His illness had come as a shock. His body went into shock and he almost died at the beginning but he survived.
He did have an uphill battle ahead of him. He spent 5 months in the ICU fighting for his life.
I knew death was a potential outcome but I really thought he was going to make it through. But it didn’t work out that way.
After Bryon died, my mind tried to make sense of what had just happened.
I was trying to figure out what my “new normal” was.
As I was trying to figure out my new life, I kept comparing it to my old life. My old life was the only point of reference I knew.
And every time I would have to make any sort of decision, I would imagine what Bryon would think of the situation. After all, we spent almost every day together for the past 8 years and he wasn’t only my spouse. He was my best friend. We talked about everything.
Bryon was on my mind a lot.
While one is never free of grief, the emotions usually ease up over time. Some say time heals all wounds. I don’t discount that theory but I think that the easing of emotions over time can be attributed to the fact that you begin to get used to them being gone.
But in those early days, I was wondering what the *bleep* had just happened to my life.
I found myself wondering what if Bryon were still alive. What would he say? What would he do? What would our life be like?
I would watch our TV shows and wonder what he’d think of the plotline. Or how hard he’d laugh at one of the jokes.
As the Election of 2016 unfolded, I wondered what he would have thought of it all.
In the beginning, it was easy to bridge the gap from “new life” to “old life”. I was in our house with our daughter (who was still a toddler) and our cat and I was among all our belongings. Our friends were around. I was essentially living our life…without him.
It was very easy to slip back into the past, even if it was only in my mind.
But over time, things began to change.
My daughter got older. Even though my role as a mother changed when I went from co-parent to solo parent, my role as a mother changed as I observed my toddler turning into a pre-schooler.
I started to give away and donate items of his that I didn’t need or want. Though this was a lengthy process as Bryon saved everything and there was a lot of sentiment attached to his possessions.
I got a new job where I could work from home. If he was still alive, I couldn’t work from home. He sometimes worked from home and he joked that we couldn’t both work from home.
Many friends drifted away. I also learned that many of “our friends” were really just his friends and those friendships crumbled.
Over time, my home stopped feeling like home. I began to feel as alien in New York then as I did when I moved there in 2009.
I realized “our life” no longer existed and that I was fooling myself thinking I could reconstruct a life out of the remnants of “our old life”.
I changed. I grew. I am not the same person I was.
My life has been a revolving door of change.
Change has been the only constant.
I had to grieve the life I once knew.
But now my life path has meandered. It is a lot harder to think “If Bryon was here…” because if Bryon were alive, I wouldn’t be where I was.
I know Bryon is always with me in that esoteric kind of way but I am very removed from the life we had.
I can’t wonder “what if” anymore.
The only thing wondering “what if” will accomplish is denying me happiness in my current life.
I can’t move forward if I am constantly looking back.
It doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate our memories.
It doesn’t mean that I can’t cry when I miss him or that I can’t laugh when I think of a funny memory.
The Earth has made another trip around the Sun since you left.
The shock is gone but I still feel the void.
“They” said it would get easier and that time heals all wounds.
Perhaps they are right. But I think it’s more like you get used to feeling the void.
And chances are “They”- whoever they are- are full of shit anyway.
People are full of opinions and are usually happy to give unsolicited advice.
And 99.98% of the time that unsolicited advice is shitty advice.
I’m doing okay.
Our daughter is doing well. Parenting her by myself was daunting at first but I think I got it figured out. Well, most of the time.
She’s a great kid. She is about to start kindergarten and she keeps busy with dance and swimming. She also played T-Ball last Spring and she will be doing soccer this Fall.
You would be so proud.
It makes me sad that she only has an interpretation of you based on stories about you and photographs. I wonder how much she knows about you. She saw the pictures of you making kissy faces at the baby turtles in Grand Cayman and laughed about it at another time. So she does think about you.
I talk about you often and I let her know that you love her very much.
The cat is still here. He is still cute even though he coughed up a hairball as I type this. But I still love him.
The first year without you was about survival.
The second year was about existing.
This third year has been about living again.
I have made some big life changes.
Moving forward without you is a struggle. For two years I tried to hold onto the life we had together.
But the more time passes, the harder it became.
Shit had to go.
I had to let go of unhealthy relationships. Toxic really.
I have had a lot of shit flung at me. Shit that never would have been flung at me if you were alive.
