Another Pleasant Valley Sunday…

The new Sunday ritual: 8:00 mass, then to the cemetery to visit Kim’s, her mom’s, my dad’s, my grandparents’, and my grand aunts’ and uncles’ graves. It snowed a bit last night, and the roads were still a mess. They were still clearing the roads within the cemetery when we arrived. We stopped at the mausoleum to use the bathrooms (it’s a good drive from home to the cemetery), and were there before they had opened it – thankfully, the individual who was to do so was parked directly in front of us, and promptly unlocked the doors and let us in.

Since August of 2019, Kim had made this trip with her dad each Sunday — sometimes with me, if I had the day off, but many times without. Before COVID, we’d go to 8:00 mass with her Dad at St. Collette’s in Livonia, go out to breakfast at a little diner he and mom used to like, back to his house to combine cars, then off to the cemetery, usually stopping at a florist on the way to get flowers for each of the graves. Honestly, I can’t remember making the trip after COVID. I’m sure we did for a while – I just cannot recall any of them. Dad’s in Florida now, so it’s just Jillian and me for the time being. When he returns, Jillian and I will still go to mass at St. Thomas a’Becket, but we’ll meet dad at his house afterward, where he’ll have a little breakfast before we all get into my truck and go visit the graves.

It’s sad, but it is somehow refreshing to go each week, clean the grave blankets of snow and say a prayer over Kim. It makes me feel better, anyway.

As I mentioned yesterday, tomorrow is Kim’s 55th birthday. Jillian and I added her birthday bouquet to the grave blanket – the wind or the rotten deer dragged off the big purple ribbon which was the blanket’s centerpiece… The bouquet looks pretty good there, I think.

The bouquet in the blanket.

From there, we returned home and went to Grandma Sue’s for a little birthday brunch to celebrate Kim. When asked if I wanted to say a prayer for Kim as the Sander’s Bumpy Cake – our family’s traditional birthday cake – was being cut, all I could manage was “Happy birthday, Kim.” I hope that was prayer enough. I was a little emotionally raw at the time, and that was all I could come up with.

I hope Kim has a beautiful heavenly birthday celebration at God’s throne, with her mom, my dad, Grandpa Rick, and all of our friends and relatives who went before us.

Getting out

Today conspired to drag me back to normalcy. Or I did.

Leaving the house literally takes effort. All things held equal, I would be content to sit at home, working on whatever needs working on. Generally, when I go out, I have my youngest, Jillian, for emotional support. She likes to get out and gives me the incentive to move my butt out the door.

Some things don’t seem to take effort – doctors appointments, “vestibular therapy” appointments – but the mundane…. it takes effort to go out for those things.

So, I went to see my mom. All by myself. I’ve done it before since Kim’s passing, but it didn’t end well – a few of my grand nephews and nieces, the oldest among them about 7, were visiting her, and they were kicking their heels up a bit. The noise and activity caused INCREDIBLE anxiety, and I had to leave. I couldn’t take it. This was two weeks after Kim’s funeral, and I guess it was to be expected, but I don’t think I’ve been to see mom without Jillian at my side since. This week, Jillian had something to get done for her pageants, and I had to go by myself. And I did. And had a good visit.

This done, Phase 2 of my day went into play: getting to confession. I like to go on the first Saturday when I can, but I missed the first Saturday in January for whatever reason. I felt I needed to go, so I did. It wasn’t the usual priest, whom I like very much, but a very affable older priest who made a conversation out of the experience. I very much enjoyed talking to him, and, knowing that I was grieving, he gave me some very compassionate and helpful advice on my progress through my grief, and advice to not beat myself up too much over the things I’d done that were troubling me.

