Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Over Forty Clan...

I had gotten into a video game called Call of Duty in the fall of 08. Being an older player, I went to the internet to get tips on how to play video games. After all, I was 43 years old. :) I went to the game maker’s forum to get some info and to post questions on how to play a first person shooter. After a few visits to the website, I noticed that there were some older players on the forums, just like me. We talked and decided that we should make a clan (which is a group of players who play the game together), called OFC (Over Forty Clan). I created a website for the clan and OFC was born. Over the coming months, the clan grew. It was amazing. The response was incredible and we were all having fun and acting like little kids again. I played almost every night after Chrissy and the kids were in bed. A member from Europe set up a server so we could talk to each other via the internet and headsets while we played. And then the fun really began. We laughed, talked about world events, and got to know each other while we played the game. As dorky as it sounds, it was alot of fun... And a time I will cherish until the day I die.

And then we got the news that Chrissy’s cancer had returned. My motivation for playing the game changed from that moment on. I played to distract myself from the pain..from the constant and unrelenting thoughts of what my life had become, and will become in the very near future... what life would be like without her. I played the game to escape, plain and simple. And that escape turned into something wonderful. I didn’t tell anyone but a couple of the original members what was going on with me. Because very few people knew about Chrissy at the time, the majority of OFC does not know how much they helped me during those dark days. They kept me sane during a very insane time. I am so thankful that I got a chance to know these wonderful people. The camaraderie, the jokes, the laughter… it literally saved me from the abyss. It kept me from falling into a hole whose depth I cannot even imagine.

Chrissy would make fun of me for playing the game, wearing the headset and talking to other OFC members while we played. She called me a big dork. :) But if she knew what these folks did/have done for me, she would know that it was really something very special. When Chrissy's health started to decline, I had to stop playing completely. I would log on every so often and play for 20 or 30 minutes. But I never played with the guys and gals of OFC again.

One day after Chrissy died, I got a letter in the mail. It was from the members of OFC...and there was a substantial check enclosed with said letter. They took up a collection and raised money for my kids. I cried for a half hour because these wonderful people, who I had never met, gave me faith...not in God, but in us...humans..people..but more importantly, faith in life. The world and people are not as bad as some people make it out to be. There are these random acts of kindness that fill our world and make an impact beyond words. And appreciating that…that the world is good…and life is what it’s all about. We complain about those who don’t get it… I’d rather talk about those who do.

Which brings me to why I am posting this now. A couple of days ago, some of the guys from OFC kept telling me to go back and take a look at the website I created some two years ago now. They said "I wouldn't be disappointed". Well, I finally did last night. What I found sent me back to the same place I was when I opened that letter. The members of OFC changed all of their user names for the website and their in game names to pink in honor of Chrissy and Breast Cancer Awareness month. Needless to say, I cried again. However small the's these little things that can make a huge impact. And it did.

There are over 200 members of OFC now. We have members across Europe and North and South America. When I started OFC, there were about 5 of us. I'm convinced that the reason it has grown is not because of me, but because it is something special. It is family. We are family. OFC is my family. I hope that I can live up to the standard they have set. I hope that I can be there for them in the same way they were there for me. Because they have shown me what life is about... And that all we can do is be there for each other when we need it... And that my friends, is what it is all about.

Thank you OFC.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It is done

Yesterday marked a milestone in my grief journey, and it was bittersweet to say the least. Chrissy had always wanted some home improvement projects done to our house over the years, and we just never had the time or money to do them. With the life insurance money, I decided to make sure that every single project she wanted done was completed. These projects included new outside lighting, a huge patio in the backyard, new landscaping, new kitchen floor, updated indoor lighting in all of the rooms, and painting several rooms throughout the house.

Yesterday, I planted some new plants in our new retaining wall in the front. She always wanted a japanese maple like at her old house and new bushes. As I looked back on everything I did this last year, I cried. I wish she was here to share all of this with me. I so badly want to see that excited grin on her face, and that sparkle in her eye as she saw all of these improvements. And I had no one to share it with. Just me. And it didn't bring me any peace at all. I'm glad I finished her to-do list, but without her it is an empty victory.

All of these projects have been great therapy. It has kept me busy over the last 10 months and made me feel like I was honoring her. But the bigger question now haunts me. What now?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fuck Cancer

We lost another woman to breast cancer today. And all I have to say is fuck cancer.

