26 May 2016


It's been two years now since I last held his hand.  It's been two years since I looked into his eyes and said goodbye. It's been two years since I left that hospital room without him.  The memories I have of that last week, of his last year and a half, are so vivid it's as if my body has an internal clock that memorized every moment.  It brings me such sadness that when I am asked about him, my first thoughts are of his battle with cancer.   That even though that fight was such a small portion of our life together, that is the part that got deeply imprinted on my heart. When I close my eyes I can picture his face so clearly, though it quickly morphs to the picture in my mind's eyes to him with the oxygen machine attached to it.

Reflecting on our time together it makes sense to me that I would remember those last months so vividly, but not just because of the trauma involved.  From the moment he brought the diagnosis home, we finally stopped taking each other for granted.  We stopped focusing on the logistics of caring for three little girls, and spent time with them.  When we went to dinner, we actually took in what the other was saying.  We stopped expecting that we would have decades to spend together, and enjoyed the gift of the present we had.  So when I look back at the landscape of life we created together, I am now choosing to focus my energy on the moments that passed us by as we took our life, love, and health for granted.

I remember how amused we were that when he proposed while at a camping trip, the ring box that had been given to him with the ring had a small light in it that lit up when the box was opened.  Perfect for proposing in the dark..... I still have that box.

I remember our wedding day.  After reaching the end of the aisle where I met my soon to be husband I saw my father's orchid that served as a boutonniere (a harlequin phalaenopsis) on C's suit, pinned upside down.... and I could barely suppress my giggles.  After the ceremony I told him, then we decided to keep it that way for the pictures simply because we found it funny.

I remember on our honeymoon in San Francisco, we managed to snag a silver Chrysler Sebring convertible for our week long trip.  We lucked out at the unseasonably warm weather and enjoyed crossing the golden gate bridge with it's top down as we headed to enjoy wine country together.

I remember having a difficult delivery with our oldest daughter, and being in and out of consciousness for the first two hours of her life.  C spent those two hours holding her 7lb 9oz body, in a chair with no arm rests.  Even though he was offered the option of putting her in a bassinet if he needed to give his arms a break, he didn't want to.  He treasured that time, he always felt so strongly bonded to her and contributed it in part to those first hours he had with her.

I remember our one and only overnight trip without the two girls, before discovering that a third would join our family the next year.  We headed north to see Falling Water in Pennsylvania.  We both enjoyed craftsman architecture, having a special fondness for Frank Lloyd Wright and got to geek out together on the tour.

There are so many of these little moments we shared.  I spend a great deal of time focusing on those memories that make me smile, the ones that make me feel loved, the ones that make me feel lucky for having the time together that we did.  So today, as the girls and I follow our traditions that honor his life, I won't be checking Facebook nor will I be answering texts..... I will focus on our time together, stories we will share, answering questions the girls have about Daddy, tears and smiles.... and I will remember it because I will be fully present for them and not taking the time I have with them for granted.

31 December 2014

Goodbye 2014

These first holidays without C have been just as difficult as anticipated, more for me than the girls.  They have been so happily distracted by travel, family, friends, and love that I don't think it has truly registered just how devastating these firsts have been.  For this I am thankful.  I have spent the time since C's birthday preparing myself and them for what the holidays would bring, I have a feeling once we are back home in familiar surroundings and less distraction, K and possibly H will find their feelings and we will have to process through it all then.

For me, it has been so difficult to see the happy pictures that flood Facebook, Mommy and Daddy and the kids happily posed in front of their trees in wonderfully coordinated outfits.  That used to be us.  Jumping out of bed in the middle of the night with the realization we forgot to move the elf.  That used to be us.  Wrapping all the presents and wondering how the girls would react in the moment of opening their gifts.  That used to be us.  Planning the day's activities to see that joy in the girls' eyes.  That used to be us.  I have carried on in trying to do what I can for the girls, trying not to mention C every five minutes like I want to, but encouraging his name to be spoken when it comes up organically.  I have caught K looking at some of the pictures that line his Mother's wall, especially the ones with her and C, but she quickly moves on if I try to talk with her about them.  Talking about past Christmases has been difficult, mostly because I can't speak of them without the words getting caught in my throat as I hold back my tears. 