Because you would have never tolerated it.
Not on this planet. Not on any planet.
As life moves forward, it’s as if you remain frozen in time. I have come to accept that some people can compartmentalize you separately from how they treat me and your daughter. Or how they treated you when you were alive.
Our marriage had its struggles (all marriages do) but I never questioned your loyalty. You never gave me a reason too.
You always had my back.
I miss having you as an ally. At least, in human form.
But I have learned from it. I need people in my life who are loyal and deep and I finally think I have set healthier boundaries.
My only regret is not walking away sooner.
And people can say whatever they want to, or need to, to make themselves feel better. Even if a lot of it is probably shit.
Those people can fuck off.
I say that with love, of course.
Things are almost never what they seem.
I know it wasn’t practical to move forward with “our” dreams. Our dreams are empty without you. I have realized that it’s time to move forward with my dreams.
As time marches forward, I struggle with guilt.
Why do I get to live out my dreams when you can’t?
It’s so unfair.
And then I get scared because what if my dreams make me happy. Then I cycle back to feeling guilty at the idea that I could be happy in a life without you.
And it’s ridiculous because I know, with every fiber of my being, that you want me to be happy.
I am torn between knowing life is short and feeling guilty for living a full life.
You were such a big part of my life but the harsh reality is in my present life, you are no longer an active part of the equation.
That seems harsh but it makes me sad.
Very, very sad.
But we both know that no matter what my life brings in the future, we will always have those 8 years together. The good times and the bad. The Caribbean cruises and the nights at home, binge watching Breaking Bad, The West Wing, and Friday Night Lights.
When I put on these glasses, I realized that they represented a lot more to me than I expected.
I first got glasses in high school. I was told I needed them for reading. Sometime between high school and college, I lost them and I never worried about it.
Since I like to measure time by presidential administrations, this was during the end of the Clinton administration.
My eyesight never seemed to be a real issue and I didn’t worry about it.
Sometime after my daughter was born (during the late Obama administration), I noticed my vision wasn’t what it used to be. Bryon showed concern and encouraged me to make an appointment with his eye doctor.
I made the appointment with Bryon’s eye doctor. His eye doctor was very nice. I liked him. And I got the glasses that I needed.
I even went to see him when I was sent home for work for conjunctivitis. My work did not require me to see an outside optometrist but Bryon thought it would be a good idea. Turns out I didn’t have conjunctivitis. I just had dry, red eyes that can happen to nursing mothers due to hormonal changes. He gave me some drops.
After Bryon died, I got the notice in the mail that I was due to an eye exam. But I couldn’t make the appointment.
Bryon had been a patient of this eye doctor since he was seven.
I didn’t know if his eye doctor even knew that Bryon died. Bryon’s death had been in the newspapers but I had no clue if he knew and I didn’t want to be the one to have to tell him.
I could handle talking to people that knew Bryon and knew he died and I could talk about Bryon’s death to people who didn’t know him at all. But I couldn’t be the person to tell someone who had known Bryon since he was a kid that he had died.
Besides, it would be hard to do an eye exam if I was messy crying.
So I avoided the eye doctor.
I threw that notice into a pile of papers that I called “shit I will deal with later”.
Things were fine.
And then I lost my glasses and I did not have a spare.
I tried not to worry about them.
I adapted. At least I thought I did.
But I knew the truth.
I knew I couldn’t put it off.
I am 40 and my eyes are not what they used to be.
For a long time after Bryon’s death, I bounced between the state of existing and the state of surviving.
But it’s time for me to start taking care of myself.
So I went to a different eye doctor.
And now I have my glasses.
My daughter approved of them because they are pink.
And now things are clearer.
Maybe a little too clear.
I recently watched an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where the family convinced Marie Barone that she needed glasses. Then she got glasses and she could see so well that she pointed out every physical flaw everyone had.
Well I looked in the mirror and I noticed every tiny flaw on my face.
I think I need a chemical peel. Or, like, 12 chemical peels.
At least a facial.
But now that I am seeing 20/20 again, I realized that this is symbolic of my life. As a transition to the next chapter of my life, things are just so much more clearer now.
Of course, some of that might be the fact that I have spent the last 3 years in deep thought and reflection.
Either way, I am seeing things for what they are.
