Second funeral of 2018

Last week I wrote about attending the first funeral since Bryon had died.

Today I attended my second.

Unlike Andy, I did not know the deceased well. He was the father of one of my best friends. I saw him at their wedding and at the kids birthday parties. He made some delicious chicken wings. It was clear that they were important to him and that he loved them very much.

I feel for my friend. I might know grief but I do not know what it is like to lose a parent. Three of the girls in our tribe have lost a parent. My Chicago best friend and my Maine best friend have lost their mothers at a young age as did my Maine’s best friend’s husband (The Scientist).

And of course, my daughter is also a member of this club.

I have lost three of my grandparents (and my grandmother isn’t doing well currently) and when I lost them, I felt that the memories of them slip further into the past. I feel like there is an active past and a distant past.

The active past consists of people who are alive and memories with those people and the events were probably more recent. Memories like your friend’s wedding last year or that time you went to Chipotle with a friend and your daughter smeared guacamole all over her face. (That might actually be everytime).

To me, the distant past are the memories that are centered around a deceased person, like the times when my Papa Crowley brought us to Horn Pond (pronounced Hond Pond) to feed the ducks or the conversations I had with my Grandma Sullivan.

Of course, some memories fall in the middle of the spectrum. Bryon and my wedding should be in the active past because it was only five years ago and so many of the people who were there are around. But Bryon was a pivotal player in those memories and he is gone. Therefore my wedding feels like it is more in the distant past than the active past.

Again, my parents are still here but I imagine that the transition of the parent going from the active past to the distant past is more pronounced and painful than that of a grandparent. It must make one’s childhood feel further away.

I also feel that the process of losing a parent ages you in a way. Not physically, but the pain gives you more wisdom.

I could be totally off of the mark. And if I am, please tell me. I want to increase my understanding.

Anyway, I digress.

I spent the afternoon at the funeral home. It is important to support the people you care about. I know it meant the world to me that people came to pay their respects when Bryon passed. The grieving need to know that they are loved and are supported.

I may not have known the deceased well but I am thankful that he lived.

He loved his daughter and grandsons. They are his legacy and my daughter and I greatly benefit from his legacy. His daughter and grandsons enrich my life and my daughter’s life.

It’s a great reminder that we are connected. The people in our lives and the events in our lives connect us all. So take time to appreciate everyone in your life, even if you don’t know them well. They are in your life for a reason, even if their role wasn’t a big role.

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Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #8

It’s Friday and that means it’s time for some good vibrations gratitude!

This is what I am thankful for this week.

  1.  Gymnastics.  Every week my daughters attends gymnastics class and it is the only night she goes right down to bed.  Every other night she is hyper and jumping on the bed.  (I was the same way and I know this is payback).  Facebook reminded me today that my daughter started gymnastics one year ago.  It is amazing to see all that she has learned.

2. Movie dates.  One of my best friends and I decided we wanted to do something last weekend.  I decided to check the movie listings and I saw that Padington 2 was playing.  I made a comment that we hadn’t seen the first Padington and my friend asked me if it really mattered.  Then I felt silly.

The kids did great in the movie.  It was the first non-animated movie they had seen in the theater.  The movie was enjoyable.  And boy, Hugh Grant has gotten old.

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3.  Birthday parties.  My daughter was invited to a classmates birthday party.  It’s amazing to see her grow into her own personality and make friends.

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4.  My online widow friends.  Some of my coolest friends live in my phone.  In fact, one of those friends wrote a blog post about it.  I love my “in real life” friends but sometimes I need to let off steam with people who understand those things that only widows understand.

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5.  Happy Memories.  Facebook shared this memory with me.  I have to smile when I think about what a great man Bryon was and how lucky I am to have memories like these.

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What are you thankful for this week?

A January trip to Maine

I don’t know exactly when I met my friend Andy.  I actually met him because I was friends with his wife.  I met his wife (I am going to call her The Scallop Divers Wife because I try not to use living people’s names in my blog) in 2004 when I joined the woman’s council at St. Joe’s Catholic Church in Ellsworth, Maine.  I only know it was 2004 because I had another friend that I became friends volunteering for a certain political candidate and she noticed that we both went to 11 am Mass.  My political friend and I decided to join the woman council and we both became friends with The Scallop Divers Wife.  I probably met Andy at a church function or maybe I met him at his house.

