From Nowhere to Everywhere: Living at the Rainbow Bridge

In the beginning of the end of the life I once knew, there was nothing. My husband died and I felt and believed that he was just gone. I didn’t feel him or see him or notice his presence anywhere around me, so I assumed that it would always be that way, and I didn’t know how to live with that. It is bad enough when the person you love most just dies randomly with no warning whatsoever, and shatters your world apart – but it’s made worse when you cannot feel some tiny piece of their energy or spirit or soul floating around you. The thing that really sucked was all the many people telling me over and over how he is always here with me. I wanted to scream at them: NO HE ISN’T!!! STOP SAYING THAT!!! I DON’T FEEL HIM!!! HE IS JUST GONE FOREVER!!! A friend of Don’s, in the first couple of weeks after he died, insisted that he was a rainbow in New Jersey. She had seen a rainbow while driving to his funeral, and she told me that it was Don, and it was a sign. At the time, I literally was trying not to laugh in her face when she said this, because my husband would never come back as a fuckin’ rainbow. He just wouldn’t. He would come back as a lot of other things, but a rainbow isn’t one of them. So the term “My Husband Is Not a Rainbow” was born out of her observation and my reaction to it, and now, I have turned that very phrase into the title for a one-act play, a comedic presentation, and the book Im now writing.

The thing is, I was in too much pain back then for my husband to get through in any way whatsoever. Nothing else could get in. Not even him. Just pain. So in the beginning, he was nowhere. And I didn’t feel him for a very long time. Until one day, I did.

He started coming to me in my dreams. But these weren’t just any old regular dreams. They were visits. They were the kinds of dreams where I would wake up from them and actually physically feel his arms around me, or feel him hugging me, or he would say something specific to me, or often times we would have an entire conversation in the dream. And he was always already dead in these dreams. He was always coming back – his soul was coming back from wherever, to comfort me somehow, to help me somehow, just like he always did in life. He was trying to help me to move through and process his death. I would wake up and be shaken for days by how real these visits were. He was there with me. He had come to see me. I don’t know how the hell that shit works, but I know I couldn’t question it once I felt it. Sure, I tried to “logic” my way out of believing it was real, but he kept coming back. And in one of his visits, he told me to believe it. He said: “Does it feel real?” I said: “Yes.” He said: “Then it’s real.”

And then he started sending me even bigger signs. He would put people into my life path, exactly when I needed them. He would send an anonymous person to donate to my blog, exactly at the moment when I was drowning in bills and rent and secretly asked my husband to please find a way to help me. He led me to new jobs and apartments and scenarios, and to a bonding with his adult nephew and half-sister that I never had while he was alive. The signs became more and more constant, and as I continued the hard work of grieving and processing and breaking down my emotions with my grief-therapist week after week, I started to feel him around me more and more. This was an intensely slow process, and there was a LOT of doubt and questioning and trying to talk myself out of any of this being anything other than total bullshit. But again, he kept coming back. He didn’t give up on me.

And then suddenly, and also at a grueling and slow pace, one year became two, and two became three. Somewhere inside of year three in my “after” life without my husband on earth, I started to really feel joy again. I started to notice things like autumn leaves again, or Christmas mornings, or the lightness of the first snowfall, or the way that guitar chord sounds in that Stevie Nicks song. And each time I noticed one of these things, he was inside of it. He was inside everything, everywhere, all of the time. And then it no longer became about trying to search for him and figure out where he might be after death – because suddenly and finally, I felt him everywhere. If I were to tell you stories about all the many, many signs I have received from my husband since his death, this blog piece would be 50 pages long. Most of the stories will be in the book I am writing, but I feel the need to talk about the two biggest ones here, today, in this blog. Because they connect to one another, and because they are so completely amazing, sometimes I still have trouble believing they are real. But he keeps coming back and showing me.

