Sunday, October 15, 2017


Yesterday I ran my finger over Tom's car now covered with ash from the conflagration so close by.  As I looked at my finger I realized that the ash on it is all that is left of people's hopes, dreams and lifetimes of work, just as Tom's car is a physical representation of all that is left of his life.  Except.  Except that the memories can never be burned away, they always remain.  If I had one small piece of advice for those who are facing the devastation of losing their homes and for some, their family members as well, is to cherish the memories.  Nothing can erase those.  The physical things that are the gateway to the recollections are gone, and that is painful, something to be mourned. The objects, be they pictures, knick knacks, a piece of jewelry, a handwritten note or a car, hold the energy of the people who used them.  I have kept Tom's car because every time I sit in it, as I press back against the seat, I feel the shape of his body there.  It seems as if I am receiving a big Tom hug.  As I accelerate up the hill, it feels as if I am flying with him.  That car which holds such precious remembrances is now covered with the ashes of other peoples lives. It is sad, yet fitting.

The fires in Sonoma and Napa, and elsewhere, have had a traumatic impact in all of those in Northern California.  It seems everyone knows someone who was evacuated or lost their home or place of business.  And if they didn't, the toxic smoke in the air which has covered the landscape has been a constant reminder.  The news stations covered the fire 24/7 for the first 48 hours.  It is all anyone talks about here.  It has altered our collective psyches.  I live in one of the most affluent counties in the country and I have seen a tremendous outpouring of support.  I have also seen demonstrations of privilege--people who believe that they should not be inconvenienced by others' misfortune.  The fact that those people cannot see past their own lives and needs is disheartening.  I can only focus on those who have wanted to help.  What I hope is that they realize that the recovery process is long and difficult, that the victims won't just "get over it."  It is a marathon, not a sprint. It will take a village and several years to rebuild.  I should know.

Monday, May 1, 2017

This is My Life Now

This morning as I was putzing around the kitchen the thought came to me.  "This is my life now."  And for the first time, there was no weeping and gnashing of teeth about it.  There was no fight against the reality, no resistance.  There was nothing but simple acceptance, a surrender of sorts. 

So what does "this is my life now" mean?  It means I am now the solo driving force of my future.  Everything, and I mean everything, depends upon me. I am the only one in charge of what my life  will be.  It sucks.  And I accept it.  I don't like it one little bit.  I've been in this position before, in the years BT (before Tom).  I didn't like it much then either.  I loved being married.  There is a difference now though.  BT there was an emptiness in my soul, in my very being.  AT (after Tom) there is an emptiness but I'm not sure how to describe it.  My heart is still filled with our love and it will always be.  Love doesn't die.  There is definitely a hole in my daily life, the part of being a couple and doing daily life together.  I miss him terribly.  While it is always at the back of my mind, I do not constantly think about him. Since he died our friends and his friends have embraced me, reached out to me, included me in their lives, supported me.  We all were trying to hold on to our old life together.  And as time has gone on, we have all loosened the bond, as would be expected.  While I still want to hold on to my old life, I cannot.  I must release it so that I can build a new life.  Our friends and our memories will ALWAYS be a part of who I am, a very treasured part. And I'm not letting those precious people out of my life, just letting the relationships evolve and redefine themselves. The void I feel is that the our life together is no longer and my new life is not yet "here".  I'm in the hall between the two.  And I am not yet sure what the new life is going to be.  I am free to create that life, to expand my circle of friends and my experiences, to rediscover who I am and who I want to be.  It is exciting and scary and overwhelming.  I most likely have another three decades on this planet and I am not going to spend it being miserable!

Please do not think for a moment that I will not continue to talk about Tom.  His impact on my life and on the lives of others is huge and his memory will not fade or be erased.  I will still celebrate him, honor him, talk about him  and I hope that you will do the same.  He is very much a part of me and always will be.

I am emerging from two years of heavy mourning.  It has taken it toll on me, body, mind and spirit.  I have put everything I have into recovering from this.  It has been brutal.  But I am feeling like a butterfly emerging from the cocoon.  There are times I must rest and let my wings dry before I can fly again.  But I will fly again.  I will.

This is my life now.  And this is what I'm going to be.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

One Thousand Days

I woke up today feeling "off".  Sad.  Missing Tom.  In fact, I've had short bouts of "missing" lately.  I don't really know why.  For the most part I am doing well.  I'm moving through "The Great Purge of 2017".  I've started doing a big clean out of stuff, letting go of stuff.  Almost all of Tom's clothes are gone, with the exception of the few things I'm keeping.  I cleanout out the file cabinet, stocked full of old memories and papers--the paperwork from purchasing our house twenty years ago, the receipts from all of the cars we ever owned, old medical records, warranties for appliances we no longer have and the odd picture and several cards.  I even found a birthday card from my mom with the $5 still in it. That's some big stuff.  The house is starting to feel lighter and brighter, and a little empty.

