My final earthly first

I did it… somehow. I was able to get through my final “first”. The day after Mark died, my year was marked by “firsts”; Mark’s birthday without him, the first anniversary without him, the first Thanksgiving without him, the first Christmas without him, the first new years without him, the first Valentines day without him, my first birthday without him, my first “last day” and finally, the first anniversary of his death.

I know how I got through it. So many people had me in their thoughts & prayers. I could FEEL the warmth of hugs not physically given. This is the same way I have gotten through this past year – with the support of (to borrow Bryte’s word) my beloveds. I cannot thank them enough for the care & concern shown but moreso for showing me how to do the same for others.

This year has both flown by and dragged on & on. It seems like a million years ago that I got “that call” from Sharon saying Mark didnt come in to work. Yet seems like just yesterday that I sat with Jeni at Brosh Chapel. There are so many things that have changed and yet, many familiar things still surround me. This journey is far from over. I hope I can show some dignity and grace as I take each step. As I do, I know I am not alone. Family, friends, strangers I will still met walk with me, sometimes holding me up, sometimes just enjoying the path we are on. Mark is ever with me and my glorious God always holds me close.

I joyously look to the next “first” when I see Mark again. Like his headstone says:

This is not where it ends.

To where you are…

Today’s musical interlude is brought to you by Josh Groban.

Who can say for certain, maybe you’re still here. I feel you all around me, your memories so clear. Deep in the stillness, I can hear you speak. You’re still an inspiration. Can it be that you are mine forever love? And you’re watching over me from up above?

Fly me up to where you are. Beyond the distant star I wish upon tonight to see you smile. If only for a while to know you’re there. A breath away’s not far to where you are.

Are you gently sleeping here inside my dream? And isn’t faith believing all power can’t be seen?’ As my heart holds you – just one beat away, I cherish all you gave me every day. ‘Cause you are mine, forever love, watching me from up above. And I believe that angels breathe. And that love will live on and never leave.

Fly me up to where you are. Beyond the distant star I wish upon tonight to see you smile. If only for a while to know you’re there. A breath away’s not far to where you are.

I know you’re there… a breath away’s not far to where you are.

I have heard this song repeatedly but it wasnt until last week the words became so very clear and personal to me. I believe we hear and see what we need WHEN we need it. I obviously, needed it.

There are times I can literally FEEL Mark near me. Maybe that is wishful thinking but I fully embrace the hope that he is still near and watching over me. With that being said, what I would give to see his smile again or hear him laugh.

I recorded the message he left on our answering machine before I left Iowa. I must have listened to it 15 times tonight because I just needed to hear his voice. The cats stared up at me as if asking “Where is he? We hear him!” I kid you not. By the second playing of it, all 5 cats were surrounding me. I am obviously not the only one who misses him.

Well, I fell asleep in mid post here, plugged in laptop in my lap! I was woken up by all 5 cats crying. It was a different kind of cry. Not Bear’s typical “Mommy cry”, or Cami’s “the other cat’s are too near cry”. Scrappy rarely talks but even she was part of the conversation. Have you ever heard a cat talking to a bird through a window? It is similar to a chirping. That is what they were all doing. I tried the “hush babies” hoping they would let me finish this post & go back to sleep but they kept on. They were not getting louder, just continued. As I looked to where they were all looking, the battery operated candle that is beside the picture of Mark & I was lit. I am sure one of the cats stepped on the remote for the candle but there was a message there for me I am sure.

The Medical Examiner said Mark died between 3-5 am of a massive cardiac episode – immediate, painless. As I watch the cats chirping, the clock read 3:15! My heart started racing. I dont know if I wanted them to hush or keep talking. I started talking as well, telling Mark that if it was him, I love him still and miss him more than words could say. How many times did I say I was sorry? How many times did I say I loved him? How many times did I beg him to stay? Here we all are staring at a picture, rambling along together, each of us having a conversation with Mark when suddenly, the cats stop. I was mid plea when I realized I was the only “voice”. The clock read 3:47. I will never have proof of Mark’s true time of death, but I think- believe he shared that with us tonight.

I know some people will think I am losing it. I might be.

I know you’re there. A breath away’s not far to where you are.

Dad’s birthday!

April 29th – Dad’s birthday.

