Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Bravest Moment

I entered the following essay in a contest, while I didn't win, I really enjoyed writing it.  It gave me the perspective of how far I have come and examining my choices was actually helpful for me in the present moment.  While most of this story is not new to those of you who have been following me, I still think that it is powerful in and of itself.


In an Instant.

In April 2008, I made the impossible choice to move.   At the surface, moving doesn’t really sound impossible or brave, but brace yourself.   March 30, 2008, started as an ordinary and perfect morning.  We had been in the Hill Country of Texas for the long weekend.  We said goodbye to our friends and hit the road.   The sun was shining and it wasn't yet oppressively hot.

An hour or so later, my husband was killed in a car accident. In front of me.  I was in my car with our child by the Grace of God.   The accident decimated his car, and my car was totaled as well.  The sounds, smells and images of that morning are permanently ingrained into my brain.   I remember it like a choppy movie.  Some pieces I don’t remember.  Some pieces I wish I could forget.  

I remember screaming when I knew he was dead-long before anyone actually told me. I remember my car being assaulted by flying objects before I lost control.  I remember willing my car to stop and not go into the ravine.  I remember my brakes not working.  I remember seeing Robert’s car in my driver’s side mirror hanging shattered from the door of my car.   I remember looking back at Munchkin and seeing him hold his foot with one hand and waving with the other saying “bye-bye daddy, bye-bye daddy” while he smiled and laughed oblivious to the carnage that had just happened.  I remember not being able to get out of my car.  I remember getting out and pulling munchkin’s car seat and taking cover off of the road so that we didn't get hit by flying tires, front grills, transaxles, spraying gas and oil that other cars were driving through before emergency personnel were able to close the street.  I remember looking at the responding officer and thinking he looked like a child as he gingerly cleaned my husband’s blood and shattered glass from his wallet before he handed it back to me.    I do remember a friend being let through the barricade to stand by my side.  I remember praying.   I don’t remember crying, at least not then.  I remember feeding my child, on the side of the road overlooking my husband’s mangled car and body.   I was hours from home in the middle of nowhere with two totaled cars.  Most of my family was 1400 miles away.  Luckily my aunt and uncle were only a few hours away-they came and retrieve us. 

In the following hours, days and weeks, I did insurmountable things.  I donated my husband’s organs.   I made phone calls to tell people that Robert was dead.   I planned a funeral. I planned a wake.  I chose to ignore people who were being mean and spiteful.

I slept alone for the first time in 9 years.

I unlocked the door to our house realizing that Robert would never be there again.  EVER.  I marked my 32nd birthday and our wedding anniversary.   I marked Munchkin’s first cupcake, the first meeting with my siblings and aunts and uncles and cousins-without Robert by my side.  I stood in a funeral home surrounded by chaos and sobbed.   I fainted in my kitchen.  Fairly certain I passed out at the wake, although I don’t remember much.   Well, except my 11 month old son trying to jump out of my arms and into the casket saying daddy, daddy over and over again.  All he wanted to do at the end of the wake was jump into there with Robert.  He looked at him quizzically, I am sure he thought that he was just asleep or playing a game.  That qualifies up there near the top of the most heartbreaking things I have even endured.  

None of those things, while they took fortitude were inherently brave.  They were things that simply needed to be done.  While they were hard, and heartbreaking and traumatizing each in their own way, they don’t hold a candle to brave. 

My bravest moment came weeks later.   I stood in our living room.  My eyes traveled to Robert’s chair.   I looked at the curio cabinet that he had given me filled with angel statues.   I rocked my son in my arms and I looked at our picture wall.   The wall held pictures of memories and snippets of time that were so happy.   I could see that the life I had planned was no longer.  With the screech of tires and shattering of glass, the planned future in our house was ripped from me.  There was no going back.  I would never lead the life that we PLANNED to have.   I would never grow old with him.  I would grow old, but he will forever be 33 years old.  I looked at the kitchen and saw the tile that we installed ourselves.   I glimpsed around and saw where he SHOULD have been.   

