The last Christmas

Christmas 2015 was my favorite Christmas with you.

You were the Clark Griswold of our street.

I even got you a Clark Griswold-esque mug that you loved.  You drank the Starbucks 2015 Holiday blend in it.  You are missing the 2017 blend.  It’s pretty good.


In early December, you found a light up nativity on Craigslist and you had to buy it.  It didn’t matter that it was in Scranton, PA.  You had to have it.

So we drove to Scranton.


We packed them in.  Complete with two bonus nutcrackers.


Of course on the ride home Joseph fell over and he wound up face to face with our daughter.  She did not like it at all.  I would have been freaked out too.

But it was all worth it in the end.  #takethatgriswold


You had researched which streets in the Capital District had the best lights and we drove there.

We attended as many Holiday parties as we could.

Our daughter wanted nothing to do with Santa.


Christmas Eve was a bizarre 74 degree day in Upstate, NY.  You insisted we drive with the sunroof open.


We spent the afternoon with our Christmas Eve crew at a local establishment.  As usual, I brought buffalo chicken dip.  


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We went to four pm Mass with one of our bestest couple friends.

Mass was uneventful until after communion.  The four of us sat down in our pew.  

A loud cracking sound filled the church as our butts hit the floor.  

We looked at the pew which was split lengthwise.

Everyone else in the church looked at us.

You lean over to our friends and me and say “Sh*t.  We need Jesus the carpenter, not Jesus the Baby.”

We stand there as we wait for Mass to end to for the church to empty.  People continue to look at us as they are leaving. After the church was empty, you put that broken portion of the pew up over your shoulder and march up to the altar and you explained to Father Bradley what had happened.  Father Bradley listens and doesn’t seem phased at all.  I guess after 40 years in the priesthood, he has seen it all.  I wished I wasn’t so mortified and that I thought to take a picture but the mental picture will always be in my mind.

After Mass, we went home and you made Chicken Parm.  After our daughter went to sleep, we opened our presents that we got each other.

That Christmas you and I went crazy.  The previous year you surprised me by putting the confirmation from a cruise you booked in a box for me to open.  You assured me that there was no cruise surprise.  I didn’t mind especially you already booked our 2017 cruise.  Though neither of us would go on that cruise.


You were very concerned that you couldn’t live up to the previous year so you finally bought me the sewing machine I wanted for years.

For years we couldn’t afford to buy each other presents after we shopped for everyone else. I was having fun making up for those years.  

You told me that the $600 shoes you wanted were on sale for $445.  Hint, hint.  I took the hint.

(For those who might be side-eyeing the price, these would be shoes would have been resoled.  He was planning to use them for the rest of his life, and ironically he did.  But when they we were bought, we were envisioning decades of use.)


You admitted to me after the fact that you were worried I was going to buy you more gifts and your competitive nature couldn’t handle that so you did more shopping.

After the fact, we admitted that we were ridiculous and that this would be the last Christmas were we would do this.  Even if it was fun.

I am beginning to have this theory that our souls know more than we do in our human form.  I think our souls knew that this was our last Christmas and that we needed to have fun and do what we felt we needed to do to show love to each other.

Of course you insisted we leave out something for Santa.


Christmas morning was spent with our daughter opening up Christmas presents.  


You also bought her a Barbie Power Wheels Jeep because you saw a good deal on Amazon.  I told you that she was too young.  You called me a “Miss No Fun.”   We decided to save it for the following Christmas.  You never got to see her ride it.  My father and I did assemble it for her second birthday a month after you died as one last present to her from you.  And I was right because even then, her feet didn’t reach the pedal.

We spent Christmas Day with our daughter’s Godmother, her now husband and their family.



We bought each other a bottle of wine from the same winery although they were more generous than us.  We brought a peppermint pig and some coasters.  We were so excited about those coasters because they were custom made.  When our daughter was born, there was this mildly disturbing Georgia O’Keefe-esque artwork on the wall.   Our daughter’s Godmother and you were confused and disturbed by the artwork.  After she left, I suggested you take a picture and make it into artwork for her.  You loved the idea so much that you took credit for it but I didn’t mind.  Not a lot of people know that some of your material came from me.  You always said you were the funny one but sometimes I could be funny too.


