Happy second birthday in Heaven

Today was Bryon’s second birthday in Heaven.  You might have read my blog yesterday when I wrote about how it was one year since the funeral and you must be confused as to why I am writing about his birthday.  It’s true.  His funeral was a day before his birthday.  I had to experience a painful first the very next day after the funeral.  And the firsts just kept coming.  My birthday is in two days, my daughters is next month and our wedding anniversary is at the end of September. This corner of the year will probably always be the roughest five weeks of the year for me.

It seems so unreal that we are celebrating Bryon’s second birthday in Heaven.  At times, I am still stunned that this all happened. But I decided that last week that the anniversary of his death will be the sad day.  His birthday will be a happy day. So I decided to have a party for our friends to get together and share stories. Instead of dwelling on Bryon’s death, it was time to celebrate that he had lived.

Last year, the day after his funeral, a few of us had dinner at hibachi because that is what we had done for his last living birthday.  I was thinking of doing that again but I wanted to include more people and it would be hard to have a lot of people at a hibachi table.

I decided that I wanted to release balloons at the cemetery and then have funfetti cheesecake at my house.  I wanted to buy a whole cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory.  Bryon would have loved that.  He loved funfetti cake and cheesecake.  It would be perfect.  But my friend called the local Cheesecake Factory, they said they couldn’t sell whole funfetti cheesecakes.  But that’s okay.  I found a recipe online that worked well.

A few of my friends met at the cemetery.  One of our friends brought a pennant from Siena College to decorate the grave.  The same friend read the prayer of St. Francis which worked well because I did not prepare anything to be said.  St. Francis was Bryon’s favorite Saint so he would approve.

My daughter and I brought a bundle of balloons to release.  I was very impressed with my daughter.  She is not yet three but she understood that the balloons were going to be released and sent to Heaven for Bryon.  I was worried that she wasn’t going to understand the concept and that she would get upset but she let the balloons go and seemed happy that they were going to Heaven.  

After the cemetery, we went back to my house for pizza, funfetti cheesecake and stories.  There also may have been some Moxie tasting.  Kimmy Gibber did not like it.

This might be the start of a new tradition.  Maybe it won’t.  But for the time being, it is comforting to know that I have a group of friends who are like family who want to  remember Bryon’s life.  And I hold my Albany family close to my heart.

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Remembering the final farewell

One year ago today, we said our final farewell to Bryon.

I wore a black dress and my daughter wore a white dress with black polka dots.

I remember meeting at the funeral home with immediate family and the pallbearers.  A few friends drove up from New York City and came by since they were not able to make it to the calling hours.  I remember that I forgot to put on my pearls that Bryon had bought me in St. Thomas on our honeymoon cruise.  Several friends offered me their pairs of pearls, but I declined.  I figured I wasn’t meant to wear them.

I remember everyone saying their final good-byes at the funeral home before heading to the church.  Top Gun had been paused during the reading of the Prayer of St. Francis but the promo music magically came on as everyone went up to the coffin for the last time.

I remember the funeral.  The music.  The five priests that were there.  The eulogy given by his best friend.  It was funny and mildly inappropriate which is what Bryon would have wanted.  The only thing I don’t remember was seeing who was there.  I just remember that the church was full.  

I remember the wristbands that were given out.  Bryon said (hypothetically) that if he died that he wanted an open bar and he wanted wristbands given out at church because he didn’t want freeloaders showing up to his reception.  He only wanted true mourners there.

I remember that I didn’t cry.  It’s the only funeral I have never cried at.  I could go to a funeral of a complete stranger and cry. I remember feeling guilty.  I remember mentioning this to my daughter’s godmother.  I asked her if I was a horrible person but she said that I had been crying for five months.  

I remember thinking about how odd it was to be the widow.  I remember watching my grandmother’s as widows.  To be getting in and out of the limo with their children.  I was getting in and out of the limo with my daughter.  But my grandmother’s children were all grown.  My daughter was not yet two.  I remember changing her diaper in the limo after Mass while waiting for the procession to move to the cemetery.  I remember that my daughter fell asleep on the way to the cemetery and my father stayed in the limo with her during the time at the cemetery.  

