Thursday, September 29, 2011

Four years ago today.



I was sooo nervous.

Giddy.Happy.

I was marrying the man of my dreams. The boy I wanted to marry in high school.
Truly the best day of my life.
The next best day will be the day I die.
Don't worry, I can be patient.

I really had the coolest dream last night. We were outside, I think it was just me and my mom. I saw what looked like a combination of a funnel cloud and a sunset. It's kind of hard to explain but it was beautiful and I took out my phone so I could take a picture of it. Then, we vanished upwards into Heaven. I made the sign of the cross on my way, I had no idea what to expect. Then, I was in this room full of other people kneeling and praying and bowing their heads so I did the same. Everyone was Catholic. Then, John the Baptist was there, lol. And he was like the leader of our group. He asked me if Matt was here and I said yes. And I found Matt... and hugged him but he acted like he had just seen me and wasn't as excited to see me as I was to see him. And he had some other stuff to do because he was already "in" and I was like... in between earth and Heaven, lol. A noob, if you will. It was weird. But a nice dream overall. I woke up happy. Unfortunately, it was only a dream.

I am going to be disconnected this weekend as I am heading down to Grand Rapids. I will be back "home" on Sunday. I wish I could write more but I should really get going so it will have to wait.

What would we normally be doing today? Honestly, probably nothing too special. We might have celebrated this weekend instead of today. Today, we would be working, come home and order take-out from somewhere. But the simple things were always the best things. I love you, Matt.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I just prayed my rosary for the first time.

I will say it's about time... I remember Matt trying to teach me once. I wasn't taking it seriously though. But now I am different. I feel different. I almost feel as though I've been given a new pair of eyes; I see the world differently. I've been given a new heart; I have more compassion than I ever felt possible. I look the same but I don't feel the same. I almost feel... fearless. Because God is with me at all times; I never saw it before. Now I see it and it's a wonderful gift; I just wish there could have been another way to it.

This was in my daily devotion from yesterday (I had to catch up today):

If you look back on your journey thus far, you can see that days of extreme weakness have been some of your most precious times. Memories of these days are richly interwoven with golden strands of My intimate Presence.

And this is one of my favorite Bible verses:

"Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hard ships, persecutions, and contraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10

When I am weak, then I am strong.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A simple song.

It makes my day. I walked into the UPS store today and 'Amazed' by Lonestar was playing on the radio; one of our songs from high school. I remember dancing to it at Sweetheart Swirl. That song has always reminded me of Matt for that reason and it was so special to hear it by chance today. Is it a sign? I'd like to think it's Matt's way of saying, "Hello" or telling me he loves me... that he's still here, watching over me. I have to hold these little things close to my heart.

I called SSA today to get my address changed and stopped by SOS to figure out what I need to get my new license and plate.

There is a wedding coming up in November for which I've been mentally preparing myself. I've gone from, "No way" to "I think I can", lol. Or... "I HOPE I can," is probably more appropriate. Someone shared something with me today... (I asked other widows how it was attending a wedding after losing their spouse)

"But it was easier than I thought, I kept looking at them and thinking "this will happen to one of them too, I just hope not for a long long time". That made it easier. Suffering is inevitable, joy is not."

That's a good perspective. Times of great joy are actually few and far between compared to the times of sorrow, loss, hurt, rejection. It's going to be difficult but if I think even a small part of me can share in someone else's joy now, then hopefully in two more months it will be even more of an attainable thought. It's got to happen eventually. I conveniently lost my husband in the years where there's a pregnancy being announced or a baby being born or an engagement or a wedding happening every month (or a combination of the aforementioned events). I better get used to it.

I just realized something last night: Matt is with two of his siblings up there. I find that to be a comforting thought. I had a dream two nights ago that Matt had another brother and Kristen also dreamed that same night that they had another brother, too.

Last night I had another weird dream. This guy said, "We should go out sometime," and I said, "You think so?" Pause. Then I said, "I'll have to think about it." And I was still wearing my wedding rings. I don't love that dream at all. It was creepy, lol. Matt needs to come back to me. I pray for him every night. I made up this insane story that, because visiting me in my dreams takes so much work, he's saving up his energy to be with me on our anniversary, which... by the way, is Thursday. Yup, my first wedding anniversary of widowhood. I will get to spend it at my husband's grave. Four years. Doesn't that sound so pitiful? We got to celebrate three years married. Three. Now it's over just like that.

We spent our first anniversary in Charleston, SC. It was so much fun. We took a carriage ride and visited one of the plantations. We stayed at this quaint little hotel right in the heart of the city... a hotel Elvis Presley stayed once. We ate good food and took long walks around town. It was perfect.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dream

I had one of the weirdest dreams with Matt last night. I'm pretty sure we were at a quidditch match (I watched Harry Potter before going to bed)... and Matt was there watching. He was wearing some kind of eccentrically-styled wizard wear. A striped shirt under a black coat. I went up to him and happily gave him a hug. He kind of shied away like he didn't want me to do that. I told him he was acting that way because his soul was gone. It was his body, but it wasn't the same Matt. I went on my own way and found someone else who brought me flowers and was really sweet. Matt followed me.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Transitory Phase


What am I doing? Relaxing. Reflecting. Thinking. Praying.

Until school starts, that's what I'm doing. I think Petoskey is the perfect place to do that, too. It is so quiet, peaceful, somewhat isolated and beautiful.

I'm going to enjoy this phase while it lasts because soon I will be delving into a new life in Grand Rapids. I will have school, therapy and support groups. But right now I just am.

