Widowhood Effect

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We are quickly approaching a year since Patrick died. In many ways, this past month has been one of the hardest. With the marathon and the holidays behind me, I have felt unmoored, and as much as I’d like to keep drifting and linger in the open ocean, CR and my job keep me bumping against the shore of unrelenting responsibilities. In the final weeks of Patrick’s life, we had so much help — bodies bringing food, cleaning, helping nurse Patrick, and visitors — that I longed to just get my house and my own routine back. After the funeral, everyone left, and I had about two weeks of days alone at home, but that was consumed by all of the paperwork that accompanies death.

With just CR and me in the house in the intervening months, I’ve realized that I never got back into a “normal” routine. My ability to plan ahead in my personal life has been crippled, and I have spent much of my time at home reacting to things in front of me — piles of laundry, dirty dishes, meals, toys underfoot, dust, mail, bills, baths — in haphazard flurries followed by ignoring them completely. In the time Patrick’s been gone, I haven’t had a time to turn inward, to grieve alone, to drift and come to terms with an underlying depression that I feel just under the surface. I need a break from reality in a way that, as mother to a four-year-old, I will never get. So, I’m feeling stuck and tired and anxious. The constant torrent of troubling national news hasn’t helped much, either.

Earlier this month, I read an article about the “Widowhood Effect” by Canadian writer Christina Frangou, who was also widowed in her 30s. Perhaps some of what I’m experiencing is related to what she describes: “No one warned me about the cognitive impairment that comes with grief. Tears, heartache, depression – these are expected, but the sustained diminishment of my thinking skills astonishes me.” As I read, I compared my experience to her own. She and her husband were unable to have children, and while I agreed with much of what she wrote, I found myself bristling and wanting to shout at her, “This whole experience is so much harder when you have a young child who needs you to be okay and stable!”

For the most part, I HAVE been okay and stable. CR and I have a lot of fun together, and I am amazed by her joy and enthusiasm. She and I have been able to cry together, too. But her very existence has prevented me from a deep, dark sulk, which, in ways, I still feel I need.

A walk outside in the sunshine would probably help, too.

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Power of Powder

“It occurred to him now that people are defined much more by their association with death than by what they do in life. Poor thing, she’s a widow, they say. She lost her mother when she was ten to cancer. I’ve been immune to all this, he thought.”

I am currently reading An Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan, and this passage, spoken by a father whose sons have recently died, rang true. 

As I was getting to know Patrick, the loss of his brother to cancer when Patrick was in high school was one of his defining characteristics. Losing my dad to a lung disease when I was only 27 set me apart from many of my peers. Like Patrick’s brother, my father had struggled with a progressive disease and failing health for many years, and Patrick and I connected in having lived in households cocooned by debilitating illness. Now as a young widow, I know that my closeness to Patrick’s death influences how people interact with me. With people I have just met, the death of my husband is the first thing on my mind when I’m filling in the basic “getting to know you” information. I find myself making an assessment of how much to divulge: “Do I want to get into that part of my story if I will never see this person again?” I prepare myself for the arresting effect it will have and the extra effort it requires to receive the awkward expression of a stranger’s sympathy. A few times, I have introduced myself to someone who knew Patrick but not me, and I have seen the light of recognition in their eyes: “Oh! This is his widow.” I am still not used to that term, widow, and it is in the reactions of strangers that I see it mirrored most starkly.

This past month has been a tough one. The darkness of winter, aching post-marathon joints, the national discourse, and preparing for the holidays in the absence of Patrick have left me feeling anxious, fatigued, and deeply sad. I can never seem to keep on top of the endless house chores, meal preparation, and the finding of misplaced but essential items that accompany child-rearing. This past Saturday, I had planned to drop CR off at her ski lesson and return home to clean, wrap presents, and have some time to myself. Fortunately, I was reprieved from all of that by an overnight snowfall of 19 inches!

