Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Cards and Christmas message...

This year I decided to pass on sending my yearly Christmas card. At first, I thought I would send it out, but I have been so overwhelmed with things to do that I realized it would be too much pressure on me to pick the right picture and words to send out on time. We took some "new" family pictures but it has been hard to look at them. This is a new phase we are entering. I remember what we did exactly a year ago - and so does Bella. Today she said "remember last Christmas when I wore my Santa dress and we went to the mall to see the firework ice skating Santa with Papa?". Wow. She remembers so much right now.

I did not know that receiving Christmas cards would be so hard. It is not that it is hard to see the cards - I actually love seeing all my friends and family and how much the kids grow. And it makes me happy to see so many people I love happy. What has been so hard every time I open my mailbox has been all the different ways I am being addressed. I have had it all.

The Austry Family (which I prefer because, we are still a family)
Mariana Austry
Mariana Alvarez
Mariana, Isabella and Anna (no last name)
Ms. Mariana Austry (I know this is "pc" but I am just not ready for this)
Mariana ( no last name!)

I guess this is better than the way widows are addressed abroad. It would look like this:
Mariana Alvarez widow of Mark Austry

It makes it so hard to receive these cards because I feel like it took so much time for the sender to figure out how to address the card. Which then it feels like the envelope is about 10 lbs heavy with pain and grief. I know it is hard on many of our friends to come to terms with what has happened and most of them don't know how to "address" the whole situation. Everyday I try my hardest to still be a family and make the most of our life and all that God has blessed us with. Thankfully we still have each other and that still makes us a family.

So, here is The Austry family Christmas greeting...
I am thankful for all of you and all the support, kind words, actions and love we have been surrounded with. I especially thank you for your prayers. I pray that you all have a very blessed Christmas and may you and your families have a happy and healthy 2011.

The Austry Family
Mariana, Isabella (Rudolph) & Anna

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

ho x 3...

all that's changed...

is his outfit.  Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

the stocking...

Every now and then something having to do with Keith surfaces and nobody quite knows what to do.  This last time it was with his Christmas stocking at my parents' house.  Do we hang it?  Do we not?  Do we just keep it in a box?  Do we give it to Brooks?  Finally, my mom decided to unstitch Keith's name and make it Brooks' stocking.  Using new thread she would sew "Brooks" where "Keith" had been and then it was my suggestion to use Keith's original thread and sew "Keith" or "Dad" on the inside of the back stocking flap - that way Brooks could have something tangible that he shared with Keith.  This stocking would be theirs.  Anyway, as my mom removed Keith's name she became distracted before  sewing the name "Brooks".  She grabbed the thread and after running out after sewing "Broo" she realized the thread she was using was from Keith's name.  She continued to finish the "k" and "s" with the new thread and you can't tell where one ends and the other begins.  It's perfect and actually much better than sewing something on the inside of the back as a reminder.  So the stocking for Brooks is the one that Keith used each year after we were married.  The letters were removed, reshaped, but remain...much like Keith and the love we will always have for him.  I am so thankful that the Lord has given me a son that shares so much likeness to Keith.  It's such a blessing that a part of Keith lives on in such a sweet, fun miniature version.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I won't lie - part of me is REALLY ready to put 2010 behind me.  That being said, I'm a little surprised at the amount of stuff that took place in a year where, for the most part, I felt I was at a standstill.  Back in January I literally had NO idea what the year would hold for me.  My biggest fear was that Keith would stay in the condition he was in and that my life would continue in the manner that it had been for so many months.  My second biggest fear was that I would lose Keith and unfortunately that came true, but every day I am grateful that he won even though it hurts my heart that he's gone.

For close to a solid year my life was in limbo and I never knew where Keith would be.  Would he be stable enough to remain at the nursing home?  Would he be rushed to the hospital where I would anxiously await lab results to see what I was dealing with?  Would he be diagnosed with something that would require him to be admitted to a specialty hospital?  Would they send him directly to ICU or would he be sent to a regular floor room?  I can honestly say that I do not miss those days.  I was so limited in what I could do and where I could go - but even with those restrictions I did more than I realized. 

Brooks has been to Austin to see family a half-dozen times; he's gone to San Antonio close to that amount to see some of our closest friends.  He and I (along with my mom) spent a few days in San Diego although it was for business and not so much pleasure.  I entered an essay contest for the Today Show, won it, and then went to Scottsdale for a few days with my sister to redeem the prize.  I decided to go back to work so I got a job.  I was told for the seventh, yes seventh, time that Keith was dying and that he wouldn't pull through.  But he did.  I experienced hospice.  I planned a funeral.  I went to another funeral for him in Lubbock.  I thought Brooks and I might get our own place so I looked at a bunch of places for us.  I started working.  I spent about a million hours on the phone with various companies for various reasons.  I handled all kinds of matters that I didn't know I could.  I went to Belize.  I experienced another death - my grandfather Papa Jack, my mom's dad.   I took Brooks to Merkel to see Keith's family for Thanksgiving.  And now I'm ready for Christmas, 2011, and the opportunity to move forward with my life.  :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Chair...

