End of 2012

Never before have I come to the end of a year and been happy to see it end so much as I have this one.

Tonight’s party represents the last memory my husband had before he got sick.  He didn’t remember my birthday, which was only 2 weeks after the party.   He remembered the New Year’s party we were at.

I didn’t get Christmas cards out – I didn’t get Christmas calendars out – I will do that at the beginning of January.   But in edited form, this is the newsletter I’m sending out with all my Christmas cards:

Merry Christmas from the Squamish Smiths!!

As you all know – this year has not been a very happy one for us.   For this newsletter, I’ve decided to focus on all the good stuff that happened – because a LOT of good has happened, and we are VERY blessed to have good people in our lives.

January of course was the month that Mark got sick – but we also celebrated my 38th birthday and Katie’s 21st birthday.  Katie had moved in with us at the beginning of January and it was nice to have her back under our roof.

In May, we got a Science World family pass and got to see some really cool exhibits.   We bought the pass specifically so the boys would be able to see both the dinosaur exhibit as well as the Lego exhibit.  The people who created those exhibits are WAY more talented and creative than I am.  However Luke was totally thrilled to see it.  He has aspirations of being a mechanical engineer – he loves seeing things that can be built.

For the July long weekend, the boys and I headed over to Bowen Island and Victoria.  We spent the weekend on Bowen with a co-worker whose husband was doing work over there and had a place to stay.  It was amazingly gorgeous and wonderful.   A perfect retreat for us.   Victoria allowed us to visit a friend of mine and her family.   We checked out the bug museum, and the naval museum at Esquimalt.   We also got to meet my new cousins.

Kyle moved back in with us in July.  We insulated and dry walled the garage so he’d have a space to sleep.  It looks nice in there – when we get the space back it will be good storage.

August we said goodbye to Mark.   It’s hard to believe he’s been gone for 6 months already.

September long weekend saw us camping with friend in Upper Squamish at the Pilchuk.  It was an awesome weekend with kids building forts in the sand, a redneck hot tub and sand that was really just dust that got into anything.

The boys and I headed back over to Victoria in September.   I was volunteering at a roller derby bout there and so we stayed with my friend again.  

I am back in the fresh meat program with roller derby.  Somehow in the past 2 years of playing, I managed to avoid the fresh meat program – but now I’m ready to skills test and play in bouts in the upcoming season.

Andrew is in Grade 7 – only 6 more months and he’s in high school!!  Luke’s in Grade 6… next year they’ll be in different schools.   Both are doing “ok” in school.  I’ve had some conversations with their teachers about their school work and while they’re keeping up, they’re still adjusting to life without Dad. 

Oh!  Andrew passed the babysitting course!! He’s now a certified babysitter – and mostly responsible :p  If video games aren’t involved, he’s pretty good at paying attention and making sure the kids do what they need to do.  I’m also starting to teach him how to cook… that’s a scary thing for both of us since I have to relearn how myself.

October and November have been about routine – trying to get the boys into one and trying to find one that works for our family.   I’ll be back at work in January, and the boys will need to have a large measure of independence.   They got lots of practice while I was going back and forth to the city in the spring.   I think we’re going to be ok in that regard.   The boys and I have been taking mental health days together… each gets one a month to spend with me.

Katie & Adam moved out on their own again.  They have a very cute apartment just down the road from us.  Having extra space in the house and less bodies makes for a much more peaceful place to live.   Kyle’s staying until spring, but he’s a good roommate.

I started dating casually.  It’s been a very long year of loneliness and sadness, and having companionship and happy times is helping me heal.   The man I’m dating is exactly what I need right now.  He’s not looking for anything long term or permanent and neither am I.   He’s my happy place and I’m learning how to smile again.

Christmas this year was relatively low key.   I’ve found some Christmas spirit and the house looked lovely.  Usually we spend part of Christmas with the Dunlops – but this year they are off to Abbotsford to see their cousins.  It was just us Smiths & Grandma & Papa Bear for Christmas Eve and Day.   Kyle brought his new girl down to stay with us and join us in Christmas & New Year’s celebrations. 

A lot of good things happened this year.    One very bad thing happened, but it brought together a lot of good things and showed me how blessed our family is.  

I love you all.  I hope your 2012 was full of love and laughter and blessings and that 2013 brings good things to you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

Kyle, Katie, Adam, Andrew, Luke & Jane

I took some time with the boys to sit and watch Mark’s memorial video again tonight.    I wanted to get tears out of the way – this is an emotional night and my plan is to have a good time.   The boys and I spent some time laughing over funny pictures, crying over things that made us sad, and snuggling on the couch.