Ultimately you decided on coasters instead of wall art. The best part was that our friend forgot about the maternity room artwork and decided to be polite and say that they were lovely.  Of course, she had a good laugh when we told her where the artwork came from.

And this ended up being our last Christmas.  

There was no way we would know that this would be our last Christmas.  

There was no way that we could have foresaw that we would take one last cruise in February and then you would would unexpectedly become critically ill and spend five months in the ICU. 

We had no clue that we were so close to the end.

I have come to realize that unless someone is on their deathbed at Christmas that there is no way to know who will be there the next Christmas.  A lot can happen in 365 days.  My life changed 89 days after that Christmas and you were gone 240 days after that.  

Even if I could have known it would be your last Christmas, I wouldn’t have done it any different.  I was with you, our daughter and some of our closest friends.  And we had fun and ate some really good food. 

I am glad I didn’t know that it was going to be your last Christmas.  If I had known it was going to be your last Christmas, I would have been devastated and unable to enjoy it.

Now I am embarking on our second Christmas without you.  Some of the traditions have changed a little bit but I will be with the same friends.  Christmas 2017 will pretty much run nonstop from Fri until Wednesday with my parents coming for New Years.  So I won’t be alone without you.  

It’s hard to be sad around our daughter.  She is getting so much bigger and she is so excited for Christmas.  She’s warming up to Santa.  She won’t sit on his lap but she’ll at least stand next to him.  It just breaks my heart because you were looking forward to her being this age.  You were so excited about the kinds of conversations you were going to have.  Every happy memory that we create is also tainted with sadness because you are not here.


Now I am reminiscing with the internet instead of with you.  Even though the internet and blogosphere is filled with great people, I would rather be recounting these memories with you.

But at the end of the day, I have to say I am grateful.  I am grateful that I have these happy memories.  Even though your death broke my heart, I am lucky that I have these memories that are filled with so much love and happiness.  These memories make me smile and laugh.  

It’s my job to push through my sadness and continue creating happy memories for our daughter and our friends so when I am gone, they can look back on those memories with love and happiness.

Wherever you are my love, I hope have a Merry Christmas.


Grief and the holidays

It’s been slow around here.  I have been catching up after a bout of bronchitis.  But I did film another video today.  In this video, I discuss grief and the holidays.


The day I found my voice

This was the first piece I wrote as a widow.  It was a Facebook note called “A Mini-Memoir”.  I wrote it one year ago.

* * *

Bryon McKim took me by surprise.  Those close to us know that the first time I met him was in November of 2006 in Louisville, Kentucky.  2006 was a bad year to be a Republican and I learned that because I lost my race for the Maine State House. (At least I won my hometown. Thank you Surry!)  The weekend following the election was the Young Republican National Federation (YRNF) Board Meeting in Louisville.  I first met Bryon at the Northeast Caucus.  I was the only Mainer in a room full of New Yorkers and there was one in particular that would not shut up when I was giving my report on Maine.  And we all know that that New Yorker was Bryon McKim.  He didn’t make that much of a lasting impression on me except that I thought he was rude even if everyone from New York thought he was hilarious.

Our story really began in the beginning of the 2008.  I was coming to a New York State Young Republican (NYSYR) event to try to build bridges between the NYSYR and the Maine Federation of Young Republicans (MFYR) of which I was the State Chairman.  New York and Maine had been on opposite sides of the previous YRNF election and our relationship was not good.  I was nervous about the reception I would be receiving so my best friend Tiffany came from Chicago (Illinois and New York had been on the same side of the previously mentioned election but it did not affect the friendship between Tiffany and me.)  It turned out that I didn’t have anything to worry about.  All the scary New Yorkers were perfectly nice to me.  I noticed one person who seemed to be in charge so I went up to him and introduced myself, “Hi.  I am Kerry Sullivan, Chairman of the Maine Federation of Young Republicans.”  He responded with “I know.  We met in Louisville.”  Then it clicked.  He was the a-hole that wouldn’t shut up when I was talking.  Luckily after a year and a half, I seemed to be (mostly) over it.