I feel as though Matt and I have had similar challenges when I go back and read his accounts of his experience recovering from his accident. They are very different events; Matt’s was very much a physical AND emotional battle while mine is just emotional. But what his tragedy did for his faith is what my tragedy is doing for my faith. I suppose that God is most apparent through heartbreak. It seems somewhat contradictory but when all else fails you, God is the constant; God is what I have left when everything else has been stripped away. This has been a wake up call.

“You are my rock and my fortress, for your name’s sake lead and guide me.” –Psalm 31:4

I had another dream with Matt last night but I barely remember it. All I remember is that it was our anniversary and he "came back" for it. I know there was so much more to it and there was dialogue; it seemed kind of lengthy... but that's all I remember.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Personal Essay by Matt (2002)

This is a memoir written by Matt after achieving a great goal following his recovery.

"I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature." -John D. Rockefeller

"Shot-gun!" I called out, and grinned at Berk. "Matt!" Berk shouted and stomped his foot hard on the pavement, while Scott chuckled. That's the last memory I have from June 2nd up until sometime around the 6th of July. Sometimes I think I can remember the car accident or being in the hospital, but I'm never really sure. Are those vivid pictures in my mind real, or only imagined after being told of what had happened to me?

While in the hospital my friends, family, and even strangers prayed for me. They knew that I could get through the coma and my injuries. I sustained a left parietal lobe hemorrhage, and a left orbital fracture to my skull. One of my doctors told my mom and dad that he didn't think I would survive. Well, I did more than survive. Through hard work and determination I climbed my way out of the three-week coma. I was released from the hospital July 5th, but I still had to learn to walk, talk, and eat again, so I was transferred to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Center. The doctors predicted I would need at least five to eight weeks of inpatient rehabilitation. I was discharged after three weeks, once again overcoming all odds.

After returning full time to Rockford High School, my next goal that nearly everyone thought was impossible was to earn my varsity letter again in swimming. The season started in November, and ended at the beginning of March. My times wouldn't budge throughout the season, no matter how hard I tried. I was beginning to lose the confidence I needed to get my letter. I knew that everyone would understand if I couldn't reach my varsity letter time; everyone except me.

It was the beginning of March, and I was facing the last opportunity of the swim season to earn my letter. I found myself standing on a starting block, overlooking twenty-five yards of water. The adrenaline surged through my body as Coach yelled, "Go!" I leapt off of the block with every ounce of energy stored in my anxious legs and swam harder than I thought possible. I went through the first turn, then the second and third. Nearing my last turn I took a breath before the flags and saw Coach Seifert telling me to push as hard as possible. I came out of the turn and saw my teammates cheering me on, as well as my friends who watched from the stands. It came down to the last second, and I hit the wall. Taking a deep breath, I looked up and heard everyone clapping with energy and joy. I did it. Only nine months after lying in a coma, I earned my varsity letter. There are no words to describe how I felt that day. That was the day that I knew I could do everything I had before the accident, and more.

Now I stand on the starting block that overlooks the next great challenge of my life - college. I will approach my studies and education with the same determination and sense of purpose that I did during my recovery from my injuries.

Once, I took life for granted. On June third in the year two thousand, that changed forever. I know now that life is a gift. I also know that with faith, hard work, and perseverance I can accomplish anything.

Dream

I did get my dream last night but it wasn't really him; he was just a character. I'm writing this early so it's relatively fresh in my mind.

I was going back to change the outcome of Matt's accident. It was basically like The Butterfly Effect, lol. It took me several tries. I was there at the scene of the accident and I saw Matt. I thought it didn't work this time but when the paramedics arrived on scene, Matt was conscious (barely). I don't know what I even did to change it. Somehow, his injuries were less severe on his head and it was mostly his chest.

Maybe I created this in my mind because one of the officers at SHP told me if Matt had been sitting up higher, he probably would have survived. And also because the medical examiner told me that tension pneumothorax was not the immediate cause of death (meaning, maybe if that's all it was, he could have been saved). If he had been sitting up higher, it also probably would have been a less severe case because that would have meant that there was more "car" in front of him to block the farm equipment (versus it coming through the windshield with nothing to block it).

Anyway, they put him on a stretcher and then I just remember being next to him while they worked to save him. I touched his arm and said something like, "I'm here. You're going to be okay." I think they were going to transport him via helicopter even though the accident took place literally right down the road from the hospital (which was lucky, all other possibilities considered).

Then I wondered if I made a mistake because I messed with the natural occurrence of events. Yes, I saved him, but what if it would end up worse than before somehow? What if he ended up in a vegetative state on life support or something? What if, because I saved him, now I would lose someone else instead (like one of our kids)? Because if you've seen The Butterfly Effect, every time he "fixed" one thing, something else would go wrong.

That's all I remember of my dream.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I try not to think about the future.

One day at a time is key. When I think about the future, it just puts a number in my head of days, weeks, years... and then I think about how long that is to be without Matt. It's pretty depressing to think of the future. So I try to keep my mind in the past and the present. I caught myself thinking tonight, "Let's say 20 years down the road..." and then I just wanted to erase that thought completely.