I used to enjoys visits to Andy’s house.  I could count on funny stories and lively political discussion.  Periodically I would house and dog sit when they went away.

I moved away from Maine in 2009 because Bryon and I had been dating a year and things were serious.  I always wanted Bryon and Andy to meet.  I know they would have gotten along. Also, Bryon had dreams of being on Deadliest Catch and I told him I could get him on a fishing boat on the Maine Coast.

But sadly, the visit never materialized.

Then Andy got sick.  Cancer.  He was given a six months to live.

Like Bryon, Andy fought.  He turned a 6 months life sentence into three years.

Shortly after Bryon passed, Andy’s niece passed in a car accident and he and his family traveled to Vermont for the funeral.  It was about three hours away but I made the trip to see them the day before the funeral.  I knew I had to make this trip because I didn’t know how much longer Andy would be here and I didn’t want to have any regrets.  I knew that this might be the last chance I got to see Andy.  After Bryon died, all the regrets I heard were from people who said they wished they knew him better.  No one said they regretted visiting him.

During that visit, Andy and I didn’t know what to say to each other but it wasn’t awkward.  I remember him being kind to my daughter who was two at the time.  He was too weak to socialize and I spent the afternoon catching up with The Scallop Divers Wife.  She gave me a lesson on cooking lobster and they sent me back to New York with some Maine lobster.

Andy and I had a few conversations on Facebook Messenger.  He said it was hard to read my blog because he knew his wife was going to be going through the same thing.  I admit that it was hard to discuss death with a dying man.  I wondered if Bryon had similar thoughts.  I will never know because Bryon couldn’t speak.

Around Thanksgiving I got the news that Andy’s cancer had spread to his brain.  We had a Facebook Messenger conversation.  He told me he wasn’t ready to die, his sons were so young.  I really didn’t know what to say.  It ended up being our last conversation.

In the beginning of December, I found out that there was nothing more that could be done and Andy would be going to Hospice.  Luckily he was able to go home.  My heart ached for The Scallop Divers Wife.  I remembered the pure agony of waiting for your husband to die.  I only had 24 hours of that agony from the “there’s nothing more we can do” conversation (though for me the words were “your husbands heart is going to stop beating today”)  and my friend’s agony was open ended.

When I found out Andy was going to Hospice, I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to make it to his funeral.  I work in oncology data and I know many patients don’t last long in Hospice.  I was out of personal time at work for the year.  I was beside myself thinking that I wouldn’t be able to go to Maine and be there for the funeral.  I remember who showed up to pay their respects when Bryon died and I wouldn’t get to be one of those supporters for my friend.    I decided that if I was meant to be there, it would all work out.

But I was also nervous that this was up in the air because this would be the first funeral I would attend since Bryon’s.  That is a huge first for any widow.  I have a tendency to obsess about things that potentially give me anxiety.  But there was no doubt that I would work through it to be there for my friend but I was having a hard time channeling this nervous energy.

Andy’s family got one more Christmas with him and he passed on December 28, 2017.

I confirmed with my manager at work at my personal time for 2018 become effective at the New Year and then I made arrangements to go to Maine for the funeral.  Ironically my parents were in Albany so their trip was cut short but they were fine with it because I was bringing my daughter to Maine and they got to spend time with her there.

And my daughter likes playing play-doh with her Grammy.

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Play-doh at Grammy and Pappy’s House

I went to the wake (I guess outside New England they call it a viewing?) to pay my respects and visit with The Scallop Divers Wife.  I didn’t stay long because I didn’t recognize anyone else and I knew The Scallop Divers Wife was busy greeting people.  It’s a long night.

I ended up grabbing dinner with another good friend.

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Finn’s Irish Pub- Ellsworth, ME

I forgot to take a pic of us together, but here is a pic from us last summer at my best friends wedding.  This was also in Maine but it was much, much warmer.

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Williams Pond, ME, July 2017

The following morning I made the 45 minute drive to Bar Harbor for Andy’s funeral.

On the drive I was thinking about how I have been widowed long enough that I am not the newest young widow in my circle of friends.  Time has a way of slapping you in the face like that.

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Trenton, Maine

Andy was a well-liked guy and the church was full.

I tend to think I am invincible when it comes to funerals.  I attribute it to my Boston Irish upbringing.

