Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Calendar Paradox

 Here's a secret that those of us living with grief share: some dates on the calendar loom much too large.  We both live for these key moments of memory and dread them.  I am always keenly aware of upcoming dates that were significant to Daniel and me.

I plan months in advance how I will deal with them.  If I am invited somewhere within the nearby timeframe I am always questioning myself.  Will I be ok by then? What might happen to trigger tears? How can I just act normal when my world is so upside down?

Today is my 15th wedding anniversary.  I believe this one is the crystal anniversary.  But instead of drinking champagne out of crystal glasses with the love of my life, I planned on hiding from the world under blankets in bed.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with hiding.  Sometimes we just need to escape and be alone with our thoughts and the bittersweet memories.  Sweet, for sure, because in these memories we can see our loved ones again and be with them.  But bitter too, as they are finite.  We can never make even one more memory together.

Yes, I had planned on hiding alone at home, listening to old favorite songs and watching Princess Bride, one of "our" movies.  However, this day had other plans for me.  Instead I found myself in the car making the two hour drive to one of our favorite vacation spots.  The last vacation we ever took together was here for an anniversary celebration.

I can't say why I needed to be outside in the fresh air this year.  It just felt right.  I've spent the day visiting our favorite spots and getting the traditional chocolate covered strawberries to celebrate.

This year, instead of sitting on the darkness writing my thoughts here through streaming tears, I am writing this sitting on bench under the trees.  The same bench and the same trees that Daniel has kissed me under so many times.  Oh, there has still been some tears for sure, but the memories have been more sweet than bitter.

I love you forever Daniel.  I will always be your bride.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

That's My Secret, Cap

In the Avengers movie, Bruce Banner has a line where he explains to Captain America, "That's my secret, Cap.  I'm always angry." Like Dr. Banner, I may look like everything is back to normal on the outside but I too have a secret.  Just like a hulk lurking under the surface, grief is a constant companion for  me.

Sadness has become a second skin.  I guess I did not realize how much so until I tried to take it off.  I've made changes in my life to move towards being happy again.  I have a beautiful new apartment in an amazing new city.  I have wonderful new friends and fun new hobbies.  Yet no matter what I try, I find that happiness fits me like a dress I've outgrown.  It's tight and it pinches.

I don't mean to say that I am not ever happy.  I am so fortunate to have many things in my life that bring me joy.  In many ways, this new life is almost everything that I ever dreamed of having.  But there is no denying that it feels wrong.  Yes, I am aware that it shouldn't.  Daniel devoted his life to making me happy and I know that is what he would want for me now.

Yet, I can't stop thinking about how much he would have enjoyed these things and it hurts to do them without him.  No matter how great things are, I know in my heart that it would be better if he were here with me.  His absence casts a shadow over every smile.  I miss him every single day and nothing can fill the hole that his death has left behind.

There is also some guilt involved.  It's really super hard to enjoy life without feeling guilty.  Logically I know that I cannot spend the rest of my life in a tear-filled vigil for him, nor would he want that.  But my heart still holds me as traitor for every moment of peace that I find.

It's so easy to be sad.  It's like a warm, comfortable coat that protects me from letting other people in and from really living life.   That's my secret.  I'm always sad.

Being happy is hard.  I have experienced true, blissful happiness with Daniel and now I don't know how to do it without him.  And honestly, I know that I will be sad for the rest of my days.  But I have to think that maybe I can squeeze in some room for happiness along side the sadness.

I love you Daniel.  And I will never stop.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Road Forward

My darling boy, another year has started without you and it hits me anew how lonely this road is when you are not beside me.  In just a couple of weeks, it will be 2 years since you left.  24 months.  104 weeks.  730 days. 175,520 hours. In every minute of that time, my heart has called out for you.

There are days when I am terrified that I am moving too far away from you.  I moved to a house you never lived in.  I started a job that you never heard about.  I have seen TV shows you never watched.  I have made friends you never met.  I play games you never got to enjoy.  My life is almost unrecognizable at times.  Even the person I see in the mirror looks so different.

 It seems surreal that life should continue when you are gone. I am still getting to know this new me that lives a life without you.  There are times that it is scary as hell. I am often tempted to stay in place and keep everything exactly the same as if it might keep me close to you but I know now that it is impossible. Your death has changed me in the most profound ways and I can never go back.

Without a doubt, losing you has diminished who I was.  But it has also given me a new perspective.  I now really understand that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed and that our world can change in any instant.  Things that seemed important before have become trivial and the small things that I put off until later are now much more vital.   I feel free to just be in the moment and less worried about tomorrow.

