I so wanted him to be a motivational speaker

 

Written on my Facebook wall one year ago.

Names have been edited out.

Last night when I went to sleep on the little couch in Bryon’s room, I wasn’t sure he was going to make it through the night. He did but he was in rough shape. Then I wasn’t sure he was going to make it through the day. But Bryon is a fighter. I don’t know what the outcome is going to be but we all know that Bryon isn’t going down without a fight and he is going to give his all. This morning I told him that if he still had fight in him to please keep fighting. I want our daughter to grow up knowing firsthand how amazing her father is. But I told Bryon that I would love him no matter what even if he couldn’t win this fight. And thank God he is still fighting.

Bryon’s current health status is very critical at this point and we are pretty much back where we started. It was a miracle that kept him alive back in March and I don’t know if double miracles happen. However his labs and blood pressure have improved since this morning. But my friend says if the double miracle does happen it will be awesome because Bryon can become a motivational speaker and he would be funny.

 

*  *  *

The minutes crept at an unnaturally slow pace.

I will never forget how I felt as he clung onto his life.

Desperation.  Exhaustion. Frustration.  Helplessness.  Hopefulness.  Anger.  Betrayal. Gratitude.

And love.

 

 

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The last 30 hours

Saturday, August 20, 2016
New York City

I was sleeping in the recliner that the nursing staff had found.  I think they took pity on me because I was sleeping on two chairs put together.  The resident woke me up just after midnight and told me that Bryon’s numbers were looking much, much worse.  I called my daughter’s Godmother.  I was hysterical and I know I yelled at her after she asked some questions.  

I barely slept the rest of the night.

The following morning the resident came in.  She came in to tell me what I had been fearing: that Bryon’s heart was going to stop beating that day.  I remember staring straight ahead with tears in my eyes.  The resident asked me if I wanted to know what was going to happen.  Through my tears, I just nodded.  She explained to me the there was going to be a lot of yelling and everyone was going to come into the room and work on resuscitating him.  She explained that I would need to leave the unit should that happen.  I just nodded.  

I called my daughter’s Godmother who said she would be at the hospital as soon as possible. I truly don’t know how I would have gotten through the day (or really the past 15 months) without her and her fiance.

I made phone calls.  My parents were in Albany with my daughter.  I didn’t think it made sense for them to bring her down because Bryon was no longer aware and my daughter would be too young to remember.  Plus my parents are from Maine and my father hadn’t been to New York City since 1964 and it didn’t make sense for him to be driving in a city that was unfamiliar when Bryon wouldn’t even be aware.

I called Bryon’s parents and they told me they weren’t coming.  As a parent myself, I will never understand their decision.  If my daughter were in New Zealand and I heard she was dying, I would be on the first flight I could get across the world.  But we all make our own choices in life and we have to live with those choices.

I called some of my friends.  Some of them were able to make the trip down to the city that day to say their good-byes.

Specialists came in and out all day.  Each one gave me the news that there was nothing they could do.  Exploratory surgery would be the only option and he wouldn’t survive a trip to the operating room.  I overheard one of the doctors say they were looking for a Hail Mary.  I just appreciated that the doctors hadn’t given up on him, even though his death was imminent.

Saturday turned into Sunday.  Bryon was still alive.  It was my Dad’s birthday.  I wrote Happy Birthday on his Facebook wall because I knew my first call to him on his birthday was going to be telling him that Bryon had died.  

My daughter’s Godmother stayed with me all night.  Neither of us could sleep.  I was too afraid that if I were to fall asleep that that would be the moment his heart would stop beating.  I didn’t want my last moments with him to consist of me being awoken by commotion.  So my daughter’s Godmother and I stayed up all night, taking turns talking to Bryon. Obviously we didn’t know how much he could hear us or understand us or if he could hear us at all.

His vitals were falling.  His heart rate and blood pressure dropped to levels that I hadn’t seen in the five months of staring at the monitor.  His hand felt cold when I held it.  

I was talking to him.  I was probably rambling.  I remember telling him that our daughter and I were going to be okay.  Then I started rambling about shower hooks. Then, at 6:47 am, Bryon’s heart stopped beating.

Nine months

Today I had the honor to write a guest post on Mohamad’s Around the World series. It was a lot of fun to write about New York’s Capital District.  You can check it out here.  

And if you are visiting here from Mohamad’s blog, I just want to say welcome and I hope you stay awhile!

*  *  *

Bryon has been gone for nine months. The world is moving on without him and each day the world moves on, I feel a little bit more alone in my grief.  Widowhood is emotionally lonely even if you aren’t physically lonely.