The other night as we were having a nice dinner with Christmas music playing in the background. Ave Maria came on and it completely captured me and took me back to our wedding day when Mark and I held hands praying together kneeling down and crying together. It was one of the happiest days of my life...then I snapped back to real life and found myself staring at the 4th chair in our kitchen nook table...empty and pushed in with no place mat or food. It was then that I realized that I have been avoiding that chair for the past 9 months. Then that took me to about 10 months ago when we would sit around and talk after dinner while listening to music and the girls learned to play together. Anna would be crawling around trying to walk and Bella had short hair and still looked like a baby. How I missed him and hearing about work and just sharing a glass of wine talking and laughing. Enjoying our daughters and laughing along with them at the funny things they did. Honestly, I feel that I reached the up most happiness in my life at those moments and they were just beginning. I am so grateful I have those moments to remember, but I want more of them. And I want them with him. I want those moments for the girls - so they can remember what we had and how we were a complete and happy family. How does it get better than those moments? How will I experience that again? I know I will experience a new type of wonderful happiness at some point in my life again, but I feel my heart will always have a hole in it and no experience will ever be as good as those moments. Thank God for video and pictures.

One of the last nights we were sitting around after dinner and Mark grabbed his guitar. He started playing a bunch of Bella's favorite songs (Barney and others). We joked around that he should quit his job and start covering Barney songs with some other guys and they could be the next Wiggles! He did a great Barney cover. :) So then after we sang Fix You as a family, he started playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and ended with You are My Sunshine. The girls both climbed on his lap and he was teaching them how to play the guitar and Bella and him were singing. It was beautiful. And it was a moment we wanted to capture and I usually would have but this time I could not find the camera and I told him that we would take a picture later...on another night because at that moment I thought we had a lifetime of those moments. Boy was I wrong. I would do anything to have a video of that night. For the next couple of weeks we sang You are My Sunshine to each other none stop...and for some reason when he was in the hospital and I was on top of him trying to hold on to what I could, all I could get out of my mouth was that song. I could not stop singing it at the top of my lungs. I never knew how true those lyrics would be for me.
Please pray for our family during these weeks as we approach 9 months and especially for my sweet girls. For them to feel love, love, love. For God to wrap them up in love and protect their grieving hearts.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I'm feeling overwhelmed.  I don't like feeling overwhelmed and it seems that lately it's been lurking around every corner.  There is still so much on my plate and I wonder when things will start to thin out.  I feel like I'm tired ALL the time.  I go to sleep tired only to wake up tired only to do it all again the next day with the same results...being tired.  My brain is still mush and on a good day I feel that I might retain 50% of what happens.  When will this end so things can return to normal...or is this it?  Is this my new normal?  Lord, I hope not.

Some times I feel confident about the future and other times I go to the gym, look around, and then quickly pray that I'm not looking at a random sampling of what's out there in my age bracket.  Are my choices like this:  bald head or mohawk?  meat head or mushy belly?  tattoos or tank top?  Ugh.  No thank you.  My choice:  none of the above. 

Then I realize that I'm borrowing trouble.  This is nothing for me to concern myself with right now - this is for me to put in the Lord's hands and trust that He has guided me this far and will continue to do so.

However, in the meantime, some days are hard when I realize what I'm up against.  I was eating sushi with a friend the other night and all of the sudden I realized that I don't know how to eat with chopsticks.  Well, not all of the sudden, I've always known I can't do it, but it never mattered.  Keith would always order the kids chopsticks for me or the little plastic spring you can attach to regular chopsticks.  It wasn't a big deal, it's just something we always did.  But now I realize that I would look pretty lame being thirty-one asking for the plastic spring so I can make my chopsticks work.  And I would look EVEN LAMER asking for a fork at a sushi restaurant.  It's here - this moment - that I realize I'm starting over in more ways than just life without Keith.  I'm entering a scene that I have been away from FOR YEARS and I have no idea how to do it.  So I trust.  I trust in the One who has brought me here; I lean on Him knowing that I can't do it by myself. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I had some time to read earlier so I pulled out one of my devotionals.  I didn't feel like flipping to today's date, so I flipped to the day Keith died.

From Streams in the Desert:
August 28
There he tested them.  (Exodus 15:25)

I once visited the testing room of a large steel mill.  I was surrounded by instruments and equipment that tested pieces of steel to their limits and measured their breaking point.  Some pieces had been twisted until they broke, and then were labeled with the level of pressure they could withstand.  Some had been stretched to their breaking point, with their level of strength also noted.  Others had been compressed to their crushing point and measured.  Because of the testing, the manager of the mill knew exactly how much stress and strain each piece of steel could endure if it was used to build a ship, building, or bridge. 

It is often much the same with God's children.  He does not want us to be like fragile vases of glass or porcelain.  He wants us to be like these toughened pieces of steel, able to endure twisting and crushing pressure to the utmost without collapse. 

