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Three years.

January 18, 2016 Leave a comment

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That’s how long it’s been since Mark passed away. 1095 days.

So much has happened since that night. Nothing ever prepares you for the death of a spouse. Nothing. Even though he was sick for years before he passed, it didn’t make it easier.

And now it’s three years later. So much has changed. I look around my home, and realize that time has kept marching on. Gone is the color brown. A lighter and brighter me has emerged.

Gone is the deep pain, but what remains are the memories of the 13 years we were together. Some bad. Some indifferent. But mostly good. I used to remember and it cut like a knife. Now I remember and I smile. Yes, sometimes I still cry, but it’s not like it was the first year after Mark passed.

I didn’t think life could or would go on. But it did, and I can honestly say I’m happy. Sure, there is always room for improvement, but on a personal level, life is good.

I don’t think this date will EVER be a happy one for me, but it will hopefully never be one of doom and gloom.

I made it through these three years because of the love of friends and family, but also because I found strength that I never knew that I possessed. I always considered myself a weeny. I never thought I was equipped to handle the cruel world we live in. Mark used to tell me that I was too sensitive and emotional. He said I needed to be tougher and more assertive. That’s never worked for me. It’s not who I am. I haven’t changed in three years. I still possess my “weeny tendencies” but who I am is what made me the person I am today.

I have learned a lot since Mark passed away. I now know that I can function quite well on my own. I admit that I prefer not to because I love having someone around to share life with on a daily basis. I learned that life is short, and money is not everything. It definitely makes life easier when you have it. But it won’t buy you love. That comes from within.

A lot of the things that I learned are deep and very personal. Even I won’t share them with anyone, but the important thing is that I learned.

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As I start my fourth year without Mark, I am grateful for our years together. I think about him often. I miss him more than I admit. And a part of me will always love him.

Having said that, I know that he’d be proud of me, and I know that he’s glad that I listened to him. He always told me if he should pass away, I should find love and happiness again. I can be stubborn, but I took his advice and honored his wishes.

I know he’s looking down on me, and I know he approves.

My Friend’s Husband passed away at age 42.

December 28, 2015 Leave a comment

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Ack! Had I not decided to write tonight, I never would have noticed that this post has been in draft mode for over 6 months. I remember this being a very hard post to write. It ripped up my heart in ways I didn’t think was possible. I should have pushed through the pain and written this back in July. However I’m only human…

Actually this post is almost as hard as writing the one right after Mark passed away almost 3 years ago. I never met my friend’s husband but I knew a lot about him. You should also know that I have never met my friend either. We have been friends for about 4-5 years now (that’s my best guess), and we were brought together by the sad fact that both of our husbands were dialysis patients. The understanding of what life was like as the spouse of a (stubborn) dialysis patient was the basis for our friendship. Over the years, we have followed each other’s lives through email and Facebook.

When she messaged me in July to tell me that her husband had passed away, it felt like I was stabbed in the chest with a knife. I was so sad for her because I know just how difficult this is going to be for her and her young daughter.

She wrote to me during the week, and she told me that she was in a fog and she had conflicting emotions. Boy can I understand that in a way that many people experiencing the death of a love one do not understand.

I won’t attempt to guess at what she is feeling, but if it is anything like what I went through after Mark died, it’s a whole plethora of emotions that just don’t stop. My mind was a complete jumble of thoughts, fears, hopes, sadness, and sheer terror. Some of the things I felt during the first week were startling to me.

  • I felt numb. What the hell had just happened?
  • I felt sadness. I had just lost my husband who I had been with for nearly 14 years.
  • I felt anger. Why didn’t he just listen to the doctors and do what he needed to do?
  • I felt alone. When was the last time I was really alone? (other than when he was in the hospital).
  • I felt fear. What was I supposed to do without him?
  • I felt confusion. What are you supposed to do after your husband dies?
  • I felt overwhelmed. Details. Arrangements. Notifications. Phone calls.
  • I felt tired. Lack of sleep. Incessantly repeating the story over and over.

And those were just the things I felt in the first few days.

As the days became weeks, I felt a ton of new and rather startling feelings. I began to feel some relief mixed in with the sadness. As bad as it sounds, it was relieving to not have to be surrounded with doctor appointments, dialysis fatigue, short tempers due to illness, and the never ending fear of “what if”.

After the sadness, the guilt was the worst part of it all. A lot of the things I was thinking made me feel like I was a horrible person. At times, I was glad that I didn’t have to deal with the daily routine of being a caregiver. I didn’t miss being snapped at or being made to feel like I was not being supportive. I liked the freedom from the dialysis routine.

