Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #30

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

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

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

  1. Time with my daughter

    Dance class and gymnastics class never get old.

  2. The fact that summer is almost over

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

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  3. A good concert with a good friend

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

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

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

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

  5. The little memories that make me smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What are you grateful for this week?

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The day I found my voice

This was the first piece I wrote as a widow.  It was a Facebook note called “A Mini-Memoir”.  I wrote it one year ago.

* * *

Bryon McKim took me by surprise.  Those close to us know that the first time I met him was in November of 2006 in Louisville, Kentucky.  2006 was a bad year to be a Republican and I learned that because I lost my race for the Maine State House. (At least I won my hometown. Thank you Surry!)  The weekend following the election was the Young Republican National Federation (YRNF) Board Meeting in Louisville.  I first met Bryon at the Northeast Caucus.  I was the only Mainer in a room full of New Yorkers and there was one in particular that would not shut up when I was giving my report on Maine.  And we all know that that New Yorker was Bryon McKim.  He didn’t make that much of a lasting impression on me except that I thought he was rude even if everyone from New York thought he was hilarious.

Our story really began in the beginning of the 2008.  I was coming to a New York State Young Republican (NYSYR) event to try to build bridges between the NYSYR and the Maine Federation of Young Republicans (MFYR) of which I was the State Chairman.  New York and Maine had been on opposite sides of the previous YRNF election and our relationship was not good.  I was nervous about the reception I would be receiving so my best friend Tiffany came from Chicago (Illinois and New York had been on the same side of the previously mentioned election but it did not affect the friendship between Tiffany and me.)  It turned out that I didn’t have anything to worry about.  All the scary New Yorkers were perfectly nice to me.  I noticed one person who seemed to be in charge so I went up to him and introduced myself, “Hi.  I am Kerry Sullivan, Chairman of the Maine Federation of Young Republicans.”  He responded with “I know.  We met in Louisville.”  Then it clicked.  He was the a-hole that wouldn’t shut up when I was talking.  Luckily after a year and a half, I seemed to be (mostly) over it.

Over the course of the weekend, Bryon began to try to get my attention.  I thought he was nice enough but I was aware that he was several years younger than me so despite being flattered, I kept letting him down, albeit gently.  I told him I was too old for him.  He didn’t believe me.  At one point, I pulled out my drivers license.  I do remember him staring at it in disbelief.  I definitely liked him but I was not looking to fall in love, especially with a younger man who lived eight hours away.

Heck, at that point in my life, I didn’t believe in love.  I was also told that I was too picky.  I  had a list of ten items.  Funny this is, I don’t remember all ten items.  I would tell people my top 3 (Republican, Catholic, Red Sox fan) and I was told that was not reasonable especially in Maine.  There are Red Sox fans, but not many Republicans or Catholics.  I know number 4 was Irish.  (That was a bit of a stretch as Bryon was only 1/8 Irish.  I guess it didn’t end up being that important.)  I do remember two of my other items on my list.  One was that I wanted a man to be intelligent.  Preferably more intelligent than me because I like to surround myself with smart people and I like to learn from those around me.  And I like personalities with a lot of depth to them.  I  wanted a man who could go to the symphony and a wine tasting one night and a baseball game with hot dogs and beer the next night.  I wanted someone who wouldn’t be bored with Museums and historic places.  Someone would wanted to do interesting stuff but also the simple stuff. I was told that those two points are not reasonable.  I knew what I wanted and I didn’t want to settle.

Anyway, I digress.

For the next six months, Bryon and I started to get to know each other better.  First through google chat (I think it was called g-chat then) and then we went to the next level and started texting.  Serious stuff that involved actually giving each other our phone numbers.  He convinced me to come out for the NYSYR day at the races.  I agreed and I decided to come out a day early to go to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  I asked him what he thought of the Baseball Hall of Fame and he said it was lame.  I said that was a shame because I was hoping to go and surprisingly, out of the blue, Bryon changed his mind and said that it actually wasn’t lame and that he would take me.  So we went to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  After visiting the Hall of Fame, we weren’t ready for our date to be over so we decided to head back to Albany for dinner at the Pump Station.  Then that turned into drinks at Mahars and then Lark Tavern.

