And that means it is time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude!
These are the things I am grateful for this week-
Our 70F degree day
A 70F degree day is a rarity in the Northeast in February. But I enjoyed it. It was nice to walk outside without your winter coat and not be cold.
Being a Maine Girl
Because the day after that 70F degree February day, the temperature dropped down to 31F and we got a few inches of snow. But I am from Maine. I drive a Suburu Forrester and I wear LL Bean coat and LL Bean boots. I can handle it.
But I also take comfort in knowing the winter days are numbered. Spring will be here soon.
The snow did not ruin my cats plans. He did what he does every day. Living his best life possible.
I cherish the meals shared with my closest friends. Friends who are so close that we refer to each other as family. I also learned about a new wine and it was approved by Carter, the wine connoisseur.
Chinese Food for lunch.
It’s a favorite of mine. Usually I would get sweet and sour chicken but lately I have been into pork lo mein. This might become my Friday treat.
I am in trouble. But this moment is precious and it will stay with me forever.
It was funny because when I was putting her to bed that night, I was alarmed that her neck was pink. Then I remembered that she put A LOT of blush on her neck.
Unlike Andy, I did not know the deceased well. He was the father of one of my best friends. I saw him at their wedding and at the kids birthday parties. He made some delicious chicken wings. It was clear that they were important to him and that he loved them very much.
I feel for my friend. I might know grief but I do not know what it is like to lose a parent. Three of the girls in our tribe have lost a parent. My Chicago best friend and my Maine best friend have lost their mothers at a young age as did my Maine’s best friend’s husband (The Scientist).
And of course, my daughter is also a member of this club.
I have lost three of my grandparents (and my grandmother isn’t doing well currently) and when I lost them, I felt that the memories of them slip further into the past. I feel like there is an active past and a distant past.
The active past consists of people who are alive and memories with those people and the events were probably more recent. Memories like your friend’s wedding last year or that time you went to Chipotle with a friend and your daughter smeared guacamole all over her face. (That might actually be everytime).
To me, the distant past are the memories that are centered around a deceased person, like the times when my Papa Crowley brought us to Horn Pond (pronounced Hond Pond) to feed the ducks or the conversations I had with my Grandma Sullivan.
Of course, some memories fall in the middle of the spectrum. Bryon and my wedding should be in the active past because it was only five years ago and so many of the people who were there are around. But Bryon was a pivotal player in those memories and he is gone. Therefore my wedding feels like it is more in the distant past than the active past.
Again, my parents are still here but I imagine that the transition of the parent going from the active past to the distant past is more pronounced and painful than that of a grandparent. It must make one’s childhood feel further away.
I also feel that the process of losing a parent ages you in a way. Not physically, but the pain gives you more wisdom.
I could be totally off of the mark. And if I am, please tell me. I want to increase my understanding.
Anyway, I digress.
I spent the afternoon at the funeral home. It is important to support the people you care about. I know it meant the world to me that people came to pay their respects when Bryon passed. The grieving need to know that they are loved and are supported.
I may not have known the deceased well but I am thankful that he lived.
He loved his daughter and grandsons. They are his legacy and my daughter and I greatly benefit from his legacy. His daughter and grandsons enrich my life and my daughter’s life.
It’s a great reminder that we are connected. The people in our lives and the events in our lives connect us all. So take time to appreciate everyone in your life, even if you don’t know them well. They are in your life for a reason, even if their role wasn’t a big role.
I don’t know exactly when I met my friend Andy. I actually met him because I was friends with his wife. I met his wife (I am going to call her The Scallop Divers Wife because I try not to use living people’s names in my blog) in 2004 when I joined the woman’s council at St. Joe’s Catholic Church in Ellsworth, Maine. I only know it was 2004 because I had another friend that I became friends volunteering for a certain political candidate and she noticed that we both went to 11 am Mass. My political friend and I decided to join the woman council and we both became friends with The Scallop Divers Wife. I probably met Andy at a church function or maybe I met him at his house.
I used to enjoys visits to Andy’s house. I could count on funny stories and lively political discussion. Periodically I would house and dog sit when they went away.
