Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year...

At this exact time, 8:36 am, three years ago, I was preparing for a funeral. The most difficult funeral I have ever attended. My husband’s.

I remember vividly the details of Mike’s funeral, from what I wore, what I felt, what our baby boy looked like, and more. Someone who is reading my memoir texted me the other day and said, “I can’t believe you remember this much detail. I can’t imagine what you must feel.”

The memories of Mike’s death and of his funeral are seared into my brain, my heart, and my soul forever. No matter how much I try to will them to lessen, they flood me just as strongly three years later as they did the day they unfolded before me.

In the sorrow and shock of losing my best friend, I could not fathom a thought of it being New Years Day. “Normal” people were partying the night before, oblivious to my family’s and my pain. They were dressed up, kissing their significant other as the clock struck midnight on NYE. I was in my days old pajamas, awake with sobs, when a New Year, 2015, rolled over. I was lying in our bed crying to God to help me just make it through the day. I could not believe I was about to bury my husband.

So much of me died that first day of January, 2015. So much of me went into that dark hole with Michael. So much of me was left in the wind that whipped through the cemetery as cows bellowed at the fence. I died with him. I became so much less than I used to be: less happy, less vibrant, less cheerful, less sure, less strong, just less everything.

With each passing year I have fought to bring parts of myself back to life. I have cried more tears than I knew a human body held. I have felt depression in my bones and in my muscles, something I never realized was so physical. I have sat in silence, shutting myself off emotionally and mentally from everyone, including my son. I have turned down more invitations extended by friends or family than I care to count. I have left our church and have not found a new one yet. I have neglected my relationship with God, with my son, with Mike’s family, with my own family, and with just about everyone I know. I have promised to “come back” and have failed to epic proportions.

Wow. That is a lot of sucking at life I have done.

But here is the good that has filled my life the past three years, against all odds.

I have watched my son grow into an amazing teenage boy, who is so funny and smart and kind and thoughtful and resilient beyond my expectations. He has made me laugh, and cry, and yell (his room is a disaster and he is a teenager, so mouth = high speed), but he has also saved me. I have watched Mike in Conner. I have seen my husband in Conner’s ornery grin; I have heard him in Conner’s chuckle and seen him in the way Con tilts his head back and claps his hands when something is really funny. That has brought me joy.

I have prayed. Every single day I have prayed. Multiple times I talk to God, asking Him to bless our family and friends with good health, safety and happiness. I have asked Him to tell Mike how much we love and miss him. I have thanked Him for blessing us with a home, my job, our vehicle, our groceries, our family and friends, our own health, safety and happiness, our everything. That has brought me peace when nothing else could.

I have had experiences I never imagined would come to fruition: serving as a high school principal; driving to Chicago, Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, and more all by myself (seems small, but Michael drove all the “big trips”); publishing our love story for our boy; humbling myself enough to return to teaching when my principal life was not good for my son; repairing things in my house and on my farm (from spraying and mowing fence rows to replacing a car orator in my weed eater to replacing the bake element in my oven). I have dated again (that wasn’t easy at all); I have allowed myself to feel; I have developed new friendships and rekindled old ones. This has all brought me strength.

Three years. Wow. No part of me can believe the calendar has rolled over that many times since my life changed drastically, in a horribly debilitating and final way.

I have never been one to make, well to keep anyway, New Years Resolutions. Sure, I always think in my head: I have GOT to get in shape and lose some weight (ha, fat chance...pun intended), or I will do this or do that. But the truth is, I simply have learned that with each new year since Mike, my goal is just to survive. To grow from this tragedy. To be a better mom. To have a better relationship with God. To just BE and DO better.

But God has me and He loves me just the way I am. I have experienced enough failure and sorrow in my years to not set myself up for more by setting goals I’m not sure I can meet. I just want to continue on my path of loving, living, and hoping, and through God all that is possible. With my son by my side, all that is doable.

So I send good wishes to you all for a happy, healthy, safe, and prosperous 2018.

As for me and my boy, we will just keep keepin’ on. And heal every step of the way.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Three Years.

Three years.

1,095 Days.

Some days it seems so much shorter, and some days it seems so much longer.

His middle name was Richard.
His hair was dark.
His eyes were hazel.
His skin was golden.

He was born on the East coast and moved to Missouri when he was about 6 years old.
He used to tell a story of when he rode his bike in their neighborhood.
Once he was even hit by a passing car.
He just hopped right back up and went on.

His first day of first grade ended with him going home upset.
A classmate made fun of his buzzed haircut all day long.

His second day of first grade began with a punch to that classmate's mouth.
His dad told him he better stop that bully, or he’d get a whippin’ when he got home.
He stopped the bully.

One time when as a young boy he chose the less than acceptable vernacular.
His mom decided to wash his mouth out with soap.
He bit the end of the soap off.
He cussed often.
The soap incident did not deter him.