Mark’s been gone for 6 months… but it’s coming up on a year since he’s been in my home.  A year since I became a single parent.  A year of loneliness.  I miss him, just as much today, if not more.   I was looking over some old texts… ones that I sent to my friend where I said “It’s not serious, he’ll be out of the hospital in a couple days”  and.. “he’s doing ok, he should be home in a couple weeks”   And the last time I saw him at home… we were sitting on the couch snuggling, watching Charmed.

My perspective on life has changed.  Life is too short, too fleeting, to precious to waste.

The song that best describes me and my relationship to Mark is Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me”   He changed who I was… while he was with me, and after he died.   Who I am is different now.

In just over 5 hours I’ll ring in 2o13.   I’ll hug my friends and join them in a toast.   I’ll say a quiet Happy New Year to Mark.

And I know that no matter what – I’m going to be ok.   He’s still standing by me… and I was truly blessed because he loved me….

Death Leaves A heartache

Fuck You – You Survived

For a while after Mark died, I’d read about some tragic illness, some sad story, some fundraiser for another person who was in ICU and recovered and now they’re doing better but can the general public help???

I was bitter and angry that Mark died.

My reaction to those stories was “FUCK YOU – YOU SURVIVED”

It wasn’t that I wished they had died… it was that I was angry Mark did.  I was angry he died.  I was angry that I’m now a widow.  I was angry and bitter and couldn’t see the joy in the moments that someone else didn’t have to go through what I was going through.

Yesterday, I read a story about a woman who ended up in ICU before Christmas, and they were concerned that she wouldn’t survive.  She lost a leg, some toes and possibly some fingers.    She’s a mom, a wife, a friend, a sister, a derby girl.

My initial reaction was “fuck you…”  but there was no heart in it.  No real anger.

There was sadness.  And relief.

Her children get to grow up with their mom.  Her husband doesn’t have to learn to live without her.  She gets to enjoy life, although she will have to find a new normal.

She’s lost a lot – but there is joy in the fact that she’s. still. here.

And she’s a derby girl.   She’ll never play derby again – but she has an amazing community of people around her who are coming together to support her and rally for her – just as my team did for me.

And so that initial reaction of fuck you… turned almost immediately into… thank goodness…

Thank goodness she survived…

Thank goodness she is in derby…

Thank goodness she has an amazing support network…

Thank goodness her husband and children get to continue loving her…

Thank goodness…

Dance in the Rain

My life has changed in ways I wouldn’t wish on anyone… I’m glad for them, that they don’t have to go through what I’m going through.

If you’re in the Abbotsford area on Jan 19 – please come out to this Super Scrimmage – all funds donated will go to help retrofit her house and provide financial support while the family learns to live with their new normal…






PS.  This was an extremely hard post to write – it’s difficult to admit less than charitable feelings…

Phone Calls

I wonder… how long it will be before I stop receiving phone calls?

I was having a pretty good day today.  Minor sadness.  Minor residual pain from the 26th.

Then the phone rang.

“Could I speak to Mark please?”

“Ummm… can I ask who’s calling?”

“Its “so and so” from “the company he deals with” ”

“I’m sorry, he passed away in June.”

So much for my good day.


I Survived 6 Months

It was hard, painful and I cried.  A lot.

I think my least favourite thing in the world is when I’m crying and someone asks “What’s wrong?”


My husband died.

I’m still grieving.

That’s what’s wrong.

I woke up this morning, cleaned my room, and cried some more.

I’m still sad, but I had a better afternoon and evening.

But yesterday was hard, sucky and hurt a lot.

I miss Mark.  It’s not fair.  He was one of the really good, amazing people in life… and it’s not fair that he’s not here…


Not My Favourite Place

Tonight, as I was getting a tattoo done, my daughter calls my son (who was doing the tattoo) to give her a ride to the hospital.   She was having chest pains, pain in her jaw and down her left arm.

Classic heart attack symptoms.

I told her (and him) that I would drive her.  It’s where I needed to be, and I didn’t need her sitting there, alone, wondering…

We get there, go right in, and wait for the doc.

ECG looks good.  There’s nothing serious going on – so it could be any one of a number of things – or perhaps a number of things all at once.   At any rate, not to worry.  Go home, get some rest.

I’m sitting there in the hospital while we wait.

Looking around the ER.

Listening to the sounds.

It’s quiet there.   Probably the quietest I’ve ever heard it.