I remember that we had our reception at one of our favorite bars, McGeary’s.  I remember seeing my friends and family there, all dressed up.  Lunch was served and I remember my daughter trying to eat the butter by itself.  I remember talking to my cousins and aunts and uncles who came in from Maine, Massachusetts and Florida.  I drank Bailey’s on ice. I remember Bryon was toasted and we sang along to his favorite songs.  I remember people coming up to me saying that even though it sounds weird, it was the best funeral that they have ever been to.  

And now it has been one year since that day.  Feels like a lifetime ago and like it was yesterday.

The first year

It was one year ago today that I watched the life leave Bryon’s body.

It was one year ago today that I left the hospital for the last time.  

Without Bryon.

It was the first day of the rest of my life.  

A life without Bryon.

365 days have passed since Bryon has left this world.  365 days without his legendary personality, his stories, his intelligent insight and his jokes.

365 nights that I have gone to bed knowing that Bryon won’t be there when I wake up.  365 nights that I lay in bed alone, not having him to argue about the TV being left on or who is the bigger bed hog. I lie in bed knowing I will never be held by Bryon again.

For those 365 days and nights, I have been surviving.  

This has been a year of survival.  It wasn’t about any long term plan.  It was about making it one day at a time.  Some days I didn’t want to get out of bed, but that wasn’t an option as the mother of a two year old.  I had to get up each day to take care of my daughter.  One day at a time.  I can’t worry about tomorrow when I have to get through today.

This has been a year of shock.  How did this happen? In 2016?  How is this my life? Why did this have to happen?  What was I supposed to do with my life now?  How am I supposed to carry on when my rock was gone? How am I going to raise my daughter alone?  How am I supposed to live an empty life?  Even a year later, I am still kind of stunned that all this happened.

This has been year of numbness.  My year as a widow began with binge watching Gilmore Girls.  I was living my life by just going through the motions.  I kept myself busy so I didn’t have to think about how horrible and empty my life is.  I may have run a half marathon, redecorated my living room and travelled to New Hampshire, Boston, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Chicago and Maine. But I still have felt dead inside.

This has been a year of forced living.  I have done a lot this past year.  I have done it while feeling dead inside.  Every person that has gone through profound loss has to make a choice.  You have to decide whether you are going to let it destroy you or if you are going to continue to live.  I chose not to let it destroy me, but that still didn’t make living any easier.  If you choose not to let it destroy you, that path to keep living takes a lot of effort and energy.  It’s not an easy path.

This has been a year of transformation and growth.  When the foundation of your life has been completely destroyed, you begin to question every single thing that you believe or thought you have believed.  I have questioned every institution I believed in.  The Catholic Church and Christianity in general. I am still not feeling warm and fuzzy about the big guy upstairs.  The American political system- well, I don’t want to get into that.  I no longer trust the American healthcare system is looking out for my family.  It’s about money and not about people’s lives.  All I can do is try to do the best for myself, my daughter and my family.

I have learned so much about myself this year.  I have been figuring out who the true me is and I am trying to remain loyal to her.  I have gotten back in touch with the younger version of myself while simultaneously pushing myself to grow in new areas, all while trying to process the lessons of the present.   I have also had to accept that sometimes our life plans change and you don’t always get a choice in the change.  But you must adapt to these changes.

This has been a year of friendship and love.  I have gotten so much love from my daughter, my family and friends.  So many people have held me up (and continue to do so).  I have learned that family is not always blood.  I learned that I need people.  I am so lucky to have these people in my life and no words can possibly convey my true feelings.

This has been a year of truth and clarity.  I have had to deal with the harsh realities of life. I have also realized that some friendships are so thin that you can see right through them.   I also had friends and family who I didn’t hear from and their silence was deafening.   At least now I am clear on who my honest and true friends are.

