Friday, November 9, 2012

Lately I've come to a pretty big revelation in my life.  Ready?  I gotta be me.  That's it.  It seems pretty simple but to me it's kind of earthshattering.  I've tried so hard to fit into a mold that I think people want me to be that I'm exhausted most of the time.  I'm quirky, I talk a lot and I talk fast.  Sean said to me one time, "Jen, you're the most alive person I know."  And I'm slowly coming to the realization that that's okay.  Do I want to be cool?  Sure.  Do I want to be calm? Absolutely.  But, I'm not.  I used to think that growing up was letting go of all.  Now I think maybe it's embracing all that you are, good and bad and being okay with that. 

Parenting is hard.  It is literally the hardest thing I've ever done.  And I've been pretty open when I'm struggling.  I need that.  I need someone to look at me and say, "I've been there".  "I yelled at my kids today too!"  "I messed up too!"  It honestly feels like my life has been saved a little bit in that moment.  I have these people around me who don't share what they're going through.  They put on this cool exterior when I know they're drowning just like I am.  And I've tried to go down that road.  AND IT'S NOT ME.  I gotta know someone is down here in the trenches with me getting just as dirty and tired and frustrated and blessed as I am. 

Grieving is hard.  There is two other families in my town who suffered a loss very close to when I did.  The women are different than me.  They prefer to stay home and be alone in their loss.  Let me just say: There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  But then there's nothng wrong with my need to be around people.  If I'm not, then I start to feel like the weight of my loss will crush me.  For so long, I looked to them and thought they were suffering "correctly" and I wasn't.  I laugh.  A lot.  I have to find the humor in a situation or I will lose it.  And that won't be pretty.  Again, another thing I thought I was doing wrong.  But I am slowly coming to realize that my sense of humor is a gift from God. 

I can still hear Sean's words in my head.  I think that's pretty great.  I can pretty much look at any situation and know exactly what he would say.  There was one day when he looked right in my eyes and he said, "Why is that you're always the one who's wrong and they're right?"  I think about that A LOT since he died.  Why are they right and I'm wrong?  Can't we just be going through life differently?  Can't we both be right with our own distinct personalities? 

This life is hard.  A rose garden we definitely were not promised.

I think what it is is that I'm tired of feeling bad about myself.  It's like this ache in my heart that I'm finally ready to let go of. 

Monday, May 14, 2012


Saturday the boys and I went to see Sean's grave for the first time.  It was long overdue and we only went because John really wanted to see it.  I gotta admit that I had a pit in my stomach and couldn't stop crying the days leading up to the trip.  There's just something about seeing the name of the person you love the most on a gravestone that can make it pretty real.  Because of the weather conditions at the time of Sean's death, he wasn't buried for a couple of months later, so I really didn't have any idea where he was located in the cemetary.  Gratefully I have a friend who has visited him.  When I spoke with her before the trip I expressed my sadness and dread at going.  And she said that she didn't think seeing his grave would be any harder or make it more real for me because I miss him so much every day.  I got a little angry at that.  She's never been a widow and knew she couldn't possibly understand.  She went on to say that his grave was really beautiful and that it's a place that honors him.  I honestly got a little more angry.  He isn't there...I was afraid of questions the boys may have and answers maybe I wouldn't have....I was scared. 

So I went.  It's amazing what I will do for these children, the hell that I will walk through.  And the strangest thing happened.  I didn't fall apart, the boys were happy and I walked away realizing that my friend was right all along.  I know that Sean is with the Lord, like I know my own name.  I know even though his body is there, his spirit sits with the legions of angels praising the name of his Best Friend.  But, there is something about a grave.  We pass through this world quickly, and in Sean's case, much too quickly.  And it's comforting to me that there is some piece of granite in a beautiful little corner of the world with his name on it.  A little piece that says Sean was here and he isn't forgotten. 