I will mention something important.  It was during Andy’s funeral that I realized that despite being angry at God that I want a Catholic funeral when I die.  It’s how my grandparents went out.  It’s how my uncles went out.  It’s how Bryon went out.  And while God might be a hateful jerk who took my husband from me, I am not going to let him take something from me that is part of my heritage.  Andy and I had had several conversations where he challenged my current views on God. I tended to get angry at the other 99.9% of the people who did that, Andy got a pass.  It’s hard to stay mad at him and I also wasn’t going to argue with a dying man about God.  But as the realization about my own mortality hit me, I just said to myself, “Well played, Andy.  Well played.”

I was fine until the moment the funeral started.  Seeing The Scallop Divers Wife have to walk down after the coffin.  I had walked in 5 funerals before Bryon (three grandparents and two uncles) and nothing can prepare you for that moment for when it’s your spouse.  My heart ached for The Scallop Divers Wife and three sons.  I felt shaky during the processional and I asked Bryon to be with me (something I don’t tend to do.  I figure he comes and goes when he feels like it) and suddenly I had my Boston Irish composure back.  I don’t doubt for a second that he was there with me.

Though The Scallop Divers Wife wins the award for being the strongest.  She got up and gave a beautiful eulogy.  I wouldn’t have been able to do it.

I had asked The Scallop Divers Wife if she was okay if I wrote this post.  She said she was curious about reading it from my point of view.  I hope I don’t disappoint her because I don’t remember the details.  I was a jumble of emotions that day and my account is likely to come across as self-absorbed.  No widow(er) means to be self absorbs.  We just have lots of emotions to sort out.  And once we get those emotions sorted out, we hit another widow milestone and it brings up a whole new batch of feelings.

The Scallop Divers Wife is my friend and I hope she will be through the rest of our lives We will always be bonded by the fact that we are young widows.  I am far enough into my widowhood journey (17 months and 5 days) to know that the funeral is like a wedding.  Both are important days but while a wedding is just one day of a marriage, the funeral is just one day in the life without a loved one.

And just like our wedding day, we will remember our husbands funeral for the rest of our lives.

Andy’s Obituary

Andy’s appearance on the Steven Colbert Show

Public Service Anouncement: A widow’s rant

You have heard that someone has died.

It makes you sad.

You think about some fond memories with the deceased.

You may want to write about these lovely memories on Facebook and add a picture.

But for the love of all that is Holy, don’t post anything on social media until the next of kin has made the death public.

While the post may come with good intentions, it is actually one of the most disrespectful things you can do to a grieving person.

This is like births and engagements.  The ones who are the most affected get to share the news.

The next of kin, which is usually the spouse, parents, child or sibling of the deceased has a lot of do before the death is made public.  They have to notify all the other family members and close friends of the death.  And if someone posts about the death before it is made public, then those family members and close friends may hear about the death first on Facebook.

How would you feel if you found out about your aunts death on Facebook?

So please, please, please, save your social media condolences until after the next of kin has shared the news.

Your post will be appreciated.  I was worried that I was only going to remember Bryon as he was in the ICU.  Once I made his death public, Facebook was showered with memories and pictures of him.  After spending five months sitting beside him in the ICU, I was instantly reminded that he was a man who was full of life and I was relieved that that was how he was remembered.

Your post will be appreciated.

But please.

Wait until the death has been made public.

 

Truth, lies and authenticity.

The widow fog is gone.

Chaos is all around.

Reality is becoming clearer each day,

Differentiating between truth and deception.

If friendships are real,

Or ever were real.

And who may be using her or just tearing her down.

Searching for authenticity,

Differentiating between what is real and what is fake.

The widow fog is gone,

Making way for a storm.

Not a dangerous, tragic storm,

But just a lot of noise.

Noise.

Projections.

Lies.

Assumptions.

Deceptions.

Phoniness.

So much of it over small stuff.

The widow is not uncaring.

It’s just hard to care about the things that don’t matter,

Especially after losing someone that meant so much.

Her world fell apart.

People may have forgotten.

She can’t make people really understand,

Especially if they don’t want to.

The widow knows that life is short.

She yearns for the authentic.

True love, true friendship,

True emotions and deep meanings.

But she knows that once this noise clears,

There will be goodness, truthfulness and happiness.

She will be focused on striving toward an authentic existence.

Death dreams, healing and the light at the end of the tunnel

The other night I had a dream.