Perpetually feeling caught in the middle between wanting to celebrate and be happy and fully loved by those who care so much for us and wanting to run and hide and pretend the holidays don't exist.  Watching everyone around us, moving forward wrapped up in their joy of the holidays, still causes me to feel as though I am still in the eye of the tornado.  Watching everyone's lives keeping moving, sometimes joyfully, sometimes not, while mine still feels frozen in time..... still picking up pieces of my heart is so intensely painful.  I had that fun, that love, that joy.... and knowing that there will be a time where I find that again, but longing for the memories of the last decade doesn't allow for it now.  I miss it and I want it back, and there is absolutely nothing I can do to fix that.

And in the middle of all of this internal holiday madness and chaos, two of my favorite ladies became engaged to their loves with weddings planned for this upcoming year.  And since both of them know my heart, and know that I am truly happy for them.... I can be brutally honest in admitting how much the news of their joy stung.  I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what exactly hurt so much.  Part of it is jealousy, I miss having my other half, that safe place to fall.... the shelter to huddle under when everything else was painful and confusing.  C was my rock and I miss him more than ever.  But that isn't quite the root of the sting.  Part of it is wistfulness, I remember when C proposed, I remember planning our wedding, even those good memories have a harsh sting to my heart.   I know that happiness he would have had for our families, especially for his sister.  I can imagine conversations that we would have had..... from joking about making sure they included a safety pin in their wedding day prep list lest one of their dresses break like my wedding dress did moments before walking down the isle to looking forward to preparing the girls to be a part of those weddings and hoping that the weddings would happen on a day they are feeling particularly cooperative.  But that isn't it..... those conversations only appear in my minds eye, even though I can still so clearly hear his voice.

The root of this sting is the fact that with these events, I will no longer be able to sit in the eye of the storm and watch the world go by.... whether I am ready or not, this year will bring new memories, new laughter, new joy that C will not be here for.  He will not be sitting next to me on those days, he will not be helping me with the girls.... our lives will continue to move forward without him.  We will join the storm of life with it's new ups and downs, creating a new life for ourselves.  And I don't know if I am ready for that as I continue spending my quiet moments praying that I wake up from this nightmare, that I open my eyes and see his face laying on the pillow next to mine.

So I say goodbye to the most painful year of my life and hope that as we move into this next one, my heart can open to the possibility that joy and laughter can reside next to the grief and sadness.  That the new memories will not replace the old, and the fear of that will fade as time marches forward.

24 November 2014


This Wednesday, the 26th of November, will mark six months since C died and also, two years since the original diagnosis. Add this onto the cusp of Thanksgiving, and the bonus of the only memories that seem to surface regularly are the painful ones from the last two years and this has been a tremendously difficult season so far.

I remember vividly the look on his face when he brought home the diagnosis two years ago..... if I focus on it too long, I can still feel the ice water run through my veins in reaction to the news, the same ice water that I felt the moment I realized I had watched him take his last breath. Almost exactly a year ago, we were devastated once more by the news that we could not travel to Texas for Thanksgiving after learning that the cancer had progressed to his lungs. Beginning the next phase of treatment that, now in retrospect, was the start of a very quick downhill slide that would have him leave our family far sooner than we had hoped. The devastating pain that I feel reliving these truths moment after moment are nothing that words can accurately capture. The reemergence of these memories and feeling the weight of them at unexpected times makes me feel like I will never move forward.

Having my brain constantly going does sometimes allow for some happier memories, but the pain of any of them at all still makes me feel like this gaping open wound will never heal. I finally went back into the church service in the last two weeks..... the first time I really spent any time in there since C's memorial service. I had to leave mid-sermon the first time, there was too much that I couldn't handle after also sitting through some very moving hymns. I went again this past Sunday and made it through the sermon, only to have to leave during the prayer at the end. When C and I would attend services together, this was the moment he always put his arm around me as we bowed our heads in prayer..... and his arm would stay around me for the last two songs. This past Sunday, at this same moment I felt so cold, and alone, and the pain of the memory hit me like a ton of bricks, I ran out of there once again.