Over the course of the weekend, Bryon began to try to get my attention.  I thought he was nice enough but I was aware that he was several years younger than me so despite being flattered, I kept letting him down, albeit gently.  I told him I was too old for him.  He didn’t believe me.  At one point, I pulled out my drivers license.  I do remember him staring at it in disbelief.  I definitely liked him but I was not looking to fall in love, especially with a younger man who lived eight hours away.

Heck, at that point in my life, I didn’t believe in love.  I was also told that I was too picky.  I  had a list of ten items.  Funny this is, I don’t remember all ten items.  I would tell people my top 3 (Republican, Catholic, Red Sox fan) and I was told that was not reasonable especially in Maine.  There are Red Sox fans, but not many Republicans or Catholics.  I know number 4 was Irish.  (That was a bit of a stretch as Bryon was only 1/8 Irish.  I guess it didn’t end up being that important.)  I do remember two of my other items on my list.  One was that I wanted a man to be intelligent.  Preferably more intelligent than me because I like to surround myself with smart people and I like to learn from those around me.  And I like personalities with a lot of depth to them.  I  wanted a man who could go to the symphony and a wine tasting one night and a baseball game with hot dogs and beer the next night.  I wanted someone who wouldn’t be bored with Museums and historic places.  Someone would wanted to do interesting stuff but also the simple stuff. I was told that those two points are not reasonable.  I knew what I wanted and I didn’t want to settle.

Anyway, I digress.

For the next six months, Bryon and I started to get to know each other better.  First through google chat (I think it was called g-chat then) and then we went to the next level and started texting.  Serious stuff that involved actually giving each other our phone numbers.  He convinced me to come out for the NYSYR day at the races.  I agreed and I decided to come out a day early to go to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  I asked him what he thought of the Baseball Hall of Fame and he said it was lame.  I said that was a shame because I was hoping to go and surprisingly, out of the blue, Bryon changed his mind and said that it actually wasn’t lame and that he would take me.  So we went to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  After visiting the Hall of Fame, we weren’t ready for our date to be over so we decided to head back to Albany for dinner at the Pump Station.  Then that turned into drinks at Mahars and then Lark Tavern.

The following day was the Day at the Races.  We didn’t want anyone to know we were a thing so we spent the day on opposite sides of the group.  We acted like we barely knew each other except we did sneak off to the paddock at one point.  I left New York not sure what was going to become of us.  He was younger and lived eight hours away.  Neither of us wanted a long distance relationship.  But our relationship only seemed to get stronger.  Our communication changed from text messages to actual phone calls.  Nightly.  I remember having to put my phone on speaker and hold it a certain way or else I couldn’t hear him.  Cell phone reception in rural Maine wasn’t that great.

We made plans to meet up in Boston on August 29th, the day between our birthdays.  I called him up to wish him a happy birthday on the 28th.  He had been out celebrating.  He told me he was young and hot like Sarah Palin and that I was old like John McCain.  (Remember, it was 2008)  Yet I still went to Boston the next day.  I had fun recounting that conversation to him as we rode the Red Line into Boston.  He made it up to me though.  He took me to a Red Sox game on my birthday.  If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what is.  And it was that weekend that I realized that this wasn’t just a passing fling.  It was the real deal.  I never would have known that weekend that almost exactly eight years later, I would be attending his funeral.

It’s easy to be negative.  Some days I struggle to stay positive.  Some days I am not positive at all.  Other days I am almost optimistic that despite this sad chapter, I might actually still have a good second half of my life.  The reality is that right now I feel lost and like an empty shell of who I used to be.  I feel like I am going through the motions.  I hate the term “new normal” because I hate that I have to find a new normal.  I was perfectly happy with my old normal.  I am one of those people who likes to have a 1 year, 5 year, 10 year plan.  It may not be detailed but I liked being able to look down the path I was anticipating and have a general idea as to what was going to happen.

I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen in our planned future but Bryon was there.  The other child (or children if I got my way) would have been there.  We went from being a family of three with plans of being a family of four to a family of two.  Now it’s just Maddy and me.  I don’t even know if two people fit the definition of a family.

