I Fucking Forgot

19 year today.

I forgot. Sometime last week I had remembered – but this morning I woke up and the date didn’t register.

Until I looked at my phone and saw the memories.

I tried to put it out of my mind… my husband was laying in bed with me, getting all frisky, and I wanted to get frisky as well.

Except he’s sometimes incredibly perceptive and asked what was wrong.

I’m like.. yah… I’m fine… and tried to kiss him… and then he asked again…and there, in the middle of getting frisky with my new husband, I’m crying over the dead one.

Did I mention how amazing my Sexxy Chef is?

He held me close. Loved me. Let me cry.

And I spent the day in and out of tears and sadness.

But he let me cry. He loved me. He held me while I cried over my dead husband.

Truth is… I’ll never stop loving or missing the dead guy. I’ll never stop missing him or wishing he’d not died.

Especially on days like today.

Happy (would have been) 19th Anniversary my love.  You will always have a piece of my heart. I will love you as long as I live. Thank you for loving me and allowing me to be your happily ever after, until death do us part.

Mar & Jane Wedding

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Dealing with Death

After my husband died, I went into nursing.

Seems like an odd choice of careers – after spending 159 days watching my husband get better, get sicker, get better, get sicker and finally die – that I would choose a profession that would force me to watch people get better, get sicker and die.

I’m a Licensed Practical Nurse now. I work with people who are mostly stable. My scope of practice says that I deal with patients who have a stable, predictable state of health.

Except when I’m a part of a code team.  The code team deals with trauma, cardiac arrest and other life threatening situations.

The hospital I work at allows LPN’s to do 1 of 2 jobs on the code team: compressions or record.

In order to record, you must have taken a course – which I have not – so I frequently am the compressions person. (Or code white – but that’s a different role)

At 0625 this morning, Code Blue was called. ETA 5 mins or something like that.  That means – 3 of us from the floor are running to the ER prepared to try to save someone’s life. And we ran. And heard the 2nd call – Mat (something I didn’t hear) Stat.

On the elevator, waiting to go to the 1st floor, we talked – was the Mat call related to the Code Blue? We hoped not.

We were wrong.

This was my first code where I was responsible for compressions.  My first code where I was not a student, or a new grad or anything but JUST ANOTHER TEAM MEMBER.

And my job was as important as the others. I was part of the team.

The report we were given when we got to the ER?  14 day old baby in cardiac arrest.

W. T. Everloving F?

My brain raced – do I remember how to do compressions on an infant? I didn’t get to do the NRP – will I be enough? Should I excuse myself? Could I handle this? Tears were welling up in my eyes and the baby wasn’t even there yet. How can I possibly be an effective nurse, an effective member of the team when I can’t control my emotions?

And then they arrived. I watched the EMT perform compressions. I took several breaths.  Waited until they were done report before tapping him on the shoulder and letting him know I could take over.

And then I did.

And my world narrowed to just what I was doing.  Trying to focus on the tiny human in front of me, willing her to breathe on her own, her heart to beat on its own. Listening and watching the RN’s around me do their job with amazing precision and execution.  Watching the doctor and the nurses move together like a well orchestrated team.

And I was doing my part.  Ignoring the cries and heartbreak of the parents behind me, beside me, in front of me. Because the moment I allowed them to penetrate my consciousness – my emotions came back.

We worked on that baby for 43 minutes.

43 minutes we kept going – hoping beyond hope that we weren’t too late.

43 minutes.

That beautiful little girl did not get to see her 15th day. She won’t get to see her 1st birthday, her 16th, have kids, get married, break hearts. She won’t get to learn to crawl, walk or talk.

It’s moments like this – that I question my ability to be a nurse.  Moment’s like this that I wonder if I have the emotional fortitude – especially given my own trauma and grief – to carry on and support the families of those who die.

I walked out of the ER, down the corridor and was overcome with big ugly cries at the elevator.  Grieving for a life cut short.