I'm going to visit a little more often.  What I've learned about my daily grieving process, and what I'm grateful for, is that I'm not really ever able to get caught up in it.  The phone rings, a child cries, responsibilities beckon and tears are quickly, maybe too quickly, wiped away.  That brief moment of time has passed.  But, when I go to the cemetary all will be quiet.  There I will just be able to be a widow. A woman who just needs to sit and cry for the love that is gone.  And in this season of my life I'm grateful that such a place exists. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Our Two Gifts

On Sean's birthday, I like to think that today we gave him two gifts.  The first came from me.  Let me explain.  When the whole Hillary Clinton book came out about how it takes a village to raise a child I honestly thought it was a crock.  I still think the main influences on a child are their parents and was too much of a control freak to think that anyone else really made that much of a difference.  And then January 11, 2011 came along and that theory was blown out the window.  Half of my whole was gone.  And I truly began to realize that I need the people that are in my sons' lives.  I need their teachers, their Sunday School leaders, their Awana leaders, their friends, their friend's families to help me raise these children.  And that was really not more true than yesterday.  Logistically, my life can be a little difficult but thankfully I have really kind people nearby to help.  Hunter had a birthday party to go to and I arranged for John to go to his friend Mason's house.  Let me interrupt myself here.  Back story:  John would ride the Superman ride at Six Flags but would not get on his bike.  Literally.  He was terrified of the thing.  And I just knew in my heart it was time for him to get on it and ride.  I asked Grant, Mason's father to help me.  He was a good one to ask, I don't know too many more laid back people than him.  I brought John and the bike to his house during that birthday party and said, "Will you please teach my son how to ride his bike?"  Confession time: that was hard for me.  I felt like a little bit of a failure as a parent with this.  I felt like it was my responsibility to teach him but I knew that I just wasn't the one.  And that was all right.  So, I dropped him off and did what I do best - I cried halfway to the party.  Tears that I wouldn't see him learn, tears that Sean wouldn't be the one to teach him and, honestly, relief that I could pass that on to someone else. So, Sean's first gift was my acceptance that maybe I can't always be the be-all and end-all in my sons' lives (persish the thought).  But there will be people in their lives that will come alongside them and love them.  What a gift to their father.  

The second gift came from my John himself.  I got to Grant's house after the party and he said, "Yeah, he knows how to ride and he's doing a good job."  Just like that.  You know how your children will ultimately teach you more than you'll teach them?  Yeah.  I got that in spades.  John got on the bike, looked me straight in the eye and said, "Mama, I just didn't know how much fun it would be."  God, I love that little boy.  Talk about a life lesson right there.  How many times have we missed something because of fear and missed all that fun?  I know I have.  So, I think the gift John gave was his willingness to try (once his mother went away) and he did it.  John is living through the darkest days of his life and he triumphed.  He could have kicked and screamed and refused to even try.  Sean is watching that.  I can only imagine that he was cheering him on from above.  And I hope that we made him proud. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sean's Birthday

Tomorrow is Sean's birthday.  Tomorrow he would have been 49 years old.  And all I want to do in the quiet moments of today is cry. 

I got so many phone calls and cards on the anniversary of Sean's death and it made me heartsick.  Not the love that people showed, but that the darkest day of my life was given any attention at all.  The notice of the day gave weight to it.   I talked with a friend who has gone through a devastating loss this year too and when people asked her what she planned to do to commemorate the one-year loss of her daughter, she hit the nail on the head.  She said, "I'm going to try to forget the worst day of my life."  That's how I feel too.  I appreciated the love that people showed but I just hated being reminded of it so much.

But, his birthday.  That's a different story.  That's a day that should be remembered.  Sean was in a word magnificent.  He was the hardest working man I know, he was the kindest, most honest, forgiving, loving man to ever grace this planet.  I was so proud to be his wife and he loved me and our sons.  His birthday honestly always used to stress me endlessly.  He loved angel food cake, his favorite, and I struggled every year to make a good one for him.  He didn't have a lot of family so I felt a great responsibility to really show him how loved he was on his birthday.  I would give anything to have to make another one of those dreadful cakes.  And fret over not doing enough or worrying that I had gone way overboard.   