In the car on the way to a meeting this morning, a deep wave of sadness came over me, and a few tears.  I don't cry much anymore.  I don't know why today.  And then I realized--it has been 1,000 days since Tom received his diagnosis.  Why is 1,000 days so profound?  His doctor, when asked, said that the average life expectancy with his diagnosis and pathology was three years, about 1,000 days.  In those early days after his diagnosis, while still coming to terms what it all meant, and while we were on the roller coaster of emotions that came with the next round of tests and treatment decisions, I thought to myself, I will have a 1,000 more days with him.  When we had to wait 10 days for new information, I would think "that's 1% of the time we have left together."  It was like having a count down clock in my head.  And I didn't want to rush time one minute.  The only thing I was hoping to rush was getting Tom better and putting the nightmare of appendix cancer behind us, going back to normal.  I just wanted normal.  I've wanted it for 1,000 days.  I still want it.  Now should be the time I would say goodbye if what the doctor told us was true.  Instead I have spent the last twenty-six months surviving the most traumatic experience of my life, learning to live without my beloved.  All that is left is love, and memories.

I was given copies of great illustrations bymariondrew which are spot on. This truly shows how it feels. 

As the 1,000 days have passed, this illustrates how much grief I still carry around, and will continue to, perhaps for the rest of my life.  Hopefully at some point it will fit in to a small coin purse. I wonder how many more 1,000 days that will take?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Third One: Food, Candles and Music

Today is that lovely day every year where everyone is supposed to declare their undying love and the world seems unnaturally full of couples.  If you're single, or divorced, or widowed and not in a romantic relationship, it can be a day of hell, that special day where you'd rather light yourself on fire than look around you.  Truth be told, there are lots of people that just don't care about the day.  I'm rather ambivalent about it.  I spent many years in one relationship or another.  I've also spent many years not in a relationship and wishing I was in one.  The last three years (or my first three of widowhood) have been a special sort of purgatory--I've had all sorts of emotions about it.

The first year, Valentine's Day fell just 18 short days after Tom died.  I was numb, barely functioning.  I had purchased a card early that year, it was a great card, one I knew he would love, but I don't remember what it said.  I put that card in with him when he was cremated.  My bestie and I went to the Veteran's Home to dance with the vets because Tom's friend and drum teacher had asked for ladies to visit.  I could barely function but my bestie danced some and it seemed like a good idea to reach out and give something back on such a day.

The second year, the members of my spousal loss bereavement support group planned our monthly potluck dinner for that day.  I brought cupcakes and made toppers that had the names of each of our spouses on them.  It was a gracious safe way to spend, what for most of us, was our second holiday without our spouses.  I felt grateful to have something to do which honored the day and the love.

The third year, this year, most people expect (as do I) that I would be "over it".  It is also a week day which changes the dynamic.  I decided last week that I wasn't going to make a big deal about the day, I wasn't going to focus on what others had and I no longer have.  (And truly I am very happy for those that are part of a loving relationship--shout your joy and happiness to the universe, love should always be celebrated).  I made a plan to have dinner with Tom.  Yes, I know that sounds creepy, but really it isn't.  So I bought two filets and planned to make a nice meal.  I lit all the candles in the house and put on music, specifically the play list of songs that relate directly to Tom, mainly songs that his band, RuMoRs, covered.  I wanted this evening to be spent focusing on our relationship, our marriage, and our love.  Even though he is no longer present, our love very much continues. 

So I turn on the music and hit the "Tom" playlist.  The first song up is "Crying" by Roy Orbison.  That should have been a clue of things to come.  That song wasn't even on the play list.  For that matter I didn't even know that song was on my phone.

I had dinner listening to his music, smiling and crying.  Big surprise, huh?  It was to me.  Every song that meant something to us was on that play list.  The tears flowed, but not ugly, snotty tears.  Different tears.  I was able to sit and be with my feelings--the happiness and the sadness and the gratitude.  It was cleansing.  As I sat at the dinner table, in my spot (which I no longer sit at, I've claimed Tom's spot), I enjoyed a good meal--you know that Tom would be all over that!  And I cried.  Before I knew it, I had a dog in my lap licking away my tears (or just trying to get closer to the steak, I'm not sure which).  And then this song played:

It was the music for our first dance at our wedding.  Whenever a song played that RuMoRs covered, I  would smile and sing along--I know them all so well having run the board for so many gigs.  And we played a few gigs on Valentine's Day too. One year at a Valentine's Day gig, each male member of the band sang a song dedicated to his wife.  Tom sang "Color My World."  It's impossible to be sad when there's a RuMoRs song in the air.  I can see him sitting on his throne behind the kit, with a smile on his face, be-bopping along to whatever he was playing.  He LOVED to play and it brought him such joy.  I jumped up and danced a few times too.