I'm starting to notice when my "crying times" are. It's either a.) while I'm driving or b.) while I'm laying in bed. I don't sob uncontrollably. I just softly cry for a matter of minutes. I was laying in bed with Noah tonight, waiting for him to fall asleep. I had my hand up, looking at our wedding rings. Then I just imagined Matt's wedding band on his ring finger. And then I imagined him holding my hand. And then I remembered our little "day date" that we had last Christmas. We went to lunch together and I held his hand walking through downtown Petoskey. We went to a little restaurant called The Twisted Olive. It was sooo yummy. We waited for a table FOREVER because it was packed. But it was worth the wait. We each got a sandwich and traded halves so we could try each other's. I was six months pregnant with Chloe at the time.

I haven't seen him in my dreams since the one where he basically told me that heaven is real... that was at least a week ago. I'll never forget the first dream he came to me two nights after he died and he told me that he was real (his presence in my dream). I miss him and I hope he can make the journey again sometime soon. I want to hug him again. Even if I only have him as a dream character, that's better than nothing at all.

I had to explain to a woman at the bank today my situation. Well, I didn't HAVE to, but I did. Because I still have my NC license so of course that always carries the question, "What brings you to Michigan?" It's a long story! But I almost always tell it. She even asked me what happened after I told her Matt was killed in a car accident. A lot of people don't ask for details. I really don't mind sharing at all, in fact, I like talking about it. I guess it's therapeutic in a way. So I told her... about what happened, how we have two very young kids, how our wedding anniversary is next week... I feel like I'm ruining people's day because they feel so sorry. I know that if someone had told me that happened to them, I would go home and share their story with Matt because it is just so heart wrenching; I would need to tell someone about it! But it is what it is. This time it's not someone else's sad story; it's mine. And the one person I would turn to for support is gone.

There is a special story behind these boots.


Uh oh. I wanted these boots SO BAD last winter. But Matt wouldn't let me buy them. (Because I can admit they are almost ridiculously expensive. Almost.) Now I live in Michigan. A pair (or five) of good boots is a must. So I thought I would search around for these bad boys. They were sold out everywhere except for one little website and now they are mine.

I felt like a rebel. I may have even broke a sweat while adding them to my shopping cart. But I got a good deal, I love them, and every time I look at them I will think of Matt, lol. Not to mention, I think I deserve to spoil myself just a little bit.

Matt, remember these?! Consider it my anniversary gift. :P

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

7-20-11

72011

7+2+0+1+1=11

Matt died 11 days before his birthday.

He died in the 11th hour.

Edit:

My friend, Kara, also pointed out how your birth year and age you will turn in the present year always adds up to 111. I never knew that before. So in Matt's case, 83 + 28 = 111.

I also did more research of my own about the number 11. I found the following post very interesting although it is written by someone just like you and me:
http://www.christian-faith.com/forjesus/angels-11-11


  • "... angels speak to us through prompts to get our attention, 11:11 being the most common."
  • "... the name Jesus Christ is 11 letters long."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sometimes I feel angry.

Not angry with the farmer.

Not angry with God.

Angry with Matt.

Angry with myself.

Why couldn't he have just been more careful? Did he not realize what was at stake? No, he knew. I know he knew because otherwise he wouldn't have made a terrible semi-joke before Independence Day weekend. I texted him ideas of what we could do. He called me afterwards and I asked him at the last minute before hanging up if he had seen them but he didn't hear me so I texted him the same question. He replied, "Yes, I'm driving. I'll read them later unless you want your children to be fatherless."

Why couldn't I have put up a more persuading argument to make him stay home? I could have said, "I'm telling you to take the day off. Now because I said that, you might get killed in a wreck. Is that worth one extra day at work when you feel shitty anyway?"

Of all things, the fact that I told him to take that day off is what kills me the most. I know I bring it up all the time.

I picked up an anniversary card...

Noah starts daycare tomorrow which is going to be great for me and for him. I'm keeping Chloe with me. Noah just needs the socialization and routine; I just need a break. So that will be nice. He is going to a childcare program at St. Francis Xavier. I like that it is in a Christian environment. The toddler group is small and the room is quite large with high ceilings. It's a nice, inviting atmosphere and the teachers are around my age. We looked at four different places this morning. The first one was kind of sketch. The second one was really nice but they were full. The third one was St. Francis Xavier and the fourth one was just okay; they seemed to have a lot of good activities but the outdoor play area wasn't fantastic and the inside just seemed really institutionalized and too closed off (not a lot of windows). So I'm really happy with my decision. It won't be as fantastic as Childtime but I think it will still be nice. :) The only down side is I have to pack a lunch for him since they only provide snacks; no meals, but that's just a minor disadvantage. It's right downtown in Petoskey and they charge hourly so that is also nice. Noah got the last spot available since there are only four toddlers in the "two's" group!

"... We are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

When I cry tears.

I let them linger. Each one is a memory. A hug. A kiss. I imagine Matt there next to me wiping my tears away. I imagine him with his hand on my shoulder, comforting me. Sometimes I just close my eyes and try to feel his presence.

Obviously, I have been thinking a lot about God and life after death since all this began. I never gave it a TON of thought or devotion before Matt died. Not like he did. After reading the speech he wrote, and how he didn't have a strong relationship with God before his tragedy; that's like me. It's the tragedies that make us turn to Him in a way we never have before. I look at the world in a whole new way; knowing that I have an angel in Heaven looking after me and knowing that Jesus is right here with me every step of the way. The depth with which we look at events, think about life... all that is proof enough that we are different. There is something amazing waiting for us after this life. We are like no other species. We were created with a bigger purpose.

