Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June 29, 2010

The last time I touched you, held you, saw your face, said goodbye.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Wrapping Things Up

How foolish of me to have believed somewhere in my soul that one year meant I'd be wrapping things up.

Anniversary: returning annually.  annus versus in the Latin.

Had been a word with a pleasant connotation to me before this.  In grieving circles they call it sadiversary.  You would've hated that I think and I do too.

I had hoped to at least put all of the paperwork of your death behind but some of that still lingers and I will have to accept it spilling over into my "second year."

"There's this notion that there's something magical about the one year marker," another widow friend tells me, "but there's not."  Another friend tells me in Korean culture, one is given about five years to grieve...much more generous than the expectation of one year and then you're done.

Some people say you are rebuilding your life that first year- but in reality- the first year you are busy tearing down your old life - from the very foundations.  Perhaps in the second year, you can pour the cement for this "new life."

What is this first year "marker?"  Some say the end of the year of magical thinking- the year where you could still walk through the door or call on the phone.  It is a time to remember and relive.  If I had to explain it, I'd say the first year was an exclamation, "Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!" and at the end of this year, a statement:

"Oh my God."

More Regarding Audrey

I've already told you what Audrey will know about you.

But I also want you to know that I will try to care for her the way you would've wanted me to.  I can't help feeling on a daily basis, even though she's mine and I carried her in my womb, that I've been entrusted with her on your behalf, and that I want to please you with the way I raise her.


I promise you
that she'll be exposed to lots of different people, things, and places.
I will make sure she listens to good music that you would've approved of.
I won't dress her in tacky clothes or get her ears pierced too early.
She won't wear a lot of make-up and be a "cake-face" as you called it- even when she's a teenager.
And I won't let her pluck her eyebrows so that they're what you called "angry eyebrows."
But back to the present since that's a long way off.  I'll be goofy and silly but not crazy as you called it, with her.  We'll laugh a lot but not the "crazy laugh."
We'll visit the city often but not live there.  One day I'll even take her to the places that were special to us- the place we met, fell in love, and got engaged.
I'll make sure she knows about sports- though I can't promise I can teach her a whole lot specifically.  She'll hate the Yankees and root for Tottenham.
She'll be exposed to good movies, comedies and action movies and indie films.  
She'll be kind and polite but we won't say the word, "Excuse me," in our house, which you said really translated, "Get the ---- out of my way." (at least in NYC).
She'll take piano lessons and maybe another instrument, but I won't force her to practice for four hours a day like you had to.  She'll be allowed to watch cartoons in her pajamas on Saturdays.
She'll eat kimchi and galbi and sushi too.
And my eyes will always be on her, when we're at home, in the street, at the playground climbing, or in the swimming pool.  I will protect her with everything I any parent knows- I will give my life for her if I have to.

I will always be listening for your voice- what would you say- would you approve, if you were watching- would I do what I'm doing exactly the same...and then, I'll make the decisions the best that I can- because you are not here, and I am.

It's Tricky

Grieving is not the same thing as depression but today I thought of a definition of depression I once heard.  Depression: not caring- leaving things the way they are because one doesn't care enough to change it- and then there was an example which I don't remember.

I heard or read it when we were first married and living in Park Slope.  I was jobless and sat in this little spare room the size of a closet looking for jobs on the computer by the window every day for months.  One day I saw a mosquito near that window of the old brownstone and rather than get bitten, I smashed it against the window with something (my slipper? usually my chosen method).  But I was comfortable and didn't have a paper towel or anything to clean it up with there in the room.  The mosquito stayed there for a very long time- possibly until we moved.  I would see it there- I knew it was there...but I didn't care to clean it up.  I think maybe I was depressed.

Thought of this today because I bought a CD player some months after you died so Audrey and I could listen to more music.  It's a little complicated though and for some reason the alarm was set to go off at 1 pm every day.  It goes off at 1 pm every day and I go and shut it off.  I am not able to get out the instruction manual and figure out how to turn it off.  Today I fiddle with it for a while without the instructions because I muster up some strength and say aloud, "OK, this has to stop every day."  But it's tricky- like I said.  So, I just shut it off until tomorrow.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

In the eclipse

There are things that I think I will write about: a trip to the DMV to remove your name from the title in the rain in a line wrapped around the building outside..."What sucks even more is the reason I'm here is because my car got stolen and my license was in the car..." the young guy ahead of me in line tells me.  "Oh, that does suck."  and how I recall when we went to get our Jersey licenses not even two years before, seeing a middle-aged woman with her husband's death certificate and her daughter...and thinking, "how sad."

There is an "incident" in the bath tub where Audrey puts her feet over her head the way she often does outside of the bath, but it forces her under the water.  She is unable to regain her balance and pull herself out.  I grab her but in that few seconds, I see her eyes wide open, in terror, under the water looking at me.

There is a phone conversation I have last night with yet another young widow three years out.  Her husband suffered a heart attack the day after their second child, a daughter, was born.  She was recovering in the hospital when her five year old son called to tell her he couldn't wake up his dad.

I think about writing about all of these things in great details while they're happening because it helps me get through the moment to already be transforming them in my mind into words.  Just words.  But then later, it's too overwhelming.

Grief is less of a state, and more of a milieu that surrounds you.

And at this one year mark- it will be one year since I said goodbye to you this Tuesday- I am helpless to explain this milieu.

Elliptical orbit catches me in the eclipse.  it's like i'm in the shadow of last year.  watching.

Our last date together- this past Friday, one year ago.  I took the bus to Port Authority just like I did so many times on years of dates.  There you were.  I was happy to see you and you took my hand and led me through the rush hour crowd.  I commented on how glad I was I didn't have to do this anymore.  You lead me down a few streets to a surprise destination you booked for dinner before our friend's play.  We sit outside at Bryant Park Grill.   You come back from the restroom and I secretly admire how wonderful you look to me, as always.  How happy I am to see you heading toward our table, walking the way you do, giving me a small smile.  We share a dessert.  I don't remember anymore what it was.  But just that it was good.  I think it had raspberries.  Is this how forgetting will be.

There is the tall ship Audrey and I took a ride on what would've been yesterday, there it was docked in the harbor again while we walk yesterday by the river.   just like last year- giving tours.  I walk all the way down the pier and the guys who run it give me a schedule.  "Remember we took a ride on this ship last year Audrey?" The ship we came back to the marina on and found you waving to us wearing your red "Be the Reds" t-shirt, waving happily at us, even though Korea had just lost in the World Cup.  You helped me get the stroller and Audrey off the ship and I was happy to have you take over. Today was your last Sunday at church with us. As a family.  Tomorrow was our day at the park where we road the train and asked the woman behind us to take the picture of the three of us.  It was hot and we got in an argument about driving.  We ate BLT's I'd made that morning at Whole Foods.  Audrey and I waited in the dentist's office while you got your teeth cleaned- because, I said, you should really have your teeth cleaned every six months.  And we're paying so much for this insurance.  Two cavities.  You'll get them filled when you get back.  she falls asleep on the car ride home- you're sitting in the back with her.  We don't talk.  I ask you to run in to Target and pick up paper towels and toilet paper- the big stuff that's hard for me to do when you're away.  Your last dinner at home...tilapia with chopped tomatoes and cucumber marinade in lime juice, with pasta with corn and tomato and butter sauce on the side.  Then you packed.

