Monday, September 26, 2011

Friendship's wings

My friend died on Saturday.

There are a million and one things to say about this, but the foggy swirl of grief and remembrance is making me nervous that I'll forget something important - that I won't eulogize her in the way she deserves.

So I will just say this:

She went to visit my dad one day while he was in dialysis. They were receiving treatment in the same hospital; one for kidney failure, one for cancer. She had never met him, but she wanted to stop in and say hello to the man I'd talked so much about. 

Like everyone to whom I introduced Liz, he was instantly smitten. After their brief, and only, meeting, he asked about her constantly - even when he could finally no longer remember her name. And he prayed for her fervently. One of the last things he ever said to me was that he was praying for her, and that I was to tell her.

On my last visit to Liz, when she was so weakened that it was sometimes difficult to hear or understand what she was saying, she told me, through tears that threatened to shatter me, that she would look after my Thomas. Over and over again, she said she would look after my boy for me.

A mother leaving her own children here, pledging to take care of mine there.

She had acknowledged her death before. We both knew she was going to die - she was frank, was Liz. But this time I knew she could see it. It was both frightening and beautiful all at once. She was close enough to begin planning what she would do once she left us, and I was in grateful awe that she chose to make my boy part of it. And that, God bless her, she made sure I knew.

I've only known Liz as someone journeying with cancer. I met her shortly after her diagnosis in 2009. But cancer never defined her - she refused to let it. She lived fiercely and fully, and with more grace, courage and humour than I ever thought possible under such heartbreaking circumstances.

Someone who takes time to visit an old man they've never met in dialysis while on her way to chemotherapy? Well, that's just the best kind of person there is - and someone I'm so proud and honoured to have called my friend.

Love you, Liz. Godspeed, and thank you for watching over my boy.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Do as I say, not as I do. Obviously.

Okay, so here's the thing about grief: it makes you sooooo tired. I'm sure it's that and not the nine zillion calories I eat every day in an attempt to smother the grief with Nutella and wine.

Because that's what I do. It's been my modus operandi since Thomas died. I try to kill grief with food, or somehow disable it with credit card transactions (like when I bought two pairs of shoes on the way home from errand-running this afternoon).

Both are effective, but only fleetingly. Somehow I'm still pretty sad. And kind of fat. Huh.

Oh, shopping and eating do work in the moment, of course. Spectacularly so. A big spoonful of Nutella completely eclipses EVERYTHING for the 4 seconds it stays on the spoon. And the rush of finding two cute pairs of sandals that actually fit my chubby feet? Bliss that repeated itself when I got home and tried them both on again.

The afterglow is pretty short-lived, unfortunately. But I'm no quitter. Eventually I'll find just the right combination of eating and spending to kill grief forever. I'm sure of it.

Right now I'm trying salami and beer. And later I'm planning to hit the cosmetics aisle at the drug store.

I'm nothing if not committed.

Of course, I kid. I know that what I'm doing is stupid and unhealthy and fruitless. But I figure since I know that it's a crap plan of action, it's totally okay to continue along this destructive path for at least a little while longer. Because knowing is half the battle and blah blah blah.

Shit continues to happen. I will self-medicate for as long as it takes me to not need to self-medicate. I'll get there. I have before and I will again.

But for now, beer and salami it is. And some new lipstick later.


Monday, June 13, 2011

From the "outside looking in" files:

'Tis the season for graduations on Facebook. These days my wall is flooded with announcements about little ones saying goodbye to kindergarten, changing schools and getting bigger and bigger each day.

They tug at the heartstrings, these innocent posts from people who are lucky enough not to realize that a little boy growing up is actually something to celebrate, not mourn.

I would give just about anything to have been blessed with that kind of luck.

And so it goes.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I haven't been paying all that much attention to the alleged facts behind the claim that the world is going to end at 9:00pm on Saturday, but I have given a little thinking time to the concept itself.

Let me be clear: I have no wish to die. There are a lot more things I want to see and do here. I don't feel quite done.

