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Saturday, December 29, 2018

One year 12/19/18

One year. 365 days of grief. Hard to believe we've made it that long without you. I still expect you to be driving your truck home from school.

I feel weird today, like sad, but also some relief. Like it's going to be okay because we've come this far and are doing okay, some days even well. I feel sad knowing it's going to be a lot more years till I see you. Part of me wants to come home today to be with you and God but the other part of me needs to stay here to be with the boys, family and friends.

I chose joy as my 2019 word because I feel that it was missing from a lot of this past year. I did feel peace a lot over 2018 and everyone says I'm strong so my 2017 word must have been appropriate too.

I want love and support today but I want it every day not because it's been a year since you got to go home. I know you're happier there than you could ever have been here but I hope a part of you misses us. I hope you hesitated a teeny bit when God came for you. I hope He told you it would all be okay.

Thank you for being an amazing friend first, then husband and finally a dad. You taught us all so much and continue to do so. I know you wouldn't want us to sit around and mourn for you but you also knew me well for 25 years and know that dates are in my brain and that today would be hard.

I think I've surprised you. I think we planned that we would have enough money for me to take time off but then I would go back to work eventually. I think I've done better than either of us thought. I do worry about money but shouldn't because you said it all up so that I can live the same lifestyle we had.

I know right now you're shaking your head at me for laying in bed in tears, the amount I spent on Christmas this year and the boys for not helping around the house like you taught them, but I also feel your love. I know you are here with us even though we don't see you or hear you, except on recordings. I know you're watching over us waiting for our purpose to be fulfilled.

I worry about others and if I'm there enough for them. I want to be supportive of others grief but it's like I have a measuring cup and I only have so much to give to grief and I give a huge majority of it to myself and then the boys and there's not much left to give anyone else after that but it bothers me sometimes. I know this is really hard for so many people, the 700 people that came to your funeral and the hundreds that didn't or couldn't. I know they're hurting too and I don't know how to help them. I don't know if I should stop by and see those locally, if I should text or call those away from here because I know everyone wants to know how I'm doing and take care of me too. My heart breaks thinking of your family and friends and your colleagues, members of the church in the community.

Keep watching over us. I can hear you say "Suck it up buttercup" and also that you're good. I'm so happy you're not in pain anymore and that you don't feel old like you did when you were here. I'm so happy you experienced the ultimate joy every day.

I love you.
I miss you.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Garth Brooks

Last night I went to a Garth Brooks tribute band concert. Ahead of time I was thinking of the different Garth Brooks songs that I remember from many years ago when that's what I listened to.

I didn't remember the song titled "If Tomorrow Never Comes". So the song starts and the tears start the same time. And while they're singing I realize that I did know. The song asks that if tomorrow never comes will she know how much I love her. And I do know how much Steve loved me. I know that he still loves me.

Then they play the song "The Dance". In this song he talks about how sometimes things happen and they are not good things, or fun things or things you want to happen, but in the end if you didn't have those things happen you would have missed the dance.

I wouldn't go back and change anything. I would still say yes to seeing "Fern Gully". I would still say yes when he proposed on a corner in the rain. I would still say yes to having three amazing boys. I would still say yes to all of these things and accept the 25 years we had together was meant to be. And even though grief is really hard, I accept it and I'm working through it everyday knowing that I got to enjoy the dance.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Doctor

I had my annual doctor's appointment yesterday and was not prepared for them to ask any questions that we're going to be hard to answer. And not hard in that I didn't know the answer, but hard emotionally.  I didn't want to give the answers. I want to go back and answer like I did last year at my appointment.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Secretary of State

In January I also needed to go to the Secretary of State to transfer titles. I needed to do one for the truck, the boat and our camper. Our other vehicle was already in my name. I called ahead of time to see what I needed to bring with me so I was prepared or so I thought.

When I got there I realized I should have checked the titles before I brought them in. One still had our credit union listed as a lienholder, even though I had paid off the loan many years before. I needed to go to the bank and have someone sign off on it.

Each title transfer cost $15. If a vehicle was newer than 2008, I also needed to bring the mileage. I needed the plate number and/or the registration form and I had to bring a copy of the death certificate.

The new titles came in the mail within a couple weeks and this was one more thing I could cross off my list.

My advice is to look at your titles every now and then, especially if you've paid off a loan and make sure that you get that removed. It makes transferring a lot easier if you need to change owners, you were to sell it or total it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

9 month feelings

9 months today. I still don't truly believe that you're gone and not coming back or that you're not just at Camp Nesbit.

I wonder how your sixth grade team is now with Carl there and the new guy in John L's place. I'm glad Amy and John A. have each other but it's got to be hard for them and for the rest of the staff too. One of Diane's kids asked her about the bench in your honor and said that we must all be sad.

I'm not sure what I feel. Sad to not be making new memories; grateful for the memories I have and the time we did have; jealous of you being in heaven - not in pain, not feeling old, not tired; confused on why God needed you now and why you just went 9 months ago and weren't sick or anything or that you didn't die during the surgery; and lonely - being a single mom is hard and I question if I'm making the right decisions or if I'm too easy and let too much go on because they're grieving.

I don't think I'm angry.

I don't think I'm scared anymore. I was at first, scared to be alone, scared to make decisions, scared of how they feel, to cope, to go on.

But I feel better now that I realize God doesn't ever give us more than we can handle and so I tell myself that God took you home with him because he needed you to watch over the kids that he knew were coming. That He knew I could do this on my own and that I'd be okay and that through this I would get stronger, more confident, be able to help others, make okay decisions, learn new things and be okay. That I can be happy. I can laugh. I can smile and say I'm fine and mean it. That I can forget you're gone sometimes and that's okay. That the boys will be okay. God has a plan for them too and although I still don't think it's fair that they don't get to make new memories and especially Matthew, who only had 11 years,  they got enough love and teaching from you, that they'll be okay. They'll be fine. They'll be good.

God knows best and we're all here to fulfill His purpose for our lives until He takes us home too.

(After I wrote this I picked up my devotional and the verse for today was "love never fails".)

Sunday, September 16, 2018

I'll be there

On my way to church this morning I decided to drive by the cemetery.

The grass needs to be cut and that would drive him crazy.

I put a post on his Facebook page saying that I'm thankful that he's watching over us. As I left, "I'll be There" by the Escape Club came on the radio.  Perfect timing.

Lyrics:
Over Mountains
Over Trees
Over Oceans
Over Seas
I'll be there

In a whisper on the wind
On the smile of a new friend
Just think of me
And I'll be there

Don't be afraid, oh my love
I'll be watching you from above
And I'd give all the world tonight,
To be with you
Because I'm on your side,
And I still care
I may have died,
But I've gone nowhere

Just think of me,
And I'll be there

On the edge of a waking dream
Over Rivers
Over Streams
Through Wind and Rain
I'll be there

Across the wide and open sky
Thousands of miles I'd fly
To be with you
I'll be there

Don't be afraid, oh my love
I'll be watching you from above
And I'd give all the world tonight,
To be with you
Because I'm on your side,
And I still care
I may have died,
But I've gone nowhere

Just think of me,
And I'll be there

In the breath of a wind that sighs
Oh, there's no need to cry

Just think of me,
And I'll be there

Steve, thank you for always being there. I know you have to be very happy there, but I sure wish you could be here in person too.