I got to the top of the elevator, grabbed my stuff (end of shift and all) and got to the staff entrance to the parking lot and just outside, my knees buckled… more big ugly cries. Grieving with the parents who have to face life without their child.

In my car – crying on my way home – pull into my driveway and bawl. Grieving for myself having spent about 1/2 those 43 minutes hoping for a miracle.

I will cry over this little girl – who’s name I never got – for a while. It will make me a better nurse, better caregiver. I will learn the things I want to learn and do and be because we learn from the mistakes we make, the situations we experience and the things we do in nursing.  We don’t learn from books -we learn from experiences.

I wonder.  Did Mark’s nurses cry with me when they got off shift?  Did they grieve? I like to think so. They’re who inspired me to become a nurse – and I can’t imagine they were not affected by what happened.

I get it now though. I remember asking at the beginning – how do you separate feelings from work?

You just do.  You stuff it into a box, and let it out when you’re in a safe place and can feel.

Because when you walk away from the tiny human who doesn’t get to go home… you still have a job to do – and the rest of your patients need you.

The Month of Changes

So much has happened in the past 37 days.

It started with a bachelorette party. On my dead husband’s birthday. Weirdness and shit. But fun.  Glitter dicks everywhere. Drunk me danced the night away. Drunk me decided to walk home late in the night with one of my bridesmaids.  Drunk me had a good time.  Hungover me was not impressed with drunk me. It was a weird thing, celebrating my upcoming nuptuals with a new guy on my dead guy’s birthday. My daughter planned the day and it was fantastic.

Then the wedding.  What a glorious, fantastic day. It was amazing and magical and incredible. My Smith family showed up which made it so much better. I stood there at my reception, staring at what is now all 6 branches of my family. The Smiths, the Cavanaghs, the Teichmans, the Mortimers, the Leylands, and the Beech’s. As I said then… some people are blessed to find one great love in their life. I have been blessed to find two. Loving my Sexxy Chef does not mean my love for my dead guy has changed. The heart expands and grows to encompass more love. And I am blessed far more than I feel I deserve with all the love that surrounds me.

Fairy Tale Wedding
Photo credit Throughout Time Photography

Last night… my 3rd child graduated. Mark was watching, somewhere, I know. The tiny baby who was smaller than our cat at the time… is now a grown up adult. Graduated from high school.  Ready to start life as an adult. But in that face… I still see the tiny baby. I still see the tiny human who kept me up for an hour every hour. And I remember all the plans we had, the promises we made, the hopes and dreams we had for the future and our children and grandchildren…

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Andrew Grad 2018

My heart hurts for all that he’s missing. But my heart is full of love and life and laughter at the same time. It’s a strange dichotomy.

It is June 23. Typically the time between May 18 and June 26 is a slow progression of increasing stress and pain and fighting to convince my brain that suicide is not an option. With all that has happened it has kept me distracted from that. It’s amazing how much LIVING can keep me from wanting to die.

I still hurt though. I sat in my living room last night, fighting tears, fighting the pain of him not being here, not really succeeding but holding it together enough.

The excitement is all done.  The planning/preparation for the wedding is complete.  Graduation has passed. And I’m faced with 3 more days before his angelversary.

I’m left with my thoughts, my feelings, and the reality of somehow balancing my love and excitement of being married to my new husband with the abject, overwhelming pain of not having my dead husband here. I’m not sure how to balance that. Any suggestions would be fantastic.

On the drive up to decorate the hall for my wedding, my graduate asked me why we had a picture of Dad. I said it was to go on the display of people who we miss and wish were here.  He was like… …ok… and I laughed and said… of course if Dad was here, we wouldn’t be doing this.  He laughed as well…and we carried on.

Such is the strange dichotomy of a remarried widow, a new wife, who has been blessed with a man who loves her enough to accept all of her… the past, the present and the future.

I am blessed.