I moved away from Maine in 2009 because Bryon and I had been dating a year and things were serious. I always wanted Bryon and Andy to meet. I know they would have gotten along. Also, Bryon had dreams of being on Deadliest Catch and I told him I could get him on a fishing boat on the Maine Coast.
But sadly, the visit never materialized.
Then Andy got sick. Cancer. He was given a six months to live.
Like Bryon, Andy fought. He turned a 6 months life sentence into three years.
Shortly after Bryon passed, Andy’s niece passed in a car accident and he and his family traveled to Vermont for the funeral. It was about three hours away but I made the trip to see them the day before the funeral. I knew I had to make this trip because I didn’t know how much longer Andy would be here and I didn’t want to have any regrets. I knew that this might be the last chance I got to see Andy. After Bryon died, all the regrets I heard were from people who said they wished they knew him better. No one said they regretted visiting him.
During that visit, Andy and I didn’t know what to say to each other but it wasn’t awkward. I remember him being kind to my daughter who was two at the time. He was too weak to socialize and I spent the afternoon catching up with The Scallop Divers Wife. She gave me a lesson on cooking lobster and they sent me back to New York with some Maine lobster.
Andy and I had a few conversations on Facebook Messenger. He said it was hard to read my blog because he knew his wife was going to be going through the same thing. I admit that it was hard to discuss death with a dying man. I wondered if Bryon had similar thoughts. I will never know because Bryon couldn’t speak.
Around Thanksgiving I got the news that Andy’s cancer had spread to his brain. We had a Facebook Messenger conversation. He told me he wasn’t ready to die, his sons were so young. I really didn’t know what to say. It ended up being our last conversation.
In the beginning of December, I found out that there was nothing more that could be done and Andy would be going to Hospice. Luckily he was able to go home. My heart ached for The Scallop Divers Wife. I remembered the pure agony of waiting for your husband to die. I only had 24 hours of that agony from the “there’s nothing more we can do” conversation (though for me the words were “your husbands heart is going to stop beating today”) and my friend’s agony was open ended.
When I found out Andy was going to Hospice, I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to make it to his funeral. I work in oncology data and I know many patients don’t last long in Hospice. I was out of personal time at work for the year. I was beside myself thinking that I wouldn’t be able to go to Maine and be there for the funeral. I remember who showed up to pay their respects when Bryon died and I wouldn’t get to be one of those supporters for my friend. I decided that if I was meant to be there, it would all work out.
But I was also nervous that this was up in the air because this would be the first funeral I would attend since Bryon’s. That is a huge first for any widow. I have a tendency to obsess about things that potentially give me anxiety. But there was no doubt that I would work through it to be there for my friend but I was having a hard time channeling this nervous energy.
Andy’s family got one more Christmas with him and he passed on December 28, 2017.
I confirmed with my manager at work at my personal time for 2018 become effective at the New Year and then I made arrangements to go to Maine for the funeral. Ironically my parents were in Albany so their trip was cut short but they were fine with it because I was bringing my daughter to Maine and they got to spend time with her there.
And my daughter likes playing play-doh with her Grammy.
I went to the wake (I guess outside New England they call it a viewing?) to pay my respects and visit with The Scallop Divers Wife. I didn’t stay long because I didn’t recognize anyone else and I knew The Scallop Divers Wife was busy greeting people. It’s a long night.
I ended up grabbing dinner with another good friend.
I forgot to take a pic of us together, but here is a pic from us last summer at my best friends wedding. This was also in Maine but it was much, much warmer.
The following morning I made the 45 minute drive to Bar Harbor for Andy’s funeral.
On the drive I was thinking about how I have been widowed long enough that I am not the newest young widow in my circle of friends. Time has a way of slapping you in the face like that.
Andy was a well-liked guy and the church was full.
I tend to think I am invincible when it comes to funerals. I attribute it to my Boston Irish upbringing.
I will mention something important. It was during Andy’s funeral that I realized that despite being angry at God that I want a Catholic funeral when I die. It’s how my grandparents went out. It’s how my uncles went out. It’s how Bryon went out. And while God might be a hateful jerk who took my husband from me, I am not going to let him take something from me that is part of my heritage. Andy and I had had several conversations where he challenged my current views on God. I tended to get angry at the other 99.9% of the people who did that, Andy got a pass. It’s hard to stay mad at him and I also wasn’t going to argue with a dying man about God. But as the realization about my own mortality hit me, I just said to myself, “Well played, Andy. Well played.”
