Recently I asked some of my closest friends to give me a list of questions that they have wanted to ask me about the last year of my life. The next few blogs will be me answering those questions.
I have had to think about the answer to some of the questions…really think because some of the questions warrant a few answers which is hard to explain. The first question was “What was the hardest moment over the last year?” I will take this opportunity to talk about the day after. May 10th, 2012…The first day I woke up a widow. The first day Aaron woke up and didn’t giggle with his dad. If I am completely honest I didn’t sleep the night of May 9th but I did wake up on the 10th…my first day as a widow. Thursday…it was the day we went to Hamilton’s to plan the funeral. Picking out flowers…songs…poems…pictures…urns…caskets…locations and times. Adrenaline from the day before was still keeping me going as I carefully thought of each selection hoping I would be making the decision the way Jay would want.
The hardest moment with people watching me was waking up that day after. If I could have slept it would have been so easy to just sleep the day away…not wake up from the dream…the nightmare I was living in but I got up and went through the second most rough day of my life. And if I say so myself, I think I did it with great dignity and strength…a strength I did not know I had…that I continue to have.
The single hardest moment when no one was around me was saying our final good-bye. I held his hand…I kissed his lips and I looked at him and for the last time I told him straight to his face how much I loved him and how much I would miss him. That was the single hardest moment in the last year. A few moments after that my dad came into the room as did the funeral director and they helped me close the casket for the last time and walk away. I remember saying I didn’t want to go…I didn’t want to leave him and with all of my heart I did not want to leave him.
At work they put a balloon attached to a candy bar on your desk for your birthday. My birthday was the beginning of March. Why is this something to share? It is almost 2 months out and the thing is still floating above my desk.
It has lost its shine of a newly blown up balloon but it is still floating. It isn’t even dragging one bit. It has become a landmark…a conversation piece …a phenomenon that everyone is trying to figure out. The guy over the wall from me had a birthday balloon last week and his lasted less than a week.
A few of us have talked and without making me cry (since I had thought the same thing previously) we came to the conclusion that is it my guardian angel. It is Jay hovering over me as the 1 year anniversary approaches. Against all odds the balloon is still floating over me. Against all odds…I wake up every morning to face another day…because I have to. 🙂
For all logical reasons I probably just got some really good helium but like I have said before…I am sure Jay has been talking to me and sending me signs I just haven’t been listening or looking. Well…I’m listening…and every day I sit at my desk…I see my balloon and it’s my reminder to keep floating. Message received Jay. Love you.
Yesterday I was asked two very interesting questions. The first was, what in the house is calming to you? My answer?…the hand sculpture.
I am very lucky to have this hand sculpture I speak of because in reality the only people who usually have an opportunity to have this made are those with family members with long illnesses (that go to hospice) or that have time while the person is still living to get the mold done. In those first hours after Jay died there were so many things happening. One time right after I got there when I went back into the room to sit with Jay there were two people in the room with a bucket of plaster and had put Jay’s hand in it. I remember the ME telling me these people were taking a mold of Jay’s hand so that Aaron and I could have a sculpture. It is amazing how much detail this sculpture has. I can literally see the details of wrinkles in his fingers and the length of his finger nails. At the time I received it till about 3 months after his death I thought I was just comforted by having it. When I went to a hospice support group one night (even though Jay didn’t go through hospice) I was told the story behind my special sculpture. If I find the person’s write up about it online I will post it but the nuts and bolts are that like I said before this is usually done through hospice when someone is in the process of dying. When Jay entered the ER and it was determined he had died someone at the hospital out in West Des Moines called the downtown location because they knew someone somewhere did these hand sculptures and with this young man, it may help the family to have that. The downtown hospital didn’t do this but knew what the person was talking about and called Hospice out in Johnston to ask them to come to the West Des Moines location to do this. They would have to make it there quickly as in death the body cools and to get a good mold it would require the body as warm as possible. So the woman at Hospice just happened to be free as was the guy from Norwalk that would be assisting in the mold to make it out to West Des Moines and get the mold for this family that had lost someone so young. When I am having a sad moment I can actually hold on to this sculpture and hold Jay’s hand. Sometimes I feel like maybe I can actually feel him holding my hand back. Comfort.
The other question was “What are you feeling today?” My answer?…alone.