But it is oh so familiar.

The heart attack.

The heart incident.

The next heart attack.

Another heart incident.


I don’t want to feel uncomfortable in hospitals.  I don’t want to be afraid to go get medical attention.  I don’t want to have a panick attack every time I need to be there.

It’s most definitely not my favourite place.

It’s too full of memories.

Yeah. Ok. I’m Angry.

Seriously angry.

I’ve been trying to maintain calm, acceptance, and peace.

Mostly succeeding.

But I’m angry.  I’m pissed.

My first Christmas, without my husband, and my mother decides to take off to another country.  Not only that, on Christmas Day, she’s unreachable.    Yes, she called.   Right as we were opening gifts so I couldn’t chat.

But she left.

And my best friend, who I KNEW had plans – it didn’t bother me – was out of town on Christmas Eve and at her in-laws on Christmas Day.   That was ok.  I got it.

But she checked with my daughter to make sure that she would be here over Christmas for me…. made sure that I wouldn’t be left alone.

My daughter left.   After dinner, she went home, despite having plans to stay here overnight on Christmas Eve/morning.   She did, however, come back on Christmas morning.

My son left.  He went an hour and a half away to pick up his new girlie (who’s very nice, btw) and bring her home to meet mama.  They got in around 10, after everyone else had left, and after eating something, promptly went to his room.   Unfortunately there’s no soundproofing between his room and mine (upstairs to downstairs) and I was unable to sleep.   His music wasn’t *quite* louder than they were.   Once they came up for air, I went to bed.

Christmas Day night… ?? my older kids went to my daughter’s house to drink.

And my Boxing Day plans were cancelled.

Yeah.  I’m angry.  I was left ALONE most of the Christmas holidays.    Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, the worst possible time for me to be alone, and I was left alone.

I get it, I’m not the centre of everyone’s world.   I get that my friends have their family obligations, and that doesn’t bother me.  I get that “George’s” daughter is staying longer and family comes first and that doesn’t bother me.

I just don’t get being left completely alone.

Kids could have drank here.

My mother could have chosen to leave on December 27.

My husband could have fucking tried harder.

I could be married instead of a widow.

But he fucking died on me.

And so I was alone.   And I’m angry.


Year in Review

I know there’s still 5 days left of 2012, but I wanted to take the time to review this year while I’m feeling upbeat and positive.

(Funny how that works, I wake up feeling good, but by the end of the day, I’m sad and grieving and lonely)

There was a lot that sucked.  There was a lot that ripped my heart out and tore me apart.

At the same time, there was a lot of amazingly good that came out of this sucky, horrible, no good, awful, devastating year.

1. Existing friendships were strengthened.
2. Closer relationships with my adult children
3. New friendships were formed
4. I learned how strong I could be
5. I’ve realized that I can survive even the most devastating of events.
6. I’m learning how to cook again
7. I’m learning how to be by myself and enjoy my own company.
8. I’m learning how to be independent again.
9. I’m becoming less tempermental… learning to go with the flow
10. I’ve learned what I DON’T want in life…
11. I’m learning how to let go of things that aren’t good for me.
12. I’m learning patience.
13. I’m learning the difference between “I can’t” and “I don’t want to”
14. I’m learning, that no matter how bad things get, there’s always good.  And if you focus on the good, the bad doesn’t have quite the same power over you.

Today’s post isn’t flowing quite as easily as other posts have… I find myself distracted.. by the lack of coffee brewed, by Facebook, by email, by an online Scrabble game I’ve got going on…

And while being distracted, I read this:

There are 31+ billion seconds in an ordinary calendar year. In so much time, there is a lot of opportunity for there to be many ups and downs. If you are in mourning, it’s very likely that you feel your dark or down moments overpower your light or up ones. In truth, your “ups and downs” live right next to each other, and life can change from one to other in a second. It is your experience of the contrast between the two that allows you to understand both states of mind.

Although society generally looks at weakness (which you might believe how you feel in your down moments) as a “bad” thing (mostly because it frightens the populace), consider what Cecelia Ahern says: “At your weakest, you end up showing more strength. At your lowest, you are suddenly lifted higher than you’ve ever been. They all border one another, these opposites and show how quickly we can be altered.”

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try keeping a record of these up and down moments you experience. Although you’ll probably not have a hard time recording the down moments, you might be surprised at how many moments of kindness, compassion and love come your way throughout a week. This exercise will also turn your mind towards looking for and recognizing those light moments. In turn, this reinforces a belief in the innate goodness of the world.

