The cruel quandaries of widowhood

Alternate title: Slowly erasing my husbands presence on Earth.

Like when I had his name removed from our bank account.

I thought about the irony.  I had opened that bank account when I first moved to New York.  I was a single gal but when we got married, I added Bryon to the account.  We were a “one pot” kind of couple when it came to our finances.  We argued about money a lot less that way.  That account was our everyday account.

And now I am back to having the account to myself.  With a different last name though.

There is a good chance I will hang onto this account forever.

Because I am oddly sentimental like that.

Like the fact that I have lived in the 518 area code for almost a decade and I still have my Maine 207 number.  I have had my number since 2001.  I graduated from college that year and had a large Nokia phone that I used to play snake on.  It’s how we wasted time before Facebook.

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Those were the days.

Anyway, after I left the bank the day I removed him from our bank account, I sat in my car and cried.  Because it felt like his presence on Earth was being erased little by little.  Sure, his name is still on the checks.  The man at the bank told me it was okay to use them.  But those will run out.  It may take awhile because I pay most things electronically but it will eventually happen.

It is a cruel quandary of widowhood.

After a certain amount of time- time frame custom tailored for each widow- a widow realizes that she can’t keep living in the past.

She must move forward.

She knows she must do it.

But even thought she knows that she full-filled her wedding vows and that she deserves a chance to be happy again, it doesn’t make letting go of her deceased spouse any easier.

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Yes, you might be groaning but I was a freshman in college when Titanic was in the theaters.  It’s one of the few movies my broke self saw in the theater that year. (I already dated myself when I said I graduated from college in 2001 and played snake on a Nokia phone.)

And I am emotional right now, so we are just okay to go with it, okay?

Obviously I will never completely let go of Bryon.  I couldn’t even if I tried.  He is in my heart.  But there comes a time that you realize you can’t hold on to every item he owned.  Especially since he was a pack-rat.

Sure some items I will save for sentimental and utilitarian purposes and some will go live with friends for sentimental and utilitarian purposes.

But some items need to go because they serve no use.

Like Bryon’s clothes.

Shortly after Bryon died, I did clear out his side of the closet.  Our Master closet is small and I needed the precious real estate.  I bagged up about seven trash bags of clothes and put them in the garage where they sat for about a year before I brought them to Goodwill.

Apparently I put a bunch of his clothes in an upstairs closet and forgot about them.

So I got to relive the whole experience.

I saw the shirt he was wearing when he proposed to me.

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I cried.

Because as I held the shirt, for a brief couple of seconds, I felt like he was right there.

For a brief couple of seconds, I felt like I was still married.

And then…it was gone.

Back to reality.

And then for a brief couple of seconds, it was like the initial denial of his death came over me.

How did this happen?  How is this my life?  Why did he have to die?

I did put his button down shirts into a box to be saved to make a quilt for my daughter someday.

I do have Bryon’s hoodie sweatshirts.  Yes, they are rather large on me but I live in a cold climate.

And some days I wear them because I know it’s the closest thing I am going to get to getting a hug from him.

And I still managed to fill nine trash bags.

Granted, some of it was old suits and gala dresses of mine from my political days.

I decided that was ten years ago and if I were to be that size again, I deserve new suits and dresses.

I mean, we are constantly evolving, right?  New self, new dress.

(Though I hardly go to any events these days that require suits or gala dresses.)

I also bagged up some maternity clothes.

Widowed and 40…yeah…I am pretty sure that ship has sailed.

I saw his white suit jacket that he wore at the Young Republican National Convention Gala at the Indy Speedway in 2009.  I remember him telling me that he liked it because he was dressed up but still looked different and made a statement.

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Young Republican National Convention Gala at the Indy Speedway in 2009.

I looked at his suit jackets and thought about the times I wore them as a coat when I got cold.

Now I better remember to bring a shawl in case I get cold.

There are couple of pieces I couldn’t part with.

The first was his seer sucker.  He loved that.

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New York State Young Republicans Day at the Races- Saratoga, NY, 2010

The second item I couldn’t part with was his Albany Law School Rugby windbreaker.

The funny thing was, he rarely wore a winter coat.  He either wore his ALS Rugby windbreaker or his green fleece.  (He wore the green fleece to the hospital the last time so I donated it in the first round because I immediately associated it with the hospital).

For a man who rarely wore a winter coat, he sure had a lot of them.  Even a few I didn’t recognize.

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Continental Divide, 2010

The third item I couldn’t part with was his navy 1950’s Dad cardigan.