One of the places that my husband Don loves to give me signs is at “Camp Widow.” I have now been to this incredible Soaring Spirits International event eight times, and given my comedic presentation eight times. Maybe Don gives me signs when I go there, to let me know that Im on the right track in what Im doing with my life, and that he approves. I don’t know. But something he has been doing lately, over the past year or so during most of year four without him here on earth, is sending me literal signs with parts of his name on them. He sends me his name, sometimes in pieces, and other times, in its entirety. Don Edward Shepherd. He puts his name on literal and actual signs, and gives me signs through actual signs, which is totally his warped sense of humor. It’s as if he is yelling at me: “You see, Boo? That’s a SIGN, with my name printed on it. See that? A SIGN. It’s a sign!! Get it? How much more obvious do I have to be?”

The sign/name thing really started taking shape during my first trip to Tampa, Florida, for Camp Widow in 2014. Because Don lived in the Largo area of Florida for so many years and while we were dating, and because I had spread some of his ashes at Clearwater Beach a couple months after he died, I already felt him close to me while I was in Tampa. And then on Sunday morning, during our Farewell Breakfast Buffet, we were sitting in a big banquet room at the Marriott Hotel, eating our eggs and saying our goodbyes at the end of camp, when one of my widow friends pointed at the big coffee thermos in the center of our table and said: “Kelley, look!” She picked it up and showed it to me. Right there, at the top center of the thermos, it said “Don.” It was just typed there like that – “Don.” There were maybe 10 other round tables in the room, so I got up and checked each thermos on the other tables. Every single thermos said: “Don.” Now you might be thinking to yourself, how on earth is his name showing up on 20 or so coffee thermoses relevant? Well, one of our favorite movies to watch together and quote together was Steve Martin’s “The Jerk.” And one of Don’s favorite parts of the film to quote to me specifically, was a song that Steve Martin sings to Bernadette Peters, about a thermos.

It goes: “Im picking out a thermos for you. Not an ordinary thermos for you. But an extra best thermos you can buy, with vinyl and stripes and a cup built right in. Im picking out a thermos for you, and maybe a barometer too. And what else can I buy, so on me you’ll rely. A rear end thermometer too.” We would hold hands in bed and he would sing this to me in this incredibly silly voice. So in that moment when I saw his name there, it made total sense to me that my husband was not a rainbow, but he WAS a thermos. And then it got even better. I went up to the staff and asked them if I could purchase a thermos with his name on it, and explained why it meant so much to me. I think they thought I was a lunatic, but they told me they arent allowed to sell the supplies used in the hotel, but that they would go ask their manager where they bought the supplies so maybe I could buy it myself later on from that company. So the guy comes back and tell me the name of the company that supplies the thermos and some other stuff. The company is called “Edward Don and Company.” Their website is www.don.com So now we have his name on each thermos, and his first and middle name is the supplier company name. When you go to the site, it says in big letters: “Who is Don?”

sunstar ems

don thermos

Then last year, I attended and presented at Camp Widow in Toronto, Canada, for the first time. “Camp Widow” happened to fall on my birthday, which is September 26th, which happened to be the first day of camp events, that Friday. So I had arrived in Toronto on that Thursday night by train. I had decided to take the Amtrak train instead of flying, because I hate flying, and Ill do anything to avoid it. Plus, Don absolutely loved trains. He loved everything about them. He even loved the band “Train”, and their song “Drops of Jupiter’, which , as it turns out, is all about the lead singer’s mother and where she “went” after she died. But anyway, Don was obsessed with trains. He had the Lionel Train Engine Set in our apartment, he had model trains that he would put together, and he loved riding the train with me. He even had this dream of us getting married and having our ceremony on a moving train. We had found one in Cape Cod Massachusetts, but the logistics of doing it were too difficult and it was very expensive, so it didnt happen.