The “blurriness” of my life has cleared up as I processed what had happened in my life, as I learned to cope with the events, as I realized how I let others projections and attitudes affect me and as I learn how to how I respond to all of these factors.
Now it’s time to look toward the future with a clear vision.
It feels fitting to end this blog post with a quote from one of Bryon’s favorite fictional characters, Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights- “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”).
And the fourth item I couldn’t part with was his Red Sox shirt.
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.
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.
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.
Two years ago I was sitting next to you during the last hours of your life.
We were both clinging on in a way.
It was what I imagine Purgatory to be like.
As much as I wanted the agony to be over, I had no choice to but to cling and wait out our last hours and minutes together. Because once Purgatory was over, you were going to be dead.
(There was no way, at that time, to foresee the agony that would follow during the months after).
I don’t know why you were clinging on but you did. I am sure it was because of some deep spiritual meaning that I can’t understand in this human form.
Or maybe you were waiting for Chelsea to score even though we weren’t watching a game. Besides, your heart stopped beating at 6:47 am which is probably still too early, even for English Premier League Soccer.
I am in a much better place now than I was last year.
Your first deathaversary really kicked me on my ass. It put me in a funk that I couldn’t seem to shake off until Christmas.
Last year I would have said that your death made a big impact in my life.
Which it did.
But now I realize that your life had an even bigger impact than your death.
I will probably never understand why our years together were so short but I am grateful that I had you for as long as I did.
I am grateful for the memories and all I learned from you.
You loved me at my worst.
Sadly, you never got to experience me at my best.
I’d like to think that you would be proud of me.
I am better person because of your love.
You always believed in me.
You were right. I am a lot smarter than I ever gave myself credit for. Though I am sure you roll your eyes a lot every time I mess something up or forget to do something.
I remember how appalled you were when we were in our dating days when I half-joked that whenever I hear a noise in my car, I would turn the music up and hope that the noise went away. You told me that you were going to take care of the car and I happily obliged.
Well, I’ve actually kept up on car maintenance. I even checked with my Dad to make sure there wasn’t anything I might have forgotten and he said I was all set.
Though, truth be told, I am too scared to let car maintenance slide since I drive with our daughter in the car. If it were just me…then…eh…
But I have been trying hard to learn these new skills. Because you aren’t hear to take care of the things you used to take care off.
Last year I was still grasping the concept that you died.
This year I am grasping the concept of how much time has passed since you were gone.
I used to marvel at how much has changed since you were here but now I can’t help but notice how much has changed since those early months after you died.
It might seem silly but it started when I noticed that the heels on my boots were wearing out. And then I remembered that I bought those boots after you died. How can it be possible that you have been dead long enough where I can wear out a pair of boots?
Friendships have run their course.
(Do you remember when I used to let people walk all over me and use me? I would get so upset and those offenders and the situations always angered you. At the time, I didn’t realize that it hurt you to see me hurt. You encouraged me to stand up for myself more. Well it is safe to say that I don’t out up with being treated poorly anymore.)
You died a month before our daughter turned two. Now she is almost 4 and she is going to be starting pre-K. And your best friends son who was born after you died is almost 2. I am not going to lie but your absence hurts the most during their milestones, first and achievements. You not here to see them grow up.
At this time last year, I was still struggling with adjusting to life without you.
Now, I feel like I am used to you being gone. Or maybe I am just used to your absence always being present. But I know that nothing is going to bring you back.
I have to accept that this is our story even if it’s not the ending I would have written for us.
I keep hearing that you are supposed to live in the Present. But my Present feels like I am living in limbo between two different worlds.
One of the worlds I live in consists of the past. While I am not in denial about your death, part of me is having a hard time letting go of the past. It just feels like every time I complete a task, your existence on Earth is erased just a little each time.
I took your name off of the bank account. It was time. The process only took about ten minutes and the guy working at the bank was really nice but when I got back to the car, I cried.
People talk about you less. When you first died, everyone was willing to talk to you and share memories. Now it feels like I can only talk about you with a small group of people. I guess most people have moved on. I am not quite ready to move on.
It feels like you have been forgotten.
I don’t want you to be forgotten.
I also live the other life that consists of the future. I hope it’s a happy time.
I live in a world where I am so ready for that next chapter. Whatever it might have in store for me.
Though I get overwhelmed when I think of all I need to do physically and emotionally to get to the next chapter.
I have been in a deep sadness for two years but I know I can’t stay this sad forever.