But the truth is, when you've buried your only child and know there are no more coming, the idea of death - even at the relatively young age of 41 - isn't quite as daunting a prospect to consider. I am by no means sitting around waiting to die, and that's not how I'm living my life. But I'm also not living the same way people with children do. I'm not marking time with developmental milestones, birthday parties and school graduations. My child won't have a first date, first prom, first day of work. He won't get married. He won't call me, half out of his mind with excitement, fatigue, and relief, to tell me that I've become a grandmother.

People with children live for these things, and I can guarantee they've thought of half of them before changing that first diaper.

Those who are childless-by-choice are probably shifting uncomfortably in their seats right now, irritated that I'm suggesting that life is somehow less important, less interesting or less fulfilling without a child in it.

That's not what I'm saying. Well, not exactly. 

What I'm saying is that when I was carrying a wriggling, healthy baby boy in my tummy, I looked out at the vast expanse that was rest of my life and expected him to be in it. You know, alive and everything.

But he's not. I'm passing time without him instead, and that's the difference between someone who wanted it and someone who didn't. I missing him, and all the future he was. It's not that my life isn't fulfilling and often very happy, it's that it always has that empty spot where Thomas - and his own big, full life - might have been.

So to me, life is less fulfilling, less interesting and less important than it would have been with my son in it. How on earth could it not be?

Which means that if I do die on Saturday - if those placard carrying doomsday enthusiasts are correct - I won't be leaving one of the people that I love most in the world, I'll be meeting him again. And sooner than I'd expected at that.

I have so much to live for - so many wonderful things I haven't done, seen, read, heard, and experienced. But I have a lot to die for too.

That's just the way it is.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


They want me to write about rental housing and life insurance and private home care for the elderly, but the only words that really matter today are: I miss you Dad. Happy birthday.

He was one of the best people I've ever known. And I'm almost positive I'm not being selectively blind about this, viewing him through a gauzy haze of grief and longing that's blurring out his rough edges. Because he had those. He totally did.

But he also taught me to notice things like a golden autumn leaf or a long dormant tulip bulb poking its way out of the earth in early spring. He saw small beauties everywhere, and the wonder he had for those everyday miracles radiated from him like summer heat off the sidewalk. He had a way of talking about the people he'd lost that somehow showed more of his love for them than his sorrow over losing them. He was joyous, relentlessly pursuing the things that made him smile and brought him comfort. He fully immersed himself in everything he loved: church, sacred music, sports memorabilia, and his family. He was settled, secure and confident about himself and the people and things that he believed in.

He also once hauled some guy halfway out of his car window and punched him, punishment for a driving offense of some sort that Dad felt wouldn't otherwise be properly meted out. In his much younger years he took to the streets of Toronto late one night looking for crimes in progress that he could bust up. Irish temper. He had that too.

But the Dad I knew best went to Christmas craft shows with me. Once he bought himself a tiny gingerbread house - something that still somehow makes me want to weep, because that's just the kind of person he was: a great big man with a great big laugh who won (and lost) bloody fights when he played hockey, and bought gingerbread houses with his daughter.

Last summer, as we sat on the deck while he ate an old person's snack of digestive cookies and water, he told me he'd had a good, happy life. He reminded me that he always managed to find joy, especially in simple pleasures. His eyes shone, looking beyond me into the past.

And oh, I miss him. I first knew I would lose him when I was a terrified 13-year old sitting in the emergency waiting room late one winter night. Twenty-seven years later I finally did. And it was every bit as awful as I'd been imagining it would be for all those years.

But I'm looking at spring buds, and taking solace in the simple pleasures that make me happy. Because that's what he taught me.

I miss you, Daddy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Widow's Story

Yesterday I heard a portion of an interview with Joyce Carol Oates on the CBC radio. It was about her new book, A Widow's Story, which is a memoir based on the time after the sudden loss of her husband of 47 years in 2008.

I listened to it with the kind of rapt attention you probably shouldn't when you're driving. I can't remember getting to my destination.

It's just that she spoke so honestly and simply about loss. She was unapologetic about the ravages of grief and the toll it took on her after her beloved husband died. She didn't look on the bright side. She didn't claim to have learned anything from it. She didn't praise it for making her stronger, more empathetic or more patient with others. She didn't use it to find ways to do good.

She just endured it.