I was surprised by the emotion today.  I've done some really big stuff lately in my journey to move forward.  I've been forward focused.  So I didn't expect the tears.  One thing I've learned about mourning is to expect the unexpected.  It was important to me to have this Valentine's Day dinner with Tom.  As my grief counselor said, this may very well be the last Valentine's Day dinner with him.  Next year I may be with someone new.  From her mouth to god's ear.

And Tom did not disappoint.  He sent a Valentine my way today:

Sunday, January 1, 2017


Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017--the year of "RE"!

My plans for a NYE celebration fell through when my loving family overshared their germs and I came down with the plague.  So I spent NYE home with Zora and Bubba and decided to finish the vision board that I started on a year and a half ago when I realized I needed to consider creating a life after Tom.  The process of creating the vision board was cathartic, in that it helped me to define the things that are important to me and what I want to include in my life.  When I had started contemplating my new life there were three pillars that were of primary importance:

  1. To live a spirit-led and spirit-filled life
  2. To be lean, fit and healthy.
  3. To have love in my life.

These three pillars still hold true, but there is a lot of things that fill out those pillars.

A few months ago I had the feeling of a tectonic shift in the offing.  This morning I awoke, after a long winter's nap, to sunshine, blue skies, a smile on my face and excitement in my heart--excitement that the next year would be much different and much more freeing than the last. 

As I was looking through my Facebook memories this morning, viewing the happy memories of New Year's Days past, I realized how much I have been holding onto those memories, living in them, so to speak, not necessarily in a bad way, because I think that is very much a part of the grieving process.  I have spent the last 23 months held down by the heaviness of mourning.  I am ready to crawl out from under that weight.  I want to make new, great memories in 2017, not just exist and/or survive my way through it.  It is time to move forward.

My theme for 2017 is Release--Restore--Rediscover--Rebuild

Release the past and the pain.  Hold on to the happiness, the lessons, the love and release the burden of grief.

Restore what has been lost, damaged or buried.  My health, my vitality, my love of life.

Rediscover that which brings me joy.  Photography, art, entertaining, and explore things that I've always wanted to, such as getting my motorcycle license.

Rebuild the things that have taken a back seat during the last three years.  My career, my bank account, my connection with Zora and Bubba, my energy and create a home that is mine and not ours.

"That's bold talk for a one-eyed fat man", you might say (True Grit, 1969).  Just because I've put it out there doesn't mean that I won't have days when I will back be in that head space, that I won't talk about Tom and my loss.  After all I loved him for almost half of my life.  Milestones, such as his birthday, his angelversary, our anniversary, etc., will still be significant and will be noted. But a year from now I want to be sharing new happy memories.  Its exciting, and scary. 

It is time, and I am ready, to move forward

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Thirty Years

December 12, 2016 is Tom's 30th clean and sober anniversary.  Twelve-Twelve.  Twelve was Tom's lucky number.  It was the number on his game jerseys as a kid.  His anniversary is 12-12.  It is an important day.

It is a really important day.  To those in the recovery community, the anniversary of the day one makes the decision to cease and desist from using all mood and mind altering substances is perhaps the biggest day of the year.  Bigger than a birthday.  It is the beginning of a new life. And so every year when one remains clean and sober, the day is a celebration.  That day is D-Day--decision day.  At the beginning, one takes it a day at a time.  But with commitment, perseverance, strength and humility, the years start to add up.  A life is reclaimed and rebuilt and built upon.  Yes it is a big day.

And because it is a big day in Tom's life, it is also a big day in my life.  Had he not made that decision thirty years ago, I most likely would not have known him, would not have loved him, would not have married him, would not have had so many happy years with him.  There are the many people that Tom touched in his work who would not have had the opportunity to make life-changing decisions that have led them to better lives.  Our family would not have had the years of his love and his laughter, his steady presence and his shenanigans. His musical family would not have had the pleasure of playing with him, making music with him, and entertaining with him--touching people with music and fun and laughter, for music is the sound of life.  The men that sponsored him would not have had the privilege of knowing him deeply and helping him through life's trials and tribulations.  The men that he sponsored would not have had his loving and unconditional support as they found their way into and through recovery.  His friends would not have known (or reclaimed) the exuberant, loving, humble, funny, joyful person that he was.  Had he not made that decision thirty years ago I would not have been loved so deeply and would not have loved so deeply.  Not everyone can look back on a life and remember the exact moment, the exact day, that everything changed.  Tom could.