Tuesday morning- goodbye.  See you in three weeks.

The milieu-

I stare at the hole from the tack in the kitchen wall where I hung your tour schedule- the one I ripped down on July 6th and threw in the trash - it looks larger lately.

My words to you, "I don't want to be a pregnant widow," haunt me.  I know where i sat while I said them  (right here where I am right now) and I see the look on your face when it came out of my mouth, surprising us both.  "What? You think something's going to happen to me?"  "I don't know..."  Yes, I do.  Yes, I do.

I hear the phone ring, I dance around Audrey in the narrow hallway to get it; I'm irritated because I can't get past her- "It's probably Appa!"
I hear the violinist's voice, "Are you driving?"  "Can you sit down?"

I look at all of the people we know on Facebook and all of the people I've ever known and they're all still alive.  This doesn't seem fair.  He's still alive...oh she's still alive...

I think about all of the many different worlds there are- because there are.  There is the widow world I know now.  The one where message boards are busy in the evening- and on weekends- with subjects like, "When does the pain end?" and "I'm at 8 months and it got worse..."  There are other worlds-  hospital worlds where people wait on vinyl chairs in waiting rooms for little girls and boys to finish their chemo for the day.  Aged in nursing homes and the overweight homeless man sitting on a bus bench with me last Thursday- eating chocolate cake, cursing and with a large egg shaped bump protruding from his head.  I would suggest that the world we're mostly presented with as the one we're aiming for- is just an illusion-a world concocted by ad execs and politicians.  The real world is a marble with all of these in miniature and all of these are the world.

I wish I did not have to grieve for you, literally for you.  But how do I know if you've gotten to do that or not?  So I grieve in your stead- for all you've lost.  For how you've left us.

A milieu, a climate, a setting.
for this world.
trying to fit into to-do lists and one year markers- to be where one should be.
people continue to talk to me about it- ask me how I'm doing.  it must be true, it must be real.  this is how i know when i doubt.
the horror does come back. it is heavy and keeps me up at night.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Father's Day is over.  I had spent a lot of time preparing the days prior, posting photos and videos and slideshows on Facebook to remind people of him and tell the world what a great dad he was.  But I spent Father's Day wrapped in some strange sort of bubble of peace and power.  I moved in a protective layer.  I'm still not decided whether it was God or just numbness.

In the morning, we got up and got ready.  I told Audrey we were going to a pretty hill to remember Appa.  I also called it the cemetery.  Somehow she knew.  I wrapped up some orchids a friend sent me a day or so before and packed water and the two bags of your favorite cookies Dan.   "Why are you bringing those flowers?" Audrey asked.  "Because we're going to leave them for appa."  "Is appa alive?" "No, no, appa's not alive.  Just to remember him."  That was a very sad question to hear her ask.

In the car, Audrey seemed nervous as I tried to navigate my way for the first time.  I'm glad a friend had shown me once before because my GPS told me I had gone the wrong way and I had to ignore it.  Audrey asked again and again, "I forget...where are we going?"  I would answer- the special hill where we're going to remember appa and just eat some cookies."  "But..." she'd reply quickly, "I just don't know where we're going..."

As I drove in the cemetery I thought of all the people there who must be visiting fathers.  And when we pulled up to the hill and opened the doors, a middle-aged woman was sobbing loudly at a grave and then coming back to her car parked near ours.  Audrey stared at her.  I cried at her sorrow and mine and the woman and I exchanged a glance as I helped Audrey out of her carseat and out of the car.

At the grave, Audrey placed the orchids down.  We ate cookies.  I prayed.  "Here we are," I said.  Audrey wished you a happy father's day.  "Happy Father's Day Appa."  I took a couple of pictures so she'll know how we honored him our first Father's Day without him.   It was sad.  I did it to honor you - and the life you lived here regardless of whether or not you exist somewhere else or not.  Because honor is something more than just remembering.

On the way out, I passed a man and a little girl- about five or six in a little dress, running to another grave.  Little girls, I decided, should not visit cemeteries.  This was confirmed today when I asked Audrey if she wanted to go back there and she replied quickly, "No."

And then we drove home.  At home, I felt relaxed and the peace and almost euphoria strangely- continued.  I received many emails and texts of friends remembering us- this was appreciate and perhaps part of the bubble.  Audrey and I baked cupcakes before my parents came over for an early dinner.

I am bothered that no young widow I know, in person, or through message boards, could bear to go to church today.  The modern church seems to be geared towards traditional families- those who have it "together."  Isn't it supposed to be a place of comfort for the weak, broken, and lost?  The poor, orphan, and widows?

It took me by surprise that today- the day after Father's Day- was the one where I felt I couldn't take any of this anymore.  Amidst all of the things I was trying to do, the stupid life insurance called again...I interrupted the woman "He passed away last July..."  "Oh, I'm sorry...sorry.  Have a nice day."  My blood sugar plummeted.

But yesterday, on the drive home I was thinking about the contradiction inherent in humankind- the strength and power we exhibit in our building and medicine and art...the utter frailty that possesses us- that we can breathe and beat and be alive- and die in an instant.   We must be protected from sharp objects, falling objects, water, and fire.  Surely there is something divine about our power- something holy in our frailty.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

And then

it hits.

I had decided in my thoroughness, I must spend this evening looking through all of our little videos we took since Audrey was born...there was a LOT more than I thought so I gave up after a couple of hours, but I did find it hard to pull away...hearing your voice- hearing the two of us singing Mary Had a Little Lamb, Audrey's most popular request at around a year old, together...being just for a moment, back in that world...the one I can't get back to.

In one of them, i'm singing a song I used to sing to Audrey when she was an infant- "I wonder where your daddy is, your daddy is, your daddy is?" It continued, "Do you think he's on the bus right now, the bus right now, the bus right now, do you think he'll be home soon?"  Tonight I think and feel much the same thing.  I still don't really "get" this.

This afternoon I told Audrey I was going to tickle her to death.  Not sure why I used that term, but she stopped and asked me, "What's death?"  "Oh that just means I'm going to tickle you a lot!" I answer.

While searching through your hard drives for videos, I found a song I hadn't noticed before in your music section.  It's entitled Letter which was a song of mine that I'd written for you to encourage you on your 30th birthday.  Well, I used it for a slideshow after you died- recording a quick version at a friend's studio I wasn't really happy with, wishing I'd gotten to record it with you.  And here, tonight, I find you recorded two piano tracks and three cello tracks for my song right before Audrey was born...I open it up and sing the chorus to the instrumental you created for me...hearing your playing is almost like seeing your face...almost.

"I wish I could write you a letter, from the future when everything's better...
I'd tell you how fast all this time is gonna pass and how these are some of your best days...
maybe i'd tell you a secret...everything lost we still keep it..."

and I hope that somehow this last line is true...we have lost so much.