The following day was the Day at the Races.  We didn’t want anyone to know we were a thing so we spent the day on opposite sides of the group.  We acted like we barely knew each other except we did sneak off to the paddock at one point.  I left New York not sure what was going to become of us.  He was younger and lived eight hours away.  Neither of us wanted a long distance relationship.  But our relationship only seemed to get stronger.  Our communication changed from text messages to actual phone calls.  Nightly.  I remember having to put my phone on speaker and hold it a certain way or else I couldn’t hear him.  Cell phone reception in rural Maine wasn’t that great.

We made plans to meet up in Boston on August 29th, the day between our birthdays.  I called him up to wish him a happy birthday on the 28th.  He had been out celebrating.  He told me he was young and hot like Sarah Palin and that I was old like John McCain.  (Remember, it was 2008)  Yet I still went to Boston the next day.  I had fun recounting that conversation to him as we rode the Red Line into Boston.  He made it up to me though.  He took me to a Red Sox game on my birthday.  If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what is.  And it was that weekend that I realized that this wasn’t just a passing fling.  It was the real deal.  I never would have known that weekend that almost exactly eight years later, I would be attending his funeral.

It’s easy to be negative.  Some days I struggle to stay positive.  Some days I am not positive at all.  Other days I am almost optimistic that despite this sad chapter, I might actually still have a good second half of my life.  The reality is that right now I feel lost and like an empty shell of who I used to be.  I feel like I am going through the motions.  I hate the term “new normal” because I hate that I have to find a new normal.  I was perfectly happy with my old normal.  I am one of those people who likes to have a 1 year, 5 year, 10 year plan.  It may not be detailed but I liked being able to look down the path I was anticipating and have a general idea as to what was going to happen.

I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen in our planned future but Bryon was there.  The other child (or children if I got my way) would have been there.  We went from being a family of three with plans of being a family of four to a family of two.  Now it’s just Maddy and me.  I don’t even know if two people fit the definition of a family.

Bryon had all these plans he wanted to do when Maddy was older.  He will never take her to a father-daughter dance.  He will never make her dates nervous.  He will never get to play catch with her or teach her how to ice skate.  He won’t ever take her to a Broadway play.  He won’t walk her down the aisle when she gets married.  He won’t take her on the proper Disney trip he was planning.  We spent a day in Epcot last February and we went to a character breakfast, but not the fancy, expensive Princess one.  Bryon said if he was going to spend that kind of money, he wanted Maddy to be old enough to enjoy it.  I know I can take Maddy to Disney but the thought of being in the Happiest Place On Earth without Bryon makes me cry.  And I am not sure that is allowed.  It’s like a sick and twisted joke.  He did this to try to be healthier for himself and Maddy and then this happened.

We would have taken a lot more cruises.  We would have eventually hit all the Caribbean islands.  I would have continued to lobby for an Alaskan Cruise and Bryon would have continued to say that an Alaskan cruise sounded boring. (We had two cruises booked.  I cancelled one and pushed the reservation out on the other.  I don’t know when I will be ready to cruise again, if ever.)   We had plans to someday go to Scotland, Ireland, England and Germany.  He wanted to go to a Chelsea game in London.  He wanted to visit the Scottish Highlands where the Fraser clan originated.  He wanted to buy a BMW in Germany, drive it around Bavaria for a week and then have it shipped home.  He said something about avoiding some sort of import tax that way.  I am not sure.

We would have probably outgrown our current house pretty soon and would have moved somewhere bigger.   We’d probably would have argued about that house.  I would refuse to live in a ranch house or a house built after 1950.  Bryon would probably tell me I was being too picky.  I would  have dug in my heels on hardwood floors as opposed to wall-to-wall carpeting and Bryon would have eventually agreed with me because he would know I was right.  Bryon would have held firm that we would never have a swimming pool, trampoline or a swing set because they are liabilities.  I would have pushed to live in the country and Bryon would have probably said there was no effing way he was going to live in a place where he would need to buy a gun because of wild animals.