When he was just 17, he enlisted.
He spent two years in the Marine Corps, exploring places like Hawaii and Taiwan.
But never anywhere for very long.
He taught our son some of the “clean” cadences.

His momma tried to protect him, and to teach him
to forgive,
to love gently,
to be patient.
Not just with others, but also with himself.

He never could.

He spoke in a graveled voice that stole my soul with the first, "Hey, this is Mike Hollis, how are you?"
His hands were calloused, scarred, and bruised.
His smile was perfect and his teeth were crooked.
His walk showed a commanding gait.
He knew where he was going and what he was doing with every step.

He couldn't dance to save his life, but he sure swept me around our kitchen floor several times.
His laugh was contagious and carried notes of happiness with every ounce of it.
He was up for anything, as long as it was his idea.
He worked tirelessly and endlessly to build a dream he hoped he would see carried through.

His heart was tender.
His love was pure and endless.
His temper was wild.
His sorrows ran deep.

He was so proud of his two sons.
He saw a future with them working together.
Growing together.
Raising their children, our grandchildren, on this farm.
Happily married, visiting mom and dad for dinners in this house.

He did not get to live out his dream.

He did not get to grow old.

He did not get to grow old with me.

He did not get to watch his sons grow into men.
To see them graduate.
To see them become husbands.
To see them welcome their babies into the world.

He did not get to become a grandpa.
He did not get to say he was sorry.
He did not get to forgive.
Or himself.

But what he did do was make an impact on all those he encountered.
He left his mark on this world.
On this farm.
On his sons' hearts.
On his wife's heart.

Three years.

1,095 Days.

Some days it seems so much shorter, and some days it seems so much longer.

His middle name was Richard.
His hair was dark.
His eyes were hazel.
His skin was golden.

So, I say his name.
Over and over again.
I say his name.

I hope that Heaven is the most beautiful place we always imagined it to be. I hope that the sun warms your skin and that your laughter is endless.  I hope that you smile all day long and rest in the glow of those you love.

We are making it down here.  It is a struggle some days, but others bring new happiness. Happiness we never expected to feel again.  Hope.  Hope we never dreamed could form itself within our broken hearts and souls. But happiness and hope come anyway. They come in spite of the scars.

I love you more than words can ever say. I will love you for the rest of my life.

I am so lucky, blessed, grateful, all the words you want to call it, to have been loved by you.
Loved by you for the rest of your life.

I wasn't your first love. I wasn't your first chance.
But I was your last.  And that is more than enough.
To know that you left this world loving me is more than enough.
 I know that you would have stayed home with us that day, had you known how it would have turned out.

But, none of us know.  We only know what we have in the here and now.

I had you.
And now I have our son.
A part of you.
The best parts of you.

Thank you for loving me, Michael Richard.
Thank you for giving me all of you. The best of you. The last of you.

Rest well, my love.
Until I see you again, I'll be loving you.

Your Wife

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Lonely SUCKS...

I have struggled my entire life with self esteem. I never have understood why I allow comparisons to sneak into my mind and leave me wishing I was skinnier, prettier, smarter, wealthier, happier, etc... but I do. And now I wish I could have what I want like so many people.

I wish it.


I have recently found myself comparing journeys of widowhood and comparing my personal journey in this stupid club with other widows'/widowers' journeys. 

I see so many widowed people who appear happier than I am. Some of these people I envy are ones I actually know, and some are ones with whom I have connected via social media.  They are in relationships, moving forward from their grief with a new love worthy of their tender hearts.  And I am SO INCREDIBLY HAPPY FOR THEM.  I am so proud for them.  I just wish I was them. 

My story is unique. It is mine and mine alone; therefore, my journey moving through this tragedy of loss is mine as well. Everyone of us has a unique story.  

So why in the world should I, or any of us, compare our grief or our moving forward from it to others'? Why do we find ourselves envious?  And I am not the only one to feel all of this; trust me, I have made plenty of connections in the widow world and there are several of us who talk about it all the time.

And we have a one word answer to the why: LONELINESS.

I have been widowed 2 years, 8 months, and 254 days. 
I am alone.  
I am lonely.

For the first six months post-loss, I was in shock and in the deep throes of grief.  I could not breathe or dare imagine dating anyone again, falling in love, any of it.  

Then for two years I was immersed in the life of a high school principal and had about 5 seconds to myself.  I was so busy going to events, supervising various functions, throwing myself into my new role, that I never had the experience of the depth of loneliness.  I was never alone.  

And when the rare moment came when I was alone, no event to supervise and the boy with his brother or something, I relished in those moments.  I caught up with house work.  I wrote.  I watched meaningless tv.  I escaped and very rarely felt the true magnitude of lonely.

Now, holy cow has it hit like a ton of bricks.  

I am lonely.  

And lonely SUCKS.  

