Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year

I think a lot about time travel.

Last night I watch a Steven Hawking documentary on time travel and worm holes- the tiny holes that actually do exist in the dimension of time- through which we could conceivably travel if they were enlarged thousands of times.  Apparently there are a couple of other sure methods of time travel- all you have to do is travel around a black hole in a spaceship (without getting sucked in), or board a train that travels almost at the speed of light around the entire earth.  Of course, none of these methods will allow you to travel into the past- only the future.

We spent Christmas in California at Disneyland and at a close friend's home.  I understand now why a widow I know with three children visits Disney World many times in a year.  It is a fantasy world- an escape- and a distraction.  Of course, the trade-off is, by late afternoon while I'm walking back to the hotel- I am stunned with the loss of you.  Audrey falls asleep each day while I cry in the bathroom.  Then, we spend another day riding Dumbo and Peter Pan.  This is how it is.

My friend's husband is a pastor and we have one brief conversation over breakfast about the afterlife outside of time and space, and about the moments in the Bible where the other dimension breaks through to this world and the glimpse Jacob or Elijah catch-  is enough to last them their lifetime.  He tells me how his sister dreamt of his father, a man in a wheelchair in life, in a track suit in heaven- telling her he had to get back to a race and that he was having a great time.  "Wishful thinking?" he says, "sure it could be."  He tells me of a woman in their church who walked out of a bathroom stall where she was serving the poor and saw an angel smiling at her.  "That'll last her a lifetime," he says.  I tell him I have not gotten one of these yet.

My mother comments frequently on how it doesn't feel like Christmas- it's warm and sunny- in the high 70's at least while we sit on a curb watching a parade of princesses and Disney characters go by.  For me, there is no real difference between seasons or holidays anymore.  I was happy to welcome Christmas early this year along with the stores and catalogs.   The holiday and even the natural seasons feel completely made up and put on caked-on makeup or artificial snow.   The time that has passed since your death feels...timeless.

I receive Christmas cards - most with no note- just happy families- but a few have notes that express the sentiment that by now hopefully time is helping me heal.  I'm pretty sure I've said it before, but time is irrelevant unless it makes my sweet husband appear before me- alive.

I picture that also- a lot more lately.  I suppose I'm trying not to forget you.  I picture you coming into our bedroom after work- quietly so as not to wake up Audrey.  And I think about how to see your body- with life and breath in it again- would be an absolute miracle.  But then I think - I suppose it was also a miracle when you were alive.

The Stephen Hawking special has a close-up of Stonehenge- and talks about how these rocks- that are not alive- have been here for thousands of years.  They outlast us because they do not hold the spark...the miraculous.

Our first New Years' Eve was the one where you kept using that same joke, "We're gonna party like it's 1999!" because it was.

Our last New Years' Eve was spent here at our home with two other couples with small babies.  I made fondue and individual chocolate molten cakes...the babies crawled or toddled around playing in a tent of balls Audrey had gotten at Christmas.   There is still in our cabinet an extra bottle of champagne that went unused that night to prove to me now that that night another time.  Perhaps I'll pop it open, perhaps I won't.  It doesn't really matter.

The last time New Years' Day fell on a Sunday was when we started attending our church in Brooklyn.  We were churchless at the time and that morning I told you I just felt like going.  You came despite your reluctance and growing cynicism.  We found community and good friends there.  Audrey would be baptized there a couple of years later.

On New Years' day we had started a tradition of opening up the notes in our "gratitude basket"- a basket with ripped pieces of recycled paper and a pen where we jotted down small things we were thankful for all year...mostly about one another.  Maybe when Audrey is old enough to participate, I can get that going again.  I'm certainly not averse to being grateful...