At the same time, I felt like I had failed Mark. I wondered if I could have been more understanding of his fatigue, if I could have been more supportive when he was not feeling well, if I could have tried to control my anger better when he snapped at me, and if I could have been less selfish. I’m 100% sure my friend has felt this very same things.

The hardest part is the “Year of Firsts” which is the first time you must “celebrate” a holiday without your loved one: the first Christmas, the first New Years, the first Valentine’s day, the first birthdays (his and mine), the first Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day, the first Halloween, the first Thanksgiving…

As I learned there are 365 firsts, and each one is just as painful as the previous. She must go through them and deal with them in her own way. There are no easy answers or quick solutions. It is a painful and very sad process.

My heart hurts for my friend as I know what she must go through. All I can do is be there for her to listen to her. I can’t make it easier for her nor can I take away her pain. The grieving process is a personal one, and each person must deal with it in his or her own way.

May she someday find peace and understanding. I hope that her sorrows are short but her memories last a lifetime.

Unmotivated babbling from a seasoned procrastinator!

December 28, 2015 Leave a comment

I haven’t written a long time, and again I find another year has gone by. My great talent of procrastination rears its ugly head again. As someone who loves to write,  I’m embarrassed that it’s been so long since my last post.  I have no excuses except that I’ve been lackadaisical with my writing. No excuses, only solutions.

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As we approach 2016, I realize that life changes but yet it remains very much the same in many ways.

Life is really a series of ups and downs, good and bad. 2015 was not great but it certainly was not horrible. It had its ups and it had its downs. It had its good and it had its bad.

There are a few things that I wanted to address for some time now. When Mark passed away in January of 2013, I found ways to cope and one of those ways was following a blog of a woman whose husband had passed away 6 months prior to Mark. I still read her blog today, and it makes me realize how people deal with grief differently. While I still miss Mark, and I do think about him on a regular basis, I have learned to put the past in perspective and move forward with my life. Mark always told me that should he pass away, he wanted me to go on with life, find someone to love, and to be happy. I did just that because not only did he ask me to but because I needed to.

This woman whose blog I read still seems to hold so much love for her deceased husband and every blog post tells her deep love for him. There are sometimes that I feel she can’t let go and that might not be healthy, but at the same time it makes me think that I might have let go too soon. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but I do wonder where to draw the line.

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Is it healthy to hold on so tightly to someone who passed? She seems to find comfort in writing about how much she misses him and how she has trouble coping without him. Sometimes I wonder if her way of coping is better than mine was. Is she holding on too long and too tightly? Did I let go too soon? Is her love for him impeding her ability to move forward? Did I do an injustice to Mark by moving forward with my life as he wanted me to?

I was told by many people, on many different occasions, that I was getting into a relationship too quickly. After over two and a half years George and I are still together, quite happy, and planning a future. I don’t know where I would be had I listened to all the naysayers who told me to grieve for Mark for at least 2 years before getting into a new relationship. It’s like that old saying, ” if you fall off the horse, get right back on.” I wonder if I had waited, and remained alone for that 2 year period, would I have been afraid to start over again? Would I have been too set in my ways to share my life with someone? Would my heart have hardened to the point that I liked being alone?

Life isn’t easy. Losing a spouse is probably one of the hardest things that someone must go through. Although deep inside I knew that Mark would pass away way too soon, it did not make the situation any easier.

I still think of him on a regular basis. I don’t think that this negates my love for George. It’s just a part of my life that was but is no more. The holidays seem to remind me of Mark much more than any other time of year. He loved Christmas and he loved to decorate the house. He loved to buy presents for everyone. He would often spend more than he should on presents for family, friends, and of course, me. He loved to cook large meals for his friends, and he loved to entertain at home with a large holiday party every year.

When I drive around, and I see the Christmas decorations, or when I step into a store, and I see all of the stores all decked out for the holidays, it makes me a little sad for all of the good times that we had. I haven’t put up a Christmas tree since Mark passed away. This is partially due to fact that George is not big in to the holidays, we live in a small condo that really has no room for a tree, and because Christmas decorations sometimes make me sad. I should also mention that my lack of a Christmas tree is also due to laziness.

The New Year brings hope to many including myself, but at the same time it’s that time of year that also brings me great sadness as it marks the anniversary of my mom’s passing as well as Mark’s. Do you ever really get over the death of someone you loved?

My mom passed away in January of 2000, and I still think about her nearly every day. So I guess I just answered my own question, and no, you never really get over the death of someone you loved.