I decided then and there, that I would pick myself up and move forward.  I would do everything in my power to provide a life for my child and I would do it in spite of tragedy.  In that moment, I made the decision to go back home.   

Days later, I got on a plane with a one way ticket and headed home.  I took what I could carry and surrounded myself with family.   It was quite possibly the one of the hardest things that I did.  I made the choice to leave our house, the place where we built our married life.  The place that we had called home for nearly ten years-I chose to walk away and rebuild on the other side of the country.  I knew if I stayed, that it would be much harder for me to dig myself out of the depths of despair.    Now it hasn't been easy at all, but I do think that it was one of the key points in my journey. 

That decision was pivotal for me.   Being able to be in close proximity to my family afforded me the support that I would need to rebuild my life.   There were plenty of memories of us here as well.  We both went to school here and lived here before we moved to Texas.  In the following months, I would get a job, and list my house for sale.  

Even though I had already made the decision to leave and sell our house, actually doing it was another story.  It took me several months to draw the courage to head down there to pack up.  Mom and Dad stayed behind with Munchkin, but my siblings, they came, and they brought spouses and friends.  And my Godmother, she left her child home and came too.  Eight of us worked for a week straight cleaning and packing.  Whatever couldn't be packed-was sold.  I sold off our life, because I wouldn't have a house anymore, I didn't need stuff.  While that sounds logical, I assure you it was heart wrenching.   I walked around my house and sobbed, often uncontrollably.  I knew in my heart that I would never again have a place that both of us would call home.   I sold our bed.  I sold his clothes, I sold our furniture.  Essentially, I took what fit into two pods.  The criteria was-if I would be heartbroken because something could not be replaced then it got packed.  If I could go buy another one if and when I ever bought a house again, it was sold.  

I fought through nights of no sleep, followed by flashbacks of the accident on the rare occasion that I did fall asleep after my son’s midnight feeding.   It got to the point where I could only fall asleep with the TV on…it was pathetic-but at 6 am when I got up teary and bleary eyed to go to work, I could have breakfast with my father.  If I needed to go to the cemetery and scream and yell and cry on the way home, my mom or dad would pick Munchkin up from day care.   I fought HARD to put the memories of the accident behind me.  I focused on our time together and happy memories and creating a happy life for Munchkin and myself.   I sought solace in the sand and waves of my parent’s beach house for that summer.   I chased Munchkin on the beach and took long walks with him.   As I watched the waves wash over the sand, I could feel them soothe my broken soul.   In the coming years, I would excel at my job, learn to live on our own again and now I have purchased my own house.  

In spite of the tragedy of losing my husband, best friend and soul mate, I have been able to pick up pieces and put our life back together.   If I hadn't made the choice to cut the ties to a house that was no longer ours, I don’t think that I would be where I am today.   

Monday, January 6, 2014


It is FRIGID here.  I mean really, really cold.  Setting record lows for the thermometer before we even talk about the wind chill. 

Yes, I know it is winter in the Midwest.   And yes, I actually like winter. 

What I haven't liked for the last several years is the necessity of taking my kiddo out in the cold to daycare or somewhere and then having to go into work. 

Well, now, I can sit at my desk in my office and Munchkin can play in the toy room in his jammies.  We are relatively toasty and we don't have to subject his lungs to the frigid air! 

School has been cancelled for two days which means an extended Christmas Vacation.  It also means that I didn't have to take him out to have someone else watch him.  In fact, I am not sure he has been out of jammies in a few days...he has a strange aversion to socks but likes footie jammies--therefore I know he is nice and toasty warm. 

Our heat is BARELY keeping the house tolerable...the thermometer read -17 today and the windchill was -47.  Yes I meant to post negative numbers.   Can you imagine taking a child outside in those temps? Previously I would not have had a choice.  If I was still at my old job today, I would not have had a choice-they didn't close even though the state of Illinois was declared a disaster area.  

I cannot explain the gratitude that I have for our circumstances.  

I really thought that I would never be so fortunate.  I am grateful.  