Then, the big one: trying to “fix” our Sam’s Club membership. Kim had the master membership, so I needed to put the master in my name. I grabbed both of our cards and a death certificate, girded my loins, and made my way there. We were unsuccessful, the service desk attendant and I, because Kim had the membership tied to a credit card, and had it set for auto-renew, so I need to get ahold of the credit card company before trying again – but, unsuccessful or not: I did it! I made the effort! One small step for me…

Finally, I stopped in at one of Kim’s favorite haunts – one of the last stores we went to together before she just couldn’t go out anymore: JoAnn Fabrics. There, I picked up some artificial flowers and some ribbon to make her a birthday bouquet to place on her grave. Jillian and I will place it after mass tomorrow. Her birthday is Monday.

I’ll never be a florist. Or a ribbon-tier…

Anyone reading this in the Canton, MI area who would like to attend: the 9:00 am mass Monday is being offered in her memory at St. Thomas a’Beckett.


One line and a word – that’s what has been going through my mind for weeks, now. Actually, it’s a similar line to the same music. Don Henley’s Boys of Summer – “You can’t look back. You can never look back.” And the word “empty”. Only what keeps going through my mind to the music is “You can’t go back. You can never go back.” “Empty” is the same, though.

Odd. It’s as if my mind is chastising itself. Oh, how I would love to be able to go back and do it all again. A big “do-over”. What would I change? How would those changes impact the ultimate end?

We are the sum product of our experiences, though. If any of those past experiences were to be changed, would the Kim I love still have existed? Or would a change in the past develop her into someone I no longer loved? Would I be the same me? Would we still have our beautiful family? Interesting mind-exercises, much like that of the famous Schröedinger’s cat. I guess in this situation, we’ve looked into the box, and the probability cloud has collapsed into the reality we’ve experienced.

Still: it’s hard not to wonder what might be if we had handled this situation or that situation differently. Back to the Future musings. I think we’ve all had them and, unless we trap ourselves in their consideration, they’re probably healthy.

Today is Friday – our Family Friday tradition. Jeanette will make burgers today. Everyone likes burgers! That’s two weeks in a row for Jeanette. Jessica and Noah are now in their home, and I think things are smoothed out a bit for Chris, who had a few major things to consider and put to rest in his life – it looks like his decisions were well-considered, and it will bode well for his future. And Kenny, freshly made single by his own choice, seems to be in a good frame of mind. I think that we’ll set out a schedule for the next few weeks, though. Lately, it’s been a last-minute Thursday afternoon text: “Who has Friday?” It’s better to plan where planning makes sense…


I spent this evening going through a handful of our photographs while listening to an excellent TED Talk on grief I had found on the Facebook group Widowers Support Network, and a couple of somewhat unrelated talks by Fr. Chris Alar of the Fathers of the Immaculate Conception; one discussing abortion and the other discussing angels (I’m amazed and grateful for the energy of some of these young priests – and for their zeal for the faith).

Some of the pictures were taken before we met. Some were taken prior to our engagement, some from that trip to Hubbard Lake I mentioned in an earlier entry, many from our wedding and honeymoon in the Poconos; and many from various stages of our life together – up to the very end.

A Walk at Hubbard Lake
A Walk at Hubbard Lake – 1989

Looking through these pictures, it is sometimes painful to see how life changed us; the ups and downs, the worries, and the passage of time. At the same time, there is great happiness in those events – post-delivery pictures for each of the kids, birthday parties, baptisms, confirmations… It is remarkable, reviewing those pictures, how everything there focused around family – either our families before we started our own, or our family as it began and grew. There was some facet of family captured in every one of them – be it my inlaws, my family, our own children, or our extended family – oftentimes all in one!

Looking through them does tug a bit at the heartstrings, but, for the most part, reviewing them brings more happy memories than painful ones. I expected that I would find them more painful than I do. But seeing her beautiful face peeking back at me from the past is refreshing, and reminds me of how much we loved each other, despite all of the challenges life and time brought to us.

I wonder what we look like in heaven? Do we look as we did when we passed away? Do we look as we did at the height of health as young adults? Or do we look totally different, no longer recognizable to our human mind? Are we still one with our spouse in heaven? Are our families intact? I guess, assuming I live my life in such a way to be deserving of it, I will find out in God’s good time.