It does not matter where I am, what I am doing, who I am with or without, what time of day it is...I am lonely. Some friends have stopped inviting me to events. Many have stopped calling or texting to check in.  A couple still remain, but mostly, it is me and the boy.  And being with Conner is totally different than the companionship I miss. My heart literally aches for companionship.  I ache for the comforts of love and togetherness.  

And then with this lonely ache, I also become so frustrated when I'm still "alone" after this long because of what some people have recently said to me.

"Your intelligence, success and looks intimidate men.  Maybe that's why you haven't found someone yet." Or, "You need to be alone for a while.  Figure out who you are."

First, I know who I am. I know my worth.  I know that I am happiest when I am with someone who makes me happy and who I can make happy.  I love being in love.  I love being in a relationship.  I love sharing the adventure of life with someone.

And second, are you kidding me? What the heck does the first question even mean?!?! I'm supposed to look like death warmed over, NOT work hard, NOT do anything positive or productive in my life and THEN I'll have a man?!?! I am intimidating?  HOW in the world am I intimidating?  I wear my heart on my sleeve.  I am a caring person.  I am gentle and kind and giving.  So, I'm supposed to NOT be me in order to NOT intimidate a man, so that I can have a man???

Um, what?!?! Why??? 

Why do I have to be and do LESS to "get a man"?  Why do I have to stop working hard to advocate for widows to get a man?  Why do I have to lower my standards and expect less to get a man?  Why do I have to change how I think and how I behave when it comes to dating and my routines to get/keep a man?  

Now, don't get me wrong.  I am NOT above anyone.  I'm not by any stretch meaning that I have to "lower my standards" and "settle" for any man.  I simply mean in the process of dating and communicating, spending time together, making a relationship work, I have expectations and wants.  But never have I been and never will I be "above/better" than anyone else. Does that mean I want to date a man who dates multiple women, drinks in excess, etc??? No. 

It means when a man in whom I am interested and to whom I am attracted comes along, then I am so ready. It just means when I date someone, I want to DATE them. I want more than just casual.  I've never dated casually and I honestly do not know how to date without establishing feelings.  

I have dated two men since becoming a widow.  They are both equally great men.  One, I felt less of a connection to, even though I tried to make myself, and I ended it because I knew I was not feeling in my heart any chance of moving forward and developing an actual relationship.  

The other one, I wanted everything with. 

Either way, I am not above anyone, but I am not about to change my expectations of an "old fashioned, this is how it's supposed to be done" dating scene.  

I learned at a young age that dating means something. There is a point to dating, at least at my age: a relationship. 

Of course I know many young people, in their late teens, 20s, and even in their early 30s, who have no desire to settle down yet.  And they date casually, or they bounce from "boyfriend/girlfriend" to the next one.  There is nothing wrong with that whatsoever, but dang it, I'm 39 years old.  At this point in my life, after two marriages (first one ended in divorce), a 13 year old son, my own house/land, etc... I don't know if I want to get married again. I honestly don't. But I sure don't want to just go from one date to another, with a different man each time.

I'm a relationship kind of girl.  Always have been.  

I had two relationships which gave me chances at happily ever after already in my life.  They each taught me valuable lessons.  

The first, taught me how to be a better wife.  I wasn't the best wife to my ex-husband; I was a kid who didn't grow up until our last year of marriage. He taught me the value of compromise. He prepared me to be a better wife when Mike came along. 

Then in my marriage to Mike, I compromised all of the time. Sometimes I think I compromised too much.  He was stubborn.  He kept things from me.  I didn't know it then, but I do now.  But, I loved him with all of myself and he loved me back.  He taught me to never take one day, one breath, one second for granted.  I lost him way too soon. 

And now I am alone.  I want a final chapter.  We won't be each other's firsts, but I want so much to find someone who loves me enough to be my last and for me to be his. 

I want so much more out of life. I deserve so much more out of life. So does my son. 

Life is precious and I don't want to do it alone.  

I want someone to share it all with.  

I want happiness again.
I want love again.
I want a relationship.  
I want to hold hands and go to a Cardinals game.
I want to take rides on the four wheeler or ranger and laugh together.
I want to hunt together.
I want to gig together. 
I want to plan weekend getaways together. 
I want to be held and kissed and wanted.
I want to have meals together at my dinner table.
I want to snuggle on the couch and watch a movie.
I want to be seen together in public, as a couple. 
I want to be a priority.  
I want to be loved again.  
I want to see him with my son, laughing, teaching him important "man things".
I want to go to church together and pray together.
I want to laugh until tears run down my cheek. 
I want him to look at me, really look at me, in awe of what we have together.
I want texts throughout the day.
I want an occasional surprise bouquet with a simple card that says, "I love you."
I want him to have his guy time and me to have my girl time, but come running back to each other after.
I want to hang out with him and his buddies and hear stories of their friendship.  
I want him to join me and my friends at our impromptu class dinners and I want him to be proud he caught me.
I want to feel safe in his arms.  
I want to feel secure in knowing I am all that he wants, for the rest of his life.
I want to make him feel the same.
I want happiness again.  
I want love again.