And coming from the world of babyloss where we're always trying to make sense of it and find something good to take away from it, this was a breath of fresh air.

Losing someone you love is bad. Period. It hurts, it isolates, and it scars.

I'm sure, like everyone who struggles to find meaning in loss, she has done some of the mental gymnastics the newly bereaved engage in to keep the ground from moving and shifting beneath them every moment of every day. She probably has tried to make sense of it and find lessons from it.

But she didn't say she did. At least not in the interview. She said she made a nest of her bed, taking refuge there through sleepless nights surrounded by books to comfort her. She admits she thought about, but then dismissed, suicide. She said she regularly impersonated the "old Carol" while she was working as a professor at Princeton, then returned home to be a grieving widow once again.

I haven't lost my husband so I have no idea what this particular of grief is like, but so much of what she said resonated deep within me. Especially the notion that we impersonate the person we used to be. I suppose it's some sort of ancient survival skill, not unlike the way cats can literally be dying but still successfully pretending to be a-okay.

I've done it. I still do it.

And then I come home and I can be the girl who lost all her babies and then her father.

I ordered A Widow's Story for my mom, and I'll read it when she's finished. There's something deeply necessary about people sharing the grief journey, and I'm so grateful that people who have walked this sad, lonely road do talk about it.

For us, and for themselves.

Monday, May 02, 2011

What remains

Yesterday I hosted a jewelry party - a fabulous girly event attended by some of my closest friends and lady family. I put out a little cookie spread while my incredibly talented friend (accompanied by her helpermom) arranged her gorgeous handmade pieces in my dining room. She works in stone and sterling silver, and oh my - such loveliness my dining room table has never seen!

It was a too-quick sort of affair for me. I was, as it turns out, starved for this kind of joy. The house rang with the sort of raucous laughter that can only be generated when women are under the spell of lovely things and in the company of good friends.

I spent the evening buzzing in the afterglow of the happy energy that filled my house for those three perfect hours.

And what I realized, after thinking so much about each of the lovely people who flitted around the dining room table snatching up Donna's bracelets, earrings, and necklaces as they laughed and chatted; is that I love my life.

There are great holes in it. There are massive sorrows. There are missing people. There are scars that will never fade. But I love what's here. What's here now.

What I do have, as it turns out, I adore.

I watched my friends - people I have cared about and known for years - as they flooded my house with their joy, and found myself pulled in. I have danced on the periphery for so long. I have spent endless days, months, years; waiting, trying, struggling. I have pretended to be happy. I have lied about being happy. Even to myself. Often to myself.

But yesterday I really was happy. And it occurred to me for the first time that I love this life.

I love what remains.

This is not to say that I'm happy that this is how my life has turned out. This is not what I chose - it's not what My Beloved and I wanted or planned. But in the aftermath I've somehow managed to carve out a sweet and happy place, and I'm grateful for the peace. And for the friends who helped me realize that I have it.

 (One of three (yeah, three) of my pretty new bracelets. Seriously, it was a good day all 'round.)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

One moment

About a month and a half before he died, I had a conversation with my dad about death. I didn't know if it was right or fair, given his incredibly frail health, but I desperately needed to talk to him. I wanted to tell him about the vision I had of Thomas pushing through crowds of family and friends to be the first to greet whichever one of us was to arrive next.

I said "whichever one of us". I knew it would be Dad.

He smiled. And got quiet.

To fill the silence I blathered on, making a vague reference to some pretty severe doubts that had been plaguing me since he'd gotten so sick, about whether or not there even was a heaven.

In hindsight this all seems so cruel - to try to seek spiritual solace from someone staring death in the face, someone getting weaker every day and fighting so hard to live. But I couldn't help myself. I knew I was losing him. I was watching him slip away right before my eyes. The enormity of that impending loss made me realize exactly how desperately I needed to know that this is not all there is. That I would see him again, even if he had to leave me for a while now.

It was easy when he was younger and healthier. It was theoretical, the separation.

But when you look at someone and see death staring back at you, sometimes you say things you might otherwise not. And I hope he has long forgiven me for forcing him to talk about dying in the dialysis waiting room that day.