Kristen (my sister-in-law) and I were talking about Matt last night; about what he must look like, what he acts like in his heavenly body. We were talking about how perfect he must be. No more seizures. No more small inconveniences that he endured as a result of his brain injury he sustained 11 years ago. I mentioned that he has full feeling back in his right hand now and he probably plays guitar flawlessly. Then she said he will have the most beautiful song for me when I get there. Imagining that makes me so happy. His perfect voice and perfect music will be there to greet me. I can't wait.

I loved the life we had. I felt like we had it all. I often thought, "This is perfect. I have my husband. We are young and healthy. He is successful and ambitious. We are going to experience so much together. New homes, traveling, watching our kids grow. Our two healthy kids who he adores. We are set. We may have our slight downturns every now and then but it's perfect." In more or less words.

But I always felt that day was coming. Deep down in the pit of my soul, I imagined getting that news. I think I always felt it because of his seizures. I just thought one day, he is going to have one while driving. And he will either get lucky again, or die. Well, it wasn't a seizure but it was a car accident.

Sometimes I cling to his cross. I have been wearing it since the day we moved. I just grasp it when I want to feel close to him and/or need comfort.

I oftentimes look to the sky; stare at the clouds. I didn't realize how beautiful they were until I was able to look up there and know that somewhere out there, Matt is in a glorious place.

It has been two months today. Two months ago, in 30 minutes, I will be told Matt was in a fatal car accident; my entire life will come crashing down.

I have been struck with a horrific tragedy, a real nightmare come true. But I am still blessed. I have the most supportive family anyone could ever ask for (that includes Matt's family because they are my family, too). And the best guardian angel watching over me and our kids; the best angel who will be there to welcome me at the gates of Heaven. I am going down a new path I never imagined I would be traveling. It's not easy but I know everything will turn out for the good.

Despite my heartbreak, I still love my life.

Monday, September 19, 2011

General Update

I have officially moved in to my permanent residence. Well, permanent until we all move back to Rockford. I have also officially made the decision not to go back to work. I am going to focus all my efforts on school and my kids. My depression over moving back to Michigan has subsided. I was right. It was j ust an initial reaction. I feel better being here. And I know it's what Matt would want. It's what I told him I would do if he died. I am still sad over having lost our home after already losing my husband but I know it was the right choice.

I have trouble recalling what I've already written so this might be repetitive. I oftentimes wonder if Noah understands that Daddy is never coming back. I think he does. When we went to the cemetery last week, he picked a dandelion and I told him to give it to Daddy. He set it on Matt's grave. He also kisses his pictures. He picked up a small photo frame last night that contains a photo from our engagement session and he brought it over and laid it next to me.

Now that I've made the decision not to go back to work and now that I'm settled in to our new home, my next step is to apply to GRCC and GLEMSA. I hope to begin this winter, in the new year. That seems quite a fitting time to start.

I also need to start searching for a grief counselor here. And some daycare for Noah.

I am doing okay. I almost hate to say that. I don't feel like I should ever be okay after all this. I know I will never be whole again. I just have to make the best of what I have left. Presumably, I have a lot of life ahead of me. I need to make the most of it. For myself and for Matt.

"... it carried me back to my Lord, from whom I will never turn away again."

The following is the speech Matt wrote for Baccalaureate at high school graduation.

Matthew Ch. 7, verses 7 and 8 - "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."

Nearly two years ago to the day, my life changed completely when I suffered a traumatic brain injury as the passenger in a one car automobile accident. In the prior months, my mind wrestled with my heart. Whatever relationship with God that I had left, diminished more with each passing day, as I found it harder and harder to believe in His existence.

I said that modern science could prove and predict almost anything. Surely, if this "all-mighty" creator did, in fact, exist, the top minds in the world would have a difficult time proving otherwise. But somehow, the otherwise was always put at my attention.

Baptized and raised Catholic, I attended church only when the family attended. More times than not, I complained; cringing at the mention of the possibility that my family would attend Mass that day.

And then came the weekend that the Lord came upon me in the form of a deadly car crash. Paramedics arrived at the scene, prepared to take my lifeless body away in a bag. But something stopped them. A fire started in the engine, and they wouldn't enter the car unless the fire was put out. Thankfully, two angels sent by God himself pulled me from the flaming wreckage.

As my parents were given the news in Tennessee, I fought for my life at the hospital. I was put in a drug-induced coma for two weeks to ease the swelling of my brain. My skull suffered a left parietal-lobe fracture with subsequent bleeding and bruising of my brain.

A little over a week into the ordeal, my parents were given news that even my closest friends have not yet heard. My doctor told them that the situation did not look good for me.

Through the prayers of strangers, friends and family, I made my way out of the hospital and into rehab, where I re-learned how to breathe, walk, talk, eat and carry out every-day activities. The prayers I received continued, and I stand here today, the same person that I was before the accident, now a product of the kindness of everyday citizens and their many prayers to God.

My Lord, God... He saw me slipping away from Him, and got my attention and the attention of many others by displaying His awesome power. He can give us life, but He can also take it away. As He looked at me from above during my struggle, people around me looked up at Him and pleaded for my life. My life was spared by the power of prayer, and the ultimate power of God.

According to modern science, I shouldn't have survived. And I shouldn't have survived as unscathed as I am. The only explanation; God came into my life to tell me that He is here, and loves us no matter what path in life we may be on.

The pain that was suffered during that time was minuscule in comparison to what this event did to my life. This car accident is, in fact, the greatest, most profound event to ever happen to me. It brought friends and family closer together. But more importantly, it carried me back to my Lord, from whom I will never turn away again.