The emotional toll this roller coaster takes....... I feel so crazy as I go from feeling so sad I can't get out of my own head, to getting through it and realizing I pushed through the hurt and that I am still standing, that I'm okay, just be knocked down by something as simple as changing the paint color our home in an attempt to move forward.......  I had the interior of our house completely repainted this week. As the primer went up and the paint color changed drastically, I sat on the phone with a friend of mine for hours, completely devastated, feeling like I had made the wrong choice and that I longed for the old color and the memories of C and two of our friends painting that room many years ago..... he had picked the color after completely vetoing my choice.... which did kind of look like battleship gray, he was right, not that I think I ever told him that...... I was newly pregnant with H (we hadn't told anyone yet) and I kept ducking out of the house to avoid paint fumes, attempting to be slick and not give away our secret to our friends. It's kind of funny the lengths I went to since we weren't sure if we were ready to tell, little memories of a happier time that seems so far away.

Now I am trying to focus on the realization that memories don't disappear just because you start to move forward, that changing the paint color doesn't change the memories and the fact that those memories will always exist, they just no longer have that visible reminder. And finding a way to come to terms with realizing that it's not the color I long for, it's the longing for the old life that it represented............

10 November 2014

Happy Birthday Daddy

This past Thursday would have been C's 47th birthday.  I've been dreading his birthday for awhile now, knowing that it marks the start of the holiday season and what is sure to be an incredibly painful and rough two months for all of us.  I reflect on where we were this time in past years, looking for some peace and comfort in good memories that we made as a family and as a couple, but they are steeply overshadowed by the images from the last few months of his life.  As difficult as these few days have been, I want to try to focus on the blessings we were given.

We began C's birthday celebration with a friend bringing doughnuts and coffee.  This particular friend is an incredible ray of sunshine in our lives.  Her strong faith, upbeat personality, and her ability to be present in the moment make her one of the easiest people for me to talk to and I am very blessed with the love she and her family have for ours.  The girls and I then went to the airport to pick up C's sister..... I am thankful she was able to come up for these few days.  Our age and personalities being very similar, she gets where I am and supports me no matter where I sit with my grief.  She listens without judgement and goes out of her way to make my life easier, she was a very strong and comforting element to this rough couple of days.  I am incredibly blessed that my husband's family is truly my family as well.

The five of us then went a nearby restaurant that the girls picked.  C had never been there, but the girls were confidant that he would have liked it.  The meal went really well, anyone who dines out at restaurants with young children know just how quickly these things can go downhill, but we were able to enjoy that time together.  After lunch we went to pick up balloons for daddy, the girls each chose two and I grabbed a few extra just in case.  We got them home and finished our birthday cards to Daddy, attached them to the balloons and went outside to send them to heaven.  Just as we finished getting organized and went outside,  the rain that had been lurking all morning gave way to a hint of sunshine and we were able to release them without less desirable weather threatening our celebration.

The girls were so excited to send the balloons to Daddy, they watched the balloons float up and followed them until they couldn't see them anymore..... that was how we know that Daddy got them.  I am so blessed to have these girls, for as overwhelmed as I get, their innocence and faith bring me back from very painful places in my own heart.  K had a particularly rough day as well, again mirroring my feelings and actions in a less than flattering way.  The weight of it all has had her and I at odds again, but we moved quicker into a place of comfort for each other than we had previously.  I am so thankful for the counselors who are working with us to find our new path together.

November is a month where we focus on the things we are most thankful for.  I struggle with this for obvious reasons this year.   But seeing beyond my pain and taking moments to look at the world around me,  I am so incredibly thankful for the friends I have.  From those who drop everything in the middle of the day because I need an ear or a hike in the woods, friends who sacrifice their own sleep talking to me on the phone late at night because I can't, to those who text me funny jokes at random on the chance that I need a moment of levity.  I am thankful for family who don't let me drift too far into isolation and make sure I know just how loved I am.  I am thankful I am able to be home with the girls and focus on rebuilding all that has been shattered.  I am thankful for those who have traveled this road before me, who take the time to revisit the same wounds that are so fresh for me and help guide me through.  As I look back over the journey that C and I traveled together, I see the blessings that were given to us along the way....  I want to focus on them, but I know that for this year, it is an uphill battle that I feel I am loosing everyday.

30 October 2014

Rough Days are Rough

Writing out our journey together throughout C's fight with cancer helped me process so much of what was going on at the time.  The feelings, the highs, the lows..... finding the words to turn them into my entries helped me make order of the chaos.  I think I need to continue this outlet.....