He honestly lived every single day of his life.  He gave and he gave and sometimes fell into bed with the exhaustion of the day after serving so many people in his life.  I'm going to tell his sons what a remarkable husband he was, how he was the one who took the first lock of the boys' hair, how much he loved them.  I'm going to try to show them the husband and father he was so that one day they will follow in his footsteps.  That they will one day grow into the same kind of man he was.  I see his kindness and his patience in John.  I see his impishness and his generosity in Hunter.  I'm just so very proud that I get to live with his children every day. 

Your birthday is a celebration of your life.  The years you've lived and the ones still down the road.  It's a day to take stock and make some changes if you need to.  It's a big day.  So, as I sit here on the eve of Sean's birthday, my heart is sad.
He was taken away from people who loved him so much.   But I won't let them forget.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Lesson I Learned From My New Hat

This is a picture of the hat I recently knitted for myself.  To say I love this hat would be a huge understatement.  I loved the whole process of knitting it because it wasn't easy.  I had to rip it out and start over about five times.  I was frustrated and angry but I kept at it.  And the finished item was something I just adored.  And I'm so glad I persevered. 

Saturday morning rolls around and I start to get ready to go to John's basketball game.  It's a Park and Rec game held at our local middle school.  And I really want to wear my new hat.  So, I put it on.  Then I took it off.  Then I put it on again and took it off again.  I did this about five times.  I even stooped so low to ask John (who's only 7 for goodness sake) if it looked okay.  It was bordering on ridiculous.  Gosh, I miss Sean, he really had such patience for me when I got like this. 

It's only a hat....I know, I know.  But  I just worried that people would think I look silly.  It's hard when you're forty but your heart feels sixteen.  So I talked to myself a lot.  I have a confession to make.  I worry about what people think of me.  All the time.  It almost borders on excessive.  And I know deep down in my heart it has to stop. 

When Sean died, part of me died too.  And I don't say that to sound maudlin, it's just the truth.  When he died, I looked at the world differently and I honestly have tried to embrace that and live in a way that's opposite of how I used to.  When the love of your life is gone and the world completely stops making sense and your life will never look the same again, things that used to matter don't anymore.  And I keep forgetting that.  It doesn't matter what people think of my new hat.  I love it.  And that is ALL that matters.

So I wore my hat on Saturday morning and I didn't even cause a blip in the world.  It didn't cause an international incident and I'm pretty sure the people of Old Lyme aren't buzzing about it.  But, it was a huge step for me.  I shed a little more of the old Jen and that was pretty big for me.  I started listening to that still small voice that is crying out to be heard. 


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

One Year Ago

One year ago tomorrow will mark the one year anniversary of Sean's death.  I honestly don't know what to say.  One year ago I woke up as someone's wife and went to bed as someone's widow.  I will never be the same again.  Cancer is not just  something that affects people I don't know anymore but rather it's an intimate enemy of mine because it took my best friend.  The person I was a year ago is gone.  She was naive in some ways, she thought time was on her side.  Now I know better.  That person is gone, but I'd like to think there's a wiser person now in her place. 

One year is big but honestly it's just another day in this whole mess of missing him.  I'll miss him tomorrow when I'm watching Hunter take his swimming lessons and there will be a moment when he gets it right, when his legs and arms are in coordination, and he yells to me, "I did it Mama!"  And I'll want to look over at Sean and smile in that way that parents do when their kid does something amazing.  I will never have that again.  I'll miss him tomorrow when I will inevitably worry that I've done too much for the kids or I haven't done enough.  I'll miss his laughter and his ways. 

But, one year is big, I get that.  It's a time to reflect on all that has transpired in the last year.  Hunter started school, I bought a house, John started the second grade.  We've all had to get up and walk forward and we've done that in the last year.  I've made mistakes with my children.  But, the one thing that I hope I've given them is the resolve to press on.  That tragedies will come into your life but there can be joy and there can be laughter mixed in with the sadness.  I've been determined since the day he died to do that.  To pick up the mantel and say, "Cry when you want to cry but you better laugh when you want to laugh." 

One year - he's been gone one whole year.