I am tired of feeling sad.
This type of sadness takes so much energy out of me.
And I know you don’t want me too. You want me to live my life to the fullest.
But you are one hard Mo-Fo to get over, Bryon McKim.
You changed my life and I will never meet anyone like you. But maybe from here I am supposed to be the one changing people’s lives? I am still trying to figure this out.
I want to be happy again.
I am ready for my next chapter.
No matter what happens, I will love you forever, BCM.
It’s a scenario that is very common to those in the widow world.
Our beloved spouse dies. Whether your spouse died after a long illness or if your spouse died suddenly and unexpectedly, you are in shock.
Then we have a funeral or a memorial service. Friends, family, co-workers and even acquaintances may attend. People tell stories about the deceased and assure the widow that they will never forget the deceased and that they are there for her if she needs anything.
A good portion of those people disappear forever. They mean well but to tell a widow that they are always there for her. What did that mean? Was it a lie? The funeral is not the hardest day for the widow. It’s the weeks and months that follow.
The pessimistic side of my personality feels that these people only told the widow that because it made them feel better.
The optimistic side of my personality reminds me that that time period is a big jumble in my mind and it remains blurry in my memory, a lot like a dream sequence in a 1980s sitcom. But without the cheesy transition music. So does it really matter if all those people who said they would never forget my husband have forgotten my husband?
For the first few weeks after the funeral, there may be people to check up on the widow. They may see if these needs anything around the house. They may have made her dinner and played board games. They let her cry in her dinner. They may have kept her company as she drinks wine and binge watches the Gilmore Girls.
But gradually the amount of people checking in on the widow gradually drops off until one day she begins to wonder what happened to all the people who said that they would never forget their spouse.
It happens to every widow. On some level. And it stings.
I was shocked when I came to the realized that very few people talk about Bryon now. It’s pretty much just my inner circle. Even though I still feel like I am getting my feet steadily on the ground, it is like Bryon never existed to anyone outside my core group of friends.
And what happened to all those people who said they were going to share stories of my late husband with my young daughter? She was a month shy of her second birthday when my husband passed so she won’t have any memories of her own. I was counting on those stories for her to know her father.
I do have a core group of friends who are very present in my life and my daughters life. I am one of the lucky ones. Widowhood is lonely. Some widows don’t even have a core group of friends or family to lean on.
So how is a widow supposed to handle it when they are struggling to move forward and the rest of world has already moved on? And while I have moved forward, it doesn’t mean that I want Bryon to be forgotten.
Here are the five things I remind myself to feel better when it feels like everyone has forgotten my late husband.
Remember that this is what normally happens. Many people were affected by Bryon’s death. I think of their grief as a hole and depending on their relationship with Bryon would determine the size of the hole. On one end there are some people had small hole that might trip them if they weren’t looking. But they can just look up and keep walking. On the other end (where our close friends and family are) is a hole that is the size of the hole that was next to Anne Perkins house on the pilot episode of Parks and Recreation. This hole is impossible to avoid and it caused drama in Anne Perkins life. Her boyfriend even broke his leg. It is much harder to function with this kind of hole.
But I am the widow. But I wasn’t dealing with a hole that needed to avoided or filled. I was dealing with the fact the whole foundation my life was built on was destroyed. Everyone else had their distractions and they had their homes to go back to with their spouses and significant others. It is hard to find distractions when your whole life is destroyed. My husbands death affected every area of my life.
Give yourself a pat on the back
Because you have done such an awesome job at surviving and existing that people don’t feel like you don’t need to hear stories about your deceased spouse. As far as they are concerned, you have moved on. Why shouldn’t they? We live in a society that has a twisted sense of grief. You are either completely beside yourself with grief or you are completely over it and there is little room in between.
Accept it This is your life and you can’t make people understand. Unfortunately I feel like you can’t truly understand widowhood until you have been there. No one can understand the pain and emptiness that fills up most of our life. It is what it is. And really, that is a good thing that they are blissfully unaware. The world doesn’t need more hurt.
Realize that maybe people are actually thinking about your spouse and you just don’t know it.Maybe people are remembering your spouse and you are just not aware of it. We make assumptions based on what we see and maybe people don’t want to bring up your deceased spouse because they are worried that they are going to hurt you if they do. They don’t realize that we are not delicate flowers.
