I’ve touched on this before, but after my husband passed, I felt really gross when I started dating again.  I felt like I was cheating on him.  Clearly I wasn’t – he was gone – but still.  It gave me the heebie-jeebies.

I’m having a similar situation with Z.  Not that I’m being unfaithful to her, but that I’m not including her when I should be.  Like I cut her away from my family.  Clearly I didn’t – she is gone – but still.  It gives me the heebie-jeebies.

I didn’t invite her to Alabama for Thanksgiving.  I’m not buying her any Christmas gifts.  She won’t have a stocking.  I won’t worry about where she’s going to be for the New Year.

She’s not included in any of these plans and it feels so… I don’t know

When I started seriously dating my partner (bulwark?), there were some adjustments that eased me into the transition.  He became a coworker and then a friend to Joe’s brother.  My brother-in-law talks to my partner on a regular basis.   Joe’s daughter moved in with us for a little while.  These things helped me get over the feeling that I was cheating on my marriage.

I don’t have that with Z.  I won’t ever have a person to ease myself into a different normal.  There won’t be anyone that will take up her station as “daughter” in my life.  There won’t be anyone that I can take from that life into this one that will make it okay, give me a sort-of permission to carry on.

I’m cheating on her.  Like I was cheating on him.  But I can’t cheat on someone that isn’t there.   They aren’t there.  I’m not cheating.  I am not being unfaithful.  This is not infidelity.  This is weird.  I am cheating.  I am unfaithful.  This is gross.

Cheating is always 0 stars.  Would not recommend.




Holiday Travel

We are not an athletic people, but we are a traveling people.  Both sets of grandparents were travelers.  My parents were travelers.  That’s how I raised my children.  We pack it up and head out with our national parks passports in hand.  I like this life.

Two years ago this thanksgiving was the only road trip Z and I ever took on our own.  We went to Huntsville, AL to spend the weekend with  my childhood friend and her family.  I’m glad we did it.

This year I packed up my partner (my rock?) and his son and the car and we left town.  Maybe my partner packed up me and headed out.  I’m not sure.  I can’t tell.  I’m in pieces right now and he’s doing the heavy lifting.

It’s more difficult than I expected and I entered a swell of emotion I didn’t anticipate.  On the trip we pass through Louisville.  We were just here in May for her last archery competition.  I remembered some of the Kentucky and Tennessee landmarks because I’d seen them all before with her next to me.

When she and I made the trip, she already had her driver license.  It was our grown-up trip where we could share the driving responsibilities.  I could sit in the passenger seat and we could chit-chat.

I just tasted her slow change from childhood to adulthood.  I just touched it as the metamorphosis was happening.  It was so sweet.

That trip with Z with the second time I’d spent Thanksgiving in Alabama.  The first time was several years earlier.  2009.  I’d come down with my late husband and both my children.  It was his last Thanksgiving dinner.

My Thanksgivings in Alabama are punctuated with funerals.

The drive without them is different.   We’re not discussing adventure.  We’re not reviewing the lyrics of Johnny Cash songs.   She’s not there.   My partner is driving and his son and my dog are napping in the back.

The drive is the same.  The travel companions have changed.




The Sign

I find “signs” from the universe or the departed to be problematic.  My feelings are deeply mixed.  Anything can be a sign if you force a meaning to a coincidence.  Coincidences, too, are something that are interpretative.  Is it chaos finding order for a moment?  Or is it God winking at you?

I don’t know.  I don’t have answers.  I will never feel one way or another about them.

I told you that to tell you this…

When Joe was alive he loved bald eagles.  We had statues.  We had tacky art.  We had all manner of bald eagle paraphernalia that I didn’t particularly care for but he loved so I let him decorate the TV stand and moved on.  It’s not that I dislike bald eagles, I just don’t find them to be particularly kind to my decorating ascetic.

I can’t remember if it was the day of or the day after his funeral, I was driving somewhere and a bald eagle swooped down in front of my car.  It did a big circle and was gone back to the trees.  It was the first time I’d ever seen a bald eagle in the wild.

Was it a sign? I don’t know.  But it did something to me.  Not peace or relief but something more subtle.  Just a little twinge in my heart.

In the past couple of weeks, the subject of “signs” has been rolling around in my thoughts.  I didn’t have an eagle experience after Z passed.  And I was kind of disappointed.  But, again, it is what it is.  Whatever.  All things in their own time.  Was I not being specific enough?  Is Z too busy?  I mean, she is a teenager and teenagers are not interested in their parents.  And you do have to ask them to do something 10 times before they’ll actually do it.

