Tuesday, November 29, 2011

He still makes me laugh even though he's not here.

I was just scrolling through our old text conversations on his phone.

Thu, Mar 3, 2011 - We were talking about baby names

Me: How about Ryker

Matt: Sounds like a badass with guns

Matt: No


Matt: I can just picture somebody with magazines of bullets draped across the chest, dark hair, shirtless, camouflage pants, firing an automatic weapon at a group of terrorists... possibly smoking a cigar

Matt: and maybe a camo headband


Still "LMAO"... he was so funny. We all miss his sense of humor; that's one of the things we miss the most about him. No one else is funny like Matt was. I'm the closest.

Technology is a blessing when it comes to memories. I was looking for a letter I saved in a Word document and, somehow while I was looking for this letter, I came across some song lyrics that Matt wrote and I had never seen before. I wonder if this song is about me. Maybe it's about someone else... but I think I will just go with the idea that it's about me, especially since I stumbled upon it. I think it was under my "recent docs" even though I have never seen this before. It's called Symphony for the Angel. It was written in May of 2003, which is shortly after I paid him a visit at college. I was still a senior in high school and Matt was a freshman at Aquinas. I know (I think) he had a girlfriend at this time but the lyrics don't really read "girlfriend" to me?

Here's your good message
I love you
Perhaps in a different way now than before
but I love you
and I wouldn't trade moments
shared with you
for anything in the world.

You means so much to me
and I never want to lose that.
The pain of not being with you
will go away, but
the true pain rests in not being your friend;
Hopefully you still see me
as one of your good friends,
because I sure as hell still put you
in the best friend category.

You are still an angel, and
still one of the greatest
things to happen to me.
Nobody can take that away.
Dream sweetly,
because that is what
you deserve.

And again...
I love you.

Maybe it's about another friend. I don't think it's a break-up song... but it could be. If he never showed this song to anyone then I'm claiming it! :P I know he always appreciated the fact that I was there for him even after he dumped my ass the day before he almost died. I was always there for him. I loved him. Never underestimate the power of high school teenage love.

I have a lot of catching up to do from last week. We went to Beulah on Wednesday and then down to Grand Rapids on Thursday (Thanksgiving). Then I went up to Mount Pleasant Friday night. Then to Clare on Saturday and back up to Petoskey Saturday night. It was a lot of traveling. The kids do so well. I guess they really had no choice but to make good friends with their carseats in the last few months.

It was a pretty emotional holiday. I missed having Matt there with me. I missed him for Chloe's first Thanksgiving. I've been avoiding all those cute little bodysuits and sleep & plays that say "My 1st Christmas" or something similar. They just make me sad. I almost bought one the other day and as I was looking at it, I just thought it would be best to kind of dismiss the fact that this is going to be Chloe's first Christmas. There is already going to be sadness in the fact that Matt isn't here at all. I'm not trying to compound that issue with all the other things that go along with it.

However, despite everything, I am doing well. I am finding comfort in music, in family and in memories. And, of course, in the Bible. I'm also doing things for other people, which helps me, too. I try to give back year-round but every Christmas I commit to a charitable donation. Like... an angel tree, Salvation Army, donating supplies to the animal shelter, etc. Well, this year... I kicked it up a notch in memory of Matt. Plus, so many people have done things for ME and my kids in the last few months, I want to pay it forward. Matt had a special connection to Mary Free Bed after what he had been through in 2000 so I'm making a donation in his memory and including a letter about him that also contains words I took from his TBI blog. So, in a way, I'm hoping he can speak directly to other patients in a similar situation as his. I didn't want to send the donation without sharing his story.

Secondly, I picked up the Press last week and saw that they compiled wishes from those in need. I wanted to fulfill a wish that Matt would have wanted to fulfill. The one that caught my attention was from the Easter Seals West Michigan Therapy Center, a nonprofit clinic for children with special needs. I remembered that Matt was the president of Aquinas College's Project Open Heart, a club to establish positive disability awareness. And so... voila. I thought this might be right up his alley. They wanted a basketball hoop but when I called, someone had already fulfilled that wish. But she said they are also looking for Apple gift cards to purchase an iPad to help with speech and fine motor therapy. Well, that's perfect. So I ordered an iPad for them instead.