Because grief is hard. 

Widowhood is hard.

I didn't choose either.

And they have robbed me of all that I had and all that I want.  

And they have made me so lonely.

And being lonely SUCKS.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

14 Years Ago...

We were supposed to live happily ever after.
To grow old together.
We promised to love and honor, never to forsake, and to have and to hold...
Till death do us part.

14 years ago we stood on the green grass of Arkansas (Mike always made a joke wondering if we were legally married since we wed in Arkansas) and committed our forever to each other.
I got his forever.
Way sooner than either of us ever imagined.
He didn't get mine and I wanted more than anything to give it to him.

I wanted to give him forever.
I wanted to give him till death do us part in a way that meant we were old beyond numbers, wrinkled and gray but still holding on to each other.
I wanted our happily ever after to mean we became one of those old married couples who hold each other's hand as we slip off to forever, only minutes apart.
Having lived a life full of love and dreams.
Having raised our sons to become fine family men.
Having witnessed the birth of our grandchildren and for them to give us great-grandchildren.
That's what I wanted.
I wanted his forever.
I got it.

I just wish I hadn't gotten his forever end of the deal so soon.

The past two anniversaries without him, I have wept for days leading up to August 9.
I have had a pit in my stomach.
I have shaken and hidden away at home, no makeup, in my pajamas, ignoring that I am still alive. Ignoring that I have Mike's forever in our amazing little boy (who isn't so little anymore).
Not wanting to see anyone, talk to anyone, or acknowledge that life goes on.

On this third anniversary of a marriage that was supposed to stand the test of time, I am different.
Mike's untimely death changed me.
It broke so much of me that a new me had to emerge.
The new me had to claw her way to life.
So on this third anniversary of a marriage that was supposed to stand the test of time. I will not cry.
I will not wallow in the depths of grief.
I will not hide away with no makeup or still in my pajamas.

Because, I did get Mike's forever.
He loved me until his final breath.
And I still have his forever in the brown eyes, dark skin, and freckles of our son.

Marriage made me a wife.
Death made me a widow.
It robbed me of one of my most favorite titles.
But it cannot rob me of the rest--
I am Veronica.
I am Conner's Mom.
I am a teacher.
I am a Sister, an aunt, a daughter.
I am a writer.
I am a speaker.
I am a business owner.
I am a forgiver.
I am a friend.
I am worthy of happiness again.
I am worthy of love again.

YES, worthy and deserving and wanting of happiness and love again.

And YOU are too.
Don't let widowhood define you.
Let it empower you.
It takes a long time, I know.
Don't think I "got here" overnight or that I journeyed here too soon post-loss.
I have slept in this bed, this half empty bed, for two years, eight months, and nine days.
I have cried more tears than anyone knows; some out loud in thundering fashion, some secret and silent.
I have ached inside my soul and in every inch of my body.
I have felt the grips of loneliness like nobody's business.
I have prayed countless prayers for strength, grace and for The Lord's Will to be what comes my way.
I have grown new dreams inside my heart, only to see some of them come to fruition and some of them wither away.
I have lived in sorrow and regret.
I have lived in fear and anxiety.
I have lived in desperation.
But no more.

I want to live.
Just live.
With no more words on the end, like sorrow or fear.
I just want to live.
The best I can with Mike's forever growing more and more each day into a fine young man who makes his momma, and daddy, proud every day.

And I hope somewhere along the way that the man who God wants to fulfill my forever, realizes it, falls madly in love with me, sweeps me off my feet, and promises me his forever.
I will gladly give him mine.

Happy Anniversary in Heaven, Michael.
I hope the sunshine is warm on your face and the grass is cool beneath your feet.
Thank you for your forever.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

No Comparison...

Since I became widowed more than 2 1/2 years ago, I have not dated much. I have very little experience dating at all actually, and especially now as a widow.

I mean, I went from "dating", aka passing notes with, my first husband when I was 13 years old to being a young wife. We were together off and on until I turned 18 and then we married just three months after my 18th birthday. After five years of marriage, well legally just two weeks shy of five years, we divorced.

Just weeks after leaving my home with my ex-husband, Mike called me. We began dating and fell in love literally within a week. We moved in together in February and we married two summers later, on August 9.

So, legit that sums up my dating experience. Date a man, he sweeps me off my feet, marry said man, build a life, family, and home with said man, then I THINK I have happily ever after nailed down.

Dating epic fail #1 ended in divorce.
Dating epic fail #2 ended in death.

I'm batting 1,000.

So, with this newfound life of a widow, which sucks royally, I have found myself vulnerable but closed off. I want to date but am filled with insecurities and fear. I fall hard and fast, obviously. Lol... I mean I married the two men I've dated and loved in my life. Cheese and rice!

