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Friday, April 29, 2011

A Big Step...

I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward. – Thomas Edison

I have taken a huge step in this grief process.
I have taken off my wedding ring.

I feel the need to keep pushing myself onward through this and I can’t co-exist in two worlds. One in which I am still betrothed to my husband, and one in which I will allow new relationships and new beginnings into my life. I cannot continue to be committed to someone who is not here. “Til death do us part”…I said those very vows and I thought that I meant them. Turns out I meant “Til death do us part, plus 10 months just to be sure”.

So in an effort to keep moving and keep growing, to get out of the stagnation of grief, I have done something that tells the world that I am no longer married. I feel at ease and at peace with the decision. Something I could not even fathom just weeks ago.

It has taken me a long time to accept this for myself. I have taken a few steps forward and many steps back in this process. I know my steps will continue to falter along the way.

But I’m ready to embrace the new life set before me.
The life I must now cultivate and create based on my needs.
And I simply cannot do that if I stay married to a dead man.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Finding meaning...

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be “healing”. A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which the hypothetical healing will take place. When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to “get through it,” rise to the occasion, exhibit the “strength” that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves for the moment: will I be able even to get dressed that day? We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself.”
- Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking

There is a dissonance between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is.
They are rarely one in the same, never really rising to the expectation of the other.

We search for meaning in all of it, often finding no satisfactory answer. Eventually relegating ourselves to the fact that we are not meant to know the answers, or it is futile to continue the relentless search. Giving up on finding meaning.

But sometimes, just sometimes you find meaning where you thought there was none to find.
What you think is going to knock you on your ass and throw you for a loop is sometimes exactly what you needed to PUSH confront that which you so feared.
And in the quest to find your purpose, you give your life new meaning.

Monday, April 25, 2011

beginning afresh...

Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself. I mean, do not be disturbed because of your imperfections, and always rise up bravely from a fall. I’m glad that you make daily a new beginning; there is no better means of progress in the spiritual life than to be continually beginning afresh. – Francis de Sales

I’m trying to remember to learn to be patient with myself. This process of grief is long, hard, and often paradoxical in the way it forces you to yearn for an old life while also learning to appreciate the new one you’ve been given. “To be continually beginning afresh”…

Yesterday was a particularly hard and emotional day for me. I had no idea I was going to get blindsided by it. One of the songs we sang in church was one that we played at Andie’s funeral. Then we went to his parents’ house for lunch and for the kids to do an Easter egg hunt. All I could think about was this day last year when the girls were not even walking yet, and Andie and I talked about how fun it would be this year to see them actually hunt for eggs. It was like a movie continually being replayed over and over in my mind, of how this day was just a short year ago.

The “firsts” of my birthday, the girls’ birthday, and our wedding anniversary came so soon after he died that I was still in a complete fog of shock and disbelief. I was still completely numb, so they didn’t hurt. For Christmas this year we went out of town- something completely out of the ordinary so I didn’t have to be at home doing the same old routine and traditions. So Easter was the first holiday that was kind of the same ol’ thing. It was the first holiday that I’ve come across so far that felt routine and familiar. And in the routine and familiar, the pain seeps in because the void of the person missing is so apparent.

And while all of this hurts deeply, and makes me question if I’ve made any progress at all rather than just spiraling back around to the same issues, I’m still finding things to be joyful in. I’m still learning to appreciate new experiences, new friends, and a new way of life for myself. I’m finally getting to the point where I can accept, albeit in small doses, that happy experiences don’t mean I love him any less. I can hurt and ache for him, and still hold love and fulfillment in my heart- it's not all or nothing. It doesn't mean that if I have one, I can't have the other.

It just means that healing is taking root. Hope is on the horizon.
It means that I make daily a new beginning.
Each day I begin afresh.
Each day I rise up bravely from the fall…

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Around this time 10 years ago Andie kissed me for the first time and we never were apart after that day. April 11, 2001. A day that will be etched in my mind for eternity. A moment that changed my entire future.

This time last year, in April, Andie and I had just closed on 2.5 acres of property in the hill country on which we were to build our dream house. We knew it would take us a couple of years to plan and save, but we had a plan. Signing those papers was a moment that we thought would change our entire future.

Strange how it takes just one moment to change your entire future.
Whether you plan for it or not...

Monday, April 18, 2011


Ten months today and it still does not seem real to me. Many days I feel like he is on an extended trip and most definitely will return soon. I delude myself into thinking that this is all not really happening. It is only in small increments that my mind can process that he is never going to walk through the door again.