All of my earlier more pragmatic thoughts aside, there is a certain primal rage a mother feels to see something so precious taken from her child- to know an invisible but potent pain has been placed upon her at such an early age.  Who is there to blame?  Who can you be angry at?  This isn't just your husband- this is your child's only father.  I am powerless to change this for her or give her back all that she's lost.   Powerless.  This is a torturous feeling.  

Can't Help But Wonder

Last Father's Day- I made waffles in our waffle maker with whipped cream and heart shaped strawberries.  I tried to make your coffee really good grinding fresh beans and using the French press- I think I've gotten much better at it since you died.

This must be numbness.  The day I've been dreading since I first realized I'd go through this horrible cycle of seasons and holidays is tomorrow and I feel nothing.  I try to process what has been lost here, but there's definitely something blocking me from even really thinking about your death the way I normally do.  Instead, I think very pragmatic thoughts- you died, this is the only life Audrey will have and know- yes, it's a loss, but this is her life- the one she got.  Just like this is my life.  You loved her, she loved you.  You tragically died.  That's all.

I do think your relationship with her was so much simpler than ours.  It was just mutual love and adoration, not muddled by years of learning how to love a person who was once a stranger.  She is your flesh and blood.  She will always be your daughter.  They say I'm no longer your wife.

And Father's Day- well it's mostly a commercial holiday- one they don't celebrate in Korea.  I was incapacitated on your birthday and the anniversary of the day we met- Audrey's birthday is also hard.  But I am focused on her loss of you and yours of her, daily.  Tomorrow will be more of the same.

Today I have a recollection of a few weeks before our wedding day, 2004.  I had just gone to pick up my wedding band from the jeweler in the diamond district and I was showing it to some friends at our "kinship group"- that's what our small group/Bible study was called back then.  You were there too.  I remember so specifically sharing with the women there that I was afraid you were going to die- something was going to happen to you.  One friend told me I probably didn't feel I deserved this wonderful blessing- marrying Dan, but that I needed to realize how much God loved me.  The women prayed for me on the floor in a small circle the way we did- that I wouldn't have this irrational fear of Dan dying, and that I could truly enjoy my impending wedding day and marriage.  I can't help wonder about it all now...

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's a Girl and Her Name is Audrey...

I knew you were excited about Audrey by the way you spoke to her through an empty toilet paper tube you wrote "daddy phone" on, but I wasn't prepared for how enamored you would be immediately and how flawlessly you would step into your role as father.

What I remember is your tireless rubbing of my back during  26 hours of labor and two trips in a cab from Brooklyn to Manhattan.  What I remember is how tired and hungry you were afterwards.  I remember how bright you seemed the next morning when you came back with flowers and a card you'd made and colored for me and one for Audrey, "our beautiful daughter."  I remember how I had to push you to have a child and how I hoped in the beginning that it'd be a boy so you could relate better but towards the end some cabbie had told you some story about how it was more interesting to have a girl- someone different than you.  You wanted a girl.  It was you who went to tell my anxiously waiting parents, "It's a girl...her name is Audrey."

Back at our apartment, you had to take over because I was having irregular heartbeats and in so much pain due to lots of stitches.  You brought me my first meal at home and it was the best thing I'd ever tasted.  You set up the sitz bath for me on the toilet and froze maxi pads with witch hazel on them.  You gave Audrey her first bath and her first hair wash.  You bounced out of bed all night after I nursed her to do your part, changing her.  Her first big poop exploded all over you while you were in the midst of this- she loves to hear this story now before bedtime.  It's called "the one about the big poop."  You told me you found the secret way to calm her constant crying- bending your knees just so and bouncing and twisting and shhhh'ing all at the same time.  It was quite a sight.  You carried her to her first doctor's appointment- I took a cab because I still couldn't walk even a few blocks, and we met there.  You took photo after photo of her and a few in the mirror so you could capture yourself holding this six pounds of life that looked just like you- your eyes glowing with lack of sleep and pride.

Even had you died a week after she had been born, I would've already known by then- without a doubt, you were an amazing father.

Father's Day

Audrey and you made this last year on Father's Day in the nursery at church.  I remember just chatting with other moms while you helped her assemble it.  I remember another mom saying that you should volunteer in the nursery because they needed people and you were so good with the kids.

Other than this and another coloring page of a father holding a baby that Audrey scribbled a little purple crayon on, I don't remember much of last Father's Day.  I think we went to my parent's after church probably.  I think I remember feeling resentful because you were leaving in another week.

On your first and only other Father's Day you had just quit your day job to go on the tour.  I special ordered a custom onesie for Audrey that said "I love my appa."  and another one in bright orange that said "My dad rocks."  I also bought you your suitcase- the one that would be returned to me with airline tape all around it a few days after your body.  But anyhow, I filled this suitcase with every possible toiletry or travel tool you might need on the trip- a blow up pillow for the plane, ear plugs, medicine, vitamin C pills, small packets of laundry detergent.  On top was a printed photo of Audrey smiling in the orange onesie.  You said you had that taped by your bunk on the tour bus the whole trip.  Now it's in the backpack that was also returned to me with that grey suitcase a few days after your body.

The wheel pictured above has been on our refrigerator since last Father's Day along with the other colored picture.  One day I felt sad looking at them and thought it was time to take them down, but I thought I'd just ask Audrey if I could take them down because she often pointed to them.  Her answer:

I took Audrey to a nearby nature center yesterday where they run a toddler/pre-k program. She heard a book about snakes, made a snake, and then we went on a hike to look for snakes (luckily, none found).  I find it difficult being in groups of moms where everyone's pregnant or holding an infant while their toddler sits by Audrey.  They still have that, "I'm a mom- this is hard and stressful and I'm tired," look on their faces and I feel like telling them, it's really not that bad.  It's what they wanted.  They are not grasping any horrible tragedy- just beautiful children full of life.

During the craft, I was surrounded by, "Should we show daddy when we get home?"  "Hey, this would make a great gift for Father's Day!"  "Should we give this to daddy for Father's Day?"  I secretly think to myself: we would have given him something much more creative and cool Audrey- what a cop out to use the nature center craft!

Afterwards, we stop by my parents before I run an errand in their neighborhood.  Audrey loves looking through this giant Bird book I had gotten at my old publishing job.  I knew I had given it to my dad, but had forgotten for what holiday.  Audrey turned the pages one by one until we stumbled upon a handmade card that went with the book- inside was my writing saying the card was good for one Saturday of bird watching at Prospect Park in Brooklyn near where we used to live.  On the cover was a bird drawn by Dan with the words "Happy Father's Day."  I can remember telling him- here, you're a good artist- draw something.  Strange to have found that now- three days away from Father's Day.

Tributaries and White Carpet

In medias res, I think to myself last night.  This random literary term popping into my head.  In media res- right in the middle.  Milton's Paradise Lost begins in hell for example, after the angels have already fallen.  And that is where we left off- in medias res.

It is hard to distinguish grief from love- the two erupted so much at once and have remained inseparable for some time now.  So I often ask myself, how does one let go of grief (not that it's simply a process of will) and hold onto love?  Where will the love go?  In happy memories?  Those are still too painful and will never, never, be happy, despite what well-wishers believe.  To the future?  At a time when I might see you again in the flesh?  Or will it just float up into the air like the hundreds of balloons little children who've lost a parent send "up to heaven."

