So it has been awhile Since I have written in here.
I don’t really know why.
Sometimes, words are not even close to good enough for what Im feeling or thinking or screaming.
Lots of times, only the haunting silence of what was and what used to be and what is, overtake my brain.
The future is filled with fear and anxiety.
The past is gone, and I cant get it back, no matter how much I yell or cry or throw tantrums about it.
The now is the only thing we have, really. But sometimes, the now frightens the living shit out of me.
When I am inside the now, and I actually stop thinking for 15 seconds or minutes, that is actually a place where I feel real joy and fun and glee.
But it is very rare. I think too much.

Sunday was the 3 year death anniversary. It came. It happened. I tried to scream it away, but that didnt work. It came anyway. Maybe it wanted to spite me. Maybe it enjoys mocking me. But it came.

I was in San Diego, attending and presenting my Grief-Comedy Workshop for the 4th time at Camp Widow.
That morning, on the 13th, I set my alarm to a melodic lullabye-type tone for 5:45am. I made a cup of coffee inside my hotel room, and walked out to the beautiful 9th floor balcony of my room, and waited. I stared into the sky and watched as the sun lit it up slowly and fiercely. It wasn’t a sunrise as much as it was an illumination that busted it’s way through the darkness and blinded my eyes. It was perfect.


Later that day, I had lunch with a really good friend who lives local, and then even later that night, I had invited lots of my widowed friends out to dinner to honor and celebrate Don, and their loves too. I had each person stand up at the table, say the name of the partner they lost, and tell us something they either learned from them or something they love about them. The idea of “saying their name” came directly from my friend Tom Zuba; a widower who not only lost his wife to death, but two children. Two. He has used his life and his grief to teach others, and one of the things he says that I absolutely love, is how very important and validating it can be to always say the names out loud of the people we lost who have died. So we did.

I went last, and then we toasted to love. Our “group” pay it forward was to pitch in and give our waiter an insanely large tip. I told everyone to put in whatever they wanted to contribute, and we ended up with a 54% tip for our awesomely sarcastic waiter, who was very moved by us and by “Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day.” He put the day in his phone so that he can recognize it next year and each year after, on July 13th. I told him in a note that I left with the money, all about my husband, and what a kind person he was, and how Pay it Forward for Don Day was about doing an Act of Kindness for someone in my husband’s honor or name.

It felt so amazing to do this, and to share this hard, hard, hard day with so many other people who truly “get it.” After dinner, we walked to a gorgeous gazebo and I had asked everyone to choose a song lyric that meant something to them and their person, and recite it for us. The reason I chose to do this is because the connection Don and I had and HAVE is through music. We met because of music, and he WAS music, and music was him. So I felt it was the perfect way to feel close to him on this day. Through music.

We went in a circle and everyone had a little story about why that song meant something, and then when it was my turn, I sang my song choice, which was “Longer” by Dan Fogelberg. I stood there in the beauty of the darkness, and sang each lyric accapella, alone, and with my beautiful husband accompanying me on his guitar. It was one of Don’s very favorite songs, and it was the last song of the night at our wedding. I will never forget slow-dancing with him that night, as everyone stood around us in a circle, taking pictures and coming up and hugging us and just witnessing our love. And now, as I sang the lyrics on July 13th, surrounded by my widowed family of friends, they circled me and witnessed that same powerful love between two people – living on

pay it forward dinner

Longer than they’ve been fishes in the ocean,
Higher than any bird ever flew,
Longer than there’ve been stars up in the heavens –
I’ve been in love with you.

Through the years, as the fire starts to mellow,
burning lines in the book of our lives,
through the binding cracks,
and the pages start to yellow,
I’ll be in love with you,
I am in love with you.