I dreaded this anniversary because the girls were only 10 months old when he died, and I feared that it would be hard to consider that half their lives he has not been with them. It is sad to think that from this day forward they will have had more time without him than with him. I am particularly sad for my girls today- more so than for me. I am hit with the gravity of how much they will miss. Have already missed. How little they knew of him. I had about 10 years with him, they only 10 months. Months they will never remember. And no matter how much I tell them about him, they will never truly know him like I did.

I am extremely sad that in all likelihood they will one day think of another man as their father. I want them to have a father figure and I want them to have the emotional connection with a man they can love, trust, admire, and look up to. But I am not okay with the fact that it will not be with their father. The man who helped create them. Who loved them with every ounce of his being just because they were his. I am not ready to accept that another man could love them as much, and as well as their own father. And for that I feel angry that they are the ones getting cheated. How do you ever begin to accept second best for your children?

Every night as I take them to bed we stop at his picture and tell him goodnight, that we love him, and that we want him to visit us in our dreams so we can tell him about our day. I wonder when the day will come when they ask me why we talk to this picture. Who is this man that we have to say goodnight to?

For on that day, the charade will end and I just might actually believe that he's really gone...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


We've got spirit yes we do, we've got spirit, how bout you?

I remember that grade school cheerleading chant so well...

Us widows tends to shy away from the compliments we get about being strong. It feels undeserved to say we are strong when we are only doing what must be done to survive. We didn't choose to walk through the fire, we were forced to and we feel the burn. So we feel like a fraud to take on the "strong" label because it doesn't feel like we rightfully earned it. It was just given to us.

But the truth is, we are strong. And we should own it. Not everyone can suffer a devastating loss and continue to move through the world with grace and poise. Not everyone can lose everything that ever mattered and still choose to get up the next morning and keep going. Not everyone can continue to hold their head up while in the depths of deep despair. But we do. Not because it's something we wanted or chose, but because we have to. We choose not to give up when we lose. And in the words of a current Sugarland song, "Sometimes you gotta lose til you win."

So maybe we shy away from being called strong. Perhaps we could wear the "spirit" label better. We are strong and we are courageous, because we have spirit.

My aunt gave me this sign and I love it.
Because it speaks to me about the unbroken spirit.
It speaks to me about getting back up when life has knocked you down.
Pushing back when life pushes you.
It speaks to me about bouncing back. Getting back on the proverbial horse.

It speaks to me of resilience.

And that is something I can own...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Finding joy...

Today is the tomorrow you were worried about yesterday. Was it worth it? – Siddhartha

I had a great weekend. On Saturday I took the girls to the lake for a little while and they got to swim and play in the water. It was joyous to soak up a couple hours of sunlight and bask in the glow of their smiles. Today my mom met me at the Home and Garden Show and then we decided to head over to a local BBQ joint to hear some live music that the local radio show was broadcasting. The girls were gloriously behaved all day. It was exactly the kind of weekend that Andie and I loved. The reason we chose to live in the quaint little town that always has some fun activity going on.

On the way home I was thinking to myself that this was the first time in a long time that I have felt like life really might be worth it after all. I felt like there might actually be things to look forward to. We walked in the door and mom flipped the switch to turn on the kitchen light. Another bulb blew. The first in many, many weeks. I smiled and cried a little thinking he must be with us enjoying the perfect weekend and just wanted to let us know he was here.

I actually cooked a real meal for dinner. Only the third or fourth time I’ve done it since Andie passed. It felt good to feel like a “real mom” who actually puts a home cooked meal on the table and eats with her kids. Usually I throw together kid food and then skip dinner for myself. Tonight I savored the tilapia and zucchini (“nini” as the kids call it). It was one of Andie’s favorite dishes of mine.

After bath time the girls were giddy. They horse played and loved on each other for about 30 minutes straight- giggling the whole time. As any mother knows, there is no better sound than that of your children’s laughter. I even got some spontaneous kisses out of them. Bonus!

All in all it was a wonderful weekend, one in which I found some joy.
Of course there was a huge piece missing, but for once I was able to not focus on that.
I was able to focus on what was actually in front of me.
And for once I was able to not worry about tomorrow…

Friday, April 8, 2011


Truth is simply whatever you bring yourself to believe. – Alice Childress

Not long after Andie died I read a couple books pertaining to signs that our loved ones give us from the other side. I was terrified of missing some sign or communication due to lack of knowledge about the subject. One of the most common ways that our loved ones communicate, according to both books I read, is through electrical currents. Often flickering lights, or burned out lights, or things turning on and off for no apparent reason.