He almost didn’t buy it.  We were at DestinationXL and he saw it and liked it.  I told him to get it but he was concerned that people would mistake him for being a hipster.  I told him there was no way he could be mistaken for a hipster.  Then he expressed hesitation because he didn’t know what to wear with it.  So I ask the salesman on the floor and he and I have a 5 minute detailed discussion about options while Bryon looked a little dazed.

He loved the sweater.  I wish I had a better picture but the only one I could find was from Thanksgiving.

And he is wearing a dirty apron. (Though the things is permanently stained.  It’s hanging up.  I need to toss it.)

And a turkey hat (which my daughter now loves and calls “Hey-Hey Chicken”).

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Thanksgiving, 2015

And the fourth item I couldn’t part with was his Red Sox shirt.

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Tri-City Valley Cats Game, 2012

As I put the clothes on the bed in the spare room, this little guy laid on them.  I believe that animals are intelligent creatures and I think he sensed that they were his clothes.  I don’t think there would be any scent but I have no idea about a cat’s sense of smell.

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And then the final step to erasing my husbands presence on Earth…or my house at least was dropping the bags off.

I dropped them off at some drop boxes at a local church in my town.  I prefer to drop them at a local church as opposed to Goodwill because the CEO at Goodwill makes a sh*it ton of money.  I also prefer to drop off where there are bins because I am an introvert and prefer not to talk to people.

Especially when I might cry.

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I have heard that clutter is stagnant energy.  I have also heard that clutter is a form of depression.  I just know that as difficult as this task was, it had to be done.  I don’t think Bryon would want me to stay stuck in the past.

I just wish it didn’t hurt so much.

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Birthday Eve ramblings

I begin this post 45 minutes before my 40th birthday. I am also typing on my phone as I lay in the guest bedroom of my brothers house in New Hampshire with my little cuddle bug lightly snoring next to me. This is not how I usually write so I am not sure how this will affect my writing process.

This evening on my birthday eve, I had an amazing dinner with my parents, my daughter, and my brother at Hawaiian Isle in Plaistow, NH.

Scorpion Bowl
The quintessential Boston Chinese Pupu Platter
Pineapple and fortune cookies
…in bed.

After dinner, my brother treated us for ice cream at Moo’s in Salem, NH.

Tomorrow I head off on an adventure with some of my besties and my daughter will spend the weekend with her grandparents.

As I write this, I have two major thoughts.

The first is that I am so happy to be done with my thirties. It had been the happiest and the most tragic decade of my life.

I started my 30s one month into my relationship with Bryon. We fell in love. I moved to New York. We adopted a cat. We got engaged and married and had a baby.

3.5 residences.

5 jobs through 3 employers

5 cruises.

5 countries. 8 if you count overseas territories….

20 States.

3 Canadian provinces.

4 cars (Mean Green, the Silver Bullet, the Bronze Bomber…and the Subaru).

I could go on but while this decade had a lot of happiness, but it still ended tragically.

Life was good and then Bryon died and I spent the last two years in deep, profound grief.

I am so ready for a new decade. I am ready for the next chapter of my story.

The second thought is that I can no longerf dread getting older. Afterf seeing Bryon die so young, I truly know each year is a gift.

Bryon will never be middle aged. If you are middle aged, you are lucky.

Bryon always joked that he was an old man in a young man’s body. He looked forward to being an old masn and he never will be.

One time when my daughter was an infant, the three of us went to have dinner at a local diner. We were seated near two grumpy old men. Bryon was amused by them and said that was going to be him and his best friend when they got old.

But know only one of them will become an old man. *knock on wood* because I am superstitious AF.

So I go into my 40th year embracing my age. My wisdom. My scars. My blessings.

But just not my gray hairs.

“I told you so” – A Bryon McKim birthday story

August 25ish, 2011

I was watching news coverage on Hurricane Irene which was heading directly to New York City.

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For the first 31 years of my life (minus three months in Indiana), I have lived within 20 miles of the ocean, with 15 of those years living in a Coastal Maine town.

If there is one thing I have learned, it is that you don’t underestimate an ocean storm.

Seriously, we have all seen The Perfect Storm, right?

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I went to Wal-Mart and stocked up some supplies.  Items such as candles and batteries and non-perishable food.

I came home and Bryon mocked me.

Our conversation went something like this.

Kerry: Hey, we should make sure our floor in the basement is clear in case the basement floods.

Bryon:  Um…we live 200 miles inland.

Kerry:  And this storm is 400 miles wide and heading straight for New York City.