Psalm 23 Verse 4:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I fear no evil
For thou are with me

Saturday, September 17, 2011

1 Peter 4:7-11

The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be serious and sober for prayers. Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace. Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Nightmare*

I had another bloody nightmare last night. I was driving by the scene of Matt's accident and another accident happened in the same spot. There was blood EVERYWHERE. It was horrible.

I started writing letters to Matt in a journal my aunt gave to me. It is a great way to communicate with him... or feel like I'm communicating with him. Because I can no longer talk to him like I would have had he still been here, writing letters seems like the only other way. I just pray he can get them. Somehow.

So how am I doing? That's a pretty good question. A lot of the time, I feel like I don't even know the answer. It goes back and forth. This strength that everyone keeps talking about... I guess I really don't have a choice. I'm sure it all comes from our kids. Because they are the only reason I have to be strong through all this. What would I have if I didn't have them? Nothing. They are Matt. And there is no greater comfort than that.

Oftentimes, it is said how "the stars aligned" when good things happen. It goes the same way for bad things. Probably even more so. Why did a farmer decide to take a tractor down the highway the very same day that Matt decided to stall his work day a little bit? Why didn't Matt just stay home like I suggested? Why did I choose THAT day to tell him to take a day off? And then the worst thing that could have ever happened, did. Why did he have to go to Starbucks first? Why did he have to choose THAT very minute to get distracted? The most crucial minute of our entire lives... and he had to pick up that damn phone. If we had never moved to North Carolina... if we bought a different house... if we chose that week to take our vacation... if Matt started his day like normal... if he had trouble finding his keys before he left the house... there are so many things that could have taken place that would have prevented this from happening. But instead, all the "right" (wrong) things happened that resulted in Matt's life ending. All in the blink of an eye.

I can't believe I lost him twice.

Your eyes foresaw my actions;
in your book all are written
down;
my days were shaped, before one
came to be.
Psalm 139:16

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our Headstone

I went to Patten today and designed our headstone.

Matt, I think you're really going to like it. It is going to be pretty baller, if I do say so myself. You'll be happy to know I spared no expense. All for you (and me, too), lol.

I figured I will (presumably) be looking at this thing for a long time, not to mention it will last forever so it has to be perfect. And it is. I can't wait to see how the first draft comes out. I am having one of our wedding photos (one of my favorites - it's actually the one at the top of my blog) laser etched on the front and I also decided to have another one fired onto porcelain (I think that's what it was) on the back... and that one can be in color. And Psalm 23:1-4 will be laser etched on the back also. That was one of Matt's favorite bible verses.

Anyway, it's going to be sweet. I can't wait to show off my headstone, lol.

OH! And he said it will likely be put up before the snow starts falling so that's good news!

As for another project, I decided to finally drop off my wedding dress to be cleaned and boxed. I guess there's no motivation like your husband getting killed to move that to the top of the to-do list.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mementos

I found more Matt mementos at my mom's house. I LOVE finding those treasures. One was a card he gave to me for our anniversary. Another was a poem he wrote. And some other various things, like a strip of pictures from a photo booth and some postcards he sent to me from Steamboat and PCB.

I have been dreaming multiple times about dying. In my dreams, I think I am about to die, I pray it doesn't hurt too badly, and then I end up living. And then I'm slightly disappointed. Like last night, I dreamt I was in a war zone. I was trying to survive and avoid the bad guys but then I kept thinking about how much easier it would be to just show myself, get shot and die. One way or another, I ended up getting shot multiple times and I was just hoping it wouldn't hurt but I felt the impact of bullets. Then I felt my left lung collapse and could hear it and I wondered if I had a broken rib that punctured my lung and would suffer tension pneumothorax like Matt did. But of course, I survived in the end.

I also had a dream a couple nights ago where I found something Matt had written. I can't remember exactly what it said, but it was something about how his biggest fear was that it could all end tomorrow. I thought to myself, "HE was afraid of it all ending tomorrow... and instead it ended for me."

I feel as though I'm sitting among ruins... just looking around in a pile of rubble trying to figure out my next move. I started to work on my resume last night because I miraculously got both children to sleep by 8:15. I don't even know what I'm looking for in terms of a job though. I NEED benefits more than anything, so if the only way to obtain them is to work full-time, then that is my goal. I don't really know what I want to do though. Since I'm pretty much changing my career path entirely, it seems counterproductive to go back to working in the legal field. But it might be the easiest thing for me right now so I will definitely keep my options open. I'm hoping to start school next fall. I've been torn between nursing school and EMS academy so I think I will just do both. I think it would be awesome to be a flight nurse one day.

I have had the kids by myself during the day all week (that's only two days but it feels like forever, lol). I'm not going to lie, it's kind of a nightmare. One person trying to take care of three people does not work out very well. I feel like I can't get anywhere. It's overwhelming.

Matt was always so great about letting me know how he really felt about me. I probably already wrote about this. But we were in the car one day without the kids and he said, "You are my best friend, Steph. Yes, you're my wife and the mother of my kids but, above all those things, you are my best friend." It just makes me realize how important it is to let other people know how you feel. Because you might be gone before you know it and those people will have been glad to hear those things. They will carry your words in their hearts forever.


We went to Matt's grave today. Just to say hi. It is very peaceful and comforting there. I would love to just stay all day. I can't wait to finally have our monument set up but it probably won't happen until after the snow is all melted away. I'm sure it will take time for it to be made and by then the ground will probably be too cold. But it is going to be the most perfect headstone. Presumably, I will be looking at it for many many many years to come so it has to be awesomely perfect. I have been thinking about the design for a long time already. I will be going by the monument company sometime this week to finalize my design.

