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 birthday was hard. Thanksgiving was hard. Christmas and New Years were both hard. Yet it is the “Hallmark Holiday” that seems to burn more than build the wave of sadness.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
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
I have to expect that my widowed parent journey is, and will always be, just that: MY widowed parent journey. It is unlikely that I will meet another single parent who like me stood over his father-in-law, mother-in-law and wife while they all took their last breath. Whenever I share this fact, most people’s jaws drop in surprise, and then people get quiet, and struggle to say something meaningful. My grief for my wife is intertwined with my grief for her parents and the life we had. I used to get really annoyed with people who quickly try to change the topic. Now I have more understanding for them. How can I expect them to respond correctly? No one truly knows what to say in times of grief. Besides, words that work today may not work tomorrow. Or, words that work for me may not work for others. Also, since my grief for my wife is intertwined with my grief for her parents, how can I really expect others to understand the complexities of my grief, grief that can quickly turn into anger? This is where gratitude is very helpful.Read more
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.
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
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
It’s an instruction that Sarah has given to me as I walk out the door to work more times than I can count. Sometimes, it’s fairly innocuous. Other times, it’s said with a fervent, if not pleading “PLEASE don’t die today”; usually after waking up from a particularly emotional dream.
It’s not a “tic” or meaningless, repetitive saying. She means it. She is constantly and consciously aware that at any moment, I could be gone. Any of us could, for any reason. Is saying it going to change fate? No, but it does indeed absolve her from responsibility in the event the worst occurs...like a pre-emptive “I told you so”.
Interestingly, I don’t say it nearly as much. I do say the far less instructive “Drive safe” often, but it is rarely “Don’t Die”. I think there are a few observations I’d like to make.Read more