So I took the 12 hour train ride, and I felt very close to him while on the train. That night, I was in the lobby where the Wi-Fi was free in the hotel, writing my weekly piece for the Soaring Spirits blog “Widows Voice.” It had just turned midnight, so it was now my birthday officially. My good friend Joclyn suddenly ran in, yelling: “Kelley, you have to see this! You will never believe what I found today, just a couple miles from here, while walking around just outside the city.” She started to show me pictures on her phone. It was a picture of a small building. It was a train station. It had a one-word sign at the top center. The sign said: “Don.” I was in complete shock at what I was seeing, so I googled “Don train station in Toronto”, and I came up with a website for the Toronto Railway Historical Association, which explained in detail the history of the Don station. His name was all over the website. It was unbelievable. The Don station sits inside the Don Valley, which is across from the Don River. It had opened and closed several times throughout the decades, but re-opened for the final time with an open house in October of 2006, our wedding month and year. So it looks like Don got his wish, in some strange way, of having our wedding day on a train. Out of several 19th century stations, the Don station is the only one still in existence today. The Main Subway Line is called the Shepherd Line, and runs along E. Shepherd Avenue. So once again, my husband is still not a rainbow. But he is a train station. My awesome friends Arnie, Judy, and Angel, drove me to the station location, and I got out and took this picture.

don train

This year, about two weeks ago, I went back to Toronto for my second time presenting at Camp Widow. Once again, I took the train. About two weeks before my trip, I was screwing around on Facebook one day, and just happened to notice a link that someone had posted about something called “the rainbow bridge” in Toronto. I started laughing immediately, thinking to myself how Don is not a rainbow, but he WOULD be a rainbow bridge. Actually, it made complete and total sense why he would be a rainbow bridge. For those who dont know, Don was a paramedic, but he was also a huge animal lover and activist. He loved cats and dogs especially, and in his free time on his one day off, he both worked and volenteered at our local PetSmart in New Jersey, doing everything from feeding and brushing the kitties to helping out with their adoptions. That is where he collapsed and had the massive heart attack, on a random Wednesday early morning on July 13, 2011. My husband was a lot like me in his belief system. Neither of us really believed in the idea of heaven or hell, but he hoped that he would somehow see the pets he had lost when it was his turn to die. At his funeral, some of the staff from PetSmart gave me a beautiful plaque with a poem called “The Rescuer at The Rainbow Bridge.” It talked about a man or figure who lived at the Rainbow Bridge, and whose job it was to greet all the animals when they crossed over and make them feel welcome and at home. The Rainbow Bridge is the term used for a sort of “pet heaven”, a place filled with meadows and grass and trees and places for animals to play and run around and be happy forever. This is how the people at PetSmart saw Don – as the Rescuer who lived at the Rainbow Bridge. So, with all this in mind, I clicked on the link for the rainbow bridge, and quickly discovered it was only a couple miles or so from the Marriott Hotel we were staying at. I also discovered that once again, his name was all over this website. The rainbow bridge was just off the Don Valley Parkway, and could be found at the base of the East Don Trail. “I must go there”, I thought, and posted about it on Facebook, seeing if anyone else who was going to Toronto would have a car to get me to there.

Enter my friends Sarah and Mike. Sarah lost her fiance Andrew (she called him Drew) in a helicopter accident. Mike lost his wife Meghan to complications from cystic fibrosis. Sarah and I have became very close over the past couple of years, spending hours and hours on phone calls talking about life and death. This past March, Sarah and I both attended Camp Widow Tampa. We sat down next at a table during the meet and greet on night one next to a guy named Mike. Fast-forward to today – Mike and Sarah are in love and starting a life together. Mike and Sarah would be traveling to Toronto by car, so Mike volunteered to take me to the rainbow bridge. None of the three of us had any idea what to expect from this little day trip on the Sunday that Camp Widow had ended, but it felt as if we were supposed to be going there together. The best way to describe what we felt and saw is through lots of pictures. In true Don fashion, he just kept showing himself over and over and over again. Driving there, Sarah and I were both rushing to get each picture of each sign as it quickly passed by us. One after another after another after another:

don valley keep right

don valley pkwy

don valley north

don mills road

I was actually laughing as we passed each new sign. It just seemed so incredibly surreal. Sign after sign with his name. Why was he coming through so strongly in Toronto? Two years in a row now? I still dont know why. But the signs were literally all around us as we kept driving into our adventure ……

don signs gps

don mills roaddon mills rd small sign

donway East

Finally, after maybe 20 minutes or so of endless signs (there are actually more than this, but some are repetitive and I think you get the idea), we arrived at our destination of “The East Don Trail.” We had no idea whatsoever what to expect, except that there was apparently a rainbow bridge in here somewhere. Never in a million years did I expect to see this beautiful walking trail with the beautiful views of nature, exactly how I always pictured the Rainbow Bridge area looking – where animals go when they die. If such a thing exists, this is what it would look like:

don east trail

rainbow path

walking don trail

don trail pretty

don trail stream

don trail flowers

As we continued to walk in stunned silence, I noticed something. People were walking by with their pets. People were walking their dogs down these paths and right by us. It felt like we were someplace special, someplace meant for us and meant for the animals and meant for life and death to embrace in that moment through the trees and the flowers and the streams of water. It was magical. Eventually, before we reached the rainbow bridge, we passed a small bridge that had graffiti written all over it. On the outside , and on the inside. Remember when I told you that it felt like the three of us specifically were supposed to be there that day? Yeah. I wasn’t the only one who received epic signs. As we walked, there were weeping willows down the paths of trees, which was Mike’s wife Meghan’s favorite tree, and a sign she sends him. Then, on the graffiti bridge itself, in huge blue letters, the word STAR was spelled out. Sarah and her late fiance’s initials spelled the word STAR. (Sarah Treanor, Andrew Ridge). Since Mike and Sarah have been dating each other, she has seen stars over and over and over. Sarah and Mike both believe that their late partners have had a huge part in putting them together to fall in love. I believe this too. Especially now.

graffiti wall star

As we passed underneath the bridge, there were the usual typical writings all over its inside tunnel walls. “Fuck You”, “Eat Shit”, lots of pictures of drawn penises, and our favorite: “Dildo In My Bum.” And then, in the midst of all that disgusting and crude writing, was the word “Mommy.” This was a sign for me and Sarah specifically. For reasons much too boring and dull to explain here, Sarah and I have a private joke where we call each other “mommy.” And there it was, written on the wall. So damn weird.

graffiti wall dildo

mommy

We walked some more, and finally we came upon the rainbow bridge, a small bridge with a painted on rainbow. Something about it made me feel safe and silly and at peace. It reminded me of the animated style artwork that is going to be on the cover of my book. It was cartoonish and lovely all at once. It was the rescuer, taking care of all the animals and making them feel welcome and loved. It was everything that my husband was and is. I took out the bag of his ashes that I had brought with me, and left some right under the bridge, in the corner. We walked underneath the bridge and came through the other side, slowly looking at all the artwork drawn on the inside of the bridge. This was another thing I never expected – drawings on the inside that had actual relevance to Don and were MORE signs upon signs that this was him, SCREAMING AT ME, “Im here!!! Im alive!!! Im everywhere that you are!!!”

rainbow bridge me

rainbow bridge us

As I passed underneath the bridge, two of the drawings struck me. They were Don. One was of a man walking a dog, with a city skyline behind him. The other was of a man riding his bike, with a skyline behind him. We lived on Boulevard East in New Jersey, just eight minutes outside of NYC, and our street had the NYC skyline all along it. It was gorgeous. Don had a bike and he loved to ride it. He would ride it along that street, with the skyline behind him. He always wanted a dog, but our apartment building wouldnt allow them, so we had two kitties. But every dog on earth would come up to Don and love on him, and I have this vision in my head that always sticks, of him taking our neighbors dog for a walk, with that skyline view behind him. He was so at peace while walking that dog. It was magic.

