The name’s Jacob. Jacob Marley…

There is a point to all of this that often gets lost since, when I am specific, I target others who have lost their spouses in my posts. But there’s something here for those who HAVEN’T – and that thing is for people who love ANYONE; not just their spouse.

Like the ghost of Jacob Marley warning Scrooge to mend his ways, I offer the following point:

You do not know when the last time you will see your loved one will be. It could be tomorrow. It could be next year – it could have been a few moments ago.

With this in mind, I implore that you become and remain aware of your relationships. Give your wife, husband, mother, father, child, grandparent… no matter who: give them a hug and a kiss whenever you can. Be patient with the irritations that come with any relationship. Never forget that neither you nor they are permanent. Remember the finite nature of this life, and you will have no regrets if one of your cherished ones should pass out of your life.

I know this is very general. And I am keenly aware of how hard it can be to follow that advice – even now after having experienced the loss of my life partner. But I try and I will continue to try to remember that, at any moment, they could be gone.

I cannot tell you how much pain comes with such a loss – if you haven’t experienced similar, my words cannot possibly convey the width, depth and breadth of the hole that is left behind – not just a figurative hole in your heart, but a gaping maw in EVERYTHING that your life was, is, and will continue to be. Regrets are like razor wire around the periphery of that hole, tearing you further as you try to rise above the edge of that abyss. Don’t let the neglect of your relationship be one of those regrets. If you manage this alone, all of what I put to digital paper here is worth the effort to me.

God bless.

Top of the mornin’ to ye

St. Patrick’s day. My feast day. A day that the family has traditionally gathered for a corned beef and cabbage dinner. The first one without Kim.

Kim loved these dinners, and she would have particularly loved this one. I had purchased a packer CAB (brisket) – the biggest I’ve ever seen – from Sam’s club about two weeks ago. I cut it into points and flats and had them brining in the basement refrigerator all week. Yesterday afternoon, I pulled the largest of these and sealed it up for a 36-hour sous vide. I kept the brine to add to the vegetable boil so that they would have that nice corned beef flavor we crave on this day as if they boiled with the meat in the traditional fashion, and the strategy worked perfectly. To all of this, I added my signature beef sauce and a loaf of soda bread.

Unfortunately, Jeanette had to work, and Jessica wasn’t feeling well, so it wasn’t a full house as I had planned, but Kim’s dad made it over and enjoyed both the meal and the company. The meal was great – the flavor of the meat was a little cardamom-heavy, but the color was perfect. Surprisingly a little tough for sous vide corned beef (likely a facet of the quality of the meat). But otherwise, perfect!

Happy birthday, Kim.

A bittersweet day. The day my beautiful Kim entered this world 55 years ago. My brothers and sisters and I (and a few nephews and nieces) all participate in a family text group, and it was with dewy eyes I read their birthday wishes for her. One in particular, from my older brother:

“Happy Birthday Kim! I cannot help but think you came into this world on the first day of the month we attribute to Love and were born to eternal life on the first day of the month we celebrate the ultimate love – the birth of Our Lord and Savior! Give Him a big hug for us! Love you!

And as I type this, Siri is telling me to call Kim as it has found her birthday in my contacts.

At 9:00, there will be a mass in her name at St. Thomas a’Becket, our parish for a little more than the past decade.

It’s starting off to be an emotionally hard day.

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.

And this, too, shall pass…

Grief is an odd thing. It comes over you in waves, like a storm surge. But as with a storm, those waves subside. Occasionally, after the storm, a large wave will still come to the shore, swamping everything it touches – but most of the waves are smaller over time. And anniversaries of life events – that first date, engagement, marriage, birthdays, death – and holidays are like the tides, bringing surges in at regular intervals.

Most events pass through our lives like ships through the water. Some leave a wake that quickly flattens and disappears. Some: no wake at all. Others pass through like an ice skate cutting lines in the ice. The edges of those lines are sharp and painful, but over time, with wear and warmth, the edges become less defined, rounder – less painful – until they finally disappear.

The death of a spouse is like a craftsman cutting a line in glass. The edges will only dull with time and wear. But they will dull.

Our wedding anniversary was 30 December. It was not as hard as I had expected it to be, so soon after Kim’s passing. Christmas and New Year’s Eve were actually a lot harder. Someone said that the day would be a sad day for me, but I had to disagree – it was still a happy day; the day Kim and I started our life together and our beautiful family.

And that family – our five kids and our granddaughter – are probably the reason why my grief is not the dominating factor in my life after Kim. They buoy me up. They surrounded me from the start, having implemented “Family Friday” immediately after Kim’s diagnosis. A new tradition in which one of the kids is the designated “chef du jour” and concocts a meal for the whole gang that they bring to Kim’s and my house where the whole family gathers to eat and make merry. Some of those events lasted into the wee hours; some just a few hours. Every one is a wonderful gathering for us all.

Kim really enjoyed those Fridays, and we wondered why it took her imminent departure for us to make that tradition. A tradition that, so far, we are continuing.

The kids gathered in force and went to the funeral parlor with me to make arrangements for Kim. They helped choose her casket (Kim wanted a white one with gold trim), vault, and the clothes she would wear into eternity. They surrounded me and were my strength during the viewing, the funeral mass and interment. My son set up shop on my kitchen table and worked from my home every day until Christmas. My daughter took over the Christmas shopping and decorating so that there would still be Christmas in our home as my heart just wasn’t into doing any decorating this year (though I did eventually pull out three of Kim’s homemade decorations and put them on display).

Even today, I can count on one or more of them to come up from behind and give me a supportive hug, or to just be around, keeping me company.

I can’t imagine what this would have been like had I no children.