I was fine until the moment the funeral started. Seeing The Scallop Divers Wife have to walk down after the coffin. I had walked in 5 funerals before Bryon (three grandparents and two uncles) and nothing can prepare you for that moment for when it’s your spouse. My heart ached for The Scallop Divers Wife and three sons. I felt shaky during the processional and I asked Bryon to be with me (something I don’t tend to do. I figure he comes and goes when he feels like it) and suddenly I had my Boston Irish composure back. I don’t doubt for a second that he was there with me.
Though The Scallop Divers Wife wins the award for being the strongest. She got up and gave a beautiful eulogy. I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
I had asked The Scallop Divers Wife if she was okay if I wrote this post. She said she was curious about reading it from my point of view. I hope I don’t disappoint her because I don’t remember the details. I was a jumble of emotions that day and my account is likely to come across as self-absorbed. No widow(er) means to be self absorbs. We just have lots of emotions to sort out. And once we get those emotions sorted out, we hit another widow milestone and it brings up a whole new batch of feelings.
The Scallop Divers Wife is my friend and I hope she will be through the rest of our lives We will always be bonded by the fact that we are young widows. I am far enough into my widowhood journey (17 months and 5 days) to know that the funeral is like a wedding. Both are important days but while a wedding is just one day of a marriage, the funeral is just one day in the life without a loved one.
And just like our wedding day, we will remember our husbands funeral for the rest of our lives.
This Christmas Season, I started ahead of the game but ended up getting bronchitis and it took me two weeks to feel better. I used to get bronchitis every year or every other year through my teens and 20’s. The last time I had bronchitis was in 2010 so I was long overdue. It was a good run. I didn’t remember bronchitis being so hard to get over but back then, I wasn’t chasing a little human.
Despite being sick, my daughter and I saw the Nutcracker. Not the Russian Nutcracker (those who saw Bad Moms 2 will understand.) My daughter loved it. Well…except for the mice. She is still talking about when she saw the ballerinas.
Santa came to the daycare party.
We took the train to Christmas Town (formerly the Polar Express). The boy with us is the son of Bryon’s best friend. His mother and I had been talking about taking the kids on the Polar Express since we were pregnant and we felt that they were old enough to enjoy it this year.
A friend of ours graciously invited us to see Disney on Ice presents Frozen. She had tickets in the first row. I am not going to lie. Even as an adult, it was amazing.
We decorated cookies. Last year the kids were two and not into it at all. This year we just used kits and it worked out well. Maybe next year we will bake and decorate.
We spent Christmas Eve Eve with my daughters Godmother and her family.
On Christmas Eve we had our second annual Feliz Navidad Lunch.
We spent Christmas Eve with some close friends and Elsa. My friend gave me Red Sox wine. She so gets me.
Someone stopped by.
We woke up to a White Christmas outside and a Barbie House in our living room. Thanks Santa!
We had dinner with good friends.
Boxing Day was low-key. My daughter wanted to go to school so I brought her even though I had the day off. I hit some after Christmas sales and a friend came over.
One the 27th, we had an amazing dinner at my daughter’s Godmother’s house.
My parents came the 28th. I put my Dad to work and he assembled various items. There visit ended up being cut short because I decided to go to Maine to attend the funeral of a friend. They didn’t mind because they still got to spend time with my daughter…just in Maine, not NY.
I spent New Years with good friends playing Cards Against Humanity. My friend has an amazing brunch on New Years Day. I really look forward to the event. I love nothing more than to start the new year with my closest friends.
Their you have it. Each of these events deserved their own post but I was too exhausted to write them. I wanted to have one post at least documenting all the goodness that went on. I went into the Christmas season feeling sad and while that is a totally normal feeling for a grieving person at this time of the year, I didn’t want to be sad.
When I was writing my recent post about the last Christmas with Bryon, I had had an epiphany. My daughter won’t remember that last Christmas (or Bryon for that matter- which breaks my heart) but she will probably remember this Christmas albeit vaguely.