"Resolve to pretend you can start at the end..." a line from a poem I wrote in college.   I wonder, when everyone talks about 2012, why everyone is so sure it's going to be a great year for them.  I guess it's ingrained in our culture right now- the whole- dream it, make it happen, enjoy your life philosophy.  I feel slightly perplexed when I read these posts proclaiming this will be the best year yet- and slightly worried for those who don't understand that their life- for the most part, is completely out of their control.  While I too hope to enter the next 365 days with optimism and hope- I understand this very well now.

So, here I am.  On the one hand, the new year, like autumn and Christmas and Disneyland, feels slightly artificial and put-on.  On the other, it feels solid and weighty like another layer in the solid granite wall that separates us...a wall with no wormholes that go to the past.

For now, a toast with sparkling cider with my three-year-old at eight pm will have to forge the way.  Time, whether I believe in it or not, fight it or surrender, does keeps moving.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sweet Dreams

Sometimes I think I can offer you tributes for the rest of my life.  It's so easy for me to do, but it doesn't make all of this untrue.

I wrote some notes on an endless list of things that you did or accomplished or were...but less really is more and there is one story you told me when we were first dating that comes into my mind frequently so that is the one thing I decided to share with others tonight after a long day.

When you were in college, a little boy from Korea needed a heart operation in the States in Boston.  I'm not sure if it was hooked up through your church (most likely), but you wound up "hosting" this boy and his mom in your dorm room.  You didn't even have an apartment.  You just gave up your college dorm room for this little boy and his mom.  And not only that, but you told me how you wanted him to feel welcome so you taped up cute wrapping paper you had and drew him some pictures saying "Sleep well," and "sweet dreams." (above in first photo) Much later, while we were dating, a friend of yours came to "crash" at your apartment and wound up staying, oh I don't know, a year?  And you, by your own choice, slept on the wooden floor next to him in a sleeping bag while he slept in your bed without complaining once.

Most people will remember your musical genius, loyalty, and great smile.   I will remember these small and often unknown selfless acts...this pure and child-like way of loving others, including me, so very well.

Happy birthday Dan.

December Seventeenth

Happy 35th Birthday, my love.

Bestwaytoforget instrumental

Best Way to Forget Instrumental
by Daniel H. Cho

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Many Kinds of Tears

Last night I think about how many different kinds of tears there are and I think I have cried most of them by now.  I don't think I realized there were such different breeds of crying before this kind of loss.

There are angry tears, tears of rage.

There are tears of pure longing and denial.

There are tears of exhaustion and there are tears of surrender.

And then there are tears of goodbye.  Grieving is really just that- saying a very long and complicated goodbye.

Lately I'll do something and suddenly realized I feel exactly like you because I've used a gesture you would use often, but something I never did.  After I realize that, I do it a few more times and picture you doing it.  I think about how I could possibly capture these because I haven't thought of them until those moments and might not again.  Write notes describing them, draw a picture?  No, I can't capture a gesture.  So I just take them in for that moment and remember.

The other day Audrey was just at the sink washing some food off of her chin but the way she rubbed the water on was exactly the way you used to wash your face.  I just stared.  I wonder how many moments there will be like that in the future.  Moments where I just stare.

In the Elizabeth Edwards book I read she wrote about a great analogy for loss.  It is like someone who lost everything - all their belongings- in a fire and even years later, they remember something else they lost.  "Oh yeah, that was lost in the fire too..."  I know this feeling from having lost most of my belongings when we fled our Brooklyn apartment- and it happens all the time.  So I can attest to the metaphor.  Instead of a possession, it's usually a shared memory:  "Oh, that was you too.  That time was with you.  Who was I with that time?  You.  You.  You. "  All lost.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Stone Pillow

Two analogies for how it is now:

It is just a little bit like when you're driving someplace you go often and you don't need to concentrate on the roads you take and turns you make.  You drive unconsciously until that moment when you look around and say, "Wait, where am I?"  You wonder if you missed the turn for a second because you were driving so unconsciously and suddenly everything looks unfamiliar.  Is that house with the blue and white awning usually there?  And then, yes, this is familiar.  And you continue driving a little more aware and a bit amazed at how you got there without even noticing it.  Where I am now, the mysticism lifting, the shock coming to a halt (not the horror which is more prevalent lately), everything looking completely unfamiliar as if I've been in another realm for the past 17 months.  I find I am even shocked that I've been writing in a blog and all of the details I've shared.  The difference is that, unlike the driving example, there is no moment of recognition now- just the realization that I must keep driving even though I'm off any map I've ever seen or route I've traveled before.  This car has no breaks.   The worst part is not the disorientation, or the inability to stop progressing through time, but it's the fact that even on a perfectly "good" day where everything has gone "well," the sense of waiting and incompleteness permeates every moment.  I have been unable to come up with words or analogies to describe this sense of incompleteness.

And second, it is like finding yourself trapped in a basement or bunker with little light or warmth and spending a long while, many months, puzzling over how to get out.  Looking for openings, windows, tunnels, certain that there has to be a way to get out as there was a way to get in.

Then you give up.
You try to get comfortable.
Like Jacob did before he saw his glorious vision, you put your head on the stone pillow.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Transition

I wear one of your shirts today- one of three or four I kept in your/my dresser drawer when I packed everything else away.  It's one I always thought looked so nice on you- and like most of your clothes, something you got for a few bucks at a thrift store or flea market.  I was surprised that Audrey said she remembered you wearing it.  Maybe even a few months ago, I would've been really overjoyed that she remembers you.  Today it made me kind of sad to know that she remembers what it felt like maybe to be a family of three, instead of just the two of us.  That maybe she remembers you as her father walking around in that shirt.

Audrey's season of tantrums continue and one thing I've found is that it helps if I give her lots of warning between transitioning activities.  If she's going to have to stop playing for her bath, I'll tell her, "Five minutes until your bath OK?"  and then, "Two more minutes and you're going to have to stop playing and take your bath, understand?"  It sounds really nagging, but by the time I actually call her, she's ready and comes rather than feeling rushed from her play.

I keep thinking about how I had years to get ready for the transition to college, five years of dating you to get ready for the transition to married life, nine months even to prepare for giving birth to our daughter and becoming a mother.  And then.

"Bye, talk to you tomorrow."

Dead.  Only parent.  Widow.  No longer married, family of two- not three, not four.  Alone.

Maybe grieving involves some tantrum.   But I sure wish I had a little more warning.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

To Honor You on Your Birthday

I posted this on FB and I'm up to 21 soccer balls.  I know you'd be happy knowing little kids are getting to play with real soccer balls in your honor.  If any of my readers who I'm not friends with on FB would like to contribute, I copied my message below and you can just click on the gifts to purchase.  There's also a link to a great video at the end. World Vision is a great organization.

I am asking that in honor of Dan's birthday this year (Dec 17th), anyone who wishes to remember him in this way, purchase soccer balls for children from the World Vision Gift Catalog here:

You can choose from:
2 balls for $16
4 balls for $32
6 balls for $48

**When you check out, you have the opportunity to SEND AN ECARD. PLEASE send it to I will keep track of how many balls we can contribute as a group from now until December 17th.

As many of you know, Dan was a serious soccer fan, and a writer for ESPN. But to him, soccer was much more than just a game; it was a chance for people to unite. I'd love your help in honoring his memory in this way for what would have been his 35th birthday. Thanks.

This is the link to a video with more information here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


You were born on the seventeenth of December.

We married on the seventeenth of July.

Our daughter conceived on a seventeen.

Today you have been dead for seventeen months.  Inconceivable to me.

This morning on our little wooden block perpetual calendar in the kitchen, I skip the day- turning to seven rather than six.