Busy day.

From end to end, this was a pretty busy day. Besides my usual day of “work from home,” I had the added task of the exercises given me by the physical therapist yesterday. And I opted to make a fresh loaf of Italian bread to go with the chicken noodle soup I had planned for dinner – using the remains of the rotisserie chicken we had yesterday. After dinner, I finished the installation of the sink I started replacing Sunday in the kids’ bathroom. The old one was porcelain over metal, so the overflow was bare metal inside. After over 30 years: rusted out. And it was Garbage Day – a weekly holiday where I get to purge all the garbage that has built up during the week, as well as get rid of some of the “I can fix thats” that have accumulated around the house over the past 30 years.

The sink. I’d swear sometimes this house was built as a first-time VoTech project by some high school kids with limited supervision. There is absolutely no compliance in the drain plumbing for that sink. I put the sink in place Sunday afternoon, originally planning to let the adhesive caulk cure overnight, and finish it on Monday. Best laid plans, and all that. Here it is Wednesday. In any case, the adhesive caulk is nicely cured, and no chance of the sink slipping around as I connect the plumbing. The tailpiece is just about 1/4″ off-center to the PVC plumbing kludged together by the high school kids, but it’s plastic, and there is a fairly large and compliant rubber doughnut between it and the bottom of the sink. Should be a piece of cake.

Nope. The tailpiece tilted enough to allow water to bypass and drip down the side of it.

Ordinarily, I would have had few qualms about taking some measurements, running up to Home Depot, and putting together a collection of PVC fittings that would make it work. Ordinarily. There hasn’t been “ordinarily” since early 2020. All I wanted was for this task to be done. So I took it apart, packed more putty onto the top of the tailpiece, threaded it back on, and then strong-armed the fittings together and wrenched on that tailpiece until the drips stopped. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll hit some of the PVC with the heat gun to “relax” the set-up a bit. Maybe not. I guess it will be good enough since I’ll likely be ripping that bathroom out and replacing everything within the next few years, anyway. 1970s Harvest Gold is hard to find replacement parts for these days… Plus, I’d like to redo all that plumbing so that it at least LOOKS planned.

What does this have to do with life after my darling Kim? A few things, I guess. One, I don’t have my help-mate anymore. She wouldn’t have been shoulder-to-shoulder with me under the sink, but she’d be there to hand me this or hand me that. And she loved going to Home Depot with me to look at different things and dream of them in our home while I sorted through the aisles for whatever I needed to complete the current project at hand. She called them our “Home Depot Dates”, telling the kids “I’m going with your dad on a date to Home Depot.” It all started maybe 16 or so years ago while out on our wedding anniversary date, I asked if it would be OK if we stopped at Home Depot to look at something first. The trips were never a big deal, and we rarely came home with one of those dream items, but it was one of “our things”.

Making dinner, she’d be there telling me how good it smelled, or filling the role of guinea pig for the first taste of some new concoction I’d have dreamed up. Or she’d simply slip in behind me and give me a big hug around the waist laying her head against my shoulder as I worked at the sink. I always loved those hugs, but I never appreciated them the way I do now that I no longer get them.

Even sitting at my “work-from-home” workstation, she’d come up from behind and give me a hug and a kiss on the cheek while I was in meetings. She called it “harassing me.”

I guess we hugged a lot. Nothing wrong with that. If you’re reading this, take my advice: go find your significant other and give them a hug. Relish it. Relish every one. Store them up. Because honestly: you never know when that hug you just gave or received may be the last. Shoot: give them a kiss, too. The same goes for kisses.


I honestly don’t know what was so special about today that I felt so utterly empty. I don’t have any better term to describe how I felt today. Just. Plain. Empty.

The sinus infection/upper respiratory infection is resolving, and I had the best sleep last night that I’ve had in a long time. I was able to get up with the alarm clock, rather than repeatedly poking “snooze” for another ten minutes of laziness. Got up, showered, dressed, went down to let the dogs out, feed the cats, and start my morning – pretty much as usual. And then I just sort of emptied out emotionally.