Moving into our second season without C, the numbness and shock have firmly worn off and made way for intense sadness and anger.... especially for both K and myself.  Trying to find our own ways to deal with the intense emotions that neither of us know what to do with, we constantly battle against ourselves and each other every day.  Not always the hallmark card of warmth and tenderness, a lot of our interactions are very intense and very raw, buffered by the tiniest string of restraint I can muster.  There are times where we yell instead of hug, scream instead of talk...... we are working together to change that pattern, but change doesn't come easy.

I have found that making myself as busy as possible with every single physical activity that crosses my path, any reason to not be in the house we shared and still trying to stay away from people has become the norm.  Being in groups of friends, even those who love us most is so hard.  Feeling like every time I enter a room, everyone has been talking about me and that all eyes are on me. What is she going to do? What is she going to say?  What do I say to her?  I have to say something, just try not to say something that will make her cry...... are just a few of the thoughts I feel floating by me as I walk around, trying to move through life.  Even around those who don't know me, I feel like there is a giant neon sign over my head "widow".  Moving quickly through crowded rooms, I have become a master at the disappearing act.  I have reduced my inner circle of friends to an insanely small number and even only a portion of those will I talk to honestly.  I have found that a lot of my words have a bite that other people can't handle or fear taking on, so I tend to keep things to myself. For those who really want to know, there is nothing you can say that will "make" me cry, most of the time I am on the verge of tears anyway, and it may not be anything you say that triggers them.  I remember my husband's name, it doesn't hurt to hear it.  He had cancer, I know that.  It was aggressive, he was so young, I am so young, the girls are so young....... I know these things too.  There are many things that are said that throw me into a rage, it is extremely easy to do lately, but you won't know that..... that is what the punching bag in my garage is for.

K struggles with feelings so intense and no good way to express them, except for screaming, hitting and raging at anyone in her path.  The moments where it hits her are, like myself, unpredictable.  Her anger covering up the most horrible sadness of a child who has lost a parent and feels alone.  At her most recent counseling session her declaration of "I want to kiss daddy, I want to hug daddy.... but I can't" sums up the pain in her heart pretty well.  Unfortunately it tends to manifest itself most often in striking out and hitting me where it hurts.... "you are the meanest mommy" "you are the worst mommy ever" "I wish you weren't my mommy"..... I struggle to find calm and patience to see through her words and find the root of the pain and address that rather than the words being thrown at me in the heat of the moment.  K's fixation on feeling lied to, that we didn't confirm her fear that daddy was going to die, that she knew it was going to happen but nobody listened to her has made her keenly aware of and intolerant of lies whether they are purposeful or not.  Her worst times are like a mirror, as she and I are exactly the same.  Anything to avoid feeling the hurt and the pain that is unrelenting, not really worrying about collateral damage.  She is starting to open up and come to me in these times of pain, trying to break the cycle we have created together.

H has been very factual in how she has processed everything that has happened, she has wanted to know everything from where was the cancer located in daddy's body?  how did it move to the lungs? were you there when daddy died?  to did you see him go to heaven?  Her faith that daddy is finally not hurting in Heaven and that God is helping him not miss us so much is both comforting and horribly sad for myself to hear in her quiet, purposeful voice.  As daddy's birthday approaches next week, she is definitely starting to feel the emotional aspect of everything and her pain at the upcoming holidays is more obvious.  The tears flow a little freer now with her remembering last year's Christmas and wondering if we can have a Christmas this year without daddy is hard for me to think about let alone reassure her about, though I do the best I can.

Baby T has continued to be the source of joy and blissful ignorance, comedic relief for us all.  She still points at pictures of daddy and recognizes him...... I hope that his image is always one she recognizes.  This summer she started demanding bedtime stories, and as I rock with her at night reading the same books that C used to read to the older two my mind often drifts and I can still hear his voice reading them. One day I will be thankful for this...... one day.

25 June 2014


It's been one month today, and my heart hurts more than words can describe.  Behind a carefully crafted mask that I wear everyday, I hide, refusing to let my guard down for a second for fear of loosing control.  There is no good answer for how I feel, the surface feelings change so rapidly from 'fine' to fear to faith to anger...... underneath is the most incredible sadness, a piece of me is missing.

