Dani

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Oh, No! Not again....

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Don't tempt fate. She doesn't have much of a sense of humor. Last week Dani was eating ice cream (a common dietary staple) when she started to cry. This escalated into screaming, vomiting, then I watched my baby stop breathing and turn blue. She was unresponsive. My mom shouted for somebody to call 911 while I held Dani and puffed into her little mouth. She would begin to cry again and then turn blue and unresponsive once more. I would puff into her little face. She would come to. This cycle of terror lasted about 5 or 10 minutes until the paramedics came. I was terrified. The whole time, I thought "Yep. Of course. OF COURSE." I was also looking around for Bryce--wouldn't you think that time was appropriate to make a drop-in? The paramedics gave her oxygen and ran a blood test. She pinked up and was quite happy. "Hi! Hiyeeeeee!" She waved to the team. We were taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital, who took x-rays and kept her for observation. The diagnosis? Nothing. She didn't choke, seize, nor was she allergic to anything. It may have been brain freeze (ouch!), but nobody knows for sure.

Dani's home and doing great. Luckily she's too young to remember traumatic experiences. I came out of it with more damage than she did. Thank you to the family who was right there to call 911, give my baby a blessing and follow us to the hospital. Thank you to the friends who came to the ER to make sure we were OK. You are wonderful people. We love you!

Things here are slow, monotonous and a bit lonely. Every day I try to find a way to occupy Dani while I get some work done, which ends up as playtime for both of us on the floor. Nights are the only time I can work. That's OK, because I still don't sleep very much. .

Still Hanging On

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Dani's  birthday was so nice--the turnout of family members was great, and Bryce would have loved it. She loved eating her cake and playing with her wrapping paper. Her little cousins and friends opened her gifts, which was fun to watch. She is starting to babble as if words will come soon, and is traversing the house while holding onto furniture. All of these little milestones are accompanied by the split second thought, "I need to call Bryce and tell him about this!" Yep. Crazy.

I have been fairly traumatized lately, but mainly at night after things settle down. I'm amazed at times by the sudden, violent bouts of grief because they are unpredictable. Then I realize it has been 3 months--ONLY 3 months! That's nothing! Of course I'm still grieving fairly intensely, because virtually no time has passed. This short span of time has healed the wounds of many people who know us, but my wounds are very fresh and some are just opening. Dani and I are alone most of the time now. The house is quiet--too quiet.

For those friends and family who feel neglected by me, please don't. The truth is, I just don't have the energy to talk anymore. I'm not sleeping yet, I'm exhausted, and I just don't...I just can't. It's nothing personal, and I really do think about all of you. Don't give up on my little family just yet!

Today is just the intersection of yesterday and tomorrow. It can't get worse.

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That's what Bryce told me exactly one year ago just moments after our baby was born. Danika turns 1 today, January 12. I wish her daddy could share this with her. It sounds crazy, but I sent Bryce an e-vite to come to her family birthday party. I received an automated notice in my e-mail today stating that Bryce hadn't RSVP'd, which felt like a kick to the head. All the air was sucked out of the room as I once again realized he is still gone.

The holidays were painful and lonely, yet there were bright moments where I witnessed the goodness in others and saw happiness around me. Every snowstorm brought helpful people armed with shovels, lifting part of my burden with each scoop of snow. One evening I opened the front door to find a front yard full of carolers, bearing a wonderful gift and leaving no names. Dani and I were surrounded with family and friends, loving and caring for us and making sure we forged ahead with new memories. People are GOOD. Thank you all, friends and anonymous angels!

Just as the holidays ended, another wave of tragedy swept through the lives of people I care about. My college roommate and friend succumbed to cancer and died at 33, same age as Bryce. A few days later two of my neighbors were in a tragic car accident. Another young widow now sits a block from my home, preparing for her husband's funeral tomorrow and wondering how she will find the strength to attend. It's really not fair.

Despite the pain of the past several months, Dani and I are healthy and doing well. I am grateful to have this beautiful little girl, this little one year old angel who can stand unsupported for ten whole seconds! Seven teeth, fuzzy blonde hair, chunky legs, and looking more like her daddy every day.