All day long, I just felt this void at my core. Nothing seemed able to pull me out of the doldrums. The weather – gray, snowy, rainy, bleak – didn’t help matters either. For having loved having four seasons my whole life, I’m really beginning to hate winter; especially the winter sky.

I had my first “vestibular therapy” appointment today. Waiting was a bit painful as every song that played over the speakers in the place reminded me of Kim, and I hadn’t been prepared for a wait. I really had no activity to pull my mind from thoughts of her. And, the act of waiting in a medical facility itself pulled me back to her last seven months – especially the last two, when they allowed me to accompany her on her appointments. These appointments were supposed to be in the same building Kim went for her chemo. Thankfully, they were booked solid, and they had another facility also very near my home. I don’t know how I would have handled pulling up to that same building, parking in the same lot, walking into the same lobby… Win-win, I guess – except for the associations my mind made with her appointments and the music in this other place.

During the therapy session, they did some more testing to see what’s going on, but nothing caused any dizziness or nystagmus (“eye wiggles” that belie issues within the cochlea). They identified a tracking issue with my eyes (eye/ear tracking, they said), and some, for lack of a better term, structural issues or misalignments in my neck, back, and ribs that could be contributing by limiting my head’s range of motion.

The young lady who did the testing was very pleasant and kind, and the young gentleman who took me through some of the exercises was as well. And, as a bonus, I think the crick in my neck I’ve had since last March may resolve through this. That would be nice, as it’s more of a problem when I’m laying down than sitting or standing, so getting that resolved may help more with the quality of my sleep. I was given some exercises to do at home and was jettisoned back out into the bleak, dreary January afternoon…

Hopefully, tomorrow will be better. There’s nothing particularly interesting on my work calendar, though.

I really miss Kim. Knowing her suffering is over helps blunt the pain, but I still miss her terribly.

Nostalgia, Pt. 1

Kim and I were introduced to each other by a mutual friend, Mary Dolans, as I was working, stocking the shelves at Andrews Drugs near the end of my college days. Mary was a cashier there, a cute little thing who reminded me of Elizabeth Montgomery. Mary had been telling me about this friend of hers who she thought I’d really like.

Our first meeting was a very brief “Hey, Pat! I want you to meet Kim!” while I was at work at Andrews Drugs. We said hello, maybe a few words (I don’t recall precisely), and then went on our own ways. A short time later, Mary approached me and asked if I would be interested in going out on a blind date with Kim, accompanied by Mary and her husband, Denny. Just dinner and some drinks at the Livonia Chi-Chi’s. I said “Sure! Why not?”

2 March 1988. Some of the details remain a bit foggy – I don’t recall if I met them at Kim’s house, or if we drove there together. I think we drove together because I have a vivid memory of Denny turning to me and saying “Well? Are you ready to meet the mother of your children?” and seem to remember this as him turning around in the front seat to do so – but that’s a very old memory. I do recall meeting Kim’s dad that night – a muscular construction worker – intimidating, to say the least. And prone to tease. My first impression of her home was of a fire in the fireplace, a wood-burning stove in the kitchen, and hunting trophies on the wall. It was a bit uncomfortable being the guy in that house coming to take his youngest daughter – Monster, he called her – out on a date! I remember her hair and the way it curled and feathered back at her ears. She really was beautiful.

We went to Chi-Chi’s and, while making small talk in the bar area while we awaited our table, I asked Kim “Why pharmacy?” and she immediately shot back “Why engineering?” Seems like that would not have been the best start to a relationship, but… Frankly, I don’t remember Mary and Denny being there at all at that point – I guess my attention was so keenly focused on this lovely girl that all memory of any conversation with them has faded away. I remember Kim’s drink being a frozen strawberry margarita; mine likely beer, though I don’t recall – I explicitly recall the strawberry margarita, though.