I'm struggling to go into church. It was a hard day last weekend and I'm already in tears today. I also don't think I have Kleenex in my purse. I can hear Steve say, "suck it up buttercup, I'm good" so I guess I will go in.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Perfect rewrite

My rewrite of Ed Sheeran's song "Perfect".

When I heard the song for the first time I knew it could have been "our song", it fits so perfect to the life we had: being young when we fell in love, just starting a home of ours together and raising children together. I rewrote it to make it more of what we're going through right now.

I found a love for me.

Darling, just drive right in and follow my lead. Well I was a girl, a man found me, generous and sweet. Oh I never knew he was the someone waiting for me.

Cause we were just kids when we fell in love. Not knowing it'd be short, I won't give up that time. But darling you kissed me slow, your love was all I knew and in my heart I'm holding you.

Baby I'm dancing in the dark with you still in my heart, barefoot at the cross, listening to our favorite song.

When God said it was your time, I whispered underneath my breath and he heard it, you were perfect for me.

Well I found my faith, stronger than it was before. I know my dreams, I know someday I'll be at home. I found a love, to carry more than just my secrets, to carry love, to raise children of our own.

We're not still kids but so in love, praying to our God. I know I'll be alright this time. Darling, watch me from above, I'm your girl, you'll be my man. I see my future in your arms.

Baby I'm praying at your grave, with all the tears on my face, barefoot at the cross, listening to our favorite song. When I saw you at your death, looking so peaceful, I don't deserve this, darling you looked perfect that day.

Baby I'm praying that your grave, without you here on earth, barefoot at the cross, listening to our favorite song. I have faith in God above. Now I know I've met an angel in person, and he was perfect.

I don't deserve this, you were perfect for me.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Labor Day weekend

Grief hits when you don't expect it. I never expected Labor Day weekend to be hard.

A friend pointed out that there's lots of memories connected to this weekend because this was when we, as a teaching family, always got ready to start our year.

We both would be finalizing lesson plans and posters to put up in the classroom. I would have gone out and bought hundreds of pencils so he could have them for a students over the year. Both of our classrooms would have been set up. I would have hung a huge yellow ruler that I made for his classroom. He would have got his computer all hooked up.

We would both be nervous and yet excited. He and his friend would have probably spend some time fishing this weekend before the grading of papers needed to start. I'm so thankful that his friend made YouTube videos of them fishing.

Sometimes we went camping this weekend as kind of the last hurrah for summer. Still not sure what we're going to do about our camper. We didn't use it at all this summer because I was not emotionally ready. I have never camped before we start dating.

I guess you just never know what's going to hit you and what's going to be hard.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Grow strong in your weakness.

My last post was entitled strong?. I posted in the middle of the night last night and when I got up this morning to do my devotional, here is what I read:

Grow strong in your weakness. Some of my children I've gifted with abundance strength and stamina. Others, like you, have received the humble gift of reality. Your fragility is not a punishment, nor does it indicate a lack of faith. On the contrary week ones, like you, must live by faith depending on me to get through your day. I am developing your ability to trust me, to lean on me rather than your understanding. Your natural preference is to plan out your day, knowing what will happen when. My preference is for you to depend on me continually, trusting me to guide you and strengthen you as needed. This is how you grow strong in your weakness.

Taken from "Jesus Calling, Enjoying Peace in his Presence" by Sarah Young.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Strong?

I keep hearing people tell me I'm strong. I went to dictionary.com and looked up the definition of the word strong because that's not how I feel. I don't know if I really fit any of the 25 different definitions. Is it strong to get up every day?  Is it because I'm still working and being a mom? I don't know if that's strong or just what I need to do. If that's the definition of strong then many people I know are strong. There are people fighting worse battles than I am that do more than I do that I would say they are strong.

I have a strong faith.

I have a strong trust in God.

I have a strong belief that everything happens for a reason, according to a plan.

But maybe I am strong in the eyes of others because they see me showered, dressed and out of bed. They see me at work. They see me being a mom. Maybe they don't feel they could be doing those things if they had lost their husband. Maybe they wish they could have the faith I have and believe that it's all going to be okay. It is what it is. I may never understand the reason why, but it doesn't mean I have to stop living or trusting God.

Their eyes that don't see the rest of me. They don't see me cry in the shower when I smell the body wash. They don't see me cry when I hear songs on the radio. They don't see me cry when I sit and watch the sunset. They don't see me cry when it's late at night and I can't sleep. They don't see me cry when I want to tell Steve something and then remember he's gone. They don't see me sit in his truck and eat an entire container of ice cream. Maybe they see the tears while I pray in church. Maybe they see a hint starting when people ask how the boys are. Maybe they read this blog and can sense the grief.

So maybe I am strong by some people's definition, but my heart feels weak some of the time. I sometimes wish I had the strength to be stronger for other people as they grieve too. To offer comfort and advice.

I don't share a lot of this with anyone because I don't want sympathy. I don't want people to be proud of me because I'm strong.

I need to grieve. They need to grieve. And maybe we all just do it a little different.

I have a lot of coping strategies that are helping me get through too. I read, write and keep a journal. I pray and keep going to church. I meditate and do restorative yoga. I speak with a therapist. I take pictures. I get massages. I eat ice cream in front of the TV. I cry and I laugh.

Be strong.
Be brave.
Do well.
Keep going.
Trust.
Have faith.
Smile.
Look for miracles.
Love.
Remember.
Breathe.
Rest.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

8 months

8 months today. I had a hard morning at church and then I realized that it was 8 months ago. I still don't know why some days are harder than others and why some days it seems easy. I also don't know why sometimes I don't want it to be easy. I'd like to just lay in my bed and cry.

I heard from another woman who lost her husband at a really young age that the second year is harder. You make it through the first year knowing that it's going to be rough and then you think it'll be better and it's not. I believe this to be true because I thought it was better at 7 months and now it's awful again at 8.

Lots of things are changing at my house. I've cleaned up some things and put some things in boxes. I'm changing a job. My boys will be going to different school buildings. I hope to get a new normal established.

It's weird to not go and set up his classroom this week to be ready for orientation. I always hung the huge ruler on the wall, the alphabet of math terms above the bulletin board and his Green Bay Packer curtains on the closet doorways. I put up some cute saying outside of his door. I set out pictures of me and the boys. I feel like I added the personality to his classroom.

His grade level team has changed a lot this year with Steve dying and another teacher retiring. I hope this September they can start to find their new normal.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Can't

I can't.
I can't hear your voice.
I can't smell your body.
I can't see your face.
I can't feel your touch.
I can't taste your kiss.
I can't believe you're gone.
I can't believe you're not coming back.
I can't imagine all you miss doing with the boys.
I can't imagine growing old without you.
I can't.
Some days I can't.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Kiss

It's been almost 7 months since my husband passed away. Today I decided to clean out the freezer and get rid of any food left over from the funeral. I was listening to music and the playlist is called Steve. Some of the songs are from our life together and some of the songs that just remind me of him. Our song, "Love of a Lifetime" came on just as I found a single Hershey Kiss in the very bottom of the chest freezer.

