A month from today, Sarah, Shelby, and I will be hitting the road for Texas. It is time for our annual “Drewfest” weekend, where Drew’s closest friends gather to remember him, celebrate him, and in general, have a fun time like the “good old days”.
Personally, this will be my fifth Drewfest. I’ve been part of them since 2015, a few months after meeting Sarah, and less than a year after Megan’s death. I wrote about the first one in a letter to Drew, right here, for Soaring Spirits, and coming up on this one, there are still many times when I feel like an “Outsider”.Read more
Sarah and I are planning our wedding, taking place next year. Vaguely, it is going to be somewhat informal, in the sense that the traditional rehearsal, church, event hall, catering, DJ, etc are either going to not be a part of it, or otherwise substituted in a more unique way.
I’ve helped plan a wedding before. 14 years ago, Megan and I were “locked in” so to speak, by May. Our wedding was in August, and everything was booked, arranged, planned, and scripted. Invitations were not only sent out, but most RSVPs had been received. We had spent 6 months already getting everything in order. (Because of her health situation, all of it was somewhat “accelerated” from the traditional year of planning).
The point is, I’ve personally done this before. Most widows have. I have the benefit of a happy memory of doing half the work of planning a wedding, followed by a happy memory of nine years after the fact.Read more
Since becoming an involentary widow almost 8 years ago, I have changed in many positive ways.
I am more empathetic.
I am more sympathetic.
I am less judgemental of people's lives and situations and circumstances.
I listen better.
I stop to talk with people more.
I find more meaning and beauty in very tiny things.
I exist in the moment more.
I love profoundly and deeply.Read more
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
As you may have read, Sarah got a “tattoo” on Saturday. It’s a simple henna tattoo, with a complex and meaningful backstory. A sun, symbolizing her dad, a moon, symbolizing her mother, and seven stars, symbolizing Drew. These three celestial objects imprinted on her forearm remind her of a connection to those she’s lost.
While not permanent, it will last at least a week or two...kind of like a prototype for the real thing. She will see it every day, and be reminded of those three losses. She’ll also be reminded of the people they symbolize, and the life she experienced with them.Read more
So this is how his birthday went this year…
I woke up, and actually did not even remember it was his birthday for maybe an hour or two. After I’d dropped the kiddo off at school, I ran to the grocery store for a few things. And that’s when I remembered. Only it didn’t hit me like a ton of bricks. It didn’t stop me in my tracks. It was actually more of a gentle, and even exciting feeling.
A lot of you know I lost my mom when I was a kid. My family didn’t really do grief all that well, and mostly our tactic was to just pretend feelings and dead people didn’t exist. So I grew up with the feeling that, when people die, you don’t get to celebrate them anymore. Sorry, it’s done. You aren’t allowed that anymore.
In my mid twenties, I started to question the way my family did grief though. I began desiring a connection to my mom. At some point, I decided that I was the only one who got to decide what my relationship with her was going to be. And I decided that just because she died, it did NOT mean that I don’t HAVE a mom. It did not mean that I no longer get to celebrate her or share my life with her. So I began creating rituals of my own to build that connection.
Little did I know I would be using those same sort of rituals to honor my fiance in just a few more short years from that time.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
It’s been a little over a month now since Mike proposed. I’ve had a few hard triggers. Trying to think about planning a wedding has been tough at first. The last time I was going to marry someone, he died before we ever got to the big day. He died before we ever even got into the true planning. So needless to say, that part of me that remembers is very aware. I’ve had a few moments of just bursting into heavy, deep sobs because sometimes it feels like reliving the past and it gets very scary to imagine it all disappearing again.
I’ve worried this whole process would be too much to handle, and too emotional to deal with, and that I wouldn’t even be able to manage the idea of planning a wedding ever. But aside from those moments where the fears get big and scary, most of the time, I’ve felt a new awareness of time and a new appreciation for each day.
Just last week, I told Mike, “I’ve gotten to be engaged to you for a whole month now! That’s more than I ever got to before!” And it’s true. Just as with each anniversary year we have hit (4 YEARS next week, wow!)… there is a feeling of thankfulness that we’ve somehow gotten this far. Part of me is still expecting it all to fall apart at any moment like it did when Drew died. But instead of being so afraid of that, I just feel excited for every small piece. Excited to ask one of my best friends to make our wedding cake. Excited to ask another of our closest friends to be the one to marry us. And honored, so honored, that I get the privilege to have had one whole month of planning such a special day, so far. Even if all went wrong and it didn't happen, I still got this part. I still got to spend all this wonderful time dreaming of the day - which is something that was taken from me the last time I was going to marry my person.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.