Monday, September 12, 2011

This is not home.

I always used to refer to Michigan as "home' but it is different now. Matt was my home. this does not feel like home without him. Now a part of me wonders if moving away from North Carolina so soon was a mistake. I don't know. I just have a terrible feeling about being here like this. I'm sure it's just my initial reaction and it will get better with time. I just had to pack up all of Matt's things and all of my things... our entire home. And now it's gone.

I don't even get to look at it anymore. I almost feel homeless and it can't be undone. Even though Matt was not in our house, I could still sense him because it is where our life was. Leaving all that behind is almost as bad as his death itself.

I would rather be back there.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"For the Bride and Groom"

I put Matt's cross on this morning and told him I really needed him to be with me today.

THEN...

I found a wedding card in the most random spot (in the garage). Not signed by anyone, and it says the following:

Hand in hand...
always loving,
always caring.

When the last picture
has been taken,
the last dance
has been danced,
and the night sky shimmers
with a thousand
magical moments,
may it be
just the beginning
of a beautiful lifetime
of love.


So this is how I interpret it. Obviously, the card is talking about the last picture, last dance, etc., from the wedding reception. But I think I found this card because even though Matt and I took our last picture and danced our last dance, we created many beautiful memories together and he will always be with me. And he wanted me to know that everything will be okay.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Grief is a gift.


I have been struck down by tragedy. My entire life has changed. But I can see through the darkness. I am still lucky. I am lucky to have known Matt; to have loved him and to have been loved by him. I am lucky to have two beautiful children, who are a living piece of him. And I am lucky that I am closer to God than I’ve ever been before.

There is beauty in grief. Grief is a reflection of the love you had for someone. It is a feeling that leaves you so raw and so bare; you have nothing left to hide. It leaves you at your lowest point, from where you have nowhere to go but up. It makes you reevaluate your life; makes you regain appreciation for things you may have taken for granted before. In a way, grief is a gift. And it should be embraced; not hidden.


Final arrangements.

For my life here in North Carolina. I set up cancellation for satellite and internet. Signed release forms for the kids' medical records at the ped's office.

I hate this.

There will be no more pretending that Matt could walk through the door. I'm leaving our home. Maybe a part of me feels like he won't find me. No matter where I am, a piece of me will always be left in Greenville. This is essentially where Matt and I began our life together. And it makes me sick that I'm leaving it all behind. Without him.

Absolutely sick.

I'm at a point where I make (probably inappropriate) jokes and make light of serious emotions to try to evade my grief. I think one of my posts below is an example of that... about how dying is cheaper than having a baby.

But seriously... this blows. I know I can't stay here but I just wish I could stay in the false hope that maybe I will wake up one morning and it will all have been a bad dream.

Leaving is going to make this too real. But, at the same time, I can look forward to my new future. I can look forward to taking all of this energy generated from my grief and devoting my life to helping others.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sigh. No more babies.

Putting my maternity clothes in a donation box was one of the more depressing aspects of this whole deal. Although I did keep one maternity sweater that Matt gave me for Christmas last year. I was keeping the good stuff around (jeans, shirts) because I thought we would have at least one more child in a couple of years (and I was even kind of hoping for another round of two under two!). But, alas, no more babies for me. I'm just so thankful we did have two so close together. Not only for my sake but also for Noah and Chloe's sake. They will always have each other to lean on. Words can't even express how thankful I am that I convinced Matt to start trying when we did. =) And had we decided not to, it would have been delayed even further because he got laid off when I was very early... and even though he was hired back, that might have scared him from having another so soon just in case it happened again! :O Some things just work out.

My co-workers took me out to lunch today. Tomorrow is my last day at work. :( I wanted to go somewhere that had Southern food and we went to a great restaurant that I had been to once before with them. So yummy! I had some things I never had before: Fried okra, collards and chicken & pastry. I also ordered sweet tea even though I usually get unsweetened tea. But I had to go all out! I also need to hit up Chic Fil A before I go! Speaking of other North Carolina experiences, I had my first traffic stop/license check thing a couple weeks ago. And also my first hurricane AND even an earthquake (which doesn't normally happen here).

What I am going to miss the most about the South:
  • The accent
  • The hospitality
  • The ocean (even though I'm not much of a beach person)
  • Charleston and Washington, D.C.
  • The food (in general)
  • Sheetz, Zaxby's and Bojangles
What I am NOT going to miss?
  • Hurricanes
  • Lack of snow
  • And particular to Greenville, the traffic
But I'm so glad we had the experience of living here. Now it's time to go back. And unfortunately, it's minus one person.

I have been thinking so much about what I want to do with my life. I have this overwhelming urge to help others. And I think the way I want to do that is through nursing. I've been toying with the idea of going to GRCC for an ADN (associate's degree in nursing) and hopefully finding employment in the field while continuing my education for the BSN. I have also thought about becoming a paramedic but, being a single mother of two, I need to be conscientious of pay and I would make more in nursing. And I could still work with trauma patients, which would give me that fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled environment similar to a paramedic's. But I am also interested in ICU and rehab. This obviously won't happen for some time yet. I need to figure out how I'm going to just establish the basic functions of a normal life first, lol.

I took two hours this afternoon to write out some nice, heartfelt notes to the SHP office. I never realized how closely with the public they actually worked, I mean in terms of how personal it can be. It's pretty intense... I guess especially in cases that involve a death. But they have been super kind and if you feel strongly enough, you should let people know you appreciate what they do. You just never know if you will have the chance tomorrow.