There was a lot going on in my senior year at Lawrence Tech – one of which was scrambling to sit for the PE-EIT exam the university had forgotten to notify several of us of, but the taking of which was required to graduate. All local seats for the test were filled by the time we realized it was time to register. My friend, Pete Lewellyn, and I found an opportunity to take it in Waukesha, Wisconsin – better to drive 400 miles for the test than have to wait another year to graduate. This was more than three weeks after Kim’s and my first date. And it was the night we arrived for the test that I finally decided to call Kim for a second date. She told me then, and several times afterward that she thought she would never hear from me again. Her friends all said that “If a guy doesn’t call within two weeks, he’s not interested.” Well, we proved that one wrong.

We dated steadily for many months. After her classes finished at Wayne State, she would sometimes pop into the robotics lab at LIT where I was proctor and we would run up the road to have lunch at Shield’s – a great Detroit pizzeria and our favorite at the time. I remember the dressing from the leftover antipasto salad dripping out of its container into the carpet of the car on the way back to the school. I don’t remember whether it was my car or hers, though. Probably mine. I recall that whichever it was smelled of vinaigrette for some time afterward.

She was my date at the LIT honors convocation and, after some prodding, nervously stood when the call came out for significant others to stand and be recognized for supporting their newly-minted engineers through the rigors of our education. Afterward, she told me “I really didn’t know you long enough for that!” – we’d only been dating a couple of months. But she was the prettiest one standing. 14 years later, she’d stand again for an honor I received with my second master’s degree, and the same was true.

We had matching Ford EXPs when we met – both silver, though mine was an ’85 and, if I recall correctly, hers was an ’82. We liked the same kind of movies, and had similar, if not exactly the same, taste in music (I couldn’t stand George Michael or Wham, though…). Our favorite date was to just jump in the car, hold hands and talk as we drove all over God’s creation. I ran that poor old EXP into the ground, putting miles on it as we drove around metro Detroit and beyond. I recall going to Hines Park one steamy summer evening and parking by the river to look at the fireflies. There were so many of them along the water’s edge that you’d swear they were Christmas decorations. Tap-tap-tap – a friendly police officer telling us to move it along: the park was closed at that hour…

She interned on the afternoon shift at Garden City Osteopathic Hospital. Whenever we could, we’d have her mom drop her at work, and I would pick her up afterward and drive her home. Our favorite thing to do was to stop at the Taco Bell on Lilley and Main in Plymouth – I’d get a couple of spicy bean burritos, and she was usually a Burrito Supreme or a Nachos Bell Grande. We’d have our snack and some conversation, and then I’d take her home. Sometimes we’d just go to her home and sit in front of the ever-present fire in their fireplace and hold each other and talk.

I recall one of the jobs I interviewed for in my senior year was with TI Missile Systems based in Texas. Boy! I wanted that job! Kim later told me that she was terrified that I would get that job and that I would fly off to Texas. I guess she realized she loved me before either of us admitted it to the other. I know I told her first. We had just returned from somewhere – a date, or a drive; I don’t recall. As we were getting ready to leave the car, parked in the street in front of her house, I just turned to her and, said in French “Je t’aime!” She asked me what that meant, and I told her. I only remember her smile. It became her favorite phrase.

We had little picnics in Hines Park and spent at least one weekend day each week in the summer at her parent’s lake lot enjoying the water whenever we could. Movies with her brother Nick and his wife, Chris; and her sister Rhonda and her husband, Geoff. Runs for frozen yogurt at a local shop.

One of my fondest memories was running to Frankenmuth in her mom & dad’s motorhome and stopping at Birch Run on the way back. It was Kim’s mom and dad, Nick and Chris, and, if I recall correctly, Chris’s daughter, Brianne. I remember parking the camper WAY in the back of the parking lot and walking quite a distance to the restaurant. Inside, seated for dinner, the plate of chicken would be passed around, and by the time it got to me, I was dismayed to see so little left! What was happening? The wait staff would come with more, and I DEFINITELY got my fill, but I wondered at how much chicken this family could eat! It wasn’t until afterward that they let me in on the secret of the Zip-Loc bags in their purses. It was that little kookiness (and the Cherry Fudge Incident) that burned that trip into my memory.