God does not want us to be like greenhouse plants, which are sheltered from rough weather, but like storm-beaten oaks; not like sand dunes that are driven back and forth by every gust of wind but like granite mountains that withstand the fiercest storms.  Yet to accomplish this, He must take us into His testing room of suffering.  And many of us need no other argument than our own experiences to prove that suffering is indeed God's testing room of faith.

It is quite easy for us to talk and to theorize about faith, but God often puts us into His crucible of affliction to test the purity of our gold and to separate the dross from the metal.  How happy we are if the hurricanes that blow across life's raging sea have the effect of making Jesus more precious to us!  It is better to weather the storm with Christ than to sail smooth waters without Him.

I know I was tested, but I wonder if Keith was tested too.  I wonder if there were marked times that his body was failing and his sheer will to live, along with the help of the Lord, kept him alive.  Part of me thinks that even when Keith was totally unresponsive that we were still working as a team.  I feel that we were both on a journey and that the Lord took us - or brought us - to a place where we were both ready to be released from it.

I have heard about the joy of suffering, and I wonder if the person who coined the phrase truly suffered - or if they just thought they had suffered.  Because to me, as one who has suffered, there is not a joy of suffering.  I believe that joy can be found while suffering because I experienced true joy while suffering, and this was a joy given only by the Lord.  I felt this joy in the midst of my pain, this honest, pure feeling of joy, but I would never say that I experienced the joy of suffering.  Suffering does not equal joy to me.

Regardless, Keith and I suffered and I can only hope that we suffered well.  If I had to lay us to rest, I would say the following:

Keith and Judy Beasley
December 1999 - August 2010
Together as one July 24, 2004 - August 28, 2010
We loved each other and lived well.
We were blessed; we were tested.
We suffered; we were released.
And because of the Lord's love for us,
We will see each other again.

Monday, October 11, 2010

hope for the hopeless...

Wow.  This is great.  The man, Chip, is the elementary school principal at Carrollton Christian Academy which is where I went to school from 4th grade until I graduated.  I do not know him or his family, but heard about him shortly after his incident from several different people and it makes my heart happy that his family will live happily ever after.  Miracles happen.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

a slow fade...

I woke up this morning trying to figure out what to do with my day.  It seemed like there was so much going on and the day could have played out in a million different ways.  I was planning on taking Brooks to a fall festival, my brother and his two kids were coming over this morning, I had plans to meet up with two friends later in the afternoon, my mom was babysitting for my other brother so depending on what time we got back Brooks would either come with me to see my friends or go with my mom so he could play with his cousins, he is spending the night with my sister tonight so somehow among all of this I had to find a good time to drop him off with her, and then Mariana told me she had an extra ticket to the Tech game at the Cotton Bowl so of course I wanted to add that to our plans today as well.  I was racking my brain trying to figure out how I can make all of it work, when I realized that I can't, so I then had to eliminate possibilities that complicated the plan.  While trying to plan all of this out my thoughts stopped abruptly and all I could think was, "When did I get my life back?"  I didn't even see it coming - it's been a slow fade back - a really slow, slow fade back, but it's back.  The crazy, chaotic, busy life that is busy with fun things is back.  Today I wasn't busy with phone calls, insurance claims, lab work and chest x-ray results; today I was busy living my life.  And I liked it. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Not for me...

I went to a grief group on Monday - just to give it a try. For two reasons:
1. I just got out of a 3 week funk where depression and I were battling it out big time. I won. And I plan on continuing to win.
2. There are many times where I think " wow, I am kind of living my life too normal right now...I should be in a grief support group or something". Because when I do realize what has happened I forget to breathe.

So I went. And I left 30 minutes later. Why? Because as I sat there I realized what little hope filled the room. All I have time for is HOPE. Not grief.

In the first 20 minutes we put up on the board all the feelings and symptoms associated with grief (physical, emotional and spiritual). As you can imagine it was a long list and very depressing to think "wow my situation does suck and it is mega depressing!". Don't get me wrong, it was comforting (I guess you could say that) to acknowledge that other people feel or have felt these crazy feelings before. BUT there is a difference in letting those feelings consume you or not. And that was the difference in me. I do not have time to give to grief. Of course I miss Mark and and I think about him in just about every move I make every day and night - literally. I feel him so close to me probably not 5 minutes go by where he is not in my thoughts.

I know these groups are extremely beneficial to some, but for me it just was not going to work. The first 3 weeks you talk about your loved one and you introduce them to the group. Then you acknowledge the loss, and you discuss how you will spend holidays and all the firsts. The facilitator basically said that it is very hard to go through and the toughest is week 3 - 6. The course is 6 weeks.

My grief comes out when it needs too. I can not let it get to me all the time, and for sure not for 6 weeks straight. It would be like opening a can of worms that is not ready to be opened yet. And then what do you do after the 6 weeks? Just deal with it I suppose because it is not going to go away.