I think that we simply learn to cope with the fact that our loved one is gone. We learn to move on, go forward, and live life each day.

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I’m sort of all over the place with my thoughts today. I have a general idea of what I want to say, but it seems to be all jumbled inside my head. I think when I write regularly, my thoughts are more coherent and on point. When I don’t write on a regular basis my brain has so many ideas and thoughts that it makes it difficult to put it all into one post in a way that people can understand.

I always say that I need to write regularly, but for some reason, I never take the time to sit down and write. Although it’s one of the things that I enjoy doing, there never seems to be enough time. Actually it’s not my lack of time, but my lack of motivation and enthusiasm.

Maybe 2016 needs to be the year of the writer. I must make the time, find the motivation, and get enthusiastic about sharing my thoughts again. It’s not like I don’t have the time because with Georgie back to work, I have enough quiet time to write several times a week. It’s like anything else, once you start doing it, it becomes a habit. Writing is therapeutic to me, so this would be a really good and healthy habit for me.

I’m not entirely sure that this blog post is coherent nor am I sure that it makes a point. However, it is a definite start toward a good habit for the upcoming New Year.

With that thought I wish everyone a very happy, healthy, and peaceful 2016.

June 21st 2015 is a Triple Whammy!

June 19, 2015 Leave a comment

summerJune 21, 2015 has a very bright spot! The summer begins with the solstice at 12:38 P.M. EDT and it is the longest day of the year: having the most sunlight. Summer is my favorite season. It means hot weather and sunshine. It has always signified barbecues, the shore, vacations, and fun. Nothing will change that.

I love waking up in the morning with sunshine. I love being able to go outside in the evening, and it’s still light out. I love the sounds of summer. There’s nothing like the sound of the Boardwalk on a busy Saturday night or the sound of the Ice Cream Truck playing the same song as it trolls through the neighborhood. I love the sound of fireworks and the “ooh and ahh” of the spectators. Few things say summer like the smell of suntan lotion, hamburgers cooking on a grill, and freshly popped popcorn at a local carnival! But nothing lasts forever, and sadly, the first day of summer also means that the days will begin to get shorter by one minute per day.

happy-fathers-dayOn another note, this June 21st is Father’s Day. Father’s Day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers on our society. It’s been a bittersweet day for me since my Dad passed away in October of 2008. Over the years, I’ve had two father-in-law’s but I have not maintained relationships with either of them. Tony was my first father-in-law. I really liked him. He was a generous man who was always there to lend a helping hand. His Portuguese heritage introduced me to many seafood dishes that I would never have thought to try. Unfortunately, when his stepson and I divorced, I lost contact with him (and the entire family).

My second father-in-law, Lawrence, was completely different from my first. He was a quiet man who rarely spoke. I understand that he had his issues in the past, but he never did anything to me to make me think less of him. I kept an open mind and remained non-judgmental no matter what Mark told me about him. I was a good daughter-in-law to him (and his wife). I tried to maintain a relationship with him after Mark died, but apparently he didn’t want one. He never told me why, but I truly believe that he felt I disrespected him by honoring Mark’s final wishes. I know that Mark’s parents wanted a wake and church service, and a burial in a cemetery. That is not what Mark wanted, and he told them that on several occasions. When I honored Mark’s final wishes of being cremated and having a memorial service catered by his favorite Italian restaurant, it created a huge riff between myself and Mark’s family. Although I tried several times to reach out to him, he never responded, and I stopped trying.

Father’s Day is tough for those of us without Dads. It’s a reminder of what you had but no longer have. I now find the day to be bittersweet with fond memories of the many years with Dad. At the same time, it is a sad remembrance that he is no longer with me in this world.

But the zinger this year is that my wedding anniversary to Mark also falls on June 21st. It would have been 12 years since we got married on the cruise ship Zenith with our friends and family in attendance. After the wedding, I went on my first cruise to Bermuda and truly had the time of my life. In actuality, my true wedding date is September 28, 2002 when Mark and I eloped in Las Vegas, but it was a secret that we kept from people until we could have a real wedding. It’s hard to believe it’s been two and a half years since Mark passed away. Time. It can be measured on a clock in hours, minutes, and seconds. It can be measured on a calendar in days, weeks, months, and years. Yet I’ve never really felt it could be measured in one’s mind. It seems to get all jumbled into past, present and future.

So as this Whammy of a Day approaches, I will press forward, smile sweetly, love always, and live fully, and before I realize it, the day will be but a memory; like so many other days.

With that…

Happy Summer Solstice! Happy Father’s Day!