Monday, July 16, 2018

School

We notified the school way right away that he had passed away. Because he was out for surgery and then we were going on Christmas break, they already had a sub in his room to use his lesson plans.

I did have to talk to them about numerous things like getting paid for sick leave and compensation time he had earned for covering for other teachers. Because we get paid over the entire year, I had to also request a salary adjustment because he had not been paid for the amount of time he had put in this year. Other things I had to talk about where the extra duties he did such as Lego and recess duty.

One of the teachers contacted me and asked for his login information for the system they used at school. He had made a video for each of the lessons for the school year demonstrating how to do the math problems. A few of the teachers were still going to use these when they helped students. I hope I still can access these so I can hear his voice.

After the funeral and Christmas were over,  his sister and I went up to the room to clean out his personal belongings. It was another really hard thing to do. I felt I needed to leave certain things in the room so that when the kids returned in January it wouldn't be completely empty and blank. And then there were many things that we had personally provided in the room that I felt I needed to take. I took things like pictures of our boys and drawings they had done for him. I left posters that I knew some of the students have made. and some of the other posters that I knew we did not have a use for.

It will be really weird in August to not go and set up his classroom. This is something I have done every year since he started teaching. One year I even went and did it by myself.

Throughout the few months of school we received home and cards from the students. I heard from parents that their students really had a hard time going to school without him there. The middle school he taught in dedicated their month of March to him and we received any donations that the students had raised. He always wanted to teach 6th grade math. I'm so glad you got to do his dream job and know that he made such a difference in the lives of the students.

At the very end of the year the teacher in the classroom had collected things that belong to Steve and those were returned to me. I attended the end of the year party with the staff. It was bittersweet to drive there by myself. I know almost everyone there but there were still moments of tears mixed in with lots of moments of laughter.

Medical insurance

I mailed forms to our medical insurance company on January 2nd with a copy of the death certificate. He had a policy through the school he worked at with additional benefits added. we paid a few dollars a month to have a death benefit added. I received a check for the life insurance portion and for two of the additional packages that we had added to each of our insurances. I received payment almost immediately and deposited at my local bank. Because of the amount of two of the checks the bank did have to put a hold on them for 3 days.

This was a piece of information I had not expected at all. I didn't realize that banks had to hold checks of a certain amount for a certain length of time.

Because I'm the primary holder of the insurance I also contacted them about my information. I do have a death benefit listed I needed to reply to them with a death certificate. I received a small check from my insurance. My advice is to spend the extra $3, $4 or $7 a month and add extra packages. The amount we received far exceeded the amount we had spent.

Steve had to be brought to the hospital from our house and I received a bill from our hospital towards the end of January. It said I was responsible for the entire amount as Steve was not on my insurance at the time of billing.

I then contacted someone at member services and they told me that because he was alive the day he used that service that the insurance company would cover the cost. We had already met our deductible for the year and so there would be no cost to me. It was paid in full in the middle of February.

Office of Retirement Services

On January 3rd I contacted the office of Retirement Services. they too were frustrating in the fact that everything took a long time.

I first talked to the woman about the fact that I was still teaching and so my retirement is not affected. She told me to log into my account and check to make sure that my beneficiaries and dependents were listed as the boys. She said as of right now it would default to them anyway but that I was welcome to go and change it if I needed to.

As far as Steve was concerned, they would need me to either fax or mail a copy of the death certificate which I did. They will then review the file. Once it was reviewed they would send me a letter and include an application if the benefits could be provided now.

I called again on February 20th to see what the holdup was. They told me they had received the paperwork. And what the gross amount would be and that they were still processing my file.

I again called on March 22nd to find out the status. I did receive a letter explaining the situation and was back paid for January, February and March.

Because of how long he taught and the fact that he didn't quit, he was eligible for his retirement. I was listed as the beneficiary and so I receive one check each month.

Social security

One place I knew I needed to contact was Social Security. They were frustrating to deal with until I actually spoke with a human at the end.

I called the office on January 2nd and was told that it was going to be a 45 minute wait. I then tried calling a local number the next day but was told it was disconnected.

We had a snow day on January 11th and so I went to the actual office in my town and made an appointment for them to review my case. I brought the death certificate with me knowing that they have been notified by the funeral home. What I didn't realize was that I also needed my marriage certificate and birth certificates for all 5 of us. My father-in-law was able to drop those off for me the next day knowing Steve's social security number to be able to link it to our case.

They told me my appointment would be at 11: 30 on the 26th...of February! and the other thing I found weird was that it was going to be a phone conversation not in person at the office.

So I waited a month and a half and then in  February talked to someone who told me that at this time I make too much money to be able to collect Social Security for myself. he told me I should check back with Social Security in the year 2020 to see if at that point I would be eligible. I did get a one time payment of $225.

All three of my boys were eligible to receive a monthly payment. They each receive the same amount up until my oldest turns 18 in a few months. They would back pay January and February and include that in the March check. Once my oldest turns 18 the other two will get a larger amount until they are 18.

The money is sent at the end of the month directly into my checking account.

When the first check arrived there was a bunch of paperwork that also came in the mail explaining that everything that the money is spent on needs to be documented. There is a list of acceptable things that the money can be spent on. I started a log in my budgeting notebook for what the boys were spending money on.

I also created a savings account at my local bank for each of the boys to put this money into if it's not money I need for our household budget.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

An answer

So earlier this morning, I was laying in bed and decided to pray and ask that I would be able to be quiet enough in my thoughts to hear Jesus and I did!!!

He talked to me about all kinds of different things.

One of the things he told me is that he needed Steve to watch the children and babies in heaven. He had prepped Steve by having him be home more and to stop some of his committees and commitments. Jesus told me to back and look in my journal and see that we had more time and more date nights this past fall and winter.

He also told me that I can be happy on my own. And that I need to always be present.

It was beautiful.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Who ya gonna call?

No I'm not going to call Ghostbusters. And I'm also not going to call Steve. Even though it's been over 6 months, there are still times that I really want to give him a call to let him know something good is happening or to talk to him about something bad that's happening. When you've been with somebody for over 25 years they are they are your go to. He was who I talked to about everything.

Right now I am looking at some changes to my job and I just want his advice. I want to hear what he thinks. I want him to tell me that I'm going to be okay.

I have a ton of of the people I can talk with. I have love and support from family and friends. But sometimes the only person you want to talk to is your soulmate.

So I write notes to him and I talked to him and I try to be still and listen for answers.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Clothes

For the past couple weeks I've been thinking that I need to clean out his clothes. I don't know why now. I don't know why I couldn't before, but it needs to happen. I'm on summer vacation and maybe now my brain is giving me time to think.

I started making piles of everything on the bed. I threw out some things like socks and underwear. I took pictures of a couple things that I wanted to remember but didn't necessarily need to keep. I made a keep pile of things that I couldn't throw away or give away. I called two or three people to see if there was anything they could remember that they might want. I had his parents and sister come over and take things that they wanted.