I barely noticed Spring and Summer last year because I was sitting in the ICU with him. This year I am determined to enjoy Spring and Summer but when I sit on the front deck with our daughter, his absence is pronounced.

I miss him when I see other couples.  I am no longer whole. He was my other half and he has been ripped away along with my dreams and my future.  I don’t know why everyone else gets to be happy except me.

I work so hard at trying to stay positive and strong.  I know it’s what he would have wanted.  But sometimes I have to pretend I am positive and strong.  It’s what people have come to expect and I feel like they don’t want to know the truth.  And it can be exhausting.

No matter how much people try to understand, there is always some level of disconnect. People don’t understand how something as simple as a song can trigger sadness.

Sometimes I get tired of having to explain why certain things make me sad.

Sometimes I wish people would let me just be sad without making suggestions on how to fix my sad mood.  My husband is dead.  Why can’t I just be sad?  I’ve accepted that my sadness is now a part of who I am and why can’t people just accept that it is a part of me now?

I get tired of having to listen to platitudes and insensitive remarks.  I know people mean well but sometimes I get tired of the fact that it gets put on me that I have to accept that this is just how people are.  Why can’t it be other peoples responsibility to think before they speak and be a little bit more sensitive?  Is it really that hard?  Or am I really just expecting too much?

People seem to only like to hear about my grief when it’s empowering and inspiring.  The negative emotions of my grief make people uncomfortable and I get tired of feeling like I have to apologize for my emotions.  I envy those people because I wish I lived in a world where talk about grief makes me uncomfortable and I can avoid it.  I can’t avoid grief.  It’s my life.

I hate the fact that some days, I am almost used to Bryon being gone.  Each day that passes, he slips a little further away.   

All the days of my life

Our cake had four tiers, each with a different flavor.   The cake was decorated with a Celtic cross, red roses and with the tartan ribbon from Bryon’s Scottish clan.  There were weddings pictures of our parents and Bryon’s grandparents.  No wedding pictures of my grandparents exist so there were pictures from my grandparents younger days.  

There was no cake smashing as neither of us were fond of that tradition.  The song that was playing during our cake cutting was “You’re my Best Friend” by Queen.  There was so much excitement going on that day that I don’t remember what the cake tasted like but that was okay, we would freeze our top tier.  Of course, one year later we would discover that that cake would absorb the flavor of everything in our freezer and not taste as it was on our wedding night.

I was driving back from Starbucks yesterday morning (a habit I am trying to break though I am not sure I really want to) when Queen’s “You’re my Best Friend” came on the radio.  (Warning, you might think I am nuts after you read the next sentence.) They say the dead communicate to you through electronics and I am convinced Bryon is doing that.  He communicates with my daughter’s Godmother by putting Top Gun on her tv and he communicates with me through songs, usually in the form of Hall and Oates.  I have heard Hall and Oates more in the past couple of months than I have heard in my whole life prior.  He was partial to this 2008 Saturday Night Live skit of “Hall and Oates”.

Usually hearing a song that triggers a memory like that makes me cry but I actually handled it alright.  I was actually excited that Bryon was communicating and I turned up the song and listened.  Surprisingly I didn’t cry.  I was actually kind of happy and lighthearted.  I was okay until I read my friend widow blogger friend Emily’s post.  Emily’s post really reasonated with me and after I read it,  I cried.  I know, I cried.  Big surprise, right?

Emily’s post got me thinking about the wedding vow “till death do us part” but Bryon and I did not make that vow.  Our weddings vows at our Catholic Nuptial Mass stated that “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”  I remember having a conversation with Bryon about the significance of that vow.  He did not express any preference between “till death do us part” and “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”  As far as he was concerned, they had the same meaning.

I remember saying to him that I preferred “I will love you and honor you, all the days of my life” because one of us was going to die before the other and when one of us died, our love wasn’t going to stop.  Bryon didn’t really want to talk about it.  He was never one to talk about death and what happens after.  He came from a family where talking about death was taboo while my Boston Irish-Catholic family talked about death almost casually, like one would talk about the weather or the Red Sox.

My love for Bryon didn’t die on the August morning in New York City when he died.   I will love Bryon until I take my last breathe because my love for him doesn’t die until I die.  He is a part of me now and he will always have a part of my heart along with all the memories from our years together.  My love for Bryon is intertwined with the love I have for our daughter and our friends.  Even if I remarry, I will continue to love Bryon.  And that’s okay because the heart has an amazing ability to grow and to make room to accommodate all the love a person has to give.

Bryon’s love lives on in me.  I am who I am today because of Bryon’s love.  And I like to think that his love has made me a better person.  Bryon taught me so much in our short time together and I will never be the same.