It is just a simple hope that I can make a small difference in someone else's life. I have been blessed. I have been taken good care of by Matt's company and by family, friends and strangers alike. If I am able to do something so generous, I will do it. Especially in memory of my beloved. He had a heart of gold; I want to be like him.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


When I first thought about Thanksgiving, I was sort of bitter and felt like it would be silly to be "thankful" for anything this year. But over time, I realized that I have a lot to be thankful for. If I had to choose one thing, it would be this:

I am thankful for the 11 years that I knew Matt and especially the last six years we shared our lives together. Matt truly made me a better person and still does today. He showed me God and introduced me to the Catholic faith. If it weren't for him, I don't know that I ever would have found God. He showed me what a good husband is. He was romantic, generous, faithful, supportive and worked hard to succeed for us. Now I could take nothing less. I would never replace him but if one day someone might come along... I know what a good husband is and I have very high standards. ;)

He also showed me what a good daddy is. In the 22 brief months that he was a dad, he was such a fun, energetic and devoted dad. He was so proud of our kids. He would come home from work every day and talk to me about how he showed pictures of the kids to the people at his doctor's offices and tell them all the wonderful things they were doing. I know that 22 months was far too brief, but I'm thankful that he was able to experience being a dad at all because I know how much he wanted that. I will never forget the sound of his voice saying, "We have a little boy!" when I gave birth to Noah. The first thing he did was walk over to me and give me a kiss (yes, he watched him come out).

And from there, our two beautiful children who are living pieces of Matt. I breathe a sigh of relief every time I think about them. I still have Matt with me in Noah and Chloe. There are no words to reflect just how thankful I am for that.

I count my blessings every day.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I had a not-so-fun dream last night. I was crying so hard and it was over the thing that hurts the most - that our kids are going to grow up without their dad.

Thanksgiving is this week. I look forward to being surrounded by family, especially Matt's family since I always feel more connected to him when I'm around his family. It will be really weird being with my family without him. That's when I feel so incomplete. I was always so proud to have him around my family because he was the best husband and father anyone could ever ask for. He was so funny and charming. I will really miss him a lot. In the last two years, we stayed home for Thanksgiving and just saved our days off to come up for Christmas and New Year's. This year, though... we would have been here for Thanksgiving since it was so near to the wedding we just attended. We usually traveled up here if there were enough reasons to make it worth our while. :) It's difficult to go through things that he would have been here for, too.

I went to the cemetery yesterday. I'm hoping our headstone is complete before the snow starts to stick! I don't know if they can put it up once it starts snowing. I have gotten back both pictures that I used on it so it must be close to complete. I'm so excited about it. And I'm even more excited that I'm going to have photos taken the first time I go see it, thanks to Sarah at Sarah Nelson Photography. I am sure it will turn out to be a beautifully-documented occasion. Anyway, I just caught up on my daily devotions, talked to Matt a little and prayed.

In terms of my emotional state, I feel pretty good today. Of course, I think about Matt all the time. I just miss him terribly but I look forward to the day we will get to see each other again. And I know we will get to see each other again. That's not even a question. And if I just keep that close to my heart, I can make it through. I have survived 123 days, 22 hours and 30 minutes. Like I said before, it doesn't really matter how much longer I have. It hurts no matter what; you just learn to live with it.

Just keep going... I say it all the time, but thank God for Noah and Chloe. I would really have no reason to live without them.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Another milestone

I went to a wedding. I was late to the ceremony but that was simply meant to be. It just so happened that my makeup artist was running a little behind schedule because she was doing makeup for a wedding party so that set me behind by about 15 minutes. I was truly not too worried about it. At all. I was able to sneak in unnoticed during the homily. So that probably spared me a few tears. I managed to hold it in... barely. And I could not look anywhere but at the pew in front of me during the vows and pretty much everything else. I just kept repeating over and over in my head, "Keep it together, keep it together, keep it together...". Since I was holding back tears, my nose started running instead. I brought a handkerchief in preparation. I would say overall... that was just short of torture. Perhaps it will get better with time... ?

Then I may or may not have had about four glasses of wine at the reception. And then went downtown afterwards. When the clock struck 12:00, it was the four-month anniversary of Matt's death.

I don't feel very "writey" tonight. It's getting late. Overall, the two things that summed up my weekend were white zinfandel and retail therapy.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Just two things

I got my new and improved Michigan plate in the mail this week. Years ago, when Matt drove a Pontiac Grand Am in college, he had a license plate that said, "FR NOT". It was "Fear not" after Isaiah 41:10, which reads:

Fear not, I am with you;
be not dismayed; I am your God.
I will strengthen you, and help you,
and uphold you with my right
hand of justice.

So, I give you...

(FEARNOT was taken.)

I randomly decided to watch our wedding video today. I ended up laughing and smiling more than crying but, in the end, I was left feeling pretty sad and hopeless. That went pretty much as expected anyway. I decided to write down a few things as I watched, and that kind of distracted me from bawling the entire way through. Well that, plus Chloe is extra mad and teething and devilish today so that distracted me, too.