Note to self:

It costs nine-thousand and some-odd dollars to be transported to the trauma center and die.

Before insurance.

At least that's cheaper than having a baby.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I spoke with the medical examiner himself.*

Let me attempt to make sense of my barrage of scratchy notes that I took while he explained things to me. Very nice guy, by the way. He was very thorough. So, here it goes. If anyone in the medical field sees something that doesn't make sense or needs clarification, by all means, correct me.

I will just go from start to finish even though this is all over the place.

The medical examiner first determines if foul play was involved in the death. In Matt's case, no. So they did not do a full autopsy. Plus, his immediate cause of death was fairly obvious. There were three main factors, however. And, wouldn't you know... Matt's injuries all involved his lungs, heart AND brain.

The first problem he mentioned was tension pneumothorax. When there's trauma to a lung, it's oftentimes caused when the edge of a rib lacerates the lung. This laceration on Matt created a flap where the rib punctured his lung. He was able to inhale air into his chest but when he exhaled, the flap closed. So air was going in, but not out. This causes air to fill the chest cavity and pushes the heart to the side, causing it to stop beating. They inserted a chest tube where the collapsed lung was.

The second thing they did was insert a needle into his abdomen to see if blood came out. Sometimes, when a rib is broken, it can tear an artery. They already had the chest tube in place because they check the chest and the abdomen for this. No blood came out when they inserted the needle.

The third thing was where they check the head. There were a number of lacerations on Matt's head and his scalp was torn (so lots of bleeding). There is something written here about two big signs. Oh, I know. He said there were two big signs of head trauma that led him to conclude that his immediate cause of death was head trauma (I think I'm saying this right). Periorbital hemorrhage - this is bruising around the eyes caused by a blow to the face. And a basal skull fracture - a horizontal fracture at the base of the skull where the spine comes in. This is getting difficult to type but I just have to keep reminding myself that he was unconscious.

A bad sign was blood draining from his ear as a result of the basilar skull fracture. This indicates life threatening damage to the brain.

At PCMH (Pitt Co. Memorial Hospital), they will immediately do a CT scan. I'm not sure if he was telling me this was done on Matt or if he was saying what is typically done. I can't remember. But he said if someone comes in in bad enough shape, they obviously don't worry about performing x-rays right away. He looked at the chest film. Matt was brought in with PEA, which is pulseless electrical activity. If I remember correctly, there are two common fatal arhythmias: Fibrillation where the heart wiggles in an unorganized pattern. This type is better than the other because usually they can shock the heart and it will go. I'm guessing PEA is the other type and he said something about the chest tube being put in because Matt wasn't making any breath sounds or something.

So Matt came in and his heart was not beating. And I have bradycardia written down... and after that I wrote wide complex - heart dying. Not sure what the wide complex part was about. He said they did a fast scan ultrasound of his chest and there was no movement of his heart. Which is obviously a bad prognosis. Oh, here we go... so the PEA means there was a regular heartbeat trying to beat but the heart was not responding. If that makes sense.

And here is my last little section of notes. There was an air rush on the right side of his chest and breath sounds were obtained.

The blunt head trauma coupled with bradycardia = not survivable.

He had fractures on the left of his face; well, a number of fractures on his face. And then again I wrote down periorbital hemorrhage and basal skull fracture.

The accident occurred at 10:23am. He arrived at the trauma center at about 10:45am. His time of death was 11:35am. When I asked him about when Matt arrived at the trauma center, he gave me a series of times where notes were inputted into the computer system. 10:59, 11:08, 11:13... and so he said Matt arrived before they started entering notes, of course. So that's where I just kind of guesstimated 10:45.

I thought it was so nice of him to take the time and explain all this to me. I feel so much better knowing more about what exactly happened to Matt.

I appear fine but my heart is crying inside.

And that's just the way it is. I smile, I laugh, I am pretty much myself. But inside is so very different. But what am I going to do? Walk around sulking all day? Wallow in depression? That's simply not me. I don't really have the capability to do that. I have moments where I shed tears and feel really sad. And I let those moments come as needed. That's usually at night when I'm alone. But otherwise, I look happy. I think that writing is such a great outlet for me though. I think that writing is what helps me be that way. I can write about how shitty I am feeling, get it out of my system and carry on. I don't have to hold anything inside.

Today is Noah's 2nd birthday. We would be in Michigan right now. I told Matt about how I thought it would be fun to take him to the zoo today. Just the three of us. Leave Chloe with someone and enjoy some two-on-one time with Noah. That sounds like bliss right now. I mentioned to him within a month of the accident about how I think sometime we should just take Noah out and leave Chloe with a sitter. I thought it would be nice for him.

This is what I wrote in Noah's birthday card. So that he can look back at it one day.

We love you, Noah. You won't understand this until you're older, but even though Daddy is not here with you today, just know he will always remain in your heart. He is wishing you a Happy Birthday from Heaven & he will ALWAYS love you. Love, Mom

Anyway, I might have to start listening to music in the car again. At least when I'm alone. Then I can get more crying time in, hah.

I feel like when I'm doing things, it takes me so long because I end up just staring off into space, thinking. I am so distracted in everything I do. It's kind of annoying but I'm just going to have to let it roll.