Babe, I know you so well.  I know exactly what you would say.  In fact, I can practically hear your voice in my ear every day encouraging me to move forward full force and tilt at windmills, dance in the rain, and take chances.  I am just now getting that my fear of moving too far away from you is simply crazy.  That would be as impossible as walking away from my own heartbeat.  Knowing that you will always be with me on the journey makes taking each new step possible.

I love you Daniel.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Unending Circle

Daniel put this ring on my finger 14 years ago today.  The one beside it, I placed on his. 

On this day, sitting here without him, I tell myself that it's important - vital - that I focus on the day I gave him this ring and shove back the thoughts of the day I took it back off his finger before they took his body away from me.  

We chose the claddagh design on our rings to represent our love.  Each ring has two hands clasping a heart and a crown.  The hands symbolize friendship- we married our best friend after all.  The heart and crown stand for love and loyalty.  All of this rests on the unending circle of a ring.  I wear the rings on my left hand with the heart and crown pointing towards my own beating heart.  That is where Daniel lives now.

These rings have seen a lot of amazing things as we built our love story moment by moment. They've been through thousands of comforting embraces, passionate caresses, frustrated gestures, tickle fights, hard work, and more than a few long nights of holding video game controllers or books. All the while, they were together.  When we faced a difficult situation, one of us would click our ring against the other's like a superhero team power-up and say, "we've got this."

I wear both rings now, together still.  I am the keeper of our love and the guardian of  the memories from our love story.  Like the circle of our rings have no ending, so too our love.

So today, like many days since Daniel left, I float between feeling like the luckiest woman to ever walk this planet and the saddest. I am so thankful that he put this ring on my finger.  This unending circle reminds me every day how much he loved me.  His absence is almost unbearable. I just have to keep in mind that even though he is gone from me for now, our love lives on. I must find the strength to live on in a way that honors that.  

Someone recently shared this quote with me: 

"Two things can be  true simultaneously: You can be heartbroken and bereft, and you can be filled with gratitude for the amazing love that was in your life (and still is in your life, actually). Sorrow and joy exist side by side. Both are true and both are real.  Wisdom is making space to hold two opposing truths at the same time."

It seems like I'm now in the unending circle of seeking this wisdom.

I love you Daniel.  Thank you for choosing me as your bride.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Thing About Time and Space

My beloved,

It's hard to believe that it's been 18 months since I last saw your amazing smile.  Some days it feels like just yesterday that we were laughing together and other days it feels like 100 years since I was last in your arms.

Tomorrow will be the year and a half mark since you left us.  But I don't think about that day.  I'd prefer to remember you as you were last your true self, making me giggle before climbing into our bed the night before.

People ask me if time has helped to heal the wounds from your loss.  The honest answer is no.  I still feel your absence as deeply and intensely today as I did on January 13, 2015.  If I am still alive 50 years from now, the pain will not have dulled one bit.  But, time has made things better in a surprising way.

Even though my soul still yearns for you each day and with each breath, I have found that I can now fit other things into my life as well.  When you first left me, my world shrunk down to nothing but the pain of your absence and it took up all of the available space.  While that hurt has not dulled at all, time has made it possible for me to stretch my world a bit and allow room for other things as well. The pain is not any less, but it is no longer the only thing that exists for me.

That doesn't mean that I'm moving on or that I am not still your girl.  I am and always will be yours. It just means that I am fighting my way back to "your" Amy.  I loved the me that I saw reflected in your eyes.  The thing about time is that it's given me space to breathe and the perspective to find a way to start down the path back towards that girl you fell in love with.

Babe, I'm working so hard to make you proud until I am with you again.  It's a strange dichotomy where I want nothing more than to join you and be together, yet I know that until it's my time I must live to the fullest for both of us.  So until that day I am going to do my best every day to be your light.

I have a song that I play each morning while I am getting dressed to remind me that I can do this. I just need to make the most of this time until it's our time again.  I won't lie.  It's so damned hard to do this without you, and it's only your belief in me that enables me to make it through.

As the song says, "The only reason my heart beats is cause you showed it how.  I'll find my way.  You showed me how."

I love you Daniel.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Soul Rehab

A year ago today, on January 13th, I lost the love of my life, my best friend and partner.  My very soul was ripped in half.  Over the last 12 months, I've focused on surviving this hole in my world.  It doesn't get any easier, but I've grown accustomed to the pain.

I've learned what my limits are, I've figured out how to ride through the unpredictable waves of grief, and I've worked out how to function in a world that feels like a shadow of what once was. I've gotten good at surviving.  I spent this last year with one sole focus... get through it.  Make it through all of the firsts without Daniel.