All of the arguing and late nights and counseling and hurting and healing, I see now as only tributaries.  Our conflict was carving tributaries into my being.  It made sure the love reached every island and inlet- it courses through my veins I guess.

I imagine  your death and my love for you now like the white carpet rolled out before the bride walks down the aisle, like the flower petals dropped by a pretty little girl, laid out for me to walk the rest of this way.


So many things to tell you- so much I'm collecting.  I keep collecting, but not the way I did in the past when I waited to share the details of my day with you over dinner in the evening...I realize I can't hold this much, this many days, months, and years, and all they contain in my head or even in words anymore.  But still, I hold them.  Collect them.  Somewhere inside.

The other day I realize that in our Netflix queue is a record of all of the movies we watched over the last few years- complete with all of your ratings- 390 of them.  Audrey can see that you gave The Host and The Machinist five stars...that you gave Happy Gilmore and Slumdog Millionaire four.  It is nice that I have this record since I usually forget all of the movies we've seen and needed to ask you whether I'd seen something or else I might watch it again by accident, only thinking half way through that it seemed familiar.

Last night I write a song in tears- but at first I hear it in my head but can't find the right chords on my guitar.  I am still so used to just singing it for you and having you tell me what I'm looking for.  Instead I struggle along and curse until I find them.  Then I sing, "What can I do with this love?"

A E F#m.

I'm heading straight down the aisle toward your coffin again- straight through Father's Day with no father for my child, straight through the day that the world changed for me- the sky looked enormous and floating and overwhelming.  I'm numb I think because I don't stop doing things, keeping busy, and feel as if I'm preparing for an anti-wedding, the last minute details- the stress underneath all of the phone calls and trips to the florist and caterer.

I watched a documentary on death and mortality last weekend.  It was mostly based on Ernest Becker's book, "The Denial of Death."  Fairly convincing...that basically all that we do- our culture, our religions, our patriotism and politics- are just a means of denying our future demise.  In it, one of the sociologists refers to us as "meaning hungry creatures."

Regarding Audrey

Again two nights ago Audrey mentioned randomly, while on the potty actually, "Sometimes I remember appa and sometimes, I don't."

I feel sad resignation at this disgustingly organic, inevitable truth.

I asked her if she wanted to look at some of your clothes and she answered "Yes!" excitedly.  I open your lower drawer in our dresser and she is quickly lifting up item after item saying, "I remember this!"  I don't know that she really does remember any of them.  Maybe a few, I can tell by the look of remembrance in her eyes.  I cry without her noticing while we take out some of your soccer jerseys.

Father's Day is almost here.  And this is my gift to you.  What I want for you to know

She has changed so much since you saw her at 21 months.  "Don't be surprised if she's talking like crazy when you come back," I told you when you left.  I said this partly because it was true and partly because I was resentful and wanted you to feel bad.

What can I tell you about Audrey now at 33 months old?  She loves peacocks and pelicans.  She has singalong parties where I'm required to sit on a foam square on her play mat while she stands with a princess wand in either hand singing loudly for a very long time.  (Singalongs are only on Fridays she informs me).  She knows all of the continents and recognizes them by shape.  Africa is her favorite.  She has a favorite singer named Kimmy Schwimmy and has all of her songs memorized.  She dances with pure joy to these songs, jumping around, clapping her hands, and smiling for my acknowledgement.  She is starting already to stand up to me just a bit telling me, "I don't like it when you say no!" when I tell her no.  "I like it when you say yes."  I think that's because I told her that same thing when she said no to my requests a few times.  Sometimes she just hugs me and says "I loves you mommy."  It is an unbelievable sound to hear.  I wish you could've heard it too.  She loves the series Madeline and wants to invite the twelve little girls from the old house in Paris to her house to play.  She has vivid dreams that she remembers.   One of her first was about her umbrella...she was half asleep screaming that she needed her umbrella because it was raining.  The next morning she remembered it.  Another was about bugs crawling on her arms.  She was afraid of them but there were also a lot of butterflies and she wasn't afraid of those.  Her most recent dream had to do with ice cream that she'd dropped.  She awoke in the middle of the night screaming that she had to get her ice cream.  I had to wake her enough to tell her it was only a dream and we could have ice cream tomorrow.

She will go to preschool in September and can't wait.  In fact, we play preschool nearly every day.  Sometimes she is the teacher and sometimes I'm the teacher.  She can smell chocolate on my breath even from far away- even the type.  "chocolate!!" she'll say sniffing and smirking..."chocolate chips!"  I can't get away with anything anymore.  She loves foam stickers and stickers of all kinds, dressing up like a princess and hearing the story of The Princess and the Pea.  She sits with a little Korean book that has an audio that teaches words and teaches herself "Koweewan."  When I tickle her, she stands up for herself now saying, "I said stop.  I don't like being tickled.   I like kisses...and hugs..."  Some of her favorite places are Trader Joe's where she enjoys getting her own little cart, Target where she likes looking in the dollar section, and IKEA, where she climbs up on all of the toddler beds.  She's in a nose picking phase unfortunately for me.

A friend tells me the other day that even if she has no conscious memories, you helped form who she is and the first few years are crucial and you were with her for 21 months and that counts for something.  I hope that's true, but I still wish she could've known you- truly known you.

But now this has come to pass...the forgetting.  A sharp reminder as well that we are all ultimately forgotten, if this is the only reality.  No matter how much we achieve or how loved we are by those on our journey - we are forgotten a century later...our name never uttered.

Here is what I can promise you regarding Audrey.

She will know that you loved her and love her still.  I am absolutely confident that I can represent you and speak in your stead on this matter without feeling blasphemous.  "He loves you so matter what."  This is truthful even though you're not here, and she'll know it.  I will always remind her.

She will know that you were brilliant; you had perfect pitch that could tell me the note of the annoying car alarm horn that was endlessly beeping in our old Brooklyn neighborhood.  She'll know that you were a model of humility- that you somehow held the confidence that you had real talent in one hand and genuine humility in the other at the same time.

She will know that you were a dreamer, that you never settled for mediocrity or doing what the world pointed to...getting an office job, a 401K, and buying a home weren't on your list.  You wanted to perform and write music, and you had many other dreams as well- now unrealized...of opening a restaurant one day with live music and Korean tuna pancakes on the menu, of writing movie scores, and being a photographer.  You decided you'd interview your favorite famous soccer players and somehow you did.  You got in touch with their managers and then there you were- on the phone interviewing them, writing articles and submitting and getting them published in ESPN.  I was lucky enough to be a part of all this dream making.

She will know that you were silly and fun to be around.  You were relaxed and danced in the center of the circle at my best friend's wedding while I was in the bathroom- a crazy long dance that I later saw on her video and said, "Huh?  When did that happen?"  You liked Japanese and Korean comic books, comedies and you loved movies and sports.  You picked out only cute stuffed animals and by tilting their heads just so, made them stare at me until I laughed while I was talking away, being my overly serious self.  You could strike up a conversation with anyone- our cabbie, the bartender, a stranger at the bar, about soccer or beer or New York City.