He told me he wasn't afraid of death. He was a man of immense, unwavering faith. He said if he happened to be wrong, which I know he didn't think he was, he'd never know the difference so it didn't concern him.

He said the only thing he was afraid of was the moment of death.

And I didn't know what to say, except to agree. And to feel sick for making him reach in and poke at that one little weak chink in his armor.

And then he was gone.

He would have loved to tell me about the moment of death, once he finally experienced it. As weird as that sounds, I know he would have. He loved to tell stories, especially if they were funny, but also if he knew someone was really, really interested in what he had to say. And I am. Oh, I am.

He would lean forward in his chair and said, "Say, do you remember that day in the waiting room when we were talking about dying? WELL..." then he'd pause for emphasis, lean back, and proceed to tell me that it wasn't as bad as he'd feared. Or that it was worse. Or quick. Or agonizingly slow. Most likely he'd say it's not worth worrying about while you're still alive because there's all sorts of important living to do then. And if that was his message, he'd probably wag his finger at me with his head tilted and his stern face on while he was delivering it.

And I would listen to the sound of that lovely voice, taking in all the details, nodding and commenting and laughing at the funny bits I'm sure he'd have managed to find in it all. Just like always.

It's been so long.

Monday, March 28, 2011


I'm so tired of being sad. Bone weary exhausted, really.

I'm not wallowing. Honest. I have newly-purchased cans of paint and two bathrooms ready and waiting. I have crochet projects on the go. I have work scheduled. I have a to-do list that I follow. I have lunch plans with a friend on Friday.

The thing is, when I'm in the midst of the busyness, it's all good. But when I pause to figure out what that nagging feeling is - that sense that someone is watching me, that something is wrong, that I've had a bad dream, that I'm late for something - I realize it's sadness quietly waiting to be acknowledged.

And so I cry. I cry for my dad - for all the pain and indignities he suffered in the months before he died. I cry for me, because I miss him so much. I cry because I haven't yet figured out what to do with this unplanned life. And I cry because that scares the bejeezus out of me.

Fate has been clever and methodical in the doling out of disaster. A miscarriage in 2003, a miscarriage in 2004, Thomas' birth and death in 2005, fertility treatments in 2006/7, a miscarriage in 2007, more fertility treatments in 2008, dad's illness in 2010, his death in 2011. These things seemed to have spaced themselves out, giving me juuuuuust enough time to recover from one disaster before tossing some new horror my way.

The cumulative effect is like sitting beneath a pile of elephants trying to smile while I'm being crushed to death.

This is life. I know that. No one escapes unscathed, and in the midst of the horror is unimaginable beauty. I know that. I know that. I know that. There are bigger disasters. There are crueler fates. There are harder lives.

But, still, this is mine.

The other day I was telling My Beloved that I barely remember the girl I was before that first loss in 2003. I miss her, I told him. She's like a brightly-coloured character in a book - happy and innocent. Not without worry or sorrow, but still buzzing with light and energy.

In his wisdom and kindness he acknowledged her loss, but told me that the girl he's now married to is not just a shadow of the one he once knew. I am better, he says, in some ways. I didn't ask for specifics. I was too stunned and overjoyed to care.

Better. At least in some ways. That's good to know.

I know the fatigue of sorrow will wane. And maybe I'm thinking too hard; worrying about it too much. It hasn't yet been three months since the most recent elephant, after all.

But it would be nice not to be so grief-weary. So very, very nice.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Years ago, not long after Thomas died, I read a post by a fellow babyloss blogger who was struggling with an overwhelming desire to make herself look as outwardly grief-stricken as she felt inside. She wanted to cut her hair, tattoo her body, cut patterns into her empty stomach - do something radical and drastic so that people would know, just by looking at her, that she was broken on the inside. She wanted the mark of grief.

It scared me. But I understood.

I started thinking about her - and the strange need for grief to be known and recognized - this morning at Mass. I'd made small talk with one of the office staff on the way in - a woman who helps me organize the annual Mass of Remembrance for bereaved parents. We both hate the heat, but wished it was a little warmer today. And isn't that funny, because in a few months we'll both be wishing for a crisp day just like this one. And isn't it a shame that while it's going to be warmer tomorrow, it's going to be rainy too. Blah, blah, blah.