Happy Birthday, little baby. We love you!

Are You Killing Cancer?

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I have my moments of grief, hopelessness, loneliness and guilt. I am the widow of a cancer victim, and I have the right to feel these things. I watched my husband die. I am raising our baby daughter alone. Why? Because like most of us, he was exposed to the sun’s rays too often as a child and teenager.

So many people have wondered what they can do for us, and here’s my answer: PLEASE help educate people about the dangers of the sun and tanning beds! If you know somebody who goes tanning, please tell them the story about the young husband and father who “just had skin cancer” and is not here to celebrate his daughter’s first Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and first birthday. YES, it can happen to any of us. It’s never too early or too late to take control of the health of your skin. BE SMART.

Let's keep Bryce's final words alive: We're Killing Cancer!!!

The Gifts He Gave

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Day by day, hour by hour. Today is a good day, which means I’m not fixated on the loss of my sweetheart every second. Yesterday was horrible. I was putting Dani down for a nap and as I knelt next to her crib, I felt like something huge was missing. I felt incomplete--partial. I was missing something crucial, and in its void was evil--sadness, despair, hopelessness. I was brought to my knees by this feeling. I was hanging onto the side of Dani’s crib, my chin propped up on the rail, and I couldn't breathe, I couldn't see straight. Tears were flowing, as every good feeling of strength and hope was sucked out of me at that moment.

I looked up in sorrow, panic and pain and saw my mom standing there, watching me. She stepped out of the room and I heard her break down into gut-wrenching sobs. I just clung to the crib for all I had and whimpered and moaned for my Bryce.

It didn't sound as if it were coming from my body; it sounded as if it were coming from a ghostly wind. Dani just looked at me from between the bars, and I wanted to absorb her into me--to keep her with me forever, free from pain, disease and sadness.

I sunk to the floor and sobbed for my Brycey, and mom picked me up and led me to my bed. She laid me down and laid down next to me, still sobbing for me and for Bryce. She rocked me to sleep. The emptiness was horrible. This pain was worse than any physical injury I have had.

I lost my composure midday, but my mom was right there and rocked me to sleep. Nobody is too old to be rocked to sleep! Mom also put up my Christmas decorations, which I had no intentions of doing this year. I’m so lucky to have my family surrounding me, physically and emotionally.

My friend Matt made this comment to me:

“I have recently wondered what is the good in all this for you. What lesson is so important that you have to endure pain that brings you to your knees. I don't say that doubting in faith but rather with the inability to comprehend what good shall come of all this. There are many small good things but the reality is that the small good things don't surpass the great loss of a spouse in such an early phase of life. The greatest marriage is when you are able to have pure selfless love. You did that. You were with Bryce every minute when others would have cracked. In the eternal perspective how can you have a better marriage than one where you set aside your personal pain and suffering so that you could comfort and do everything possible for Bryce?”

Matt, you are a wonderful friend.

Friends have noticed and commented that I have been impossible to get hold of lately, and some feel slighted. I haven’t tried to avoid anyone; I’m just not feeling too sociable lately. Your love and prayers have been priceless and haven’t gone unnoticed, so please accept my gratitude via this posting. If I haven’t returned your call, don’t be offended!! And please don’t base our friendship on the fact that I have spoken with ____ and not you. It's meaningless; just circumstance.

Tragedy, especially of such magnitude, has altered my perception of every aspect of life. Something that would have ruined my day a year ago is inconsequential to me now. Heavy traffic? Big deal. Flat tire? It happens. Get in a fight? So—grow up and make up. Did somebody say something to you that wasn’t loud enough for you to hear? You better not have yelled at them to speak up. Somebody made a mistake at work which cost you a few minutes? Then fix it—and I really hope you didn’t ruin the other person’s day out of the spirit of selfish retaliation! Yes, I realize this sounds Pollyanna-ish. I only hope I can hang onto this attitude, because life is much too short to be controlled by anger and stress. I’m becoming an idealist.