You had dreams for her too- and she'll know that.  You wanted to teach her how to play the piano and how to kick a soccer ball.  You were hoping she'd go pro in golf or tennis.  You weren't looking forward to her teenage years, but you would've been her great protector- in one of your letters home you tell me, "Nunnery's the way to go..."  You wanted her to have dreams and not grow bitter from all that you'd recently experienced in this world.  You wanted her to live well.

She will know that your spirit was like a child's and a lot like love itself...always trusting, always hoping, and always persevering- that when I met you, one of my first thoughts was that you just didn't seem to belong here.

Will she think you were a mythical figure?  A holy saint?  I hope not- because then I'll surely appear entirely too human and you not enough.  I'll have to tell her some of the things that made you human as well, or else you will be nothing more than a poorly written flat character in a short story written by an amateur.  I'll have to tell her about your snoring and your nail clipping, and the way you trimmed your own sideburns and they were often uneven.  I'll have to tell her about your "thriftiness" and the way you'd call me from the food store twenty times asking questions about the few things I asked you to pick up.  I'll chuckle as I tell her these, my eyes looking far off into the distance, remembering a time that disappeared when i was thirty four years old in the summer of 2010.  July.

Rest assured Dan, Audrey will know you as fully as is possible from the words I write, from the photos and videos and letters and soccer jerseys, from the beautiful music you made and from the look on my face as I speak of you.  

She will know that she was the greatest joy of your entire life and that you were working your hardest to provide for her the best way you knew how when you died.  "This is all I know how to do..." you'd often tell me.

When she's older, and feels sad on Father's Day, or other important days in her life, I'll be sure to tell her that she does have a father and even though he's not here, she still has his love and it is a great, great love and more real, possibly, than that which is given by many living men.

She will have no doubts of the kind of man you were or the kind of love you gave to her.
And this is all I will tell you tonight regarding Audrey.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I am an iceberg.  Have I used this metaphor before?

Not because I'm cold but because my pain and experience appears small, but those who pass by don't venture too close or see the massive rock right below the surface.  Maybe this is why I hate when check out women or bank tellers call me "Sweetie" or "Hon," I've never really liked this but now I can't stand it.

It's like my body is the size of a pin head in comparison to the universe of pain that is my new home.

So I go to the DMV today to take Dan's name off of the car title and get the car inspected.  Last Monday I was going to go but noticed the agency was closed on Mondays so I didn't go.  Today of course, I forgot about that- and went.

Driving there I try to quiet Audrey so I can hear the GPS voice but she is loud, telling me she's taking off her shoes, picking her nose, and "are we there yet?" yes- she already says that- CONSTANTLY.

While waiting for my car, I see I got a voicemail from the crazy manager of our building telling me a painter is in her office right now that my landlord hired to paint a wall in my apartment so he can start showing it.  Despite giant signs in the inspection station saying cell phones aren't aloud, I see but don't see- I call her to find out what's going on.  Audrey is hanging on my hand pulling me.  Then I realize five people, a worker and customers trying to help him, are screaming at me, "MAAAAAMM!" there are no cell phones allowed, they say.  I think a year or so ago, I would've been so sensitive I would've cried.   Now I think- ha.  Things like this just don't bother me in the slightest anymore.  In fact, I find it humorous how riled up others get about things of such little consequence.  I shake my head and slowly make my way outside while still talking and being dragged by Audrey.  I'm not sure why this manager is calling me, trying to stir up consternation when I've already been talking to the landlord about the painter coming and given him blocks of time.  Today was not scheduled and she tells me in fact, no he's not there to do it today.

The car passes..."Camry" is all the guy says.  "So we're all set?"  He grunts. I get in the car and pull around to the DMV noticing...yes, it's closed on Mondays.  I knew that.

Back home.  But first I put my head down on the steering wheel for a moment.

"Where are we going now mommy!" Audrey demands.

We go to Whole Foods and later, swimming lessons. At Whole Foods, I buy two kinds of specialty cookies- your favorites.  I figure we'll eat them on Father's Day- the only thing I've decided we'll do on that day so far.  I tell Audrey how one of them we tasted while we were shopping in Whole Foods at Columbus Circle gathering all the food for my "laboring."  He liked them so much that we bought them- even though I think they were $10 a bag!  I buy those and another wafer kind you liked.  You weren't a big sweets guy but you liked both of these.

I notice I vacillate now between addressing you as "you" and "he," where I used to automatically speak out most of this to you.  Just as Audrey expresses the distance in calling you "my dad" instead of your name to her, "appa," I find distance in my own words as well.  Not because we want it there, but just because... it is.

Tonight I read on the FB widow group a whole thread about how the second year anniversary hits so much harder than the first.  "Me too, it was definitely much harder," they all say.


Sunday, June 12, 2011


It feels like I'm cramming for a final exam now.  Your death day approaches.  It was the worst day of my life- in close competition with the wake.  But it will not be the most powerful day of my life- I decide that.

I read a poem a few weeks ago by W.S. Merwin entitled, "For the Anniversary of My Death"

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day   
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what.

It's strange and somewhat comforting to me that we all have a birth day and a death day and we pass, not only the birthday, but also the death day- each year.  

I ask a few widows further out what I should do to prepare and also what they did at the memorials or if they even did any.  I feel like I'm foraying into completely unknown territory.  So far I've sent out the invites to the graveside service and gathering at the pub.  But that's about it.  Friends email saying they can help but I've probably got most of the details already done.  But I don't.  

One widow tells me to be patient with myself and not worry about getting everything right- that there is no place for that in this kind of thing.  

She also tells me I should do something that celebrates me.  "Here's why: On the one hand, I couldn't believe that he was gone for a whole year.  On the other hand, I was amazed that *I* was still standing.  That I had survived 365 days of sadness/depression/abandonment, you name it.  And that in itself is something to celebrate."  

Sometimes I Don't.

As I prepare dinner tonight, Audrey brings you up- she tells me "Sometimes I don't remember my appa... and sometimes I do."  "Sometimes I don't remember him and then I see his clothes and I say, "Ooooohhh, I remember my appa."

I sink to the floor and sit as she leaves the room.  What I notice is that she no longer calls you "Daddy" or "Appa" but "my appa."  "My dad."

Tonight we sat and watched a bunch of videos with your voice on it because she seemed to be trying to tell me something.  I accept at this point that there is not much I can do about childhood's amnesia, but I will help her here and there if I can.  We watch the videos on the little hand-held screen of the device.  There she is kissing your face- the only part of you sticking out of the covers early in the morning in our bed.  There she is saying "appa" for the first was while you were away in Australia and I wanted to record it for you.

She snuggles close to me while we watch.  I feel her sadness and mine.

Afterwards, I go to get her toothbrush and when I come back to our room, I see her hugging your cello.  Then counting the stickers on it.

I'm so sorry and so sad Dan.  Audrey is forgetting you.


Thursday morning.

Woke up after a very intense estrangement dream in which I was demanding Dan choose his career or me. Telling him that he simply could not have both.  There was a longing and aching that stayed with me after waking.  It was hard to get up.

A friend of Dan's sent me some quotes from a very sad article in the New Yorker written by a grieving father who lost his little baby girl to a rare form of cancer.