Some of my friendships that I thought were true were not.  Many people tried to use my tragedy for their personal gain. I had people who I thought were friends try to manipulate me.  One of the biggest tidbits I can give is don’t mess with a widow or widower.  They have already been to hell and back.  They might be vulnerable, but vulnerable does not equal weak.  Underneath all that sadness and vulnerability is one of the strongest people you will ever know.  

This year I have removed toxic people from my life and I have not regretted it once.  Life is too short to deal with that.  

I have spent the year re-evaluating every aspect of my life.  There is truth to that cliche that dying is a part of life.  We are only here for a short time and life is meant to be lived.  You only have one life and it is up to you to make the most of it.  Bryon made his short life count and I don’t want to squander my time here.

I have to face the fact that I have a future and Bryon won’t be in that future.  He will only exist in the future as a memory.  I thought I had my life figured out but now I am travelling on an unknown path.  Now that I know how easily life can change, I want to make my future years matter.  I want to be the best person I can be and live the best life possible.

I miss Bryon so much.  There are no words in the English language to describe how much I miss him.  The one thing that keeps from being bitter is the fact that I know our love was real and I would never trade in those years.  No matter how brief they were.  I hold those years very close to my heart.

When I first became a widow, I joined a lot of online widow communities.  I remember reading from people that the second year is worse than the first year.  My grief was new and raw and I remember thinking that there was no way the second year could possibly be worse than the first year.  But now as I am about to embark on Year Two of widowhood, I get it.  During the first year, you are in a fog, which helps you survive.  But when you approach the second year, that fog lifts and you are left with the cold, harsh reality of life with no fog to dull the pain.  

I have heard that the first year of widowhood is about survival.  The second year of widowhood is about learning to really live again.  Living again is a scary prospect.  It is easy to get stuck in grief.  In some ways, grief is comforting.   As long as you are grieving, you are keeping your loved one close.  In order to move forward, one has to, to a certain degree, let go.  Obviously you never completely let go, but it’s still very scary.  

 I have survived the first year of widowhood.  And now it is time for me to try to live again.  But I know, without a doubt that it is what Bryon wants.

The time my friends ate grasshoppers

Warning- Stop reading Mom!  I know you read everything I write, but do not read this story.  (She has major bug phobia).

So tonight two of my good friends came over to help me around the house to to help me prepare for my new couch which arrives in the morning.  The three of us love Mexican food and we planned on ordering Mexican food for dinner.

I opened the food ordering app because I prefer to order my food online.  Because I hate talking to people on the phone that much.  

I do not see our normal go-to restaurant listed.  So we decided to try a new Mexican restaurant.  I quickly google the name and I learn that it is a restaurant that specializes in authentic cuisine from the Oaxaca region in Southern Mexico.  I said we should be adventurous.  The worst thing that could happen was that the food wouldn’t be good and we would have to get food from somewhere else.  

We decided to give it a try.

I look at the menu and made a comment about the fact that they had cow tongue.

One of my friends decided on a grasshopper burrito.  The description seemed palatable and it said there was a choice of meat.  My friend wanted chicken.  

My other friend decided she wanted to order the same thing.

I looked the menu over and became overwhelmed so I ordered chicken tacos and an order of chips, guacamole and salsa.

When the food arrived, we were starving and ready to eat.  I pull out the two burritos.  My daughter said she wanted one and I said that they belonged to our friends.  I gave my daughter some guacamole and chips and one of my chicken tacos.  We all dig in and we talk about how good the food was.  

Everything was great.

Then one of my friends jumps and says that her burrito actually has grasshoppers in it because one just fell out.  My other friend was about five bites into her grasshopper burrito and she stops eating.  I was eating chicken tacos but I lose my appetite in solidarity.  The only one who continues to eat without being phased is my daughter.  

“Grasshopper Burrito” wasn’t just a cute name.  

