Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dear Matt,

Yesterday Noah got his first bloody lip. Well, I'm sure you saw it. Poor little man tripped in your parents' entryway and did a face plant on the tile! I stayed calm... Got him all cleaned up. He also got his first sliver out on the deck. That took some time but I finally was able to get it out this morning while your mom held him for me. He was such a trooper... A tough little guy just like you. I miss you so much, Matt. I keep looking for you. I can't help it. I love you.
Always yours,

I will probably not post for a little while. We are heading down to the cottage for a few days. Tomorrow is Matt's 28th birthday.

I have been checking his voicemail every now and then. Several of his clients have called and wondered where he was when he was scheduled to bring in lunch for an office. I called them back to inform them. Matt would have wanted me to do that. He cared so much about his offices. There is still a ton of chocolate in our freezer that he bought to bring to doctors, nurses and staff.

I find that I just stare out the window a lot and think about him. I look at his pictures and can't believe such a spirited, generous, handsome, loving father and husband is gone forever. The rest of my life seems like too long to be without him. But maybe the rest of my life isn't going to be as long as I think it will. Because I always thought everyone lived until they were old and wrinkled. Well, in reality I knew better but how could something like this happen to US? You just never think it could happen to you. Especially after all we've been through already. Maybe I've only got five years left. Maybe 50. Whatever the case, I will live how Matt would have wanted me to live until I die.

He always told me he wanted me to pray more. I remember one night not long before his death, I had gone to bed before he did but I woke up later, turned over and saw him praying on his knees next to the bed. I did that last night for the first time in my life.

I had a dream last night that I saved him. I went back in time and saved his life.

I don't really know how to end this one. I have two crying children who both need my attention. It is times like these I miss him most. :) Love you, Matt.

Friday, July 29, 2011

More Pieces of the Puzzle

I called the first trooper on scene about an hour ago with some questions.

I asked if there were cars in the left lane that prevented him from moving over. Yes. There were two cars in the left lane as witnesses.

I asked if the tractor had any flashing lights or other indication that it was a slow-moving vehicle. Yes, the tractor had a reflective triangle. But it was covered up by the sprayer it was hauling so, therefore, not visible.

I asked if the tractor made an attempt to drive on the shoulder or if it was driving down the right lane of the highway as if it belonged there. The tractor was driving in the right lane as if it belonged there. Going 25mph in a 70mph speed zone.

I asked him if that tractor was really driving down the highway illegally because I've heard/read conflicting things. He told me that any slow-moving vehicle such as a bicycle or moped (or tractor) should not be driving on a limited access highway.

Matt's phone and personal computer, among other things, are still in the car.

There were 25ft of yaw marks - where marks are left from the tires after making a sudden turn (these are not brake marks). No brakes were applied. Matt tried to avoid colliding with the tractor at the last minute. He went to the right because of the cars in the left lane. But going 70mph and coming up on something you don't realize and don't expect to be going 25mph leaves very little time to react effectively.

I still have a couple more questions I forgot to ask but right now, I have some of the answers I've been wondering about over the last week.

If I didn't have Noah and Chloe...

If I didn't have our two beautiful children, I would feel like I had nothing. There would be no purpose in my life. So in a way, Matt, you saved my will to live by giving us these precious little ones. Without you... they are all I have left.

At his visitation, I knew the initial sight of his casket would be a difficult moment. And it was. I just couldn't believe that my husband's body was in there. And his soul was not. I don't know exactly what went through my mind as I wept on my knees in front of it. He was gone. Our children's father was gone. Our future was gone. Taken. Stolen from us. I regained my composure for most everything else. Up until the funeral procession. His funeral was beautiful, by the way. Exactly how he would have wanted it.

At the burial, as I stated earlier, I did not have as hard of a time with it as I thought I would because I did not feel like he was in there. It was his body... that I will very much miss holding me, kissing me, cuddling me. But I know his soul is still very much alive and with us. He is watching over us now from another realm. I miss him. I planted a kiss on his casket before I walked away and my lipstick marks were left behind. There's the kiss I should have given him that morning before he died.