I was sitting in a hospital room with Bryon and he was dying.

The emotions were the same.  The disbelief.  The shock.  The desperation.  
Interestingly enough, the people I called to be there were the same people that were with me through real life crisis.

Sounds familiar, eh?

But unlike my life, the room wasn’t very clinical.  It was dark and gloomy like an attic but the sun was shining in through the window.  And instead of his death lasting 5 months, it only lasted however long a dream lasts.

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Why was I dreaming about Bryon’s death? I mean, watching it happen in real life is plenty enough.  What purpose does this serve? Is my mind trying to tell me something?
I am not good at analyzing my dreams.  I don’t have a psychology degree.  I have a dream journal but getting my daughter ready for school and myself to the gym takes priority over dream analysis.

Once I processed the emotions of Bryon’s “second death”, it dawned on me that this dream wasn’t about Bryon’s death. It wasn’t even about physical death.

It was about my death.

I know you are probably thinking “But Kerry, you aren’t dead.”

And you are right.  I am not dead.

Let me explain.

I am currently on a “grief journey.” No, I am not going on a trip.  At least, no where exotic.  A grief journey denotes the indeterminate amount of time a griever takes to process a loss and heal.  At least heal enough that is considered acceptable because anyone who has profound loss can tell you- you never completely heal.

While it is safe to say that I have probably felt every emotion during the grief- journey, sadness, anger, and disbelief are among the top performers.  To deal with these emotions, I preferred actively mourning, crying and keeping myself busy to keep my mind off of my grief.  These coping mechanisms were not always equally distributed.

As time goes on, I started to see glimmers of hope in the midst of my sadness.  The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

I began to envision my life in the future.  A life that wasn’t so sad.

A life with actual happiness.

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Those first infrequent glimmers were a shock to my grieving self.  The glimmers took me by surprise and stirred up the emotions that were attached to my grief.  I began to feel guilty for even having glimmers of hope and happiness.

Sure, Bryon (wherever he is) wants me to be happy.  But that is not the issue.

It is me that is reluctant to be happy.

I felt that every glimmer of happiness meant that I was slowly forgetting Bryon.  Even though I desperately want to feel whole again, I am afraid to move forward.  Because every step forward is a step away from the life I had with Bryon.

Over time, I began to adjust to the juxtaposition of hope vs grief.   My glimmers of hope began to peacefully co-exist with my sadness.  Grief of confusing, y’all.  It even has me writing with Southern expressions when I am a New England girl.

Regardless about how I felt about grief and hope, time has another plan.  Time will move me forward whether I like it or not so I can either fight the current or swim with it.  These painful steps are necessary in the healing process.

While I agonize over every stop forward I take, I am oblivious to the fact that I have already traveled many proverbial miles already.  Many miles of that “grief journey”.

The morning Bryon died part of me died as well.

The part of me was innocent and naive to the magnitude of loss.

The part of me that believed that God was a loving God.

The part of me that believed that the American healthcare system cared for it’s patients over money and guidelines.

The part of me that was a doormat and didn’t need to stand up to people because Bryon did it for me.

The part of me that dreamed of raising a family with Bryon and spending my old age with him.

But I survived.  I might be broken but I am still here.

Through this grief journey, I have probably died many times.  And in a way, you can say I have experienced a rebirth.

A new me.

The new me knows all too well that our time on Earth is limited so we need to make the best of it.

The new me knows that we need to let people into our lives but we need to be choosy as to who we keep around.

The new me who knows not to take things at face value and ask questions.

The new me who won’t be a doormat.

The new me is braver and takes life a little less seriously.  Ferris Bueller was onto something there…

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And with every step forward I take, I experience a death with each step.  But I also experience a rebirth in every step.

And it will be like this until I experience an energy shift.  An energy shift where the time I feel hopeful and happy is more than the time I feel sad.  A time where I can look back at our memories and feel warm and happy and not overcome by sadness.  A time when I feel like my grief isn’t defining me.

And though I understand why I was dreaming out death, I just hope my subconscious knows that I am good and don’t need to relive that experience even if it isn’t real.

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A special thank you

WordPress alerted me that today is my one year anniversary.

I just wanted to take a moment to say thanks.

Thank you.

For reading.

For being there for me.

For supporting me.

For being my friend.

For letting me pour my heart out to you.

Thank you.