Now clearly I am not alone but as I have said before that doesn’t mean I can’t feel that way. I explained to the person that Jay was gone…I am alone. I don’t have my partner in crime to run things by…to know what he is thinking and I miss that more than anything. Ironically as I went to bed last night I looked at Aaron sleeping so sound. He was kind of snoring which made me smile and laugh and then all the sudden in my head I heard “You are not alone Alyssa…look.” I can tell myself things many times in my head but this was different. It kind of freaked me out actually. And then this calm came over me and I knew it was Jay saying…”Alyssa…Aaron is with you…you are not alone.” At that moment I wasn’t feeling “alone”…I wan’t focused on the previous conversation I had that day, I was smiling at my beautiful…sleeping (which is always nice right moms and dads out there?) baby boy. It is amazing that when I relax what thoughts and things happen.
I was beginning to think that Jay wasn’t sending me signs…or wasn’t trying to talk to me. Maybe, just maybe it is because I haven’t been looking…or listening. Message received Jay. Love you.
Any other day of the year you may get ticketed for jaywalking in downtown DesMoines but on Saturday June 15th that will not be the case. I am very excited to let you all know that team “the Jaywalkers” will be hitting the pavement walking in the American Heart Association Heart Walk. We started the team last year in Jay’s memory and we will continue to walk as long as the Heart Walk comes to town.
Below is the link to our team’s page. If you join the team and raise $100 you get a free t-shirt from the Heart Walk folks. As a bonus for “the Jaywalkers”, this year we have team t-shirts I am having made. If you raise $150 I will give you a team t-shirt for free.
We miss Jay each and every day but it is events like this that allow us to walk in his memory and continue to have an impact on people’s lives (as he did) by helping in the fight against heart disease.
Forward the above link to any one you think would be interested in joining or donating. Let’s make a difference folks!
The other day I got a “Save the date” in the mail. A good friend of ours son is getting married in August.
The conversation that happened in my head next is kind of comical. It went something like this:
“Do I go?”
“OF COURSE YOU GO!”.
“Well then do I take Aaron?”
*sigh* “Well maybe taking Aaron isn’t a good idea.”
“But people there will want to see Aaron.”
“Those people won’t be the ones trying to take care of an almost 2 year old…in dress clothes…they will understand.”
“So, do I go alone?”
“Who would I take if I took someone?”
“If I go alone I will be faced with the looks and comments on my own, am I strong enough to do that?”
So to go or not to go…have a plus one or go alone. Be brave and take Aaron or do the sane thing and get a babysitter.
There isn’t an invitation yet so I guess we will see what I think when that comes in the mail and I fill out the RSVP card.
100 Meter Dash
The world record for running the 100 meter dash is under 10 seconds. What does that have to do with me you ask?…let me tell you. I want to get through my grief in the time it takes to run a 100 Meter dash. Notice I didn’t say in how long it would take ME to run it but in the time it takes to run it and I would choose the less than 10 seconds.
Wouldn’t that be great. Run fast and hard and be done in 10 seconds. Unfortunately my logical side tells me that is not possible. I hear from family and from close friends…”Lyss…we don’t expect you to be done grieving”…”Alyssa…take it one step at a time”. What if I want to be done. I think we can all agree it isn’t that easy and it doesn’t work that way. Even though many times I have tried.
In highschool my brother ran track. When I was a senior he was a freshman and he ran the 800M. It was so much fun and amazing to watch. He would take the first time around the track at a steady pace. Never sprinting he ran steady. As the proud sister I would stand at the start of the last 50M of the track and wait to see this cool thing happen. On that last time around you could see him pick up the pace. And right at the last fifty of the last lap it was like he could shift it into the last gear and just take off.
So…is grief an 800M run? Ummm..No. It is more like a cross country meet with lots of hills…the ground underneath you is never completely paved and you really don’t want to sprint. It is a steady run the whole way. The ground can be wet from rain (tears) and you may slip and fall. If you are running down a hill and slip you may even break your ankle. (those that get that reference get a gold star) It is not easy to get back up but I have to and I do. Anyone going through this type of grief will tell you this is a very hard part of the process…getting back up.
It’s been 11 months…almost a year…wow. It still seems like yesterday.
A lot has happened in the last 11 months. I thought I had strength before this journey started however it fails in comparison to the strength I have now.
In the last month we have had a few things going on:
I have pretty much recovered from my whiplash from the accident.
Aaron had an allergic reaction to something he ate which was followed by a scary visit to urgent care and then a visit to an allergist. Sigh of relief…he is not allergic to peanuts. With the help of many I am slowly figuring out what little man’s tummy and body can handle. Daycare has been amazing.
Henry is back and fixed. I named my Toyota Highlander Henry.