I have made it through, but I realize I didn't plan well for what happens on day 366. I know now that there is something harder than losing my sweet boy.  What comes next is living without him... and that scares the hell out of me.

I don't know how to "do life" without him with me.  I feel like I've had my legs cut off at the knees and now I must start over.  It's like learning to walk again on artificial limbs.  I don't feel ready or prepared to stand yet, but I also know that it won't be any easier if I wait.

I think how unfair it is that Daniel only got to live on this Earth for less than 37 years.  There was so much left that he wanted to do.  I can't just hid away in this safe cocoon I've built, feeling sorry for myself and wasting my days when he had so few.  And, I realize, this is a place for me to start.

We spent so many nights sharing our dreams.  I know that he loved being up in the mountains in Colorado, that he wanted to visit Japan, that he aspired to one day hike the Appalachian Trail.  He wanted to learn Kendo and start Tai Chi.  He talked about taking classes on how to make sushi and about buying a classic car to fix up.  There were so many things that we were going to do together... some day.

As always, we are still a team.  I have the chance to get out there and start living for both of us until the blessed day that I get to join him again. I think the first step is to do some of the things we never got around to doing together.

This is practice run at starting to live again. Daniel might not be here in person, but I know he will be by my side every step of the way.  I don't know if I can do it, and I am sure I will fall a lot in the process.  I look at these first few steps on my own as physical therapy for the soul.

I love you Daniel.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Goodbye 2015

I initially wanted to call this New Year's post "So long 2015, you were the worst year of my life, you stink, nothing good came from you and I am so glad that I will never have to spend one more minute with  you!" However, there are three problems with this:

1.  It isn't really a catchy title
2.  It's way too long for the title field
3.  ... It isn't really all true...

While it is a fact that this has been the worst year of my life and I cannot put into words what I have lost (although Lord knows I've tried in these musings over the last 8 months) there were blessings as well.  It is during times such as these that we really understand what matters.  I know that I am so lucky to have people in my life that made it possible for me to live through my worst nightmare.

Starting the moment I lost Daniel, I have been embraced and surrounded by amazing people who held me up when I could not stand.
  • The kind North Richland Hills police officer who waited with me in the ER for over an hour until my family could drive in to town and take me home just so that I would not be alone.  
  • The incredible people who attended Daniel's funeral to help say goodbye and celebrate his life with me.  So many came that the chapel ran out of seating and some had to stand.  I could feel the waves of love and support hold me up that day. 
  • My sisters who I can call on at any time, 24/7. Shelley, who took over and made all of the small details possible including getting me to the funeral home to plan the service and made sure the house was presentable for guests and still makes sure that I have home cooked meals and my comforting tea whenever I needed it.  Emily, who has spend more evenings than I can count this year making sure that I am not lonely and stays over with me so that I have companionship. Both of whom have been there for me every one of the 346 days since my life lost all meaning.
  • My parents who flanked me at the funeral and held me up so that I wouldn't fall that day and continue to do so to this day.  My dad who whispered funny stories of Daniel while we waited so that I could laugh through the tears and remember better times during that horrible day.  My wonderful mom who worries for me, takes care of me, and makes sure I am taking care of myself.
  • My brother Scott, and my niece and nephews who keep me smiling and give me the hugs and kisses that I need.
  •  My CCFW family that has circled the wagons around me and given me a safe place to work during my grieving and a purpose to get up in the mornings. These wonderful people have invited me out for lunch and dinner and given me tons of love and support.  I have a place to feel whole, productive, and needed here.
  • The folks I've met through the support group who are fighting to survive similar devastating losses but still take the time to comfort and encourage each other.
  • Marvelous friends and loved ones that laugh and cry with me, who call me out of the fog when I go in too deep, and who keep pulling me back to the land of the living when I want curl up and die.  Some of who traveled from across states to be there by my side as I had to say goodbye.  All of whom are just a call, text, or message away when I need to talk, laugh, or live vicariously through their antics until I feel up to rejoining the world.
2015 was without a doubt the most heartbreaking year I've ever experienced.  But I cannot say that I would't want to spend one more second living through it.  I had the gift of 12 wonderful days with Daniel in 2015.  I will never be able to say that again for any year to come.  What wouldn't I give now for even 12 minutes more?  If I could just live in those first 12 days of January 2015 forever, I would do so in a heartbeat.  

So, 2015 I bid you a conflicted adieu.  

I love you Daniel.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Dream On

An Actual Conversation:

Me:  I am so mad at you.

Daniel:  What?  Why?