And I will honor Bryon for all the days of my life.  I try to honor Bryon in many different ways.  I honor him by trying to be a good mother to our daughter.  I honor him by spending time with our friends even if it goes against my introvert tendencies.  I honor him by trying not to take my life too seriously.  I honor him by trying to do things that are out of my comfort zone.  I honor him by letting more inappropriate comments come out of my mouth.  I honor him by travelling with our daughter.  And some days, honoring Bryon might not be noble and it might be as simple as getting out of bed and existing that day.

But I will never stop loving and honoring Bryon.

Rest in Peace Rev. Malcolm Stephens

You are probably wondering “Who is Malcolm Stephens?’’

I was asking myself that very question the other night.

I was looking at my Facebook newsfeed and there was a post from Malcolm Stephens. It was actually written by his wife and it was stating that he had passed away unexpectedly and that the funeral service will be Saturday.  This immediately grabs my attention because widowhood gives you a sick fascination with death.

He was a Facebook friend of mine and yet I had no idea who he was.  The fact that I didn’t know how I knew him didn’t concern me.  I have a lot of Facebook friends I don’t really know.  A lot of people had sent me friend requests when Bryon got sick and I assumed he was a friend of Bryon’s.

I clicked on Rev. Stephen’s facebook profile looking for clues as to how Bryon knew him.  Our mutual friends would reveal how he knew Bryon.  I would learn if they were connected through politics, or college, or law school, or the Masons based on mutual friends.  But Bryon was our only mutual friend.  I could see that Rev. Stephens was the minister of an African Methodist Episcopal church and that he lived in Atlanta, GA.  We are Catholic from New York so I have no idea how their paths crossed.

I message my daughter’s Godmother to tell her about this.  She could not place Rev. Stephens name and she knows a lot of people too.  We both discussed how Bryon knew so many people.  We pondered a few possibilities but we were still stumped.

Now it was starting to bother me.  How did Bryon know Malcolm Stephens?  Did they meet on an on cruise or on an internet cruise forum?  Did they meet on a train?  At a conference?  I looked through Bryon’s Facebook for clues.  Looked at the “see friendship” option and there were only brief but sincere messages of friendship between the two.  I still couldn’t figure it out.

Then I investigate Rev. Stephen’s on my own Facebook.  We had become friends when Bryon got sick.  Turned out he messaged me twice and I never responded to either.  First was in April and in that message he explained to me that he was Bryon’s manager when he worked at Disney.  That explained it.  The second message was in August when Bryon was in NYC.  Rev. Stephens told me that his sister who lived in NYC would like to stop in and pray with him.  And for whatever reason, I never responded.  I know I was overwhelmed, but was I that overwhelmed?

I cried.  I cried for his wife, his family and his community.  This man was clearly a caring man and he had touched many lives.

I cried because I started thinking about how this past spring he was worried about his friend and all he really had was my facebook status updates.  I was too overwhelmed to answer texts and facebook messages.  Among our close friends, they had created their own hierarchy of information.  His best friend would communicate with his college friends, another friend communicated with his political contacts.  But unfortunately I did not delegate anyone to be a contact for people Bryon knew that did not fit into one of this many groups.

I cried because I thought about all the lives that Bryon had touched.  So many that even I, his other half and best friend did not know to what extent that Bryon’s touched people.

I cried because I thought that even if they hadn’t seen each other in ten years, they probably had already met up, two old friends in Heaven.

I am beginning to think that Bryon touched so many lives that there was no way that the average person could process all his friendships.  Whenever I take those psychology tests online, my results are either introvert or ambivert (which means I fall exactly in the middle of the introvert-extrovert scale).  I like the company of others but it does wear me out.  If I seem like I am outgoing, it is because I worked hard to develop those social skills.  Being outgoing doesn’t come naturally to me.  Bryon, as we know, was an extreme extrovert and I still am amazed at how many friends he had. I have no idea how he managed to keep all these friendships alive because he spent so much time with my daughter and me and he was always focused on us.  I never felt cheated or like I was second place.  He also got a full nights sleep every night.  I truly have no idea how he did it.  It was like he had a superpower.

Rest in Peace, Rev Malcolm Stephens.  I am sorry I didn’t know you but if you were friend of Bryon’s, you must have been a good person.

Brunette Catholic, blonde Buddhist or somewhere in between?

I always thought I had a strong sense of who I was.  And I never questioned my own authenticity.  Yes, on the outside I am from a small Maine town but many people don’t realize that I spent the first 14 years of my life in the Boston area.  I spent a semester abroad in England when I was 21.  Besides Boston, I have spent time in London, Paris, Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., Miami, Houston, New Orleans, Vegas and many other cities.  I am fairly educated and worldly.  I just try not to be pretentious about it.