My intentions were for a natural childbirth...but after two cab rides from Brooklyn to the hospital in Manhattan, only to find I'd have to labor on a gurney between two curtains in triage because there was no open room for me in L&D, the nurse told me I should consider getting an IV.  "It'll give you the energy you need to keep laboring- perk you up."  Laboring for over fifteen hours already- mostly on my hands and knees- in our apartment, on the concrete sidewalk while we waited for the cab, in the cab, and on the gurney between the little curtains, something to perk me up sounded appealing.  I got the IV.

Strange as it may seem, since I've made it this far, for the first time in seventeen months, I feel things coming undone.  I sit on the kitchen floor in the late afternoon trying to summon the energy to make dinner.  I think to myself yesterday while sitting there, what I need right now is an IV.  Something to go directly into my veins.  Something to help me keep laboring...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Off the Hook

I am forced to move forward.  My landlord is still selling our place and I've been throwing myself into searching to either buy or rent.  Our lease ends in less than three months.  I don't think I've ever moved anywhere without you there or helping.  We didn't really move to our current apartment by choice, and we weren't here that long together- but it's still the place I can picture you- coming into our bedroom quietly after work or a late gig, raising your eyebrows and mouthing "hi" as you came in so you wouldn't wake Audrey.  It's still the place where I can picture you swaying side to side as you finished the dishes because you had to pee.  It's still the place where you played the Charlie Brown Christmas songs on the keyboard while our fifteen month old danced.

But, I try to tell myself, it's also the place where I experienced the worst moment of my entire life.  It's where I ran to get my ringing cell phone.  Where I heard, "Can you talk?  Are you driving?  Can you sit down?"  Where I started to scream, "What the fuck happened!" And where I heard, "Dan is dead.  He drowned in Lake Geneva."  It's where I screamed again, "I'm a widow at 34?"  It's where I ripped down the tour schedule from the wall and paced around in a wet bathing suit unsure what to do next, while Audrey walked at my feet, babbling.  

I try to tell myself it will be good to leave.  But still.  It is the first step forward in the "new life."

Something strange happens lately.  Instead of finding it impossible to recognize this woman I am now, I have a hard time understanding the old me...what was driving her and what was her center?

Your brother got married yesterday in Korea.  I felt the event for the entire week I think.  We should've been there.  I "should've" been holding another baby while Audrey walked down the aisle as flower girl.  You should've been standing up there next to your brother.  I am sad for your family.  I made the decision that going to Korea right now for the wedding would not be the right thing for us, but I feel our absence there the whole day.

We've gone back to our old church as per Audrey's request.  It doesn't matter to me since I don't get a whole lot out of any church service right now.  But she repeatedly asked to go to the church we all attended together.  She probably hasn't been there for over a year, but she seems very happy there and the kids program is good.  So I go.  But while I'm there today, I feel your phantom more than usual.  I see you walking up to the stage with the rest of the band.  I see you from behind- the way your jeans hang, the way you drag your feet in that boyish way as you head up there.  I see you behind the keyboard, and I hear your simple, beautiful playing.  When we take communion, wet soggy grape juice bread in my mouth, I realize taking communion with you was one of my favorite things.  You never went overboard with the Christianese stuff- that wasn't your style at all.  But during communion, you always took my hand or put your arm around me and prayed for us- short, simple, earnest prayers.

During the rest of the service I can't help thinking how hard it is to be a believer without suffering in your life.  I know this sounds paradoxical since I'm clearly struggling with belief, but what I see is that without suffering to part the veil of this world- you really just have to "try" to be a believer.  You have to "try" to be concerned with the invisible and do Bible studies to think about your frail life and your human condition.  You have to go on retreats and clasp to spiritual disciplines.  Suffering and grief...are meditation.  You don't have to suck up to a God for fear that something in your life might go wrong - it already has.  You realize that believing in a God has nothing to do with being spared from suffering or being "blessed."  The fruits of your life might not be on the outside at all- a beautiful family, a home where people pray together before dinner, a successful career or even ministry.  Your eyes are opened.  You're off the hook.