It is up to me to give her amazing Christmas memories. Bryon is gone and even though my heart aches, life is about the living and my daughter is living. My friends and family are living.
It is up to me to try to push through my sadness and create happy memories for my daughter as well as my family and friends. Because someday they will look back at their last Christmas me.
When someone experiences a profound loss, you realize just how temporary life is. We need to embrace the now because someday we will only exist in a loved one’s memory.
I am glad I was able to enjoy the holidays this year. Well except for a brief meltdown on Christmas Eve morning where I said some choice words to God and decided not to go to Mass. But other than that, I had an amazing Christmas filled with gatherings, good food and laughter.
I have come a long way. When I think of Christmas 2016, I am grateful for those in life but there was a deep sadness that hung in the air. But I will look back on Christmas 2017 as a warm and happy season. I am grateful for the healing that has taken place to get me here.
This past weekend, two of my closest friends got married. I love these two people so much. I can not stress enough how much of an honor that my daughter and I got to be a part of their day. The we were with Bryon and me on the best days of my life and they didn’t leave my side through the worst days of my life. While I would do the same for them, I prefer that the days be happy.
The wedding was held at the lovely Otesaga Resort in Cooperstown, NY. I wish I could share more details but I was chasing after my daughter. Please take my word for it when I say that this wedding was epic.
The weather was warm for December.
Everything was beautiful; the bride, her dress, her hair, the music, the guests.
The food was amazing. And there was an open bar.
I got to see lots of old friends and I made some new friends.
But my heart was heavy all night. Because Bryon was not there.
This is not the first wedding I have gone to since Bryon’s passing. My Maine best friend got married last summer. I meant to blog about it because it was a beautiful ceremony that deserves it’s own post and I hope to write about it before I visit her in Ann Arbor this spring.
But that wedding was in Maine and that was my turf. Some of my old friends I saw at that wedding had never even met Bryon (though that doesn’t lessen their empathy). Both the bride and groom had lost their mothers in their 20’s and the only time I felt sad was when the father of groom gave a speech and mentioned the groom’s mother and if she were there. My eyes teared up because it made me think of how Bryon isn’t going to be there when my daughter gets married.
I was very anxious about this wedding but I kept those feelings to myself. I felt selfish for even having these feelings. Weddings are happy affairs. There is very little I do not share with the bride but I wasn’t going to burden her with my grief leading up to her big day. Especially when I know it was hard on her that Bryon wasn’t there.
(And to note, I have discussed this with the bride after the fact. She is not going to be blindsided by reading this).
A large portion of these guests knew Bryon. There was no way I could even pretend he wasn’t dead or that I wasn’t a widow. All through the night people approached me and said kind things about Bryon which I did appreciate. Because enough time has passed from his death where sometimes I think people forget about him and the last thing anyone who is grieving wants is for their loved one to be forgotten.
I have come to the conclusion that it was a good thing my daughter was there. I spent the night chasing her and that prevented me from getting drunk and crying on the bathroom floor. And that is not a flattering look for anyone. Though chasing her did hinder my ability to take photos.
There were so many couples at the wedding though I don’t know if that is true or if that was just my perception. I started thinking back to my wedding day. How pretty I felt in my dress. How I felt when we had our first dance. We were so in love.
There was no way that I could have foreseen exactly what “in sickness and in health” would entail. Bryon would tell me that I nailed that vow.
I started to wonder if I would ever feel that way again. Will I ever love again? Will I ever love someone enough to marry them? Will I have a second first dance and cut another cake? Five years ago, when I married Bryon, I thought that was it. We were going to grow old together. Forever and always. I never dreamed that this would be a possibility.
I know that I do want to love again. I just don’t feel like I am done yet. But is it even possible to feel that way about someone else? Is it a glimmer of hope or an impossibility?
I honestly don’t know.
I know is that I need to learn to cope. It is frustrating when you want to be happy and instead you are an emotion mess.
Bryon might be gone but the sun stills shines. My daughter still laughs. There are people that I love that are still here. There are still happy times. I just need to accept that there will always be some sadness attached to all the happy moments.
Okay, I know I skipped last week. I was too grumpy and that is all I can say about that.