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I scrapped the housekeeping in favor of skiing, and I’m so glad I did; I think it saved me! Saturday was a day that reminded me why I love skiing. The glorious sensation of floating through two feet of soft snow reverts serious, responsible adults to giddy, whooping kids. I skied with parents of kids in CR’s daycare program, none of whom I know beyond the pick-up and drop-off pleasantries. We had so much fun, reveled in the kinship of a shared adventure, and parted with hugs at the end of the day. When I went to meet CR in the late afternoon, her instructor informed me that she had made a huge leap and was turning and stopping on her own. CR was keen to take another run, and watching her ski in front of me, I felt as the Grinch must have when his heart trebled in size. I was the happiest I have been in a long time sharing that one ski run with my daughter. She, too, will be marked and defined by her father’s death, but CR can now add “skier” to her list of attributes.

Here’s to the redeeming power of powder and to many more ski days with CR.


As I was getting ready to post this, I learned that the driver of a truck took the lives of at least nine people and injured many more at the Christmas market in Berlin. When I hear of the sudden, violent deaths happening daily around the world, I am reminded how tenuous human life truly is. We – those of us in a warm place with a computer (of all things!) – are blessed in so many ways, and I grieve with those who have lost loved ones today.

Race Day

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The New York City Marathon was this past Sunday. When I committed to running in this race in April, I thought that by this time I would be leaner, faster, and wiser. The reality is a bit different: I’ve gained weight (and, no, it’s not all muscle); I was slow and afraid that my legs would give out on me; and in terms of wisdom, I am sure the lessons of the past few months will continue to unfold their depths, but right now, I’m just tired.

To be honest, I didn’t have the time or the energy to train properly for this race. Working full time and caring for CR competed with building the endurance and strength I needed to cross the finish line in Central Park. I followed a training plan but completed only about 75% of the prescribed miles. Re-building my running legs was torturous, and I had to take whole weeks off to recover, but still had lingering pain in my joints. At one point in July, I thought I was having a heart attack: I was sitting at my desk at work, and I felt an intense squeezing pain in the center of my chest that radiated up to my jaw. If you Google those symptoms, which I did after the pain subsided, Google will answer, “Drop everything and get to the ER!” An EKG, blood work, and a cardiac stress-test later, my doctor concluded that my heart was just fine and I had experienced an esophageal spasm, which can be brought on stress-related acid re-flux. She asked me if I was seeing a therapist to help me manage the stress of losing Patrick. I told her, “Running is my therapy.”

My run on Sunday started out well. The City put on it’s best face with blue skies and perfect, cool running temperatures. The camaraderie on Staten Island before the race, all of the runners watching the sunrise behind the Verrazano Bridge, was palpable and heartwarming. I felt good the first half of the race, which tours through Brooklyn streets packed with cheering spectators. I painted my name on my running jersey, and I heard encouraging calls of “Go Collins!” as I ran past joyful strangers.

image1By the time I got through Queens and was crossing the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan at about Mile 15, I knew I was in trouble. While training, iliotibial (IT) band inflammation and tightness, particularly in my left knee had me limping and unable to run. The balance of letting it heal and trying to run the miles I wanted to resulted in recurring ligament stress and presented itself as severe knee pain. On the downslope of the bridge, I could feel the familiar twinge that I knew would only get worse. I ran pretty steadily to Mile 17 where my family and friends had gathered on the corner of 78th and 1st Avenue to cheer. Seeing them waving and wearing sky blue “Paddy Power” hats brought tears to my eyes; I ran up to greet them, and after a moment, turned up 1st Avenue to continue the run. At the water station a mile up the road, I almost turned out of the course; the pain so sharp that I was tempted to quit. I stopped by a barrier to stretch for a bit, and the lovely people on the sidelines murmured encouragements.