Growing Older

Many people in this world bemoan their birthdays.   Some pretend that they are turning 21 or an anniversary of some other lower number.   I must confess, I never really understood it-even before Robert died.  

Now however, it irritates the crap out if me.   In my mind you are lucky to be here to celebrate a birthday!  You have been given the gift of another day, week, month, year with your family and from where I sit, that is not to be squandered. 

Several weeks ago, Munchkin was on a kick of figuring out how old everyone was.  He was asking about years people were born in and doing the math of their birthdays for both 2013 and 2014.  It was cute-at least until he wanted to calculate how old Daddy would have been.   It was a sucker punch that I was unprepared for. 

Robert would have been 39. I should be well on my way to planning a BiG 4-0 party for him.  I should be having loads of fun ribbing him about his hair getting grayer. That's what we should be planning for this year.  

Instead, he will forever remain 33.  Frozen in time and denied those years with us.  He misses out on so much around here.  He never got to see munchkin write, or go to school, or sing, or navigate friendships.   He never got to see me with gray hair...although I have quite I bit that I swear showed up on the morning of the accident.   He isn't here to cheer on his boy in sports or academics or scouting or anything else.   He isn't here to cheer me on at all.  Nope, he didn't have he chance to celebrate another birthday.  

For the rest of the world that does have he joy of living another year, please don't pick me to complain to about it-quite frankly I don't want to hear it.   Please just be grateful for the one you have. Be thankful that you don't have my perspective.  I'm too busy trying to explain the inexicable to a child.   

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Acts of Kindness...

For those that don't watch the news, Chicago is experiencing a huge winter system.  While it is winter in the Midwest, and we should expect snow, this has been going steady for three days! 

My house sits on a corner lot, which means I have a lot of sidewalk to clear (and man am I glad I didn't get the other house I was looking at that had a driveway three times as long as mine!!!)  Last winter my snow blower bit the dust.  It was old and it came with the house and it couldn't handle more than an inch anyway.   I figured that I would get a new one, but I never got around to it.  I have been shoveling.  

Well, yesterday, my neighbor up the block literally came and cleared the entire block with his snow blower.  I was shocked and elated!  That meant that I only had to clear my driveway (and my parents house because they are out of town!)

I cannot tell you how much it means to find that people do little things for others.   It is a concept that I have been trying to teach Munchkin.  That you should do things that are nice for others and not expect anything in return. 

Fast forward to today, and I just went out to shovel and he cleared them AGAIN!  That means that even though it has snowed well over a foot today, I have not had to do my main sidewalks but once. 

To say that I am grateful isn't enough.  I am humbled to be a recipient of such kindness. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Perspective on Blessings

2013 was an interesting year for started out with Munchkin very sick and spending a week in the hospital in January.  Frozen pipes, broken snowblower, massive flooding, water in the basement and a myriad of other things.   It continued with major challenges at my job relative to family balance.  I was working way too much and traveling far more than I needed to be with a small child.   I prayed for guidance and direction.  I prayed daily--sometimes hourly.

I was at a NYE party last night and reflecting on this year.   There are a lot of people that had bad years.
Here is the thing, when I compare my current bad times, I have not found anything that can hold a candle to the trials that I endured in 2008.  There is not much on par with watching your husband die in front of you.

Time has given me the gift of perspective.   In years past, I probably would have been focused on all of the bad things that happened, I would have been bidding farewell to an expensive and exhausting year.

This time,  I am focused on all of our blessings.

1. I now work from home for a company that appreciates my work
2. Munchkin is much healthier and is growing a ton!
3. I have a house...something that I thought would be impossible after Robert died
4. My family is relatively healthy and I got to spend a ton of time with them this year
5. We got to take a week long vacation...just Nate and was amazing!

Several years ago, I could not fathom being able to say many of these things.  I am grateful.  I am very very blessed.

Life is not perfect by any means, but it is good and we are happy.   I still have days where I miss Robert dearly, but we have found hope and peace in our life.  I have found a way to move forward and for the first time I see myself as so much more than a widow.