everything is still at four am.

i've been up since four today.  i am laying here in my bed, alone.  i had a cup of tea after i woke up to help settle my mind.  it's been three nights of dreams.  you know those people that are like "oh gracious, i just never remember my dreams" or the more infuriating, "i don't dream" (SIDE NOTE: YES YOU DO!) (another side note: thanks google!)

i want to punch those people in the face.  i mean sometimes at least.  my dreams are haunting.  even at their best i never wake up happy because of my dreams.  it's been like this since i was a child.  i remember in college one night i dreamt so vividly about being murdered that i stayed up the entire night after it and cleaned our whole apartment.  the girls probably didn't know what hit them.  waking up for an eight am class (brutal!) to see their chipper roommate mopping away after scrubbing out the microwave

"hey guys just had some extra time! just working away here, don't mind me! oh what?  no no!  i've been up for hours.  yeah just had a dream about being murdered, couldn't get back to sleep, you know the usual!"

in my dreams now there is always something missing.  an elusive piece that is never within my grasp.  i'll see people or go places and feel an ache inside.  not even in my dreams can i escape the loss.

i think at this point, i have suffered so greatly and so intensely that it will be a relief when i leave this world.  i remember reading passages that Paul wrote about wanting his journey to be over so he could be with Christ and thinking "that guy is CRAZY! who wants to leave earth?  it is soon totally awesome here!"

i get it now, here there will always be un-fullfilment, here there will always be suffering, here is not where we are meant for.


i get these moments.  they are coming less and less frequently of course, but they still come.  tonight is friday night.  for those of you who are unaware, friday night is a couple's night.  it's a bottle of red, take out and let's talk about our feelings kind of night.

the kids went hard today, playing and running around and in turn, i put in a good amount of effort at bedtime as they were both overtired and doing their just absolute favorite game which is trading off screaming.  all of a sudden, like magic, they were both out by 7:23.  in my old life, this would have me running around, celebrating in sweats, jim and i high-fiving at our good fortune and amount of TV we could cram in together, cuddled on the couch.

tonight i just stood there, looking at the numbers on my stove.  the stark realization that my life-sharer was absent, and would forever be absent.

sometimes i wonder if i'm really healing or just getting better at blocking it out.  mentally, most of the time i just don't go there.  the horror that i lived for twelve days is too much.  i don't know what other victims do, sometimes i think about it, people who live through torture or imprisonment and survived.  do they just block it out?  can you heal from it?  a big part of me thinks that i won't ever heal on this earth.  if you love, some wounds just cut too deeply to ever close.

if you got to the top, you gotta go to the bottom.

the crazy thing is, most days (i mean some not the case) but most days i am strong enough to say i would do it over again, to say i would choose him over again.  i remember taking a walk with him one evening and telling him that almost every good thing in my life had resulted from meeting him.  never in my life have i felt more complete love than when i was with him, and never ever have i loved someone so fully and completely.  what we had is so difficult to put into words, even as a self-proclaimed writer, i fail.  i can't describe to you the comfort, the safety, the security that being with him provided me.  i mean the man worked two minutes away and came home to see us on lunch for fuck's sake.

it's so weird to me that when elly and jim died some people chose to immediately bring up "well, at least you have the other two" or "don't worry you're young, you'll get married again" - that one i hear a lot.  it's not that i don't want to get married again or even that i can't see myself getting married again.  it's just - to cheapen what jim and i treasured and honed and worked at for six years to a passing fling of "it will find you again" is insane to me.  not to mention by the way folks, just got burned by love pretty badly, not really looking to just jump back into a relationship.

i know though, that people mean well, that most are probably just trying to instill hope and vibrancy into my life.  i also know that as much as i talk, which is a lot, i am, at the end of the day, the only person in my own head, just like jim was the only person in his.  so, on an existential level, isn't this human experience we share bizarre?  so many connected points and yet still such isolation exists.

i missed you tonight love.  we would have had fun, i think- talking about the end of summer, getting excited for the vacation we had planned with the three kids next week, worrying about how they were all going to do in the car for a 12 hour road trip.  i would have probably been talking your ear off about how excited i was to show you hilton head and what new thing addy and lane and elly had done that day.  we would have talked about sending addy off to preschool in a couple weeks and how we couldn't believe that day had come already.  you might've convinced me to join you for a cigar instead of the couch since it was such a nice night and we would have relaxed together on our driveway.  you rubbing your temples, shaking the stress of your week off as you switched into family mode.  me being my usual annoying self full of energy and zeal!