Take that upset energy and turn it into gratitude.
This one is the most important step. It is best not to waste your energy dwelling on negative feelings and instead, use that energy to be grateful for all the people who remain a positive force in your life. Even if that positive person is you.
I will hold onto those friends who have been by my side through the past two years. They aren’t getting rid of me.You can also take some of that energy and focus on yourself. Give yourself some self-love. You deserve it.
If you are widow, how did you cope when it felt like a loved one was being forgotten?
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.
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.”
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.
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
Photo Credit: Heidi Benjamin Photography
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.
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.
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. And 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.
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.
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.
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. I 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. I 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.
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.
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.
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.
And it’s been 596 days since I have become a widow.
596 days since my daughter lost her father.
596 days since the world I knew ended and my future was taken away from me.
596 days where I have felt lost and broken.
596 days of wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
596 days of guilt. Even though my head knows I have nothing to feel guilty about, I still feel it.
596 days of wondering “what if…?”
596 days of guarding my emotions because other people can’t handle them. Because making sure someone doesn’t feel discomfort for a short period of time is more important than the emotions of a person who deals with or had to deal with this hell every day.
596 days of rolling my eyes when people make insensitive comments knowing that they mean well. I envy their naivety.
596 days of missing what I had and wondering if I will ever be loved again. Though my love for Bryon was unique (as every love is) I wonder if I will ever feel that way again.
596 days of feeling like I am on a deserted island. I know people try to understand but sometimes I really wish I could just be “normal” like everyone else.
596 days of having to work at being happy. I will avoid anyone that makes me feel worse about my current state of life.
596 days since I have changed but people don’t see the real you. They want you to be whatever version of you that they previously knew. Or thought they had. Or they just see you as a broken widow, not the stronger person that you are really are. The old me is dead or on sabbatical until I decide where those old versions of myself fit into my new life.
596 days of protecting my boundaries. People will try to manipulate you. Even people who you thought were friends. People will pretend they are helping you in a public forum but never pick up the phone or text. There are people who think that your private life is their business just because Bryon was popular and I have a blog. But I choose what I write about on my blog and I choose what is private and will continue to enforce that boundary.
596 days of sadness. And while my sadness rarely breaks me down anymore, it still runs in the background, kind of like an app you forget to close on your cell phone. Once in awhile, it builds up and you have to deal with it.
I remember being told that it gets easier. And it has gotten easier. But I still miss him.
Sometimes I wonder if it the grief is subsiding or if I am just getting used to Bryon being gone. When Bryon first died, my whole world was rocked and I was in the “widow fog” for about a year. Now I have gotten some of my footing back and the fog has lifted but I am more likely to miss the little things. I don’t have my fog to protect me from reality anymore.
I recently bought my daughter a Disney Princess CD for the car.
Yeah…they still make CD’s. I was kind of surprised too. This was good news because whatever part of the brain that understands technology…well mine is stuck in the 1990s.
Actually that is only half true. I embrace modern technology.
I just need other people to set it up for me.
And I need for it to work all the time for me.
And if it doesn’t, I need other people to fix it form me.
My daughter and I have been listening to a Disney Princess CD.
Actually we have only been listening to two songs.
The first is Rapunzel and “When will my life begin.”
Poor Rapunzel. I know what it’s like to feel like I am waiting for my life to begin. Except I am trapped in a tower of my own making and that doesn’t compare to her abuse.
The other sing we were listening to was the Little Mermaid.
As we listened to Ariel, my daughter knowingly says “Ariel is sad because of a boy.”
I was shocked at my 3 and a half year old daughters insight.
She already has something figured out that I didn’t figure out until high school.
I said “Yes…boys have a tendency to do that to us…lots of boys will make you sad…then one day you find the one that doesn’t make you sad…and then you will be happy…well as long as he doesn’t die…”
I am pretty sure my daughter stopped listening to me once I said she was correct. But with her you never know. She doesn’t seem to miss anything. She’s smart.
Last week I talked about how Jerry McGuire and the whole “You complete me” thing is a lie but I also decided that I no longer believe in fairy tales.
Life is never what it seems.
Ariel likes a guy. She has to jump through hoops to get him to notice her. I mean, it’s one thing to dress pretty and have open body language but to give your voice to a sea witch seems a bit excessive to me.
Ariel, honey, it’s not supposed to be THAT hard.