But lately I've been reading so much on dating a widowed person, falling in love, potentially marrying, much of which has come about since the engagement of Patton Oswalt, that all of these writings have my mind spinning with wonder.

So, I often wonder what it must be like to date a widowed person, to try and fall in love with her, possibly second guessing oneself the entire time. I wonder if insecurities rush to the surface leaving the "new" person brimming with fear of comparison, of rejection, of not being loved as much as "the other" was, and more. I have been able to put myself in Mike's shoes many times since his passing, writing words I know he would say to me, and I feel like I may be able to put myself in a "new" love's shoes as well.

Because see, when I love, I love with all that I am and will ever be. I give myself completely to the man I love. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually...all of me forever. And I CANNOT WAIT to do this again.

And when I do, here is exactly what I'll want to say:

New man, new love, worthy love,
whenever you walk into my life, here is what you will need to know.

I don't play around.
I don't dapple in "relationship roulette".
Because if and when we ever get to this point, and I'm so excited about the future possibilities of love again, know that I chose YOU.
I chose you from the moment we met.
I chose you for good reasons.
You are beyond worthy of my love or I would not be wasting what precious time I've been given.

But keep in mind, I'm worthy too.
I've fought so hard to become who I am, to become worthy of limitless love.

I have so much more to offer this time around.
And if you can't handle all the love I have to offer, then weak is your middle name and you need to step away and wipe your hands clean of anything to do with me.
Don't hurt me.
Don't you dare tread upon my heart and leave it broken.
I've just now gotten it healed enough to love again.
So you better respect me, appreciate me, spoil me, and love me endlessly.
I deserve it.
So much I deserve it.

Let me see if I can articulate just how important, loved, respected, appreciated, wanted and NOT compared you are.

NO to all of your insecurities. Just plain NO.

No comparison takes place.
I'm not comparing you to anyone.
That's not how this works.
Love is not compared.

When I am with you, in your arms, holding onto you...YOU are the forefront of my thoughts.
When I hear your voice on the other end of the line, when I see your name scroll across with a text nessage, YOU are the forefront of my thoughts.
When I wake in the mornings, I check my phone to see if maybe you started missing me in the middle of the night.
I smile and my heart melts when I get the "good morning, beautiful" text.
When I lay my head against my pillow at night, and the other half of the bed is empty, YOU are who I'm missing.
YOU are who I wish was filling that void.

I fell in love with you for YOU, not for who Mike was.
He was a good man.
But he is not here.
You are.
And I am so madly, deeply, and hopelessly in love with YOU.

I fell in love with you for the way you make me laugh.
For  the way you look at me.
For the way you hold my hand.
For the way you kiss me like you mean it.
For the way you treat my son.
For the sweet and kind things you say.
For the way my name rolls off your lips.
I fell in love with YOU. I am IN LOVE WITH YOU.

My heart beats for you, and it beats to a new rhythm.
The rhythm that I crave--the one that gives me butterflies all of the time.
My heart wants you. Craves you. Needs you. LOVES you.

Do I love Mike still? Absolutely and endlessly.
But do I love you as well? Unequivocally and endlessly, YES.
Do I love him more than I love you? NO. Absolutely not. There is no comparison.
I just love him DIFFERENTLY than I love you.

See the widowed heart grows after loss.
A widowed heart keeps a place for her late spouse.
The love the two of them shared stays with the widowed heart.
Their love was unfinished when he was taken.
But her heart, once it heals, balloons. Almost ready to explode because she is so ready to love.
So willing.
So ready to give all the love she was not able to give before.

Loving Mike does NOT by any stretch of the imagination hinder my love for you.
See, there is a difference between being IN LOVE and LOVING someone.
When Mike was here, I was more in love with him than I could ever imagine being with someone. Until YOU.

You are here, in the present, in my arms, on my mind, in my heart.
You wrap your arms around me and I can FEEL your love. I want you to feel mine too.
I WANT you.
Leave no room for doubt.

You are so important to me, to my life.
I want to make you happy.
I want to spoil you until I'm all you want or need.
I want to share a life with you.
I want to make happiness with you by my side, in my son's life, as part of our family. I want you to become our family.

I respect you and who you have become to my son and me.
I respect all of your dreams and hopes for the future.
I respect your questions you may want to ask about Mike, about who I used to be.
I respect all of your curiosities and will answer to all of them without hesitation.
I respect what you do for a career and think you are extremely smart.
If I didn't respect you and all that you are, I would not put forth the effort I do.

I appreciate you and all that you do for me, for us.
I appreciate the sacrifices you make to come see me.
I appreciate the jokes you tell my son.
I appreciate the sweet and romantic gestures you make.
I appreciate that you take me out to dinner and I love being seen wth you.
I appreciate all that you are and all that you enjoy.
If I didn't appreciate you and everything you do, I wouldn't be here.