And…. even though I have set fire to my broken pieces and started anew,
memories and feelings never fade. With that…a silent thought…

Happy 12th Anniversary Mark!Bonni-and-Mark

Death, a Reality Check and Reminder

May 9, 2015 Leave a comment

restinpeacefriendToday I learned that a friend of mine from High School passed away from lung cancer. I was shocked and so saddened. He was always a friendly man with a great sense of humor. I didn’t keep in touch with him after High School, but we became friends on Facebook. I was able to follow his life and I saw how blessed he was. He met and married a beautiful woman who made him SO happy. It was evident that they were meant to be together.

His passing made me sad on many different levels. The obvious was that a man that I knew in my youth had passed away. It made me hurt for his wife and his family. His friends and co-workers and all those who knew him now must deal with the fact that he is gone.

It made me sad because as I wrote a letter of condolence to his wife, I was reminded of what was ahead for her. It reminded me of the deep pain and despair that I felt when Mark passed away, and I knew that, no matter what people said to console her, it as going to be a long and painful road. She will need to put the pieces of her life back together, and try to find some semblance of normalcy. I know it’s not easy, but it can be done.

My friend’s passing also reminded me that life is short and tomorrow is not guaranteed. What you have today can be taken away in a split second, and then everything in your life changes. We spend so much time doing the things that we think are important, but it turns out that the important things in life are the ones that are simple.

So today I remind myself that it’s not how much money you make. It’s not about working long hours to bring home a few extra dollars. It’s not about having a fancy car with all the bells and whistles. It’s not about having a huge house in the suburbs. It’s not about designer brand clothes. It’s not about buying “stuff” to make yourself look good to others.

Do you want to know what it is about? It’s about spending quality time with those people that you love. It’s about doing things that make you happy. It’s about being with family and friends. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t earn a living, buy a new car or a large house, but those things mean very little if you don’t have close people with whom you can enjoy it.

Balance. That is the key. Balance work with home responsibilities. Balance spending with what you make. Balance the time you spend with loved ones with the time that you spend doing other things that you feel are important

So today, I ask that you show someone special that you care. Show that special person that he/she is important enough that you have chosen — out of all the things to do on your busy schedule — to find the time for them. You may not get the chance to do it tomorrow.

RIP Steve.

You never get over the loss of a Mother

January 22, 2015 Leave a comment

momMy mom was a very brave woman. I can’t hold a candle to her and the obstacles that she endured and overcame in her life.

My mom became an orphan at a very young age and was put into a “home” (I think orphanage) with her two older sisters. If I recall, her older brother went to live with relatives (although after all these years, it is possible that I remember the story wrong).

Mom went to Nursing school, and she married my dad (My mom’s older sister Sarah’s husband Ed worked with the man who became her husband). After 14 years of trying to have children, they found that they were unable to conceive. They decided to adopt. Sarah knew a young woman who was pregnant (my biological mother), and a private adoption was arranged. As it turned out, my mother was able to get pregnant, and my brother was born before I was two years old.

When I was a young child, my mom developed Breast Cancer. She had a mastectomy. Not long after, she developed Breast Cancer in her remaining breast and again had a mastectomy. My mother developed cancer a third time and was forced to have a hysterectomy. She fought hard to become healthy, and lived quite a few healthy years.

In 1986 my parents retired to Florida, and only a few years later my mother developed more health issues. She had a seizure in a supermarket, and it was determined that she had a brain tumor, and she had fractured a vertebrae in her spine. She had surgery for the broken vertebrae and with the help of titanium rods, she was able to get around again. However, the brain tumor was worrisome. She did have an operation to remove it, but ultimately it came back. Radiation treatments helped but in the end, after a 10 year battle, my mother succumbed to Cancer of the Brain. It was an ugly illness. It left her unable to speak, see, hear, or move. Hospice was needed for the last few weeks of a life that was cut short by cancer.

Through everything that she battled in her life, I never once remember hearing her complain. I am sure she had struggles that I never knew. The last ten years of her life were difficult, but she endured it with grace and dignity.

I was 37 when she died. I’m going to be 52, It’s been 15 years since my mom passed away. Sometimes the timeline seems right, but other times I have a hard time believing she has been gone for such a long period of time.

I miss her. I can’t remember a day when I did not think of her. What I wouldn’t give to spend a day with that amazing woman I called MOM!!

RIP Mommy ; January 23, 1926 – January 22, 1990

It was a year ago tonight…

January 16, 2014 2 comments

… that my life completely changed.  A heart attack took Mark’s life, and everything that brought me peace and comfort was ripped from my life at that moment.