Bryon had all these plans he wanted to do when Maddy was older.  He will never take her to a father-daughter dance.  He will never make her dates nervous.  He will never get to play catch with her or teach her how to ice skate.  He won’t ever take her to a Broadway play.  He won’t walk her down the aisle when she gets married.  He won’t take her on the proper Disney trip he was planning.  We spent a day in Epcot last February and we went to a character breakfast, but not the fancy, expensive Princess one.  Bryon said if he was going to spend that kind of money, he wanted Maddy to be old enough to enjoy it.  I know I can take Maddy to Disney but the thought of being in the Happiest Place On Earth without Bryon makes me cry.  And I am not sure that is allowed.  It’s like a sick and twisted joke.  He did this to try to be healthier for himself and Maddy and then this happened.

We would have taken a lot more cruises.  We would have eventually hit all the Caribbean islands.  I would have continued to lobby for an Alaskan Cruise and Bryon would have continued to say that an Alaskan cruise sounded boring. (We had two cruises booked.  I cancelled one and pushed the reservation out on the other.  I don’t know when I will be ready to cruise again, if ever.)   We had plans to someday go to Scotland, Ireland, England and Germany.  He wanted to go to a Chelsea game in London.  He wanted to visit the Scottish Highlands where the Fraser clan originated.  He wanted to buy a BMW in Germany, drive it around Bavaria for a week and then have it shipped home.  He said something about avoiding some sort of import tax that way.  I am not sure.

We would have probably outgrown our current house pretty soon and would have moved somewhere bigger.   We’d probably would have argued about that house.  I would refuse to live in a ranch house or a house built after 1950.  Bryon would probably tell me I was being too picky.  I would  have dug in my heels on hardwood floors as opposed to wall-to-wall carpeting and Bryon would have eventually agreed with me because he would know I was right.  Bryon would have held firm that we would never have a swimming pool, trampoline or a swing set because they are liabilities.  I would have pushed to live in the country and Bryon would have probably said there was no effing way he was going to live in a place where he would need to buy a gun because of wild animals.

Now that has been ripped away.  I look at my future and all I see is nothingness.  I know it will be filled with new adventures and of course, time with Maddy but I don’t like not knowing what to expect.  I thought I had my life figured out.  I am not good at this “one day at a time” thing.  Not only do I  have have to mourn the death of my best friend and the love of my life, I have to mourn the loss of my future.  I know an optimist would tell me that my future is a blank canvass and I can color it any way I want.  Perhaps that is true but I didn’t ask for a blank canvass.

I also have to figure out who I am as an individual which is a daunting task.  The Kerry McKim that was Bryon’s wife, no longer exists.  I am not the same person I was on March 24, 2016.  My life forever changed when Bryon was admitted to the Surgical ICU on March 25.  I will never go back to being that version of Kerry McKim again.  The truth is, there are some aspects of who I am that got pushed to the back burner during my time with Bryon.  It wasn’t intentional.  He just always had ideas and sometimes my ideas went to the background.  And I let that happen.  He didn’t do it on purpose, though it did cause tension in our relationship at time.  Of course, now I am glad that I got out of the way and let Bryon accomplish what he needed to do since his time on Earth was limited.

Now I do get to do the things that Bryon never wanted to do.  I like to do boring things like take drives to check out scenery and Bryon couldn’t stand that.  To him, there was no point. I could go on an Alaskan cruise if I wanted or to a National Park (Bryon had no interest in going to the Grand Canyon even though I told him pictures don’t do it justice.)  I can live my life at a slower pace.  It could sometimes be exhausting keeping up with him though it was exciting.  I loved every minute of it.

However, I don’t revert back to being Kerry Sullivan either.  Kerry Sullivan was a young girl who was bored and wanted “more.” Bryon changed my world.  He challenged me.  He encouraged me.  He believed in me.  I am tasked with taking the best parts of being Kerry McKim and the best parts of being Kerry Sullivan and make them into some sort of newer version of Kerry McKim.  I just don’t want to be viewed as Old Widow McKim.  While I am definitely a widow, I don’t want it to define me.