So I preferred to leave and continue on the way I have. Letting grief out when I need to in small increments. I have come a long way in 6 1/2 months. Sharing his memory with my girls daily, and with friends and family too. But I choose to get out of bed everyday and enjoy life while I am here. Most importantly, I have HOPE. And if I have hope, then I have God with me at all times.

They gave us a handout with a comic strip on it that said:

Things to do:
1. get out of bed
2. survive
3. go to bed

Everyone related to it and I did too for a second. You can choose to make this your life. God is not going to come down and get you showered and out the door with a smile on your face. What does that is the attitude you choose. I choose to let joy in and not depression. Then I thought how my girls bring joy to my life, how we play in the park, we grill out, we do crafts, I have friends to see, and just kept on seeing the blessings in my life and thought my "survive" is pretty exciting. It is hard, but it is my life and I embrace it.

I pray for the other people in the group and ask you to please pray for anyone that is going through a tough time and has lost hope or is having a hard time seeing it in the fog of grief. I know I will reach a low again, and when I do, I will ask for your prayers. But it is up to me to get out of that low for my life and the lives of my girls.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

what once was...

Sometimes, not all of the time, I find myself missing my old life - the life I lived a million years ago it seems.  It will hit me at random times with random thoughts and then I feel a emptiness...a longing for another time and another place...the place I was before my life was totally derailed. 

The other morning I found myself missing taco shops.  Taco shops.  Of all the things to miss about Southern California my brain pulls out taco shops.  I don't just stop at missing taco shops - I allow myself to think about ALL the things I miss (and there is plenty).  As I continue down this slope, I'm not surprised to find myself lurking around a potential funk by focusing on how badly my life sucks.  Funks are no bueno and I'm beginning to believe that many of them are self-induced.  It all comes down to our choices.  Is it normal for my thoughts to drift back to my times in San Diego?  Yes.  Is it normal for me to be super sad about what once was and is no longer?  Yes.  Is it healthy to stay locked into that time not wanting to move past it?  No.

It's difficult, if not impossible, to move forward if your heart and thoughts are nailed to the past.  Allow yourself to grieve those times - just don't plan on staying in the past forever.  It's like my pajama theory:  Pajama days are necessary from time to time, ESPECIALLY when hit with tragedy, but if you find yourself having a pajama week then there might be a problem.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

go ahead, i dare you...

My cousin's friend sent her a daily devotional she receives.  She wanted her to email it to me and it's the perfect response to THIS BLOG I wrote the other day...

Dare to Hope
1 Oct 2010
Wendy Pope of Proverbs 31 Ministries

"Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this." Lamentations 3:21

Have you ever cried until the tears would no longer come and your heart was broken in tiny pieces? Have you ever uttered, "Everything I hope for from the Lord is lost?" Then you, me and Jeremiah make three.

I won't ever forget those long nights of crying myself to sleep. Some nights only silent tears would fall; other nights loud wails accompanied questions and prayers. "Why Lord? What am I doing wrong? Why won't you just fix his problems?" The prayers would end with "if it is Your will," hoping that His will was different that what it appeared to be.

On these nights I would curl up in a ball under my covers, face the wall and hope this time there would be a break-through in my prayers. Many nights, as I cried myself to sleep, I believed everything I had hoped for was lost and the situation was hopeless.

Jeremiah, also known as the weeping prophet, found himself in a hopeless situation as he watched the Temple of the Lord being burned to the ground by the Babylonians. His heart broke. The elements of the Temple such as the water basin and lamp snuffers were stolen, taken to Babylon to be used to worship false gods.

Jeremiah prophesied God's words to the people of Judah and Jerusalem. The Lord's immediate future for His people was one of discipline and the utter destruction of Jerusalem as well as His holy Temple. Jeremiah was chosen by God to deliver these words to His people. He did his job and did it well, but not without punishment, ridicule, insults, and imprisonment.

Jeremiah cried until no more tears would come (Lamentations 2:11, NLT). His heart was broken for Jerusalem and for God's people, his people. In anguish he lamented the words, "Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost" (Lamentations 3:18, NLT).

Then, out of the midst of his despair, he dared. He dared to hope in what he remembered.  Many of us know someone who needs hope; perhaps we ourselves need hope, therefore it would serve us well today to know what Jeremiah remembered. What he remembered as he lamented gave him the courage to dare to hope again. The remembrance changed his perspective on his present situation. Jeremiah dared to hope and so can we, regardless of our circumstances. In reading Lamentations 3:21-24 you can hear the expression in Jeremiah's "voice" change from that of lament to that of optimism. In your mind's eye you can picture his facial features transforming. What Jeremiah remembered was the key to elevating him from the pit of despair to a place of expectancy. It is our key as well. Jeremiah remembered this about his covenant Lord:

• His unfailing love for him
• His new mercies meant for him
• His never ending faithfulness toward him
• His inheritance due him

God's Word is alive and active. It is designed to transform us from the inside out. Reading and applying its truths will change the expression in our voice and redirect our perspective for the future. During my desperate nights I longed for my circumstances to be different. I cried until the tears would no longer come. Many times I tarried in the pit of despair much longer than necessary. But when I remembered God's faithfulness and mercies to me, my expression changed.