Never ever did I think that, at the age of 49, I would be a widow. I never thought I would have to pick up every semblance of normalcy that existed and fit it back into the big picture puzzle called life. In doing so, I found that some of the pieces were missing. Some of the pieces were torn and damaged. Some of the pieces even belonged to another puzzle!! It was a scary and frustrating time because in the beginning, I was paralyzed by fear and grief.

But little by little, the fog in my brain started to clear, and I pushed forward to do the things that I needed to do for MY own well-being. In the process I learned that my marriage was not exactly what I thought it was. I learned that Mark had a LOT of debt but to this day, I have no idea where it came from. I am just grateful that he had the hindsight to never add my name to an account so I am not responsible for what is owed. I found out things about his personal life that stunned me, and I sometimes wish I understood what was going through his mind when he made some of the choices that he did.

At the one year anniversary of his passing, I have very mixed feelings about what I have learned and how I feel. This morning I asked myself if I missed him. The answer was a very wishy-washy “YES AND NO”. Yes, I do miss him. He was my husband for over 10 years and my partner for almost 14 years. Like most couples, we had hopes and dreams and goals. We made plans and we had many years of memories. Yet, my life has become much less stressful and less complicated with no overwhelming debt, phone calls from (his) creditors, and the constant fear that I was going to get “THAT PHONE CALL” where someone told me that he’d passed away.

I’ve completely simplified my life which was something I was never able to do when I was with Mark. He needed to live large. He needed excess to the point of overkill. I never needed that. I have no need or desire to prove anything to anyone.  I live within my financial means (for the most part). I pay my bills on time. I carry no credit card debt. I cook simple foods as opposed to seven courses meals that require HOURS of prep work and cooking. I still have the mindset of having too much food in the house. When the Zombie Apocalypse hits, my home would be a good place to hang out.

I have my groceries delivered to save me time. I have a wonderful woman who cleans my home twice a month because it is not something that I am willing to do. I have mobile groomers for Belle because they are WONDERFUL and very convenient. My home is small and just perfect for me. It’s not a three level monstrosity that cost hundreds of dollars a month to heat and cool. How much room do I really need? I have basic cable because I don’t need every single channel that ever existed.

There is still room for improvement though. I really need to conquer the “paper war”. I have no real filing system. I need one. Putting all the papers in a box is not working for me. I need to organize it better and get a handle on the junk mail that seems to accumulate. I thought when I did everything “paperless” that I would have fewer paper piles. This has not been the case. I’m not sure why and that puzzles me constantly. When will I get to this? Who knows.

Procrastination has always plagued me. My motto is, “Why do something today that I can put off until tomorrow?” Scary, isn’t it? I do manage to get things done. Sometimes it is at the very last minute, but it gets done. Have I ever missed a deadline because I procrastinated? Sigh. Sadly, yes. But we don’t need to talk about that since I know that my own weaknesses.

Ahem, getting back on track…

I will be honest, I do think about and miss Mark. As articulate as I am, I am not sure I can explain how I feel right now. When Mark first died, all I wanted to do was turn back the clock and have him back in my life. I didn’t want to have to do it all alone.

I no longer feel that way. I have no desire to turn the clock back. I love my life these days. It’s much simpler and easier. And happier. I didn’t expect to fall in love again, but I did. Say what you want about my timeline, but I have found happiness.

George and I have been together just short of eight months. I didn’t expect things to get so serious so quickly, but I am VERY happy that they did. It’s nice to have a very easy-going (for the most part) relationship that is filled with laughter and love. Neither of us are perfect. No one is. But we are happy together. Having realized what I want and what I will not accept has made my relationship with George better than any other that I have had.  No one knows what the future holds, but I do know I want a future with this man!!!

As I approach the end of “The Terrible Firsts of Widowhood”, it occurred to me that I survived. I survived 365 days of firsts. There were SO many firsts this year. More than any one can EVER imagine. Some days I survived several firsts. But I survived. And as the first year without Mark concludes, I have a bittersweet feeling.

bittersweetI have feelings of both pain and pleasure. I still believe that Mark would be proud of the accomplishments that I achieved this year. And I know he would harbor NO ill feelings for anything I have done or any choices I made. He always wanted me to be more independent and he wanted me to be happy. I am both of these things.

Now it is time to let go of the past. Not forget it, but let go of the things that have the tendency to suck me in to the black hole. I’ve survived a year without Mark, and I have flourished. Life is filled with endless possibilities. You just have to find the things that make you happy. You have to open your heart and your mind. Having done that, I can tell you first hand that…

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