Bryon: This isn’t the Maine Coast.  You are worrying about nothing.

Worrying about nothing was a common grievance Bryon had about my personality.  It’s ironic that I wouldn’t learn to worry less until he died.

Bryon and I both liked being right and we were both stubborn.  I dropped this issue because I knew I wasn’t going to convince Bryon.  But I didn’t forget…

Sunday Morning, 
August 28, 2011
Bryon’s Birthday

Our basement is flooding.  We were unprepared for that.

As we are wet-vaccing our basement floor, I decided at that point that it would be a good time to point out to Bryon that I was right.

Bryon did not appreciate being told that he was wrong.

An argument ensues.

I get pissed and decide since Bryon knew all the answers, he can deal with the flooding basement.

I storm upstairs and sit angrily on the couch.

A period of time passes.  It felt long but it was probably 5 or 10 minutes, Bryon comes upstairs and says that being pissed at each wasn’t going to help the situation.

I knew at that point he was right so I head back down to the basement.

We continue to wet vac until we notice that the water was seeping in through microscopic cracks in the cement.  So Bryon took my Jeep Compass to Lowe’s…in the middle of a hurricane to buy some hydraulic cement.  Luckily we patch up enough of the cracks and the flooding is controlled.  (Though it took a month and a strongly worded letter for our rental company to address the issue).

We were lucky.  Hurricane Irene caused so much damage in Upstate New York but Albany was pretty much spared.

The storm let up in the afternoon and we met our friends at Mahar’s.  The woman who would become our future daughters Godmother posted this picture of Bryon on Facebook.  She was going to call him Hurricane Clifford.  (Clifford was Bryon’s middle name and it was a hit among his friends).  Bryon requested she call him Tropical Depression Clifford.

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Bryon and I would later laugh about this day.  I just look back and I see what two stubborn people we were.

Luckily we forgave each other.  We got engaged at Mahar’s a week and a half later.

Though…I was right.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Handsome.

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #30

A little late but today is still Friday! You survived the week!

Do you know what this means?  It’s time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude!

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Since I was too busy last week, I did not do a Gratitude post so this is going to cover the past two weeks.

  1. Time with my daughter

    Dance class and gymnastics class never get old.

  2. The fact that summer is almost over

    This is probably an unpopular opinion but I am ready for summer to be over.  I am from Maine and this humidity is killing me.  I am not going to rush the end of summer because I know Fall will be here soon but I can’t wait.  Bring on the pumpkin spice!

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  3. A good concert with a good friend

    One of my besties and I got a chance to see REO Speedwagon and Chicago at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC). It was a great time.  Personally I thought the REO Speedwagon half was better than Chicago.  I like Chicago’s music but it was very mellow and almost a let down after rocking to REO Speedwagon.  Just my two cents.

  4. Getting by with a little help from my friends.

    Some of my friends have stepped up to help me clean out Bryon’s storage unit.   When Bryon died, so many people said that they would be there to help in any way needed but whenever I ask for help, it is always the same few people who offer to help.

    There is no way I could I ever payback these friends for the kindness they have for me.  I could not get by without these friends.  No mentions, they know who they are.

  5. The little memories that make me smile.

    Bryon and I had a good 8 years.  And every day, I am usually reminded of something funny he did.

    I was driving my daughter to dance class and Orleans “Still the One” came on the radio.

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    Now, if you are a longtime reader of this blog, you may remember that Bryon and I met while participating in politics.  (Don’t worry, this is not a political blog.  A story may pop up here and there but there will not being any preaching.  Grief and death don’t know political parties.  I love you all!)

    You might remember that John Hall made a stink about George W Bush playing the song “Still the One” at a Rally in 2004.

    Anyway, John Hall went one to become a Congressman in New York State and in 2010, Bryon and I, along with some of our Young Republican friends worked on a campaign weekend and we dropped literature for his opponent, Dr. Nan Hayworth.

    And I remember Bryon writing this tweet and thinking it was so funny.

    Screenshot_20180810-213718 He could have been tweeting in this picture.

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    And even though he is gone, I am grateful for those little memories that make me smile.

    What are you grateful for this week?

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New York, New York

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a New England girl and Boston is my city.

 



But I do feel some shame when I think about how little I time I have spent in New York City even though I have lived in Upstate New York for almost nine years.

