Sunday, September 23, 2012


I am sitting in my hotel room in Madison, WI starting this post. This town is Matt's town, he loved Madison. I got to know and love this city because of him. We dreamed to start our family life here.

Matt attended the University of Wisconsin and loved every minute of it. As I shared in a previous post, he loved the Badgers and of course this is where it all started. He furthered many friendships from Appleton here and also made new ones. One of the many things I admire about Matt was his ability to maintain his friendships. In a time when it's easy to get lost in our own world, Matt always made the time to call friends and catch up. And yes I said call, he didn't text, he called to say hello and see how things were going. I only hope that I can stay in touch with friends as he did.

The first time I ever came to Madison was not on the best of terms. Matt had a 2nd seizure shortly after his first when they were working on finding the right amount of anti-seizure meds that he needed. I got the call that he had a seizure and quickly drove the 3 hours to be with him and spent the night in the hospital snuggling with him in his very small bed. The next day we rallied and went through with plans to stay for the football game.

We went on to enjoy many weekends in Madison for football games, weddings, and general merriment. The hotel that I am staying at we stayed together many times and was even the same place he was staying at when he had the seizure. He had the seizure in the hallway when his roommate/coworker found him. He had showed me which room he was in and I recognize the bend in the hallway. I also remember staying here for a wedding. We had spent the morning walking around the fabulous downtown farmer's market and relaxed here afterwards snacking on the delicious cheesy bread the market is famous for.

Madison was also the town we talked about moving to and starting a family. We didn't see ourselves living in Chicago forever and thought we would end up here eventually. I love this town, it has a good vibe, plenty of culture and things to do with that down home mid-west style that I know and love. Of course Matt loved it for many reasons including the love of football energizing the town especially this Friday before a game.

But I am here on my own, feeling like an intruder to his favorite town. I don't know if intruder is the right word considering we spent many good times here and talked about our future here but I guess what I mean is I hate being here without him. I am here for work as I recruit at the University of Wisconsin. I remember getting this job and feeling so excited to tell him that I would be responsible for recruiting at UW. That I could somehow connect myself to this wonderful part of his life!

I cried on my way into town and  then at the Career Fair. I saw him turning the corner with that big beautiful smile, resume in hand, dressed up in his suit, all the hope and enthusiasm for the next stage of life. Crying isn't necessarily a good look for a recruiter so I quietly pulled myself together never missing a positive recruiter beat.

I could have sulked for the rest of the night but I had reached out to some of Matt's friends to let them know that I would be in town and met up with them at State Street Brats. I am glad I did. I am always glad when I meet up with his friends. We share memories and have a good laugh. Walking up the Brathaus, I was worried I would lose it but I didn't somehow. I don't know how I do it sometimes. I think it's the talk of good times and his good nature, sharing the love of him with someone.

I asked Matt once what his favorite time of life was. I think that's a pretty hard question to answer for anyone considering each stage has a uniqueness to it that makes it special and uncomparable. But being his wife, I expected him to say of course marrying you! But the majority of the time I was with Matt we were plagued with this awful tumor. His response, being at UW. I can't blame him, being in college has an innocence and fun to it that you can only hope to experience once. And after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, who can blame him for preferring a time when this didn't weigh him down. Some wives might be upset to hear this but I understand and I know I made Matt a happy man. The only thing I felt when he told me this which I shared with him between tears was that I was sad I couldn't be a part of his life then. First of all I wished we had more and more and more time together and if we went to UW together we would have had that. But just to have more time together not being weighted down by all this. I found myself again wishing for that. Not that I would take back my time in college, it made me the person that I am today but oh to have more time with him...

A great breakfast joint taken in Fall 2006... ate here by myself this past Friday

Fall 2006 - I think this was taken on my first trip to Madison

Enjoying beers at the Union before a Wedding

Hiking with Lila in Madison for the afternoon
Fall 2006 in front of Camp Randall

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Widow's Book Corner - The Alchemy of Loss

I bought The Alchemy of Loss by Abigail Carter some time ago and hadn't gotten around to reading it until a few weeks ago. The Amazon description is included below...