Remember that I chose you. YOU.
And only you.
And I will choose you again and again, every day for as long as you let me.
Can I live without you? Absolutely.
Do I want to? Unequivocally, NO.

So, take this heart, with all of its intricately woven and beautiful scars, and cherish it.
Love it.
Be gentle with it.
Don't be afraid to hold onto it tightly.
Allow it to love you more fully than you could ever imagine being loved.

Only YOU.
Endlessly and hopelessly YOU.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

My 39th Without Him...

39 years.
My third birthday alone.
My third birthday since my husband died.
Left me alone to raise our son.
Left me alone to handle debt, cows, a farm, life.

Who would have thought 39 years ago when this new tiny baby came into the world, that she would have to survive such heartache?
She would have to die, a part of her anyway.
She would have to sink to depths unimaginable.
She would have to wallow in the pits of depression, loneliness, grief and fear for so long.

But then she would have to crawl.
Fall again.
Only to rise from the ashes.

Who would have thought 39 years ago when this new tiny baby came into the world, that she would become so powerful?
And she didn't even know it.
She didn't know she had it in her.
She didn't know what she was capable of until she was forced to try.
On her own.

Sure, her weaknesses still exist.
They are powerful.
Creatures of the night, stealing her smiles when she sits alone in the darkness.
Her weaknesses grow sometimes to epic proportions.
She cannot contain them.
She cannot extinguish their flames.
So instead, she gives her weaknesses to God.

She fails at that sometimes too, as we all do when worry, self-doubt, and anxiety are just part of human nature.
She fails to hand Him all of her troubles every day.
She wants to. She really does.
But the pain is so big.
The loss is so big.
The love remaining is so big.

But so is God.
Actually He is bigger.
His pain was much bigger.
His loss was much bigger.
His love remains endlessly on an epic scale.

So she knows she will be ok.
She knows she will continue growing, learning, loving, laughing, and living.
He has her.
And she is beyond grateful and blessed.

I feel Mike talking to me again.
So I decided to write a letter from him to me.
Yeah, it may be crazy, but there's so much of that intertwined with the life of a widow, so who cares. It's what I feel and it's what I KNOW he would say.

Hey Babe,

Happy Birthday.
I'm sorry I'm not there today. Wish I could have gotten you a candle, McDs for breakfast, and a card from me and the boys.
I always loved seeing your face light up when you walked in the kitchen and there sat your spread of goodies from us.

My gosh, I loved you.
I loved you so hard.
Harder than I ever thought I could.
I still do.
I know how quick we started. I know how scared we both were, and neither of us lookin' for anything.
You took me by surprise.

I miss the early morning talks in bed, before getting up for coffee to start our day.
I miss layin' there talking and laughing, flirting with each other like we were teenagers.
I miss holdin' your hand. I know I didn't hold it enough. I mean, in public anyway. Haha.

Thank you for always spoilin' me.
Thank you for loving me back with all of your heart and soul.
I know I was a hard man to love.
I know I hurt you sometimes and I was selfish with some things.
I'm sorry I didn't tell you everything.
I'm sorry.

I'm sorry I left you with all I did.
I should've listened.
I should've stopped.
Know I had good intentions.
I mean, I know you know that, but I just really need you to keep remembering that.

I'm proud of you.
Do you know that?
How proud I am of you?
Look at you.
Look at what you've handled since I left.
Look at HOW you've handled it.
You amaze me.

Remember your dream the other morning?
The one that woke you up crying?
I was there.
It was me.
I just had to see you.
I had to bring you that memory.
That touch.
That closeness.
I miss you.

I'm so proud of you though.
Thank you for taking your time with things.
I want you to be careful.
I want you to be happy.
I want you to be loved, baby.
That may sound crazy comin' from me, but I do.
Remember how we talked about it some?
Time to move on if something should happen to one of us?
I know, I know, it's not movin' ON. I get it. I do.
But you know what I mean.

I remember us talkin' about it.
I told you 6 months max.
You slapped me on the arm when I said it because you knew that meant that was the longest I'd wait. Haha.
But 6 months. Remember?
Well babe, it's been a lot longer than 6 months.

I want you to love again.
And I want you to be loved again.
So hard.
Just as hard as I loved you.
Even harder.

I want him to make you happy.
I want him to make our son happy.
I want him to wrap you up so tight you don't have room for tears anymore.
I want him to give you all that I couldn't; all that I can't.
I want him to know how special you are.
How much you give of yourself every single second of the day.
I want him to realize what treasure he has if he has you.

I'll always be here.
But baby, you gotta let me go.
You gotta let me live in your heart but not be the center of attention anymore.
It's not good.
It's not healthy.
I'm here.
I'm not goin' anywhere, but you need to.
You have to.
You have to go forward.
Be loved.
Make me smile.
It would make me smile so big to know you and Con Man are taken care of.
Are happy.
Are healing.