The first time I went to NYC was when I was a senior in high school in 1996.  My cross country team traveled from rural Maine and we ran a 5k in Van Cortland Park in the Bronx. We also saw Les Miserables on Broadway, went to the Natural History Museum, shopped at Macy’s and saw Trump Tower, the Plaza Hotel and FAO Schwartz.  We also ate a Bennigan’s in New Jersey. I loved all of it. I was amazed that NYC was so big and that it made Boston look like a small town.

My second time in New York City was December 2008.  I had been dating Bryon for a couple of months and we met in the city to attend the New York City Young Republican Club Holiday Dinner.  Bryon took me to see all the store windows decorated for Christmas. He also took me to see the tree in Rockefeller Center and that was the first place he told me that he loved me.

 

I returned a few more times that year.  I was still living in Maine and I was running for Northeast Region Vice Chairman of the Young Republican National Federation.  I would stay with friends and campaign around the Mid-Atlantic. Bryon would join me. The trips were fuzzy but I remember going to a bar called Stitch in the Garment District that had $20 drinks (Bryon didn’t let his status as a poor 1L in law school stop him from getting me drinks) and I remember walking by the Brooklyn Bridge with Bryon.

But I have only been to NYC four times since I moved to New York State 9 years ago.

The first was right after I moved here. Bryon and I drove to Queens to attend a cookout at a friends house.

The third time was in November, 2013.  I was pregnant with a baby I would miscarry later that same week.  Bryon and I took a one night cruise on the Norwegian Gem out of NYC and the following day we explored the city.  Only being pregnant, I was not good company. I was tired, had sciatic pain and could only tolerate eating saltine crackers.  I remember we had lunch at McGee’s Pub, which is the bar that inspired McLaren’s on How I Met Your Mother.  Then we saw Pippen at The Music Box Theater. I had wanted to see the Rockettes but Bryon really wanted to see Pippen.  He told me we would see the Rockettes the next time.

The next (and fourth) time Bryon and I would go to NYC would be when I had him transferred to Columbia Presbyterian and I temporarily moved down there.  A family who was friends with my daughter’s godmother took me in. I will always be grateful that they welcomed me, a stranger into their home and did everything they could to make me feel welcome even though we had no way of knowing how long Bryon’s recovery was going to take.

Aside from the one night where my daughters godmother took me to Times Square and to a Mexican Restaurant in Harlem on the same block as the Seinfeld Restaurant, I did not see much of the city. The family I stayed with lived in Hamilton Heights.  Every morning I would walk a block to the subway station, stopping to get an Iced Coffee at Dunkin Donuts. The hospital was one stop on the express (three on the local) away in Washington Heights and I spent my days in Bryon’s room in the MICU located in the Millstein Building.  The security guards knew my name. When I was hungry, I either got food in the cafeteria or I went to the Chipotle or Starbucks on the same block.

Since then, I have driven by NYC on a few trips where I have flown in and out of Newark, NJ.  We also drove by the city on our way to and from Philadelphia last month. I remember saying to my friends that I had not been to NYC since Bryon died.  I know there is so much that city has to offer. We had so many ideas of things we wanted to do with our daughter when she got older. I am thinking about possibly doing a weekend trip next fall.  I want to take her to see the Rockettes. We will see if I am ready.

I think it is safe to say that if I visit NYC again, I will be avoiding Washington Heights.

So now that I have gotten all that out of the way, I will get to the point of this post.

I am choosing to remember Bryon and our second trip to NYC.  

It was May 2011. Seven years ago.  I was pissed at Bryon because we never went to the city.  So he did what any good boyfriend would do.  He took me down to NYC.  And typical to his zest for life, he packed a lot into that one day.

So he took me to the city.

We drove downstate and took the Metro North train into the city.  We arrive in Grand Central Station.

We went to the Top of the Rock.

We then went to Chinatown where I may have bought an “imitation” Coach purse.  Bryon was dissapointed that I wouldn’t go into the places with a back room. It scared me.  Bryon normally couldn’t care less about purses, but when it was time to haggle, he jumped right in and haggled with the lady.  Even though I was paying, he wasn’t satisfied with the price given.

Bryon then took me to McSorley’s.  McSorley’s was an experience.   It is the oldest running Irish Tavern in NYC.  You have two choices of beer, light and dark and you order them in increments of two.  We ate the cheese platter which consisted of cheese, saltines and raw onions.  The place is full of history but the best is the legend of the wishbones.  the legend is that when the soldiers went to war during WWI, they put a wishbone up above the bar and took them down when they returned.  So the wishbones that remain memorialize the soldiers that did not come home.

After McSorley’s, Bryon took me to a dish shop called Fishs Eddy.  I don’t remember it being the best place to be when you were tipsy.