From Publishers Weekly
Carter's husband, C. Arron Dack, was probably in Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the World Trade Center, when the planes hit on 9/11. Although she hoped he'd miraculously survived, when he didn't turn up the next day, her grieving began. Carter, who now lives in Seattle, Wash., bases her grieving process on a book by Kathleen Brehony called After the Darkest Hour: the first stage, blackening, which in alchemy strips down lead to its original alloys, corresponded to her initial phase of disorienting grief, when she hardly knew how to live day to day, much less how to comfort their two small children, ages two and six. Next, the whitening stage purified the metal; for Carter, some new routines took hold and she started feeling as though she might make it. The final stage, reddening, when the base metal turns to pure gold, corresponded to Carter's own enlightenment. She accepted that she wasn't very good at her former job anymore, and she accepted that she didn't want to live in the house or the town that she'd shared with her husband. Resilient in the end, Carter shares all her doubts and fears along the way, which other grieving widows may appreciate.

Publishers Weekly is correct, I appreciated this book and Abigail sharing her story. Her husband's death was very different but in the end; grief is the same. Abigail discussed the up and down periods very well and made me again understand, it's just how it is.

I did find myself thinking, would it be easier to have the whole nation grieving with you? I felt that at least the country stopped with her when her world stopped. For me, after the initial couple of weeks, it was hard to discover that time had kept ticking without my Matt here, that the world didn't stop. But Abigail also shared some difficulties with the situation besides the obvious such as not having a memorial that she thought was unique to her husband. There is no "perfect" way to lose a loved one. Each circumstance has its uniqueness that makes it especially difficult.
After reading this book, I realized that 9/11 left a HUGE wake of grieving people. I mean, I knew this when it happened but now I feel it. I will never forget standing in my college sophomore apartment watching the Towers fall. Everyone talks about remembering 9/11 but this book and my loss really made me think about all those grieving afterwards. I can't even imagine. Sometimes you simply can't understand grief until you go through it.

I went to Hot Yoga tonight led by one of my favorite Insturctors. The Instructor  shared at the begninning of class that he was in the military and had lost friends on 9/11 so he wanted to have a memorial type class and encouraged us to stay silent and he would do as he quietly guided us through the postures. He reminded us that part of meditation is understanding that it is impossible to quiet our minds and that we are not the hectic scattered thoughts racing through us.
On the train today, I was contemplating which grief/widow book to read next. I remembered that on last week's episode of the Housewives, Carole Radziwill mentioned a book by the widow of a former football player, Pat Tillman. I was espcially intersted given Matt's love for football. I googled the topic and learned that Pat Tillman was an Arizona Cardinals player who left the team to enlist in the wake of 9/11 and lost his life in Afghanistan. His wife. Marie Tillman, wrote the book The Letter: My Journey Through Love, Loss, and Life. This book shares the story of their love through letters exchanged between them for years. Pat even left Marie a last letter should he never return. I also found an article about Marie in the Chicago Tribune written last month. The article shared that she had just moved to Chicago with her new husband and 6 month old baby. I felt very connected to those that lost on September 11th, eleven years ago today. Needless to say, this will be my next book.

Today I am remembering all those lives lost eleven years ago and the people that were left behind grieving. I hope that those that mourned have lived on to find happiness and peace.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

6 Month Check-Up

It is a PERFECT fall day today. It is also 6 months today. Unbelievable. I have been on this earth without my best friend and the love of my life for 6 months. It feels both like yesterday and an eternity ago.

I am not sure how I am feeling today. Overall this week I have been feeling better. Just like I don't why I am sometimes so down, I don't know what changed to make me feel better. Perhaps it was a trip to Ohio for Labor Day to visit with family and old friends. Perhaps it's the passage of time. Perhaps it's the changing season. All I know is that I have felt lighter and more positive. At the end of each day, I haven't felt like I was run over by a Semi Truck. I am tiptoeing around hoping that this lasts for awhile. I am no fool, I now know how grief works and I know there will be more bad days. But today, I am not feeling as bad. This doesn't mean that I don't think about Matt or miss him every second of every day. It just feels different. So today at the 6 month mark, I am trying not to let a specific day get me down or ruin my positive streak.