I have always been a rule follower whether it was my Catholic religion or sitting in school.  I was not a kid who got in (much) trouble.  I did get caught daydreaming a lot but there was a whole world outside whatever window I was looking out of.  I can’t say I never broke the rules in high school but I pretty much did as I was told.  I did not drink in high school or go to gravel pit parties.  I rarely stayed out past curfew (though my parents were pretty lenient as long as I called) though sometimes I stayed the night at my best friends house because she did not have a curfew. This created a kind of late night loophole that I would take advantage of. (Sorry Mom and Dad!)

I stretched my wings a little bit when I was in college.  A few weeks into my freshman year I decided to get an eyebrow ring.  It was 1997 and it was before they became popular.  It actually looked good on me though I don’t think any picture exists.  I didn’t think it through because I was heading home the following week and figured I would just take it out when I was around my parents.  My parents never saw it (though my brother saw it and he kept threatening to tell them).  I realized that I was never going to have the guts to wear it in front of my parents and I couldn’t handle the pressure of living a double life so the eyebrow ring didn’t last.

And of course, there was the road trip my friends and I took to St. Stephen, New Brunswick just so we could go to the bars when we were 19.  I remember walking along the Saint Croix River, pointing to the Maine side and laughing because we “couldn’t drink over there but we can drink over here.”  I always think of that trip every time I hear “One Week” by the Barenaked Ladies.  I wasn’t a saint but I kept myself out of trouble.

I was a very hyper and annoying kid and somewhere along the way, I figured that I had to bottle up my true self to fit in with people.  I would just sit quietly because I didn’t want to become hyper and weird and annoying.  I chose to only open up to a few.  I liked to participate in structured activities so I only had to discuss the topics on hand.

After college, I started dating the guy who would later become my ex-boyfriend.  I think of him as kind of an anti-Bryon because he was the exact opposite of Bryon.  One could argue that Bryon was the over correction of this guy. I could probably write a whole post on him and what I learned from that relationship.   In very general terms Bryon was a Catholic, Republican, manly-man who loved sports while the anti-Bryon was a Protestant, Democrat, non-manly man who preferred science fiction to sports.  Another big difference was that Bryon actually liked me while the anti-Bryon did not.  I think I was someone who paid for dates for two and a half years.  He never embraced me for who I was and I spent two and a half years trying to be the woman he wanted.

After I broke up with the anti-Bryon, I got absorbed into the world of politics and most notably, the Young Republicans.  I embraced the lifestyle of Republican politics and I wore suits, heels, pearls and the Sarah Palin hairstyle.  I loved politics because it was like I was an actress playing a role.  I didn’t have to worry that I was shy and awkward.  Politics gave me a way to relate to people.  It was also during my time in politics that I learned conversation skills and poise.

Politics led me to the best years of my life.  My years with Bryon.  The years where I became a wife and mother.  And like everything else, being a wife and mother provided me with a role that I was more than happy to assume.  Bryon did love me for me but relationships are always filled with give and take.  Bryon had the successful career and I pretty much was content to live in his shadow.  It might have caused some contention between us at times but I don’t regret it. Especially since he apparently wasn’t meant to be here as long as the rest of us.

I have heard that during widowhood, you begin to question everything you once believed.  I thought I had myself and the world all figured out.  While I learned that I am much, much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for, I also learned just how much Bryon overcompensated for my weaknesses.  I don’t have him to cover for me anymore. I have learned that I can count on my family and I have also learned which of my friends are actually my family.  I have learned who I can’t count on (some were surprising) and which friends really weren’t friends. I learned that you can’t put all your faith into the healthcare system and that the healthcare system can fail you.  And I learned that God  doesn’t care if you did your best to be a good Catholic girl for over 30 years.

All those years of trying to fit into roles and groups has left me with a repressed free spirit.  I have always had a free spirit that gets antsy and wants to see the world.  It used to drive Bryon nuts when I wanted to day trip to anywhere, as long as it was out of Albany. He usually indulged me. I also have a creative side.  I am still in the process of trying to let those parts of me out.  I have been running.  I have been travelling.  I have been cooking new recipes and putting together furniture from IKEA.  I have been reading about Buddhism to try to stay Zen.  I have been in the process of changing over to natural cleaning and beauty products.  I plan to have a garden this summer and learn how to can vegetables.  I tried to dye my hair blonde but that didn’t work.  And don’t be fooled if you ever see all the books on my nightstand.  You might see titles that consist of history, religion, politics, business, memoirs, parenting and grief/self help but the last two books I read consisted of one by the Long Island Medium and the other was Jodie Sweetin’s memoir.  Candace Cameron Bure’s memoir isn’t proving to be nearly as exciting as Jodie Sweetin’s memoir.