It's saying goodbye all over again and really really hard.

I moved his dresser out completely to make a journaling space for myself. I moved some things around in the closet. I didn't need the space and so I'm creating a new one. I think not seeing his dresser and his clothes hanging in my closet every day in some ways is a relief.

I still keep his body wash and shampoo in the shower. Some of his things are still in the medicine cabinet. And all the little mementos and papers he saved from me and the boys are still in his nightstand.

Little steps here and there.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The arrival

I've been wondering for a while now what happens when you die. Not like to your body or anything sciency, but what happens when Jesus comes to take you home? Do you get any say in it? Do you get to ask him to stay? Are you upset? Do you worry about the people you're leaving behind? Do you question if it's your time and why now? Is it peaceful and quick?

Or are you so excited to see Jesus that you just go with him without questioning? Does it happen instantaneous so you don't have time to think or worry or be sad or scared?

I know Steve is watching over us from heaven. I know his goal in life was to get to heaven based on how he lived. But I also know that he absolutely loved us and he loved the life he was living.

I hope he quickly went from Earth to heaven without questioning anything that was happening and it was with complete happiness, joy and peace.

I know he's no longer in pain, that he no longer feels old, and that he will always be a part of our lives. I picture him happy and laughing, teasing those around him and spending long hours fishing on a beautiful lake. I picture him looking down on us as we go through our lives celebrating him and other events but I also believe that a part of him still wishes he was here physically with us.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Hate

I got up early this Saturday morning. I felt the need to go to the cemetery. The sun was shining and there was a beautiful breeze blowing. I took the truck. I sat in it and sobbed. I wrote in my journal the following:

I miss you! It's not fair that I'm sitting in your truck without you. It's not fair that you're not here to complain that the yard hasn't been dealt with yet or to help Michael with the bathroom. It's not right to be up on a Saturday morning sitting in the cemetery sobbing. I hate being alone. I hate being lonely. I hate goodbyes. I hate missing you. I hate being a single mom. I hate making decisions. I hate not hearing your voice. I hate not being able to get a hug on a bad day. I hate not having your touch. I hate going to things without you. I hate being at church without you by my side. I hate receiving honors in your place. I hate seeing the boys and your family hurts so much. I hate being strong. I hate sitting in your truck alone. I hate this whole situation. I hate not growing old with you. I hate myself and struggle to forgive. I hate that I'm still on earth and you are in heaven.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Burial day

Where I live, if someone passes away in the winter, they can't be buried. We have too much snow and the cemeteries are closed. And so we wait. We wait  almost five months knowing that this day will come.

Today's the day of the burial. You say goodbye one more time. You stand and watch as the body is taken away.

A part of me really doesn't need to go because I know he's not there. I know he is watching over us. I know God took him home almost 5 months ago.

But I am going because I need to say goodbye. I need the closure. I need to be there for my boys.

Physical
Today we put your physical body in the ground.
And every day I know you're not physically around.
I physically feel the loss of you every day.
Physical reminders of you will always stay.
A hug, a kiss, the physical touch
Those are the parts that I miss so much.

Friday, May 11, 2018

In case of emergency

One day I was looking in my phone after hearing a friend story. He was outside and his phone in his pocket automatically called 911 and the message also went anybody listed as ICE in his phone. It was really hard, but I removed the word ICE from in front of Steve's name but I couldn't delete his name from my contacts. His contract on his phone has discontinued so I guess it doesn't really matter now.

Another day I went to the hospital and when I got there they asked me who I would like to list as my emergency contact. It was one of those situations that I wasn't expecting and so it hit me hard. I wasn't sure of an answer. I want it still be Steve. I added my mom.

Strange things that you don't expect, seem to be the hardest to deal with. Knowing that an event is going to happen and that he won't be there, makes it easier to be at the event.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Talk

Make sure you and your spouse or significant other are having 'the talk'. Discussing what happens when one of you dies or if both of you were to die is one of the hardest conversations you're ever going to have. But it's also the absolutely most important conversation you need to have. We had talked multiple times about having life insurance policies and what we would do if one of us was to die.

It's also not a one-time conversation. Having it as soon as your relationship starts is one thing but then as your relationship changes; as you age, as your health changes, as you add children to the situation, if your job changes, or you end up with different expenses this conversation needs to happen again.

I was talking to a friend this week and she said her husband is trying to give her information in case something happens to him and she doesn't want to hear it. She doesn't feel like she understands any of it and emotionally it's really hard to think about it. I know her husband has been doing more work on getting her set up in case he dies. He and Steve were working on a bunch of stuff this fall with their insurance at work.

She is the only one that works outside of the home. They also have little children. And I know he has set up stuff so that she would be able to receive money for approximately 5 years so that their little one could go to kindergarten and she would be able to get a full-time job outside of the home.

This has nothing to do with how smart you are or how much you know about finances or understand any of the language. It's about being prepared because you never know.

On one hand I feel bad that my children are learning all of this information at the ages they are. On the other hand I feel that they are smarter and more informed because of this that's happened. I pray they will have conversations with their spouses about what to do with one of them dies early in their relationship.

Spending a few dollars every paycheck for life insurance is huge when you actually need it. The amount you spend in the amount you receive are totally different from each other. If you could understand the peace of mind I have knowing that I'm receiving an income every month to help replace Steve's income you would go out and buy life insurance today. You would skip eating out for a meal or not get a coffee in the morning everyday or something in your budget that makes it work.

Free policies

One of the organizations that we both belong to offers a $1,000 death benefit just for signing up and becoming a member, which was free. Steve had only signed up a few months before. Again, I am very grateful that this was an offer. There are so many expenses at this time and your brain doesn't really work. It's nice to know that your savings account is getting money put into it so you don't have to worry about rewriting your budget every week. Anything that can be automatic at this time I found helpful.

I contacted contacted them at the beginning of January.  They sent me a claim form to fill out and I returned it with a copy of the death certificate. A deposit was made into my bank account approximately 3 weeks after I returned the paperwork.

Everything takes time. Documenting the date that everything was sent or received was really helpful. A lot of the time I had no idea even what day it was or how long it had been since I had done something.  Having the notebook to go back and look at was comforting.

My advice now is to check with groups you belong to and see if they offer life insurance or death benefits.

Life Insurance

My husband's family had bought a small life insurance policy when he was a baby. We made a once-a-year payment to keep that policy going and I never thought more about it than that.

The funeral home contacted them directly to let them know that Steve had passed away and to start the paperwork. I had the choice again on how I wanted to receive the funds. I chose to have them pay the funeral home directly to help cover the cost of funeral; the casket, the cards, the burial, the fees because it was winter, etc.

If anything was left, I would receive the remaining in the form of a check. I signed the paperwork only a couple days after Steve had died and about two weeks later I received the check.

I feel absolutely blessed that his family started this policy. It cost us about $3 per payday to have enough to make the yearly policy payment. Having the peace of mind that the funeral was covered was huge at that time.

I completely recommend everybody getting a policy for at least enough to cover a funeral.