Monday, July 26, 2010

For C.

I'll sing it one last time for you
Then we really have to go
You've been the only thing that's right
In all I've done

And I can barely look at you
But every single time I do
I know we'll make it anywhere
Away from here

Light up, light up
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I'll be right beside you dear

Louder, louder
And we'll run for our lives
I can hardly speak I understand
Why you can't raise your voice to say

To think I might not see those eyes
Makes it so hard not to cry
And as we say our long goodbye
I nearly do

Light up, light up
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I'll be right beside you dear

Louder, louder
And we'll run for our lives
I can hardly speak I understand
Why you can't raise your voice to say

Slower, slower
We don't have time for that
All I want is to find an easier way
To get out of our little heads

Have heart my dear
We're bound to be afraid
Even if it's just for a few days
Making up for all this mess

Light up, light up
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I'll be right beside you dear

Listen to the song here:
Run (Revised Album Version) by Snow Patrol

Friday, July 9, 2010

It's been awhile...

I haven't updated this for some time.  I think it's because I've been too busy to deal with "stuff".  Destin was a hard trip.  So many memories of good times and reminders of the person that is no longer with us.   I think it was important to go, but I'm looking for a different vacation spot for next year. I guess this is just part of moving on.   The weather was terrible and I think Chrissy was telling me to not come back.   Move on with your life.  Build a new one with the kids.   So I shall.

Frankie has really turned the corner.  His anger is still present, but to a much lesser degree.  He is returning to the happy go lucky kid I knew before "cancer".   I'm sure he will regress, as I still do...but there is progress.  Maria on the other hand is really feeling it now.  She is so attached to me.   I called a grief counselor and she noted this was very normal.  That a child will become very attached to the remaining parent.   She said give it some time.  She needs to work through this.   Let her know she can talk about it, but don't push.   So I've relented and I am giving her the space she needs to deal with the issue. 

I have good days and bad days.  I'm so tired of the day to day grind.  Just trying to keep up with life is exhausting, and then raising two kids by yourself..well..I'm sure you understand.   But I keep moving forward.  I owe it to my kids.  It really feels like an eternity since she died.  I'm dealing with what I've lost right now.  I was on auto-pilot before, but now I'm dealing with the loss itself.  The person I have known and loved for 27 years is gone.  I will never see her again, never hold her, never kiss her or make love to her again.   And that thought hits me in the gut like a sucker punch.  It knocks the wind out of me. 

This is such a strange journey.   I've experienced loss in my life.  My father dying in front of me when I was 7 years old, my mom, and even though I am too young to remember, my sister Debbie.  But this is so very different.  Because Chrissy was apart of me.  I've lost my identity.  Who in the hell am I now?  Will I find new love or another relationship?  Or am I the person who just needs to focus on his kids for the rest of my life.  I don't know what I am supposed to do.  

A friend gave me some advice.  She is also a single parent.   She told me that the thing people don't realize is in order to be a good single parent, you have to take care of yourself too.  You have to have fun, and experience life, and make new connections.   It's good advice.  But I feel like a traitor to my kids.  Like I am putting my needs ahead of theirs.   It's very confusing to say the least. 

The one thing I pride myself on is that I am rock solid dependable.  I'm really not good at the little things, like remembering birthdays, or picking up a card when a friend is feeling low.  Maybe that's just a man thing :). But when push comes to shove, and I feel that a wrong is being done, I will step up and make it right.  I don't ignore problems and hope they will go away.  I attack them.  I don't wallow in pity nor do I cry "poor me". 

But I must say, this puzzle has me stumped.  I'm caught in between the rational and irrational.  And it's a cold dark place to be.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

5 Things in 5 Months..

I'm 5 months out now. I don't have the answers but I have learned some things.

1. I've learned that this sucks. I miss her. But I am moving forward, one step at a time.

2. I've learned that I have to quit chasing the sunset. (See earlier blog post).

3. I've learned how to say thank you. People are good. We tend to focus on the negative people and forget about those who do care for us in our time of need.  We always seem to think god is behind it, but I think we are underestimating how good we can be of our volition.  That gives me hope for our species.