"Finally draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power." Ephesians 6:10

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Real Deal

I'm just trying to get all my ducks in a row this week before I leave North Carolina forever. I called Trooper C. and we ended up talking for a good little while. So I asked about how they were trying to get up with me that day. The first thing they did was come to our house. Obviously, I wasn't home. So they asked the neighbors about me. And we don't know our neighbors well, not to mention two of them had just moved in like within a week before Matt's death. But the woman next door to us told them there was a homeowner's association and so they contacted HOA and got the name of our realtor. And then our realtor, who is also our friend, told them where I worked. And voila.

So anyway, information surfaced that Matt's phone was between his legs. I found this out last Friday. I had this unrelenting urge to pinpoint a reason as to why this all happened. And now I have it. That was the final piece to confirm my speculation all along. And guess what? A.) I'm not surprised and B.) Hearing that was like being given a big gift box wrapped in closure. But Trooper C. wouldn't speculate with me, try as I might. I couldn't get him to tell me that was the reason. But I feel like I know. I felt like I knew a month ago, I just couldn't say it yet.

I left a message for the doctor who treated Matt in the trauma center. I'm waiting to hear back although I wouldn't be surprised if I didn't... but we will see. And I also left a message to the towing company to see if they might, by chance, still have Matt's house keys. He had a keychain remote for our security system so if I could get that back, that would be nice. But I'm not betting on it!

Anyway, I felt a lot better about things after I talked to Trooper C. and I also had another therapy sesh today. I feel okay. I am sad to be leaving our home here. But at the same time, I look forward to moving back to Michigan to be with friends and family.

My therapist asked me, "Do you feel like one half of you is doing okay and the other half is doing terribly?" That is EXACTLY how I feel.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Alive one minute, gone the next.

On my way home from grabbing some food, I found myself driving behind a black Jeep. I just kept imagining the Jeep turning into our neighborhood, pulling into our garage and out jumps Matt like it was just another day. Ahhh, it's nice to fantasize.

This is my last week in our home. I've been pretty down lately. Although Matt has been helping me some, mostly since he took the time to meet up with me in my dream the other night. With as much as we talked about dying and life after death, I'm so glad he's not completely leaving me in the dust here.

I will probably see if I can contact the doctor who treated Matt that day. I don't feel like I know as much as I should in terms of what happened to him. All I know is that my husband was in an accident and died from head trauma. ... ? There was no going to the hospital and praying he would be okay... no speaking directly to medical staff... nothing. From my perspective, he was fine at 3:34pm and then dead at 3:35pm. That was it. I just feel like I'm missing something. I need to finish putting everything together this week before I leave.

January 17, 2011

I had another dream with Matt last night but this one didn't feel like it was really him. I think it was just a fabrication of my own mind because it played out like he was dead and came back or I knew he was going to die or something like that. But it was Labor Day and he was there and I told him that this was probably the last day we would ever get to spend together. The kids were at daycare but we both had the day off from work.

That actually did happen in January when we both had Martin Luther King, Jr. Day off but the daycare was still open. I remember being SO excited to spend the entire day with Matt, just the two of us. We went to the car dealership to start looking at what we would want for our next car. We test drove a Traverse and brought it home to see if it would fit in our garage. Then we got lunch at Olive Garden and came home and took a nap. It was always the little things. I loved it when we had time together without the kids (or kid, at this particular time, since I was still pregnant).

I guess that really was the last whole day we ever got to spend alone together.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dream

Matt was in my dreams last night. And I subconsciously tried to tell myself to remember this one because it was so important. But, of course, it seems so vague to me now. I will share as much as I can possibly recall.

He was wearing his white shirt (it seems he is always wearing that shirt in my dreams). I feel sure that we hugged, which is always the greatest event in my life these days; dreaming about hugging my husband. But the important part was the dialogue. And because I can't remember it now, I will just have to give a general description. Basically, he was trying to explain something to me. Something about him and Heaven and all that; saying it was real. It was as if he was providing answers the questions I wrote last night. I was left with such a good feeling.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I did receive more information about that day. Karla told me more. There were some things I didn't remember and then there were some things communicated to her of which I was unaware.

The first thing was that when they called the office, they told my boss who they were, of course. They said, "She's not in trouble but we are coming to talk to her and she's going to need consoling."

Before Trooper Coley left the office, he pulled Karla out to the foyer. He had her promise him that she wouldn't let me go to the hospital. I had no desire to see Matt's body but they were obviously concerned about it, nonetheless. That leads me to believe it was bad, which I expected it to be, hence, why I didn't want to see him in the first place. But Sergeant Sales said, "He doesn't look that bad; there's just some blood on his face," so I don't know if he was just trying to make me feel better or what. I'm thinking probably so. At any rate, I am glad to have known this additional information. But now I want to call Trooper Coley one more time even though I told him the last time I wouldn't call him anymore, lol. I know he doesn't mind though. There's just a couple more things that have come to my mind. I really want to know what he thinks happened and I want to know about how they went about trying to track me down because it took them five hours. I think that's it and then I'll finally be done. I said that last time.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Doubt

"See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ." ~Colossians 2:8

I needed that right now. If I'm to be honest, I have been feeling distant from God these last couple of days and it's a terrible feeling. And then I've questioned what really happens upon our death. I don't even know why. Is Matt really going to be there when I die? Are we really going to live in God's eternal kingdom when we die? Or do we just die and that's it? We had no concept of life before we were born... how is it different after we die? It has really been driving me crazy. Why can't I go back to the way I was feeling before? So sure, so positive. I don't understand where my horrible attitude about all this is coming from. It makes me ill. I feel like I'm stuck in a downward spiral. I better go to Mass tomorrow; I need it.