Ah, the cherry fudge. Nick has a sweet tooth as big as they come. At Birch Run, there were a couple of fudge shops – including a branch of the famous Mackinaw Fudge Company. Nick bought a pretty sizable piece of cherry fudge. It was awful – way too sweet, with a rather cloying, medicinal cherry flavor. Ugh! All the way home he kept offering a piece of cherry fudge to Kim and me, who, after that first taste, quickly declined. He would say “This is really awful…” and then eat some more. It was gone by the time we made it home. (I recall going a second time after we were married, where I was both better prepared for the mystery of the disappearing chicken, and I bought a wool-lined jeans jacket at the Levi outlet – a jacket my youngest son is wearing today. There was no cherry fudge this time, though…)

I remember a trip beginning after midnight, when Kim got off of work, with her brother, Nick, and his wife, Chris, to Hubbard Lake, where Kim’s mom and dad were with their camper…

If I sit here long enough, there is a flood of little memories that will surface and I could write here all day.

Sigh. Maybe a couple more memories. I’m not sure if this is cathartic or deepening my grief, but they come rolling out, one after another, once I start.

I remember the day I proposed to her. We had picked out rings for her months before and I had them on a payment plan. I was working overtime on a Saturday, and we were to go to one of Kim’s friend’s weddings that night. I had determined that I had enough free cash to pay for Kim’s ring, so, instead of rushing over to her house, I went to the LeRoy’s Jewelers at Twelve Oaks Mall and paid the ring off. When I finally got to Kim’s house, she was steaming mad that I was so late, worrying that something had happened to me. That all melted as I dropped to one knee and gave her my explanation. What a great memory! I wish I could remember the date. I recall having come across the receipt from paying it off recently; I just don’t remember where.

To be continued.


What defines perfection? What does it mean to be “perfect”? I was thinking about this as I drove solo to clean the snow off Kim’s and her mom’s grave blankets. Odd thoughts for such a drive? Maybe.

Kim was not perfect. She had her faults. I was often upset at her actions and with her. But, she was perfect for me.

The good Lord knows that I am as far from perfect as you can get. She was often upset at my actions and with me. Probably more than I’m aware of. But I seemed perfect for Kim.

Little things fill the slots to make up that perfection. Some of those little things are what attracted us to each other – that initial “chemistry”. The way she smiled. The color of her hair. Her laugh. Her spunk. Some are the way we developed in our relationship and the knowledge we had of each other – individually and as a couple. As our life together proceeded, some elements changed; some new perfections and new imperfections discovered. As our experience with those imperfections increased, so did our understanding and tolerance for them.

I guess that’s what marriage is all about: enjoying the little perfections and remaining by each other’s side through the imperfections. In good times and in bad; in sickness and in health. And we did that.

From the mouths of babes…

My youngest, Jillian, and I were having a rather frank discussion about friendship, school, religion, and then Kim. I told her that Kim was depressed most of her life. REALLY depressed. But I didn’t know if that depression was driven by my job that made me an absentee father and husband most of the time, or, another facet: when we met, Kim was all of about 115 pounds. Maybe 110. After each child, she found the weight harder to lose. Kim’s body image, I believe was another source of depression, if not the predominant source. Oddly, though, looking back on some pictures, it is clear at some points in time she was really heavy (as is typical with married couples: so was I!), neither Jillian nor I could think of a time of ever thinking of her as “fat.” But I know she was unhappy with herself.

I also have a lot of “perfectionist” tendencies, and a teacher’s heart, I guess. When I see something going sideways (which could simply mean “not as I would do it”), I’m not shy about pointing out a “better” way to get it done. This led to Kim thinking she could do nothing right, no matter how often I explained that there was nothing wrong with the way she was doing it; just offering a different perspective. And just like a hound dog can’t help but bark at the squirrel, I just couldn’t seem to not do it.