These sad words clung on to the feelings already there while I made breakfast and sang songs.  I seem to be always singing songs.

Audrey and I sat on the balcony a bit because it was a nice morning- she at her water table and I with a cup of coffee and the rest of that New Yorker article that I found in my own copy which unfortunately, usually goes untouched.  The writer's descriptions are evocative and I recognize many of them- the moment that "divided our life into before and after."  Driving through "traffic that existed in an entirely different space-time...where everything turned quite leisurely away from disaster."

The friend had warned me that perhaps I shouldn't read the article because it was so devastating- but rather, I found it nurturing like comfort food- I highlighted favorite sentences and paragraphs with a purple crayon of Audrey's.

The author talks about how most of us live in denial of our own death but eventually "as we mature into our mortality, we begin to gingerly dip our horror-tingling toes into the void, hoping that our mind will somehow ease itself into dying."  Great sentence.  He also mentions his own "compulsively catastrophic imagination."  I relate to this, but think now- maybe it's not compulsive so much as realistic and an active, healthy imagination.

One sentence I highlight and reread is this one, "I had never felt so close to another human being as I did that night to my wife," in reference to the long night of waiting while their infant underwent emergency surgery.  I am envious.  I know that illness and death of a child puts immense emotional strain on marriages and even ends them, but I didn't have anything like this in this tragedy- no one to really feel close to or walk through the valley with.  That is the thing with a spouse dying.  Others rally around for a bit, friends, family- but no one, absolutely no one, is really in the trenches there with you- you cry alone for the most part- the void of your spouse's comfort in this grueling hour, overwhelming you.

The writer has a hard time dealing with well-wishers full of platitudes and what he calls the "supreme platitude": God.  He prohibits the hospital chaplain from coming near them.

I think about this for a while.  It sounds angry and bitter and like someone who had no previous history with a God to consider him no more than just a platitude.  But at the same time, I know what he means.  When pastors and people came and sat by my bed that first "day after," I felt they had nothing to offer.  As a devout Christian for many years, I already knew the verses coursing through their minds...but they were the ones, they didn't "know" what I now knew.  That sudden tragedy and death of  a spouse is far worse than you can imagine in your nightmares and there was no verse or prayer that could alleviate even a drop of the pain and shock I was in.  I did let them come though.  I did ask them to tell me where Dan was.  They did answer with certainty and shaking heads, at least they fooled me.

The paragraph the friend had sent me was this one:

"One of the most despicable religious fallacies is that suffering is ennobling- that it is a step on the path to some kind of enlightenment or salvation.  Isabel's suffering and death did nothing for her, or us, or the world.  We learned no lessons worth learning; we acquired no experience that could benefit anyone.  And Isabel most certainly did not earn ascension to a better place, as there was no better place for her than at home with her family.  Without Isabel, Teri and I were left with oceans of love we could no longer dispense; we found ourselves with an excess of time that we used to devote to her; we had to live in a void that could be filled only by Isabel.  Her indelible absence is now an organ in our bodies, whose sole function is a continuous secretion of sorrow."  

A new organ.  Yes, this is true.

I can't judge another's grief and I notice that this writer is still in the first year of the process- even earlier than I, but mostly what I feel here in this grief-filled paragraph is the anger and rage about the injustice of it all.  Yes, it does feel like this- like it is completely senseless and meaningless.  No, there is no way Dan's death will ever be redeemed here on earth.  I have had that same thought- that no, God- I'm sorry- there is absolutely no more blissful place for Dan than with his wife or daughter.  But to say there is no experience here that could benefit anyone seems a bit shortsighted and inwardly focused- as grief naturally is in these months.  Others will suffer.  We go before them.  The only people who have been able to offer me even sparks of hope are the ones who went before me.  Not even because they're living great lives, but because they're simply alive.  Sometimes that is enough in those early days when you keep repeating, "I don't know how I'll go on..."  "Eat yogurt- that worked for me when I couldn't get anything down," they say.  "Look for butterflies," she tells me.  "It's going to be hard for a very long time."  They are honest.

And no, there is no ascension to enlightenment- nothing noble about having tragedy forced upon you- and no way dying tragically earns one salvation.  At least that is not the theology I know.  "You're so strong,"  "I don't know how you got up and spoke," "You look good."  No, I'm not strong.  I'm numb and in shock and haven't eaten in ten days- that's how I got up there and spoke.  I don't look good- not when my face contorts into the expressions of sorrow I alone see in the bathroom mirror before me.

Enlightenment is too kind.  But there is a brutal knowing.  Noble it is not.  But there is something there now that was not there before.  Earning salvation.  I think I've tried that most of my life.  Now I hear it's a gift.

When I came back in later to see if my brother in law had called- he was to stop by one more time this morning- I saw I'd missed a phone call.  A voicemail.  A message from the company I had used to get a small life insurance policy for Dan six months before he died.  Since I handled all of that stuff, I guess they had my contact info as his.  "Hello I'm looking for Mr. Daniel Cho.  Hi Daniel, this is -- from --.  I'm calling to update your beneficiary- it's very important to do so about once a year.  Please give me a call back when you get this message.  Have a great day Daniel."  This guy sounded like one of those computer recordings but he was a real person.  I cringe.

Snack time- Uncle Brian will be by in a few minutes- he's at the cemetery visiting "Dan."  Audrey is excited to see her Uncle again- she loved having his attention the past few days.

I check my email and see a message from someone I don't know.  The leader of the widow's dinner group I'd attended only twice before it became too energy -sucking to get there and leave Audrey with someone- has given my information to another woman who also couldn't make the dinners but attended once.  She has two small children and lost her husband in 2009.  She tells me that Audrey and I are in her prayers and if I need to talk to anyone, she is there.  "no experience that could benefit anyone," I think of the NY article and its strange juxtaposition with this email within the same hour.

I look at the clock: it's 10:11 am.  This is how the days are- saturated with this thing- this rich and hideous thing.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Widow Board

I'm not sure what this means.  

When you first died, I was googling around about widow stuff and found this young widow board.   I clicked on the section entitled "newly widowed" o to 6 months and read all of the different threads with titles like, "is this normal?"  "dreams..."  "has anyone been to a psychic?"  "i hate my inlaws"  stuff like that.  

Last night I found myself back at that board- not ever making a conscious decision to revisit it.  I click on "6-12 months" entitled "Shock wears off, reality sets in."  Soon I'll be in one year plus "Beyond the first year."  

Well, it kind of scares me that in the early days I found these people depressing and even wrote little messages encouraging some of them, "This isn't what your husband would've wanted for you."  

And now I find them insightful and funny.  Like the guy who has a tagline that says "about grieved out, living, and wanting to love again."  The "about grieved out" is what made me chuckle and still does.  There is just so much of this grief.  It's ridiculous really.  There is a beautiful piece someone wrote called "The Mask of Widowhood."  Someone says this, "Someone said as a widow, you'll be getting a new address book.  I think I'm going to get mine this weekend." 