Now that has been ripped away.  I look at my future and all I see is nothingness.  I know it will be filled with new adventures and of course, time with Maddy but I don’t like not knowing what to expect.  I thought I had my life figured out.  I am not good at this “one day at a time” thing.  Not only do I  have have to mourn the death of my best friend and the love of my life, I have to mourn the loss of my future.  I know an optimist would tell me that my future is a blank canvass and I can color it any way I want.  Perhaps that is true but I didn’t ask for a blank canvass.

I also have to figure out who I am as an individual which is a daunting task.  The Kerry McKim that was Bryon’s wife, no longer exists.  I am not the same person I was on March 24, 2016.  My life forever changed when Bryon was admitted to the Surgical ICU on March 25.  I will never go back to being that version of Kerry McKim again.  The truth is, there are some aspects of who I am that got pushed to the back burner during my time with Bryon.  It wasn’t intentional.  He just always had ideas and sometimes my ideas went to the background.  And I let that happen.  He didn’t do it on purpose, though it did cause tension in our relationship at time.  Of course, now I am glad that I got out of the way and let Bryon accomplish what he needed to do since his time on Earth was limited.

Now I do get to do the things that Bryon never wanted to do.  I like to do boring things like take drives to check out scenery and Bryon couldn’t stand that.  To him, there was no point. I could go on an Alaskan cruise if I wanted or to a National Park (Bryon had no interest in going to the Grand Canyon even though I told him pictures don’t do it justice.)  I can live my life at a slower pace.  It could sometimes be exhausting keeping up with him though it was exciting.  I loved every minute of it.

However, I don’t revert back to being Kerry Sullivan either.  Kerry Sullivan was a young girl who was bored and wanted “more.” Bryon changed my world.  He challenged me.  He encouraged me.  He believed in me.  I am tasked with taking the best parts of being Kerry McKim and the best parts of being Kerry Sullivan and make them into some sort of newer version of Kerry McKim.  I just don’t want to be viewed as Old Widow McKim.  While I am definitely a widow, I don’t want it to define me.

So where does that leave me?  Everyone talks about stages of grief.  Personally I think stages are bullshit.  The first one is supposed to be denial.  I was never in denial that he died.  I watched him slowly die for five months in the ICU.  I can tell you that he never gave up.  He fought until the bitter end.  I think almost anyone else would  have given up long before but he kept fighting.  While he could communicate, he obviously couldn’t express himself fully and I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him to have to lie in a bed for five months, not being able to move and having to be dependent on me or a nurse for simple tasks like changing the channel on the TV.  He had his mind up until 36 hours before he died.  It must have been hell for him to be lying in that hospital bed without being able to articulate his thoughts.

The second stage is anger.  Well of course I am angry but that will be another post for another time.  Third stage is supposed to be bargaining?  Bargaining for what?  He’s not coming back.  Then desperation.  Again, he’s not coming back so I don’t know what there is to be desperate about.  The final stage is acceptance which is probably the only stage that makes any sense.  I don’t even know what it means to accept that he is dead.  I know he is dead.  I know because all the tasks he did are now my responsibility.  (I am beginning to wonder what I even brought to the table?  I think all I did before was change diapers and make sure there is milk in the fridge.  And I wasn’t even that great at the latter.)  I know he is dead because once in a while I think about something to ask him something and then I remember that there is no point in texting him because he isn’t going to answer that text.  I know he is dead when I am watching one of our TV shows and they make a joke that he would have found funny.  He isn’t there to laugh.  He wasn’t there to discuss the issues surrounding the election.  I know he is dead every night when I lie in bed alone. Even though I know he is dead, there are times where I think about certain memories where he was so full of life and then I think about him being dead.  Then it hits me me- the pang of disbelief.  Disbelief that someone so full of life can be gone.  That realization always takes me by surprise.  It stings.  Every time.

I also have to accept that even if he had lived, our future would have not been what we planned.  He would have had some long term medical problems.  Doctor visits to NYC or Boston would have become the norm.  We certainly wouldn’t be traveling on cruise ships in the middle of the ocean far away from American hospitals.  Before this crisis, Bryon liked to take care of everything.  It was as if his goal was for me to never have to worry about anything.  I am not going to lie, I enjoyed that and took full advantage of that.  I was thrust into the caregiver role and even if he survived, he would have been sick for a very long time, possibly for the rest of his life.  The carefree days would be over but I would have continued to fight for him.