As soon as the video began, I started to cry... before the actual procession. This was just during the seating of the grandparents while Tom was singing Ave Maria. That's when I had the idea of writing down some memories and things because I remember the way I felt so nervous and excited when I was in the back of the church and I heard Tom start to sing. I was like, "Wow, it's starting!"

Matt looked over at me right before we started singing the opening song and he said into my ear, "You look beautiful."

My shoulders looked awesome from taking pilates and yoga that summer.

I noticed that sometimes I kind of look like Ginnifer Goodwin.

I loved my dress. I still love my dress.

Our vows were, "I, Matthew/Stephanie, take you, Stephanie/Matthew, to be my wife/husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life."

And when we put the rings on it was, "Stephanie/Matthew, take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity in the name of the father, the son and the holy Spirit."

I just kept watching Matt and thinking, "There's my sweetheart. There's my baby. Gone forever."

I also kept taking notice of all the couples who had been together for a long time and thinking about how lucky they are and how jealous I am of them. That will never be us.

Matt's brother, Tom, was the best man and my best friend, Amber, was my maid of honor. Tom talked about how I visited him at the rehab center while he was recovering from his first car accident. He was conscious but he couldn't talk yet. And so when I left, Matt looked at Tom confused and Tom said, "Are you wondering why she didn't give you a kiss goodbye? You broke up with her the day before your accident." He concluded by saying, "The car accident was God's way of saying, 'Matt, don't be an idiot. This is the girl you need to spend the rest of your life with.'" And that he did.

Amber talked about how Matt and I first met. And shared the story about how I French kissed Matt in front of the entire swim team. Haha... that was funny. We were so dramatic.

Matt sung into my ear during our first dance. Just like he did when we went to our high school dance together.

He gets major props for pulling my garter off with his teeth.

And also for busting out his Michael Jackson dance moves. I love that I have that to show our kids.

I love how all of our bridesmaids and groomsmen said something to us and I love what Matt said to me. I can't remember what it was; I wanted to type it out but Chloe was preventing me from being able to do so. At the beginning he said, "The first time I saw Stephanie walk down the aisle she took my breath away. She is the most beautiful girl I have ever seen in my life. Stephanie, I'm so thankful for you and for your kindness and lovingness..." (I think maybe he made up a word) and that's where I left it. I just remember at the end he said, "I love you, honey."

We were so perfect for each other. Damn it.

I am so glad we got a videographer for our wedding. So so glad. Being in the position I'm in now... I would tell everyone to get a good videographer and a good photographer on their wedding day. If I knew way back then what I know now... I would have also taken the option to have the videographer film the photo session, too. I also would have done professional family pictures at least four times a year. I'm thankful we had them done when we did though. Especially that last family/maternity session we did in February. There are some priceless pictures in there of Matt and Noah together.

I'll include a retrospective of our wedding. It is played to our first dance song, "Such A Way" by Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I thought I would treat myself a little bit today with a mani/pedi. I've honestly never had a pedicure before. It might be addicting. Now I have pretty fingers and pretty toes. I'm pampering myself again on Saturday and having my makeup done because I'm supposed to be going to a wedding on Saturday? My "I can do this" attitude has slowly transformed into a combination of increased heart rate and hyperventilation. I don't know.

Anyway, my story never surfaced during my salon experience today. Close. I was actually wondering if she would make a comment on my rings. I noticed she was married, too. The first time I thought I might spill was when she asked me if I was from around here. I said Grand Rapids originally... but I moved here from North Carolina in September. She said I had an accent! That is so amusing to me. She didn't ask me why I moved here. Narrow escape #1.

During my manicure, she asked if I had kids. I said yup, two. Instead of my rings sparking a husband inquiry, it sparked an offspring inquiry. Little did she know my husband's ring was two fingers down. Narrow escape #2.

Lastly, she asked how old our kids were and I said two and seven months. Ha, she said I did not look like I had a baby seven months ago. I said, "Well..." and just kind of laughed. I almost mentioned how losing weight due to being under a tremendous amount of stress isn't ideal but... I decided not to. I almost turned it into a tidbit on how breastfeeding actually helps you lose weight but I feel sure that's not the only reason why I don't look like I just had a baby seven months ago. I just let that one go. Narrow escape #3.

It's not like I mind telling my story if the conversation leads in that direction... not at all. But if I can get away with pretending like I'm still married and everything is great and perfect, I will. ;)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

When I think about the holidays

I feel sick. I get a knot in my stomach. How am I supposed to act? What am I supposed to say? I'm totally stressing over it even though I know in my heart that God will carry me through it. I'm not supposed to fret about the future but I can't help it at this point. I'm just trying to think of things I can do that will help me. What is supposed to be a joyful time of family gatherings and making good memories is going to be another day where I "zombie" my way to getting it over with. I'm a zombie. I don't know what to say, I don't know what to do, I don't know how to act... I'm not myself anymore without Matt. Sometimes I just feel like an empty shell and I fear that is what it will be like through the holidays from now on. Or at least for a while. I'm trying to stay focused on today and not worry about the future but that is a very advanced skill I have not yet mastered.