A day to celebrate the man I loved the longest! My super hero daddy who fixed my Betsy Wetsy doll. The man who taught me to throw horseshoes and a softball. The man who I looked up to and did everything I could to garner his attention. We definitely had our issues, what father & daughter doesn’t? But I was such a lucky girl because he was my father, my dad, my daddy, my papa. Luckier still that he was my daughter’s Grandpa.

April 29th was always his day. That is, until April 29, 2019 when another memory would come to compete for attention. This day will never be only known as his birthday any longer.

It is now also the day of many lasts for me. The last time I cooked dinner for Mark. The last time I sat on the couch with him watching tv. The last time I could tell him about my day or listen to him about his day. The last time we bickered over whose turn it was to let the dogs out. The last time he would tap me on the shoulder to tell me I should go to bed because I fell asleep with the computer in my lap or more likely because my snoring was too loud! The last time I heard him tell me he loved me. The last time he heard me say I love you. The last time I kissed him goodnight.

April 29th. Happy birthday papa.

April 29th. I love you Mark. Good night.

Time flies and my heart keeps breaking.

So much has happened. To me. To the world. The world has changed for us all and yet, as I try again to go to sleep, my mind goes back to that one day last April.

I am trying very hard not to focus on the anniversary of Mark’s death. I try very hard to be positive for other people, help others, encourage others, to put others first. Yet, in the peaceful silence of the night, that sob always comes. It may only be one quiet gasp to get air- it may be a steady stream of tears that soak the pillowcase. Regardless, it comes to me nightly. I often think I am betraying Mark by not being able to overcome these feelings. Then again, I think I am betraying him by not talking about him more. I can’t find that happy medium. So tonight, I guess I am going to do both… talk about him and sob until I hopefully fall asleep. The dreams will come- both good and bad. Much like our life together was – good and bad. But it was together.

I had a dream a while back. Mark was knocking on my front door. When I answered & saw it was him, my knees buckled but he didn’t reach for me. As I looked up to him, he had tears in his eyes and he simply said “Do you want me to stay?” I couldnt say yes fast enough, “of course I want you to stay” and as I threw myself into his arms, he was gone.

I thought he would always know how much I needed and wanted him in my life. As I think back, I would have to understand how he may not have seen that. How often did other things seem to take priority? I could justify them. Work, mom’s cancer, a rare girls night out, mom’s fall, etc. Justification or not, I didnt show him HE was my priority.

There for a while, we were in a very dark place and it did feel like I wanted to be anywhere but there. The “I love you” was spoken but were they really felt (by either of us)? We played “husband & wife” but acted anything but. I know I hurt him at times but it was never on purpose or with intent. But I know I did. He went through a phase of shutting me out (2015-2016) and it was easier for me then to simply disengage. A lot of my facebook posts reflected the brokenness I felt. Things like “sometimes it is easier to walk away” or the like. Many of my friends knew I was breaking away emotionally. Knew Mark was as well. We suddenly found ourselves in more of a roommate type of life than a marriage – we lived like that for several years. I am so very thankful that Mark finally said something about it. How I wish he would have done it sooner or that I would have had the courage to do so. Less than two weeks after re-commiting ourselves to each other, promising to fight FOR US, I would lose him.

As I sit here thinking about what I was doing one year ago tonight… I wonder. While I know I at home with him, sitting on the couch watching something mindless on tv with him just an armlength away from me, did we talk or just watch tv? What did I make him for dinner that night? Did I lay my head on his lap and fall asleep with him twirling my hair in his fingers? Or were we both in our normal habit of getting on our computers for most of the night? I do know he was on his computer for a bit because he was working on a project for work. So most likely I did the same until I got tired and went to bed after kissing him good night. (God how I miss that soft simple kiss goodnight and the ever ready I love you that took on new meaning that last week or so). I took that night for granted just like so many others and would give everything I have to have that night back again. Not to have “one more day” but to truly show him how much I appreciate the space he occupied in my every part of my life. Just appreciate him. I know I didn’t do that enough in life.

I sometimes sit outside at night and watch the stars. I wonder if he can see me or hear me. I want to cry out to him, I want to whisper to him. I just want to talk to him again. So I do. I know he answers me in his way, sometimes it is obvious, sometimes I almost miss it. There are times I can feel him near me. There never times I feel completely alone. Tonight, he is with me…

Yes, my love, I want you to stay.