Did the circumstances surrounding my sorrows change because I remembered? No. What changed was my outlook. Hope means to wait with expectation, and this is what I chose to do during those hard nights.

Are you in need of hope today? Will you choose to remember His faithfulness, love, and mercy despite the despair and destruction around you? Will you dare to hope?

Dear Lord, I want to dare to hope but life around me seems uncertain and tentative. Will You help me dare to hope? Will You help me remember Your faithfulness, love and mercy? Thank You advance for what You are going to do. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Here are the websites if you would like to subscribe to the daily devotionals that are emailed out:


Thursday, September 30, 2010


I have had to find peace in the very small things the last 6 months. When you go through grief or a loss, I think part of the "defense mechanism" in us finds ways to comfort us to keep us going. I have found peace in a lot of different things that I choose to think God (and Mark) have sent my way to help me cope. If I were to go into details I am sure most would say "how wonderful" but would not believe the experience I encountered at all. That is why I will keep most of those private as it is all I have left and to me these experiences have been very meaningful.

But something you can see and maybe find some comfort in are sunsets. Mark and I loved sunsets. He would often be driving home and he would tell us to come out and meet him in front of the house so we could watch the sun go down. Many times we would be the only family out and we would say "why is everyone indoors?". He also taught Isabella at a very young age (probably 2) to say "Thank you God for the beautiful sunset!". She still says that to this day. When we see the sun set, we all think of him. It is a given. Isabella now finds the largest cloud and say "Papa is in that one because it is the biggest". Anna, which is only 19 months old, looks constantly up to the sky and is mesmerized by the clouds. Because she has heard her sister talk about the sky and Papa, Anna now relates both and points up to clouds and says "Papa". This happens just about everyday and it breaks my heart everyday. But at the same time, I see they are finding comfort in that. I also see Isabella's faith developing when she says "some day when I go to heaven I will see Papa again". I know she doesn't know much about death and she will go through many, many phases, but this is the beginning of faith for a child. I could write a whole other blog on how both girls have dealt with all of this - I am amazed.

As for me, I have never seen so many beautiful sunsets. I really am baffled by the weather this year. No spring storms and tornado warnings in the area...anytime there are storms, Lantana is clear and you can see the storms around (literally) my house, and the suns rays are so profound. I find so much comfort in those rays. They signify hope to me. Hope that I will be ok, that I will do a good job with the girls, that I will see Mark and my dad again and that I just have made it through another day.

The picture above is of a sunset when Judy came over for the second time since Keith passed. She and Brooks came over for dinner and we grilled out. We were talking about the sunsets and I was telling her everything I just typed above. As we were playing with the kids outside I looked up and across my backyard. I have never seen two fat large rays crossing over my house and beyond. Rays are most of the time thin and long, but most are fine. I tried to capture these two huge rays over my house because all we could say is "they just met for the first time. There are our boys watching over us". Take it as you will, but I choose to find comfort in it.

good grief...

When I knew Keith was approaching death I Googled the stages of grief:   

1) Denial and Isolation
2) Anger
3) Depression
4) Bargaining
5) Acceptance

There were about a million websites devoted to this topic, but what about the stuff no one talks about?  I would have found it very helpful to read something about the phenomenon that happens to food during crisis or tragedy.  Nobody told me that everything I tried to eat would have no taste.  As far as I was concerned, it was crumbs in my mouth and that was about it.  Nothing sounded good and it all got stuck in my throat.  I knew it was bad when my cupcake friend offered to bring me cupcakes and I couldn't even do that.  It just didn't sound good.  I was then faced with people saying, "Judy, you need to eat.  You need to take care of yourself."  What they didn't understand was that I tried, I really did, but it's hard to eat when every type of food sounds about as good as eating your own vomit. 

Another thing no one told me was that no matter what I would take to induce drowsiness, sleep would evade me.  Sleep was not my friend.  I remember thinking, "What do you do when one Ambien just isn't enough."  I didn't take two, but I didn't sleep either.  If I did nod off then I would wake up shortly after seeing Keith's body after he passed.  I couldn't get his image, specifically his hands, out of my thoughts.  I would wake up and then be haunted by the same images that caused me to wake in the first place.  Nobody told me that my dreams, nightmares, and reality would all blend together forming the perfect funk which eliminated sleep.

How about when your brain becomes mush?  What stage of grief does that fall under?  I forgot things, couldn't come up with certain words and was generally just less intelligent.  I was about as sharp as mud.  Probably about as clear as mud too.  It's similar to pregnant brain, but WAY worse.  