This came from the Facebook status of Hope for Widows.   It reinforces the lessons I’m learning… that bad right now does not equal bad forever.   That there’s good in everything, if you care to look.   That even when a light is being extinguished, another is being lit.

This is the year my husband died.  The year my children lost their father.  The year I went from being happily married to a widow.  The year my children went from having a two parent family where one parent stays at home to a single parent family where they will have to become latch-key kids.

This is also the year I learned who my friends are.  Who will stick by.  Who will not be able to handle it.   This is the year I discovered joy in unexpected places.  I found a happy place where I can let go of all the sad.

This is the year I learned not to take anything for granted, because it may not be there tomorrow.

2013 is full of promise, full of experiences I haven’t had yet, full of love I haven’t shared yet.    And Mark is always near me… somewhere… even if I can’t hold him, he’s here… loving me, as I love him.

Jan 2009 034



Survivor’s Guilt

A couple weeks before Mark died, I had a conversation with my favourite nurse about Mark, if it was his time, and the discussion involved survivor’s guilt.

We talked about some people who feel they could have done more.  Or did too much.  Or those who lived while their loved one died.

I don’t feel guilt over any of those things.   We did everything we could, pushed only as far as was a benefit to him.  As long as he was willing to fight, so was I, but when he was done… I let go.

I understood that.  I understood his decision.  I understood the WHY of his decision.  I probably would have made the same decision at that point.

I feel no guilt about where we went in his treatment, or where we stopped.

What I feel guilt about, what I feel bad about, is when I feel happy.

I feel guilt when I feel joy in the moment, when I’m enjoying life, when I “forget” for a moment.

I get that I need to forget.  I get that life is a balance of good and bad, happy and sad and all those cliches.

I get that.

But this insidious little thought runs through my brain… worming itself through my consciousness… colouring the joy with sorrow.

And then, as soon as I’m aware… the guilt that I’m enjoying myself when he’s not here… that I’m doing soemthing I would have done with him before…  and I have to almost physically pull myself back to enjoying whatever is going on.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

It’s not always… just enough to tug at my heart and make me catch my breath.

Just enough to keep me off balance…

Living In My Heart

Merry Merry Christmas

There’s a part of me that’s dying inside.  Christmas is hard without Mark.

Over the last 6 months, I’ve gotten VERY good about disassociating.  I’ve gotten VERY good at not seeing things.   It makes it easy to keep going.   If I allow myself to truly see, to truly feel what’s going on… then I don’t know if I would be able to handle it.

It’s overwhelming.  It’s unbearable.  It’s beyond comprehension that tomorrow mark’s 6 months without him.

At the same time, there’s so much joy, so many awesome things to be experienced this season.

All my kids were in my house for Christmas Eve & Christmas morning.

We had family with us whom we haven’t seen for a while.

The boys got some REALLY cool stuff that has kept them active and occupied for the past while.

We’re going to play a game together in a little while.

Aside from a personal meltdown this morning, and a bit of crankiness because A: my period showed up in full force, and B: I needed time alone and wasn’t getting it, it’s been a pretty freaking good day.

I’m a little sad/lonely though.  Everyone is gone.  Kids are going to bed in a while – after the game – and I’ll be alone again.

So it’s a good/bad day.  I’m going to spend some time reflecting on my husband, our life together and doing some work to just let the memories wash over me… I’ve been having a hard time with crying… maybe because I have been surrounded by so many people and I *don’t* cry around others…

But I need to cry… not crying is coming out in other, less healthy ways…

So while it’s been a very sad, emotional, overwhelming Christmas… It’s also been fairly good… and wonderfully full of love and life.

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I have the best family… I love my kids so much.  I am blessed to have them.  I have to always remember that they make my life worth living.

Merry Christmas my Love…

I miss you.

I need you.

This all feels wrong without you.

Despite the children, the extended family, the chaos and the noise… I feels very much alone here.   I miss you.

If I close my eyes, I can almost feel you, your presence, you… it’s an odd thing to feel, the physicality of you.   If I close my eyes, and concentrate, the skin memory of you is there.  I can feel your touch, your hands in mine, the way your hair feels when I run my fingers through it.

I can feel your arms around me if I think about the hugs we used to share.  I can feel you.

I miss, most of all, the look on your face after I’ve kissed you.  I miss the way you would get lost in me, and me in you.   And the world would cease to exist for those moments.  I miss that perfect moment.

I miss you so much.

Merry Christmas my Love.