Fourth Christmas

img_6221The Florida sky is black with tiny little white flickering stars smiling down. It’s hard being away for Christmas, especially when it’s not the frozen snow draped New England I know and love. My grandmother passed away on the very early morning of Christmas Eve. My family is all down here to spend one last Christmas with her because her health was quickly deteriorating. But before their planes landed she was gone. And we all are here together dumbfounded on what to do next. My mom is grieving, I see what she is doing and it’s all too familiar. Misplacing every day items, like where she parked her car (yes this happened), and manically picking up tons of items to store or throw away. The process of occupying the mind is here. It’s stirring a lot of emotions in all of us. We all lost a loved one, but it’s making all of us look around at each other and remember all the others we have lost too. Like my grandparents on my dad’s side, and of course George.

I sat next to my grandmother holding her hand as she wiggled and twisted from the pain. Bodie was balancing on my lap, and my brain just went somewhere else. My dad reminded me how I must be a pro at this now. I smirked and said there’s this little spot in my brain I know is there and it takes care of me.

oh it’s there all right. I went on a 6 mile run at high noon after she passed away. Even the devil wouldn’t have gone on a run with how the sun was beating down and the humidity was creeping up. I grieve by finding strength to push forward. To search for something to heal me.

This Christmas we all hung out at my grandmothers apartment. Helping my mom clean up, making lists of what needs to be done, and of course being with one another. When I was in the car with my brother, niece and sister-in-law I thought of something I did for George while he was slowing dying. I totally forgot about it but something rang it in. I remember putting his headphones in when he was in the coma and playing his favorite bands. I remember him reacting to it and being so excited. I remember how I wondered if he could still react if there was a chance he would get better. The evening my dad and I left my grandmother to go back to the hotel, she was talking and cracking jokes. We both thought she had some time before the inevitable. Then 3 hours later just before 1a she was gone.

Merry Christmas, squeeze your loved ones extra tight.

 

Third Christmas

I’ve been widowed for 25 months. This is the third Christmas without George however he wasn’t far off in my mind. My niece opened her gifts so excited to see what Santa had brought for her and I remembered all those Christmases before in Ohio with George dressed up as Santa handing out gifts to his niece and nephew. I didn’t enjoy those Christmases as much. The excitement of it all bothered me. I remember how badly I wanted to fly back to Connecticut to by with my family. I would sit off to the side sipping on wine while watching the kids crawl all over him screaming for gifts and passively thanking Santa once it was all over. Only now if I could turn back time, I would’ve enjoyed every damn second of it. A piece of holiday guilt that lingers on.

I’ll never make that mistake again.

The days prior to today, Mike visited my family in Connecticut to meet my parents, and I traveled with him to meet his. It’s a different dynamic this go around but very familiar too. I’m grateful his family opened their home to me and showed me their hometown. I wanted to see and learn more about him and where he came from. I wanted them to like me, and I think they did. My family enjoyed meeting Mike, but much of the attention of my family was on our niece. Very much like when I would go to Ohio with George. His family paid most of their attention to his niece and nephew which made the meeting of the family not as eventful as anticipated. I empathized with Mike because of that, but I also now see how that’s beneficial because it means more time to explore and do what we want.

I loved Christmas this year. It’s the most relaxed I had felt in weeks. I’m getting to a point where I feel like myself again. And the waves of sadness are becoming still. It takes time, and now as I head into the third year without George I’m beginning to understand what triggers my grief, how to avoid the hopelessness, and what needs to be there in order to survive. I do miss him, but he gave me strength to get my life back on track.

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Second Christmas

imageThere are no firsts anymore. Each day is a repeat. Last year on Christmas I was in California sitting outside in the sun watching Netflix on my iPad as everyone opened gifts and spent family time together. I wanted to disappear. I didn’t want to exist a year ago. Christmas last year was the one month mark since George died. Today it’s the 13 month mark since he was in my life.

In a year so much has changed. I remember demanding to be taken back to the hotel last year because the hate, dread and sadness that swallowed my soul was too much to bear. I was suffocating with each breath. My life meant nothing without him.

Today I reflect back on that time and though the struggle was horrendous, it has made me who I am now. I dont think I can convey how dark those early months were. I just didn’t wish to be present. I was stuck between the devastation of reality and the yearning for the past. But today I look forward for the wonders of tomorrow. I love each day, regardless of how difficult they can be.