On this perfect fall day,I am trying to enjoy it like Matt would. I did a lot of things Matt loved this weekend; rode my bike, took Lila to the dog park, hung out with friends. I also swept up the patio, that was Matt's chore. He used to tell me that the outside was his responsibility and the inside was mine. If you have ever been to my Chicago condo you know that wasn't a fair division of duties. When he would sweep it up he would be so proud, getting mad if I didn't mention it immediately. He would be proud of how nice the patio looks with all my flowers. I am also enjoying the start of NFL. Again, I am no football fan but it just didn't feel right not to have it on the TV. So I have the game going on surround sound as I putter around getting my chores for the week done. Yesterday a friend asked me if WI won, I felt so connected to Matt at that moment. They asked me because they knew I was keeping up with WI for my man. God I miss him enjoying this day with me.

Fall Mums 

Lila Enjoying the clean Patio

I wanted some sort of a checklist to see what kinds of things I should be thinking about at the 6 month mark. I know, how Type A, Accountant of me. I didn't want to compare myself to anything, again I am no fool and know that the grief timeline is different for everyone. I just wanted some ideas of things to think about as a check in. I did a quick google search and didn't find anything but saw article after article stating that grief typically diminishes after 6 months. I don't know about all that but I am focusing on the thought that last week was better, I am feeling okay today and hopefully will tomorrow.  

Monday, September 3, 2012


As many of you are aware, football kicked off this weekend. With the start of the fall sports season, I am tackling another wave of emotions. Matt was one of the biggest sports fans there was. He loved it, all of it. He was a die hard Wisconsin fan following the Badgers, Packers and Brewers. Most of the gifts that I got Matt over the years had to do with some sports team. One of the first being an old school Milwaukee Brewers jacket. Two years ago I bought him a vintage UW calendar. For his last birthday, I took him to the UW vs. Purdue game. What a great time we had. I could go on for awhile here. I knew some especially unique sports shirt/poster/etc. would be a sure fire win. Now I am left with our second room, Matt's room, filled with all the WI paraphernalia collected over the years, piles of red and green shirts folded neatly in the drawers. As teams kickoff this year, I am really sad. I miss his enthusiasm for the game. I miss hearing his outlook for the season. I miss hearing him talk about the game of the day. Our weekend plans revolved around the games. 

Truthfully, I am not a football fan. Sorry to say that after being a cheerleader for four years in high school, going to games in college, and being married to Matt... I am still not exactly sure of how the game works. As Matt would say, I am a fan of any game that I can go to, put on a cute T-shirt and drink some beers. I enjoy the fanfare. I like the crisp fall air with a hint of summer and the smell of the turning leaves. I adored Matt's love of the game. He turned this Ohio girl into a Badgers/Packers fan. Although this year, I have been hesitant to step up to the sidelines. I don't miss the game but I miss his joy of the season. I miss him. I feel like there is giant hole on the 50 yard line of my heart. 

Also with the start of the season brings two more milestones, next Sunday will be 6 months. And around this time last year is when Matt began to exhibit signs of his growing brain tumor. One of the first times I realized something was really amiss was in October when Matt was planning to be at a Bachelor Party which included tailgating at the Packers game. A few days before I asked him the plans and he had forgotten about it. This was not my Matt. And then his lack of excitement or interest in the Super Bowl was astounding. I can barely believe how much my life has changed within the past year and 6 months. My grief began about a year ago as the tumor took away the sports fan I knew and I started to make very important calls on my own.

I will be so lost this season, for many many reasons. I would tell Matt on the end of Sundays to fill me on the highlights of the day so I could be clued in for the following Monday 's office sports talk. I won't have any idea of what the play of the day is. At some point, I know I will be able to put on my Badgers and Packers gear with pride and joy but right now it hurts way too much. I want to close my eyes and ears to it all. I don't have the energy to check the scoreboard. I want him to be here telling me that our Saturday needs to be planned around a 3.30 game or waiting for the schedule to be confirmed so we can decide what to do. Walking to a sports bar near our place for a Saturday filled with beers and football.  Matt be-bopping around the house with the completion, Lila enjoying all the jumping around. I want him to be watching the game with a friend's husband as I visited them yesterday. Me planning a birthday surprise with tickets to the game. Doing a pride of stride with Lila past all the Bears fans down the street. It's just not the same without him, I am so so lost this season.

Wisconsin vs. Purdue November 2011
Matt's 32nd Birthday Celebration