So where does that leave me?  Everyone talks about stages of grief.  Personally I think stages are bullshit.  The first one is supposed to be denial.  I was never in denial that he died.  I watched him slowly die for five months in the ICU.  I can tell you that he never gave up.  He fought until the bitter end.  I think almost anyone else would  have given up long before but he kept fighting.  While he could communicate, he obviously couldn’t express himself fully and I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him to have to lie in a bed for five months, not being able to move and having to be dependent on me or a nurse for simple tasks like changing the channel on the TV.  He had his mind up until 36 hours before he died.  It must have been hell for him to be lying in that hospital bed without being able to articulate his thoughts.

The second stage is anger.  Well of course I am angry but that will be another post for another time.  Third stage is supposed to be bargaining?  Bargaining for what?  He’s not coming back.  Then desperation.  Again, he’s not coming back so I don’t know what there is to be desperate about.  The final stage is acceptance which is probably the only stage that makes any sense.  I don’t even know what it means to accept that he is dead.  I know he is dead.  I know because all the tasks he did are now my responsibility.  (I am beginning to wonder what I even brought to the table?  I think all I did before was change diapers and make sure there is milk in the fridge.  And I wasn’t even that great at the latter.)  I know he is dead because once in a while I think about something to ask him something and then I remember that there is no point in texting him because he isn’t going to answer that text.  I know he is dead when I am watching one of our TV shows and they make a joke that he would have found funny.  He isn’t there to laugh.  He wasn’t there to discuss the issues surrounding the election.  I know he is dead every night when I lie in bed alone. Even though I know he is dead, there are times where I think about certain memories where he was so full of life and then I think about him being dead.  Then it hits me me- the pang of disbelief.  Disbelief that someone so full of life can be gone.  That realization always takes me by surprise.  It stings.  Every time.

I also have to accept that even if he had lived, our future would have not been what we planned.  He would have had some long term medical problems.  Doctor visits to NYC or Boston would have become the norm.  We certainly wouldn’t be traveling on cruise ships in the middle of the ocean far away from American hospitals.  Before this crisis, Bryon liked to take care of everything.  It was as if his goal was for me to never have to worry about anything.  I am not going to lie, I enjoyed that and took full advantage of that.  I was thrust into the caregiver role and even if he survived, he would have been sick for a very long time, possibly for the rest of his life.  The carefree days would be over but I would have continued to fight for him.

Maybe this is some sort of “post acceptance” processing.  I know he is dead.  He is never coming back at least in any human form.  Some widows get upset about “being left behind.”  I am not.  I don’t want to be in Heaven or wherever spirits go when in the afterlife at least not until it is my time.  I want to be here and with Maddy.  But I am, in a sense, left behind to try to make sense of what happened.  I ask myself why at least once a day.  Why did this have to happen?  And why did it have to happen like it did?

Then there are all the other questions.  Did I do something wrong?  Did I miss something?  Was I not paying attention to something the doctors said?  Why would God let something like this happen?  What did we do to deserve this?  Why does Maddy have to grow up without her father?  When will all this pain go away?  When does it start getting easier?  When will I start to feel like myself again?  How can I feel like myself when I don’t even know who I am as an individual?  How much is Maddy aware?  Does Maddy even remember him?  Will Maddy grow up feeling cheated?  Can I give Maddy a happy life without her Dad?

So many unanswered questions.

The only question I can answer is- would I do it all over again even with the same outcome?  That answer is yes.  Not just because of Maddy.  I am a better person because of Bryon McKim.

BCM 08-28-1985 – 08-21-2016

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” ~Dr. Suess


Widow at a wedding

This past weekend, two of my closest friends got married.  I love these two people so much. I can not stress enough how much of an honor that my daughter and I got to be a part of their day.  The we were with Bryon and me on the best days of my life and they didn’t leave my side through the worst days of my life.  While I would do the same for them, I  prefer that the days be happy. 

The wedding was held at the lovely Otesaga Resort in Cooperstown, NY. I wish I could share more details but I was chasing after my daughter.  Please take my word for it when I say that this wedding was epic.  

“I do myself, Mommy!”


The weather was warm for December.

Everything was beautiful; the bride, her dress, her hair, the music, the guests.  