1. Veterans Day– This could have been it’s own post but I was grumpy and depressed and didn’t write it. Grief is horrible like that. But I didn’t want to neglect saying that I am thankful for all those who have fought for our country and for the freedoms we have. I appreciate the veterans in my family. My father is a Vietnam veteran and both of my grandfather’s were WWII veterans. Many of my friends are veterans as well.
My father and my grandfathers.
2. Birthdays– Two weeks ago my daughter and I had two very important birthday parties. The first was the first birthday of the son of Bryon’s best friend. The second birthday party was for my daughter’s godfather, who was also Bryon’s law partner.
Days like this are bittersweet. Bryon was always much better at me at prioritizing social engagements than I was. He had no problem saying no whereas I would over commit and spread myself thin. He use to tell me that I was trying to “put 10 pounds of sh*t into a 5 pound bag.” But as I traveled between these two birthday parties, I knew Bryon wouldn’t have missed either of them. I couldn’t help but feel his absence.
I feel grateful that so many people still include my daughter and I in their lives.
3. I am grateful for my cousin. Yesterday was her birthday. I am thankful we only live two hours apart and that our kids can grow up together. She is amazing.
Her profession even shows how amazing she is. She is a hospice nurse. While Bryon didn’t make it to hospice and died in the hospital, I can attest that end of life care is very important. Not only to the dying patient but their loved ones.
4. My friends. Seriously, nothing would get done around myself without them. I have a core group that will drop everything to help me. And I am lucky because I am an overwhelmed widowed mother who works full-time.
5. My childhood friend. One of my best friends from childhood sent me a message yesterday. I haven’t responded because I was busy with work and wanted to write a well-thought out message and I failed. She and I had been friends since we were little and we were particularly close in middle school. It was a time when we all had spiral perms and wore Hard Rock Cafe T-shirts and the Baby-Sitters Club were everything. I will say that her spiral perms were always better than mine because her mother was a hairdresser and my perms came from a box.
I don’t think any pictures exist of us. I wish they did so I could post it here.
I moved away after 8th grade in 1993 and while we wrote the occasional letter, we pretty much fell out of touch. We later found each other on Facebook. We got married around the same time and we both had daughters one month apart.
So to my old friend, if you are reading this- I am grateful you are still in my life and I owe you a response to your message. I really need to see you when I am in the Boston area next.
Every week I like to look back on five things that I am thankful for. Here are this week’s Top 5.
I am thankful I got to celebrate a birthday of a good friend. (I have yet to come up with a good blog name for her yet). She is one of the kindest people I have ever met and I am so lucky to have her in my life.
On Monday one of my best friends and I took the day off and went to the Berkshires for the day. Our first stop was the Lee Outlets where I spent more money than I care to admit and most of it was on my daughter. We had plans to drive to Central Massachusetts to eat lunch at 1761 Old Mill Restaurant but when we punched it into Google maps, we learned it was closed. Neither of us thought to check the website to see if it was open. We both assumed it was open and, well, we all know what happens when you assume. We didn’t let that ruin the day. We had lunch at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and looked at the shops.
We also went to the Norman Rockwell Museum and I am thankful that I live in an area that is so rich in culture.
I am thankful for the fact that I live in a time where my phone is a computer and I can play cartoons on demand. What did our parents do when they needed to keep us preoccupied? My daughter asks for my phone so she can watch “Girl and Bear” on Netflix. “Girl and Bear” is actually called “Masha and the Bear.” I never paid attention and I thought it was cute. And then I watched it and I personally think the girl is a little monster. Or a trouble maker at the very least.
I am thankful for one of my college friends. There was some bee/hornet/wasp thing flying around my house today. It’s presence immediately puts me out of my comfort zone. I have a zero tolerance policy for creepy crawly things in my house. I posted about it on Facebook because I like to #overshare. It was suggested I leave it alone but that wasn’t going to happen. If you are a “leave it alone” person, the more power to you. But I am not. I was so scared of this bee/hornet/wasp thing and my college friend commented on my Facebook post that I should spray some hairspray from a distance. When the hairspray dries, it immobilizes their wings. It worked! I saw these same bee/hornet/wasp things outside last week so I called the exterminator to set up an appointment to make sure there isn’t a nest near my house.