I don’t like “signs” either – so maybe I didn’t need one.

This past Saturday I went to the beatification mass at Ford Field.  I made my friend Tom go early because I wanted some merchandise.  I had stuff to buy for several people and I figured there’d be long lines for commemorative mugs and t-shirts and whatnot.

When we got in, there was nothing.  The only items for sale were water, pop, and roasted nuts.  Nothing else.  I didn’t even see a place to buy hot drinks.

I was so, so disappointed.  On my list of wanted merch was a rosary for me.  That’s all I really wanted for myself, this rosary.  I didn’t want to buy one online after mass because it wouldn’t be the same. I wanted to buy one at this mass.  And nothing. Ugh.

Tom and I went to our seats and eventually a woman came to sit to the seat on my left.  She gave some of her tickets to my dad to give to me after I started looking for them.  I’d never met her before.  She said “Oh, I gave you my tickets!”  I said yes and thanked her.  I was so happy to be able to go.

She said she had something for me and started digging through her purse.  It took a minute but she came up with a little brown envelope, opened it up and slid a rosary into my hand.  She’d made it for me out of Job’s tears beads.

She didn’t have a rosary for anyone else.  Just me.

I closed my hand and started crying.  I cried all through mass.  I cried on the way home.  I mean, I cry a lot lately so that’s not really something new for me right now, but still.

Maybe this coincidence was just that and nothing more.  Maybe it was my sign from Z.  Maybe it was a sign from Joe or my grandparents or my late step-mother-in-law or my friend Dugan (because I’d thought of him a lot that day) or any one of the people that have passed.  I don’t know and I will never have an answer one way or another.  But either way, it made me feel that same subtle twinge I got when I saw my first bald eagle in the wild.

Signs are still problematic for me and I detest forced meaning. But I have a rosary from the mass and I will love that forever.

The Worst Lunch Ever

Z’s friend Elana passed away on Monday in a car accident.  Elana came to Z’s funeral in August.  Elana’s visitation is tomorrow.  Saturday.

Saturday is also the day of the beatification mass at Ford Field in Detroit.  I have tickets.  My dad worked to get me those tickets as though it would be the last gift he would give me.  I can’t miss that mass.

I went to the store at lunch, I picked out a card and wrote a message of bereavement from one parent to another with the tragic connection of friendship.  My plan was to drive the card to the funeral home and ask them to hold the card until Saturday and give it to the family.

Elana’s family was there.  Siblings, cousins, a grandmother.  Her dad.

I tried to introduce myself and since I’d started crying in the hallway, I could barely get it out.

I’m Isabella’s mom.  Elana came to my daughter’s funeral in August.  I’m here because my pain for you is so… bright (?).

He knew who I was.  He knew who Z was.  We cried together.  We lamented the death of our respective daughters.  So close.  So tender.  So horrifying.

He told me he knew Elana and Z were together.  I knew it too.

Elana’s parents are Asian immigrants.   Her dad’s English is broken and a little hard to understand.  But man, today I understood everything he said.  We spoke directly to each other’s hearts.  Love is universal where language is not.  Love and empathy.

I stood with Elana’s family in this exquisite moment of painful understanding.

We are not from the same place.  Neither of us really knows protocol that respects the other’s culture.  Do we hug?  Do we stand together?  How do we properly acknowledge this profound pain?  We both stood awkwardly because there is no poise in this situation.

And it was also there that Elana and her family came into sharp focus.  Earlier in the week I couldn’t quite place her.  But today I could.  I remembered her blue house in the subdivision with few trees. I remember talking with her mom when I dropped off Z to stay the night in 8th or 9th grade.  I remember Z went trick-or-treating in her neighborhood when we lived in the apartment building.

I stayed only for a few minutes.  I had to go back to work.  My face puffy with tears and pain and loss.  I went back to work because that’s what I have to do.  I have to go back to work.

I’m pretty sure this was the worst lunch hour I’ve ever been party to.

0 stars.  Would not recommend.

The Escalator

After Joe passed, I took the girls and we split town for a while.  I needed to find my reset button.  I was in such pain and I was so lost and I wasn’t thinking clearly and I was all jumbled up.