For a day that is the saddest and most difficult day of my life, it was a pretty beautiful and touching day.
I could tell you all about the rest of camp widow and what that was like, but I think Im going to save that for my book. Right now, I just want to talk about July 13th, and the fact that for the first time ever, I did not wake up on that day in a state of panic and anxiety. My friend Michele made the suggestion about waking up and looking at the sunrise. It was a great idea. It seems that it is almost impossible to stare at something of beauty and nature such as that sky and light, and simultaneously think or re-live horrific and awful traumatic thoughts. Somehow, I got through the early morning hours of that day, and even though I was VERY AWARE that it was 6:32am when it was 6:32am (the time that my phone rang over and over and my old life died) – It passed by and nothing happened. I didn’t sob my face off. I didn’t panic. I didn’t shake or feel tremendous fear. I felt incredibly sad, because It was the anniversary of the day my husband DIED. It will always be sad for me. Always.

But I saw a beautiful sunrise that morning, and I ended my night in a circle of friendship and love, just like on my wedding night. What I felt that day was something that felt a little bit like peace, even if for only a day.

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10 thoughts on “Sunrise

  1. This is beautiful. I was thinking about you on the 13th and I’m happy to see you handled it so well. Your post brought tears to my eyes. Love you, girl!

  2. Gah! Crying. I’m so glad I walked into that hotel lobby just as the group was headed off to dinner. I was honored to be there. And this…”It seems that it is almost impossible to stare at something of beauty and nature such as that sky and light, and simultaneously think or re-live horrific and awful traumatic thoughts.” This is exactly why I continue to visit and photograph National Parks (with Ken’s camera.) Though I’m aware of his absence always being in nature pulls me out of the past and back to now.

  3. Beautifully written. I am thrilled to have been a part of that evening. It was special. Big hugs sister!

  4. Your post was very touching, and up-lifting.

    I lost my daughter Kira at a young age just over 2 years this past March 26th.
    She left behind her 5 1/2 month old beautiful Daughter Isabel.

    Although it’s very hard every second of my day, it is also a true blessing. Not only because she’s with me, but she’s a mirror image of her ?Mommy.
    In fact many times I even slip and call her Kira, because you can only tell them apart by the age of a photo.

    I hope to wake and see a Sunrise without bursting into tears, hear a song and find joy. I haven’t reached that yet. But I work at it every day.

    Thank you for sharing, I too just added you and your Husband to my calendar on July 13th to remember you and your day of celebration for your beautiful life with him.
    God Bless You, not only on that day, but every day.

    • Hi Trina. I truly believe you will get there. You will. Its been 3 years for me, and only recently, these past few months, have I been able to SEE beautiful things again. Before that, for over 2.5 years, everything just looked gray and lifeless, beccause I was gray and lifeless. It comes back slowly, and also all of a sudden. And its never the same as before your loss. The sunrise is not the same. The joys are not the same. But the very fact that I HAVE them sometimes gives me hope in the possibilities. The truth is though, the loss of your daughter will color everything in your life forever. But, I do believe there is a new kind of joy and a new “us” that gets created over time. Kira is such a beautiful name xoxo. As is Isabel.

  5. Perfect! Thanks so much for sharing! Sorry to miss your show this year. I have Pay It Forward For Don Shepard day as an annual event in my calendar. forever. My late husband (who passed 4 years ago July 7) assigned me the movie Pay It Forward for “homework” when we were dating. He would think you were the most amazing person! Thanks for sharing your story so that we can all heal through it.

  6. Really wonderful Kelley…..I was thinking of you that day, again. You amaze me by how much you continue every year to allow life in by keeping Don in your heart. By the way, that’s among my all time favorite songs too. Perfect choice..of course.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing. I am new to your blog and following. Because I guide Goddess Camps, a friend thought I would enjoy reading about Widow Camp- I did. Thank you for the wonderful sharing of ideas to “pay it forward” and to tip waiters anyway! Thank you for sharing that the grief may lessen, it never truly goes away completely and turning to Joy and Beauty really helps. I lost my husband Skiing 4 mos. ago. Love lasts Always.

    • Hi Genevieve. So glad your friend shared this with you and that it resonated with you somehow. What exactly are Goddess Camps? Sounds very interesting. Camp Widow is amazing and pretty lifechanging. You should consider attending one of them sometime in the future. So incredibly sorry for the trmendous and unthinkable loss of your husband. xoxo.

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