Shadow of a dead man

Sometimes I feel invisible.

Despite pouring my heart out over 165 posts and approx 165,000 words, I feel like no one sees the real me.

They just see Bryon’s widow.

It might be hard to imagine, but I am a complete person. Bryon saw me a complete, real person.

I told a really good friend of mine (and Bryon’s when he was alive) that I had a nagging feeling that some people only read my blog because they wanted about happened with Bryon.

As if because I have chosen to share the parts of the story that I feel comfortable about sharing that that someone entitles everyone to the complete story.

I have not told the complete story. I will tell it when I am ready to tell it.
Yes, I am aware that I have chosen to share my story on a very public forum. I did that so other widows, grievers and anyone else struggling with the cruelties of life can be helped by reading about my healing process.

I put my story out there so people can feel a little less alone.

If one widow feels a little less alone, then it was worth it.

Just because I share my story does not mean that I give up the right to keep private what I wish to keep private.
I share what I feel like sharing, when I feel like sharing it.

No one is entitled to more.

When I shared these feeling with my close friend, she wisely said that she thinks that people forget that I am not just Bryon’s widow, but that I am my own complete person.

I am not just a widow.

I am a complete person.

I understand that life circumstances have made me a widow and since I have to be a widow, I am glad that I get to be Bryon’s widow. He was a great man and I got to be his wife. And I loved being his wife.

Life made me a widow and I am glad I get to be Bryon’s widow.

I have accepted that.

But I am more than just a widow.

I am a complete person.

Bryon died and I had no say in that. Even though I tried to prevent it. I will always think about those 5 months. I will always think about the “what ifs” and I will always be haunted by the dreams of what could have been.

That is a lot of live with.

I have been punished enough.

You are going to have to trust me on that.

Now I am in my 30s and I am expected to resign myself to wear a black veil and mourn for the rest of my life.

It doesn’t matter that I am a complete person and I still have decades more living to do.

I am tired of being viewed as just Bryon’s widow.

It’s bad enough actually being a widow.

I find myself in a place where I can’t move forward because everyone views me as just a widow.

Very few people understand.

Acknowledging that I am a complete person and I deserve to move forward from my husband’s death makes people uncomfortable.

My reality makes people uncomfortable.

The reality that I live with every single day makes people uncomfortable.

So I need to keep being “just a widow” to keep people happy.

Too bad it doesn’t work that way.

When Bryon was alive, he was very popular and well-liked. He was an amazing man. He was the center of my world.

And I lived in his shadow. But that was okay because I knew I was the center of his world. And that was all that matters.

But now he is dead.

And I live in the shadow of a dead man.

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Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #10

It’s FRIDAY!!!!!

That means it’s time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude.

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These are the five things I am grateful for this week.

  1.  Brunch with friends

    I like brunch.  But I like doing it the Mom way meaning we get there right when brunch starts, usually around 10.  It’s a good time.  The kids are ready to eat and it’s before the hipsters show up.

    I also like that I get to brunch my way now.  I prefer brunch is establishments that are not diners. Bryon loved diners and I am not a fan. I feel like diner food is not any better than the food I cook.  I like to go to brunch and have something fancy that I could cook but generally don’t have the patience to.

    Plus, I don’t like diners because many of them are small and I am claustrophobic.  Now I know many other establishments are small.  But I can deal with my claustrophobia for fancy brunch.   Like, I can tolerate being in a small space but not for generic food that I could make at home.

    Bryon was always more of the breakfast fan than me so he would win.  That and because the issue wasn’t important enough to me.   I am glad I went along with it because diner breakfast always made him happy.

    I guess of the “perks” of widowhood is I get to do whatever I want.  It’s bittersweet, really.

    And Kimmy Gibbler has the same attitude about brunch so we had brunch at a local place called Savoy Taproom.


    I had the adult ice coffee with aquafaba  and creme brulee French Toast.  I had no clue what aquafaba was but the waitress explained it to me.  It’s apparently a vegan alternatives to egg whites and apparently putting egg whites into iced coffee is a thing now.  The egg whites create the froth.  I tried it but I made it clear to the waitress that I was not a vegan.  For some reason, I felt that that was important and that the waitress wanted to know.

    I always considered myself an iced coffee snob and I had no clue.  *shrug*

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  2. Advocating for MS

    For the second year I got the honor of advocating for people living with Multiple Sclerosis at the New York State Capital.  I am not going to elaborate on that because I will be writing a post about that.  I have several friends with MS and I am thankful that I get an opportunity to advocate for them.