Four months after Andie died I decided to have the kitchen backsplash tiled. It was something he and I had discussed many times but never did because he didn't want to spend the money. He thought it was frivolous. When the tile guy came to give me the bid and measure the backsplash we discussed why I was deciding to do it. I jokingly said that I was doing it because my husband never wanted me to and now he wasn't around anymore to tell me "no". That day one of the recessed lights in the kitchen went out. We've never had any of the recessed lights go out in this house since we moved in. When it happened I joked that it was Andie's way of giving me a sign that he still disapproved of having the backsplash done. I replaced the bulb and didn't think anything of it again. A couple of weeks later the guys showed up to actually install the backsplash. That day another bulb blew out; a completely different one from the first one. And I started to really wonder if it was in fact a sign from Andie.

I have since had between 6-8 light bulbs go out in my kitchen in the last 6 months alone. The last two that burned out I never replaced because I got scared that I must have an electrical short and I didn't want to risk a fire. They've been burned out for several weeks now.

I had an electrician come to the house today to take a look. He checked the switches that turn the lights on. Both were perfectly fine. Then he went into the attic to make sure there wasn't a short, or a wiring problem. All looked good- so good that he complimented how great of a job the electrician that wired the house had done. I showed him the light bulbs I have been using to make sure I wasn't buying the wrong kind or wrong wattage. They were exactly what I needed according to him.

He said he had no reasonable explanation for why my lights would randomly be burning out. He said it was "strange" that it wasn't always the same light, and that it wasn't always burning out in the same way. For instance, sometimes they burn out after they've been on for a while, and other times when they've been off and you flip the switch they pop and go out. He said sometimes recessed lights go out when they overheat but then they come back on. He'd never heard of them popping and blowing like mine do, and he couldn't think of a reason that this would be happening. He said he'd talk with some other electricians that he knew to see if they had ever come across this problem, but it was nothing he could fix because there was nothing even wrong. Everything looked perfect.

"There's one more thing I want to tell you," he said before he left. "You're a really good mother. You're so attentive to your girls." I was almost brought to tears by the sincerity of the compliment, and by the fact that it was so out of context from the rest of our conversation. Especially since he had only been in my house and able to observe me with my kids for a couple of hours. I have to admit that for half a second I wondered if Andie was speaking to me through this man, perhaps sending me a message...

The fervor to see signs from Andie isn't as strong anymore.
I feel more content with the unknown than I did in the early days when answers and absolutes seemed necessary.
I still don't know what I believe about signs from the other side.
I'm still trying to find my own truth in that.
But I have to admit that after what happened today, my interest is piqued...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thinking of you...

This time of year is hard-It was our favorite time of year. The weather is turning nice and we loved to be outdoors more. You loved to BBQ and talk walks around the neighborhood. You liked sprucing up the yard…taking pride in how it looked. The wildflowers are blooming. The hill country becomes pretty again. The changing of the seasons reminds me that I am edging closer to the time last year when you died. I’m flooded with memories of things. It seems almost anything these days can make me think of you. Do you think of us too? Are you still here?
I wonder if I will always have you so fresh on my brain and readily accessible. So much reminds me of you.

I’ll think of you when…
I eat ice cream
I smell the familiar aroma of a grill lighting up
I hear a fish jump at the lake
I seem someone wearing the kind of fishing shirts you had taken to wearing, almost exclusively
I see a jeep

And I’ll think of you when…
I drive down hill country roads always scanning to look for deer or other wildlife like you used to do
I see a center console fishing boat- just the kind you always admired.
I pass a Dairy Queen that has their blizzard of the month posted on the marquee
I see a police car crest a hill on the horizon in oncoming traffic. It still makes my heart stop for a split second thinking it could be you…
I sit on the dock at the lakehouse soaking up the sun, feeling your presence
I hear the familiar rumble of a loud truck down the street
I eat at Herbert’s Taco Hut or make spaghetti- your favorite dish of mine
I replace the empty toilet paper roll
I load the dishwasher…trying my hardest to do it as you taught me. To pack in as much as possible