i miss the simple things with you love, mostly just the sheer companionship of you.  i wish you were here babe.  i'm pretty sure you wouldn't even recognize me these days.  this girl that gives zero fucks and is doing it all on her own and definitely has shorter hair than you ever knew her with.  or maybe if you saw me today you would just grab me and hug me and say "i knew you could do it"


where hope comes from.

i am working on a memoir, just writing really at this stage.  hoping beyond hope that eventually my story will be shared.  it's amazing as i sit here in starbucks, writing down what has happened to me, to the people i love, there is a voice that sneaks in, "you are damaged, people won't want to be with you if they find out, you bring destruction wherever you go, look at what has been done to you, you deserve this"

and it's weird, i do have this amazing trifecta of death in my life while yet i endure.  i'm not really sure why i am the one who has survived.  i would have obviously traded places in a second to secure elly's future.

my wounds are gaping.  there is no doubt that for me, i could never be made whole without a creator. what would fill the wounds i have endured?  what would give me worth and value when everything i love is torn asunder?

you know how when you're watching a reality show and you see a girl on there sleeping around and she's like "i have no feelings, it doesn't matter! i don't care" and you look at her and you go.... "oh honey, it's written on every line of your face, you do care, you just want love"  and it's not a judgment thing or a casting stones thing, it's just this lie that she has bought into.  obviously i am a girl so i identify more with a woman's way of thinking.  it's just, that's sometimes how i feel too, everyone wants to be loved, everyone wants to be worthy, we just cast out this net hoping something sticks, hoping that something gives us worth.

to have to bear that burden for someone else, to have someone find their identity in my love, that's crazy... cause i'll fail them.  and vice versa, for me to provide someone with their love and structure and support, it's an impossible task.  that's what grief does, it shines this light on how damaged we are, and damaged people cannot fix damaged people.

we cannot get our worth and our value from our surrounding, from our wealth, from other people.  i know, i know, we think we can.  i get it, i did for years, i got it from jim, i got it from my family and sure there might've been a small, nagging hole that was felt, but it was easily filled with superfluous things.  it is only in being crushed that i see the truth.  the truth about my redeemer, the truth about where my value comes from.

it's been so hard to go through jim's things.  because i look around and think "look at all of the stuff that didn't save him" ultimately, the earth and it's trappings cannot save.

even in my brokenness, my value remains secure.  i remain loved.

life we expect over life we're given

one of the undying truths i have discovered through this process is that few of us live the life we imagine.  sure, some do.  but most have speed bumps thrown their way throughout life.  whether it's a divorce or death or financial insecurity, many start over, many rebuild, many take stock throughout their thirties, forties, fifties and think "well this isn't where i thought i would be"

granted... all things considered, mine is more tragic than most.  even outside of these most recent events my life has seen its fill of trying circumstances.  by the age of eight i had seen abuse and death in my family.  not exactly what you would hope for, but certainly it has given me the coping mechanisms i have now.  

as i navigate these next steps, the great unknown, there are many that have opinions and voices into my life.  everyone wants what's best for me and everyone has their own idea of what that is.

people... i don't even know what that is.  but i know what i want to try.  i know what i've wished for and dreamt for in my own personal life.  and at the end of the day it is what it is

this is not the life i wanted. 
this is not the life i dreamt of
this is the life i was given

and it is still precious, it still has value and meaning and joy.  the life we are given is so very often different than what we expect.  i for so long, thought i had put in my time with suffering.  i remember the very real feeling of being just blindsided when i lost elly because what kind of fate would take someone's mother and their daughter.

there is a very real sensation of being marked.  but i know that suffering produces greatness.  if one plateaus and knows only happiness, only serenity, only peace- there is no push, there is no strive, there is no need to do more, to be more, to achieve more.

you know who i think of a lot in this process?  lebron james.  thirteen years, he worked for thirteen years to bring a championship to cleveland.  he toiled and sweat and was hated, he left and came back, he strived and strived and strived, and eventually he achieved.

there is so much work ahead of me, so many more bricks to be laid before i can take a step back and say "yes, this is good" but sometimes, like tonight, i can find brief glimpses of serenity, and a peace that knows i am moving in the right direction.  