Kim’s depression led to a problem with alcohol. Alcoholism. And, assuming her body was the major source of her depression, her choice of alcohol – Labatt’s beer – didn’t help, as the empty calories from that just added on more weight.

Lots of little things like that fed the demons that chased her.

With this in mind, I made the comment about Kim’s depression and stated that she didn’t have a very happy life. That was the focus of the conversation until I related the cream of celery soup story to Jillian and my conviction that there is a God, and that He listens. I included the comment about not knowing His mind or why He would help me with the soup, but not by curing Kim. (And choked up a bit.) And then the gold nuggets began spilling from her mouth, to wit (paraphrasing a bit since my memory didn’t capture it word for word, but the gist is the same):

Mom’s diagnosis brought the family together; made us closer. Mom liked that. I think God was saying to her that He didn’t like this either, but it has a purpose that she would like, and that she can look down on us and see how much closer we all are, and how much a part of each other we are now. He told her her suffering wouldn’t be that long, but the results would last.”

I agree. And I couldn’t have said it better myself. Such a great perspective!


Feeling how I’ve felt since Kim’s diagnosis: how did she feel? This is a thought that nags at me. Knowing the ultimate outcome, how did she keep her spirits up as she appeared to do? I know there were a lot of “last times” she rushed for – cream of celery soup (there’s an interesting story there), her deceased mom’s macaroni and cheese with tomatoes, lots of walks with me – something we loved to do, but something that, prior, things always seemed to interfere with. Walks with Jillian through the nature trails. Visiting her horses. Finishing the quilts she had planned for the kids’ Christmas presents. And finishing her own lap quilt for those winter chemo appointments that never came to be. So many things to do.

During our remaining time, I would generally be up and about between 6 and 6:30 to prepare for my work-at-home day. She would usually not be up before 8:00. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later – it depended on when she went to bed, and that depended a lot on her medications and chemo cycles.

Our means of communication when she woke up and needed help was text messaging. Usually things along the lines of helping her dress after a shower, helping put her shoes and socks on – stuff like that, because bending down wasn’t easy with the ascites, and putting socks and shoes on wasn’t easy with the swelling in her legs. Sometimes there were other issues I’d have to help her with, but the majority was pretty mundane. Through all of that time, I can only remember a handful of days where she said she felt depressed, or she wanted to cry. Me? My emotions were raw, and I would break down often, especially when discussing hospice, funerals, gravestones, and the like. (We prayed and prayed for that miracle, but we prepared for the event it was not received. I guess that’s how it’s done.)

Did Kim internalize her grief? I hate the thought of that; of her torturing herself over it in silence. Once you go through a bout of clinical depression, you build incredible empathy towards those doing similar. Kim had depression issues for much of our marriage, intensified, if not brought on by, my globe-trotting career.

Depression makes you feel trapped and hopeless. Knowing someone you love is depressed, and not knowing how to help pull them out of it leaves you feeling helpless and useless.

Oh – that cream of celery soup. That was about a week after Kim’s diagnosis, during all of the COVID grocery store frenzy. Kim wanted cream of celery soup. Ever since I’ve known her, one of her favorite comfort foods was cream of celery soup with wide egg noodles.

So, I went out to get her some. Store after wiped out store and nobody had it. I stopped, finally, at the local Busch’s Market. No soup. I was beaten. I walked into another aisle, praying “God, please! Kim wants this. Please let’s not disappoint her!” On an impulse, I went just one more time down the soup aisle, and, lo and behold: the rack now had two full rows of soup. I picked a can up, and sure enough: Campbells’ cream of celery! I grabbed all of them, and a couple of bags of wide egg noodles, and checked out…

Do you believe there’s a God in heaven that hears our prayers? I do. I don’t claim to know His mind – for instance: why would He help me find Kim’s soup, but not answer our prayers for a cure? – but I know He’s there, and He’s listening. He shows up in little ways sometimes.