The rest of the race was powered by raw grit and will. A good friend of mine had told me to take in the sight of the thousands of runners and spectators on the long 1st Avenue stretch, but I mostly looked at my shadow on the road ahead of me, saying “Hail Marys” to keep from crying, and hefting my increasingly stiff leg in heavy, arcing strides forward. I walked through the next couple of water stations, but I realized that walking hurt even more than running, so through the Bronx and the last six miles of the race, I skipped stopping for water and kept running through the crowd. The turn into Central Park was at once relieving and daunting: only four miles left to go, but I knew I would be suffering every step. The incline between Miles 24 and 25 nearly broke me, and I had to walk. A man wearing a back bib that read “70 year old runner” jogged relatively easily past me. I could barely bend my left knee, and my breath was wheezing and labored from trying not to cry. At the Mile 25 marker, I started running again, and the first ten steps were lurching as I tried to regain my stride and bend my knee.

I am proud to say that I ran through the finish line, and I was able to look up and smile (grimace) for the cameras.

563479_242235004_mediumOnce past the official timer, I immediately broke down. Ugly, gasping sobs of agony and relief shook my whole body, and I couldn’t stop crying for about twenty minutes as I walked with the other runners through the finish corral. My whole body hurt, but that was only part of the overwhelming emotion. So much of my training the past few months became a way to process and grieve Patrick’s death. I know that I suffered from some post traumatic stress, and often while running, a memory from Patrick’s final months would flash through my mind, recalling some awful trial that he and I endured. The purpose assigned to training and raising money for brain cancer research was fulfilled once I crossed the finish line, and while that will be satisfying at some point, in the moment, I felt another great loss and emptiness.

After I retrieved my bag and put on dry clothes, I still had to walk another two miles down Columbus Avenue to meet my support team. I had a hat and hoodie over my head with the foil finisher’s space-blanket tied around my shoulders. Groaning and limping as I went, I’m sure I would have looked homeless and deranged if not for the thousands of other runners on the sidewalk in similar garb and attitudes. When I got to Columbus Circle and saw I was in the dark shadow of Trump Tower, I startled a man next to me when I yelled, “Ugh! Where am I? I didn’t want to be HERE!”

Hours later, after I had had a shower, a martini, and a wonderful meal, I finally started to feel happy and proud of my accomplishment. I would have liked to have trained better, run faster, and had avoided injury, but I had just finished the New York City Marathon!

That feeling of joy and relief carried me through my trip home on Monday and my workday yesterday. CR greeted me with such love and sweetness, and I was so glad to be home having completed a major feat. Unfortunately, the results of the election have deflated my elation. I, like so many Americans, am feeling depressed, shocked, and terrified for the future of our nation and democracy.

2016 has been an awful year.

I am going to take a break from social media and news outlets for a while. I need to focus on what is within my control: my daughter, my home, my relationships with family and friends, my health.

Thank you all for supporting me on this marathon journey: I could not have done it without you! I will continue to write, and I’d love to be in touch with you via email, phone, and in person.

Backup. Move Forward.

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My home desktop computer is showing signs of age, and a couple of nights ago, I decided to deliberately backup all of our digital photos files. I got my first digital camera in 2005, and I averaged about a 1000 photos per year until the year CR was born: that year, the file burgeoned to over 4500 photos! We buried Patrick’s ashes this past weekend, and since we met in 2003, going through the pictures was a review of nearly our entire life together.

The past few months, I have been relatively happy: CR and I have established a better routine; I’m feeling much healthier as a result of running regularly; I’m enjoying my work. Having a burial plan in place, however, settled a bone-deep sadness on me again. Patrick’s ashes have been on our fireplace mantel since the funeral in February. I got to a point where some days I didn’t consciously notice them as I rushed around in the fog of daily have-tos. The ashes, though, were a solid presence of Patrick in our home, and knowing a fixed date when they would be gone brought back waves of grief.

The burial rite itself was beautiful. Family and friends gathered on a crisp, alpine morning to say goodbye again. CR helped place Patrick’s urn in the ground, and we both scattered a handful of freshly turned dirt on top. Everyone in attendance did the same, and as I watched the others, I felt a deep calm in the tradition and ritual of laying the dead to rest.