On this trip, we were standing at the base of an escalator.  It was one of the longest I’d ever seen.  At least two stories tall.  The escalator moved from the subway to the surface.  And we were there at rush hour.  It was jam packed full of people.  A crushing amount of people that I’d never seen before.  Even during my time in New York City and Chicago, I’d never been in a crowd like this.  They all needed to funnel up this tiny, giant escalator.  Everyone a commuter on their way home from work.  Why I chose to take us on public transportation at rush hour is beyond me.

We stopped in a corner and I made a plan with them.  I’d hold their hands but if we got separated, they were to continue to the top and when then got to the surface, they were going to get onto the street and turn right.  Wait for me there. We reviewed right hand from left hand and even though they were both middle-schoolers I didn’t want to lose either of them, I took  no chances on a miscommunication.  I was by myself with them.  I had no support from another adult should I need it.  It was me and them and that was it.

When I first started this blog I tried to make an analogy about sponges and having a hole in your heart.  It was dumb.  I told everyone not to read it.  Analogies are dumb and in literature they can be a mess.  But when I try to explain what it’s like being a bereaved mother to someone that hasn’t experienced this kind of loss, it’s difficult.  Analogies are the only transportation I have.  It’s still dumb.

I’ve had lots of reoccurring thoughts that my brain has made up to make my pain *that much worse*.  I’ve invented painful memories.  I attach sentiment to actual, literal garbage. My mind is on constant repeat, reminding me she’s gone.

I’m at the base of this escalator.  The one that goes on so high that I can’t see the top.  I’m holding hands with both the girls.  We’re in a crush of people and I hold on tight.  But something happens and Z gets separated from Alex and I.  She’s stopped.  She’s on the other side of the railing.  She’s not on the escalator anymore, but Alex and I still are.  We keep moving up and up and Z is just standing there.  She’s not moving anymore.  And I can still see her right now and I’m yelling for her and I’m reaching for her but I can’t get to her.  I can’t reach her and she’s getting further and further away.  She’s stopped.  Alex and I are still moving.  I see her in the distance, falling away from me and I can’t get off the escalator to find her.

We have a plan.  If we get separated, finish the ride and go onto the street.  It’s bright on the street.  Much brighter than the stupid escalator in the dark.  I’ll be able to find her there if she gets lost.  When I get to the top I’ll turn to the right and I’ll find her there.  She’ll be there waiting for me and for Alex to get her.

I have 50 years until this escalator stops.  Alex has 70 years.  But we have a plan so that if one of us gets lost, we’ll be able to find each other.

I have to trust the plan.  I have no other option.





This morning the news reported a car/deer fatality near our house.  An 18 year old girl hit a deer that came through her windshield.  She was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

This evening, I found out she was one of Z’s friends from middle school and 9th grade.

She was one of the three former classmates that made the trip from GR to Gaylord for Z’s funeral.

I don’t remember Elana being at the funeral, but I checked the guest book and she was there.

Almost three months ago, she watched my child’s funeral mass – she hurt for her lost friend and in the next week or so, I’ll go to her funeral.

A year before Z passed, I took her to the funeral of one of her classmates at St. Mary School.  There were 18 kids that should have walked the graduation ceremony for the class of 2017, but instead there were only 17.  I went to his funeral, just before they started their 12th grade year, so sad for these young kids and the loss they shouldn’t have known.  Shortly after their graduation, they all came back for Z’s funeral.  The second loss for such a small graduating class.  They now number 16.  The sweet 16.

I don’t know what’s on the other side.  I can’t know until I get to the end.  But I hope these three have found each other.

I’m just kind of heartbroken tonight.  I didn’t know Elana well enough to remember her distinctly from the rest of Z’s friends.  Was she one of the girls I drove home after gymnastics or swimming?  Was she one of the girls that came over to art project in Z’s bedroom?  Is she in the picture of the half dozen girls that got ready together for homecoming at a house around the corner all those years ago? I’m not sure.  But I am sure the two of them were close enough that she made the trip and for that, I’m… something.  I don’t know.  I’m grateful that Z knew her.  I’m heartbroken that she’s gone.  I feel deeply for her parents.

Tonight, my mind is wandering – and this post kind of rambles about – but I’m kind of lost in my own emotion.  I don’t have it in me to reflect with some grace and thought.

This whole business is just shitty.  I want out.  I’d like to reject my subscription.  I take a hard pass on the situation.  Prank caller do not call back.