Me:  You were really mean to me in my dream last night.

Daniel:  That's crazy.  I can't help what you dream about.

Me:  I know!  But that doesn't mean I feel any less angry.

Daniel:  Would some chocolate covered pretzels help?

Me:  Well, it couldn't hurt.

Over the years we were married, variations of this conversation took place on several occasions.  I'd wake up from a vivid dream and inform him of my state of mind.  He'd take it in good-naturedly although I did not always get sweet, salty treats to make amends for his dream actions.  Depending on his mood, he might wink and suggest we kiss and make up or pat me on the head and tell me to get back to him when I was over it.

I remember distinctly thinking, when Daniel died, that at least I would get to see him in my dreams.  I made fantastical plans to spend as much time as possible asleep so that I could still talk with him.  It's been almost a year now, and I have yet to have one single dream of Daniel.

For the first several months, I could not remember dreaming at all.  This crazy thought came into my mind that we were, in fact, really talking together in my sleep, and that for some reason to keep the magic working properly, I must be made to forget the encounter upon waking.

Later, when I started to dream again (or remember what I was dreaming) I expected to see him star in them once more.  Even to hear his voice or see his smile in my sleeping visions would be better than a complete absence.  But the place where he should be remains stubbornly empty.

When Daniel was planning our wedding, he insisted that we get married in our pajamas because he said that our life together would be a dream come true.  In typical Daniel fashion, he was right.  I guess I will just keep dreaming of the being able to see him again, even if it's only behind closed eyes.

I love you Daniel.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Dance

An alarm chimes and the dance begins.  Arms outstretched, I reach for you.

Brush teeth, brush hair, brush aside the tears.  Shoulders squared, back straight, my feet move on their own.

Smile for the audience. Go through the motions. I know the steps even without thinking.

Keep my focus on the next move and, for moments at a time, I almost forget that your hand is no longer in mine.

Return to an empty house, but still the dance goes on.  Don't forget to eat.  Don't forget to breathe.  Don't forget to stay busy.  Hours more to fill.

Finally, I lay down.  I close my eyes and hear your song so loudly in my head.  But there is only silence in the room.

Arms outstretched, once more I reach for you.  The lights go out and the dance ends again.  Until tomorrow's show.

An alarm chimes and the dance begins.  Arms outstretched, I reach for you...

I love you Daniel.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

My Favorite Topic

Sometimes it seems like people get uncomfortable when I say your name.  It's like they don't know how to react when you come up in conversation.

I've begun to second-guess myself.  Am I just being a big downer and making people sad at the mention of you when they have to remember you're gone?  I guess it's different for me because I always remember that you are not here.  But it is your absence that makes me sad, not the thoughts of you.

We had so many great adventures and I have so many amazing memories of you, that you are still so alive to me.

I can't help it.  You are my favorite topic. I want to talk about you all of the time. I love it when others remember you and share memories of you with me.  It's all I would talk about if I could.

But there are times when the conversation turns to you and people just freeze for a moment.  It reminds me of the way you used to deliberately say something shocking just to see how people would react.

So babe, you're still occasionally making conversations awkward like you loved to do.  I just bet that makes you smile.

I love you Daniel.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Running on Empty

I am so tired.

I go about my day, try to stay busy, want to be a productive member of society... but I feel so damned drained all the time.

Sleeping doesn't help.  Pampering myself doesn't do any good.  Resting doesn't make a bit of difference.

There is no physical reason for me to be so exhausted.  Yet, there is a weariness that takes over that is so absolute that I honestly do not believe I will be able to take one more breath.

Whenever I was feeling low, Daniel would just give me a wink and spread wide his arms without saying a single word.  I would step into them and be home.  My head fit perfectly against his chest and he would envelop me in his arms. Then he'd laugh and say "you're OK, you just need a recharge."

After over a decade together, he still insisted on touching me as often as possible.  He was always holding my hand, brushing his shoulder against mine, and sitting close to me. Even unconscious in his sleep, his feet would make their way over to mine to stay in contact.  I drew such strength from the love that radiated from his touch. There was an overwhelming a sense of belonging and power that came from our connection.

Without that connection, I feel ungrounded.  The emptiness that is left is a leech that drains away hope, purpose, and passion.  I force myself to go through the motions of living, because it is what is necessary- not because it is what I want.  What I yearn for is to close my eyes and feel his arms around me again.

I am running on empty... and I no longer have Daniel's embrace to plug into to recharge.

I love you Daniel.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Gift

Daniel, you gave me the amazing gift of sharing your life with me.