I'm so proud of you, babe.
So proud of you.

Happy Birthday, my beautiful wife.
I'll see you when you get here, but until then, you gotta kick the shit outta 39!!! Ok?!?!

Your husband

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Requested Post...

A special group of people who immediately form a bond even if living a million miles and lifetimes apart.
A family who supports each other in all endeavors from what outfit looks good for a first date, to parenting concerns when our children are struggling with their grief, to matters of the heart trying to fall in love again, to writing our raw feelings on a page...feelings that we ALL get!
That's what we do.

I have recently received several encouraging and requesting messages from widows and widowers, some of whom I've met in person and some of whom I have only connected via social media. Because of all of these messages I decided to write a new post to address them.

One widow, in her early stages of this crappy club, reached out to me in desperation. Her heart is so badly broken, like all of ours. She does not understand how life can go on at this point. She does not understand or want to accept that it eventually will. We have ALL been there. Here is what I told her, in hopes that she will accept that in time, and that may unfortunately be a long time, she will smile again.

--Dear sweet wister, I know. I get it.
In the beginning, you feel nothing but pain like you have never felt before, sorrow that rips through your soul, regret that eats at your heart every minute, fear of the unknown future that now lays before you, uncertainty of every.single.move. you make, confusion that is warranted with so many things like life insurance, estate laws, and just how in the world you ended up a widow, and an emptiness more vast than the oceans.

Those first few days, weeks, and months there is nothing positive in your life, even as much as you wish there was, even as much as you try your best to look for it. It does not exist. Even when you look into your children's eyes, your joy has been tainted. You've been robbed of happiness, hope, and security. Every single thing brings pain. Lack of want is gone. All you want is to stay in bed, avoid everyone and everything, give up on life because life without your soulmate is not worth living.
Your body aches from the grief. Your heart literally hurts. Your hands shake, your eyes burn, your stomach churns, and your soul withers away into nothingness.

Your thoughts fixate on how it happened. Were you forced to watch your soulmate suffer through a terrible disease, trying your best to hang on as long and as tightly as possible, knowing that death was impending but not willing to accept it? Or did you receive a phone call one normal day only to learn a terrible accident had taken him/her unexpectedly? Or did you come home to find that this person with whom you shared all of yourself decided life with you was not enough and so chose to end it by his/her own hand? It does not matter how we lost; we all suffer the same. And you relive every single detail down to the seconds. Your mind replays it like an old subtitle movie, silently and in painstakingly slow motion, the details etched in words you cannot form yourself.

Your mind wanders to the future. What future? You cannot see one without your husband/wife. You cannot fathom how a smile or a laugh will ever grace your lips. You cannot imagine how your children will ever lead a "normal" or "happy" life, especially if they are young at the time. You become angry that you are alone now. How dare he/she die? How dare he/she leave us when life is what we had always imagined and worked for? When things are so good? In the prime of our lives with a beautiful home, beautiful children, beautiful plans of growing old together! HOW in the world did this just happens???? And why us?

I promise that we all get it. Every bit of it.

But I also promise that your grief WILL become easier to handle. Will it ever go away? No. It won't. But what grief will do is find a space inside you to live. See, grief and love go hand in hand. Without the love, grief would not exist. It exists because we had a love so powerful and pure and perfect here on Earth and though that love will never end, it is no longer tangible and that creates grief.

Grief comes when we can no longer experience first hand the love of our soulmate. So, the love stays alive inside us and the grief becomes its roommate. They nestle together side by side in our hearts and souls, each one breathing with every heartbeat.

Grief is strong. She is powerful and mighty and cares not about what damage she does to us in the beginning. Grief takes pride in trying to swallow us whole those first few days, weeks and months. She doesn't care that she rips through every wall we've ever built, every dream we ever shared, every ounce of love we ever poured out. She does not care. Pardon the language, but Grief is a bitch. She does her absolute best to rob us of ever feeling joy and happiness again. She is relentless in her quest to break us.

But I PROMISE you that Love is stronger. Love is gentle but packs a good punch to Grief's ugly mug. Love begins to infiltrate Grief's defenses after a while. She brings with her sweet memories. She brings with her hope and a desire to breathe again. Love tells us we are worthy of life, that we are more than the damage Grief has done to us, that we are more than our loss. Love tells us that we MUST do something good. She puts on our hearts a desire to help others like us, to pour our stories out onto pages and pages, hoping and praying that our stories help others just like us. Love gives us purpose. Purpose to continue raising our children with grit and grace, teaching them to love hard and forgive often. Love forces us to get up from that bed, take hold of what days we have been given, and tell Grief to simmer down.