When I finally got into the church, I sat down and started thinking about my dad, as I often do when I'm alone and quiet with nothing proper to distract me. Driving is a particular hazard. It often ends in tears.

Anyway, I was thinking that I display no outward sings of grief. I'm clean, my hair is freshly cut, I wear makeup (a necessity to hide the circles and bags my 40s have gifted me), I smile when appropriate, I attend meetings, I work. I am functional in all the ways that matter.

But inside there is so much grief. And no one knows.

It makes me feel like I'm existing inside a plexiglass dome, visible, but somehow unreachable. And thoroughly unknowable. Most importantly, separate. Always separate.

I started wondering why exactly it is that we need to share grief with others. It's such a personal thing that no two people feel or experience the same way - even if they've lost the same person - and yet we're desperate to find people who will listen to us when we need to talk about the aching emptiness a loved one's loss has created in our lives. We want to share, in explicit detail, what it feels like to be without that person; what it's like not to hear their voice tell us we are loved, what it's like to see the empty chair they once sat in, what it's like to want to tell them a story and forget, for a split second, that they are no longer there to hear it.

I want everyone to know how much I miss my dad. How I still cry for him. How agonizing it is to be separated from him. How I still can't fathom that he's really gone and is never coming back.

How I feel like I'm once again hollow inside, waiting to be filled up with whatever it is that filled the empty space Thomas left behind.

And no one knows.

And I don't know why that matters. Except somehow it does.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


Happy birthday my beautiful, beautiful boy. 
I will love you always and forever. oxox

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Universal mother

"...The thing I have always wanted to say I have no right to and may be so unwanted and I never would wish that. And my greatest fear has always been that my words could possibly cause you further pain which I would never want.

But I am saying it today to you. Forgive me if this is upsetting, please please.

I have always seen you as a mother, to Thomas yes, but in my soul I have always felt you must become a mother to another child, no matter how, no matter from your body or not, from birth or not it has been so strong I have written friends to speak about you and ask their advice. I feel it achingly in my core that your life, that your joy and your path is this, is to find a way to make it happen for you. Through foster or adopt or any other means. And I know that is so easier said than done, I know what you have said about all of it. I do I truly do. I just want you to know I dream about this, it haunts me and I have never understood why it is so, with you, it has never done so with someone else from our land of IF."

I think about this sort of thing a lot. Even still.

I imagine the life I nearly had every time I see a mother lean in to her child to listen to a secret he wants to share, or watch her touch her child with that absent-minded mother-love that makes her need to stroke her daughter's hair without even realizing she's doing it. I feel the emptiness around me so acutely in those fleeting moments when I see so clearly what I'm missing. And I panic in those moments too, knowing that I won't have that kind of connection with anyone. Ever.

But I also believe that childlessness is the road some people walk - some by choice, some because the choice was made for them.

I'm not walking it to be noble or to take the bullet for someone else. I'm walking it because I have to - because this is where life has lead me and I can't turn around and go back to a different starting point. Not now. Not after everything. I tried to choose a different path, but I kept ending up back on this one - more bloodied and broken each time - and there finally came a moment when I decided to stop fighting against it and accept that this is what was meant to be.

I regret that I was ever put in a position where I had to choose. But I don't regret the choice I made. I have to trust that it was the right one for me and for My Beloved.

I admit that it haunts me too. It probably always will. But I do believe that for us this is how it is supposed to be.

So I've just decided that I'll be a mother in other ways to other people until I'm with my own children again. A universal mother, if you will. 

I'll crochet for my friends' babies, I'll listen when someone needs to talk, I'll keep secrets, I'll send cookies to work with My Beloved so he can share them with his co-workers, I'll make homemade birthday cakes, I'll make spaghetti sauce from scratch, I'll dry tears, I'll soothe hurts, I'll offer advice,  I'll make things better when I can. And I will always keep tissues, gum, hand sanitizer, and aspirin in my purse.

I can still be a mother in the little ways that mean so much. It's not the same, I know that. But walking this road doesn't mean that I can't still use the mothering instincts that I was born with, or pass the kindness and love that I was shown by my own mother on to others.