Because of you, I will always be able to say I have been loved unconditionally. (*by someone other than those predisposed to love me because we share the same genes)

Because of you, I take the time to stop and laugh when things start to feel overwhelming.

Because of you, I understand the difference between the DC and Marvel universes.

Because of you, I remind myself that mistakes and not being perfect isn't the end of the world.

Because of you, I know what it is like to be held as if I was something precious.

Because of you, I try to remember that I'm not always right about everything.

Because of you, I've been supported, comforted, protected, and allowed to sometimes be weak without the need to have all the answers.

Because of you, I now know that sushi is indeed one of the things that make life worth living.

Because of you, I was able to truly be myself around someone with no barriers or masks or pretense.

Because of you, I've experienced the joy of mattress picnics, choose-your-own-adventure road trips,  google face-offs, dancing barefooted, well coordinated launch day marathons, and steering wheel serenades.

Because of you, I've felt safe enough to give my heart without reservation or holding anything back and just loved someone like crazy.

I am a better person, because of you.  Thank you for being an amazing best friend and husband.

I love you Daniel.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Put on a happy face

Those of us who are left behind when the love of our life is gone share a secret.  We know that there is a point in time where people are just ready for us to get better.  We know that you care for us and don't want to see us sad anymore.  We also know that it's a real downer to hear how broken we are all the time.

So, we start to fake it.  Here, let me translate for you.

I'm doing good!  Thanks for asking.

I know that it's been almost a year, but I still cried the entire drive in to work today.

I'm really settling in to the new routine/new house.

The place is so empty and I am so lonely.

I am in a much healthier place now and getting out more.

I made it out of my pajamas at least once this weekend.

I'm starting to pick up some new hobbies.

I don't do any of the things I used to enjoy because it breaks my heart to do them without him/her.

In fact, I'm thinking about making a change (going back to school, becoming a missionary, getting a dog, writing a book, climbing a mountain, etc.)

I feel unanchored and aimless.  Life has lost all meaning for me.

Really, I am doing fine.

I am never, ever, ever, ever going to be fine about this.  But I acknowledge that it sucks to bring others down with me, so I am just going to smile and fake it.

I love you Daniel.
I miss you with every fiber of my being.

Sunday, August 30, 2015


Anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays;    songs on the radio and people holding hands;    bare feet and bento boxes;    comic books and computers;    mountain views and Marble Slab;    tech problems and toe socks;    pizza and pigtails;     road trips and radio announcers;    foodies and kung fu movies;    Garden of the Gods and the Appalachian Trail;    Middle Earth and mid-century moderns;    German Chocolate and Irish Wolfhounds;    video games and novels;    Kaiser Soze and classic cars;    silly hats and sock puppets;    anime and movies with explosions;    Star Trek and Sunday brunch;    Cowboy Mouth and cooking shows;    inside jokes and internet memes;    penguins and mouse ears;    running without scissors and laughing with abandon;    late night talks and lazy afternoons;    empty bed and empty arms;    the past;    the future...

You are everywhere, so why can't I find you anywhere?

I love you Daniel.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Battle Lines

My ears hear my mouth saying that we are ok.  It says how lucky we were to have Daniel for 13 1/2 amazing years and that some people never get to experience in a lifetime what we had for that short, blissful period.  My head nods as my brain agrees completely.  

But my heart is screaming, "NO!  It was not enough... there should have been more time."  My eyes must agree, because they fill up at the thought. 

My heart considers my hands traitors as they to go through the day to day tasks of living- brushing my teeth and driving to work.  They are conspiring with my feet to keep going from day to day.

But my arms are not aligned with them.  They would be fighting alongside my heart if they weren't so depressed from being empty for too long.

My chest and throat are allies with my heart and tighten up in failed attempts catch my breath, that disloyally continues to move in and out.

My soul just sits by staring, like a sad little girl looking forlornly out the window waiting for her best friend to come walking back home.

I love you Daniel.  Today we would be celebrating your birthday.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mrs. Willard

13 years ago today I became Mrs. Daniel Willard.  In my heart, I already belonged to Daniel, but this made it official.  He was so proud and happy to call me his wife and I was so blissful thinking about spending the rest of our lives together.  I hear some people who say "this would have been our anniversary" but to me, there is no "would have" about it.  Today is our anniversary.  13 years ago, I was breathless at the thought of being Mrs. Willard and today being without him feels like I am smothering.