Love caresses Grief into gentle submission, telling her to grow smaller so that our hearts can heal. She becomes Grief's roommate, the kind of roommate who says, "ok, you can stay here as long as you don't get too wild with your grief parties. I know every once in a while you have to let it out and that's ok, but then you better clean up after yourself and chill for a while after. This is NOT your domain. We live here together and you will not tear this heart down. You will not bulldoze it and create an empty space where I once lived. I still live here and I will forever."

And once Love and Grief work out their issues, you begin to feel a change. You learn truly and deeply within yourself that Love is stronger than Grief, no matter how different that seemed a year before. You smile more often. You laugh a genuine laugh. You pull on your "big girl panties" and you go and do and learn and create and work toward a new normal. Of course, since Grief is never moving out, she is stronger some days more than others. Big dates, like birthdays, anniversaries, and such, usually mean Grief is home and Love is resting in her room, too tried to deal with Grief's shenanigans. But Love has discussed with Grief enough that the shenanigans are short lived. And then you wipe off the dust and take a deep breath as you put one foot in front of the other.

Grief and Love co-exist. And that's OK!!! It takes a while for them to get along, but I promise with every ounce of my being that they will. It will take time. It will take tears. It will take prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. But you'll get there. I promise.

Another message I received was from a widow, of whose husband I was an acquaintance through the administration world. She reached out after I sent her a Still His tee from our store. She thanked me for writing words that seemed to be exactly what words were in her heart. She thanked me for the shirt and for reaching out. She thanked me for being a voice to so many widows and widowers. Her message meant so much to me and it is messages like hers that let me know I'm doing what God wants me to do--help others.

 A widower also messaged me shortly after attending our first widowers only Still His Dinner Party ( He thanked me for hosting and inviting him. He told me that for the first time since he lost his wife, he felt ALIVE again!! He said that his children noticed a change as soon as he returned home. He was able to laugh, cry, and share stories with like-minded people, all without faking it. He was so grateful and for that I am so grateful. We all have to learn to grow and live anew. It's so difficult, but when we support each other, nothing can stop us.

For example, blogger Erica Roman at, recently wrote a blog post in defense of Patton Oswalt and his recent angagement. The support that our widowed community has shown Erica is phenomenal! And why? Because she wrote every word that we all felt!!! We all became instantly enraged when Mr. Oswalt became engaged, almost a year and a half after entering this ridiculous club, only to receive criticism and judgment from NON WIDOWS!!! Erica is so right and hit the nail on the head with shouting through her words that unless you are one of us, BACK OFF!!! How dare we allow our hearts to love again?! How dare we cherish every day we spent with our husband/wife but be willing to put ourselves out there, so vulnerable and broken, yet so in need of love again! We dare. We dare to live and love and laugh through the pain and by golly we deserve happiness!!!  Bravo Erica! And bravo Mr. Oswalt!! Best wishes for a beautiful life for you, your daughter and Ms. Salenger.

A special family who lifts each other, supports each other, encourages each other, and never forsakes each other.

We get it.

I promise.

When I first lost Mike, I could not function. It was so difficult (like described above) to ever fathom life with a purpose. But I prayed every single day for strength to come. Every single day, multiple times a day. And little by little God sent it, until one day I began typing on my laptop, tears streaming down my face with every stroke. I poured myself out. I poured Grief and Love onto the keys in hopes that SOMEONE, ANYONE, would read it and know what I meant! That someone would read it and GET IT! Not judge me, not shun me, not act like I was bat-crap crazy! I hoped so much that I was not the only one to feel all that I felt. And I wasn't!!!! Immediately Love began pouring into me from messages, texts, social media shares, and my heart began to fill.

And then the business came. I met a beautiful soul, Kimberly, who was inspired by me. BY ME! She read my words and fell in love with my #stillhis because SHE GOT IT. She understood and appreciated the rawness of my writing and so together, we began this amazing little thing. And it felt so good to mean so much to someone on this same terrible journey. And together we have worked hard to make sure Love overpowers Grief as often as possible. We speak, we write, we create LOVE for other widows/widowers. Kimberly writes so many powerfully beautiful pieces at her blog, She inspires me every day.

We have a mission in common: do our best to never allow another widow/widower to feel alone, isolated, or desperate. I could not ask for more than to be a worker for The Lord in reaching out to everyone I can. I will speak as often as asked, write when the words need to flow, and host widowed events for as long as I can. I now have a purpose to my pain and I'll not ever let that go.

And now, I work every day toward living life again. I am excited about the future. About falling in love again. About spending more quality time with my son. About spending more time with my family. About having less stress at work. About a future painted with more Love and less Grief. And all of you, all of my widow family, helped me get here!!!

So. Thank you sweet widowed family for reaching out. Thank you for encouraging me. You inspire me to be a better human, mother, wister, widow advocate, daughter, sister, friend, and soul. I thank you from the depths of my being. Sending so much love and light your way! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

Love, Roni