I am happy, however, to report that food regained its taste and that Ambien is now working.  I still struggle with the mushy brain syndrome, but I think it's slowly getting better.  I guess what I took away from the stages of grief is that everyone grieves in their own way.  There is no textbook answer to surviving a crisis and grieving appropriately.  I think it's just hard when we get hit with something no one talks about or if our grieving sounds different than the "typical" grieving.  I was reminded of this the other day when I received this email from one of our friends:

I’m thinking about Keith a lot these days.  It’s strange because before he died I didn’t think about him as much.  In fact I really wanted him to be made whole and was relieved when he passed.  It’s like that relief is passing and now I just flat out miss the guy.  I really didn’t expect to feel this way.  I thought about it a lot last night just trying to understand why I’m thinking about him so much more now than when he was in the hospital and I think it has something to do with anxiety about forgetting or losing him completely. I keep seeing the same image over and over of Keith throwing his head straight back laughing at something someone said.  I’ve seen it a thousand times over the years and it’s like I’ve grabbed that image and my mind is replaying it over and over to keep from forgetting it.  

We are all missing Keith and it doesn't matter if our grieving falls into one of the stages of grief or not.  Depending on your relationship with the person, you will grieve differently and it will be done so in different ways.  The important part is that we allow ourselves to do it in however long it takes to get through it.  I think the real tragedy would be for someone to close off the opportunity to grieve for their loved one because without grieving appropriately it will always remain difficult to access the good times and memories of the person - the times that you're grateful you had and the memories that you'll never forget because they're written on your heart.  

If you must grieve, experience good grief.  Because the person you loved and have lost would want you to focus on the good times you had, not what could have been.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We are not alone

Sorry ahead of time if this does not make sense...but here are some thoughts for today...I have realized more and more through this blog and other happenings in the last couple of days that we really are not alone in this. I guess my mind is starting to clear off a little and I am starting to see real life for what it is. It sucks, but there are single moms my age out there. Mostly due to divorce, but nontheless they have gone through a major life change and loss too. My heart goes out to all of you that have gone through this. I am taking the focus off me and seeing what is around more. There is so much suffering and there are so many fighters out there. If we take time to learn a little from certain people we encounter, we would be a different society. So what I am trying to say, is thank you for your posts as you read this blog. I know we are not alone and it is awesome to see FAITH, HOPE and LOVE working in other peoples lives.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Today I had a kid filling something out that needed my name on it.  She stopped, thought about something, realized she didn't know the answer and said, "Are you a Ms. or a Mrs.?"  I was caught off guard and probably just looked confused.  So she nicely repeated, "Are you a Ms. or a Mrs.?"  I looked at her, smiled like it didn't hurt my feelings and said, "You can just put Ms.  That would be fine."  Ugh.  I also had tomato soup for lunch and could feel little drops splash off my spoon onto my face and I don't have a mirror.  Yeah, I'm pretty sure I have little red stains all over my chin, cheeks and around my mouth.  This day is double awesome.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

peaks and valleys, valleys and peaks...

I believe that life is made up of peaks and valleys and I also believe that there is one peak higher than the rest and probably a few valleys that are lower than the others. Lately I have found myself wondering if I've hit my peak. Was my life with Keith the highest point and is it all downhill (or at least lower peaks) from here? Surely the last year and a half is my lowest valley - Lord, I hope so, but I guess I won't know until my life is said and done.

As I wonder about these things I get stumped. As Christians, we are fortunate to have eternal hope - hope in an incredible time after this life is over, but also a continual hope in our lives here...that even when times are hard, they can get better. That there is more out there for us other than what we currently have, or are currently experiencing. However, I also know what it's like to have this hope, this unshakable belief that the Lord will provide in a certain manner, only to have it not turn out that way.

I believed, I mean really BELIEVED that the Lord would heal Keith here and that I would have my life back. But the Lord took him. I'm not mad or angry about that; I'm really not. If anything, I'm much happier with that scenario than if the Lord would have left Keith in the state he was in. I was living the worst case scenario every day and I am grateful to be out of it. I don't miss Keith any less, but my days are certainly easier now than they were for a really long time.

Anyway, my potential funk lies here: If I have hit my peak, then I'm okay with that. I have a LOT of great things to look back on and I lived a really great life with a really great guy. But I just want to know. Is there another peak out there? Should I hold out hope that there could be more out there for me? If it's just going to be Brooks and me then I'm fine with that. There is no doubt in my mind that we couldn't live a happy and productive life together. I have no problem building my hopes around the two of us and all that we can do with each other. What I don't want to happen is to hope in a future that might not ever come to pass. I know the joy that the hope brings, and I know the disappointment that comes when that hope is taken away. I'd rather not experience that twice. I don't want to look back when I'm 80 only to think, "Man, I wish I would have known that I had hit my peak when I was 28 or 29." So I don't know what to do. Do I hope in something that might not happen, or do I accept the fact that there is a good chance I've hit my peak and go from there?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

the choice of the chosen...

We all know and understand that I am not a poet.  However, at random times I feel compelled to write and sometimes it comes out in weird poetic form.  This is one such occasion.  :)

The Chosen

How does God choose
The one who will suffer over time?
How does He pick
The one to experience immediate
And permanent loss?
What goes on in the heavens
Before these tragic events occur?
Do they grieve before us,
Before our lives are rocked?
Do they grieve with us
As our worlds are torn apart?
Or do they see a completely different picture,
One where our miseries highlight life’s beauties?
Does He choose the weak,
The strong,
The bold,
Or the frail?
Who makes the cut…
And how do I avoid it in the future?