And it’s not good enough that she jumps through all these hoops, she has to completely change her life to be with Eric. Eric isn’t putting in any effort.
Seriously Eric. You need to appreciate what this girl has done for you.
The movie ends with Eric and Ariel having a wedding cruise and Ariel is wearing the dress that she said yes too. Interestingly enough, she did not go with a mermaid style dress. Her family is swimming in the ocean which is probably the etiquette equivalent of putting your family at Table 22 or something.
So Ariel is almost completely isolated from her family. I don’t remember seeing Eric’s parents but what if they aren’t nice? Not all people have loving and supportive in-laws. (I plead the fifth!) Needless to say, this could be problematic for Ariel.
So isolated from family…unknown in law situation…what if Ariel pops out a kid or two or twelve and then Eric has a simple elective surgery that gives him sepsis and he dies? And Ariel’s family can’t help because they are mermaids and live in the water.
I don’t think Ariel has thought this through.
Even though she wants to “part of Eric’s world” (whatever that means) she clearly showed signs of confusion when I saw her at Disney on Ice last year.
Is that a mermaid tail or legs? I am so confused…
Ariel is clearly having some identity crisis. She wants to be human but she still wants her mermaid tail?
Looks like she wants to have her cake and eat it too.
Maybe she needs to take a cue from Elsa and leave the past in the past.
I just hope Prince Eric doesn’t die on Ariel and shatter that whole world she wanted to be a part of.
Last Friday I went to go see Les Miserables at Proctors Theater in Schenectady with some friends. Les Miserables was the first Broadway show I had ever seen.
It was 1996 and I was a senior in high school. My cross country team traveled from Ellsworth, ME to NYC to run in the Foot Locker Regional race. Our coach, Mr Beardsley, was also the sophomore English teacher and taught a unit on theater. We learned about Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon.
Because of Mr. Beardsley, there is probably a whole generation of Ellsworth graduates who love the theater, or at the very least, appreciate it.
So I saw Les Miserables at the Imperial Theater on Broadway with my cross country team. I was very moved by the play. I laughed. I cried. I got laughed at because I cried. The experience left an impression on me.
Three years later in 1999, I was studying in England and I saw Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theater in London.
I started dating Bryon in 2008 and I learned that he came from a family that was involved in community theater. I shared with Bryon how much I loved Les Miserables and Bryon told me hated it. In fact his whole family hated it. I got mocked for it through the years. I think it was too pedestrian for them or something. Whatever.
Eventually Bryon did give me his reason which was simply that it was too f*ucking depressing. Fair enough.
We only saw two Broadway plays in our years together. One was Pippen (Music Box Theater) and the other was Cats (technically West End, which is the London version and it was on a cruise ship.)
We meant to see more but it was one of those things that we figured we’d always have more time.
Bryon loved Cats. It was the first and last musical he ever saw.
Personally, I thought it was only okay.
Before the show started last Friday, my friends and I had grabbed some dinner, dessert and drinks and we were chatting. I recalled how much I loved Les Miserables and how much Bryon hated it.
And then I told my friends about my list.
Before I started dating Bryon, I had written a list of ten attributes I wanted in a future mate. I guess it was to keep me focused. I kept getting into “pseudo relationships” with men who didn’t appreciate me so at this point, I was focused on myself and what I wanted.
The top three things on the list were Republican, Catholic and had to be a Red Sox fan. I was told by many that that combination was not going to happen. It surprised them that I found it in a New Yorker.
Number 4 was that I wanted my mate to be Irish. Bryon was only 1/8 Irish so that was stretching it.
And I can’t really remember what the other items on this important list were. I mean, probably something about being drug-free, employed and with no criminal record.
But I do remember one thing. I wanted a man who had varied interests. Someone who could go to wine tasting and to the symphony one night and eat hot dogs and drink beers at Fenway the next.
We never did make it to the symphony but Bryon was completely comfortable in a tux. And a kilt too. He loved formal nights on the cruise and didn’t understand why others would not dress up.
We did catch a few evening concerts at Tanglewood. We picnicked on the lawn with our infant daughter.
We went wine tasting and we were those people who would taste our wine and say things like “It’s light and crisp and I can taste the touch of citrus. Very refreshing.”