So I will celebrate this day, every year, for the rest of my life.  Because it was the day that changed his world, and therefore, changed the world of many others, in big and small ways.  This day reminds me that he mattered.  His life mattered.  And he mattered to many others, not just to me.  Even though he is not with us in the physical, he is still with us. 

Two years ago, on his 28th, I had planned a small party.  I told him it was important to celebrate these things.  He asked me if I wanted to celebrate it because I thought it was going to be his last.  Of course I said no, but I feared that it would be.  Alas, it was.  That evening we had to cancel the party and I took him to the hospital.  Two days later he had another trip and was admitted for almost two weeks, being discharged on Christmas Eve.  It was the beginning of his very rapid decline. I have not forgotten, nor shall I, what this time of year was like.  Perhaps that is why I have been so weepy. I recently read a blog about grief and the holidays and I was reassured when I read that I didn't need to worry about healing during this time, I just had to get through it.  Well, I've gotten through this time of year before and I will again.  It is nice to know that getting through is all I HAVE to do.  This year is different than last, and I imagine it will be different next year.

So my love.  I celebrate you and thank you for making that decision thirty years ago.  My life is different because of it.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Honu and the Hibiscus

In less than 36 hours I will be on the plane back to the mainland.  This trip to Hawaii has been amazing and healing, full of memories and love and tears.  I have been accompanied by a sister widow who did not know Tom, as I did not know her husband.  What we have is common is vast, we have the experience of losing out husband to horrific diseases and then building a new life.  Well, truth be told, I haven't built a new life, but I am going through the grieving process and digging the foundation for that new life.

On the Big Island I released Tom's ashes in the places that he loved.  Tonight I will release more of him here on Maui, a place he had never visited.  I will release him at the spot where my sister widow's husband was also released--they can float together in the big beautiful ocean they both so loved.  There is only one more spot that I am planning on spreading his ashes, and that is on the ridge behind our house.  I will do that with his bestie when he is able to travel up north to take Tom's favorite gig kit into his care.  There may be other places in the future but I will have fulfilled Tom's wishes I believe.

Last night I finally got a memorial tattoo for Tom.  I had been contemplating what it should be for  a long time and nothing felt right at all.  When I arrived last week, my sister widow had said she wanted to get ink to represent her home of Hawaii.  At that moment a picture of a pink-red-orange hibiscus popped into my head.  When Tom and I first lived together we had a beautiful hibiscus tree of the same color in a container on our deck.  I loved that tree!  I've researched the meaning of hibiscus tattoos and the symbology is varied.  Most often it represents love, beauty and fragility, and the passing of a loved one.  For me it represents the beauty of the Islands and the deep love I have for Tom. 

As I thought more about the flower, the image of the honu (turtle) also came to mind.  We loved turtles.  I would stalk them with my camera.  They are such majestic creatures.  The hotel that we often stayed at raises baby turtles in the atrium and then sets them free into the ocean on July 4th.  Tom often used "honu" as a screen name.  In Hawaiian culture, the honu symbolizes immortality, strength, security and stability, endurance, perseverance, guidance, and faithfulness.  These are all qualities that I associate with Tom.  He also moved as slowly as a sea turtle on land when it came to making major decision, liking marrying me.  But once he made a decision, he was all in.  It was comical that we always moved at different speeds.  I was always much faster to get to a conclusion than he was, but we always made the right decisions together.

The final part of the image is "XII", the roman numeral of the number 12.  Twelve was Tom's lucky number.  This was the one thing I always knew I wanted to include.  12 was the number on his uniforms growing up.  His clean date is 12-12.  XII can also mean 10 times 2, which equals 20, the number of years we were married.

I love this tattoo.  It symbolizes to me the very things we loved most.  It is located over my heart, where I will forever carry him.  During the tattoo process I could hear Tom in my head saying "Damn, she's on my back again."  I can see the look on his face and the twinkle in his eye, with his lips pursed and a tilt of his head, with a slight eye roll.  And then I heard him say, "I will carry you on my back forever, you are never alone and you have all of my strength.  We will still swim the seas together and bask in the sun and the waves.  Come back to this place that we love and a piece of heart will be waiting for you."

Aloha my love.  We will come back here again.  Until then, mahalo.