We are now in Petoskey... arrived late last night. I looked at the bed in "my" room and remembered the last time I was here. I was with Matt. It was Christmas time. And that was "our" room. The last time I was in that bed, I was with him. I was six months pregnant with Chloe and Noah was almost 16 months. I remember taking a family nap in that bed the last time we were here.

Chloe was born on March 31. Matt's birthday is July 31. She was almost two weeks "late" but, really, she was right on time. She wanted to share the 31st of the month with her daddy. Chloe, you will be four months old on Daddy's birthday.

Matt wanted Chloe to call him Daddy. He thought it sounded sweet and wanted Chloe to be Daddy's little girl. She will be. Always will be Daddy's little girl.

I have some sense of our new future. I will be coming back to Michigan this fall. Matt and I always thought we would want to come back to Michigan one day. Although we never would have guessed it would be like this. I'm a widow. A single mother of two. Matt would never have wanted it to be this way. He had very strong feelings about a two-parent household. I did, too. So now I feel that it is very important to be nearby family. Because their father is gone and they need a strong family structure. And I definitely believe they will get that. They have received so much love in the last week. There are so many people here for us and here for them that I have no doubt they will still grow up with a very strong sense of family and strong sense of community.

Exactly what Matt would have wanted.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I look for him in reflections.

I think it was the book The Lovely Bones where he saw his dead daughter in a reflection. I never even finished that book. But I remember that part. I always look for Matt's face in reflections. Maybe something about reflections make me think they are set apart from reality and that maybe he will be looking back at me.

I wish I would dream about him more often. I only remember clearly dreaming about him once and it was Monday night; the night before visitation. I kissed him in my dream. And there was some dialogue about reassuring me that it was real but I can't remember what that pertained to.

I should go back further to ensure that I document other thoughts that occurred to me while I was still in North Carolina. The last time I posted, I was about to go open his personal belongings envelope from the hospital. I ended up making multiple trips around the house looking for a pair of scissors and I could not find any. I ended up using a pair of those decorative scissors used for scrapbooking. As I was walking down the hall in my search, my body was overcome with goosebumps, chills, whatever you want to call them. It was far from chilly. Maybe it was my nerves. Maybe it was Matt. I'd like to think it was the latter. I opened the envelope and pulled out the plastic bag that contained his gold cross - a necklace he wore every day. Right in the center of the cross there was a very prominent indentation. Right where he had gotten hit by that piece of equipment (just one of many places). But it was right in the very center. Now the extensions of the cross stick outward when I put the necklace on, instead of laying flat. The other thing inside was his wedding band; several blood marks were on it. I held it. I smelled it. I just looked at it. Now, it has a permanent home on my left index finger. I'm glad it fits. I wear his cross at night. It makes me feel like he is with me, like he always used to be at night.

I wear the cross in the same direction he wore it that day. It's easy to tell with the indentation. But I woke up Wednesday morning, the morning of his funeral, and it was turned around the other way. It was facing the other direction, the way it would be facing if he was wearing it and gave me a hug.

Noah knows who Daddy is. He is quick to point him out in pictures. I wish he would grow up knowing his daddy like the way we always pictured it. Playing catch, helping Daddy mow the lawn, going for walks. Family trips, giving him dating advice, shaking his head at his choice of music. Same goes for Chloe. She is going to miss walking down the aisle with her daddy on her wedding day. That just sticks out for me for some reason. But I have to erase all of those "plans" from my mind now. Erase our future. Start over.

We went to the cemetery on Monday and I chose Matt's burial plot. Actually, I chose both of our burial plots. When I die, I will be buried right next to him. I chose a place on a hill that's near the entrance. The headstones face west. One day, we will be together again on that hill, watching the sun go down behind the trees together. Matt, you have no idea how much I look forward to that day when I get to see you again. And I know you want me to live a long and healthy life but it's hard for me to think the same right now.

His birthday is Sunday, July 31. I ordered a book by Glenn Beck to give to him. It came to the door on Friday, July 22. I just set it on the counter.