And I’ll think of you when…
Summer rolls around- our favorite time of year.
Someone mentions Texas Hold ‘em, and I remember the time we went to Port Aransas to gamble on the boat there and I forgot my ID and we had to drive all the way back to where we were staying to get it because they wouldn’t let me on the boat without it. You were so irritated with me and teased me about it ever since.
When someone mentions the border or Del Rio. We had a horrible trip there but laughed about it for years afterward.
I see a weimaraner. I gave you a weim puppy for our first anniversary. We took him to Kerrville for a weekend get away (against your wishes and better judgment) and had to come home in the middle of the night when he threw up on us in the bed. We laughed about that one for years too.
When I'm tired and being an only parent seems unbearable

And I’ll especially think of you when…
I look at our children and hear them laugh and watch them grow into beautiful women- the kind you’d be proud of
I wake and realize your side of the bed is still empty
I finally make a decision about whether or not to keep pursuing our dreams, or start making some of my own
I have to make the hard decisions in life…and the easy ones too

I will think of you when…
One day, I have found myself again

And I will think of you too, when the bluebonnets bloom…

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


The necklace with his ring on it is sitting on my bathroom counter amongst a pile of random jewelry that I haven’t gotten around to putting back in its proper place in my jewelry box. I took it off 9 days ago. I thought I’d make it to a year at least before I decided I didn’t need the weight of its security around my neck.

I took it off mainly because I got sunburned that weekend and it was irritating the back of my neck. I had intentions of putting it back on when my sunburned faded. But I didn’t. And I’m okay with that.

At least I feel like I’m okay with it. I haven’t missed it over the past 9 days. I’ve enjoyed being able to wear some of my other necklaces that have been patiently waiting their turn in my jewelry box.

But. Ever the analytical one, I worry that I’m just deluding myself into thinking I’m more healed than I am. I worry that I’m not really working the grief these days, but just putting it on a shelf to deal with later. I’m afraid that I feel too okay about this. I worry that I should not be doing so well. I feel like I should be hurting more. I should be searching for joy, not already finding it. I should be hoping for peace, not experiencing it. I should be wracked with guilt about disconnecting from him, even if it’s only in a symbolic way; not resigned to the quiet acceptance of it.

What I’ve realized is that holding onto the tangible doesn’t make him any less intangible. Wearing his necklace with his ring on it, continuing to wear my wedding ring, keeping his clothes in the closet right where he left them…none of it means that he’s not gone.

My biggest fear is that the more I heal, the more I fear I will forget him.
And that is what makes the pain return and the tears fall.
The thought of him being just a faded memory when all I want is for him to still be vivid,
and real,
and tangible.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Passing through...

I traveled out of my comfort zone today. I drove two-lane back country roads to a small town in Texas with a population of less than 1000. It was the same route I drove countless days to and from work over 4 years ago. It was the same area that Andie once patrolled while on duty. I couldn't help but think that I was following the very path he did on many days. Wondering what he was thinking as he saw the very same things I saw today while he was just passing through...

A bucolic setting; most of the drive picturesque farmland and pastures. I passed some corn fields. Freshly baled hay. Horses and cows grazing. I drove past the house of the deputy who was recently reassigned Andie's unit number and thought about how time keeps moving and doesn't stop on account of the mourning. I flashed back to how sucker-punched I felt the day I found out that his number had been reassigned. Some other deputy would be checking on the radio as unit 146...he essentially no longer existed even as a number.

I drove past an old man driving a tractor down the road. He waved in a true friendly Texas fashion. I passed the truck stop where Andie used to get free coffee every morning that he was on duty. I again pass another old man driving a tractor down the road and marvel that some of the old ways of life still exist. The winding, curvy road takes me through a small town of less than 500. Most of the crossroads I pass are named after people. Mostly of Polish decent. Those who settled this area centuries ago. Again, I am reminded that time keeps moving. None of those who settled the area and had roads named after them are still here. It feels like a whole other lifetime that I once traveled these roads on a daily basis. It was a different life for me I seemed to just pass through.

I traveled this way today to pay respects to a former colleague who passed away earlier this week. Another young husband and father taken too soon from his family. It was the first memorial service I have attended since my own husband's. I held myself together pretty well. My eyes welled up with tears when they played one of the same songs that was played at Andie's funeral, but my breath didn't catch in my throat until I talked to his wife. Until I had to look her in the eye.

In her eyes I saw the shock and devastation. I saw a woman who could not yet comprehend what her life was becoming. I saw what the rest of the world calls "strong" as she held herself together and greeted everyone. I know the truth behind that strength. I know she is merely surviving, existing, breathing. In her eyes I saw the searching...searching for reassurance that she is in a nightmare and none of this is real. Searching for comfort. Searching for answers.

In her eyes I saw me...