I can’t even give this 0 stars.  That seems too generous a rating.


Grief looks at 40

If you’d ever asked my kids, or many of those I’m close with, they’d know that I’ve always looked forward to turning 42.

I had babies when I was young.  I was 21.  They’re not twins, but I’d not had a birthday between their births.  Consequently, I spent my 20’s being a mom.  Most of that time I was a single mom.  My friends stayed out late and went to parties and did normal 20’s  things.  I did them as well – but I had responsibility they didn’t have.  I went home earlier.  I got up earlier.  I had to think about school districts and diapers and doctors and whatnot.  My 20s were modified.

But when I turned 42?  That was going to be amazing.  That was going to be the sweetest part of my life.  Both my girls would be 21 and mostly done with college.  I’d be at the top of my earning potential.  My time would become my own again as they spread their wings and left my home in search of their own.  At 42 I was going to watch them soar and become what I didn’t and do what I couldn’t.

42 was going to be the year my life picked up some charm.

I am 40 now. The reality of my life is so, so much more harsh than the vision.

Alex will be 20 on Saturday.  She has both mental illness and autism that she (we) struggle with.  She’s not like other kids her age.  She doesn’t do what others do.  She’s got dreams and plans, but for her they’re harder to achieve.  She manages her life slowly and with medication.  She’ll achieve what she wants, but her timetable is delayed.  She can’t be away from home for more than 3 days. She’s easily agitated. She does not drive. Her life has been neither painless nor charmed.  It’s easy to judge her when the facts aren’t laid out.  She is poetry.

Long ago, I adjusted that part of my life plan for 42. Alex would not be where other people at 21 are in their lives.  And that was okay.  We’ve known her life wasn’t going to be straightforward since she was in 5th grade and we figured some things out.

Z’s life was right on track.  When I was 42, she’d be 20 (would turn 21 three weeks before I turned 43).  She would be in nursing school.  She’d would be hell-bent on making things go her way.  She’d argue her way into or out of whatever she needed or wanted.  She was always prose.

I am 40 now.  I lost Z when I was 40 and she was 18.  I lost Joe when I was 33 and he was 39.  And the closer I get to 42, the further away I’ll be from her and from him.  I will get older and she will be 18 and he will be 39.  I’ll be 42 and she’ll be 18 and he will be 39.  I’ll be 60 and she’ll be 18 and he will be 39.  I’ll have birthdays and she won’t and he won’t and I will always be moving forward and they have both stopped moving with me.

42 will be a much different operation.  I don’t know how I’ll handle my life between now and then.  Because I don’t want to age anymore.  I don’t want to be that far away from them and the life I planned.

I am 40 now.  I’ve lost my husband.  I’ve lost my younger daughter.  My older daughter is on a modified timeline and looking at 42 is now so… I don’t know.  I don’t know what it is but I am not okay with these alterations.

I am 40 now.  Tomorrow I will be 41.



Window Shopping

I love buying gifts for other people.  Love it.  When I was first working and could buy gifts with my own money, I’d routinely give the gift before the designated event.  My parents would roll their eyes and open their Christmas gifts in November.

When my daughters were old enough to recognize what gifts were they were my favorite people to shop for.  It was double the fun for me – not only did I get to pick out the gift, but I got to experience it with them.

As they got older (read: picky) gift giving was a new mission.  What can I buy for them they won’t automatically dislike because mom gifts are lame? I made a fair amount of good choices.  Also some duds.

Z has always been the easier daughter to shop for.  Books.  Book themed accessories. Outdoors. Nerd stuff.  I liked getting her these items because she was just like me.  All of the things I liked, I could buy for her.

Now I’m just window shopping.

A million words in the books on her list.  A million blades of grass under the new hiking boots.  A million rays of sun for the new sunglasses.

I don’t add anything to my cart.  I’m window shopping.

I want her to be here for these things.  I want to see the joy on her face.  I want to make her book collection grow.  I want to bask in her shine and her new sunglasses. I want so badly to give her my love.  I want to give her everything I am.  I yearn to buy these things and feel the relief in her presents.

Z would have loved that.  Z would have loved that.  Z would have loved that.

Not presents.  Presence.                              Presence.

I will have nothing for her under the tree.  There will be no brown packages with her name.   I look at everything for her through the windows and I move on without.

0 stars.  Would not recommend.