Bryce was this way, which was one of his best qualities. Bryce was laid back and didn’t let people ruin his day. Of course, he was human, so occasionally small things would take him over the edge—but that was not the norm. He often said, “life’s too short”, when he was witness to the behaviors mentioned above. When we met, I had been spending an obscene amount of time and energy on researching the religion in which I had grown up. I spent hours and days disproving its truth and goodness. It was good for my therapy—my self-prescribed therapy. When I first dated Bryce, I told him all about my church history and how I felt about it. I showed him the research I had done over the previous several years. I was so proud of myself and my devotion to my cause. Bryce didn’t disagree nor did he act impressed with the sheer volume of work I had completed. He simply asked me why I would spend so much time and energy disproving something good. The Church had a lot of good in it that I was ignoring, even mocking. I was trying to negate that good. He told me that I was exceptionally intelligent, and that I should be proving things that are wonderful and helpful and generally doing good things.

The Church—all churches, for that matter—is like a huge tree. The trunk of the tree is the actual doctrine—love one another, do unto others, acknowledge the hand of a higher power in your life, people are good, etc. The branches are where different religions branch out and the people of the religion make statements that may or may not be true. There is goodness to the branches, but they are not necessary for the tree to still be a tree. The leaves are the people. Just people. People say things, people do things, people offend each other, people create false doctrine. Without the leaves, the tree still stands and is still real and good. I, like most people who feel the same way about my Church, became so focused on the leaves that I became angry, disenchanted, and I wanted out. Bryce asked me, “If you were to live your life according to the trunk of the tree and ignore the branches and leaves, would you be a better person at the end of the day?” Yes. Absolutely. “All the things you’re angry about are the branches and leaves. Forget about that. Stay close to the trunk and don’t look up. You’ll find purpose, love, happiness, and your family will embrace you into their lives once again. How can this be wrong? Just try it and see if you’re happier in a week.” I did, and he was absolutely right. I went old-school and forgot about the “leaves” that had made me so angry for so long. I crept under the radar, under the branches, and sought a pure, beautiful life. I found happiness. I shook off the anger. It wasn’t worth my time. I was ready for Bryce—his simple, happy, smart, accepting, nonjudgmental soul. He was wonderful and beautiful and smart. He taught me how to coexist with the religion I had given up. He gave me so many gifts. He gave me our daughter and the best five years of my life. He gave me my family, whom I had shunned so recently. I am so blessed. Bryce, I love you so much. Please watch over our little family as we mourn the loss of husband and daddy.

Cheese samich, baby.

Rumination. Grief. Whatever.

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Tonight (this morning) I sit in my brother-in-law’s old bedroom, which is next door to Bryce’s old room. Dani is asleep in there. I am haunted by memories, as each of my senses takes a pummeling. I hear the cuckoo clock every half hour and the dogs lapping from their bowl, which intensifies all other senses as the night plods on. Sleep is not happening tonight--no way. I remember coming to this house in the middle of the night after my shift at the tissue bank in 2002. Bryce would wrap me up in a dozen blankets and we’d watch TV until he fell asleep, then I’d go home. It still smells like Bryce up here, and it’s still FREEZING. (Where is Brady’s stocking cap??)

I have been trying to distract myself by surfing the internet, which means checking up on dozens of blogs. It’s interesting--almost surprising--that life goes on. Somebody’s kid just turned 4. Trick-or-treat stories. Wedding pictures. Christmas shopping. Everybody’s kid is cutting their own hair off. New babies, Disneyland, and a camping trip. I’m stalled—in suspended animation. Blogging has become increasingly difficult--when written, my thoughts become egocentric, self-congratulatory narcissism. (I guess that’s the definition of a blog?) How can you go camping when Bryce just died? How are babies born, recitals danced, and horses ridden? Don’t they know what just happened?? (Should I be attempting this "transition" without some form of therapy? Any suggestions?)

Come back, Bryce. This can’t be real. This cannot be my life.

P.S. Recently, someone who knows better (who, incidentally, has claimed to have followed/cared about Bryce's story) acted surprised when I admonished "them" to stay out of the tanning bed. "Are they sure his cancer was due to sun exposure?" Come on. STOP KILLING YOURSELF. Death is not pretty, even if you have a tan. KNOCK IT OFF.

