Being Tough

I think I might have called back to this particular incident before, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

In the waning day’s of Joe’s life and we were getting lots of “goodbye” visits.  People he hadn’t seen for years were stopping in.  They feigned encouragement, but everyone knew what was really going on.  It was the parade of farewells and see you on the other side.

One of his ex-employers stopped by.  Joe was genuinely happy for the visit.  He stood up to shake hands, took a step forward and fell down hard.  He kind of caught himself, face down in a chair.  Before the visitor had a chance to act I stepped in.  I actually stepped between them and shielded the view of the fall from the guest with my body.  I leaned down and, in one swift movement, I was pulling Joe to his feet.

As I was pulling the situation back into focus, I whispered into his ear “Get up… Get up.”  He didn’t really have a choice.  I am strong and, at that time, had he weighed maybe 100 pounds. I got him up and back to the couch in a matter of two or three seconds.

The rest of the visit went well.  Neither of the men acknowledged the fall.  They were just two men talking in the living room.  Catching up on old times and drinking lemonade.

I often think of this moment (this literal second of our lives) and I remember it with raw intimacy and true connection between the two of us.  I gave him everything I had in that moment so he could save some dignity in the room with the visitor.  He had always been such a strong man.  he was such a strong man.  We were both so tough.  He was tough staring down the inevitable.  I was tough in my resolve to get him through everything that might be uncomfortable.

When I left the UP yesterday I expected to leave a fog behind the same way I left a fog behind when I lost Joe.  I’ve been waiting for it, anticipating some sort of relief, no matter how small.  A year is gone, I made it through all of the firsts.  My life is bigger than it was last year, there are new memories that don’t crowd my brain with all loss, all the time.

It didn’t happen.  I didn’t leave a fog in my wake.  I am still moving forward in a swell of bereavement.

I set myself up for this.

I whisper into my own life “Get up… Get up.”

I feel like I’ve been here before.

0 stars.  Would not recommend.



Tomorrow is the day.  August 16.

My husband’s birthday.  The 1st suckaversary of my child’s passing.

Right now, I’m waiting for my partner to meet me in route so we can finish the trip to the UP together.  We’ll have a quiet dinner w/ those that happen to be up north.  I have a significant amount of alcohol ticked away in my room for this weekend.  I have games and (most of) my people.

I’ll be okay.

Really, though, I’ve spent a lot of the day reflecting on the change in perspective a year brings to the bereaved.  I will no longer start thoughts with “A year ago I had no idea this would be the last time we…”  From now on it will be “A year ago I was mired in the unimaginable.”

Today I ran into a work colleague that, through a series of transfers, I haven’t seen in a couple of years.  We business ourselves over the phone or email, but that precludes personal chit-chat.  When we were catching up, I mentioned that tomorrow was suckaversary.  He shut the door and teared up.  “I’m so sorry I didn’t call you.  I just didn’t know what to say.  I just can’t imagine…”

The truth is that even though I have a year into the bereaved parent column and 8 years in the bereaved spouse column, I’m in the same boat.  I still sometimes forget the losses.  I’m very good at pretending I just haven’t talked with anyone in a while.

Tomorrow, had the universe shifted a different direction, Joe and I would be celebrating his 48th birthday.  I would have teased him relentlessly about nearing 50.  He didn’t even hit 40.  Tomorrow I would be sending a text message to all our collective girls, reminding them to call their dad.

In a different universe, my life is so wildly different.

Last week it crashed into me that in 18 years (when I will still be in the workforce) Izzy will have been gone longer than she was alive.  Already, he has been away from my life longer than we were together.

My life now is just so, so different than the plan.

0 stars.  Would not recommend.


(also, I’m not even going to proof-read this.  you get what you get)

(lies.  I just proofed it up a little)



Alex and I are on the way home from a day on the river.  We’ve spent four and a half hours with family, having a great time.   Swimming, floating, not realizing that my Aunt’s tube keeps losing air because it lost a patch.

We’re on our way home and she’s crying.  She’s so, so upset.

“I just feel like if it was me that died, no one would be sad.  They would expect it.   If I died, no one would get tattoos of my name.  People wouldn’t be upset.  Because I was supposed to die”  She tells me this and my heart breaks.  I try not to cry and reassure her that without a doubt, any death would have the same aftermath.  There is no winner in this race.

Earlier  today she went shopping with me to prep for the trip (Cherries:  the ultimate river food).  She’d mentioned that it gets hot working in a jacket in the summer time, but she doesn’t like wearing short sleeves.  People stare at her arms.

Her arms and deeply pitted and scared, the remainder of years of self-harm stemming from mental illness that we all fought long and hard to control.

This summer, she has tried so, so hard.  She has been involved and engaged with the rest of our extended family.  She’s sat in the lake with the adults and played games with the kids up north.  She didn’t remove herself from our group chat when we made plans.  She has let us love her the way she needs to be loved.  The way she should be loved.

She is putting herself out into the world and, when she does, my heart soars with happiness.  It has been a long and rocky road for her to get where she is.  She’s shedding her black sheep and letting us bring her into our fold.

We’re on our way home from a great day and she’s crying because she will always believe that Z’s death was a tragedy and, should she ever die inappropriately young, it wouldn’t matter.

The truth of the situation is that Alex has always felt second to her sister.  In her mind, she has always lived in the shadow of Z’s out-sized life.  And she can not escape that shadow.  Even in death.

As we move forward, there will always be parts of her that can’t let go of the silent tragedy – the part where Alex lives while it was Z that died and not the other way around.

My baby is in pieces again.  I can’t put anyone back together.

0 stars.  Would not recommend.