This is the first anniversary that we have been apart.  I don't get to celebrate today with Daniel, but I am so lucky that he left me with so many amazing memories to keep with me.  When I look forward and think of his absence, that is when the tears come.  But whenever I look back and think of my time with him, it is nothing but laughter.  Daniel made me feel special every day and I did my best to make sure he knew every day how much he was loved.  He was an incredible man who was loyal, kind-hearted, wicked smart, opinionated, funny, stubborn, mischievous, warm, compassionate, and loving.  I was amazingly fortunate to have been chosen by this man to share a life with him. 

Well meaning people tell me that I am young and will find someone else or that Daniel wouldn't want me to be alone for the rest of my life.  What they don't understand is that, in my heart I am still a Mrs.  I am not a single person, looking for a match.  I am someone who was blessed to find the one for me and have already given my heart away.  I am one half of a perfectly matched pair.  I have a husband.  He is just away at the moment, and when I am in his arms again, I will be back home.

I love you Daniel.  Happy Anniversary.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Half a Year

The last time I was truly happy, was falling asleep beside Daniel on January 12, 2015.  Daniel left us at 3:20 am on January 13th.  I thought I would die on that day too.  Each day after, I expected my heart to stop beating.  Yet, each day it continues and so do I.  But I am not living either. 
 Now, I am a ghost haunting this life.  No longer a part of it.  The world has lost all of it's color and I move through the day in scales of grey.  I am just bidding time until I get to see him again.

I know that sounds depressing as hell, even as I type it.  But I don't mean it that way and it's not me feeling sorry for myself despite the tone. I can still laugh with friends.  I can still enjoy time with family.  I still have pride and a sense of accomplishment from my job.  But as great as these things are, they do not come close to touching the hole that Daniel left behind. I just feel disconnected from the people around me.

With the perspective of the last half year, I can finally admit to myself without breaking in to tears that I will have a life without Daniel.  I know that it will be full of people who love me and that there will be good times to come.  But I also know, in my heart, that it will forever be in the shadow of what was and will always be compared with what can never be.  

Six months in when people ask if things are getting easier, it is hard to answer.  The truth is that yes, it is getting easier, but not in the way that they mean.  I don't miss him any less and I am not starting to move past the loss.  It is just easier because I am coming to terms with the fact that this is my new reality.  I won't ever again feel the way I did when Daniel was with me in this lifetime.  Whether it is 40 days from now or 40 years, the next time I will be truly happy will be when I am with him again.

I love you Daniel.

Saturday, July 4, 2015


My family's Independence Day celebration in 2001 was set for less than a month after my first date with Daniel.  Even after that short of a time together, he wouldn't stand for the thought of spending an entire day without me.  But family has always been very important to me and besides, I had a new little nephew to cuddle.  So, that is how Daniel managed to get invited to meet my entire family so quickly after we met.

Some people would be nervous about this relationship milestone, especially coming so quickly.  Others might be focused on the best strategy for making a good first impression.  But my Daniel never tried to be anything but himself- and true to his nature, he was mainly interested in making me smile.  That's why he showed up to meet my fairly conservative parents wearing a top hat covered in patriotic flags.

That night as we sat together in the dark holding hands, even the loud and bright explosions in the sky couldn't take our attention away from each other.  And over a decade later, Daniel was still the brightest thing in my universe.  In the 13 1/2 years we were together, I felt fireworks every single time he held me in his arms.

Tonight, the sky will light up again.  People will be with their loved ones and look up at the display in awe.  Life goes on.  But I am missing my light in the darkness.

I love you Daniel.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

It ain't easy being green

I've read about the stages of grief and thought I knew what to expect.  Imagine my surprise when I never really experienced any of the things that I had prepared for.  Denial?  Nope, I was there when it happened and the reality hits me every single day.  Anger?  Not so much.  I know Daniel would have moved the moon and stars to stay with me if it was in his power.  Bargaining? What would be the point?  Depression... well maybe a bit of this one, though I would call it more of a profound sadness.

But I do find myself experiencing a new phase of my grief journey.  Some days I trade blue for green.  That is to say, as I start to get out more and interact with others, I feel myself battling sudden bouts of jealousy.

Recently, I went to one of our favorite restaurants.  I feel close to Daniel in some of our old haunts.  As I sat there eating alone, my gaze landed on an elderly couple leaving their table after enjoying a meal together.  As he held her chair back from the table for her, I felt such a flood of envy knowing that Daniel and I will never have the chance to grow old together.  I wanted so badly what they had.

Going out with friends offers more of the same.  It's really nice to catch up with their lives and have a chance to talk a bit about Daniel and how much he made us laugh.  But I always feel apart from the group.  I look around at these young couples with their entire lives ahead of them just waiting to be spent together and I am so jealous.