yesterday alayne was telling me about an interview she watched with paralympic swimmer Brad Snyder who went blind in Afghanistan.  when he went to sleep at night he used to dream he could see again, when he would wake up, of course the reality would be that he couldn't.  so every night, dread would hit him, that adjustment to reality of what was lost is intense, as i can attest.  then someone mentioned to work on changing his perspective over time, to look at it as a gift that for eight hours, his eyesight was restored.

for five weeks, i lived out exactly what i had pictured as my earthly dream.  to a "T".  there aren't a ton of people on earth that can say they did that.  whether it's because you want to have kids and can't, end up never getting married, don't fulfill your career goals, WHATEVER, a lot of people don't get their dream.  and i- for a brief moment, had mine.  what a gift.  to know that i lived my idea of my best life on earth.

now, now comes the difficult part, being prepared for new dreams, dreams that i haven't thought of, dreams that will catch me by surprise, dreams that were not and are not part of my plan.  but even in living out new dreams, i will always have the gift of those five weeks.  the five weeks where i lived my heaven.

jim and elly, every day, every day i miss you both.  i will never stop loving you, i will never stop missing you.  thank you for those five weeks baby girl.  you completed our family in a way i am sure you will never be aware of.  with you both, we lived whole.

to jim, you will always be my first love.  i will always carry you with me.  with every venture, and every step, you will come.  i will honor our past while staying present and looking to the future.  my love, thank you for our life together.


never before has the gospel made so much and so little sense to me.  here is a fundamental truth i have found to be alive and well in my own life and those around me: we were made for love.  to love and be loved.

wanna level?  when i had jim and you know all the members of my immediate family alive, i didn't have a whole lot of need for God.  i was so so happy and so so loved.  jim loved me well.  i didn't notice any large holes lurking in my life, i was very very fulfilled.

i had been a church attendant and private school attendant all my life.  ultimately the gospel felt fake to me and it seemed like most used it as an manipulation tool.  all these christians running around singing about Jesus with their perfect lives and perfect teeth.  i was over it.  jim's background in christianity was confusing but ultimately he had more faith than me throughout most of our relationship as i found myself not even believing in any sort of afterlife.

then what i had chosen as my light -went out, and it went out in a big way.  ultimately it will be that way for everyone that chooses something man made or a man to satisfy.  all human relationships end in pain, all success ends.  it is the toil of our days, we endlessly search for meaning, for love.

it took losing it all to understand the gospel.  and still, still it is hard for me.  it's so hard to understand God allowing it to happen but to believe he didn't cause it.  i grapple every day with feeling abandoned, rejected.  i didn't even really want the Bible to be true guys, i mean, it's hard.  following the true message of it is tough.  i really liked living where i was at, building my own life one brick at a time, really believing that i created my own joy.

this is where i am at.  caught between knowledge and heart.  my heart knows it to be true, it rings with the clarity of a bell to my core.  my God is faithful, i am not abandoned- but i am shortsighted and i struggle with the weight of this life we live on earth.  but reading it brings me peace and when my words fail, the spirit intercedes.

and let the peace that comes from Christ, rule in your hearts

just in case.

just in case i was sitting there thinking, whew, am i glad i don't have a partner left to raise these two kids with!

just in case i was sitting there thinking, man oh man, am i glad no one gets to face medical situations with me anymore!

just in case i was sitting there thinking, it's not that bad.

it is, it truly is.  and it really doesn't get much more difficult for me then when i face medical concerns for my remaining two kids alone.  in the short three and a half months since jim died i've faced a surgery and now a potentially life-threatening allergy.  awesome.

the doctors for me is a sore spot as a widow.  the forms asking for father's information, the "is there an alternate number?" question or worse, having to tell them to take his number off, sitting there without my rings, as the doctors come in and out and i wonder what they think, about the fact that my kid's father isn't at his surgery, isn't at her allergy testing.  i sit there, with my daughter in my lap as they do the skin test and realize, it's all on me, it's all on me.

being a parent is exhausting, being a single parent is more exhausting, being a widowed single parent is just about as tiring as it gets.  there's no every other weekend, there's no "when your dad gets home, i am done" it's just me.  and when you have young kids and you're widowed... i don't know.  i mean giving my kids a bath is a very physical task.  i have lane that refuses to sit down the entire time he is in the tub, i lift both of them in and out, wash them head to toe, dress them both.

it's just a lot.  it's when i get the medical news though, that i know how he would react (freaking out) and i just think to myself, i can't believe i am here... i cannot believe he left me to do this alone.

my counselor asked me why i wanted to move and i replied, it's a lot easier to face reality if you are living in it.

so much of my life feels surreal now, like an out of body experience, i am still in the same place, going through the same motions, but wait... everything is different.  i think, when you've faced this type of trauma, changing your physical reality is the only way to truly face what actually happened.  the fact that life is different and will never ever be the same.