Quarantined with a million thoughts and memories

There is so much to share, so much to say but I know I wont accomplish that tonight. I know I will ramble around because so much has happened since my last post. My silence hasnt been because I havent needed to “talk”, or wanted to for that matter. I hit the floor running when I got to Pensacola. I realize I have to MAKE time to write for a bit… keeping it all bottled up inside isnt good.. for me or anyone else.

The trip from Iowa was hard – VERY HARD and for so many reasons but I firmly believe Mark was with me. There were times I started to nod off and it was like he put his hands on the wheel and kept me in my own lane. I know some people would say it was Jesus who took the wheel and while I do not doubt His hand was on it ALOT, I know Mark was with me, too. For instance, I have traveled this route many times, always taking Hwy 49 through Hattiesburg, MS. I missed that exit and ended up going through Jackson. Trusting GPS to get me where I needed to go, I let it lead me. And lead it me it did… on the same path Mark & I took 21 years earlier when I moved to Cedar Rapids the first time. I was seeing things I had only seen that one time. Memories flooded over me as I passed the hotel we stopped at and the Wendy’s we ate at, the sign for Brewer MS (which made me smile before bursting into tears again). I believe Mark was letting me know he was with me and all was okay.

By the time I finally made it to Pensacola, I backed the Flex into the garage of my new house and opened the back and the cats just looked at me like I was crazy if I thought they were getting out of the car. I just let them be while I hugged my mother, set out two litter boxes and wandered around an empty house! It wasnt long before kitties were scattering all around the house. They found GREAT hiding places – Gizmo hid so well, I didnt find him for a day! Bear, of course, didnt leave my side.

Fast forward a bit of time, Mark makes his presence known pretty often. I dont think he is haunting me but I do believe he is around. After I started seriously considering trading in the Flex & Yaris, I had some issues with the Flex. Went to lunch with my daughter and when we left to go home, the alternator belt just fell off! We picked it up, it was not broken or frayed. When I got it to the shop, they said there was no way it should have come off. Well, I got it fixed and a few days later, the car just died. Fortunately, I was parked and not in the middle of the street. It ended up being a dead battery but the tow truck driver taking me to the dealer asked if someone was trying to tell me something! I said yes, my dead husband must want me to trade it in! There are things that have happened in the house that I have just attributed to him and I have to say it makes me smile.

Since being in FL, I made it through my first thanksgiving without him and our annual trip to the casino. Ashlee & her girls came down so there was a lot of busy-ness going on. I made it through my first Christmas without him and my first New Years. During all of these holidays I have surrounded myself with people, not always by choice but because it was expected.

The hardest holiday so far has definitely been Valentines Day. Mark always made such a big deal of Valentines Day. Mark first asked me to marry him on Valentines Day but he said it didnt really count since he didnt have a ring. Last year, what would be my last one with him, he went all out making the entire day about the day we first met face to face. He remembered so many little things about that trip. The color of roses he got me, the teddy bear, the first movie we saw together – all of them were reflected in the gifts he sent to me at work. All I really wanted to do was hide in my house and scream the walls down. Or maybe I just wanted to cry, or sleep or I guess feel sorry for myself. But, that is also my mother’s birthday so my daughter came in for the weekend and it was pretty much non-stop birthday celebration. Maybe I am angry about not being able to deal with my feelings but that is water under the bridge now. Chelsea did let me talk a bit that night when we got home but I didnt want her to feel uncomfortable and we were both exhausted.

I made it through my birthday without him beside me. While we never made a huge deal out of that day because of work, he always did something amazing – like the year I turned 55- I got 55 balloons. They were massive and filled my work bay. And flowers- that man always sent flowers! How can you not feel the love?

All these “firsts” have come and gone. I wonder if the 2nds are going to be hard and then I realize, how could they NOT be hard. How can the 15th not be hard? While I am sure they all wont take my breath away, they will still hurt – every day hurts. Every day has a hole. That hole will never go away.

There is so much more to share – so much that has happened. Good things, not so good things, easy things, hard things. The Corona Virus has thrown the world into a loop – making it hard to do anything! I am fortunate to work with a great firm who allowed me to work remotely so when the office “shut down”, work continued as normal for me and everyone else slid right in place working from home. At a time when so many are losing their job (or being furloughed), I am so very thankful, we can work this way – away from the public! I am trying very hard to keep mom healthy as well as my temporary roommate. I worry myself sick over Chelsea working in a hospital but she is very self aware and is taking all precautions she can while still taking care of her patients (and us!). I worry about the stress this is causing her and her gentle loving heart as she sees things we dont. I know we will get through this but I wonder how high the cost will be – for us all.