The house is in the final stages to being fabulous on the first floor and every time we walk down the stairs I smile. I may have missed my calling as an interior designer…just sayin.
As I look ahead at the next month I will not lie…I am scared. To face the year anniversary seems so final.
Thank you for helping me walk in this journey. I appreciate you.
6/5/78 – 5/9/12
At the work book fair the other day I picked up a book because when I opened it up it had quotes and looked cool. When I took a closer look at it today I had to smile because I have heard of the idea behind the book before. The book is called “The Dash”.
For those that don’t know the thought of the book it basically says that although the dash between one’s birth date and date of death is small it doesn’t mean what happened in that dash wasn’t meaningful. It asks you to think about what people would say in your eulogy about your “dash”.
I spoke at Jay’s funeral. As I stood at the podium and looked out at the packed funeral home I thanked everyone for coming. I said I was overwhelmed by the support shown by the number of people there but I wasn’t surprised. Why wasn’t I surprised you ask? Because…Jay was a very likable person. He did alot in his 33 years of life and made friends with many people along the way.
True story…at the visitation I was walking around and heard this one guy say “Oh my gosh…I know him” (later finding out he was talking about knowing Jay). Now…you would think that if you are at someone’s visitation you would know that you knew the person. The difference was that this man was a firefighter/EMT for another town’s fire department. He made it part of honoring those that have served as a FF or EMT at fire departments to go to their visitations whether he knew them or not. What he found out in that moment is that he knew Jay from DMACC where Jay had gone to class to become on EMT and then had gone further to help the teachers do the clinical type stuff after he had passed the class. This guy…who was just going to a fellow EMT’s (Jay resigned from the FD in 2010) funeral not “knowing” who he was found out he knew Jay and the first thing out of his mouth was…”He was a really cool guy…he really knew his stuff.” Amazing.
Another true story…the visitation was from 4-8. At 5:00 I asked one of the funeral directors what time it was. I was sure it was atleast 6 if not 7. He looked at me and said it’s 5:00…I know what you are thinking…you have seen an amazing number of people and it feels like 7:00 but its not…hang in there. Would you like me to get you some more water? They estimated there were 300-400 people that came through the visitation.
So I ask you…how are you spending your dash? Jay’s dash was 33 years long. Are you saying “I love you” enough…are you taking every opportunity to better your life or to make others better? If you were to die tonight, what would people say about your dash? If you think about it…you may do a few things different tomorrow.
Henry the Highlander
My name is Alyssa…and I love my Toyota Highlander. There…I have said it.
You see after the car accident we were in, I vowed never to buy any other kind of vehicle in regards to brand. I am a Toyota girl through and through. I may never drive a Camry again but Toyota…or better said “Henry” kept Aaron and I safe. I drove a Chevy Malibu rental while Henry was getting fixed up and although a very nice ride I was ready to get back into the Highlander so much that I hugged him when I got him back. The guy at the collision center probably thinks I’ve lost it but I admit it…I hugged Henry.
Now some of you may be wondering if the Highlander had his name before the accident. The answer to that is no. He earned it getting us through the accident.
Why Henry you may ask…well…not only does “Henry the Highlander” roll off the tongue so well…Henry is the name a very good friend of mine’s daughter told Jay and I we should name our little boy. I think Aaron was the best choice for our little boy but for that little girl I will say Henry was the best choice for the Highlander. 🙂
I have been trying to come up with something that describes widows brain and driving to Home Depot today it hit me…”scrambled eggs”. It’s kind of like that commercial to not take drugs except for widow’s brain it would be something like this:
“This is your brain..this is your brain after losing your soul mate.”
Similar to scrambled eggs you can’t just make it a whole egg anymore. You can’t put the scrambled egg back in the egg shell …well…technically you could put part of it back but even if you could put it all back in the shell it wouldn’t work the way it did before right? That is widow’s brain. Even if you caught the egg before it was completely scrambled the shell still has the break…leaks if you will. I like to think the yoke of the egg is a comparison to tasks at work…or things you want to do around the house…even simple things like remembering to brush your teeth. The yoke slips through the crack and you are none the wiser it is just gone.
In the grief world they talk about getting used to your “new normal”. Some may mistake this as taking what you had and putting it back together. Fact is…you can’t do that. Instead you literally have to start new. Start with a fresh egg so to speak and rebuild. If losing your soul mate isn’t hard enough, grasping the concept of having to completely rebuild your life to be whole again is a pretty hard pill to swallow.
I think if someone would have explained it using scrambled eggs as an example it would have made more sense early on…but then again I like scrambled eggs.