I realize that I was just afraid.  I have been afraid of success and I have been afraid of failure.   I have been afraid to let people see the real me.  I had a clearly defined past and I have been afraid to stray from the expectation of who I am supposed to be.   I have been afraid that if I tried something different or learned about something different that it might change how I think.  And if I continue to be afraid, I will never fully live and I must fully live to be an example for my daughter.  So my daughter can grow into the woman she is supposed to be.

Tears in Heaven, ice cream, and Sleepless in Seattle

A few weeks ago I went to brunch with a few friends.  The food was delicious and we had a great time.  There was lots of laughter and stories and a few mimosas. Both of them were talking about their dating adventures (or misadventures) which I enjoyed hearing about them.  

But on the ride home I became really sad.  I had one grandmother who lived to be 90 and my other grandmother is 95.  I genetically have the potential to be stuck on this planet for another 60ish years and that is a long time to be alone.  But I got sad thinking that someday I might have to date again.  I started crying and the tears kept coming.  I did not ask for this.  I was happily married.  I don’t want to be alone for 60 more years but I also don’t want to date.  Why does life have to be so cruel?  Why did my happily ever after have to get ripped away from me when so many other people get to be happy?  Why does everyone else get to be happy and not me?

So I get home.  I post a sad status on my Facebook because I feel the need to vent and  some brave people comment and try to make me feel better and while I appreciate their intent, it never makes me feel better. Maybe I just need to stop sharing my feelings on Facebook.   I blast my sad songs list on Spotify (doesn’t everyone have one of those?) and eat some ice cream.  I blast Tears in Heaven and listen to it on repeat.  Then I do what I do when I am feeling incredibly sad.  I put on Sleepless in Seattle which lives on my DVR because I needed to hear Tom Hanks say  “Move on. Fine. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll just grow a new heart…I know. But it just doesn’t happen twice.”  Tears in Heaven, ice cream and Sleepless in Seattle, are like, my trifecta of grief.

One of my best friends must have seen that status because she messages me asking if I am okay.  She is one of the few friends that I don’t feel like I have to answer with “I’m okay.  Everything is okay.”  I told her I was sad and I was listening to sad songs and eating ice cream.  I did not tell her I was watching Sleepless in Seattle because I was nervous that she would have gotten into her car, drive over and delete Sleepless in Seattle off of my DVR and I can’t live without that coping mechanism.

Things have changed in the past month or two.  I am starting to come out of the widow fog but the grief certainly has not subsided.  I am still incredibly sad.  I am still trying to make sense of Bryon’s death.  Some days I begin to think that I am used to Bryon being gone while other days I still sit in shock and disbelief that he is actually gone.

When Bryon first died, I tried to come up with a timeline for grief.  I have always been a goal oriented person so it made sense that I would set goals for the grief process.  But it hasn’t worked that way.  The months have just been bouncing by and I have been unable to attain any of these goals.  I am still wearing my rings. A lot of our bills are still in Bryon’s name, his stuff is still taking up space in our house and I still haven’t shut off his phone.  My friend asked me if the fact that we talk about Bryon so much is holding me back and I said no because most of my thoughts are still consumed by him and his death.  I am afraid to stop talking about him because then he really will die.  Yes he is physically dead but his story remind me that he actually did live and I am not ready to let go of that yet.

Have I been moving forward?  I don’t think so.  I think I have been surviving and keeping myself busy by traveling and doing activities with my daughter but I don’t really think I am moving forward.  I am distracting myself.  I am waiting for time and grief to pass before I start living again.  I spend time with my friends and my daughter and I work, usually until the early hours of the morning as I put off bedtime every night because lying in an empty bed is just too painful.  I need to stop searching for happiness because I am just not going to find it.  I am just getting used to being sad and I need to embrace that because that is my life right now.  This is my normal and since I can’t set my own timeline for healing, I need to embrace that I am going to feel sad until the indeterminate time comes when I no longer feel sad.

So for the time being, I will continue to feel sad.  I will continue to cry when I think about what I have lost. I will still continue to distract myself.  I will continue to go on adventures with my daughter. I will still continue to spend time with those I am close to.  I will continue to try to check items off of my widow “to-do” list.  I will continue to try to find myself as an individual.  I will continue to do all of these things until eventually my grief subsides and all of this just becomes part of me and my story.

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