Then we went to Little Italy.  We had dinner at a pizza place and then went somewhere else for cannoli.  I have no idea the names of the places we went.

We finished the night at a hidden bar above a Five Guys.

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A city with so many memories.  A city that I will always associate with Bryon’s death.  A city that Bryon planned on taking our daughter at Christmastime.

I need to decide if I want to take my daughter down this fall.  It would be a shame to not take advantage of all the city has to offer.  Nothing in life is definite and if I were to leave the area, I would probably kick myself for not going down there.  So now I need to decide, Rockettes or the Natural History Museum or both….

Have you ever been to New York City?  What is your favorite thing to do?

Why this widow donated her wedding dress.

The dress came into my life on October 28, 2011.  Bryon and I had been engaged since Sept 6, 2011, and had set our wedding date for Sept 29, 2012.  We had our venue and wedding planning was in full swing. I needed a dress.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

I can’t say that I was looking forward to picking out a wedding dress.  5 out of 6 of my bridesmaids lived out of state so I was pretty much alone in the process.  I wasn’t going to be sitting with a group telling Randy that I was saying yes to the dress. (Yes, that is a TLC reference)

I have also struggled with my weight throughout my life so that also left me apprehensive about the whole wedding dress shopping process.

I had looked through some wedding magazines and I had an idea what I wanted.  I wanted a princess gown with sparkle but I didn’t want anything too crazy.

At that point in my life, I was working in a clerical position at a local emergency room and my schedule ran from Sunday to Thursday.  Bryon and I decided that we would go to Boston because Filene’s was going one of their “Running of the Brides” events on Friday, October 28, 2011.  It ended up being the last time Filene’s did the “Running of the Brides.”

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

These events were known to open at 4 am and be full of brides and their teams running around grabbing whatever they could find.  Bryon and I decided that we would aim for a ten a.m. shopping time after things settled down and we left Albany for Boston around 6 am.

Bryon was not going to go shopping with me. We were old-fashioned about many things and seeing my wedding dress was one of them.  Luckily, one of my bridesmaids who lived in Maine made the trip down to Boston to help me shop. Bryon decided that he was going to take a tour of Fenway Park while we were dress shopping.

I told my friend my vision and my size range.  I looked at a few racks and found exactly what I was looking for but it was a size too small. Yes, I planned to exercise and lose weight and all that but I didn’t feel comfortable relying on my plans.  I knew it was safer to err on a larger sized dress and have it altered own.

Luckily this dress was a mass-produced Alfred Angelo dress and I quickly located the same dress in my size.  I quickly located my friend who has a few dresses she found for me to try on. Then I stripped down in a busy store and put on the dress.  Normally that might seem bizarre, but that morning, everyone was doing it.

 

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Buying my dress at Filene’s “Running of the Brides in Boston, 2011.  (Cellphone picture)


I knew the moment I put on that dress that this was it. This was my dress. It was love at first sight.   It was a princess gown but not too poofy and just the right amount of sparkle.

There was what looked like a few black grease stains on the bottom but I figured they would come out with dry cleaning. (Spoiler alert- they did!)

I didn’t even try on the dresses my friend picked out. We both knew there was no point.

I called Bryon to tell him the news. He couldn’t believe that I picked out a dress so quickly as his tour of Fenway Park hadn’t started yet.  I told him how much the dress cost ($500) so he could input the data into his Google spreadsheet. He loved Google spreadsheets.

While Bryon took his Fenway tour, my friend and I took the subway out to where Bryon and I had parked our car and I locked my dress in the car.  We went back into the city and we met Bryon for lunch at Boston Beer Works right outside of Fenway Park.

Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

I don’t remember much more from that afternoon. I had my dress and I was happy. Bryon was happy that I was happy. We walked around the city. We went to Cheers (it will always be the Bull ‘n Finch to me) and Bryon got annoyed by some tourists that were blocking the door.  We had dinner at an Italian Restaurant in the North End that Bryon had seen featured in Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Bryon had a bit of a man-crush on Gordon Ramsay and gushed after a trip to the men’s room saying he went in the same urinal that Gordon Ramsay must have used.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography



Our wedding came and went.  It was my day. It was everything I dreamed it would be and I felt like a real princess.

Now it is five and a half years later.  My husband is dead and I have no use for this dress.

I am never going to wear the dress again.  I mean, even if I get married again, I am not going to wear it again. For one, it’s the dress I wore to marry my first husband who is now dead. Secondly, even if it wouldn’t be weird to wear the dress again, my tastes have changed. It was the perfect dress for me in 2011-2012 but now it wouldn’t suit my style in 2018.