bike skyline

man dog pic

When we came across the bridge and out the other side, we came across an older couple with two dogs. They were very friendly, and we started chatting, and they asked us if we were visitors of Toronto and why we were there. We told them the story about how all of our partners had died, and we were here for a widowed people event. We told them why we were at the rainbow bridge and the significance of it, so they offered to take our picture with one of their dogs.

meeting dog

As we were talking to them, another man walked by and one of the dogs sniffed him a bit, nothing serious. The man sort of over-reacted, and started rattling on to the couple about how they should probably keep their dogs on a leash. The husband said very matter of factly: “Oh really? And you should probably go fuck yourself.” It was EXACTLY what Don would have said in that same situation, and in that same kind tone, like he was telling the guy to have a nice day. It was so hilarious and re-affirmed that this place was indeed, a place for the animals to be happy and free.

After walking under the brige and saying goodbye to our new couple friends, we came upon The Don River. It was really gorgeous, and I took the rest of the ashes I had with me, and let them go into the river below. It felt like the perfect ending to an absolute perfect day. Don was all around me and I felt so calm and safe. And I didnt question any of it. Just like Don told me when he visited me long ago, if it feels real, then it IS real.

In the beginning, he was nowhere. And now, he is everywhere. And that amazing shift in feeling has made all the difference in how I live each second of this thing called life. Beautiful, glorious life. Thank you, Don, for showing up over and over and over again, and teaching me how to live once more. I love you. And for all those people who kept annoyingly telling me that my husband was “in a better place”, I say to you now, perhaps yes. In Heaven? Hell, no. Canada.

don river

don river us

The Fog

Every single night since my husband’s death has been an adventure. Not the fun kind of adventure; like when you are on vacation and anxiously await what today will bring in the way of new and exciting activities. No. This is more like the: “what kind of hell am I facing on this night, as I simply try to get a few hours of sleep so I can perhaps function and be a human being in the world tomorrow?” type of adventure. The word FUN does not exist in this reality.

The very idea of going to sleep each night brings on anxiety, panic, and unease. There are just so many factors involved. If I have done a lot of intense crying that day; which normally is the case but not always; then I might want to take some kind of Excedrin or Advil for my horrible headaches that always follow the massive crying spurts. But then sometimes my back, shoulders, and entire body are aching so badly from doing things Im not used to doing yet; like lifting EVERY SINGLE THING I OWN from my car in the parking garage across the street; to my apartment on the 3rd floor; day after day after annoying goddamn day. Heavy bags of groceries, cat litter, lugguge from spending time at my parents place, boxes of Demo Products, my gigantic shoulder bag for teaching, the microphone stand and mic I bring for my stand-up comedy students; and on and on and on. All things that Don used to just automatically carry for me, always.

In addition to that, Im doing all the cleaning, all the car stuff, and basically anything and everything else that needs to be done or comes up. Although we both did quite a bit of “stuff” around the apartment, Don was always the “take care of things” guy. He did all the carrying of heavy things, all the fixing of things that broke, and all the killing of frightening bugs or other unidentifiable creatures. That is just what he did. I would panic – he would fix. Now I just panic. And ache. So if its been THAT kind of day; then I might need some sort of Ibuprofin pill to stop aching so much so that MAYBE I can get 3 hours of sleep that night. Of course; just falling asleep and then staying asleep is another terrible adventure in itself; as in; it rarely happens. So 90% of the time, I take two Tylenol PM to help get me to slumberland. This doesnt always guarantee I will get a good nights sleep, but it will, at the very least, knock me out for an initial 3 hours or so. After that, who the hell knows what will happen; but it almost always ends or begins with the clock somewhere around 4:30am, and Sammy the cat on my pillow, pawing and clawing on my face.