On Monday night, a thunderstorm woke both CR and me. CR got back to sleep, but I stayed awake listening to the thunder for hours. I have been meaning to backup my photos for months, and perhaps the fear of a computer-frying power surge spurred me out of bed in the early hours to start. Browsing the images was at once wonderful and sad. As I got into the more recent years, I found myself bracing for what was to come: “This is from the week before Patrick had his seizure; these are from the months we spent away from home while Patrick received radiation treatment; this must have been the last week he was able to navigate the stairs in our home; Patrick’s smile here is from just three days before he died.”

The pictures from this year are more sporadic, and in some ways, depict a life in chaos. I was struck by the difference in what I chose or had the energy to document compared to years past. Most, despite the background of loss, show CR and me smiling, striving to build happy memories, and choosing to love and be grateful.

May Patrick’s soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

 


MARATHON UPDATE

Well, I’ve taken yet another week of training off after aggravating inflamed IT bands. I’m planning on running today, though! The marathon is less than a month away. I have my longest run planned for this coming weekend, and we’ll see how it goes. My plane ticket is booked, so whether I’m ready or not, I’m going!

The Beach

CR and I traveled to one of Patrick’s favorite places during the last week of August: Priscilla Beach in Plymouth, MA. His grandfather built a home on top of a hill overlooking Cape Cod Bay, and their family has been going there on summer weekends ever since. The last time Patrick was there was in November 2015 over Thanksgiving. His mom, siblings, first cousins, and families decorated gingerbread houses in teams — the kids eating more candy than they attached. We ate and danced, talked and cried (a little). The time together was happy. As we were leaving, Patrick stood with his mom and looked out over the ocean for a long time, and though he didn’t verbalize it, I knew he was saying goodbye.

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Returning to Priscilla Beach without Patrick was bittersweet. He wanted CR to enjoy the place and the time with family, and I hope we will be able to return for years to come. CR spent the week running with cousins, wading in the ocean (which was surprisingly warm, for once), digging in the sand, and laughing. Patrick led her to touch the water soon after she had learned to walk, and now she runs in on her own.

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MARATHON UPDATE:

The New York City Marathon is two months from today! My training has been lurching forward, at best. I’ve been beset by a sore hamstring, terrible blisters, and now an irritated IT band. I had hoped to run 12 miles this past weekend, but had to stop after 8.5 miles. Ugh. A note for all marathon running hopefuls: It’s a better idea to ALREADY be in shape and then start training for a marathon rather than get in shape WHILE training for a marathon. Onward, HO! Please support B*CURED!

A Reckoning

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Parenting a three-year-old is exhausting, frustrating work; doing it alone, I am finding, is a Herculean task.

On Wednesday night, I woke up at 12:30 AM and was unable to get back to sleep. I went upstairs to our kitchen to finish cleaning up the day’s accumulated mess. About 20 minutes later, I heard CR crying and calling for me. Even before I turned on the bedroom light, I could smell what I knew I would find. Poor CR was standing on the carpet, her hair matted with vomit, and the rest of her stomach contents were pooled on the mattress and pillow. “Holy Mother of God,” I thought to myself. “Help!”

Any parent knows about night time sickness: gently rinsing a shivering child off in the shower; bundling her into another bed while you strip the soiled sheets; scraping the mess into the toilet before starting a load of laundry; trying to go back to sleep while praying that the child doesn’t get sick again; repeating the whole process if she does. What made last night different, however, was the sinking feeling that I am blowing it as a parent. CR’s dinner had consisted of Lay’s BBQ potato chips, gummy bears, and a hot dog. As I tried to scrub the fluorescent red-orange stain from the sheets around 1 AM, it felt like a reckoning: “You HAVE to do better! Patrick would have done better!”