 There's a thread called "This time last year."  There are tender threads about last goodbyes or missed opportunities for them- eyes locking while blood was suddenly being spit up.  Knowing but not saying a word.  Regret.  And there is a rally of encouragement around those: "But I think the greatest pleasure in married life, is knowing what your partner wants/needs/thinks without spoken words.
Your husband knew how you felt, as did mine."
"To try to express it in a few words limits those feelings."
"I think a silent moment between husband and wife speaks volumes. Nothing had to be spoken."

I find comfort in this since I didn't get that chance at all.  That even those who had been waiting for death for months or even years hadn't said everything.  

There are welcome emails to new members- always with the note "So sorry you're here but glad you found us."  There is one that explains some of the terminology used like DGI's (Don't Get its) or sadiversary.  There are a lot of parenthesis with HUGS.  This isn't my thing.

I feel a bit voyeuristic scanning through the threads, maybe because my writer mind is thinking about how rich this material is and jotting things down- but then I remember-- I am one of these.  I imagine that friends and family must think I am accustomed to the idea more than they are since it's my life.  But I'm not.  It's still mostly a role I know I'm supposed to play.

There is such a camaraderie here though- yes, there's whining and self-pity but there's so much pure understanding and reading it as a whole- the conglomeration of grievers, gives one a new perspective and lifts me out of the isolation of my bedroom at midnight.  The dark sense of humor that runs throughout makes me laugh.  Maybe it's kind of a crazy laugh, but a laugh.


Today I took Audrey for a swimming lesson.

Wearing the same swimsuit I wore when I picked up the phone and heard the words.

I think I dreaded it unconsciously all day.

It was eleven months.  After turning our little wooden perpetual calendar to six, I turned the whole thing around so I couldn't see it.

I dropped off some books that were due at the library, I went with the affidavit for spouses of deceased spouses for removing Dan's name from our car title to the UPS store to get it notarized.  I certify that I, insert name, was married to the deceased, insert name, who died on, insert date.  Stamp.  Emboss.

A few tears streamed nonchalantly down my face as I paid the five dollars and walked out with Audrey's hand in mine.  One more check on the grand to-do list.

We head to Trader Joe's to do some shopping.

Then, a package at home- the unedited video from your funeral from a pastor friend who took it for me.

I can't seem to get away from the tasks and chores of losing you.

Instead of feeling weighed down today, I feel enraged.  Irate.

By afternoon, I don't think I can manage going to the swimming lesson.  It's at a complex nearby where some moms I know hire a teacher to come.  It's convenient and non-commital; I should go.

But the thought of taking my bathing suit out of the bag I had carried with me to the swimming pool here last year on July 6th and putting it on, is too much.  Why, I think, why didn't I buy a new one time for today!  I think of all the widow advice to be kind to yourself and only do what you can handle.  Maybe I'm doing too much.

But while I heed this advice often, somehow I know this is a lie and I've got to push through today- I will do this.  I will go.  I drive down the busy road to the complex in my bathing suit repeating to myself, "Don't think, just don't think.  Be a robot.  Be a robot."

We walk around passing three other wrong pools before we find the one where the lessons are being held.  Audrey is excited and eager to get into the water.

When it's time for the lesson, we get in.  The pool's heated and the water's warm even though it's shaded.  It feels good.  She kicks and floats and jumps from the side of the pool exactly as she did last year.  I revel in her smile of delight.  It is fun.

We walk back to the car and the rage is gone.

The shackles are off.


Eleven Month Epiphany

It's not that time heals.  It simply frays the connection.

The would've's and should've's that are constantly beside you in that parallel life in the beginning and for some time, become only guesses- might haves but no one's sure.  Nothing's for certain.  Just as it took a billion strands of events and circumstance weaving together exactly so for the death to happen, time creates new strands without you in them and the parallel present is out of my grasp now.

When I hear you speaking to Audrey now or imagine what you might have said, I hear you say, "Hiiiii Audrey!" but in a baby voice- as you spoke to her at 21 months old.  I don't speak to her in the same tone I did then so I know you wouldn't either.  I don't really know how you would be interacting now with her- having actual conversations as I do.  I can guess.

My environment is the same, but won't be for that much longer- making the guesses even more random and meaningless.  And like Audrey, I too am changed.  I am not sure anymore how we'd interact because I'm older and I've lost my husband and endured this most unspeakable tragedy.

Tonight I sat on our balcony after Audrey went to sleep, drinking a root beer, looking up at the sliver of moon and imagining what it might have been like if you were here sitting with me.  I realize I don't know anymore.

"I'm alive," i say out loud and touch both of my arms and stare down at my legs already in pajama pants, because that's pretty much the only thing I know.   "If you ever died first, I'd just die," I had said.

"I'm alive.  I'm still here."  This is an eleven month epiphany.

First Time

We were talking about your brother's visit a lot today.  He's coming tomorrow and hopefully Audrey will get to spend some quality time with a real uncle for a few days.  Then we were remembering you.  Of course she remembers you, but I think she was wondering what about now- does she have a father now.

It was while I was doing the dishes after dinner.  It was the first time she asked me directly, "Do I have an appa?"


One more month.

I last saw you on June 29th, 2010.   I miss you so much.

Bye, I said.  See you in a few weeks.  I'm not gonna cry this time.
Then you closed the door and I cried.
And that was just a foretaste.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Weeding, Watering

This morning we went to church.  Man, I have such a hard time in church lately.  I go because it seems like a good routine.  And I do feel a tenderness towards the people as I hear them trying to understand the ancient documents with cities and names they have a hard time pronouncing.  As I listen to the worship leader say let's really sing and give God the glory He deserves and then the music is just, well, music.  I listen to the pastor try to relate ancient text to modern problems and toss in a story or two about pop culture or his own life.  It all feels very paltry and I think if there really is a God shouldn't we be addressing the larger issues all the time- like life and death and the fact that we're here and there's a God.  I guess that's all pretty established but then it seems important enough to dwell on for a long time before getting to the small details and worries of our little lives.  Sometimes church feels like another self-help book about how to have the best life now rather than a meeting of saints.   It's hard.

After church Audrey and I impulsively stopped at a large playground nearby, played a bit and got pizza from across the street.  Then we went shopping at Whole Foods before coming home.  I'm getting used to being alone on weekends with her, but every now and then I look around at other families at the playground and realize we're alone.  It feels though, like I'm growing up in a way I never had before.  I make decisions much more quickly and assertively, and I try to do things that Audrey will enjoy.  I am constantly aware of the tension between my widowhood and her childhood.  Perhaps though, in some ways they bounce off of each other quite nicely.

Audrey and I bought a mushroom kit to grow mushrooms and open it up and she gives it a few spritzes this afternoon after snack time.  Beforehand, we read one of my favorite children's books- "The Carrot Seed," published in the 1940's.  It's been a theme for spring.  It's about a little boy who plants a carrot seed and everyone tells him it won't come up- his parents, his brother.  But he keeps weeding and watering.  Nothing comes up and nothing comes up and then finally one day- a giant carrot comes up.  "Just like the little boy knew it would."  I try to impress upon Audrey that all along the little boy couldn't see the carrot growing because it was under the ground, so he had to trust in the unseen just like we will have to with our mushrooms.  I tell her it's the same way with God.  We can't see him but we can have hope and keep weeding and watering.