However, I think I am improving on letting God take over... turning to Him for comfort and consolation. Yesterday was a very good day for me. One of the best. I like those days.

I can't help but wonder... not only what Matt is experiencing now... but especially what he experienced in that hour between life and death. And I also wonder if it would have made a difference had I made it to the hospital before he died. Might my presence have somehow pulled him back? What if I was there with him, holding his hand? Could that have helped him stay? It is clear to me that he certainly fought as hard as he could. He would have never wanted this... but, from what I have read and heard from those who have seen the other side, Heaven has a powerful effect that makes it tough to leave. That's why I wonder if my presence next to his body would have helped and maybe that's selfish of me to think that way but it's just something I think about.

I know things are the way they were meant to be. I have faith in God's plan.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I love the snow. Yesterday we had our second snowfall of the season. It makes me happy but it's also a reminder of the changing seasons. The changing seasons... evidence that time goes on without Matt.

I've taken a liking to the show Parenthood. I caught an episode on Tuesday night by chance (it came on after something else) and ever since, I've been watching episodes online. It's hilarious but it also makes me cry. I like to watch other people have their problems even though they're fake, lol. I feel like I can identify with their pain even though it's different. It's therapeutic! It's heartwarming. And it brings back happy memories that I shared with Matt (like giving birth to Noah and Chloe). I've now gotten Hulu Plus and I think I will become addicted to it. I found a new joy in curling up in bed at night with Chloe and my laptop and watching old episodes of Parenthood. :)

Today is 11-11-11. Eleven is a very special number and so today is a very special day (and it's Veterans Day!)... but I think the fact that today is 11-11-11 contributed to the most wonderful dreams I ever had last night. I took notes on my phone when my alarm went off at 7:00. I tried to tell myself to take notes right after the dreams but I was still sleeping so that didn't happen.

In the first one, I was on a swing set with a bunch of people. I only remember one person, specifically, it was a guy who also went to our high school who passed away like only a week before Matt did. He was smiling and sitting to my left. There was a girl on my right but I don't know who it was. Everyone was happy. And everyone was holding hands while swinging. I know this sounds insane but dreams are insane. Anyway, it was bright and sunny... an all around warm vibe to this dream. I remember sitting on the swing holding this girl's hand to my right and then this guy walked up, smiling, took my hand and sat to my left. I remember thinking to myself that he was dead but I don't know if any of the other people there were aware of this. They all acted normal and happy. I have no clue where I was. So we were swinging and out in the distance, but not too far away, I saw Matt. He was up high, sitting on the roof of... get this... the white house... get this... reading! For anyone who doesn't know, Matt had a hobby of politics. He lived and breathed politics (well, aside from his family and his career) and he loved to read. He looked at me and smiled. He was wearing a white shirt. I looked at him and smiled. We weren't close enough to speak but close enough to clearly see each other's faces. I mouthed, "I love you," to him and he mouthed back, "I miss you so much," and I said the same. Missing someone is a melancholy feeling and I'm not sure that happens in Heaven but maybe it does. Or maybe human feelings only arise when they are in communication with the living. Look, this is the type of stuff I think about every single second of every single day. My mind is absolutely consumed with incredibly deep thoughts all day long it's almost painful. That is all I remember of that dream. It was amazing.

In my second dream, I was aware of the fact that I was asleep. It was almost as though I was lucid dreaming, I don't know. I heard Matt's voice but I did not see him anywhere. Now I must refer to my phone notes because this gets crazy. Matt was speaking to me, telling me to really feel him, feel his presence... to know that he is here with me. It felt like my body was being lifted. Like he was carrying me or something. It was super strange. I guess it could also be described as a feeling of levitation. Someone is going to have me committed to a mental hospital. Anyway, there came a moment where my concentration slipped because I could hear someone in the kitchen. But I wanted to stay in this dream so bad I fought to stay there and I was able to go back to him before leaving the dream. I felt like I was conscious of the fact that I was really trying to relax so my mind could remain open to this. I could feel myself smiling from ear to ear in my sleep. He was trying to assure me again that this was real but I can't remember his exact words. It was him.

These dreams are profound enough to move me to tears. When I finished taking notes on my phone this morning, it was 7:11.