4. I've learned that it's a rollercoaster. As I go down a hill, I am also gaining speed so I can make it up the next hill.

5. I've learned that my children are suffering in ways that I can't imagine. No one, including myself,  is hurting more than my children.  Thier pain hurts me, but thier smiles make live worth living. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How you can help me (Author unknown)

Please talk about my loved one, even though she is gone. It is more comforting to cry than to pretend that she never existed. I need to talk about her, and I need to do it over and over.

Be patient with my agitation. Nothing feels secure in my world. Get comfortable with my crying. Sadness hits me in waves, and I never know when my tears may flow. Just sit with me in silence and hold my hand.

Don't abandon me with the excuse that you don't want to upset me. You can't catch my grief. My world is painful, and when you are too afraid to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I most need to be cared about. If you don't know what to say, just come over, give me a hug or touch my arm, and gently say, "I'm sorry." You can even say, "I just don't know what to say, but I care, and want you to know that."

Just because I look good does not mean that I feel good. Ask me how I feel only if you really have time to find out.

I am not strong. I'm just numb. When you tell me I am strong, I feel that you don't see me. I will not recover. This is not a cold or the flu. I'm not sick. I'm grieving and that's different. My grieving may only begin 6 months after my loved one's death. Don't think that I will be over it in a year. For I am not only grieving her death, but also the person I was when I was with her, the life that we shared, the plans we had for our children , the places we will never get to go together, and the hopes and dreams that will never come true. My whole world has crumbled and I will never be the same.

I will not always be grieving as intensely, but I will never forget my loved one and rather than recover, I want to incorporate her life and love into the rest of my life. She is a part of me and always will be, and sometimes I will remember her with joy and other times with a tear. Both are okay.

I don't have to accept the death. Yes, I have to understand that it has happened and it is real, but there are some things in life that are just not acceptable. When you tell me what I should be doing, then I feel even more lost and alone. I feel badly enough that my loved one is dead, so please don't make it worse by telling me I'm not doing this right.

Please don't tell me I can find someone else or that I need to start dating again. I'm not ready. And maybe I don't want to. And besides, what makes you think people are replaceable? They aren't. Whoever comes after will always be someone different.

I don't even understand what you mean when you say, "You've got to get on with your life." My life is going on, I've been forced to take on many new responsibilities and roles. It may not look the way you think it should. This will take time and I will never be my old self again. So please, just love me as I am today, and know that with your love and support, the joy will slowly return to my life. But I will never forget and there will always be times that I cry.

I need to know that you care about me. I need to feel your touch, your hugs. I need you just to be with me, and I need to be with you. I need to know you believe in me and in my ability to get through my grief in my own way, and in my own time.

Please don't say, "Call me if you need anything." I'll never call you because I have no idea what I need. Trying to figure out what you could do for me takes more energy than I have. So, in advance, let me give you some ideas:

(a) Bring food or a movie over to watch together.

(b) Send me a card on special holidays, her birthday, and the anniversary of her death, and be sure to mention her name. You can't make me cry. The tears are here and I will love you for giving me the
opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough about me to reach out on this difficult day.

(c) Ask me more than once to join you at a movie or lunch or dinner. I may say no at first or even for a while, but please don't give up on me because somewhere down the line, I may be ready, and if you've given up then I really will be alone.

(d) Understand how difficult it is for me to be surrounded by couples, to walk into events alone, to feel out of place in the same situations where I used to feel so comfortable.

Please don't judge me now - or think that I'm behaving strangely. Remember I'm grieving. I may even be in shock. I am afraid. I may feel deep rage. I may even feel guilty. But above all, I hurt. I'm experiencing a pain unlike any I've ever felt before and one that can't be imagined by anyone who has not walked in my shoes.

Don't worry if you think I'm getting better and then suddenly I seem to slip backward. Grief makes me behave this way at times. And please don't tell me you know how I feel, or that it's time for me to get on with my life. What I need now is time to grieve. Most of all thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your patience.

Thank you for caring. Thank you for helping, for understanding.