The other day, I found it interesting that one of our sweet pea seeds that somehow wound up on the kitchen floor rather than in the soil, just refused to go into my very strong vacuum hose.  It was small and round but lots of other larger particles were suctioned right up.  This thing was stubborn in its potential for greatness.

One thing i keep coming back to when all seems lost, is that philosophical turn around of why there is beauty at all?  Not why is there is sickness and pain and disaster?  But why beauty and music and flowers and art?  And not just in the natural world, but even in grief.  Why is there, and there is, a capacity for beauty in such a tragic journey?  Why are there two choices clearly laid out before me- though invisible- one a path of bitterness and anger- one a path of beauty and wisdom.  I have to admit that when I veer towards hope, something deep, very deep within, feels lovely.  If I was misguided and thinking wishfully, I expect I'd feel a sickness deep within, a perverseness because I was covering a tragedy with such superficial wishing.  But I don't.  Why would such a horrific occurrence even leave beauty as a possibility for those grieving?  But still there it is- it confronts me and I can't deny its existence- though, yes, invisible.  Is is hard to believe dying, even this senseless brutal young death that leaves me heartbroken for the rest of my own days- could be 100% tragically done and finished if I am given these two choices.  Maybe it's a foolish calculation in my mind to believe 100% ugly could not yield a 50/50% chance of bitterness or beauty unless there is some unseen factor to your death and death itself...maybe a hint of life.  Maybe a small seed.  Maybe something about losing your life and gaining your life.

But then again, most of the time lately, I believe
none of this.

I would be disingenuous to pretend I do.

And I can't manufacture or will faith.

But there's one thing I do- and I do much of it right here.

I can weed
and water.


I feel like taking a departure from my usual verbosity tonight.  I think because I'm tired and it feels right for my writing to reflect that.  Audrey's been up all night for the last few days with a bad cold coughing and gagging- it's a horrible thing to hear.

Yesterday I held a small garage sale with her baby gear and toys at my parents' house.  It was my first garage sale so I really had no idea what I was doing.  Dan and I had a stoop sale once.  Remember that?  In Brooklyn, whatever you don't manage to sell, you leave out while you go back upstairs to your apartment and in about 12 minutes, you look out the window and it's all magically gone.

I imagined that if you were alive, I still might have had the idea to have a garage sale- though we probably would've saved quite a bit of the baby gear for another child, had we been so lucky to conceive again.  So I imagine you there with me today while I sit out there mostly alone while my parents watch Audrey.  I think about how everything seemed easier, less intimidating together- with someone.  How even sitting behind a table of stuff with you would've been fun.  We would've joked- we would've drank coffee together.  Would've would've would've.

Missing someone in grief feels like the greatest thirst of your life.  Today I keep imagining the refreshment and life it would bring if you suddenly appeared- walked in a room.  I talk to you throughout the day, just short thoughts aloud like, "I miss you." and "Hey- I love you" into the air wherever I happen to be.

Seeing a few neighbors I grew up across the street from I haven't seen since your funeral confirms it - by the look in their eyes when they ask me how I'm doing, I know it's true- you are dead.  I always feel a bit disappointed when I meet more people and they also seem to know.  It doesn't seem real.  It doesn't still.

Being at my parents is draining- it's probably the place we spent the most time at over the course of 11 years- weekends there when I lived at home, holidays, five months as a new family after Audrey was born.  I feel at any moment you're going to walk in a room.  Any moment.

I thought about marriage and how in it, another person shapes you.  We learned in therapy that marriage is the place in which you work out all of your childhood wounds.  So quite often, you marry someone who really pushes your buttons and aggravates all of those wounds.  This is so they can heal.  I found this to be more than psychology, but quite true actually.  You shaped my whole adult life, and as a result- shaped me.  If I had not met you, I'm not sure I would've recorded an album of music or played at any venues in NYC, or lived in Brooklyn.  Most likely, my entire life would have been different based on that one day- if for some reason, we hadn't met.  Perhaps I would've escaped this pain- but then I would have missed you.  In the earlier days someone asked me that question- would you trade your time together to escape the pain?  I thought hard and decided that no, I wouldn't give you up.  Later, the pain sharpened and I had to think even harder about this question.  The answer is still no.

Together we created three people- not just Audrey- but you and me.  I was raised by my parents and crafted in marriage by you.

It occurs to me the other day that in high school we had to write where we'd be in ten years for some book that got printed out senior year.  I said that in 2008 I'd be engaged to be married and finishing graduate school.  Both were true.  I didn't realize in fifteen years I'd be a widow.

Getting rid of stuff.  Watching families come and buy Audrey's baby bottles and toys- it's hard.  And you might think getting rid of things is even harder when you've lost so much- they're all you have to tie you to the past life you lived.  But in another way, before someone is gone, you might think those things are important.  But once they're gone, you realize holding on to those remnants doesn't matter as much- they're still gone.  Dan's gone- Audrey's not a baby like she was when he died- and none of these things- will bring me back
in space or

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Another paradox, just as I was feeling so tired of living in survival mode all of the time- I am sentencing myself to it for the next month or so.  I stock up on paper plates and clean the apartment one more time because I have a feeling the next month or so is going to be very, very hard.

I am taken aback the other day when someone, a believer, asks me, "But it's getting better right?"  The whole time healing thing- it's a great big lie.  I know I'm not the only one who has found this to be true.  Unless you push the pain away to survive, rather than numbness or dulling, it's sharpening that comes- especially around the one year mark when everything must be relived.

It feels like the one year anniversary is the closest that my orbiting life will come to that fixed day- the way the sun is closest to the earth on the perihelion.  Strangely enough, in reality, we'll be at the aphelion here in the Northern hemisphere a day or so before the anniversary of your death- the furthest point from the sun.

I tell Abbie last week on the phone that every night after dinner I look at the dishes in the sink and the kitchen I need to clean up before bath and bedtime and it feels insurmountable.  But then every night, I start with one thing- the forks and knives, or packing away the leftovers, and before I know it, the sink is empty and the counters wiped.  She tells me this is a great analogy for life itself.  This is true- and this is what I must do- one thing.

I am still in the thick of the paperwork I'd been trying to get done before the one year- hoping at least I could leave that behind.  But I am surprised by how each "one thing" has so many steps.  In order to take your name off our bank account, I must close it.  But first I must alert any institutions that automatically withdraw or deposit into that account.  Then I must go back to the bank.  Close it and open a new account.  I need to take your name off of the car title.  But first I must get a form notarized, and then take all of the proper paperwork to the DMV.  Life insurance was paperwork, setting up a medical appt, the appointment, more signatures, and that first payment.  The headstone was a visit to the monument company, a first sketch, a final sketch, sent it back, another final sketch...everything seems to take a lot of energy and patience.  But it all gets done- just in lots of little steps.  I think the hard part is patiently holding that larger goal in your mind while tackling all of the pieces.  This is a lot like life as well- and reminds me of synecdoche and metonymy in poetry- we mustn't forget what the smaller items represent.

It hits me last night that there is a photograph of me and Audrey- one of my wedding photo and one of Audrey and I in matching cream sweaters in the fall, tucked inside a suit pocket- six feet under the ground.