Okay, so that's done. What else... like I said, I just continuously have thoughts of life after death, when/how will I die, what is Matt doing, what can Matt feel, school, my purpose in life, prayer, the future, Jesus is with me, Matt is with me, take care of the kids, write, think, read, pray, eat, try to function like a normal human being, thinking of others who are overcoming a loss, what is all this for, why do we do the things we do when we are all going to die someday, maybe I was Matt's purpose, maybe the kids were Matt's purpose, I need to clean my room, I need to go to the store, what if I die today, why didn't Matt see the tractor, what would we be doing right now if he was still here, why are things the way they are, my dreams, is Matt with me right now, and I need to stop thinking for a minute to give my brain a break but it's impossible.

That's all.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why me? Why not me!?

Why not me?

I am strong. I can do this. I can be sad but I can also persevere. I am not the only one in the world who is suffering affliction.

This is all a part of His plan. My purpose will be revealed to me soon enough.

There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Terribly negative post commences now.

Living like this is torture. But I know just have to hold onto my faith. It would be so much easier to hate my life and never get out of bed in the morning but I can't do that because of these two little angels of ours. They are saving my life. I know this process can't be rushed but I look forward to the day when I can feel totally and completely happy again. Grief is really taking a toll on me... it weighs so heavily on my mind and spirit. And it is ANNOYING! I want my old life back. I just need to keep moving forward even though my heart yearns for what is no more.

I still don't understand. I can't help but keep asking why. Why this happened. I know one day the reason will be revealed to me. I know God is holding me and Matt is in my corner... cheering me on. But ahh sometimes I am just screaming inside.

I had a dream last night where I was thinking that even though I will be very busy once school starts, it would probably be a smart thing to make time to see a counselor on a day where I have only one or two classes. And so that is what I'm going to do. I think I will especially need it while I'm in school.

As a side note, that song "Good Life" by OneRepublic makes me so MAD! I hate it with every ounce of my being and I hate seeing that stupid Disney commercial.

My light

In a world filled with corruption, infidelity, manipulation, dishonesty...

Matt was my knight in shining armor. He was my best friend. My rock. I know (knew) he would never hurt me or leave me. He was my light in a world filled with darkness. I could always depend on him.

On this DVD of his entitled "Original Songs", there is a folder called "Incomplete". It's just a bunch of songs, recordings, poems, etc. he never finished. There is a song in there called I Love from 2005.

[Edit: I found a complete version of the song... even better!]

I Love

By; Matt Hales


G B/G C/G Dsus2

I love you for, your care-free soul,

G B/G C/G Dsus2

When you call, “do you need anything”

G B/G C/G Dsus2

Your desire to take care of me

G B/G C/G Dsus2

You are the fire and the light of my eyes


C/G Dsus2 G F#/G Em

Wrap your arms around me, so I may feel your touch

C/G Dsus2

Enfold myself in you, I become lost

Verse 2:

G B/G C/G Dsus2

For cognizance of the arts

G B/G C/G Dsus2

Music, art, film, your fascination in wine

G B/G C/G Dsus2 G

The questions you have, about God and his work in our lives

B/G C/G Dsus2

I love you,

Pre-Chorus 2:


Em C G F#/G

I love you more than the stars in the sky

Em C G Dsus2

More than the moon, that you make me fly by

Em C G F#/G

When you look in, into my eyes I get

Em C G Dsus2 C/G Dsus2

Lo---st, your beauty captures my soul – I beg of you – Hypnotize me tonight

Verse 3:

G B/G C/G Dsus2

I love you for those midnight reminders

G B/G C/G Dsus2

That keep me from a hospital bed

G B/G C/G Dsus2 G

The way you gently wipe the sleep from my eyes

B/G C/G Dsus2 G F#/G

Proclaiming they’re the only pair you can see

Pre-Chorus 3:

Em C/G G F#/G Em

Gaze into each other’s eyes for hours on end

Em C/G G Dsus2

That look tells me you love me, I need not hear your words


Bridge 1: Instrumental

Bridge 2: With harmonics

You are

the air I breathe

The water I drink

The blanket that warms me

Without you, I’d suffocate

Dehydrate or freeze

Without you

Without you I would bleed


Chorus (Alt lyrics):

I love your sensual touch

When you ask me to play for you

We kiss, and our lips become one

I love these things about you and more

In so many ways

I love you

"Your midnight reminders that keep me from the hospital" ~ He is talking about me reminding him to take his seizure medication at night. He was supposed to take it around the same times every day.