Holding Hands Ceremony
Photo credit Throughout Time Photography

‘Twas the Night Before the Wedding…

Can this be the only time I write this blog?  The night before my wedding?

Because I don’t believe in divorce.  And I sure as FUCK don’t want to be widowed twice…

So tonight, before I marry my Sexxy Chef, I’d like to make sure this is the only time I write, on my widows blog, that this is the night before my wedding.

I am full of conflicting emotions.

Excitement to be his wife.

Sad to let go of the name I’ve had for the majority of my adult life.

There was a conversation between my future sister-in-law and me tonight while we were decorating.

In the “memorial” for those who have passed… we included Mark.

She asked, somewhat hesitantly, “Is Ryan ok with this?”

Yes, yes he is.  He’s ok with it. He knows that I’m not coming into this marriage fresh and free with no past. He knows that part of my heart forever belongs to Mark.  He’s ok with it because Mark was my past and he is my future.

I don’t stop being a widow because I’m getting married.

I don’t just turn off the feelings about my dead husband because I’m about to have a live husband.

Changing my name doesn’t change how I feel about the men I love.

But I am blessed to have someone who loves me enough to walk through fire with me, to weather the grief storm with me, to build a future on a foundation of love with me.

So on the night before my wedding… sleeping alone in my bed for the first time in a long while… I get to reflect on how lucky I am to have loved, not once, but twice, enough to wear the title of wife. How lucky I am to have been someone’s happily ever after. How lucky I am that tomorrow, I get to marry the man I will spend the rest of my life loving.

Part of my vows to him:

I can’t promise to love you for the rest of your life, but I promise I will love you for the rest of mine. 

I will love Mark for the rest of my life.  I will love Ryan for the rest of my life.

My heart is big enough to love them both.

The Damned Parking Spot… and other triggers…

I pulled into the parking lot at the pizza place. I had just under 20 mins to get my pizza and get back to work – half hour break does not give me much time to clear my head.

I looked down at the parking space. It had one of those concrete barriers in front of the store-front protecting the walkway and the pizza store.

I could faintly read the letters “Video Update Parking Only”

Oh fuck I gotta tell Mark this….

Oh wait.  I can’t.

Sadness washed over me.  Not the deep, broken, painful grief storm that hits me when a trigger gets me, but the sadness of “oh yeah… that’s gone” and the reminder that for a moment, I forgot and I wanted to tell him something.

Something he’d think was funny.  Something he could relate to but no one else in my life could.

A Video Update store I’d never been to but I knew where it was now. It was on the cusp of his territory as District Manager.  He managed from Williams Lake to Prince Rupert and I’d never been to the Williams Lake store.

And I saw it… the faint markings of the remnants of a business that died out in 2010… well actually before that. 2010 was when the company that bought out Video Update finally went bankrupt.

It was the faint markings of a life gone by.

I let the sadness wash over me, then I picked up my pizza and headed back to work.

At work, I was dressing the wound of a patient who was from my home town. We talked about the places we knew. We talked about how much it changed. We talked about how it was not our home anymore.

And then he started talking about his medical history.  About how he used to be diabetic but he wasn’t.  How he had had a pancreas transplant. How this had happened at Vancouver General Hospital 20 years ago.

And all I could think about was how 6 year ago, I was told it wasn’t a possibility. That maybe somewhere, some one had done it, but it wasn’t really possible.

And in the middle of wound care, my most favourite thing in the world to do in nursing…

I fell apart and had to leave the room.

I lost my mind and started crying.

Because 6 years ago I was told that it wasn’t possible and what if it had been and it would have saved his life?

It’s all a moot point now.  But at that moment, on that day, my heart broke again.

And instead of the wave of sadness like at the pizza joint… I was hit with the deep ugly sobs that always result in me looking like I’ve smoked a lot of pot.  Bloodshot eyes and blotchy face and cannot hide that from anyone.

I’m happy for the gentleman who is living his best happiest.