  3. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

    Because…duh

  4. Signs from Heaven

    I know I spoke of Bryon’s Valentine’s Day sign that came in the form of Vagisil.

    But I have heard that the deceased communicate through songs on the radio.  There are certain songs I hear all the time since Bryon died.  There was even a period of time I heard Hall & Oates at least once a day and I don’t spend much time in my car.  My deceased husband also seems to really like Michael Jackson, particularly “Billie Jean”, The Police- “I’ll Be Watching You”, Earth Wind and Fire; “September” (I think that is because we got engaged, married and became parents in the month of September), and Berlin’s “Take My Breathe Away” because Top Gun was his favorite movie.

    I haven’t heard much in the car for the past couple of months.  I just figured that Bryon was done sending those signs.  He was going to find a new way to communicate with me.  But the past three days have been a Bryon McKim jam session every time I have been in car.  It’s nice to know that he hasn’t forgotten about me and will still try to spend time with me in the only way he can now.

  5. Having the courage to cut off my grief hair

    I had been wanting a change for awhile.  I hemmed and hawed over it for months.  I liked my hair long but it was so damaged.  The ends felt like straw.  I also wanted something different and I have never been a blonde so I went for it.  I am a new person so my outside should reflect my inside.

    This was a big step for me.  I have never been a risk taker but I told myself that it is just hair.  It grows back.  It can be changed back.  But it was also hard because I was attached to that hair.  I have hid behind that hair for almost two years.  But I decided it was time to get rid of it and shine.

    Now I just need to lose some weight and maybe get a tattoo and my physical transformation will be complete.


    What are you grateful for this week?

 

My first kiss

I have noticed lately that Facebook has been asking me a lot of questions.  They say they wanted to help people get to know me.  I find that humorous because I totally overshare on Facebook.

Most of the questions are benign.

Like,

In case anyone was wondering-

1) Too many to quote but anything from Love Actually, 10 Things I Hate About You and Mean Girls will do the job.
2) Hoodies and mugs from places I travel, especially Starbucks You Are Here mugs
3)  No

And then Facebook thinks I should tell people about my first kiss.

Excuse me, Facebook?  That’s kind of personal, eh?

My first kiss was not exciting but this question felt like it crosses so many boundaries.

After I was done being put off by the nosiness of Facebook, I decided to share my first kiss on my WordPress blog.  Because WordPress didn’t press me for the information.  (See what I did there?  The pun was intended).

But yeah, my first kiss.

I was a late bloomer.  I was a shy teenager, at least when it came to boys.  I had very little confidence.  I did not have a boyfriend in high school or most of college.  Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and give my younger self a pep talk to increase her confidence.  But she will eventually get some confidence, though it will take years.

Anyway, it was a Saturday night during my sophomore year in college, meaning it was 1998 or 1999.  I was wearing overalls that I bought at Wal-Mart and my hair was in a ponytail as I let a friend do a box perm (also bought at Wal-Mart) on my hair in the dorm bathroom and all it did was create a frizzy mess.  So my hair was in a ponytail that whole year.

I wish I had a picture.

You may be reading this and cringing.  Or laughing.  Trust me, I am cringing and laughing as I write this.  I wish I could back in time and along with the pep talk, I wish I could give my younger self a lesson in style.  Because 20 year old Kerry has her assets at their best, she just didn’t know how to accentuate that.  And that there are more options of places to shop at than Wal-Mart.

Where was I?

Right.

Saturday night, sophomore year, 1998-1999ish, overalls and bad perm.  I was chatting with a guy named Dave in my friends dorm room.  I don’t remember his last name (or maybe I never knew it) but it began with an “S”.   He was a friend of a friend and he didn’t attend college.

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We were alone.   Maybe it was 1999 and everyone else was just partying like it was 1999.  It was one of the few nights that someone did not pull the fire alarm which usually happened at least four times a week in my dorm.  I spent many Maine winter nights outside freezing while waiting for the fire department to let us back in.  Eventually we learned to just go to Dunkin Donuts when this happened.

The caffeine never bothered me anyway.

Frozen

This Dave guy and I were talking.

I remembered we had identical cars.  We both drove green 1998 Saturns.

(I miss Mean Green.  Drove that car for 10 years and 240,000 miles.  Even took it out to Indiana at around 219,000 miles when it was leaking some sort of fluid.  Probably not the best idea but the car got me back to Maine before she was retired.)

Where was I?  I keep getting distracted.

Right.

Saturday night, sophomore year, 1998-1999ish, overalls and bad perm, etc.