I took a life lesson from the movie My Best Friend's Wedding (great movie). It's when Michael and Julianne are on the boat and he says, "When you feel something you say it right then and there or else the moment just passes you by." Don't hate on the fact that that came from a chick flick. It's a good chick flick. And it's a good piece of advice. I've always tried to live by it and I am glad I have. Anytime I thought about how much I loved Matt, I told him as soon as the thought entered my mind. And he did the same for me. Now he's gone. But I will always remember doing that. I will especially always the remember the random times he would tell me sweet things. It's the most simple thing, telling the person you love how you feel. I didn't tell him I loved him that morning but I've come to realize that it doesn't matter. Because if I had, it would have been more of a routine thing. The moments where I truly spoke from my heart are the moments that really matter.

Monday, November 7, 2011


I need to write a thank you post. I've been trying to formulate how I would go about writing this and my thoughts are all jumbled and unorganized so I'm just going to write. I just can't go any further without recognizing all of the wonderful gestures I've received in the past few months.

- Donations to Noah and Chloe's college funds. I can't even express the right words that would appropriately reflect the amazing generosity of all who've contributed to our children's college funds. With the contributions made by Matt's company, his co-workers and our family and friends, Noah and Chloe are guaranteed a continued education beyond high school. I am completely in awe that all this has been made possible with the good hearts of many and it is something I know our kids will appreciate and cherish forever. And to the person who set up the entire fund in the first place... you are amazing!

- Cute and fun clothes for Chloe! Someone Matt and I went to high school with started a children's clothing line and was kind enough to send me a bunch of adorable samples. Something fun that lifted my spirits a lot. :) Just to know that we're being thought of and pampered a little bit here and there helps to make it through another day. That also includes the meals and goodies that were brought over to our house right after Matt died. Incredible support... incredible generosity.

- Our landscaper has taken over caring for our yard for the remainder of the season since I am not down in North Carolina to care for it. Free of charge.

- A friend of a friend made a beautiful cross for us to put up at the site of the accident. I've never even met him.

- Speaking of people we've never met, some traveled to Matt's funeral and his memorial Mass; not short distances by any means, either... to offer their condolences in person. And a group of girls whom I've never met sent a gift basket of goodies to me. That kind of support will never be forgotten. None of it from anyone will ever be forgotten but something about receiving so much love from people who have never met us is really special.

- All the notes to Noah and Chloe, the books, the cards, the messages and emails, phone calls, shared memories, songs. They all mean so much to me. I especially love hearing memories that other people have of us that even I have forgotten. Even when other people have dreams about Matt. I love to hear about them. Just anything about Matt. It is nice to know that he will never be forgotten.

-All the beautiful flowers. I walked into the funeral home and all of those beautiful flowers surrounding Matt's casket... I honestly wish I had a picture. It was lovely to see how many people were thinking about us. The flowers were a representation of all the prayers and support... and I know that was only a fraction.

-Photo creations. My cousin put together a photo montage for the visitation. Just recently (as in, I received it today), Matt's cousin created a wonderful photo book filled with bible verses, pictures and quotes from Matt... things he said about being a dad. I love it.

I hope that I have been able to respond to everyone's messages. Quite honestly, a lot of things that happened in the first couple of months is a complete blur. But I have read every single one and they've all spoken to me and touched my heart in a special way.

Some things I never knew before this: Sympathy cards are one of the single most uplifting things after losing a loved one. They are so simple but they speak volumes and mean a LOT. One of my very favorite things that we have gotten are Mass cards. And I love receiving bible verses. Bible verses provide so much peace and comfort. Don't know what to write? A bible verse works wonders! Think it's too late to send a card? It's never too late. There is no such thing as "too late" when it comes to sending a sympathy card. Truly. It is nice to know that people are still thinking about you even months or years after the fact. Because it never goes away.

It's safe to say I never knew how much love there is out there in the world. But now I have seen it for myself. As the holiday season approaches, all of that love will be carried with me and give me strength through what will most likely be an extremely difficult, if not the most difficult, time of grieving.

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful." Colossians 3:12-15

Sunday, November 6, 2011


I was reading back through my post from last night. About calming Matt's fears of death. What did I know, really? I know nothing about what happens after death. But I'm glad that we had that conversation. I'm glad that I was somehow able to tell him that death isn't scary... especially since I didn't realize how soon that would come to him. Since Matt died, I've had no fear of death whatsoever. I'm ready for it whenever it comes to me. But I've gotten to think about dying. And how that part might be scary. Matt probably didn't even go through dying because it came upon him so suddenly. He was knocked unconscious and an hour later, his body died. But however I die... at least I know that death will follow, taking away any pain I might feel. I just hope it's not too terrible or slow. I would be happy to die the way Matt did. Quick, sudden and totally unexpected. I'm just glad he didn't suffer. He didn't have time to be afraid.