The next evening, CR was bouncing on our couch. I was in the living room with her, and she suddenly stopped and came to my side with tears streaming down her face and blood on her thighs! A quick inspection revealed a split perineum, so instead of getting ready for bed, we were on our way to the ER. Fortunately, the injury was not as bad as I had originally feared, CR didn’t need stitches, and we were back home within an hour. In the wee hours of the morning, however, CR was up again, sick to her stomach, though this time I was able to help her get to the bathroom and avoid yet another laundry emergency. The mantra in my head shifted from “You have to do better!” to “You’re doing the best you can!”

This weekend, I finally got months worth of clutter put away, but that was possible only because CR watched HOURS of Disney movies and PBS Kids shows on my iPad. In the months since Patrick death, the only time I seem to have to myself while at home is when my poor kiddo is screen-sedated. “You’re doing the best you can, but you know you can do better.” Today, the iPad is going back to my office, where it belongs. I expect I will face screaming tantrums and stomping rages as CR adjusts to a new routine, but, I finally feel I have the energy to face it, the energy to be a good parent again, where watching a movie is a treat for her and not a crutch for me.

Training for the marathon has helped me regain both physical and emotional energy to be present for CR and at peace with myself. I had been running tethered to my iPhone and the supposedly motivating music it pumped to my ears, but I quickly found that the sound of my feet on the pavement, the wind, bird song, the river along the bike path, and my own thoughts were better motivators for my soul. Yesterday, I finally overcame a huge physical hurdle and completed my first 10K run in years! My mom and grandmother had come to visit and spend time with CR while I got out of the house, and when I returned, all three of them were watching Brave at CR’s insistence. *Sigh.* One step at a time.


Thank you to everyone, friends and strangers, who have donated to B*CURED, for which I am fundraising to run in the NYC Marathon on November 6! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

The Sports Tour

Patrick had a dream of doing a great European sports tour in July that included Wimbledon, the British Open, and the Tour de France. He was a sports fan in the purest sense. While he did have loyalties to teams, the NE Patriots in particular, he watched sports not so much for the entertainment value, but more because he marveled at human physical capacity and appreciated true athleticism. He would cheer for any member of the opposing team when he or she completed an amazing feat.

Enjoying professional sports inspired Patrick to get out and play, a trait he inherited from his father, Jim. Jim would read Bud Collins’s tennis column out loud over breakfast, then strap on his Jack Purcells and head to the courts with Patrick, or whoever else would join him. In the summer after Patrick’s diagnosis, we got together with family over Labor Day Weekend. Though tired from chemo and out of practice with a club, he went golfing with his cousin and brothers-in-law (The Outlaws). He was so glad for the time with the men he admired. Jim, having passed away the year before, was with them in spirit, and though I don’t know this for certain, I would bet that they retold Jim’s many great golfing stories as they walked between holes. 

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Pinehills Golf Club, August 2014

Patrick was affronted by the rash of doping scandals across all sports because he felt that it called into question any achievement. Instead of applauding a record being broken or other personal accomplishment, he felt that people were becoming immediately skeptical and suspected cheating to be uncovered. It was his sincerest wish that Lance Armstrong be innocent of charges, and Patrick, like many, was disappointed when the extensive doping by him and his team was substantiated .

He continued to love the sport of cycling, however, and he rode up our mountain passes with Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen in his head, narrating his ascent as though he were riding up Col du Tourmalet or Alpe d’Huez: “They have hit this climb so fast I thought they were going to sail off into space!”; “He is riding like a man possessed!”; “He really is a man on a mission today!” I know this because when we would ride together, Patrick would sometimes shout out something akin to these lines (British accent and all) just before jumping out of his saddle and attacking a climb ahead of him.

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Cheering Cadel Evans up Independence Pass, US Pro Cycling Challenge 2011

In Patrick’s memory, I have been following Wimbledon and the Tour this month, and I’ll tune-in to the British Open this weekend. Perhaps when CR is older, we’ll go on that European sports tour and talk about how much her dad would have loved to be there, cheering the indomitable human spirit to victory.

