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.
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 don't have any reason, dont wanna waste more time
Im in a New York state of mind......."
Ah yes, Billy Joel had it right with that song.
Its been about 17 months since I left NYC, my second home, to move back to my home state of Massachusetts, finish my book, and see what comes next. I didnt expect to find love here in smalltown Mass, and I didnt expect for that love to provide not only the perfect ending to my book, but a new lease and purpose on life in addition. When I left NYC, in my heart, it was temporary. I kept saying: "I can always come back." But somewhere deep inside, I knew that my soul was being eaten alive by NYC, and my wallet too. So, I have made a lot of visits, and almost every one of them was because I had something professional or career-related going on in the city; a book signing event, a comedy show, this time its a TV taping on the local cable show OPEN TO HOPE. I will be one of a 3-person panel of widowed authors - me , Michelle Miller, and John Polo. We will talk about our books and about grief and loss. It will air at a later time. The evening before the taping, on Friday night, (this will post Friday for you all, but Im writing it Wednesday evening) the three of us will host a fun Karaoke Book-signing party in the city, sort of a "Meet and Greet" with anyone who wants to come out. In between all of that, I will see some friends and have some fun. Back to my NYC people. My NYC vibe.Read more
In my 38 years, I have never once not been with my parents on either Christmas eve or Christmas day. Even when I was in the military, I lucked out in that I wasn’t deployed over Christmas, and I was able to drive from North Carolina to Ohio, even if only for a 48 hour visit. Since 2002, I’ve added Megan’s family to that tradition, always ensuring that my second family was part of the holidays, but simply splitting time between both.
It was convenient that both my family and Megan’s family lived within 15 minutes of each other, and we never lived farther than 30 minutes away from either. Christmas Eve with my family, Christmas day with hers.
Since Megan’s death, that tradition has remained the same. Now, however, there’s a third and fourth family.Read more
I’ve written about it quite a few times these past few years, but moving across the country really did a number on me. I don’t think - scratch that - I KNOW I was in no way prepared for how difficult it would be to leave Texas. I have a love affair with my state that runs very deep. I have gone through some of the hardest but most meaningful experiences in my life in that state. As well as some of the most beautiful.
The resting places for both of my parents and Drew are there. The friends that became family to me after Drew died, are mostly scattered all around that beautiful state. And the culture… once you’ve fallen in love with the Texas hill country culture, there is really no way to ever separate it from your heart. And no reason you’d ever want to.
So when I decided to take a chance on new love, and do this super brave thing like uprooting my life to Ohio, I really had no idea the level of new grief I was signing up for. Everything up north is very different. The houses. The yards. The language. The attitude. The lack of chicken fried steaks. The accents. Hell even the Dairy Queens... (they do not have steak fingers - and don't get me started on that!)
I guess I didn’t expect a new place to feel SO different. Or for change to feel so hard. Clearly I did not realize, I lived in TEXAS of all places - which is pretty different in its own right from a lot of the country. Most of all, I didn’t realize - as it common with loss - what I had until it was gone. Or until I was gone...Read more
Another sleepless night. Eyes wide open, I finally get up.
I pace through the house, small as it is, investigating this or that I think I will or will not take to the new place, for the millionth time. Thinking about all the things I have already taken to the new place, for the millionth time. Our new place, my boyfriend’s and mine.
February will mark five years without Mike. I can hardly believe that. And here I am, the loss of the house finally imminent, the auction date a few weeks away, a new lease already signed.
This is it. There is no pretending Mike might still walk in the door any minute. After 16 years in this house, I’m leaving. We’re leaving, my dogs and me, and this guy who has been here for me for about four of these last five years. This guy who has made it possible for me to stay with my dogs, who has found a role in a season of my life I never saw coming…and yet has no real role in my grief.
Who loves me and supports me and yet may never truly understand what it is I have gone through; that strange and horrific grief path I continue to tread.
No one can. Our grief journeys are solo gigs. And he gets that, as a musician, I think.
The big news is, we found a place to rent here in Kona that has agreed to the dogs. It’s only up the block, so moving should be relatively easy. It’s expensive…but thankfully my boyfriend is with us for all the support both emotional and financial that it will entail.
It has not come easy. It took weeks for the owner to come around to us (apparently, two dogs are better than a group of young single people or a family of 10). We had to endure a long, detailed financial application and background check. And the hardest, for me, has been the emotion of it all.
My stay at the house my beautiful late husband and I shared is coming to an end.
I will leave part of me behind here. My heart, or most of it, it feels like.
Like a freight train, time is bullying its way forward. Come February, which feels just around the corner, I will have been five years without Mike. I sit here in his chair on the lanai we shared in this house, looking down on the ocean view he loved so dearly, wondering how that is possible.
Because in this moment, and so many others, it feels like yesterday. The pain feels raw and real and the missing him hasn’t stopped. And yet I have been forced to continue to deal with life in this world all this time, without him.
I’m just so tired.
Sitting here with all this week’s feelings, thoughts and words ping-ponging around my brain, that one just keeps rising to the top.
Grief is a heavy, heavy stone to drag around, and I’m tired. That sinister companion has changed so much, not just in my daily life but how I think about life altogether.