Unbelievable.

"I've got him."

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We pinkie swore many years ago that whomever passed first would “come back” and let the other know all is well. Just a nudge, a wink, or even a whisper. It was something we mentioned several times, mainly in jest. Although I am a logical, somewhat skeptical person (OK, more than somewhat skeptical), I have expected to see, hear or feel Bryce’s presence. So far...nothing. If I didn’t feel so numb, I’d feel abandoned. I understand I’m asking for miracles, but some people get them, don’t they? I have been with Bryce almost every day for nearly six years, and it just feels wrong that he isn’t with me. Perhaps this is a stage in my own grief I must endure, and it too will pass.

Grief is totally unpredictable. One moment is fine, although I’m aware of Bryce’s absence. Out of the blue, a tidal wave of loneliness, sadness and despair washes over me, fills me, drowns me. I can’t fathom this new reality. At least it’s a feeling, though. Feelings are always better than the black hole that sucks every emotion away, leaving me empty and listless—a human shell. Keeping these feelings at bay has become a full time job. If my body is moving and my mind is occupied, there isn’t much room for sorrow. When I slow down, the wave threatens to overtake me again. How long can I outrun it? Family and friends have pulled me out of the murky depths by taking me out, visiting, and otherwise distracting me. My best friend flew out from Connecticut for a few days, which was a welcome reprieve. It was nice to feel alive, albeit briefly. We kept fairly busy, but in those still, dark moments, the sorrow found me. I cannot hide from it.

As I go through all these emotions, one thing buoys my spirit. I KNOW there is something more. I cannot deny it, because Bryce let me know. It is a moment I have told few people about, yet I alluded to it in a previous post. I felt him go. I wasn’t looking for it, waiting for it, or expecting it. After he drew his last breath, we all watched him. We knew. I reached down and removed his breathing mask. I turned around to look at my dad, when suddenly my body was overcome by a sensation I find hard to describe. It was like a low voltage zap that lasted four or five seconds. I couldn’t breathe, see straight or stand upright. I was lifted, warmed, enveloped—it was euphoric. I remember saying, “I’ve got him.” I did. As quickly as it came over me, it left. It was his gift to me; a gift I cannot deny nor logic away. It was the most horrible and wonderful thing to ever have happened. I would give anything to feel that again. Perhaps I should have kept this moment locked in my most sacred vault, but my hope is sharing this moment will bring somebody peace.

Such conflicting emotions. Is he with me, or am I alone? Would I experience that same overwhelming feeling if he were here, or must I rely on hope and faith? The ever-present battle between my mind and my heart continues. I hope my heart wins. It’s the happier ending.

Deja Vu

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The Wedding was today at noon. It was held at the same place Bryce and I were married almost five years ago. I tried to hold it together, but all was a blur as I tried to "feel" Bryce's presence. Were you there, Brycey? I'm happy for Brady and Ashley, and I hope Bryce was able to witness their marriage. I had a few trinkets of Bryce's smuggled down my shirt, as grief has channeled insanity. The last thing I want is for the happy couple to be saddened by my sporatic loss of composure. What a tough, tough day.

 Dani is power napping right now, and we'll head to the reception shortly. It will be sweet--it's at the Fine Arts Museum, where there's currently an Andy Warhol exhibit. Mmmm, my muse...

Hold your head high, kiddo.

I'm Back (and Still Pasty)

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My parents took me, Dani, Holly and Steff on a short vacation over the weekend. Our final destination was someplace in Mexico. It was HOT, sunny, and gorgeous. Dani and I were SPF 55 the whole time. We returned home late last night. I missed Bryce terribly and I still can't believe this nightmare is mine. I will write something substantial as soon as I get my head screwed back on. Maybe tonight? Don't desert me--check this regularly! Remember the www.100daysoflove.blogspot.com challenge! Nathan and Suzie are working hard on it, so read it and send them some good comments! Let's keep Bryce's memory alive and rolling!

To the girls at Dr. Isotope's office-THANK YOU for the adorable gift!! We miss you guys, and I will bring Dani around in her new outfit to see your new digs!