Allez! Allez! Allez!

These are the wages of mortal love

This past Wednesday evening, I was in the audience for a conversation between author FullSizeRender (2)Ann Patchett and Dr. Lucy Kalanithi. Lucy’s husband, Dr. Paul Kalanithi wrote When Breath Becomes Air at age 37, the last year of his life; the book was published in January 2016. I was invited to the event by Patrick’s colleague Peter who wrote in his invitation, “I read the book (When Breath Becomes Air) and it so reminded me of both the beauty and sadness of Patrick’s journey.” With those words, I knew I had to, one, attend the event, and two, read the book.

When Breath Becomes Air is Paul Kalanithi’s memoir and account of his battle with terminal lung cancer. He was a neurosurgery resident at Stanford and 36 at the time of his diagnosis. Dr. Kalanithi’s reflections on his work as a neurosurgeon offer and extraordinary window into the life and caliber of doctors that treated Patrick. But more powerfully, how he faced his diagnosis mirrored so many of Patrick’s (and our) struggles with a terminal illness at a young age. Neither of these men feared dying, and they approached their living with a terrible cancer similarly. Dr. Kalanithi wrote, “I would have to learn to live in a different way, seeing death as an imposing itinerant visitor but knowing that even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living.” Patrick, determined to live each day of his life, would greet the morning with joy, hope, and a sense of purpose.

Dr. Kalanithi wrote, “Because the brain mediates our experience of the world, any neurosurgical problem forces a patient and family, ideally with a doctor as a guide, to answer this question: What makes life meaningful enough to go on living?” Throughout his book, Dr. Kalanithi probes both neuroscience and literature for that answer. Patrick spent much of his own professional career trying to understand and share with others what makes a meaningful life, and having brain cancer distilled that purpose into his day to day existence. Perhaps Paul and Patrick are now contemplating this existential question together; perhaps, now, they don’t have to. They might also share their passion for the written word and how they bathed their infant daughters in that love: Patrick read passages of Anna Karenina to CR; “Paul would hold Cady in his writing chair, reading aloud works by Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, Whittenstein.”

PATRICK's Favorite Photo of Clara

Throughout Wednesday’s event, Lucy spoke in terms that resonated with my experience: a young widowed mother grieving. Lucy and Ann talked about how being in the presence of someone dying forever changes one’s perspective on living. Ann put words to a phenomenon that I experienced with Patrick during his final months: Being in the room with him, I entered “a light that [I stayed] in, and that clarity [was] gorgeous.” Our priorities were clear: one another; our daughter; our families; time together.

Ann continued, “That light and clarity linger, and it is jarring to be in the noise of people not living in that light, crushing to hear the babble of idiocy of normal life.” I had that sense in those final months and shortly after Patrick died. I would go out on errands and overhear the banal frustrations of people in public areas (railing at crowds, traffic, petty slights, or irate at not being able to remove the wrapper from a tuna sandwich). I would roll my eyes to hear people so upset by the trivial, and I would have to stop myself from yelling, “Do you have any idea how stupid you sound!? Do you have any concept of the REAL suffering in MY life, in countless lives worldwide!? Shut up! Get a grip!” But in entering the public sphere with my own silent pain, I also became more aware and sensitive to the fact that every person is walking around with an unknown, unspoken burden; I tried to interact with each stranger I encountered accordingly, recognizing that a small kindness could make just the needed difference.

A phrase was quoted during Ann and Lucy’s conversation, and I only captured its essence: These moments of grief and pain that we bereaved endure are “the wages of mortal love.”

I will close with a quote from one of Patrick’s favorite authors, Wendell Berry, from his novel Jaber Crow: “I don’t believe that grief passes away. It has its time and place forever. More time is added to it; it becomes a story within a story. But grief and griever alike endure.”


