike exclamation points, which everyone learns in grade school, you probably won't recognize the term, though you might very well recognize the symbol itself.
Lest you think this is a blog about grammar, let me clarify my why of writing about grammar points.
Both of them have played a significant role in my life for the past 5 years and 9 months since Chuck's death.
Godalmighty. How is it possible that it's been so excruciatingly long since he died?
Exclamation points and tildes...Read more
I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to be feeling, now moving towards year 5 since Megan’s death. Shelby is a preteen (and it certainly shows), and moves ever so closer to wanting to spend time with her friends versus us. Her brother is married with a growing family of his own, with two sons that Megan never got to meet. One of our best friends was just approved to be listed for a lung transplant of her own, and herself has a son that’s a toddler.
I’m engaged, for crying out loud.
So, so much has changed in these 5 years, and it’s not just my weight. While life stagnated for awhile, just after her death, it began evolving quickly thereafter. That crushing, defeated feeling of the world coming to an end started to fade a bit. What seemed like rash decisions or actions in those months following her departure have morphed into memories that I can hang my hat on.
They’re memories that, carefully analyzed, draw a clear path to where I am today.
They also add confusion to grief.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
There are surreal little things lately about my life lately. About getting together for coffee with girlfriends recently, who are eager to see the new engagement ring and hear all about Mike’s proposal. Surreal because part of me still thinks something will go wrong before we ever get to a wedding. Part of me is wary of that… how could I not be. And surreal because even though I am in a whole other chapter of my life with someone new, I don’t feel like the other chapter is “behind” me or “gone”. I don’t feel any less close to that life and to the person I was with then. I don’t feel Drew’s absence the way I feared I would years ago when his death was so fresh.
It will be 7 years this summer since Drew died. Which is also surreal. I still remember the enormous knot of fear in my stomach in the first year… about ever, ever reaching 5 years, or 8 years, or 10 years, or 20 years of him being gone. I think somewhere around years 3 and 4 though, something started to happen. A shift where I realized I don’t have to ever be scared of losing him. I left Texas, and the life he and I knew together. And I faced the fear of losing my connection to him in an even bigger way by doing so. I chose to love someone new, and start a life with that person too, facing that fear even more.
I realize now, that every single new milestone that causes a fear of losing more pieces of him, or of the life we shared together, is one that I must push through. Because every time I have done so, I have come out the other side realizing that I still feel just as connected to him, to our life, and to who I was. Every time I have dared to venture into more living and loving, I have felt his presence with me… most especially in quiet moments to myself where I will simply, suddenly, feel him near and feel him assuring me that all is well. Or in unexplainable signs that pop up when I least expect it.Read more
Losing the Holiday Weight
The holidays were rough. My first without Tin and there were days I just could barely keep it together. Christmas is over and I spent New Year’s alone for the first time in years with no one to plan a new year of adventures with. It’s been a struggle and I have 3 more months before I hit the anniversary of his passing. I felt like I was carrying a thousand pounds through the holidays. I get holiday weight but that was not what I was ever expecting.Read more
In the beginning, there was music.
Back in 1998, in the days when AOL was a thing, I went into a music chat / trivia room about 1980s song lyrics, and met Don Shepherd.
We talked about Lionel Richie songs, great singers, guitar players, and more. Then we just kept on talking.
Seven years and lots of plane trips from Florida to NY and back later, he packed up his life and moved to New Jersey to be with me.
We married a year later, and just 3 months before our 5-year wedding anniversary, he would die suddenly from cardiac arrest.
At first, I could not hear music.
It was too hard.
It hurt too much.
Every song was a reminder that I would never hear him strumming his guitar again, in our apartment.
We would never sing and play together, just for fun.
He would never use my leg or knee to try and figure out a chord or a beat again.
He wouldnt ask me to come into the living room and "listen to this song I just threw together. Do you like it, Boo?"
We wouldnt rehearse Natalie Merchant or Fleetwood Mac or Beatles or Aerosmith songs anymore.
Or sit on the couch and listen to CD's.
Everything about music started to hurt.