So, the anxiety and ease has already begun before even attempting to sleep. Which pill do I take? What is worse: my headache, or my not being tired enough to NOT be up thinking for hours? If I have to be up at 6am to teach the next morning; this anxiety is then magnified. Or should I take something for this pain that is in my shoulders, back, and arms? My arms are absolutely killing me. They feel like they are on fire. Its got to be from all the lifting of incredibly heavy bags, but of course, the very idea that they are always hurting or feel sort of numb then throws me into further panic mode; thinking: “Holy Shit! Am I having a heart attack? Am I going to die like he did?” This thought goes through my mind on a loop, every single day. It is awful. Then the second, immediate thought is always: “If I die, Im totally alone here in this apartment. Nobody will even know Im dead. It could be days, or a week, before anyone knows Im gone. I will just be lying here. Dead.” When you lose your husband in an instant the way I did, you end up with severe anxiety that the same thing can very well happen to you, or to anyone you love. You end up obsessing and thinking about death way more than you should, because you now have the harsh knowledge that it can all be over, for any of us, in a split second. There is no sense of comfort or peace anywhere in this “journey.” (Those who have been reading and following so far know how much I HATE it when this horrific life of grief is called a “journey.” Yuck.)

After finally deciding on my drug of choice for the evening, I usually climb into my bed, and that is where the real “adventure” begins. First of all; it’s our bed. OUR bed. So every night; I have to get in it, look over to his side, and see the nothingness. The empty pillow with nobody’s head on it. There are nights I lay there for minutes or hours; just picturing his face looking back at me; or remembering a specific night of us being intimate, or kissing, or holding hands, or just talking. Or laughing. We laughed a lot in bed at night. Im not sure why. I think in a lot of ways, lying there together was like our “silly time.” It was where we would really let go and just be immature and make each other crack up at stupid things that wouldnt ever be funny to anyone else. We would sing silly songs to each other, or to the kitties; and they would climb up on us and purr. Most nights; when Don and I were sleeping facing one another; Sammy would wedge himself right in between us; and he would lay there like a little person; this third head right smack in the middle of ours. It was pretty much the cutest thing on earth.Then Autumn would sleep right at my feet; and I would always end up kicking her by accident several thousand times during the night.

 I also remember that anytime we would go to my parents house for the weekend; which was a lot; mom and dad would give us their bedroom to sleep in; and dad would sleep downstairs while mom slept in the smaller bed next to their bedroom. There were so many mornings where mom would say to us in the kitchen: “What on earth were you two laughing about last night? I heard you laughing like hell in there for the longest time!” I don’t even know what we were laughing at most times, to be honest. We just really loved to laugh. Now; there is no more laughing while lying in bed. There is just me; trying like hell to get through the night; so I can get up tomorrow and try like hell to get through the day. So that I can maybe get through the night. To get through the …. you get the idea. It’s an exhausting and endless cycle.

Lying in bed most nights; many things happen. I start thinking. Then I think some more. Memories. His voice. His touch. His hands. Things that were said. Moments. The tears usually come pretty fast while trying to sleep. One of the cats will jump up on his pillow next to me; or sleep behind my head on my pillow. A lot of times, the very presence of the kitties sends me into emotional turmoil. I think about how much he loved them; how he took such good care of them; and how much they miss him being here. How he would brush their fur and their TEETH so patiently. Yes, he brushed their teeth. It was amazing to watch. Now; in my new reality; several times; I have held onto Sammy and cried into his fur; holding onto him for dear life. The strange thing is; he lets me. He knows. He will cuddle up to me and let me cry, or place his head on my arm or up against me while I’m a sobbing mess. Most nights; Autumn will lay at the foot of the bed, by my feet. She is a lot less cuddly than Sammy; but she has gotten a lot closer to me since Don died. She will come up and purr into my pillow, or give me a quick lick on my hand, then rub her face all over me. We all lay there together; mourning and asking why it’s just us. I talk to them. I feel like a crazy person; like what everyone thinks a stereotypical “widow” is; but I talk to them. I might say: “You miss Boo Bear too, don’t you? I know, honey. I know you miss him too. I miss him so much.”