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I can remember telling Bryon I wasn’t walking down the steps in the heels I was wearing. He obliged. Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography



The dress has sat in the back of the closet in my spare bedroom.  I never had it cleaned after the wedding and the bottom of the dress is dirty from being dragged on the floor all night.

When Bryon was alive, he encouraged me to get the dress cleaned and then sell the dress but I just couldn’t bring myself to part with the dress I wore on one of the happiest days of my life.

Now, this dress, which is a symbol of my happiness is also a symbol of my sadness.

EQ4C1830-334And I began to wonder what I should do with this dress.

The first thing people usually suggest to me is that I should save the dress for my daughter.

While I think it is touching when someone wears their mothers’ wedding dress, I felt like I would be burdening my daughter.  I didn’t want her to feel like she had to wear my dress.

Styles change.  Yes, she could change the style but the dress was strapless, to begin with. Also, the dress was made out of polyester, not some fancy fabric. Lastly, I hope my daughter doesn’t struggle with her weight like I do and the dress size may not be easy to work with.

I feel that my daughter deserves her own “say yes to the dress moment”.  A moment that, God willing, I will be there to witness.

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Flower Girl Dress Shopping, 2018  (Cell phone photo)


The second reason I don’t want my daughter to wear my wedding dress is a bit selfish.

I have attended two weddings since Bryon passed and my daughter and I will be in a party wedding very soon.

And at each moment I am always taken aback at the father-daughter moments. Because Bryon won’t be there to walk her down the aisle. He won’t dance with her.  (Which he once mentioned he wanted to dance to Sitting at the Dock of the Bay because it was in his favorite movie, Top Gun. I told him it would be our daughter’s decision, not his.) He won’t be beaming with pride. He won’t be making jokes, pretending to be annoyed at how much the wedding cost.

Now I don’t know who is going to walk my daughter down the aisle.

Maybe she will have a stepfather. I am optimistic that I will fall in love again. And he will be a wonderful man because I wouldn’t settle for anything less.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

Or maybe my daughter will have her grandfather walk her down the aisle. Or maybe her Godfather will walk her down the aisle. Or maybe one of the many uncles she has, the men who were Bryon’s closest friends.  She has lots of great men in her life to choose from.

But the only thing that is certain is that Bryon won’t be walking her down the aisle and that moment is going to take me aback.  Even if that moment is brief, that moment will be there. I will feel my breath being taken away. I will feel like I am being punched in the stomach.  It will sting. There is a good chance I will tear up. Because even though so many people love my daughter, the man who gave her life and loved her so much won’t be there to walk her down the aisle.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography


And if she were in my wedding dress, it would be too hard for me.

So this brings me to this wedding dress from one of the happiest days in my life that was a symbol of all my sadness.

I am in the process of clearing Bryon’s belongings out of the house. Letting go of each item is a process, no matter how small.  First I have to decide if an item holds a practical use for me  If not, does someone I know have a practical use for the item?  Is the item broken? Those questions are usually easy to answer.  It’s the sentimental items that are tough.

Sometimes I break down and cry. Sometimes I get angry because he is dead and all I have is…stuff.  Sometimes I feel empty. Sometimes I feel nothing at all.

My wedding dress was definitely a sentimental item.

EQ4C2025-437I felt like my wedding dress wasn’t done yet.  My dress had done what it was meant to do.  It had served its purpose.   It made me feel beautiful on one of the happiest days of my life.  I felt like my dress wasn’t mean to just sit in my closet and remain a symbol of my sadness.

One day I felt like it was time to let go of my dress.

I remembered hearing about charities that take donated wedding gowns and making gowns for babies who have passed away.

Just like I knew right away that my wedding dress was the one, I knew immediately that this was what I was meant to do with my wedding dress.

The families of those babies are in a deep and profound grief and while I don’t know the pain of losing a child, I do know deep and profound grief. I felt like I needed to whatever I could to help.

EQ4C2130-494I couldn’t think of a more dignified second life for a dress that made me so happy. That dress didn’t deserve to sit in a closet, avoided.  That dress would go on for a deeper purpose.

It brings me a sense of healing to donate that dress will, in some form, bring comfort to a grieving family.  My wedding dress made me look beautiful at my wedding and lives on in my memories and these angel gowns may be the last (and maybe the only) chance for these grieving parents have to see their child dressed in something beautiful.