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We contemplated what to do.  Do we call the restaurant and try to get something else?  My friends felt bad because I put the whole order on my card.  I assured them that this was such a good story that it was worth every penny.

Seriously, I have been bummed lately.  I haven’t laughed this hard in a very long time. This might have been the hardest I laughed since before Bryon got sick. 

My friends decided to just order a pizza instead.  With no meat.  And orange soda.  Sunkist.  Though the person on the phone called it Outcast soda.  Hey ya!

The burritos went into the trash.  My friend brought the trash outside which was good because I was having images of the grasshoppers coming back to life in my house.  

My poor friend got the creepy crawlies.  

You can’t really tell by the picture but in person, you could totally see the grasshopper legs.

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A quick google search does reveal that grasshoppers are actually part of the diet in Mexico’s Oaxaca region.  They are called Chapulines.  So this cuisine is authentic.  

Just a bit too authentic for us.

Little moments

This weekend I did the first of my long runs for my half marathon training.  My training cycle has gotten off to a slow but steady start.  I have joined a new gym called Metabolic Meltdown and I do those workouts on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays and I run on Tuesday, Thursdays and Sundays.  I was having trouble motivating myself by just running and I need more strength so I hope this plan works.  So far I have been enjoying it.

So on Sunday I took my daughter to the local university and did the 3 mile loop around campus, plus one extra mile.  

It was the longest four mile run I have ever done.

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First of all, since I have slacked off on my training, I gained weight and I was pushing a stroller with my almost 3 year old.

It was hot.

My daughter kept dropping things and I kept having to stop and pick them up.

I didn’t want my daughter to fall asleep on the run so I kept her entertained by singing Old MacDonald since we watch OutDaughtered all the time.  OutDaughtered is the show about two year old Quintuplets.  My daughter refers to the show as “Babies.”  All I hear is “I want to watch Babies!”  Anyway, there is an episode where they are singing, or supposed to be singing, Old MacDonald in a recital.  So my daughter and I sang Old MacDonald and my daughter kept choosing “chicken” so this Old MacDonald had a farm full of chickens.  Old MacDonald can thank for me sneaking in one cow and one cat.   

My daughter saw one of the Albany city busses and kept saying ice cream truck.  I told her it was a city bus, but she wouldn’t believe me.  I told her she would disappointed if we went over and tried to order ice cream.

But I made it through the run.  I think when I reach the six mile mark on my long runs that I will need to get a babysitter.  I can’t be pushing the stroller for 8 miles.  I will go nuts.

I was really wanting to get an iced coffee but I decided to stop and let my daughter run around the fountains.  She was so happy which made me happy.  Life is about the little moments.

I wasn’t done loving you

I could think of a million reasons why you couldn’t die.

Our daughter wasn’t old enough to ride a bike.  She needed  you to teach her.  You needed to see her go to Kindergarten and graduate from high school.  You needed to scare any boy she brought home.  You needed to walk her down the aisle when she got married.

You still had more to accomplish in your career.  You wanted to write a book.  I still hear about how much people miss your knowledge and expertise.

We had a cruise booked.  It was going to stop in Aruba.  We had so many other cruises we wanted to go on.  Except you didn’t want to go on an Alaskan cruise, but I knew you would eventually give into me.

All the other places we were supposed to go to.  You wanted to go to Texas and attend a high school football game because you loved Friday Night Lights.  You wanted to go to San Diego and see all the Top Gun sights.  And you wanted to go to Branson, Missouri.  I still don’t understand why you wanted to go to Branson, Missouri so badly.  Even if it’s the Nashville of the Ozarks.  I didn’t want to go, but eventually I would have given in.

We were supposed to have another baby. Our daughter was supposed to be a big sister.

You needed to  meet your best friend’s new son and all the other babies that have been born since you have passed.  It still hurts my heart to think that they have all been born into a “post-Bryon” world.

Some of the reasons that I didn’t want you to die were self serving.  You always took care of everything.  I didn’t know how I was going to do it without you.  I was pretty helpless before all this happened.  I wanted things to go back to normal.