This post is a jumbled mess but I'm just writing whatever comes to mind because it has been several days. I want to address a few things that happened on the morning of July 20. The officers gave me his wallet after delivering the news. It had lots of tiny pieces of glass stuck to it and inside of it. It smelled like coffee. I thought he must have done a Starbucks run on his way out of town because of that... and his wallet was in the center console after having taken it out to pay for his coffee, like he usually did instead of putting it back in his pocket. That's why it had glass stuck to it. And the coffee spilled all over it during the crash. I wonder what happened to his cell phone and our computer. I wonder what the Jeep looks like. I wonder if I will even want to see it. A part of me does want to see it. I don't know. It might help me with closure. The picture in my mind is probably not much worse than what it really looks like anyway.

I chose not to view his body. I don't think it would have done anything for me. His spirit was not there so I wouldn't have been looking at HIM. I would have been looking at his vessel. Even during the visitation, funeral and burial, I did not feel like he was in that casket. I felt like he was around me but not in there. It was just ceremonial to perform everything around his body but his soul was and is elsewhere.

Matt would want me to make one thing clear, if nothing else: He did NOT die at the scene. I have read some news reports that say he died in the crash but he did not. In fact, the funeral director told me he was surprised he even made it to the hospital. Matt was strong-willed. He is a fighter. And anyone who knew him in the summer of 2000 would know that. The crash happened at 10:23am and Matt died at the hospital at 11:35am. His immediate cause of death was blunt force head trauma. I know he didn't want to leave us. He would never leave us. And so he fought until he could fight no more.

I told him to stay home that day. He was feeling a little sick on Tuesday and I told him to stay home and get some rest. He never took a day off. Like I said, he was very strong-willed and a hard worker. He was extremely devoted to his job and excelled in every way that he could. He said, "I can't take a day off." I said, "Yes you can. That's why they give you sick days." "I don't have sick days, I have PTO." Well, you can guess how that conversation ended. PTO, sick days... same thing, but no. I guess he sort of compromised. He decided to get up on Wednesday and just take his time. Take it slow. That morning I remember him saying, "Well, I will just go out to a few offices today," he helped me get Noah and Chloe out the door, as usual... and we kind of yelled "bye" to each other as I was out the door. I wish I had kissed him goodbye. Or at least told him I loved him. Although I never did put much money on the words "I love you". I always believed it was in the actions, not the words. We did say it at least once a day. But I just wish I had said it that morning. The last time I kissed him was Tuesday night and it was on the cheek before I went to bed. I told him I was kissing him on the cheek instead of the lips because he was sick.

Last night was really difficult. Everything was over. There was no more planning to be done. Nothing to take my mind away from the fact that this is it. And it really sunk in. My husband is gone. I woke up to him and went to bed with him and it will never be like that ever again. All I have are memories. And I never want to forget those memories. I never want to forget the way he smelled. The way he felt when he hugged me. His voice.

He really was my whole world. Noah and Chloe, your daddy loved you with all his heart and then some. He would never let you down. He would protect you with his own life. He was strong, funny, vibrant, inspirational, giving and so much more. He will always be with you.

I want to write more.

so many thoughts have been running through my head and i am trying to hold onto everything until i can sit down at a computer and share them. i cannot do it from my cell phone so my next entry will probably be very lengthy as i go back a few days and rehash all that has happened. all my thoughts as it happened.

as kind of a personal note for when i do get a chance, these are the things i would like to address...

opening the envelope

burial plots

signs from matthew

the facts


the first sight

returning a call of matts

future plans

and i am sure much much more as i get to writing. for now, i will just say that i am holding on but missing him so much with all my heart.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Today I am feeling unusually strong. It almost scares me. I know it is going to come and go though.

Three days ago I was in our closet doing something I never imagined I would be doing so soon... or ever: Choosing a suit in which my husband will be buried. Nobody will see him. But I chose his light gray pinstripe suit because pinstripes are just his thing. And the gray is a nice, light color; fitting for summer. I chose his favorite white shirt. He wanted more for his birthday because he loved them so much. I chose a bright blue, gray and white striped tie. Blue was his favorite color. When I make decisions like this on his behalf, I don't worry about whether or not he will like it. At first I did worry a little. But now I feel like the reason I make the choices I do is because he is somehow guiding me.

