January is when Megan was first diagnosed with chronic organ transplant rejection. February is Shelby’s birthday. May is Mother’s Day, June is when she was admitted to the hospital, never to come home again, July is her birthday, August is our anniversary, September is when the next year of school starts for Shelby, October is my birthday, November is when she died, and December, is well, the “holidays”.
March and April though have no special “milestones”. I can’t really think of any specific memories or significant happenings that have or will occur as it relates to Megan and her death. I get to “coast” through these months, in a sense, fairly comfortable with believing that I shouldn’t have any “predetermined” triggers.Read more
For much of my life, I have been what can best be described as “grumpy”. I’ve tended to over-react and or see the worst in things, and myself. Something as simple as going to the grocery store brought out a part of me that only wanted to see the worst of humanity, followed by a reaction resembling anger, then followed by regret and shame at said reaction. It’s a vicious cycle that culminated in my general tendency to either want to be completely introverted, or to only seek out things that allow me to be alone, yet enjoy an activity.
I always find something to blame for these traits. Work is stressful, money is tight, bills are too high, it’s too cold for too long, I don’t have enough time in a day, or any other number of outside influencers gave me an “excuse” to just be angry or reactionary to the tiniest little stressors in life. More often than not, I placed the blame squarely on myself. I couldn’t handle work, I spent too much money or signed up for needless services. I’m too stupid to put a coat on and go outside, or I’m just plain lazy, and not using the time I DO have effectively.
In some ways, Megan’s health masked this. I was so laser focused on her well-being that I didn’t ever take the time to self-examine and really try to figure out why I am the way I am. Honestly, after her first transplant and subsequent relative good health, I didn’t know what to do with myself other than self-deprecate and become introverted. It caused issues. She finally had the ability to enjoy life, and I wanted only to sit in the house and “relax”.Read more
In July, it will have been 8 years since my husband's sudden death from cardiac arrest bulldozed into my life.
There are so many days when I trick myself into thinking that Im really okay now and maybe this wont affect me anymore.
And then I get knocked over by something such as this .......
On Wednesday, I went to the gym (YMCA), where I have been exercising with a pool workout routine, 4 to 5 times per week. On Wednesday, I did my workout routine with my water weights and laps and such, then went out to the adjoining room for my favorite part - the post-workout hot tub sit. While sitting there with the water jets on my sore joints, one of the older ladies walked in from the pool area. She had left the class early because her chest felt tight, she was really hot, and she "didn't feel right." That's pretty much the only "warning" my husband gave , according to the staff at Pet-smart , where he collapsed that day while working his part-time job and his volunteer work with animal adoption, almost 8 years ago now. He told his manager casually, after coming out of the restroom: "I dunno, I just don't feel right." The manager asked if he wanted to go home. Apparently, Don being Don, said "Nah, I''m fine. Ill stay until my relief comes." Half-hour later, he was lying on the floor, in cardiac arrest.Read more
You may have noticed that last Tuesday, there was no post from me. In short, we had a major power outage at my work, starting the Sunday prior, and being the only IT person, it fell to me keep the business running.
I left home Sunday evening, towards the office, and I was there until 3 A.M. or so. Then home for a few hours, then back to the office. I got maybe 45 minutes of sleep between Sunday morning and Tuesday morning.
This kind of thing has been a part of my life for a few decades now. It just comes with my chosen career.
That doesn’t make it feel “OK” though.Read more
One of the most fundamental aspect of our species is that we are constantly comparing everything. Walking down the street, our brains are constantly comparing the faces of strangers to faces of people we know. Isn’t that? …no, she’s too tall to be her. Comparing helps us cross the street and be safe—we have an image of a safe crosswalk in our brains, and we compare what we see on the street with that image before our feet leave the curb. Most comparisons keep us safe and healthy, while others simply make life far more complicated than it has to be.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
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
It’s been four years. Four times, the earth has orbited the sun in full since Megan’s death. That seems like an eternity, and yet at times, it also feels like it was yesterday. It’s still “fresh”, yet also “routine”.
If I could have foretold the future, four-and-a-half years ago, a few days before she died, it wouldn’t have changed anything, really. I would just know what to expect. I can reflect on it now, however. I can write to myself, 1,700 days later, telling my past not what I wanted to hear, but what I needed to.
So, here goes.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