In the last month or so I went to my insurance agent and contacted them about getting a quote on how much policies for my boys would be. I am using part of the money I receive as a death benefit to cover the cost to have policies for them. I know firsthand how important it is to be able to cover the funeral costs. I pray that they will not have to use this money until they are much older, but as we now know, we do not know the time that will leave this earth.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Watching over us

A couple weeks ago in church I was kneeling down praying and I have what I guess I would consider a vision. My son was next to me.

I could see Steve up above us in what I believe to be heaven, kneeling on one knee by a little boy. He had his arm around his  shoulder and Steve leaned close and told that little boy, "Do you see that boy down there? That's my son and he's 11. I watch over him just like you'll get to watch over your 11 year old brother."

A woman I know just lost her 12 year old little boy and has an 11 year old son here on Earth. I don't know what either of her children look like, but I know that's who Steve was with that day.

Maybe, just maybe, the reason Steve needed to leave us with so that he could be in heaven to welcome that little boy and to teach him how to be a gaurdian angel. 

Option B

I got a package in the mail the other day from a friend because she was thinking about me and wanted me to know that. Awesome.

In the package was a book called "Option B; Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy". It's written by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. I started reading it and even though I'm only halfway through, it's already amazing. Everyone should read this book whether you've lost someone or not.

It talks about what to say to people and what you're feeling and what's right and what's wrong and a lot of it is really perfect.

The whole idea of resilience rings true to me. I have been asked how I get out of bed every day. I have to. Option A is gone and so I follow Option B. Option B is moving forward, creating new memories, doing what needs to happen so that my life and the life my boys can continue. I know that the grief is not going to go away but I need to learn how to cope with having greif in my life. There are always going to be new times of grief.

I know when people ask me how I am today, it's because they care. But some days that question is really hard because I don't know how I'm feeling and I don't know what to answer. My personality makes me think of what the other person is feeling too and I don't want to be upsetting to them so that adds to the difficulty. I try to be honest and if it's an 'eh' kind of day, then that's what I say.  If it's a good day, I say that too. Some days are good days! Some minutes are still really awful!

The book has also made me question how I treat others in my life; people that are also experiencing grief or are fighting a battle of cancer, or just not having a really good day or a good life. Am I compassionate enough?  Do I have empathy? Am I sympathetic to what they're feeling? I need to remember to treat them as I would like to be treated.

Quotes

I started a journal to write things that reminded me of Steve or things I wish I could say to him still and poems I wrote. A couple of the pages I filled with quotes that I found about grief:

The Lord watches over the fatherless and the Widow. Psalm 146:9

I am not a widow. I'm a wife. My husband waits for me in Heaven.

I aspire to be the widow that my husband would be proud of...still.

It's not the kind of sadness to where you cry all the time, but more like the sadness that overwhelms your entire body, leaving your heart aching and your stomach empty, making you feel tired, and yet you can't even sleep because the sadness is in your dreams too. It's almost a sadness you can't escape.

Today is one of those days that I'm getting through minute by minute.

I look up at the sky and talk to you. What I wouldn't give to hear you talk back. I miss your voice. I miss your laughter. I miss everything about you.

No rule book. No time frame. No judgement. Grief is as individual as a fingerprint. Do what is right for your soul.

You can't be strong all the time. Sometimes you just need to be alone and let the tears out.

Grief is learning that it's possible for a part of you to die while you are still living.

God is the only reason I made it this far.

For many grievers tears come in private places like the car, the shower,  the garden, the closet. Just because you don't see us crying doesn't mean that we aren't feeling the loss. On the contrary, we feel the absence deeply.

Grief is the last Act of love we have to give those we love. Where there is deep grief there has been great love.

I wish you were here to tell me that everything is going to be okay.

When I simply say 'I miss him', I really mean I miss his smile. I miss his voice. I miss his laugh. I miss him next to me. I miss his jokes. I miss him holding my hands. I miss him teasing me. I miss him so much I can feel my heart breaking.

Grief is a nasty game of feeling the weakest you have ever felt and morphing into the strongest person you will ever become.

Sometimes when I say 'I'm okay', I want someone to look me in the eyes, hug me and say 'no you're not'.

You realize how much you truly miss someone when something happens, good or bad, and the only person you want to tell is the one person who isn't there.

Missing you comes in waves. Tonight I'm drowning.

I still don't understand.

The hardest thing is not talking to someone you used to talk to everyday.

In French you don't say 'I miss you' you say 'tu me manques', which means you are missing from me. I love that.

Grief, I've learned is really just love. It's all the love you want to give or cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.

Sometimes the person who's been there for everyone else needs someone to be there for them.

Time passes but not a day goes by that you are not here in my heart. The day you died was not just a date on the calendar, it was a day when my very existence changed forever.

My mind knows you are in a better place where there is no pain. You are at peace. I understand that. I just wish I could explain that to my heart.

My mind is still trying to wrap itself around the fact that you are gone.

Don't tell me how strong you think I am. I survived only because in the end it was all I could do.

Your wings were ready but my heart was not.

There are moments in life when you miss someone so much that you want to pick them from your dreams and hug them for real.

I think the hardest part of losing someone isn't having to say goodbye but rather learning to live without them. Always trying to fill the void, the emptiness, that's left inside your heart when they go.

To keep on going since you're gone the hardest thing you've ever done. I wear a mask from day-to-day and try to cope in my own way. I'll miss you till we meet again and long for you each day till then. There's now a hole no one can feel within my heart. I love you still.

You never said goodbye. Only God knows why. A million times I've needed you, a million times I've cried. If love alone could have saved you, you never would have died. In life I loved you dearly, in death I love you still. In my heart you hold the place no one can fill. It broke my heart to lose you. But you didn't go alone. For part of me went with you the day God took you home.

Please know that hug helps a lot. Please know that your smile helps me heal. Please know that I appreciate your patience. Please know that I love and appreciate you.

Prom

My son right now is getting ready to go to prom; his senior prom. I'm really struggling with him going in the fact that at our junior prom was the first time Steve told me that he loved me. I didn't repeat it that night to him but I did the next night when we got off the phone. I'm so thankful he was brave enough to say it twice. He always told me when I didn't repeat it back to him while we were dancing, that he wasn't sure if I didn't love him or if I hadn't heard him.

We hadn't been dating that long but we both knew at that point that we would be together forever. He said he knew he loved me before he even asked me out. He told me it was because I was beautiful and always kind.

It's hard to believe my senior prom was 25 years ago. I am so thankful for the fact that we had 26 years together. I still don't understand why some people get to have 60 years and why some people don't get any years. I do know it's all according to whatever God has planned for us.

Little things like prom become big things in my heart.

On my way home last night from sitting on the beach at sunset, all of a sudden behind my vehicle was a truck similar to the one that Steve drove. I was listening to Bob Seger on the radio. Then the next time I looked up, the truck was gone.

I know he was following me home last night. I know he still watches over me. And I know that he's watching over our son as he goes to prom with the girl he loves.