Contact List

Shortly after she passed, my dad told me he took Z out of his favorites in his contacts list on his phone.  I did the same a couple of days later.  Every time I opened my phone I saw her name with the big yellow star next to it.  Up top, where it’s easy to call.

I couldn’t have that.  That big yellow star with her name  knocked the breath out of me.  I have to look at her and her name on my own terms.  When I can prepare myself.

My other mobile phone, the work phone, I used to call her just as often.  Except on that model, instead of designating favorites, it complied the list for me.  Frequent contacts.  She was a frequent contact.  I spent three weeks calling everyone I could from that phone so her name would fall of the list of frequent contacts.

She’s no longer a favorite.  She’s not frequent anymore.

Years ago was the last time I actively took anyone out of my phone contacts.  And when I did, the phone greeted me with the poignant question “Are you sure?”.

Yes.  I was always sure. I’d broken a relationship of one sort or another for reasons here and there, and in the end I was always sure.

I’ve taken her off my favorites and frequents, but she’s still a contact.  No one answers her phone.  I’m not ready to delete her name.  At the same time, it still takes my breath when I have to thumb through the list looking for someone else.  I torture myself.

There is no harm or shame in removing her from my contacts.  None at all.  And probably it would be good for me.  It is painful every-single-time I see her name on my phone and her unanswered texts.  It’s there, just silently, staring back at me.  She’s not going to answer her phone.  She’s not going to answer her phone.  I torture myself.

I could transfer our text history to a device and put it in a box in my closet.  I can save those things to allow for the removal to happen without actually losing all of that digital history.  There are answers for this sort of thing.

Are you sure you want to delete this contact?  Are you sure?  Are you really sure?

I don’t have it in me to answer yes.  I can’t actively delete her.  I’ve already lost her.  I can’t delete her as well.

In the winter I’ll maybe get a new phone.  I’ll passively make the change.  She won’t be deleted, but she won’t be added either.   The new phone won’t have a conversation history or pictures of the past couple of years together. The new phone won’t have the weight this one has.  It won’t have the weight of any of my other phones.

I’ll tuck this phone away with the other phones I’ve moved past.  The ones that hold my pictures of my late husband and what our family looked like then.  I’ve done it before.

I’ve done this before.  I don’t want to change phones anymore.


My empathy for those that struggle with me has certainly changed.  Parents that haven’t lost a child chime in with “I can’t imagine”.  It’s true.  They can’t imagine. I could never have imagined.

Similar to the love that isn’t fully appreciated until it’s been personally experienced.  Growing up, before I had children, I was told that I wouldn’t understand parental love until I’ve held it.  It’s true.  That overwhelming and incurable love isn’t something truly appreciated until it is encountered.

After I’d moved to GR, a co-worker of mine suddenly lost his wife.  He was much older than me.  He’d been married longer.  They had grown children and grandchildren.  We ended up alone for a minute in a tool room and I mentioned I’d lost Joe.  He teared up and asked me how long it would hurt this badly.

I didn’t know.  Our lives were so different.  But I could tell him that eventually he’d find his footing again.  Hopefully, he wouldn’t have that un-moored feeling forever.  But we both understood the unique tragedy we shared.

On Wednesday nights, I go to a parent support group.  We all share in this stupid bond that no one wants to be a part of.

A friend of a friend lost her son a little more than a month ago in a car accident.  I’ve never met her, but I ache for her and her loss.  I just learned that a cousin of mine lost her 17 year old son.  I didn’t know, and now I ache for her too.

We all develop a unique empathy for those in the pain we’ve experienced.

One of the things mentioned in the parent support group is we hate when new people arrive.  It brings fresh feeling and difficulty that we all feel.  And in that way, I didn’t understand the feelings I would have for another parent of loss until I experienced it myself.  It’s a fresh anguish that kind of makes your own wounds seep a little.

I ache for them.  I share in their pain.  My heart hurts for them.  And their hearts hurt for mine.

So now, on top of all of this new emotion that I’ve been bequeathed related to Z’s passing, I’ve got this entirely new set of emotions I didn’t expect.  I didn’t realize that not only would I grieve for her loss, I’d uniquely grieve for all of the lost children.  I’d share in the pain of everyone that gets stuck in this stupid circumstance.

Does sharing this load help me?  Will it help all of the other mothers? I don’t know.

What I do know is this entire endeavor is shitty.  No one wants to be here.  We all want to give it back.  0 stars. Would not recommend.