I went to google and saw that most of the charities that made angel gowns weren’t taking wedding dress donations.  I looked through my google results and saw that there were many other worthy organizations that accept weddings dresses for various uses.  But I felt drawn to this particular purpose.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

After searching, I found the Facebook page of a charity made angel gowns and it was local.  I sent the charity a message over Facebook messenger to inquire if they were currently accepting and they responded within the hour.  They were accepting wedding dresses and I could drop it off at a Ford dealership on the other side of town.

I also learned that they were looking for shipping sponsors to purchase VISA gift cards as these gowns sometimes have to be overnighted free of charge to the recipients.  Gift cards to Wal-Mart and Jo-Ann’s were also appreciated as these seamstresses were volunteers and can always use donations for materials to decorate these gowns. I did decide to be a shipping sponsor and a donated a VISA gift card along with my dress.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

It was also requested that the crinoline be removed.  Crinoline is that netting-like material that makes up petticoat.  My dress had a lot of it.

I took the dress out of the closet.  Then I took it out of the garment bag.  I looked at the dress one last time. I contemplated trying it on the dress on but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.  As requested by the charity, I removed the crinoline. Then I removed the sparkly band that sat just under the bust of the dress.  I decided that I would set it aside for my daughter. She can incorporate it into her wedding, should she choose to do so.

Then I cried.  I bawled.

I hadn’t bawled like that in many months.  Sure my eyes tear up a little but I couldn’t remember the last time I bawled like this.

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First date. Engagement. Wedding Day. All at this bar. Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography

I put the dress back in the garment back and brought the dress downstairs where it hung on a hook on the exterior door of my kitchen.

The dress sat there for 4 days because I did not have the time to bring the dress where my daughter would not have been present.  I was afraid that I was going to be an emotional mess and I did not want her to see that.  Though part of me dragged my feet because this would be final.

One morning after I dropped my daughter off at daycare,  I decided it was time. I put the dress into my car and drove to Latham Ford.

Dropping off the dress was an easy process.  The salesman held the door open for me and told me to go over the receptionist.  The receptionist took the dress and thanked me.

And then I left.

At that moment I felt nothing and everything all at once.

My dress was gone.

I couldn’t ask for it back.

I didn’t cry.

I know I made the right choice for me.

* * *
All wedding day photos are courtesy of my wedding photographer, Heidi Benjamin.  Thank you for being so gracious.

http://www.heidibenjamin.com/

If I can give you one piece of advice- this would be it

When one goes through a trauma and/or profound loss, it changes every aspect of your life.

It changes your daily routine.

It changes your sense of security.

It changes your health.

It changes you sense of identity.

Everything you have ever believed gets questioned and your life goes into turmoil.

During my time of turmoil, I have decided to question everything I have ever believed and there have been changes to my thought patterns.

I learned not to worry so much.  I can’t change my past so I no longer obsess about my past choices and regrets.  There is so much about the future that I can’t control, so I don’t worry about that.  There was no way I could foresee what would happen to Bryon and it happened.  I can’t control what happens tomorrow, next week, next month or next year.  I can just live my life and try to make the best decisions I can.

My tolerance for bullsh*t is so much lower, if it even exists at all.  I have learned that life is too short to deal with inauthentic people who have no regard for your feelings and are trying to make your life more difficult.

I had always been a rule follower.  Bryon used to give me hard time about it.  Some rules are meant to be bent, some broken and some are silly and shouldn’t be followed at all.

During this season of my life, I have thrown myself into a period of soul searching.  I have learned so much from reading books and blogs, from heart to heart talks with close friends and from watching YouTube.

I am always up for a conversation pondering the meaning of life and how to live one’s life to the fullest.

I am not a guru but if I were to offer one piece of advice, it would be that you need to love yourself.

It might sound cheesy but you can never be happy if you don’t love yourself.

Too often, we are taught that the needs of others should be put above your own.  Any mother knows this.  Our kids come first and we neglect ourselves.

But we are actually doing our children a disservice by not allowing ourselves to be happy.

If my baseline is to be unhappy, my daughter will pick up on that. She will grow up learning that you are supposed to be unhappy.

People often think that I am a happy person because I have a cheerful disposition.

I had them fooled.

I was never truly happy.

I have always relied on others to make me happy.

Happiness was measured by how many friends I had and who I was friends with.  For someone focused on that, I never had many deep friendships.

And when I was married, I relied on Bryon to make me happy.

The whole part of Jerry McGuire where he says to Renee Zellweger “You complete me” is complete and utter bullsh*t.