Making that choice is easy.

Bleu, thank you so much for your comment. I know it came from a place of love and respect, and so no,  it didn't hurt me. In fact, I've been thinking a lot about this whole "universal mother" thing in the last few months, and your words helped. Truly.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Grief in 30

What I know about grief:

1. When it moves in, it brings every piece of baggage it can along with it.
2. It steals your sleep, your concentration, your confidence, your energy, and your peace.
3. It feels endless.
4. It gets better.
5. It gets worse.
6. It's totally unpredictable.
7. It makes you feel desperate.
8. It makes you feel incomplete.
9. It makes you feel scattered, scared, and lonely.
10. It thrives on the chaos it creates.
11. It changes your priorities.
12. It alters your perception.
13. It lies in wait.
14. It attacks without warning.
15. It bleeds you dry.
16. It makes you more compassionate.
17. It makes you more paranoid.
18. It makes you need friends, crave comfort, and beg for mercy.
19. It is ruthless, relentless, and insatiable.
20. It makes you vulnerable.
21. It makes you weep.
22. It makes you scream.
23. It chokes off your words.
24. It strangles your joy.
25. It claws at your heart.
26. It rakes at your mind.
27. It thunders in your ears.
28. It blinds your eyes.
29. It cripples, maims, and scars for life.
30. It makes you wonder if the people you're missing would even recognize the person you are now.

And each day you survive living with it, you win the tiniest little piece of yourself back.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I want happy

Slow work weeks for freelancers are distressing. Slow work weeks for grieving freelancers are dangerous.

With nothing pressing to occupy your mind, it's especially easy to get lost down an internet rabbit hole. Eat the wrong things. Dwell on what-ifs. Wander aimlessly. Bother sleeping cats. Then eat the wrong things and start the whole cycle all over again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Today I found myself curled up on the only cat-free spot on the bed begging my Dad - who I'm only partially convinced can even hear me now - to help me find happy again.

I want happy.

My Beloved and I lost our first baby a little over 7 years ago. I have spent almost all the time since that moment being afraid or sad. Desperately so in both cases. Sometimes at the same time. There were bits of hope and moments of happy sprinkled in, sure, lots of them. But mostly I feel like I've been sad for such a very long time.

I want happy.

So I sat up and made a mental list of things that make me happy, thinking that was a good start. But I cried the whole time. I am responsible for my own happiness, but that responsibility is so overwhelming right now that I don't even know where to start. It makes me tired and defeated just thinking about the effort of it all.

I want someone to walk in with happy on a silver platter. A great huge plate heaped full with more happy on it than I could ever possibly need or want. An excess of happy. Effortlessly won.

But that's not the way it works. So I'll press on as I have been; as best I know how.

I'll get lost online, eat crap, cry, move quietly from room to room, and pester the cats while I wait for work.

And while I try to figure out a way to find happy again.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The sweater

I have my Dad's sweater hanging in the closet in the sitting room. It's the butter-yellow one with the faux wood buttons that my mom made so long ago that no one can remember exactly when; the one he wore to dialysis all summer long; the one that was finally deemed too raggedy and was replaced by a navy blue store-bought cardigan in the Fall.

But it slipped into rotation every now and again. And it's what he had on the last day he was alive. I found it at the bottom of their basement stairs, along with the shirt he'd worn to dialysis that Monday, hastily tossed away out of sight while my mom and sister waited for the coroner. And then, finally, the funeral parlor to come and take him away.

I brought it home and washed it. And I hung it in the closet that would have been Thomas'.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it - it's pilled and has a small blood stain on one arm caused by the ever-present itchy rash that plagued him. A side-effect of dialysis, we were told.

But I had to have it. I sat with him in the waiting room so many times as he wore that sweater. I watched him walk into the treatment room, slightly hunched and shuffling, with that butter-yellow sweater hanging off the shoulders that used to be broad and strong. I'd retrieve it from his bedroom when he'd forget to put it on. I'd help him into it. I hugged him hello and goodbye so many times while he was wearing it.

I needed it.

Maybe I'll wear it. Maybe I won't. But I need it here with me just the same.