So this Dave guy that drives an identical Saturn as me and doesn’t go to my school kissed me.

It was not exciting.  Actually it was very anti-climatic.

I saw where this was going.  I did not wait a long time to just be some hookup on campus.

A voice inside me told me that I at least deserved dinner.  Heck, I probably would have settled for one of those stir-fry sandwiches made by Scary Gary from the Crack Shack.  (Okay, it was called the Snack Shack and there was a guy named Gary and everyone, and I mean everyone, called him Scary Gary.  I may have called him that to his face when I was drunk one night.  I am sure I wasn’t the first.  Or the last.)

I wish I had a picture.  I wish smartphones and Facebook existed back then.

But maybe 20 year old Kerry was more of a bad-ass than I give her credit for.  She was not desperate for male attention.  After all these years of thinking she had low self esteem, maybe she knew her worth all along.

I told this Dave guy that we needed to get to know each other better.  Dave verbalized his understanding.

He had nowhere to sleep that night.  I made him sleep on the floor on the flip and f*ck.  (Which is now in my old bedroom at my parents house).

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Flip and F*ck- mine was green. A staple in any 1990’s college dorm room.

He snored.  Loudly.

Dave and I never went on a date.  I continued to wear those overalls and I never got another perm.  I didn’t kiss another guy until my senior year in college.  And that guy did think I deserved dinner.  And I liked Pizza Hut Pan Pizza.  And then we saw 101 Dalmations.

Okay, I still do like Pizza Hut Pan Pizza…occasionally.  But  now I would not be impressed if I was taken there on a first date.

Eventually that relationship ran it’s course.  It was evident that this guy did not ever want to get married.

Looking back, I can see a lot of red flags and problems but my younger self had to learn for herself.

A little over two and a half years into that relationship, 24 year old Kerry listened to a voice that told her that she deserved to be happy.

So she broke it off.

Oh and if you are wondering, their first kiss was not exciting either.  No fireworks in that relationship.

I began to get involved in politics and met many new friends.  One friend was like an older brother to me.  One time we were driving to a political event and this friend was trying to give me dating pointers.  One thing he said to me was that if a guy took me to a chain restaurant on the first date, then there shouldn’t be a second date.

At first my friend’s advice seemed harsh but then it made sense to 27ish-year old Kerry.   I mean, her college boyfriend took her to Pizza Hut and there was zero passion in this relationship.

It took several years and several frogs but I did eventually meet a special man.  A man who thought I was worth steak dinner.  And fancy Italian dinner.  And quality dinner of many different cuisines.

The relationship with that man had so much passion.  No anti-climatic kisses.

For eight years, that man loved me.  We were married for four of those years.

For eight years, that man worked so hard to give me, and later our daughter, the world.

It took awhile to find him and I had to kiss some frogs but I am thankful for the love he showed me.  For thinking I was worth it.  For setting the bar high on any man that might come after him.

I don’t know what the future holds but at least, thanks to Bryon, I can go into it knowing what love is and not to settle for anything less than what I deserve.

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #8

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

This is what I am thankful for this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What are you thankful for this week?

A January trip to Maine

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

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

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

But sadly, the visit never materialized.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Play-doh at Grammy and Pappy’s House

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

I ended up grabbing dinner with another good friend.

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Finn’s Irish Pub- Ellsworth, ME

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

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Williams Pond, ME, July 2017

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

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

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Trenton, Maine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy’s Obituary

Andy’s appearance on the Steven Colbert Show

Public Service Anouncement: A widow’s rant

You have heard that someone has died.

It makes you sad.

You think about some fond memories with the deceased.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your post will be appreciated.

But please.

Wait until the death has been made public.

 

Truth, lies and authenticity.

The widow fog is gone.

Chaos is all around.

Reality is becoming clearer each day,

Differentiating between truth and deception.

If friendships are real,

Or ever were real.

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

Searching for authenticity,

Differentiating between what is real and what is fake.

The widow fog is gone,

Making way for a storm.

Not a dangerous, tragic storm,

But just a lot of noise.

Noise.

Projections.

Lies.

Assumptions.

Deceptions.

Phoniness.

So much of it over small stuff.

The widow is not uncaring.

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

Especially after losing someone that meant so much.

Her world fell apart.

People may have forgotten.

She can’t make people really understand,

Especially if they don’t want to.

The widow knows that life is short.

She yearns for the authentic.

True love, true friendship,

True emotions and deep meanings.

But she knows that once this noise clears,

There will be goodness, truthfulness and happiness.

She will be focused on striving toward an authentic existence.