The Choice

Looking back
On my many months of pain
I find myself questioning whether or not
I would do it all again.
I was put in the middle
Of impossible situations.
I was living a life
And making the most of it
While doctors reminded me
That I should have no hope.
I have nothing.
There is no progress
And things will only get worse.

It is here where I realize that
The Chosen have a Choice.

Who do you believe?

Do you side with them
Or with Him.

Both are experts in their field
With one major difference:
He created their field
and they’re still studying it.

If you look at your tough situation,
I mean really look at it,
Examine it and acknowledge
The Lord’s Hand.
Without being chosen,
Would these encounters have happened?
I don’t know.
Probably not.
Would you remove yourself from your equation
To simply have easier days?
Or would you intentionally keep yourself planted,
Planted smack dab in the middle of your turmoil,
Because you know, without a doubt,
That you are about to experience something,
Something great.
Something that most people never come close to experiencing
No matter how long they live.
Something  you would never trade anything for
Because you know the value of what’s coming.
You understand the importance of this gift
This treasure you’ll receive by following the Lord’s plan. 
Divine intervention.
The Hand of the Lord guiding YOU personally through your challenge.

You see, the chosen have a choice,
And for some it might not be easy,
But for those of us that have walked this path,
It’s worth it.
Being able to experience
True grace
Directly from the One who gives it
Cannot be described. 
It can only be missed
If the chosen
Make the wrong choice.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

it's official...

I've regained my status as part of America's workforce. I attended Open House at my school on Monday night and started back on Wednesday. After the completion of my first week back I can honestly say that I feel good about this new job. The kids are great, the staff seems cool and I really have a heart for what I'll be teaching. I'm crossing my fingers that good and positive things are on the horizon in my not-too-distant future. Thank you, friends, for your prayers, thoughts and well wishes as this new chapter unfolds. xoxox

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

the rings...

Obviously parting with your wedding rings after your spouse is gone can be tough. It's common for widows/widowers to continue wearing them for however long they feel comfortable and, to me, that's very normal. However, I am running into another problem. I had no problem putting my rings away. In fact, it was hit or miss that I had them on in the first place...even before Keith's accident.

Both Keith and I felt more comfortable without jewelry. One of the first things we would both do upon entering our house was remove our ring(s), watch and necklace (me); we just didn't prefer to wear jewelry if we didn't have to. In fact, it wasn't uncommon for one of us to ask the other if we were going to be married before leaving to go somewhere. If the answer was yes then we would both put our rings on. If it was no, then our rings would stay. It didn't matter to us if we had our rings on, but if one did then the other did too.

After his first funeral I put my rings in the box where Keith's ring has been and I haven't thought about taking them out. However, for the first time today, my ring finger seemed exposed. It felt naked. It felt like something was missing and, to be completely honest, I felt like I had big arrows pointing to my finger screaming, "Ask me why I'm not married!!!" I know I'm giving myself WAY too much credit as to how much people are paying attention to me, but here's the strange thing...even feeling that way I don't want to take my rings out and put them on. I don't want to sport my engagement ring with the matching band. I get that my life with Keith is over and I don't have a lingering desire to make it last a little bit longer by wearing my rings. But I don't want to put on another ring to take its place either to cover up the feeling of being exposed. I didn't see that one coming. I have several rings that I LOVE and wore on my ring finger before I was engaged, but I'm not sure I can wear them just yet. In a weird way it's like my scarlet letter. I want to cover it up...I just can't.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Take time..and Thank God for friends

I was able to spend some quality time with my good friend Kelly yesterday. It was so nice to be able to go out and just enjoy the day and not worry about the girls or if I had wipes and diapers with me. I really felt naked! We started the afternoon with going to hit balls at Top, Kelly is a golfer...I was married to one. As for me, since the girls were born I have not hit too many balls. I was apprehensive about going and even as I walked in I told Kelly "this would have been fun to do with him...a little too late for that". I did love going out on the course with him. Mark and I were at the point in our lives where the girls were a little older and we were taking more time for us. We were so excited about this! We had lots of plans. As I stood there all I could think was how much we would have enjoyed being there together, then I interrupted my thought and reminded myself that he is by far on the greatest golf course imaginable - while watching me hit balls - he is in heaven for sure!

As I approached the ball I could feel him telling me how to stand, how to relax and just to follow through. I could almost feel him behind me. But I imagined him above me. Guiding me. It felt great to hit the ball. I actually hit the ball great which was a surprise to me! I was able to relax and Kelly and I played a couple of games. I can't wait to go back and hit more balls! I can't wait to hit balls at the driving range in Lantana. I feel so close to him when I am out on the course. I have a feeling I will be out there quite a bit as the weather cools off. It feels so good to conquer yet another "unknown". When all of this happened, I did not think I would be able to look at a golf ball much less play golf. But the reality is that I am still here. And I still have a life to lead and enjoy. I feel his strength in everything I do and feeling that closeness to Mark is leading me to such a closeness to God that I can not describe. I guess you can call it Peace.

