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.