And refresh the page and restart the memory?
Respark the soul and rebuild the energy?
We stopped the ignorance, we killed the enemies
Sorry for the night demons that still visit me
The plan was to drink until the pain over
But what's worse, the pain or the hangover?
his presence is fading.  when he first passed away i felt him with me everywhere... i kept expecting him to round the corner, eyes crinkled with a smile, a "hey babe" thrown my way.  or even round the corner with a frown on his face, upset from his latest talk show about the current political climate of our country.  (if i had buried him, he would be rolling over in it right now).  sometimes that's when i get the most mad is when i realize he left me with trump and clinton as our candidates.

it is both good and bad.  the shadow is everywhere.  i am under a cloud.  aurora, solon, hudson, stow... they all hold memories, good times and bad, regrets and promises unfulfilled.  a drive in movie, the county fair, a fancy night out in downtown cleveland... whispers of the life that i will never live and the shadow of the life i had

this shadow is so big and so long.  the shadow remains while his presence fades.  very little of me expects him anymore... i actually get surprised when something catches my eye and i think "oh where's jim again?"


it's coming, like a wave washes out the sand from before and leaves a smooth surface.  our start is coming.  right now we are wading, the sand is getting washed out from under us and we are struggling to stand.  but it's coming.  i am doing my best to navigate, to help my kids to navigate... uncharted territory, with dark dark dark days, with the shadows and fears and PTSD, with darkness and clouds, it is all so choking.

but we press on.  i'm not sure i will ever have peace regarding it.  at least not here, i long for peace, but i think it will elude me on this earth.  a certain level of turmoil, it will always preside in my life.

____ though?  ____ is done for now, it is the last paragraph in an old book.  the pages are crumbling, i cannot keep writing in it.  it calls for new new new.


the waves have stopped.  instead i am adrift, in this ocean.  once in a while my head bobs under and there is no relief from the water, the water, the water.
it overwhelms and my eyes burn from the harsh reflection of the sun.  i am at once at peace and overcome.

when i hear sirens it throws me to that day.  i've never liked them, i used to offer up silent prayers for whomever they were going to help.  now i realize that sometimes it is already too late to pray by the time you hear them.  if only,ifonly,ifonly.  a whisper of a thought (this could be different) but of course, it isn't, it won't, it can't.  why? WHY?  there are no answers.

choose from available options:
E. none of the above
You are with me in the quiet where my soul finds rest.  I turn to you, a small child, overcome with emotions, my mind frayed at the seams, weeping and grasping.  You cradle me - your arms encircling me... Barely whispering breathe "there there child, it's ok it's ok" I shudder and shake against your unmovable force while the grief overcomes me.

You are with me in the storm as my fists beat out against the injustice.  As I raise my voice in fury and scream out against the unfair the unfair the unfair.  A hurricane sweeps across the land my fury wrapped in it, it screams out in the silence "he is gone she is gone he is gone she is gone" a drumbeat against my soul as I search for answers that aren't there, as I find meaning and restoration instead.

I didn't choose this! I didn't choose this! I didn't choose this!!!
Let me back, let me back, let me back.
I want to be back.

The child is always screaming. All is lost all is lost.  My head does not lift- it is weighted with sorrow.  My soul does not jump - it is chained with regret.  My eyes weep tears, always tears.

We struggle.  We struggle. We struggle.

How has it already been over three months since I cradled your warm body against mine?  Since I kissed your sweet face and sent the last snapchat of us?  I was so excited to just be snuggling you.  So proud to be your mom.  I still am your mom I guess.... But so much of me feels you have been lost to me forever.  You completed my happiness, my heart and my life.

Will my world ever feel full without you there?  Will I ever glimpse a sight of my kids playing and not think "I wish there was three?" Will the comment "your kids are so good with babies!" Ever not rip my soul in two?  Of course they are good with babies.... They had you to love.  Why did you come just to be taken?

I bear the weight of your loss alone.  For all time- you will be known as a daughter only to me.

Your loss is brutal, soul suffering agony.  I will miss you forever, your presence will always be the whisper of something absent, I wish you were
To hold, to kiss, to sing to.

Oh Elly, Elly, Elly.
I love you,
Your mom