And remember in the days or years ahead, after your loss - when you need me as I have needed you - I will understand. And then I will come and be with you.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Quit chasing the sunset

I've been feeling very tired the past week and somewhat lost. I couldn't figure out why. Tonight while reading the book A Grace Disguised (a neighbor who lost his wife to cancer gave me the book) I've finally figured out why. The author of A Grace Disguised lost his mother, his wife, and his 4 year old daughter in a horrible car accident. That kind of loss is unimaginable to me.  He survived the crash with his 3 other children.  In one terrible moment, he became a parent less child, a widower, a single parent, and a parent who lost a child. 

He explains that we never recover from loss. I will never recover. I am an amputee. I will never have my life back.  It's gone forever. Life will never be good again, because the life that I deemed "good" is gone forever.  I need to let go of that definition of a "good life" because I am defining it with what was, not what is.  

He also talks about chasing the setting sun, frantically running west, trying desperately to catch it and remain in it's fiery warmth and light. But he was losing the race. The sun was beating him to the horizon and was soon gone. He suddenly found himself in the twilight. Exhausted, he stopped running and glanced with foreboding over his shoulder to the east. He saw vast darkness closing in on him. He was terrified by that darkness.  He wanted to keep running after the sun, though he knew that it was futile, for it had already proven itself faster than he was. So he lost all hope, collapsed to the ground and fell into despair. He thought at that moment that he would live in darkness forever. He felt absolute terror in his soul.

Later he realized that the quickest way for anyone to reach the warmth and light of the sun is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes upon the inevitable sunrise. 

I think this is why I am so tired. I've been running towards the setting sun and I'm exhausted. I need to turn around and head into the darkness. Because that is the only way I will find the warmth and light again.  I think there is great wisdom in this lesson.  Only time will tell.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Living the Road

What is life? A big question….an even bigger answer. To tell you the truth I have no idea what life means. But I have a theory. To me, life is not defined by the beating of the heart, the act of breathing, or the ability to communicate. That is existence. Many creatures on this earth can do all of the things noted above. But they do not live. They simply exist. There is a difference between living and existing.

Imagine existence as a road. The road serves no purpose other than being there. It does not laugh, it does not cry, and it does not define the life lived upon it. The road has a beginning, a direction, curves, intersections, potholes, forks, and eventually an end. We each travel a different road, with different characteristics, but with two aspects that are always the same. The road has a beginning and an end. But the life lived on the road is up to us. We live our life on the road, but the road does not define the life lived upon it.

We may choose to walk the road, or run, or hop, skip, and jump along it. We may choose to avoid the risks associated with the road, or jump headlong into them. A road may be filled with obstacles that we have to overcome, but we should not blame the road for the obstacles. The road owes us nothing. Life is not characterized by the attributes of the road, but by the actions we take while traveling it. If we choose to let the road dictate our life, then the blame lies squarely on our shoulders. We choose the life lived, not the road.

Life is the act of making our existence count… it’s about making the trip worthwhile. Appreciating what the road has to offer as well as the challenges it presents. Simply put, life is making the road something more than nature intended.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

There's something about Chrissy

My wife Chrissy (or Chris) died in Dec of 2009 of breast cancer.   It was a horrific experience and it really made me appreciate what I have, as well as what I have lost.   It's amazing to me how easy it is to ignore the things that really matter in life.   I'm a different person now.   I used to be rather negative about things in general and it's ironic that losing the sweetest person I've ever met in my life has made me more positive.   It's a paradox.  

Don't get me wrong, I can still be negative but not to the degree that I was before she died.  I think it's because I realize how quickly something can be taken away, and you need to appreciate what you have.  I was talking to my wife's sisters last night, and it was a great conversation.   Listening to their ideas of what the afterlife is like, how it works, etc...   I am unsure if there is a god, an afterlife, etc...  I just don't know.  But we started talking about what we missed most about her.  I've been asking everyone I know what they miss most about my wife.   And it's amazing.   It's a common theme.  How she made everyone feel comfortable, loved, or just so special.  She had a gift that is very rare. How many people do you know can make anyone they meet feel special, without "faking" it.   That was her gift. 

Don't get me wrong, she had faults.  She was not a perfect person.  But she had a way about her that was open and honest. A gift for making you look at yourself in a way that you never knew you could.  She made you look at what was special about you.  I'm lucky to have known her.  I'm even luckier to have married her.  And even luckier that I got to spend 26 years with a person who is one in a million.

And I loved her enough to let her go.