I have transformed my life simply because I couldn’t continue to loath. I would feel guilty about being so sad because I know All George would want me to be is happy, and when I felt those blips of contentment I would feel guilty about not grieving enough. I sound like a broken record but I had to relearn how to live and embrace the opportunities that present themselves.

imageThis year has been a whirlwind, but when I look in the mirror, when I think about where I was at this time a year ago, I just can’t help but be completely proud of how far I’ve come. It’s imperative during the grieving process to find one thing that provides you the feeling of control. Something that will help steer as everything you know begins to fall and reform. It will never feel normal, nothing will ever be the same, but change shouldn’t be feared. As much as you may want everything to remain, that life and reality cannot exist without that one person. So it’s every individuals job to carve out a new path, a new route in this journey that provides stimulation and meaning. Today I am proud of myself for surviving this first year without George. But as time comes between us, his love and our time together will always be the paving on my journey. I think about him and tell him I miss him everyday.

I felt him on my 9.5 mile run today. I heard his voice as my legs began to cramp up, because nothing in this world can motivate me the way he does. He’s my guy. He’s my fuel. A love so powerful that it goes beyond this world.

My second Christmas as a widow. The pain does lessen but the love is still strong.

Holiday Distractions

I can’t believe I haven’t updated this in almost 2 weeks. This holiday season has been INSANE! I feel like I’ve been caught in this whirlpool of activity every day. With the semester coming to an end a lot loose ends with work had to be tied up, which makes the days fly by. I’ve been working on my team’s winter lifting packet, which I’ve been doing to see if the weights and lifts are doable. I’ve actually really enjoyed using myself as a guinea pig with that because personally I think they’re relatively easy, but I also think running 8 miles is a cake walk.

This time last year I have a filmy remembrance of the holidays. I only went to one holiday party at my former bosses house and I just recall afterwards I probably shouldn’t have gone. Well I went to it yesterday and seeing everyone again from then to now and they were just in awe of my transformation. I also had nice arm candy. It really is staggering how much things have changed in a year besides the obvious. The hardest thing about this entire journey is accepting George’s death and then moving forward. I didn’t fear change, but I did fear stagnation.

I wasn’t the most social person when George was alive. I was very fickle when it came to parties and attending events. One day I would be all about it, and then the day of quickly back track. After the last week of classes, I decided to commit to attending SantaCon in NYC. George LOVED dressing up as Santa and he usually would attend and try to convince me to go. Which of course I would protest profusely. Well, I headed to target and bought an elf costume, and hopped on the train and went to SantaCon this year. I went for George. He was my motivation and through the drunkenness of college students and hostility of shop owners, I had a marvelous time. I loved seeing all the costumes, from the creative to the “called it in” outfits. That day was just so perfect and wonderful. From there out, I had a plethora of holiday parties I had been invited to.

Every day this week I had a holiday party except Thursday. I cannot remember when I was invited to so many, but I think a large portion of it might simply be I never really wanted to go to holiday parties. But this year, I wanted to be festive, I wanted to enjoy myself, I wanted to be gregarious. Most importantly I wanted to show myself how far I’ve come in this first full year without George. This whole thing sucks, and I get that it’s unlucky. But I find myself to be very lucky to have loved someone so deeply that even in passing they still impact me daily. Think about that for a second. Yeah, losing him was the worst thing imaginable, but how he still inspires me is simply tremendous. I just hope when my time comes, I can have the same affect on someone’s life.

George was and is larger than life.

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A widows first Christmas

imageOn Monday November 25th at 5:35am the love of my life breathed his last breath. He could no longer fight the cancer that was growing inside him. He was only 46 years old and we had married 2 months and six days prior.

Within a time frame of less than three months, we had a wedding, went on our honeymoon and then I had to plan his funeral. There is nothing to be merry about this Christmas.

George’s favorite thing to do around the holidays is dress as Santa. He would put his Santa suit on and deliver presents to his family. He would also surprise his neighbors kids as well. All day I was looking at pictures of George in his Santa costume whether he was at Santa Con in NYC or in Ohio or CT. It was a tradition that he showed me and I looked forward to it.

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We always would stay up late on Christmas Eve watching the old time movies like Miracle on 34th street or its a wonderful life. We both loved George Bailey and how the town came to his aide. It’s more than a Christmas movie, it’s the first movie, as George would point out, that you became emotionally attached to the protagonist to succeed. As George coined it, the first oblivious protagonist.