Despite all that, I think I still have a small underlying fear of the unknown. That's what it was for Matt. The unknown. But I somehow convinced him that that was the exciting part about it all... the unknown. I was probably trying to convince myself at the same time. I wonder who was there to greet him. Maybe my grandpa? His great grandparents? I do find comfort in knowing that he will be the first person I see when I die. That is the most fantastic thought of all. That erases all my fears. So what if I die a slow death? Anticipation is half the fun.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

I remember a time...

We were in the living room one day watching something on TV that sparked a conversation about life after death. Matt said, in more or less words, that he was afraid of death; that he didn't want to die. We were discussing what truly happened when we died. I said, in more or less words, that the prospect of finding out what happens (when we actually die) was kind of exciting. So to not be afraid. I said our bodies are just vessels for our souls which will live on. I calmed his fears about death.

I know he always wanted to live a long life. He wanted to watch his children grow. He wanted to be there for all the things a dad experiences, from teaching his kids how to tie their shoes to hearing them say, "I hate you" for the first time. He wanted all of it. The good and the bad. He loved life and he especially loved life as a daddy. I don't know why he didn't get to have it. Why? Is it more painful that he didn't get to have his long life for him or for me? Is he really here... getting to see his children even though he cannot interact with them? Does he see us from afar? Is he in this room with me? Can he not see us but hear our deepest thoughts? Does he miss us? I don't know the answers to any of these questions. But I can tell you that these are the types of questions that are constantly running through my mind every single second of every single day.

Something I struggle with is being happy for other people. It's not that I'm not happy for them, actually. I should rephrase that. What I struggle with is expressing my happiness for others. A lot of the time. Not all the time. Most of the time. I'm just not in the mood. I'm praying to be able to feel joy at others' joy. But it's not coming very easily. And it makes me feel bad. But I know I shouldn't feel bad. Which is also annoying. I know I shouldn't feel bad so then I feel bad about feeling bad about feeling bad. Things are complicated.

I looked at a lot of pictures of Matt today. I created two folders: Matt & Noah and Matt & Chloe. So far, I have 114 pictures of Matt and Noah together and 8 pictures of Matt and Chloe together (and that includes one when she was still in my belly). I don't imagine the Matt & Chloe folder will grow much more, unfortunately. I'm sure there are less than 15 pictures of Matt and Chloe together out there in the world. But you know what? I'm thankful for those less than 15. I'm thankful that he was able to be with his baby girl for four months. That's better than none.

My life has certainly turned in a direction I never expected. The rug was pulled out from underneath me. I feel like this is a second life. The only constant between my two lives is our children. Besides that, everything is new to me. I lost a lot. But I can't dismiss the fact that I've also gained a lot. I lost my husband but I gained Christ (and a guardian angel). I lost my husband but I've gained stronger relationships than before. I lost my husband but I've gained a new purpose in life. A new perspective. A new attitude. Why did he have to be the sacrifice though? I lost my husband, I lost everything. I lost everything and gained everything. Things are complicated.

I fell asleep with Chloe this afternoon and dreamed about Matt. I have noticed that Matt almost never speaks in my dreams. If he does, it's very little. In this one, Matt had been dead but he came back. We were trying to take a scenic tour up a mountain but the lines were so incredibly long. He said, "We don't have to do it," and I said, "Are you sure? We don't know if we will ever have the chance again." We decided to leave but on our way back, we saw an elevator with no line. All of a sudden, everyone else was gone and it was just the two of us. We got on the elevator (which was like an elevator or a gondola, I'm not even sure) to the top of this great scenic mountain view and it was at sunset. The entire horizon was lit up with bright, hot pink sunlight. I said, "Have you ever seen such a bright pink sky? Well, you probably have," referring to the fact that he had already been in Heaven where everything is beautiful and vibrant. He didn't say anything. That was it. That was my dream.

Every night I think, "One more day down." "One more day without Matt." "One less day I have to live without him." It's almost as though I'm just waiting. Just counting the days away. Each night is a relief. I made it through one more day. I wonder if he knows how many more I have left. I don't even think it really matters. I've come to realize that one more day without him versus a thousand more days without him... it's all the same. One day without him is just as painful as a thousand days without him. It will never change. I'm learning to live with it. I'm learning that this void never goes away; you just get used to it. That's the thing about losing a loved one. There is no moving on from it. You can't move on from it. It stays with you forever.

My inappropriate sense of humor was totally wanting to embed a clip from The Sandlot here. Is that bad? Can I do that? Matt would totally get it but I don't know if anyone else would. X( Behind all of my heartfelt writing I do have a funny side. And I'm not denying that it can come up at the most inappropriate of times.