Maybe this is some sort of “post acceptance” processing.  I know he is dead.  He is never coming back at least in any human form.  Some widows get upset about “being left behind.”  I am not.  I don’t want to be in Heaven or wherever spirits go when in the afterlife at least not until it is my time.  I want to be here and with Maddy.  But I am, in a sense, left behind to try to make sense of what happened.  I ask myself why at least once a day.  Why did this have to happen?  And why did it have to happen like it did?

Then there are all the other questions.  Did I do something wrong?  Did I miss something?  Was I not paying attention to something the doctors said?  Why would God let something like this happen?  What did we do to deserve this?  Why does Maddy have to grow up without her father?  When will all this pain go away?  When does it start getting easier?  When will I start to feel like myself again?  How can I feel like myself when I don’t even know who I am as an individual?  How much is Maddy aware?  Does Maddy even remember him?  Will Maddy grow up feeling cheated?  Can I give Maddy a happy life without her Dad?

So many unanswered questions.

The only question I can answer is- would I do it all over again even with the same outcome?  That answer is yes.  Not just because of Maddy.  I am a better person because of Bryon McKim.

BCM 08-28-1985 – 08-21-2016

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” ~Dr. Suess

 

All that remains

I am going to preface this post by stating that Bryon and I did meet through politics so politics plays a role in our story and it may come up from time to time.  However, this is not a political blog.  It’s a blog about grief, life, love and resilience.  There will be no political commentary from me.

* * *

A seer sucker suit hanging in the closet.

A vintage briefcase bought at an estate sale.

A shelf of books.

A pair of size 13 Aldens in the closet.

A whole bunch of Brooks Brothers bow ties.

Bryon’s Albany Law Rugby sweatshirt with “Shrek” embroidered on the sleeve.

Several copies of Smithsonian Magazine and The Economist.

A lot of political memorabilia.

His coat hanging off the back of a dining room chair.

A six pack of beer in the back of the fridge, untouched after 14 months.

His laptop bag filled with a folder of travel documents from our last cruise 15 months before.

One voicemail I found in the deleted files on my phone.

This is a list of items that remain from Bryon.  This is certainly not an exhaustive list. These items are reminders of who he was and the life he lived.  The capture aspects of his personality and his passions.  These very reminders sting whenever I look at them, but at the same time, I can’t get rid of them because they are all that remain.  Every time I get rid of an item that belonged to Bryon, I feel like I am getting rid of a piece of him.

But so much more remains of Bryon’s memory than the items that clutter up my house.

This weekend I had the honor of co-presenting the first ever New York State Young Republican Bryon McKim Alumni Award.  I was touched, but I wasn’t expecting to get as emotional as I did.  Bryon and I hadn’t been actively involved in this organization for a couple of leadership cycles.  There were several old friends but most of the faces in the crowd were new to me though they welcomed my daughter and I as if we were old friends. This organization had played a large role in our life for several years, both at the state and national level.  I was reminded that this was our beginning.  Our love story started at a New York State Young Republican Event.  If it wasn’t for the Young Republicans, Bryon and I would never have met, fallen in love, gotten married or had our daughter.  It was almost as if I was in the part and present at the same time.   Being at that meeting brought up all those emotions because even though it had been years, once I was sitting down at that dinner, it almost felt like I was reliving those memories.

I just think about all the ways the people who knew Bryon have chosen to honor him. The Bryon C. McKim Memorial Derby Party.  The Bryon “Shrek” McKim Albany Law School Memorial Alumni Match and the Shrek award.  The New York State Young Republican Bryon McKim alumni award.  People don’t choose to honor your memory if you hadn’t made some sort of difference in their lives.  Bryon touched so many lives and I appreciate that his memory being honored.  So many people die and ultimately become forgotten and it is comforting to know that Bryon won’t be forgotten.

It means so much when the recipients of these awards say wonderful things about Bryon in their acceptance speeches, though as time passes, I expect that the recipients of these awards will remember Bryon decreases.  Eventually they will only know about Bryon through his legacy that is passed down by others in the respective organization.