Life is full of triggers.  Some will be a gentle reminder….  some will be a brick wall I run into full force.

I’m grateful that I loved well enough to still grieve that hard.

6 Years

I’ve reached a point in my grief where I feel as though I don’t have the … right? to grieve anymore.

At least not publicly.

Or even in my home in front of other people.

Especially not my Sexxy Chef.

Except I still grieve.  And I try to hide it.

6 years ago, Mark went into the hospital.  At this point, 6 years ago, we had come through a surgery that was his only hope.  He survived it.  He was stable, but still incredibly fragile, medically speaking.

At 6 years… the grief is still there.  I still hurt.  I still miss him. I still think life is INCREDIBLY unfair that he is not here to be a part of everything that goes on. I still wonder what he would think, how he would feel with all the changes in our lives.

Luke is now Leah.

Andrew has had 2 girlfriends.

Katie has a son.

Kyle has 2 boys.

I’ve become a nurse.

And we live in the place I swore I’d never move to.

But after 6 years, I wonder what words to use to describe the things that hurt. How many ways can I say I miss him? How many ways can I say it’s not fair? How many ways can I say I hurt because he’s not here?

3 years ago, someone asked me why I was still grieving so hard over him.

3 years ago.

Which makes me wonder – how many people look at my life, my new love, my ability to move forward and walk through and would see me grieving hard and ask me WTF? Why are there still tears? Why are you still sad? Why are you still grieving so hard?

My only answer is that I grieve as hard as I love.

I loved him enormously.  I died when he did. But I’m still here, breathing, living, growing, moving forward in my life.

So after 6 years, I don’t know if I have many new words to describe how I feel because he’s not here. But the ones I have are still very important.

I love him.

I miss him.

Mark in Fruitvale

 

 

Never Forgotten

It’s been a softer year this year.

The pain hasn’t been as intense.

The longing hasn’t been as intense.

And most importantly, I haven’t spent the past month or so fighting my brain.  Suicide hasn’t been an option.

For the past 4 years, my brain has been telling me that suicide is an option around this time of year.  This year? That hasn’t happened.

I’ve looked towards those further out in this journey than me to see how I might react as days and months go by.  2nd year was harder than the first just like they said.  Things got harder and easier, just like they said.

But around 5 years, it seems that widows and widowers start to diverge.  There’s those who are still grieving hard and then there’s those for whom it gets softer.

That’s not to say that those who are grieving hard haven’t moved forward, some of them are remarried and some are still alone.  And for the ones who it’s gotten softer, they are either still alone or remarried.  There is no hard and fast rules.  It just comes down to a matter of there being some who are grieving hard still and some for whom the grief has softened somewhat.

And for me, things have softened.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still have days of ugly cries.  I have moments of tears leaking down my face while I’m almost unaware of it. I have days where the pain is still so intense I can’t breathe.

But those days are further apart.  Those moments happen less often.  And the pain doesn’t last as long as it used to.

So here I am. June 26.  The day he died 5 years ago. Getting ready for work.

And this is what I mean by softer.

Every other year I have been unable to function.  This year… I’m going to work with people who will trigger memories and tweak the pain.  This year, I did not take the day off like I normally do.

This year… I’m living.

He is never far from my mind.  His name is said on a fairly regular basis. He will never be forgotten as long as I live, as long as my children live.

He died. It devastated me. I almost died with him (there’s an actual study on that.  People DO die of a broken heart!)

But this year I’m living.

This year I’m going to go care for people who may or may not have the chance to go  home. (Some do, some don’t)

This year, I’m going to love the hell out of anyone who needs it.

This year, I’m going to lean into the man who has embraced ALL of me, and offered me a future.

This year, I’m going to say his name, watch the memorial video and then roll over to snuggle my Sexxy Chef and get some sleep because I have to go back to work tomorrow.

I miss him, terribly.

Mark W. Smith
May 18, 1963 – June 26, 2012
Forever Loved
Forever Missed
Forever Remembered