Living with this little green monster is new to me.  My life with Daniel was everything I wanted.  I was so content.  In fact, I almost felt guilty for being so blissfully happy.  I never looked at others and wished for what they had.

Without him, I can't say that anymore.

I love you Daniel.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


14 years ago today I was sitting across from Daniel on our first date.  Daniel loved to celebrate all kinds of anniversaries and could tell you the dates for the first time we talked, held hands, kissed, bought groceries together.... and June 6th never passed without him doing something sweet for me.

He loved to say 6-6-01 at 8:18 his life changed forever.  It technically should have been 8:00 but I was running late.  It became a trend in our relationship.  Not necessarily me running behind schedule, although to be honest it happened quite a bit.  No, I mean Daniel waiting for me.  He was always patiently waiting for me to catch up to where he knew we were meant to be.

5 weeks after that date he told me he loved me and I said "thank you".  Instead of being upset that I didn't gush out a love you in return, he calmly explained that we were meant to be together and I could take all the time I needed to discover that.

Six months to the day on 12-6-01 he asked me to marry him.  He told me that he knew at the end of our first date that he would spend the rest of his life with me but he just needed to give me time to catch up.

That is why I know that he is waiting for me now.  Time and again he has proven how stubborn he can be in his belief that we'll be together for always.  I've just fallen behind again for the moment.

I love you Daniel.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

404 Error

Imagine that you sit down in front of your computer and type in a web page that you've been to hundreds of times before, but instead of that familiar site popping up you receive the dreaded 404 Error. The message tells you that what you are looking for can not be found.  You can reload the page as often as you want, but the same stubborn error reappears each time.

Perhaps it shows the geek in me but every time I look for Daniel and realize he isn't here, 404 Not Found pops into my head.  Daniel spent a good deal of his free time in front of the computer in our study.  He loved to read web comics and play video games.  Most of the time I was right there beside him. Sometimes though, I would be in our bedroom across the hallway reading or something and he would close the door to keep the noise from disturbing me.  When I walked by to get a drink I would always peek in and blow him a kiss or ask if he needed anything.

I keep the door closed now.  This way I can imagine that he is still there, sitting in his favorite chair, guarding the flag from the enemy troops.  If I concentrate hard enough I can almost hear that full-throttled laugh that is so familiar to me floating through the door.  I pause outside sometimes, hand on the door knob.  I know if I open it what I will find.  But as long as it is closed, I can pretend for a few moments that my heart hasn't been ripped from my chest.

At night when I lay down to go to sleep, I close my eyes so tightly.  I turn to face his side of the bed and reach out.  If I don't peek, I can almost trick myself into believing that he is right there with his fingers inches from mine.  But when I open my eyes, it is always the same thing... Not Found.

I love you Daniel.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The girl in the mirror

The girl in the mirror looking back at me is wearing a Metallica t-shirt.  I don't expect this and it catches me off guard for a moment.

You see, we're experiencing a bit of an identity crisis together - this mirror girl and I.  I never know what I am going to see when our eyes meet.

Today, she is snuggled into one of Daniel's old t-shirts.  I never really liked Metallica.  I prefer what Daniel calls "happy, peace loving hippy music." But I sure did love it when Daniel sang to me.  I always knew I could put on Astronomy and he wouldn't resist singing along.

I was always my true, best self when I was with Daniel.  He was mine and I was his.  Together we were amazing.  Without him, I no longer feel like myself.

Now I am trying on these new roles.  Brave, Stoic, Responsible, Together.  But I know, I would not be these things if Daniel was here.  In his arms, I would be able to be weak, sad, and broken.  Then he would use his "radio announcer" voice in an overly dramatic report of my problems until I broke out laughing so hard that the tears changed magically to joy.

It occurs to me that Daniel will no longer be here to tell me how much he loves to see me in pigtails.  He won't point out how cute it is that I insist on bare feet at all possible times.  He won't beg me to say "worcester sauce" because the way I mispronounce it is just so adorable.

Like all of us, I am perceived differently by different people.  To Daniel, I was this cute, funny, smart, amazing person.  I can still wear pigtails and go barefoot but his Amy no longer exists. Because he is no longer here to have her reflected through his eyes.

We hear that grief gets better with time.  That someday we can get back to ourselves.  Yet this kind of loss cuts too deep to not change us.  I don't think that the pain ever really lessens.  Time just gives us a chance to forget what it felt like before we had the scars.

I love you Daniel.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Messages from Daniel

I started this blog to write about all of the things that surprise me or seem most absurd about the grief process.  I consider myself a strong, logical person so all of these crazy thoughts felt like they were coming from someone else.

But as much as I miss Daniel terribly, there are so many happy memories that he gave me.