Without his hand to hold, shoulder to rest on, and his comforting voice, Christmas meant nothing to me. It was just another Wednesday where I had to choke back the tears and excuse myself when I couldn’t handle the grief that would overcome me. I spent the day outside on my brother’s patio in LA watching Netflix on my iPad. My entire family was around, caring for me and showing me love, but there’s only one person I wanted love from today. And all I can do is look at pictures from a better and happier time. And when the happiness from the pictures evaporates with the realization ill never have that again, I distract my sorrow with some meaningless show that I can stream instantly.

This was supposed to be my first Christmas as a married woman. Cancer took my husband, stole my Christmas, and obliterated my heart. image

Kiss Goodbye

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It was at this exact time a month ago I kissed George his final kiss. 12:41am. I whispered in his ear how much I loved him and how he meant to world to me and made me the happiest woman alive. I told him that he didn’t need to worry about me and that I’d be okay. And then I kissed him on the lips before I went to bed. His breathing was so shallow and I pushed his lower jaw up so his lips touched when I kissed him. He was so warm because of his fever and I could feel his warmth on my skin several seconds after I pulled away. It was short because I knew he needed as much air as possible and when his lips parted he gasped trying to get his breathing cadence back. But I needed to steal a kiss.

I went to bed that night knowing he would pass away on Monday the 25th. I just didn’t think it would be hours after our final goodnight.

Holidays are always difficult but I will not be celebrating Christmas. I can’t. George loved dressing up as Santa and he always dressed up for his niece and nephew on Christmas Eve and gave them presents. Without George here, the magic has disappeared. I can’t believe its been a month since I saw him and got to touch and kiss him. If I knew it would be our final kiss, I would’ve given him a thousand more.

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3 Month Anniversary

I’m going to go ahead and apologize ahead of time, but I’m pretty sure every post on the 19th will read monthly anniversaries, and every monday until I lose count will be the number of weeks I’ve been without George. So here is goes:

Today would mark our 3 month anniversary together. 25% of the year spent married. I don’t think we would have done anything remarkably special for it, but later today I will be going to Bryant Park in NYC. George and I always went to Bryant Park around Christmas because we loved the shops, food, skating rink, and just the overall uniqueness it had. Everyone rants and raves about Rockefeller Center, but Bryant Park is the girl next door. I’m really looking forward to spending the afternoon there and just remembering how much fun it was to shop for our families last minute there.

It’s weird to think that 3 month ago, we were heading to NYC City Clerk’s office to finally get married. It was a Thursday morning and we got to the City Clerk’s office around 10am and we were officially married by 1:30pm. Lots of waiting around, but the day was filled with excitement and love. The time we spent waiting for a Justice of Peace to marry us seemed like a long time, but we held hands, took pictures, and watched the other couples around us. Some people were in white gowns, others were getting married in jeans and a tshirt. If anyone is interested in people watching the City Clerks office is a great place to go.

George and I were engaged for almost 2 years and were planning on having our ceremony and reception on October 19th, 2013. We still had our reception on October 19th, but we hastened our ceremony. On Monday September 16th, it was the first day of my Fall practices with my lacrosse team and I remember that first practice went extremely well. Much better than what I anticipated. I was in high spirits when I came home and after I dropped my car off I ran into George who was walking our dog outside. I couldn’t wait to tell him the news about how well my practice went and how I thought we were going to have a great Fall season. He wasn’t sharing in my enthusiasm, and was holding back his words. Rarely was George short with me, he usually loved to talk about anything and everything. When we got into the apartment, he told me I should sit. He sat on the bigger couch and I sat across from him on the love seat. He dropped his stare to the ground and started crying. After he regained his composure, he looked up at me and said “the doctor said I’m not going to get better. I’m dying.”

Those words were like a bomb in my heart. I doubled over and started sobbing uncontrollably. Howling and gasping for air, I just couldn’t believe that all our optimism of sharing and building a life together came to a halt. He quickly came over and hugged me and tried to sooth me, but those word lacerated my soul. He was wiping away my tears as I was just trying to squeeze him as hard as I could. We’ve talked a hundred times over in bed together about how we couldn’t imagine a life without the other person. We were kindred spirits, and our aspirations, hearts and minds intertwined so perfectly. We always said we hoped every George has a Julia, and every Julia has a George. So that night, I went and filled out what we needed to do to get our marriage license and three days later we got married.