The food was amazing.  And there was an open bar.  

I got to see lots of old friends and I made some new friends.

But my heart was heavy all night.  Because Bryon was not there.

This is not the first wedding I have gone to since Bryon’s passing.  My Maine best friend got married last summer.  I meant to blog about it because it was a beautiful ceremony that deserves it’s own post and I hope to write about it before I visit her in Ann Arbor this spring.  

But that wedding was in Maine and that was my turf.  Some of my old friends I saw at that wedding had never even met Bryon (though that doesn’t lessen their empathy).  Both the bride and groom had lost their mothers in their 20’s and the only time I felt sad was when the father of groom gave a speech and mentioned the groom’s mother and if she were there.  My eyes teared up because it made me think of how Bryon isn’t going to be there when my daughter gets married.


I was very anxious about this wedding but I kept those feelings to myself. I felt selfish for even having these feelings. Weddings are happy affairs.  There is very little I do not share with the bride but I wasn’t going to burden her with my grief leading up to her big day.  Especially when I know it was hard on her that Bryon wasn’t there.  

(And to note, I have discussed this with the bride after the fact.  She is not going to be blindsided by reading this).

A large portion of these guests knew Bryon.  There was no way I could even pretend he wasn’t dead or that I wasn’t a widow.  All through the night people approached me and said kind things about Bryon which I did appreciate.  Because enough time has passed from his death where sometimes I think people forget about him and the last thing anyone who is grieving wants is for their loved one to be forgotten.  

I have come to the conclusion that it was a good thing my daughter was there.  I spent the night chasing her and that prevented me from getting drunk and crying on the bathroom floor.  And that is not a flattering look for anyone.  Though chasing her did hinder my ability to take photos.

“Mommy, why do I have two forks?”

There were so many couples at the wedding though I don’t know if that is true or if that was just my perception.  I started thinking back to my wedding day.  How pretty I felt in my dress.  How I felt when we had our first dance. We were so in love.  

There was no way that I could have foreseen exactly what “in sickness and in health” would entail.  Bryon would tell me that I nailed that vow.

I started to wonder if I would ever feel that way again.  Will I ever love again?  Will I ever love someone enough to marry them?  Will I have a second first dance and cut another cake?  Five years ago, when I married Bryon, I thought that was it.  We were going to grow old together.  Forever and always.  I never dreamed that this would be a possibility.

I know that I do want to love again.  I just don’t feel like I am done yet.  But is it even possible to feel that way about someone else?   Is it a glimmer of hope or an impossibility?

I honestly don’t know.

I know is that I need to learn to cope.  It is frustrating when you want to be happy and instead you are an emotion mess. 

Bryon might be gone but the sun stills shines.  My daughter still laughs.  There are people that I love that are still here.  There are still happy times.  I just need to accept that there will always be some sadness attached to all the happy moments.

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On living and dying

I received some very sad news this morning.  A friend of mine back home had been battling Stage IV cancer for a couple of years now and there isn’t anymore that can be done.  He will be going to Hospice.

My heart is heavy knowing what is in store for his wife and children.  While no two situations are exactly alike, I have a better understanding than most.

So if you are reading this and you are healthy, please be grateful.  Be grateful for the health of those around you.

Because life is temporary.  

And so are we.  

Someday you are going to die.
I am going to die.

Everyone close to us is going to die.  

Please take time to appreciate those in your life.  

Hold on tight to those who matter.

Don’t waste time on those who are toxic.

Please, please, please don’t live with regrets.

We always think we have more time.  

Except we don’t always have more time.

If there is something you want to do, do it.  If you don’t have the means, find a way to make the means.  If you don’t have the time, find the time.  But do it.  Or at least do something that is a step in that direction.  They say that you don’t regret the things you do, you are more likely to regret the things you didn’t do.

You are here.  

You are breathing.

You need to live.  To do.  To think.  To create.  To love.

Be passionate.

So while you are here, please, please, please make today count.

They say you are supposed to do things that scare you…

They say you are supposed to do things that scare you…
My intuition has been telling me try making a YouTube video. This is my first attempt. I have a lot of learn. Please watch it and tell me what you think.