Regardless, I have to share this quote from Matt himself. I had written it on one of his folders in college to document this extremely insightful statement:

"Dude, erasers are so awesome. Do you ever think about that?" ~Matthew K. Hales

Friday, November 4, 2011

Reality is setting in*

I've noticed myself becoming sadder in the last few days. I think the shock is starting to wear off and I'm missing Matt more than ever. I cried last night.

I received the medical examiner's report yesterday. And the toxicology report, which of course came back saying there was no alcohol in Matt's blood. I certainly didn't need a report to know Matt wasn't drinking but I figured I would go ahead and add it to my collection of things related to his death. I'm thinking about our kids; someday they will want to see everything.

The medical examiner's report is four pages long. The first page has basic information (name, address, age, etc.). Then there is a timeline. The injury happened at 10:23am, time of death was 11:35am, the medical examiner was notified at 1:10pm and he viewed Matt's body at 1:45pm. Then it has the probable cause and manner of death.

The second page contains medical history, means of death, activity of decedent and premises and description of body. The last section states that his body was intact, no rigor mortis at the time of viewing, posterior livor mortis, his height and weight, body temperature was warm, hair color, eye color and that his teeth were natural.

The third page is a body diagram. Interestingly enough, aside from bilateral periorbital hemorrhage and a contusion and laceration of his lip, all of his injuries occurred on his left side. He had a 3 1/2" laceration and avulsion extending from the top middle of his head down toward his left ear. He had a 1 1/2" laceration and fracture next to his left eye. A 2" laceration and fracture in front of his left ear. Blood was draining from his left ear and nose. He had a large circular abrasion on his left cheek.

There was a 1" contusion right below his left collarbone. A 3" contusion on the front of his left shoulder. He had a small abrasion on his left elbow. He had a 1 1/2" contusion on his left hip. He had petechial hemorrhaging on the backs of both hands and a small contusion on the back of his left ring finger.

He had a neck brace, an ETT (endotracheal tube), OGT (orogastric tube), IO (intraosseous) infusion in each leg, EKG on his right wrist and a chest tube was inserted in both sides of his chest. The air rush from his chest came from the chest tube on his right side. They inserted the trocar into the left side of his abdomen where blood was not returned. A lumen needle was inserted in his left arm, which I'm guessing is where an IV was placed.

It scans as a PDF file and I don't know how to make it an image so anyone who cares to see the diagram can click here. It is linked to Google docs.

The last page is just a narrative summary of circumstances surrounding death and it's signed by someone.

I hate that all this happened to him. But it's clear that he fought as hard as he could and it's clear that the doctors and nurses did everything they could do to try to save him. I wish it would have been possible.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

First night alone

I do believe this is my first night completely alone since Matt's death. With the kids, I mean. It has been going okay. I really thought it was going to be a long night but thankfully, Noah went to sleep at his usual time. Chloe is still up, which is typical.

I really miss Matt. I miss the days when it was the four of us. Our perfect little family of four.

If I could see him again... that would be the best thing in the world. I wish we could have lived together forever. I wish we didn't have to lose our loved ones. I wish he could have watched his children grow up. I wish they could grow up with their daddy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

To live in mourning

It just becomes a part of you.

A dark cloud has been cast over your life.

Some days it is thicker than others.

Some days it thins out enough for the rays to shine through.

But it's always there.

This was my favorite time of year. September-January. I wanted to get married in the fall as a prelude to all the wonderful, festive things that would follow. I still enjoy it but this is the time of year where I will be reminded of what I no longer have - my soul mate. It is going to be a battle every year for the rest of my life.

At least I still have a sense of humor. I was a black widow for Halloween, after all. ;) We had fun last night. It was honestly the most fun I've had on Halloween in a while. Matt would have LOVED it. Petoskey is a wonderful place to be on Halloween.

Do I ever ask "why me?" Yes, sometimes. But not in such a way where it's like, "Why did God do this to me?" It's more like... why was I chosen to endure this? There must be a reason. This is a part of my plan and there must be a purpose to all this. One thing is clear: Living through something like this has enabled me to have a very special relationship with God I never thought I would have.

I bought a dress at Macy's today and the cashier asked me what the occasion was. I said I was just going to a wedding. She said something about a 72-day marriage and then, "I'm glad my marriage wasn't 72 days." And then something about her marriage and many years. I almost said, "You're lucky." But then decided I didn't need or want to go down that road with the cashier at Macy's. And that was that.

If I could talk to Matt just one last time, above all else, I would want to make sure he is okay and happy. I know he is but I just want confirmation from him that he is okay. I want him to say, "Don't worry about me, I am the happiest I have ever been." And I also want to know that he knows that we will be okay, too.