I've only just started not needing to have lights on at dusk in rooms we're not using. When Thomas died, nightfall suffocated me, and I wanted to banish it before it had a chance to take a choke-hold this time.

But it's been a kinder sort of healing, and after not quite two and a half weeks the lights aren't necessary any longer. I've also stopped needing to have the TV on while I fall asleep. We still do it every once in a while, but I don't panic at the thought of falling asleep in the dark anymore. And my brain is quieter and lets me slip into sleep much easier now too.

So there's the sweater. And there's the darkness. And for now, I'm living comfortably enough with both of them.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

11 Days

My dad has been gone for 11 days.

Separation by death is agony. The new, awful distance between you rubs your soul raw, shredding you from the inside out as you push forward through the busyness of sleeping, eating, working.

I keep thinking of things I want to tell him. I used to stockpile bits and pieces to talk to him about while we were in the dialysis waiting room - things to distract him or amuse him. Sometimes they were things that were so exciting to me that I couldn't wait, and told him in the car on the way to the hospital.

He was the kind of person who you wanted to run to when you had something to say that you knew he'd want to hear. He lit up. He laughed from his toes. He pounded his fist with sympathetic rage.

Sometimes, for a fraction of a second, I forget. And then I am frozen with this thing I want to say sitting quietly unspoken in my head as I remember. 

When my mom woke me that morning to tell me he'd died in his sleep, I didn't cry. I hung up the phone, looked out the window and thought, "So this is what it looks like without him here."

It looked the same. And I couldn't understand how that could possibly be.

I miss him in a way I can't miss Thomas - and in a way that confused me for the first few days. There's a hole where Thomas should have been, but there's a hole where my dad was. In those first, awful days it felt so much worse than when Thomas died.

Because I knew my dad.

I've finally decided that it's okay to miss them differently. I don't know why this preoccupied me so much, but I was worried about missing one more than the other. I was worried about what that might say about the love I had for each of them.

But as it turns out, I love them both and miss them both - for a million different reasons. And for two common reasons: because we three are a part of each other, and because they both belonged to me.

His hands are gone. He can't hold mine anymore. But I feel him guiding me through these sad, strange days - urging me onward and reminding me that life does go on. And that it can be wonderful, even still. 

Because he led by example.

The night he died - before I even knew he was gone - I cried quietly in bed wondering how on earth I'd live without that love when the time came.

I now know that it's still there - that his love will always be with me.

And the friends who came to the visitation and the funeral - and who send cards, flowers, chocolates, food, messages and Mass cards, and left treats at my door - have demonstrated that there is abundant love to be had all around me. I'm once again in grateful awe of the way friends seem to find a way to fill the awful empty spaces with their concern, friendship and love.

I miss my daddy.

But I'm doing okay.

Saturday, January 08, 2011


On January 4th, sometime in the wee hours while he was tucked up in his bed, my dad's sweet and much-loved heart quietly stopped beating.

I'm sure I will be able to speak more eloquently about this in the days to come, but right now I'm spent. Yesterday afternoon, under cold but mercifully sunny skies, we laid him to rest in the same cemetery where our Thomas lies.

And I miss him like crazy. I can still feel the last hug I got from him on Sunday night after dinner. Tight, tight, tight, despite how incredibly weak and frail he was. And as he held me, he kissed me on the head as though I was a child again.

I lost my son - my only child. I know that putting one foot in front of the other is how you carry on despite the suffocating grief and sorrow's unrelenting fatigue.

But I miss my daddy. I miss him so very, very much.

Saturday, January 01, 2011


Welcome, 2011!

I have high hopes for you, but also know that ultimately I am responsible for making my own happiness, cultivating my own good luck, and sewing up all those sow's ears I keep finding into enchanting little silk purses. I'm used to the drill.

How about this: I'll put 100% effort into it if you do too, 2011. Deal?


P.S. be a pal and be nice to my peeps while you're at it, huh? Thanks, 2011.

P.S.S. I'm not still drunk from last night, 2011, I'm just really tired and a little worn out from the stress of the holidays. Once I've had a good night's sleep I'll probably stop talking to you...and writing to you in public. Don't be offended, m'k? M'k.