MARATHON UPDATE:

I am running again! I have gotten up to regular 5k runs, which is an improvement from last month. I still have hamstring discomfort, but the longer I run, the looser and more comfortable my stride becomes. Weekly physical therapy appointments will continue in the near term. Summer has been hot, even in the high country, but I have enjoyed the time outside.

I am running the New York Marathon for Patrick and to raise money for B*CURED, a wonderful organization funding brain cancer research. Please support the cause!

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Beloved

Tomorrow is – would have been – our fifth wedding anniversary. Five years ago, all of our friends and family were gathering in my hometown to celebrate the start of our marriage. Snow had continued to fall through May, and by early June the leaves on the aspen trees had just started to leaf. The week of our wedding, the weather turned suddenly hot, and all of the high peaks’ snow began melting in earnest. My mom and I collected sandbags from the fire department to reinforce the creek bank near our home for fear that the run-off would flood our yard and possibly the house. The water was rushing so powerfully, you could hear enormous boulders being rolled down the creek bed, particularly at night when the flow was the highest.

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The creek stayed in its bank and the sun rose over a glorious green valley on the day of our wedding. I remember looking at the faces of those gathered and feeling a surge of joy realizing that each person there was known and beloved, and that they were all there to support Patrick and me. How could we, how could any of them, even have imagined that in five short years, Patrick would be gone. In the brief, wonderful, intervening years, we fully lived our vows: We saw each other through periods of unemployment; pregnancy; home ownership; parenthood; loss of parents; terminal illness; death. Even knowing what I now know, I would have chosen Patrick again to be my husband.

I spoke with Patrick’s sister a couple of days ago, and she wondered if Patrick had set aside a gift or a note for me to mark this anniversary. He didn’t. Patrick considered a project like this for both me and for CR. He spent so much time thinking and worrying about it that the entire process became stressful and daunting, and he finally plotted a different course. The message that Patrick most wanted to convey was that CR and I are and always will be beloved. He commissioned a mirror from Charles Shakleton (descendant of the great explorer and master woodworker based in Vermont). Patrick spoke with Charles several times about exactly what he wanted. The resulting oval mirror that now hangs in our entry reads “BELOVED” across the top. Patrick’s gift to us, to everyone who enters our home, is that each time we see our faces in the mirror we know that we are his beloved, God’s beloved. This subtle reminder captures more about Patrick as a human being than any set of timed gifts or notes ever could. Patrick’s love is pure and simple and ever present.

Thank You, E.B. White

EB and Charlotte

In the months before Patrick died, CR and I started listening to Charlotte’s Web, read by the author, during the car rides to and from my work/her daycare.

CR was immediately drawn into the storyline of Fern and Wilbur. Her pink, plush, toy pig immediately was renamed for the protagonist. She cheered when Wilbur escaped from his pen and empathized with his loneliness in the barn before Charlotte greets him with her famous, “Salutations.” E.B. White’s matter-of-fact narration and New England accent add depth to the story and humor that I may have missed without his inflection and emphasis. CR and I have now probably listened to the story, start-to-finish, five times.

As the story closes, Charlotte dies. My gratitude to E.B. White is for presenting death in real terms, with real emotion, in language that children, that CR, can understand. With Patrick’s diagnosis, I began questioning all of the social workers and doctors we met on how to talk to CR about death so that she might process losing her father in a healthy way. While I got wonderful tips about how to talk with her, it was while listening to Charlotte’s Web that started our real, ongoing conversation about what death is and how it affects a family. For CR, it was clear how much Wilbur missed his friend, and that even though she was gone, he was still connected to Charlotte through his memory of her and through her children.

I feel confident that CR feels closely connected to her father, even with him absent. Thank you E.B. White for helping us start a conversation that will keep Patrick present in our lives and for helping CR begin a lifelong process of healthy grieving.


Marathon Training Update

My physical therapist has advised that I still not run. As the weeks tick by, I am growing restless and more concerned about my training plan’s interruption. I have another appointment in early June. I’ll keep you posted.