The girls and I are constantly on the go, and people seem to think this is strong, but truthfully I am escaping my thoughts, my house, responsibilities that I don't want to have.  Buying plane tickets, realizing that I am not purchasing for a family of five, but of four.  My wedding ring that holds C's ring on my finger, I can't take them off, but looking at them brings the tears.  Being at a graduation party for a friend's daughter and realizing I don't have my phone out and ready..... that I am no longer on call.  One of my closest friends lives directly across from the hospital C never left and a few streets over from the Cancer Center we spent so much time at, the detours we have discovered to avoid those buildings to get to and leave her home adds ridiculous amounts of driving time..... but I just can't drive by them anymore.  Meeting with lawyers and advisors, learning that as C took care of us in life, he had planned well for taking care of us now.

Watching the girls overwhelms me with sadness.  Yes, I can see him through facial expressions, mannerisms, sometimes in a phrase they will use..... one day I am sure it will bring comfort and maybe a smile, but today it is painful.  Every first that Baby T has, and there are still plenty, are beyond bittersweet.  I desperately want to text him pictures, send him a quick excited note, talk about it at the end of the day after we have wrangled them into bed, share it all with him..... but I can't.  

I know he is in heaven watching us and watching over us and is here with us..... but this doesn't bring much comfort right now....... the truth is I am selfish, I want him here, with me, in the flesh.  I look over at his chair that is now empty and all I want is my best friend back.

02 June 2014


I have been replaying the events of Sunday night and Monday in a seemingly never ending movie loop in my mind.  Sometimes in incredibly clear focus other times in a blur of sheer emotional turmoil.  In an effort to release the pain and make sense of the senseless, I have decided to write down the events.  I have added and deleted more times than I care to admit as I debated often on what parts I can share and which are still too raw, painful, intimate.

I returned to the hospital that Sunday night, I was worried as he had had a rough morning and his pulse had been racing most of the day.  His mom and sister went to spend some time with him in the late afternoon as his sister was leaving the next morning to return to Texas, I knew how emotional it would be for C.  It has increasingly tugged on his heart that he was far from his family and he expressed often the idea of moving back.  So when I went to his room I checked the monitors outside, his pulse was much lower than it had been and his blood oxygen was decently high.  I remember being so thankful and relieved and looked forward to finally shaving his face like we had been trying to do for a few days, but one thing or another had prevented that from happening.  As I went into his room, I wasn't sure that night would work either.

His breathing was heavy and labored, more so than it had been throughout the past week.  He had taken to typing messages instead of talking.  In this I am sad, but thankful..... all our last conversations are mine to look over when I want, without the blur of emotional memory.  He was concerned and we discussed moving him to the BiPap machine, a heavier duty breathing machine than the High Flow he was currently on.  We decided, with the doctor's advice that we would watch and wait since his numbers were okay.  As we got ready to go to sleep, Clint admitted he was scared and asked to hold my hand,  so as we fell asleep that night we did so holding hands.  When I woke up two hours later I looked at the monitor, I am not sure what woke me but as I looked up his numbers had gone crazy again, his breathing was still labored, and he just couldn't catch his breath.  We decided to move him to the BiPap machine and after getting it situated on his face, he and I went back to holding hands and fell back asleep.

We woke up to the doctor standing there Monday morning...... still holding hands...... he spoke with us about the machine and how C was doing with it.  I went outside to speak with him further as I had taken to doing, the doctors weren't very optimistic and while C knew that, he didn't need to hear all the numbers and details.  While I was outside his room, I received a text from him.  His breathing had again become labored, even on the machine...... C felt like this was it, he was in pain, exhausted and scared.  I immediately made arrangements to get the girls there, as C requested, so that he could give them one last hug, though he wasn't sure he could hold on long enough to do so.  I then called his sister who was en route to the airport to head home to let her know of the turn of events.  She and C's mom decided to turn around and come back to the hospital.

As I made arrangements to increase C's pain medicine, he was texting me furiously trying to get out the thoughts before he couldn't anymore..... maybe one day I will share those, but not today..... let's just say, I know exactly how much he loved me and our girls.  The girls arrived at the hospital, gave their daddy hugs, trying to be careful not to wake him.  A wonderful friend took them home with her and treated them to a day of fun, not knowing what that day was sure to bring.

That afternoon, shortly after C's brother also made it to the hospital, surrounded by family and our love, he took his last breath.  I was still holding his hand.

There is much, much more to that day, I have to admit that I struggle with much that went on.  I know in my heart that all decisions made were the ones he wanted, I know that I loved him through the fear and the pain, and I know he fought to not leave us........