Sometimes I see Sammy on Don’s pillow, and he is looking at me with his huge, beautiful eyes, and Its like Im trying to see my husband through his eyes. It sounds nuts, because it IS nuts. But it’s what Im left with, and its what I do. I will look at Sammy and say: “Boo Bear? Are you in there, Boo?” Then Ill start laughing at how ridiculous I sound. As Don would have said: “You’re not all there, Boo. You’ve finally lost it.” We weren’t much on religion or Heaven or any of those things, but Don believed, or HOPED, that when it was his time, he would be with his kitties Isabelle and Ginger again somehow. He also believed that if there was a God; or whatever God was; that animals had the closest access. He believed that animals knew more than humans did; that they were on a different playing field somehow to that other world. Sometimes I feel him, or try to, through our pets. We lie there together with the TV on all night; for noise. I cannot stand the silence that comes with being alone. I need to keep the TV on, so I can trick myself into thinking Im not alone here forever. I hear noises. The realities of being a female alone in her apartment and vulnerable, hit hard late at night. I don’t feel safe. There are thoughts that go through my head each night; especially when the TV is off and there is darkness. It is a terrrible, unsafe feeling.

 And then, there are the nightmares. Every single night; I have some kind of dream. Most nights; I have several dreams; one right after the other. The most common one that I’ve had over and over again; is where I either re-live the morning he died, or make up some other version of it in my sleep, and then re-live that. Sometimes the nightmare is the actuality of waking up to the ringing phone, rushing to the hospital, being told he is gone, the utter shock. Seeing his body and talking to him, not knowing what I was supposed to say. Other times; the nightmare is coming from his viewpoint. Since I wasnt there when he had his heart-attack and can only go on what his co-workers tell me of that morning, my mind makes up the worst, most chilling scenarios, and plays them back to me while I sleep. I picture him lying there, collapsed, on a cold Petsmart floor. In reality; I am told he was there for a couple minutes at most before they saw him and called for help; but my nightmares have him lying there for ten, twenty minutes; begging for help. Nobody coming to help him. He reaches for his cell phone to call 911, or me, and he cant get to it before becoming unconscious. Or he is in and out of consciousness; and aware that he is going to die. He is scared. He wants to live. He wants to see me, see his kitties. I picture the ambulance ride to the hospital. Was he coherant? Did he know what was happening? Did he know the tables were turned, and he wasn’t driving the ambulance this time, but the one lying on the stretcher? WAS HE SCARED? I don’t know how Im expected to sleep with these kinds of thoughts inside my head. If I don’t get any sleep, I am exhausted the next day and can barely function. If I DO get some sleep, I have so many disturbing dreams, that I wake up exhausted from them and can barely function. Its an endless, ridiculous cycle.

The dreams that seem sweet at the time are almost worse, though. There have been many dreams that seem pleasant and beautiful. One night I had a vivid dream that I was pregnant; and it wasnt planned; and in the dream, I was telling Don the news, and he took me in his arms and jumped up and down with me, saying: “Wow! What a wonderful surprise, Boo! I’m gonna be a dad? This is so cool!” Another one Ive had often, is that I get the call from the hospital that morning, but instead of saying “We have your husband”, they say: “We have your husband. He had a minor heart attack, but he’s fine. He’s going to make it.” He gets a second chance, like so many others have. He gets to live, and I get to see him, and my world isn’t turned upside down in an instant. I have also had several dreams where Don and I are going through the process of adopting a child; something that we talked about doing many, many times. In these dreams; he gets to be the incredible father that he himself never got to have. He gets to finally be the dad that I know for a fact he would have been. The very thought of him never having that chance, and of me having to let go and mourn the idea of having a family with my husband, brings me to tears everyday. To be faced with families everywhere in the real world is bad enough – to dream about it all the time is awful. These dreams are unbearable, because you wake up happy and giddy for a few seconds; believing that what you just dreamt is the reality. Then you slowly realize it was just a dream. There is no baby. There will never be a baby. No child to give a family to. No family. Oh, and by the way, your husband didn’t make it. He died. It hits you like a ton of bricks and you cry for an hour sometimes before you can pull yourself up. And you have to pull yourself up. Employers don’t understand “I had a terrible dream” as an excuse to call out of your teaching duties.