Gone

Steve taught 6th grade and obviously affected the kids that he worked with. I heard from my sister that one of the girls really struggled to go to school once he was gone. This is the poem she wrote about him. She is very insightful. I feel the same thing that he's gone and we're staying here. But we have our memories and that will keep us.

GONE
Here
still here
staying here
gone
no one knew
no one thought
that one day
gone
cherished
loved by all
amazing
gone
hurtful
painful
wondering why
spiking
stabbing
crushing
gone
dreadfully
dreading
the days that have gone
without you here
with you gone
always helped
when help was needed
always there
but you can't help anymore
because you're
gone
here
still here
staying here
always in our hearts
always here
never gone

This poem is dedicated to Steve Lancour. I miss you.

Friday, April 20, 2018

April 20: Fern Valley

Today is the 26th anniversary of the day Steve asked me out.  I think the Holy Spirit did a little work on us that day.

I knew that Steve was thinking of asking me out on a date. I had already accepted his offer to go to prom...as friends, or so I thought. We hung out a lot with friends, and I had no idea that he wanted me to be his girlfriend.

On April 20 of our junior year, we had been out with friends that afternoon. We had separate cars and when we were leaving wherever we were, he told me that he was going to follow me home.  When he pulled in his drive way I pulled over too. I didn't even think about it. When he came up to my window, I asked him, "I thought you were going to follow me home?".
Steve didn't really answer me, but instead asked me, "Do you want to go to see Fern Valley tonight?".
I answered him, "No, but I'll see Fern Gully. I need to ask my mom if it's okay.  I'll call when I get home."  When I got home, I asked and my mom told me it was fine. I was so excited!

He came to pick me up that evening and we went and played pool before going to the movies. When we got to the theater, "Fern Gully" had only been an early showing.  We went to see "White Men Can't Jump" instead.  Afterwards, we stopped at Burger King.  Some people we knew were there and they were so excited that he had finally asked.  I am sure if this was happening now, there would be a lot of social media posts happening.

I thank God that I pulled over that day, he finally asked, I agreed and my mom said yes! It was the start of something I couldn't even hope for.

My Facebook memory reminder today was from two years ago.  I say in the post that I can't imagine living without him.  Even though it was 4 months yesterday, I still struggle to believe he is gone and that I am surviving and living without him.

Today is the day we go to the funeral home too to plan for a spring burial.  We get to re-live a lot of it again. God will continue to grant me strength to keep taking another step.

Insurance Company

I received a call from my agent, who I know personally, on Wednesday. He offered condolences and then said they had started the paperwork. They would eventually need a copy of the death certificate to send in. I did not end up giving them one as they contacted the funeral home and it was taken care of.

We had all of our policies there: life, camper, boat, house and vehicles as well as small policies for the boys. I needed to go in and sign the claim forms. They made my name the primary on the accounts.

They were able to file the claim at the beginning of January and it took about two weeks after that for the check for the life insurance to be ready. I requested a lump sum. I could have had monthly payments made, but I wanted to pay off the mortgage.  I stopped by and picked it up. When I went to deposit it, the bank needed to place a hold because of the large amount.

Before Steve died, we had talked about the life insurance money hopefully being enough to pay for the funeral as well as a majority if not all of the mortgage and home equity loan. Pretty much one our regular paychecks went to cover the mortgage expense and with only receiving partial pay in the form of retirement, that expense needed to be taken care of.

I thank God that Steve was a planner and smart about money. I am blessed that we had the money to purchase policies because I know many, if not most people, have not planned for something like this.

When we got home from the hospital one of the first questions my oldest asked was if we would have enough money to pay off the house and what we would do about the truck. I told him we were not making any major decisions, especially that night. Oh, how quickly he took over as the role of the "man of the house".

Most material I have read says to not make any big financial decisions for the first 6 months but I did not feel the use of the life insurance was a decision.  It had been decided when we opened the policy. It financially made the most sense.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My Place of Employment

Someone called from the hospital to tell the superintendent what had happened and that I would not be in the next day.  I assume that my priest told them a least a little bit while he waited for me to get my jacket. An emergency meeting was held at the end of the day to let the teachers know. A few stopped by the house that day after school to see what I needed. One person offered to come and throw in laundry or run to the store for me. It was odd to see my colleagues at my house. Many from Steve's school came as well. I remember telling someone what a strange mix of people, as I am sure most of the people did not know each other. Another thing that I kept on a list were peoples cell phone numbers.  A few people offered to help if I needed it but then I didn't have a way to get a hold of them. 

The students were told in their homerooms Wednesday morning that he had passed away and that I would be going through a rough time and that they were not sure when I would be back. 

The next day (Wednesday) was last day of school before the start of Christmas Break. I am not sure when I told them that I would be back after break or if I just went back in January. I felt that I needed to go back, to be distracted, to help the kids, and to not be home anymore.  No one wants to be back the day after a vacation and everyone was tired,so I think I fit in.  It was awkward to see staff that had not attended the funeral and the students were not sure what to say.  I made it through most of the day without a lot of tears. I didn't work everyday that week. It was overwhelming and I felt I needed to be with my kids if they stayed home. Everyone kept asking if there was anything they could do and if I needed anything.  My time off the first few days was listed as bereavement/funeral time since the funeral had been on days that were were on break. 

I worked with the secretary in the superintendents office to make changes to my tax form. I needed to list myself as single instead of married.  That was really hard to do because I still felt (feel) married. I also made changes to my health insurance to make sure that my children were listed as the primary beneficiaries now.  I am not sure if she needed a copy of the death certificate or not. 

I eventually made some changes to my direct deposit amounts too after certain things were paid off. 




Death Certificate

It was a couple days after he passed away before I received a copy of the death certificate. I received it from the funeral home director.  I thought I would have to pick it up from the court house or in would be mailed.

Many places needed a copy of the death certificate mailed or dropped off. The funeral home director made me multiple copies. I was told that the more you buy at a time, the cheaper they are. I think the director made me twelve copies.  Many places/businesses made a photocopy and gave the original back to me. 

I still keep a copy in my purse because I never know who will need it.

I was told by another widow that she needed to bring her husband's certificate three years later when she went to change the account name at the TV company. I guess it's another thing to file in the safe.


List of Contacts

In a small (4x6) notebook I recorded who I talked to and the date, when paperwork was mailed, and when checks were received.  It was easy to carry it with me and I had all the information when I needed to call again as I had to do.

I contacted the following:

the school where I work
insurance companies (we had more than one)
the NEA (an organization for teachers)
Social Security
Office of Retirement Services
My health insurance company
My husbands school where he worked
The Secretary of State
MEA (another organization for teachers)
My banks (we have two)
My husbands school loan company
Financial Adviser
Credit Card companies
About the loan on our truck
Asuncion Point
Cigna (life insurance)
Mortgage Company
A lawyer about our wills
The school board and our church with files and paperwork of Steve's
Utility companies (water, gas, TV/internet, electricity)

After four months I think I have contacted all of the places and filed the necessary paperwork with them. I kept photocopies of all of the documents I sent. I even copied the envelopes and then added the date on the copy. I had a large basket that anything related to Steve and his passing.






Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Notebook

I started a notebook to keep track of who I had talked to, when I had talked to them, what details about the situation and when I received paperwork back from them or checks that were deposited.

After a few pages I decided I needed to make a table of contents at the beginning of the notebook to be able to find the pages easily as I talked to different people over time.

Over the next few posts will be each of the people I contacted and the places that I needed to work with. My father-in-law and my dad both worked with me a lot by helping me fill out papers and drop things off. They also knew the names of people to contact which saved me some time. Every time I had to talk to somebody I had to relive the whole thing over again. I had to give details of the time he died, what he died from, if it was accidental or not, and some places I had to argue with.

I'm very thankful that I live in a small community and that many of the companies I talked to I was able to actually speak to people I knew. I know that made the whole thing a lot easier than if I lived in a big city. Most of the people I was working with knew Steve personally.

I found most people to be sympathetic and wanting to help. I also found that it took a tremendous amount of energy to do the paperwork part of this. I ended up taking time off of my job to be able to contact some of the companies and go to certain places that were only open during the school day.

It was frustrating to not know what I was talking about and to not understand some of the language that the places were using. I didn't know what type of policy we had for insurance if it was whole life or not, I didn't know which companies were in my name and which ones were in his name and I had to find all of those documents before I could make phone calls. Luckily I'm pretty organized and knew where most of the stuff was. I'm also thankful for the internet where I was able to find information, answers to my questions and phone numbers for places that I needed to call.

The other confusing part was knowing a time frame of who needed to be contacted when and if I was waiting too long or not waiting long enough before making the second or third contact. I kept wishing there was somebody like a wedding planner who would come and do death planning because there's so much paperwork, so many emotions, and too many things to do on my own that I couldn't let somebody else help with. If somebody could have come in, with even a check list in order of who to contact, it would have been amazing.

Part of the reason I started this blog is because a friend recommended that there needs to be something out there for people that are going through the same situation I've gone through. I'm not an expert by any means, but I feel I can share my story and hopefully it helps somebody go through this horrific situation.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

thank you notes

The spreadsheet was an amazing way to keep track of how much money we received, who had dropped off or made food, and sent flowers and other gifts. We made a column where we checked off once the thank you note was written. We could sort alphabetically to look for a family name or we could sort it by if the donation was made for the college fund or by what food they made when we needed to check an allergy question.

Two cousins of mine came over for the afternoon and took mailing labels and stamps and filled out the envelopes as much as possible. They also took all of the thank you notes from the funeral home and wrote "The family of Steve Lancour" inside of each one. The amount of time they saved us was incredible.

My mother-in-law, mom, sister-in-law, sister and I all sat down to write out the personal note for each of the thank you notes. I let them do a majority of them and pulled out the few that I wanted to do personally. It took us many hours but we got a lot of it done over a couple of days.

The sympathy cards continue to come in the mail and it's been almost 4 months. I write the thank you notes in small batches. Getting it done right away was one thing we could actually do as a lot of the other paperwork took time, phone calls and meetings.

Receiving a roll of stamps was an awesome thing as it gets expensive when you send out over 350 thank you notes.

The other nice thing about having the spreadsheet is when you need it for things like graduation we have all of the names and addresses already set.

The funeral and visitation

For the funeral there were a lot of decisions that needed to be made. We had to decide on what he was going to wear, what type of casket to order, what songs would be sung, what to do about food for a luncheon, the times of the visitation in the funeral, picture boards and guest books, burial plots, if we wanted to walk in with the casket or not, and what readings would be said during the service.

Again I had a lot of support from family to help make these difficult choices. Part of them being difficult was that there are four of us and I tried to make sure that everybody had a voice and got what they wanted or felt they needed at that time. It's really hard when one is 11, one is 15, one is 18 and I was 42. Being in a different role for everybody also made it really hard. We had to do a lot of things we didn't want to but knew we had to. I think the whole situation has brought us closer and I hope that's part of God's plan.

Emotionally it is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. The worst part was watching my three boys say goodbye to their dad. The whole time I was thinking that the last time I had stood was Steve at that alter was when we got married. The kneelers were the same kneelers we had when we said our wedding vows and now I'm here saying goodbye. My faith kept me going to that church from the time I was in Middle School and I still continue to go because that's where I get my strength from.

The amount of support from the community was absolutely overwhelming. We held the visitation at our church and we figure at least 700 people attended. People stood in line for over 2 hours to give condolences and love to my in my family. Some people are unable to stay and sign the guestbook anyway. For the funeral itself they had to stop the lines of the funeral could start. Many people stayed for lunch. A huge number of people contributed food and worked in the kitchen for hours getting everything set up and cleaned up. A list was kept of who had donated food. Another list was made for the flower donations for the altar. My sister took a picture of each bouquet with the small card attached so we would know which ones were which ones we got them home.

Ahead of time we made picture boards. Collecting the photos was fun as there was lots of laughter and memories amongst the tears that we shed. My sister-in-law found an app on her phone that allowed her to scan in pictures from old photo albums and put them on to a Google Drive. We asked friends and family to send pictures that they had to the drive and were able to print them at our local Walgreens. After the funeral I was able to collect the pictures and make small photo albums for each of my boys, myself and had quite a few photos to send to other people.

During the funeral I found myself thanking God for the time that we had together. I asked him for guidance on how to do this alone. I asked him to watch over my boys and prayed that the relationship that Steve and I had was enough that the boys would be able to be amazing dads and husbands like he was to me and them.

A friend of the family did the readings and she did an amazing job. She said when she went to practice them at home she was at the window in the sunshine and felt either her mom or Steve looking after her, giving her the confidence to be able to read.

Our priest gave an amazing eulogy about the man he was and how he affected the entire community by being an active member of the parish, a teacher for almost 20 years in many schools, an amazing dad to three boys, a wonderful husband, a son, a brother, and a friend. He touched lives in no matter what he did and he didn't ever do it for the recognition. He hated being put in the spotlight. He lived a life that we should all strive to live. He was kind, loving and funny. He was always there for everyone and I feel that sometimes we took advantage of that.

I know Steve is in heaven. I know he was watching all of us that day. I know he continues to be a guardian angel and will continue to watch over us as we grow into a new normal.

Love, Friends and Family

We get an enormous amount of love from friends and family. People are dropping off food, drinks, and more paper products. Some of the best things we got were paper plates, kleenex boxes, fresh fruit, pasta sauce in small containers, postage stamps and gift certificates for local restaurants. We laughed at the amount of chicken, grapes, and pears we received.

We started a notebook to record who brought what so we could write thank you notes later.  Another notebook was started with who we had talked to and with phone numbers for people like the funeral home director and things that would have to happen. Random things would pop into my head, like who would change the bell schedule at church and that I had a commision at a thrift store to pick up.

My sister and sister-in-law started a spreadsheet to record who brought food and/or made donations.  We have a basket where all the cards are collected. We start another basket of paperwork related to the funeral.

I feel overwhelmed by the love and support.  My sisters are staying with me.  My mom stays over many nights. My youngest is sleeping with me every night. We are on Christmas break and so everyone is around. My oldest's girlfriend is often over and many times he goes to her house.