I was going through some old text messages from Daniel recently.  He showed me every day how much he loved me and often when we were apart he would text me with declarations of love. Messages from my Sweetie are on the left side and my responses on the right.

Daniel was always a big romantic.  He loved me even when I didn't "get it" right away.

But it wasn't all just romance and poetry.  Sometimes, he used math to prove his love for me.

That's not to mention, the coding language of love.

So, how do I keep going without him?

I love you Daniel.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Zombie Brains

I often joked with Daniel that should a zombie apocalypse occur, he should simply let the monsters eat me.  Because, I'd teased, I would not want to live in a world without internet connection.

Even so, when I woke up recently to find that the cable and internet was no longer available to me, I had only myself to blame.  I'd seen the disconnect notice.  I had plenty to cover the expense.  There'd been more than enough time to call and make the payment.  I simply did not.

You see, most all of our bills are automatically drafted from the bank.  But this one bill had been causing Daniel problems.  For the last several months he would call them and ask why the debit had not come out, and every month they would apologize and say next month.  He'd just spoken with them the week before he passed away and had to pay over the phone.  Apparently, they still hadn't figured out the billing issue.

Now it just felt so overwhelming to deal with.  A silly thing really, but in my mind it became a monster problem.

I find it strange how grief works.

In the days after losing him, I was devastated but still was able to coordinate notifying our friends and loved ones, finding a funeral home, planning a service, writing the memorial notice, and even accommodating out of town family members.

But now, months later, there are times that something as simple as deciding what to have for dinner is a mental hurdle far too large to navigate.

Last week, I wore Christmas socks to work because doing laundry was out of the realm of possibilities.  I guess that even though I may have escaped the fate of being zombie chow, my brain is still being eaten up.

When I was laughing with Daniel just a short time ago, being here now dealing with the grief of losing him seemed as likely as living through a zombie attack.

I love you Daniel.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Missing Love Actually

I'm not a superstitious person.  I haven't read my horoscope since I was in my teens.  When I see a penny, I don't pick it up so that I will have good luck.

So, I'm definitely surprised by my sudden bout of...   unusual thinking.

It all started with Love Actually.

You see, Daniel and I have a Christmas tradition. Every year, we watch Love Actually together.      Every. Single. Year.

Except this past Christmas.

Something kept coming up and then the season was over and we'd missed it for the first time.  19 days after Christmas, my darling Daniel was gone.

So, the idea started floating around my head that there was a connection between missing the movie and losing Daniel.  It was my fault for not making sure we watched it together.

Now, the flood gates have opened.  Suddenly, I've started all these little rituals and my brain is making crazy connections.

Things like.... if I don't say "I love you Daniel" out loud at least twice a day, I will lose my connection to him and won't be able to find him again when I pass on.

Logically, I know these things are irrational.  But I still keep thinking them.

So...  it may be possible that I am going crazy.  But, I think maybe I am just missing my love, actually.

I love you Daniel.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

My husband is not a cat

Ok.  I know for a fact that my dead husband has not come back to me as a cat.  I just want to get that out of the way right up front.  No need to start calling the men in white coats just yet.  

sometimes, at night...      
when I am alone...

I start to think strange thoughts.  They go like this.  "Hey, I am sad and this cat seems to know when I am the most sad and immediately runs up to comfort me.  Maybe Daniel is here trying to make me feel better."  Of course, my brain knows that Daniel has not borrowed the cat's body to come up and purr me to sleep.  Definitely not.  

But the cat does seem to be somehow possessed to act very differently than her norm.  I should explain a bit more for this to make sense.

Daniel and I got Seffy, our cat, when she was a kitten 10 years ago.  Since then, we have seen her roughly 30 times.  Months would go by where the only way we knew she was still around was because her food bowl needed to be refilled or the liter box changed.  I do not exaggerate when I say that the only real proof of her existence was the fluffy grey puffs of hair that floated its way into the dust pan on cleaning days. 

Yet, since the moment I returned home from the emergency room on the night Daniel left us, she has been very attentive. And, when I am feel most like I am going mad, there she is... rubbing against my arm and rumbling softly.  How does she know?

This has been going on for months now.  Today I realized something.  I was sitting alone thinking of him and she ran right up to me.  "This is nuts," I thought.  Then it hit me.  

I'd sighed his name.  

"Oh Daniel," I whispered.  And... in an empty house these are the only words that have been spoken in hours.  So, this cat is not being enthralled by my husband to comfort me in his absence.  But instead, these periodic utterances during times when I am most lost have broken the long silence and called her to me.

I love you Daniel.