There have been times where I’ve told people of these dreams; and they always say the same thing whenever I report dreaming about Don. “It was a visit. He was visiting you.” This drives me nuts. So far; there has only been ONE dream where I FELT like it could have been Don “visiting” me, or his spirit, or whatever it is you believe or want to call it. That was the dream that I referred to as “Eleven”; where we had sweet, very realistic dialogue, and I could FEEL his hug on me. That dream was so powerful physically and emotionally, that it affected me for days afterwards. I felt like I needed 2 days off just to recover from the intensity of that dream. As far as all the other dreams; they are just dreams, and most of them are not at all comforting. They are my mind and my heart, remembering. Wishing things were different. Wanting to bring him back.

The other night, I had a dream that was very basic. It was just me and Don, sitting at a Yankee game. We were enjoying a baseball game, the way we used to. Two people told me that dream was him “visiting me.” No it wasn’t. It was me wanting to be at a baseball game with my husband, and hang out with him again. It was me missing him. My mind never stops. The dreams never stop. The only thing worse than trying to get through the day, is trying to get through the night. It hurts to be awake, and it hurts to be asleep. Everything in between is a fog. Will there ever be any peace?

 

 

Jealousy

(Originally written on 8/11/2011)

JEALOUSY

Today my mom, dad and I went with our close family friend Eve to the hospital/comfort care center to visit her husband Charlie. Everyone calls him Chuck, and I know him as “Uncle Chuck.” Hes not my uncle by blood or anything, but my brother and I grew up with them as our next door neighbors our entire childhood on Taylor Road in Groton, and we always called them “Aunty Eve and Uncle Chuck.” They were one of those couples that always seemed to be stuck in time; as if they both remained the same age year after year.They never changed. Same hairstyle, same type of clothes, same habits, same routine. Their yellow house next door looked the same every single Christmas, and they both seemed to revel in their sameness. It was wonderful, and comfortable, and they liked it. And then about seven years ago, something weird happened. Uncle Chuck started getting sick, and old. And sometimes, when you live right next door to someone forever and see them everyday, you dont notice them getting old. But because I lived in NJ and would come home to Groton Massachusetts every few months; I started to notice that the once quick-witted, funny, stubborn, nice as hell guy I always knew … was becoming a bit less quick, and a lot more stubborn. Continue reading “Jealousy” »

The End…

(originally written August 1, 2011)

On July 13th, 2011, everything disappeared, and I got a brand new life. It was not a life I asked for or wanted. It was not a life I understood. It was the life that was handed to me, without warning. This new life hit me smack in the face at 7:00 am, when I was woken up by a ringing phone over and over and over. My husband had gone to work at 4:30 am that morning, and because it was so early, he never woke me up to say good morning. He wanted to let me sleep, so he would just leave. He had picked up a 2nd job at Petsmart, stocking shelves and pricing things, to pay off his recent; very expensive, dental bill so we could eventually afford monthly payments on a brand new car. That was our plan. To finally let go of his 97 Pontiac Grand Prix that had been giving us problems for a long time, and get a new car. He was going to quit the job as soon as the bill was paid off. He was trying to support his family. He was really exhausted. But he never once complained or showed any signs of something being wrong with his heart or health. Never. He had no side effects of any kind. He even played tennis on his one day off, 2 days before, and somehow found time to also volunteer for rescue shelter there and take care of the kitties. He took care of everyone. Especially me. Continue reading “The End…” »