The agent from my insurance company called and offered his sympathy and told me he had started the process there for life insurance etc and that they would call when I needed to do anything.

I am in constant communication with the funeral home and we have a meeting to decided on a casket and cemetery. I mention that spring burial will not be Memorial Day weekend as my son is graduating.  We bring clothes to the funeral home...and then again as the shirt needed long sleeves and we had sent a short sleeve polo.

We have a meeting with the church to decide on readings, songs, altar servers, and pallbearers. My oldest picked one of the readings. Steve's family helped make choices. I had people come with me to all the meetings because I felt like my brain was mushy and wasn't sure I could make decisions.

During these first few days, I am almost constantly in tears. I am lonely even though my house is full. I am tired and am able to sleep.  I am continuing with my Bible study, prayers and gratitude journal.  I start a new notebook with things related to Steve. I am still numb and in disbelief. I am praying as to answers of why this had to happen.  I knew it was part of God's plan even though I was upset.

Finding out

Tuesday, December 19th, I am at work and head into a meeting.  I have kept my phone with me most of the day in case I was needed at home but did not receive a call or text.  I had emailed Steve to remind him it was his dad's birthday. A few minutes into the meeting, the secretary knocks on the door and tells me that I am going to need come out of the office and then head home.  I am so confused and then I see my priest there and a woman I know. Father says to me that I need to go with him.  I am angry and confused and keep trying to get him to tell me why and what is going on. I know in my heart that something bad has happened.  He didn't really know the whole situation either but someone needed to get me.  He says he will drive my car.

I ran upstairs and got my coat and purse and told someone in my classroom that I needed to go, that Steve was at the hospital and I left.  I then asked about my boys.  Sarah, the woman with Father, said she had already gotten my youngest, would head to the high school to get the other two and would bring them to the hospital. When I got the hospital my parent's car was there and a lot of people were in in the waiting room: my in-laws, my sister-in-law, my parents, and my youngest. Everyone was in tears.

I was taken into a room by the nurse and told that they had tried everything but he had stopped breathing and they could not resuscitate him.  I could not believe what I was hearing; he was fine when I left in the morning.

I was taken into the room to see him.  I cried on his chest for quite a while and held his hand. I said goodbye to the love of my life and the dad of my boys.  My oldest did come in at some point.  My other boys did not want to and I was okay with that.  His mom and dad were there and his mom kept saying that it wasn't supposed to be this way; that she was supposed to go first.  I was in shock.  I couldn't believe it was true.

Once I was back in the waiting room, I realized that the funeral home needed to be called. I am not sure if I called or who did it, but that started everything that would take place over the next few days.

I was talked to by the medical examiner about how the autopsy and death certificate would work and signed some papers.

The funeral home director called that evening to keep us up to date on what was happening and to discuss when we would like to try to hold the funeral with the Christmas Holiday only a few days away. We decided that before Christmas would be the best.

Many people were called and a lot of them came to my house with food and paper products. Everyone was in shock and disbelief.  He had been to work on Friday and church on Sunday. He was 42 years old.

My sisters headed for home from Chicago and Florida with their spouses. A new chapter in my life has begun.

last breath

He had routine hernia surgery on Monday morning that went very well. On Tuesday morning the kids and I said goodbye and left for school and work.  He was up and talking and had slept okay through the night.

Per doctor's orders, he needed someone with him for 24 hours so his dad came over to be there for the morning. They watched TV. Steve threw a remote at his dad when he fell asleep teasing him about who was the one watching who.

Steve's mom came over in the afternoon and asked if he wanted anything for lunch and he asked for chicken nuggets from McDonald's as they had tasted good the afternoon before.  She ran out to get them. She was gone about 15 minutes.

While she was gone, Steve got up to go to the bathroom and after a few minutes his dad called out to see if he was okay. He answered, "Yes".  A few more minutes pass and he asks again. This time the answer is "I am having trouble breathing". An ambulance is called and his mom returns to find his dad saying "Steve, you need to stay with me.".  The ambulance came and worked on him for awhile and then brought him to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

No pain, No feeling that it was happening. God needed him more than us, I guess.

I thank God everyday that he was not home alone and that his parents were with him when he came into the world and again when he left. I am also thankful that we did not come home to find him. God knew what needed to be that day.

(*The cause of death was listed as Fatty Liver Disease and not connected to the surgery.)

Friday, April 13, 2018

Did he know?

I have asked myself many times if he knew.  Deep down I think he was prepping us.  I think God hinted to him that he was going to be leaving us and gave him opportunities with each of the boys so they would have those moments as memories.

During the fall, there were usual things that happened. He took our youngest shopping one day and asked about going to a hockey game.  He and our middle went to a movie, just the two of them. He taught our oldest how to use the snowblower on the tractor.

He talked about feeling old: that his shoulder wouldn't heal, his belly button was going to pop out and he was tired.

He stopped being on the building and grounds committee at church and had decided to not do lego robotics next year.  He really wanted new carpet in the front room and the bedroom/insulation project done but had our oldest do a lot of it.

A situation he had been helping a friend with was resolved after three years. He was reconnecting with a good friend from a few years ago.

Our finances were finally working out.  We had started monthly date nights and time together on Sunday mornings.

Little things here and there tell me that the Holy Spirit was working through us all to give us quality time that we needed.

Before

When we realized we were meant to be and said our vows we promised that we would be husband and wife until death do us part.We had dated for five years before we were married. We had celebrated our 20th anniversary in the summer.

I am sure we talked about funerals and death but with the idea, we would be old.  In fact, we designed the addition on our home to be handicap accessible for when we may need that or need in-home care. We assumed we would be paying our mortgage until we were in our 80's as we kept refinancing.

Once we had children we purchased life insurance policies.  We had a will drawn up listing who would take care of our children and the finances if something were to happen to both of us at the same time.  With our insurance through our jobs, we bought additional coverage for death and also survivor income assuming that we would pay it but really ever need to use it while we were working. Our income from an in-lieu-of payment was invested to have money for retirement.  Plans to travel and be with our grandchildren were discussed. We added an additional policy in my name through The Knights of Columbus but health issues led Steve to not be eligible.  Through our insurance agent we were able to add a small policy that if the boys were in an accident and wearing their seatbelts, there would be money to help cover funeral expenses.

I know I have somethings that I would like at my funeral: songs, readings etc that I connect with from other people's funerals. I'm not sure Steve ever said these things.  We had joked about him being buried in a truck because he didn't want a lot of money spent on a box that was to be buried.

Discussions were had about how if one of was to die that the other would have to keep on working if the lifestyle we were living was to be continued.  We each had some time built up to be able to take a short leave of absence. I think we planned to attend other funerals long before either of us.

We both had a very strong Catholic Faith.  We attended Mass every Sunday, even when we were out of town, we both prayed for our marriage, each other and our children. We are very involved in our parish and raised our children the same way.  Our oldest starting going to church when he was 6 days old.  We said grace before meals when we ate together.  The church was a second home to us a lot of the time.

Financially and faithfully I was ready to lose him.  Emotionally I am still not ready and it has been 4 months.