A lot of people didn’t understand why we just got up and got married on a weekday, and I never tried to explain it. Neither did he. We never openly talked about his illness because it wasn’t anyone’s business but our own. But that day when he came home, we both decided we couldn’t wait any longer, but that if we were going to get married, now was the time. My only regret is that I wish we did it years earlier. But there’s more to that story as well.

Like many brides and/or grooms, I was getting cold feet leading up to the marriage. George had been married once before, and being his second wife scared me a bit. The word marriage frightened me too. But I knew I shared my soul with him, and that there was no one else in the world I wanted to be with more. But the idea of marriage just scared me, just like so many other people. But George was always so sweet when I expressed my fears about it. He would just tell me that I was “the one” and that he’ll love me always and stay with me forever. Some days when he was annoyed with me about the anti-marriage talk he would just sit in the other room and when he got into bed, he would go “I can’t imagine living a life without you.” He was a beautiful man and our love just ran so deep. And now I can’t imagine living a life without him. I know he’s with me in spirit and memory, but looking at pictures, listening to voicemails, watching videos, and reading his notes… it’s just not enough. I miss him so much, and I hope I can feel him when I go to Bryant Park this evening.

I’m sorry for the long post.

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One eye open

When George slipped into a coma in his final days, his left eye was slightly open. I kept trying to shut it, but it would carefully pry open again. I’m not sure why it was happening, but his mother said it was due to dryness. When he passed away, his left eye was still slightly open and I tried to shut it. Just like how they do in the movies, and let me tell you something, death is nothing like the movies. That eye crept back open just seconds after I tried to shut it so he could rest peacefully. Well, it’s no doubt to me that he’s keeping an eye on me. I asked him to, and I believe he is.

With it being holiday season, I’m beginning to get very worked up over small things. Whether it’s the holiday music or the pushy parents in the grocery stores. But the biggest thing is when people post pictures of their “first christmas married.” I am at the time in my life when many of my colleagues and former classmates are getting married, and when they post about their first holidays as a married couple, I want to throw my computer against the wall. I’m never going to experience those firsts. My only firsts I had as a married couple is, Columbus Day, Halloween, and Veterans Day. Although Halloween is my favorite holiday, and George and I spent it eating candy and drinking beers. I loved every second of it too. The big question of this December I’ve overheard my parents talking about with my siblings is what to get me. Besides time machine, there’s not much else. But then I remembered one thing. I need weatherproof boots. I work outside from January-May, and my feet are always icicles. So today my mom and I went shopping.

We went to the mall where I was ready to have a melt down, but this extremely nice clerk came over and helped us. Little did she know she soothed my nerves. There was one boot they had that I read incredible reviews and the color I liked online was the navy blue. I decided on navy because that was George’s favorite color and it would remind me of him. Well she came over with 2 boots, one in a 8.5 (not my size) and one in a 7.5 (my size). The larger one was the navy boot and I wanted so badly for it to fit, but it was far too big. But the 7.5 came in a purple. My favorite color. Online they never had the boot in purple so I was very excited to see it. I was trying them on and I looked at my mom and told her, If George was here, he would buy me the purple boots in a heart beat for Christmas.

When George and I started dating, I kept wearing purple shirts, and he always admired how nice purple looked on me. I finally confessed to him purple was my favorite color. The next time I spent the night at his apartment, he had bought me a purple towel to use. I still have and use that towel. For our first winter together, he bought me a fake burberry scarf in purple, and for our first Christmas he got me a purple purse. When we moved into our current apartment together he got me a purple travel speaker for my iPhone. This man knew I loved purple and he spoiled me rotten with it.

My mom took the boots and said, “well he must be with us then,” and we walked to the counter to pay. When we were at the counter the sweet clerk was talking about how her husband has a liver problem and that she can’t enjoy too much drinking this holiday. So weird, because ultimately George passed due to liver cancer. But the cherry on top of this story is, when she cashed us out, the boots, which are somewhat pricy, were 25% off. When she told us the good news, my mom looked at me and said, George did very well on picking out a Christmas gift for you after all.

As trivial as this story is, and basing it around something as materialistic as boots, I do feel he’s keeping an eye on me.

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