Everytime I go to an event that honors Bryon, it still hits me like the proverbial ton of bricks that I am attending a memorial event.  Memorial events are to remember dead people.  Bryon is dead.  Gone.  He is a memory.  But I will show up because it is important for me to honor Bryon’s memory and honor those who choose to keep his memory alive.

Bryon has left behind a legacy of friendships.  Bryon had built relationships with so many people from so many different areas of his life.  But his legacy of friendships isn’t just with those he had relationships with, but also with all the people that have been brought together because of Bryon.  Bryon was a really good mediator which was a talent that could be a headache for him at times, but he took the responsibility of this talent seriously.  Many of my friendships are the result of the bridges that Bryon built between others.

Bryon was full of life and leaves behind so many stories, most of them hilarious.  At Saturday’s event, I was talking to a good friend.  Her father died when she was little and that she heard a lot of stories about her father through his friends and that she feels like she knew her father from these stories.  She assured me that my daughter will know Bryon from all these stories.  Many people have said this to me, but honestly, it was a sentiment that always felt hollow to me.  One of those comments that is well-intentioned but feels like it was just said to me to try to comfort me.  It meant so much more coming from someone who grew up in the same situation that my daughter will grow up in.  But my friend is absolutely correct.  Bryon has left behind a legacy filled with stories  and those stories will ultimately be passed down to our daughter through his friends.  And even though it’s painful to think that my daughter will not remember Bryon, I am thankful that Bryon left a legacy that includes all these stories and friends.  Not every child who loses a parent has that legacy.

On my two hour drive home, I just kept thinking about Bryon and our early years.  So I decided to end this post with pictures taken at various Young Republican events.  We weren’t good about remembering to take photos so please remember to take photos! Someday they will be what remains of you.

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Young Republican National Federation Fall 2008 Board Meeting in Nasvhille. Bryon called this our High School Prom Picture because of the way we were posed.
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New York City Young Republican Club Holiday Party, 2008.
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New York State Young Republican Convention in Staten Island, 2009
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New York State Young Republican Day at the races, 2010
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Young Republican National Convention in Indianapolis, 2009
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Young Republican National Convention in Indianapolis, 2009.  Doing one of the things he did best.
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New York State Young Republican Convention in the Finger Lakes (wine country), 2011

First Annual Bryon C. McKim Memorial Derby Party

I have two words to describe Derby Day 2017.  

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The first word is Epic.

We all came ready to celebrate the two most exciting minutes in sports.

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There were old friends enjoying each others company.  There were new friendships formed.  Lots of laughter, celebration and happiness were in the air.

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There were lovely ladies in dresses, hats and fascinators.  

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There were dapper men in seersucker suits.  

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Delicious food was served- bourbon meatballs, pulled pork sliders, mini Kentucky hot browns, mint julep chicken skewers and chicken and waffle skewers.  Because we all know that food tastes better when it is served on a stick.

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Makers Mark Mint Juleps were consumed in special Bryon McKim souvenir cups.  So many Mint Juleps were consumed that the bar ran out of Makers Mark two hours into the party.  Bryon would be particularly proud of that.  

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There was a silent auction full of amazing items that were generously donated from members of our community.  The silent auction was accompanied by friendly competition to outbid each other.

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The second word is Bittersweet.  

We were having a great time but we all knew that this party would not be happening if Bryon was still alive.  If Bryon were still alive, we would have been having our annual Kentucky Derby party in our backyard.  The backyard party would have been at a smaller scale but just as fun.

Ultimately Bryon had to die to bring us all together to have a good time.

As much fun as I had on Derby Day, I would have given it all back if it meant Bryon would still be here.  But I think I am reaching the point in my grieving process where I am beginning to accept Bryon’s death as it is.  I have days where I still ask “why” but I know that even if I can figure out the “why,” it doesn’t change anything.  Bryon will still be dead.  And there is nothing that can change that.