No one can complete anyone.  We have to be happy and complete within ourselves.

I grew up with very low self-esteem.  I didn’t date much and I measured my self worth by this.

I had one long term relationship at the end of college.  I often refer to this guy as the “Anti-Bryon” because they were opposites on many things.  The “Anti-Bryon” did not appreciate me and tried to extinguish my spirit.  Though I don’t think he necessarily did that intentionally.  I think he just vibrated on a lower level of energy.  When we broke up my Grandma Sullivan expressed that she was disappointed that we had ended our relationship.  She had liked him.  I told her that the Anti-Bryon had no intention of marrying me.  My grandmother just said “You’re right.  He didn’t have enough zip for you.”

God, I miss my grandmother.

Needless to say, I let how the Anti-Bryon viewed me to affect my self-worth.  When I am in love, I like to express it verbally.  (Actually, I am told I express a lot of things verbally, not just love.)  I would tell the Anti-Bryon that I loved him and he would get annoyed and respond with “random.”

And it was random, but I was expressing my love.  Which I feel should be done when you feel it.

If you express your love, the recipient should appreciate it.  I mean, as long as you are doing it in a non-creepy manner.  If you express your love to a complete stranger in a public place then that recipient would be justified for not appreciating it.  But if you are in a committed relationship, then you should be able to tell your significant lover that you love them, gosh darn it!

I began to realize that the Anti-Bryon was with me for convenience.

Eventually, I decided that I deserved better.  I deserved to be loved.

The Anti-Bryon and I were supposed to stay friends but that didn’t last long.  Our friendship started to take after our relationship.  As in, I was doing all the work.  I remember chatting with him on Instant Messenger in Late October in 2004.  I told him I was volunteering on the 2004 Bush Campaign and that I had just been diagnosed with bronchitis but I was still going out to wave signs.  I was excited.  I was telling him because we were friends and he barely seemed interested.  I mean, he also was a Democrat so that may have played a little bit into it.  But it was at that moment that I realized he didn’t even deserve my friendship.  That was the last time we spoke.

I dated a little over the next 4-5 years.

Whenever I let my guard down, I was rejected.  This took a toll on my self-esteem.

I got strung along.  Like on How I Met Your Mother.  I was always on some guys hook.

Then one day I said “F*ck it.”

Inspired by one of my favorite movies of all time, Kate and Leopold, I decided to take Leopold’s Victorian dating advice and not give a man my time unless he made a “proper overture”.

Enter Bryon.

Bryon did not string me along.

Bryon did not keep me on his hook.

Bryon made a proper overture and made his intentions known.

And we should have lived happily ever after and in some respects we did.

We loved each other fiercely.  We were good for each other.

But no relationship is perfect.

Our relationship was not perfect for many reasons.

One of the reasons our relationship wasn’t perfect was because I did not love myself.

I recently read Don Miguel Ruiz’s book , The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship: A Toltec Wisdom Book.  It is a continuation of The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) which is based on Toltec Wisdom.  I highly recommend both.  (The link is an Amazon affiliate link which means if you click on it and decide buy it, I probably get, like, $0.04 or something.  Why not?)

In The Mastery of Love, Ruiz discusses how there are two people in every relationship and we are only responsible for our happiness.  The other person is responsible for their happiness.

In order to thrive in a relationship, one must look inward and be happy and complete with themselves first.  Ergo, Tom Cruise was full of sh*t in Jerry McGuire because no on can complete you.

So Bryon and I were in a marriage and I was expecting him to complete me.

I wasn’t happy with myself.

I relied on Bryon for my happiness.  This was not fair because he was not responsible for my happiness.  I was.

He definitely tried to make me happy.  He offered me the world and I still wasn’t happy with myself.

I know I frustrated him.

I was unhappy with myself and often, that unhappiness would spill over into our relationship.

Any other guy probably would have left me but Bryon made it clear that I was stuck with him.

I felt so poorly about myself that I never understood what Bryon saw in me.

I felt he could do better.

I can’t speak for Bryon’s half of the relationship and his thoughts.   Those thoughts died with him. It is easy to put your deceased spouse on a pedestal but I know he wasn’t perfect.  But I would love to be able to discuss this with him.

I wish he could see how much I have grown.

Though if he were still alive, I probably wouldn’t have grown.

But I can’t help but wonder how much stronger our marriage would have been if I had been happy with myself.

Bryon loved me at my worst.

My next husband will have the better version of me because now I love myself.

I just don’t want people to have to go through what I did to realize how important it is for you to love yourself first.