I have been staying busy with work but have a little different mind set this year. I realized that years past while I worked “busy season” and Mark understood it, I lost so much. It was a brutal lesson I learned last year… BRUTAL. So I committed myself to not work as much and ensure that I am spending time with family regardless of the workload. I think I have found a happy medium and COVID-19 has slowed things down a bit since they extended everything. Working from home helps, too, because I can work at 3 am if I cant sleep or if I need to do so. There is not an hour long drive to get to work or home again. How I wish I would have had this opportunity last year (or years prior) but I didnt (or I didnt push for it) and I lost.

I told you this would be rambling, kind of all over the board but, I am going to be back soon so my thoughts will be more focused.

Maybe those “dodo birds” came to FL with me?

Softly as I leave you

Softly I will leave you Softly For my heart would break If you should wake And see me go So I leave you Softly Long before you miss me Long before your arms can beg me stay For one more hour For one more day After all the years I can’t bare the tears To fall So softly, as I leave you there

Six months after Mark left me softly, I am about to take that first step that will take me away from the home Mark & I shared. I considered moving in to Cedar Rapids, trying not to make major changes too quickly. Anyone who knows where we lived, knows I could not take care of the acreage and would NEVER be able to plow myself out once the snow started flying. I looked at two houses that truly would have been perfect for me but couldnt stop crying a single moment in either of them.

After much time in prayer, begging for guidance, I made the decision not to put of what I knew I would end up doing. Makes no sense to move only to move again when the “dust settled”. In the matter of 3 days, I found a house I loved, figured out how I could make the move and realized it all put me in a position to be there for my mom – hard to imagine that was not in the forefront of my thoughts. The only thing now, was to find a job and tell my boss. Little did I know my boss would change my world AGAIN by immediately saying I could become a remote worker. I stress this is beyond my ability to comprehend. So any factors here have been influenced by a higher power… yes, GOD. For it all to fit perfectly… and suddenly… there is no other explanation.

Here I am…moving out! I moved two of Mark’s light dressers … funny story. I gave them to a friend but as I was pulling one of them down the stairs (my feet were solid and I did NOT miss a step), I swear I felt someone PUSH on the dresser causing me to take a stumble down the stairs head over.. well you know – with the dresser following me down. Yes, I am ok, I told Mark he didnt have to push me. You know me.. I have to find a giggle. The movers came last weekend and started that journey to warmer weather. The temperatures started to drop. Mark & I always kept it cold in our house so it wasnt bad until it dropped into the 30s. I turned on the heat only to find it wasnt working. Now I only have a few days remaining so I am NOT going to call someone to come fix it. Then it dropped into the 20s… I have no fewer than 7 heavy blankets on my bed now. Someone came over to look at some stuff I was selling – did I mention he is a heating & plumbing guy? 🙂 Well, it seems Mark turned the propane off at the tank so there was no propane to heat the house. I swear I heard him laugh that night. My last two nights in the house, I enjoyed a selfish 65 with only 2 blankets.

I share all this to let you all know that Mark is with me. He is still a trickster. As long as he doesnt jump out from behind a door I am ok with it all. But then wouldnt I love seeing him again? I made sure I got a copy of the answering machine recording of his voice before I lost it forever so I will be able to hear him for some time to come!

As I leave Iowa, I leave so much more than Mark and the memories (good & bad) we shared. I leave friends who will forever be a part of who I am and sure better come visit me!!! These friendships were strong and honest but sharing Mark’s death, they became stronger and more endearing. People I would never have leaned on before, were the very people holding me up at times. The tears I am shedding and will probably do so most of the drive, are not just for Mark they are for the loss of all the smiles I will not see regularly, for the laughter, for the hugs, for the jokes, and so many more things I can name …. The tears will be for you all…for my selfish need to keep you close to me. Please know, as Mark is, so will you be emblazoned on my heart, in my memories.

So today when I lock this door one more time and drive down this crappy gravel road, I will try to do it softly and with the greatest love & appreciation for what and WHO Iowa has given me.

Softly… ❤