We can’t change the fact that Bryon is gone but instead we chose to take a horrible situation and make the best of it.  Many people die without leaving their mark (pun not intended) on this world but Bryon made his mark (okay, pun was intended this time) and we made the choice to keep his memory alive.  Derby Day had the potential to be a very sad day but instead, we chose to celebrate Bryon’s favorite day of the year.  And we celebrated in true Bryon McKim fashion.  I am grateful that I had so many amazing people to celebrate Bryon’s life with.  We all remember what a difference he made in this world. He helped so many people when he was alive and we chose to continue his legacy and help others in his memory.

I want to thank the Bryon C. McKim Derby Party Planning Committee: Vince Casale, Lynn Krogh, Danielle Grasso, Joseph Hanson, Jennifer Muthig, Mike Utzig, Nick Wilock, Jennifer Armstrong, Mike and Natalie Kosar, Sara Stein and everyone else who assisted in the planning process.  I am awe of your talent and you ran this event like a well oiled machine.  You could run a small nation.  Bryon would be proud.

I want to thank our sponsors for supporting the event and all the business who generously donated items for our silent auction.  My daughter and I are very lucky to be part of such a supportive community who looks after their own.

I want to thank Wolff’s Biergarten for all your hospitality and help putting on this event.  You were great to work with and made our experience enjoyable.

And I want to thank everyone who came out to support our event to celebrate Bryon’s life and keep his memory alive.  One of the biggest fears that a grieving person has is that their loved one will be forgotten.  Thank you for reminding me that while Bryon may be dead, he did live.

I look forward to celebrating with you again in 2018.

“On this day” should be changed to “More depressing sh*t”

I belong to a few widow(er) facebook groups and it comes up periodically that the “On This Day” feature on facebook is a minefield full of triggers.  The triggers aren’t just reminders of illness and death.  The triggers are also the happy memories because you are reminded of the life that you are missing.

Some days I didn’t talk much throughout my history on facebook.  But some days are chock full of memories.

On this day in 2009, I was attending the Midcoast Maine Young Republican Meeting.

On this day in 2010, I was having a bad day at work and wanted to go home and drink. Considering I was working in the ER, that sounds about right.

On this day in 2011, I was out of work for the weekend and I had a hot date.  Of course someone commented and asked what Bryon was doing that night.

On this day in 2012, I was at a Bruce Springsteen Concert at the Times Union Center with Bryon.  I also was pissed that the Red Sox blew a 9-0 lead and I wanted Terry Francona back.

On this day in 2013, I hated Windows 8. I still do.

On this day in 2014, I was wishing all Boston Marathon Runners Good Luck.

I apparently wasn’t doing anything on this day in 2015.

On this day in 2016, I had my first glimmer of hope.  I remember writing that facebook status and feeling relieved.  We were finally on the road to recovery.  I remember being told that he would probably be in the ICU for another month or so and then he would go to rehab for a couple months.

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But we now know that that road would never lead Bryon to recovery.  It’s like I can feel all the emotions I felt waiting for that road to recovery at the same time; the frustration, the anger, the sadness, the hopefulness, the desperation.  However, it is also mixed with the grief and emptiness I feel every day from Bryon’s death.

Those memories are always going to be there whether they are on Facebook or in my memory.  I can’t un-live it.  I can’t pretend it didn’t happen.  And I don’t want to forget my memories with Bryon.  We had too many good times.  I can only hope that as time passes, I can think about these memories without crying and being overcome with sadness.  I want to be able to look back and smile.

I must move forward and try to fill my future with happier memories with my daughter and my family and friends.

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.

The mopey love song phase

My early days of widowhood were filled with numbness as I worked through processing Bryon’s death as well as the death of all our dreams.  I am one of those people who likes to have some idea of what will happen in the future like a tentative 5 year, 10 year and 20 year plan.  I am not good at flying by the seat of my pants. I know that things can change but I was certain that Bryon, our daughter and the child we planned on having later were going to be there.  When Bryon was sick, I knew that it was possible that if he survived (which I believed he was going to) that he was probably going to have long term health problems that would have altered our plans.  But he was going to be there.  We would figure the rest out.

Then one day he was gone and so were our dreams.  The family of three (with plans to be four) had become a family of two.  And I have gotten used to the fact that that will be our future.  My daughter, me and our cat.  Maybe I will get her a dog to make up for the fact that she won’t ever have a brother or sister.  I am trying to reconstruct new dreams.