We went to the funeral home this morning. Walking up to that door made me sick to my stomach but we kept each other strong. I walked inside and it was an inviting atmosphere. We sat down to discuss things and my eyes met an empty chair on the other side of the room. I wondered if Matt was there with me.

We walked downstairs to choose a casket and I got that feeling in my stomach again. But it was okay. Two caskets immediately caught my eye. Two that I knew would appeal to Matt had the material created something different, such as a table or dresser. So the decision was fairly easy to make.

My heart will be aching for a long long time to come. But I look to our beautiful children - into their eyes - and know that a piece of Matt is looking back.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Love

If you hadn't left this Earth before me then my only wish would be that we left together because I would never want this agony for you, honey. But I am here for our children and I know you live in them.

Our long journey to Michigan begins in about ten hours. I haven't packed a thing yet. Neither for myself nor for the kids. I don't even know how long we will be there. I know this trip I am about to take is going to lead me right back to the pain I felt upon hearing the news of Matt's death. It will be like living it over again in a new location. The new faces I will see will bring me right back to square one. And I know that's all part of the process. Because once my wounded heart heals just a little bit at my mom's house, it is just going to re-open again at the visitation. And then again at the funeral. And I can't even bear to think about the burial. I can't. No. And thinking about Noah... Chloe is much too young to grasp a sliver of what's happening but Noah...

My Dad is going to view Matt's body at the funeral home before I do. If I do. He will tell me whether or not he thinks it's a good idea. I trust his judgment.

I am the only one awake right now and this is when I imagined would be a good time to go open Matt's personal belongings envelope that I was given at the hospital. It contains his wedding band and a gold cross necklace that he always wore. I'm going to go open it and then get some sleep. I hope I meet him in my dreams tonight because I haven't yet.


I have so many questions that run through my mind constantly. Some are probably legitimate questions to ask, some not... I don't know. Some of them I may have already been told the answer and I just forgot. And some will never be answered.

Were there cars in the left lane that prevented him from attempting to move over in time?

Did the tractor have ANY clearly visible signs or lights to indicate it was a slow-moving vehicle?

Was the tractor in the entire lane or off towards the shoulder?

Did Matt apply his brakes at all?

Could there have been some sort of mechanical failure with his car that prevented him from braking?

Did something (such as a water bottle) get stuck beneath the brake pedal?

What was he doing?

What were the extent of his injuries (specifically)?

How long was he at the hospital before he died?

What was his time of death?

Should that tractor really not have been on the highway according to law?

I don't know why I even want the answers. It won't bring him back. Maybe it would just allow me to better grasp this tragedy. Provide some understanding. Give me some closure. I miss him so much.

We are going back to Michigan tomorrow. I don't know how long we will be there. We expect to arrive in Detroit at about 6:30pm. So then we will be back in the Grand Rapids area tomorrow night. I'm going to stay with my mom.

There are so many other things I want to write but I want to try to contain each post to just a few thoughts at a time.

He is everywhere.

I swear I heard him whisper my name this morning. "Steph" I know my mind is just making things up because I want so badly to hear him again. To see him again. To touch him again. But I don't care. Maybe it was real.

I was going through Noah's drawer this morning and noticed a brand new unworn pair of navy pinstripe pants. Pants that I grabbed off the clearance rack at Babies R Us last fall. I thought, "Matt is going to love these." Noah never did have a chance to wear them. I kept them around just in case he might still fit into them for some other special occasion like Easter or something. I didn't realize when I bought those pants, Noah would be wearing them to his daddy's funeral.

I think about what went through his mind right before it happened. Or right as it happened. I want nothing more than to know that he was unafraid, pain-free. But I won't know that, ever. I have to keep reminding myself that no matter how tragic his death was, he is looking down on us from a place that is providing him nothing but comfort and assurance that we will be okay. Because I know he is worried about us... that is how he is. And I am, too. But being surrounded by family and friends and thousands of warm wishes helps me realize that I am not alone.

The abundance of prayers for both Matt, myself and our families is so very much appreciated.