I had to be strong during this trauma. I found out I was much stronger than I ever knew. I wanted you to know how well I handled everything.  I thought you would be proud of me.

But the major reason I didn’t want you to die was because I wasn’t done loving you.

We only got three anniversaries. We celebrated our first and third. Our second anniversary was nine days after our daughter was born and we forgot to celebrate it that year. I remember we were lying in bed and you said “Hey, it’s our anniversary today.” We never could have known that we would only have three anniversaries.  Maybe we would have found a way to celebrate that anniversary if we knew we were only going to have a few.

I thought about all the stupid fights we had.  I thought about all the times I got annoyed with you over stupid things.  I thought about all the times I didn’t appreciate all that you did for me.   You couldn’t die because I needed time to prove that I could be a better wife.

We were always so busy, caught up in our day to day lives.  I didn’t take the time to show I loved you.  We can’t get that time back.

I wasn’t ready to let you go. I wasn’t ready for you to die. I wanted a chance to do it better. I wasn’t done loving you.

You held on for five months in the ICU.  You survived septic shock many times.  Your organs shut down and you kept fighting.  No one can say that you didn’t fight.  You fought until the bitter end.

I knew you were fighting.  After sitting by your side for five months, I know you fought harder than anyone else in your situation would have.  Most people would have given up. You didn’t want to be done.  You wanted to accomplish more in your career.  You wanted to have more time with your friends.  You wanted to raise your daughter.

And maybe you weren’t done loving me either.

My one fun night in New York City

 

Bryon spent the last two and a half weeks of his life in New York City.  I had him moved from our regional medical center because he needed better care.  It was two of the most optimistic and the most scariest weeks of my life.   I was optimistic because he had a world class medical team caring for him.  I was scared because he was still very sick and I knew that even if he survived, the road to recovery was going to be complicated.

I don’t usually think about my time in New York.  I mean, it ended with Bryon dying.  

Yesterday I was reading about how one of my blogging friends spent her birthday in NYC.  She spent part of her day in Washington Heights, which was the part of NYC where Bryon’s hospital was located.  

It dawned on me that I can’t ignore New York City forever.  Someday I will  have to return.  I may want to take my daughter to see the Rockettes or take her to the Natural History Museum.  Or the Bronx Zoo.  Or maybe I would go with my Spanish teacher friend to find an Argentinian restaurant.  Or to see The Bangles with Kimmy Gibbler and my Latin Teacher friend the next time they go on tour.  It would be ridiculous to avoid a whole city for the rest of my life because of what happened.  I will probably just avoid Washington Heights.

So I was reading my blogging friends birthday post and then I was on Facebook.  I checked “On This Day” and sure enough, it was a post about the one fun thing I did during those two and a half weeks.

My daughter’s Godmother came down with her (now) fiance and got hotel rooms in the Times Square area.  She was telling me all about the city as we drove downtown.  I am a small town girl from Maine after all.  We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant.  It was my one fun night in New York City.

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Margarita
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Tacos
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Seinfeld restaurant
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View from the hotel room

Though there were other good things about being in the city.

I had a family to stay with.  They didn’t even know me but they knew Bryon.  They welcomed me into their home and they were so kind to me.  They stay ended up being short but had Bryon survived, he might have been in the city for months.  They never once gave me a time limit.  I know they were rooting for the slow recovery.  It would worth a trip to NYC to see them and have them meet my daughter.

Bryon’s friends in NYC got to see him.  That was great.

The team was much more optimistic and Bryon’s spirits were the best they had been through the whole ordeal.  In Albany, Bryon was too depressed to facetime with our daughter, but in NYC, he was happy facetiming her.

Bryon still had his sense of humor.  It took me a week to figure out that I could take the express train to get to the hospital faster.  He shook his head and rolled his eyes at me.

But right now, NYC remains the city where Bryon died.  Maybe someday I will return but it probably won’t be anytime soon.