I encourage you to invest time in your spouse. Go spend some time on the course with him, if that is what he likes, or go camping, to a sporting event, hunting, fishing, whatever he likes take time to do it together every once in a while. Embrace it and make a memory that you will be able to hang on to forever.

Thank you Kelly for not letting me bail on you and for taking me to eat yummy Mexican food afterwards. It was such a nice afternoon! Yet another reminder that I am so blessed to have friends that love and support me. Thank You God for my friends.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

the dreaded firsts...

At Keith's second funeral the pastor gave the following anecdote from a widower regarding the loss of his wife: The first year will be hard. However, if you can make it through that first year it will get easier. The first year is particularly hard because you have all of the "firsts" you are forced to face alone - the first anniversary without them, the first Christmas without them, the first Valentine's Day, birthday, etc.

Well, what about me? I've had my first year. Heck, I'm almost halfway through my second. Although my case is a little different, it's not by much. And, in fact, I feel like mine is different because it was harder to deal with. Technically, I've been a widow for two weeks. However, in reality, I've been a widow for seventeen months. I've had my first Christmas without Keith even though he wasn't gone. Last Christmas I spent the entire day with my parents, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephew, yep everyone...everyone but Keith. So as the day was coming to a close and everyone returned to their own homes to wrap up a cozy Christmas, I drove to the nursing home by myself. I got in Keith's hospital bed and sat beside him and then probably told him that I didn't hold it against him for not getting me a present. I went to the nursing home to spend time with him, but it wasn't him. Then I probably sat there and cried. I cried off and on at different points during our journey while sitting beside Keith. Sometimes the reality of it was just too hard and it was difficult for me to grasp just how badly our lives sucked. But when I grasped it, I cried. And spending Christmas night in a nursing home with your thirty-one year old husband who no longer responds to anything is a time where tears were necessary.

What about anniversaries? In 2009 ours was spent in the hospital. In 2010 it was spent with my sister and Brooks at Gatti Land. I can honestly say that never in a million years would I have imagined eating my anniversary dinner at a pizza buffet.

I understand what the pastor was saying about the difficulty of the first year without your loved one, but to me, I almost feel like mine will be better. Not better because Keith is gone - that's not it at all. Better because part of me thinks that this first year without Keith couldn't possibly be any worse than what I have been facing since April of 2009. I guess only time will tell, but I sure hope I'm right.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

a much needed break...

The other day I was at my friend's house; she had people over and we were all just hanging out. A friend of hers started showing Brooks some attention and Brooks gravitated toward him. The friend went out of his way to lure Brooks into the other room to play and consequently give me a break. He kept his eyes on Brooks and allowed me to simply sit in the kitchen to talk with my friends. When dinner was ready I went to get Brooks and he said, "No, go eat. I'll watch him, you sit down and eat." Had I allowed myself I probably could have sat there and cried. It was so nice - so simple and yet so incredibly nice. Thank you, friend of my friend, I appreciated it more than you know. You truly never know when a small act will totally make someone's day.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

my sentiments exactly...

After Keith died I heard people speak of him and tell stories about him. A couple of times I heard things and thought, "Man, Keith would have loved to have known that." I don't know what it is about death and dying, but people speak with more conviction and vulnerability regarding the loved one and they say things that might not have been said had the person not been ill. I have always heard the expression about telling people you love them because you never know when the day will come that you can no longer do so. But what about the every day things? Things like why we like a particular friend or an attribute that we find admirable. Why don't we tell our friends and family these things? I can't speak for Keith, actually I can because I know him inside and out, and I know that he would have LOVED to hear some of the things that I heard spoken about him - things about what made him great and why he was a good friend to have and what he did that made people laugh. Why is this something that might be weird to bring up? Why are honest, sentimental statements reserved for only special a funeral? I remember Keith looking me square in the eyes saying, "I love you so much." And I responded by saying, "Why?" So he said, "Why what?" So I said, "Why do you love me so much?" And this was a great conversation to have because it's good to think about these things. I am drawn to certain people and click well with certain personality types. But when forced to really think about why I am friends with particular people or what it is that really draws me to them, it can be difficult to come up with answers. "We just get along," or "We have a lot in common," aren't really great answers. Figure out what it is that you are drawn to in your friends, family and loved ones, and let them know. If it's too embarrassing to bring it up or you think it will come across as awkward, then write it out and send them a card. Everyone loves a sincere acknowledgment - especially regarding their character.

Monday, September 6, 2010

my new theme song...

I heard this song driving to San Antonio the other day and it might as well have been written for Keith and me. Unfortunately, the Morning Son has already come for us and taken Keith, but we made the most of our tonight and there are no regrets.