We did attend many baseball games. Most were local games. We tried to catch the Tri-City Valley Cats when the Lowell Spinners were in town. We usually went on the 4th of July because never had plans on the actual holiday and we figured nothing was more American than baseball.
Though our daughter’s first baseball game was at Pawtucket watching the Paw Sox.
Bryon thought the clam chowder was wicked good. Okay, that might be my wording. Bryon was not shy at making fun of my New England vernacular.
Our most memorable game was a month after we started dating. Our relationship still a secret from our friends as we were unsure where it was heading and we didn’t want to create gossip within our political circle. We met up for a secret weekend in Boston. It was also the weekend of my 30th birthday and Bryon took me a Red Sox game.
It was his first and last Fenway game.
But I loved that Bryon was content doing a variety of different activities.
He was a Renaissance man. I told him that once and he proudly agreed.
He liked all sports. Well, except Nascar.
He was a lawyer but he was also really good at math and economics.
He knew theater and music.
He knew how to cook.
He liked animals.
He liked history and was always up for seeing landmarks.
He loved fine dining but he also appreciated the McRib.
Generally he wasn’t into Museums but he always wanted to go to the Jello Museum. That dream was left unfulfilled.
Whenever we went on a cruise, we always went a few days early to explore the departure port. (We also did that to create a buffer in case the winter weather didn’t cooperate.)
Our first cruise was out of Miami and we took a side trip to Key West.
We visited the Southernmost Point, drank margaritas and watched the sunset on Mallory Square, visited the cats at the Hemingway House, found the Southernmost Red Sox bar and Bryon indulged my need to see the start of Route 1.
I have two random anecdotes from that Key West trip.
The first was that there was a chicken crossing the road and Bryon decides he wants to catch it. But he aborted the mission halfway through and said he wasn’t drunk enough for that to be a good idea.
The second was at night when we left the Red Sox bar. We were walking back to our motel and we pass a ghost tour that was walking towards us. Bryon tells everyone on the tour that he is alive and he is not a ghost. They all laugh. Then there were some random people walking behind the tour and Bryon goes up to them and says “Oooooh, I’m a ghost. Ooooooh.” Those people laugh too.
And I laugh at the irony because while Bryon isn’t a ghost, he’s dead and could be a ghost if he really wanted to be. He’d find a way to make it happen.
That trip also took us to Miami where we ate Cuban food, tried Cuban coffee, drove by Elian Gonzalez’s uncles house and had dinner at a tapas bar that was in a gas station (and we were surprisingly under dressed for the establishment.)
Bryon had all these interests and this intense zest for life. Whenever we traveled anywhere, Bryon tried to fit in as much as he could. We ate local food, drank local beer, saw as many landmarks as possible and he would try to squeeze in a local sporting event.
How else would I explain that I saw the Ottawa soccer club (Capital City) play Toronto? I think Bryon might have bought the team scarf. If he did, I will find it someday.
Bryon was so good for me because I have always been a restless soul but I never knew how to go out, explore and enjoy my life.
I did not have the confidence to follow my dreams.
Bryon taught me how to really live.
And in some ways, he is still teaching me how to live. Even though he is dead.
I enjoyed all our adventures but I never realized how much they taught me until Bryon was gone. When he was alive, I never had to make choices or plan anything. He did all the vacation planning. He asked for my input, combined it with his wants and came up with an itinerary. He would even plot it all on a google map. Planning always made him happy and I was content to just show up and enjoy the vacation.
But now he is gone. I can’t rely on him pave the way to living anymore.
If I want to continue to live, it’s up to me.
When I booked my airline tickets for my trip to Vegas last year, it was the first time I booked airline tickets since 2009. Because Bryon always did it.
And even though my Chicago best friend was in my Vegas with me, it felt weird to be having adventures without Bryon.
A month after that trip, I drove out to Michigan to visit my Maine best friend and I drove across New York State and Southern Ontario. I couldn’t help but think about Bryon when I drove by the Labatt Brewery. And the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. I know Bryon would have been lobbying to stop- “But Kerry, we have to stop. It’s the CANADIAN Baseball Hall of Fame.”
Even though I explore the world with my daughter and friends, I do feel an emptiness because I am not sharing it with Bryon. And a sadness when it hits me that I wouldn’t be recounting the adventure to Bryon because he’s not waiting for me at home.
It’s a fear of mine that I will lose my desire to truly live before I can pass on the desire to learn and see the world to my daughter.