I have been shifting from feeling of numbness due to his absence in our daily life to reflecting on our life together.

I never really been one to date.  I didn’t have a serious boyfriend until my senior year in college.  He was the complete opposite of Bryon.  We dated for almost three years even though he didn’t really put much effort into our relationship.  At the time, I thought that it was love and left the relationship unimpressed with the whole concept of love. It definitely was not like the love I had seen in the movies. I don’t think he was a bad guy, he just did not seem to have much passion with me or for anything else.

All my life I had kept people at a distance.  I never let anyone get too close and can be quite stand-offish at times.  This probably factored into the reason why I never dated much.  I never liked letting my guard down.  It is much easier to not let people get close instead of opening yourself up and potentially getting hurt.  I spent my 20’s immersed in Maine Republican politics and the politics of the Young Republican National Federation.  While part of me enjoyed some superficial male attention, I really wasn’t that interested in letting anyone into my own world and exposing myself to potential hurt. As a result, I probably denied myself a lot of happiness during that decade.

All that changed in the winter of 2008.  I was still living in Maine and I had traveled to Albany, NY for a leadership conference put on by the New York State Young Republicans.  I was feeling more social than usual that weekend and I chatted with several charming gentlemen.  I must have made quite an impression on a certain younger gentlemen who stood next to me all evening at the bar and kept buying me drinks.  This younger gentleman brought me back to my hotel.  I started to get nervous because I felt that this younger gentleman was interested in me and I didn’t want him to get the wrong idea.  I started to stress our age difference because he would surely lose interest if he knew how old I was.  He said he didn’t believe I was that old so I took out my driver’s license and said “That’s a ‘7’ not an ‘8’.”  He looked at it with complete disbelief and said that that can’t be right.  I said.  “Oh, yes it is.  I was born during the Carter Administration.”

The fact that I was born in the 1970’s (albeit late 1970’s) and that I am old enough to remember Ronald Reagan actually being president did not deter this young gentlemen.  For the next several months he showered me with attention on google chat and Facebook.  While I enjoyed the attention, I tried to discourage his advances.  He was too young.  Why on Earth would he want to date an old lady like me?  

I didn’t make it easy for him but Bryon eventually wore me down.  Our attraction was just too strong and it was just meant to be.   And to this day, I have no idea what he saw in me.  What made me special?  No man had ever made an effort to romance me or make me feel special but Bryon did.  What was it about me that made him think I was worth the trouble?

He was the first person I truly let get close to me.  This scared me and I am ashamed to say that I would test him even though I don’t think I did it intentionally. I just thought he was too good to be true and that he would surely lose interest in me.  Friends used to always say that I was a saint for putting up with his mischievous antics but he was just as much as a saint for putting up with me. I wasn’t always a picnic to deal with.   I have no idea why I couldn’t just accept that a great guy like Bryon would love me.

I just think about how he used to look at me during those romantic dinners, like I was the only girl in the room.  Or how he listened to every silly story I told on our first date.  I think about how sappy he got right before he proposed to me at Mahars and how happy he looked when I walked down the aisle on our wedding day.   I think about how excited he would get when I would say a one-liner that made him laugh.  He would reiterate to me that he was the funny one but once in awhile I can be really funny too.  I think about all the times he told me I was beautiful and all the times I got mad at him because I didn’t believe I was deserving of that compliment.

I think I am beginning to enter what I am thinking of as the Mopey Love Song Phase.  In the earlier days of widowhood, my sadness felt raw and intense but it still felt like an external feeling that I could fight off. My sadness doesn’t feel as raw or intense now but it feels deeper and more internalized. It is like the sadness has actually become a physical part of me and I accept that it is now a part of me. The emptiness sits like a big pit in my stomach and radiates through my bones.

Now that I am getting over the shock of Bryon being gone, I am bombarded with memories and trying to process the emotions that go along with all of those memories.  Our love story is played over and over again in my head. I tear up to think that as we were living our lives and making memories, we never knew that we weren’t going to get many years.  And there never would have been no way to know.