Things I Miss

It has been seven and a half months since my husband died.
I miss him so much.

I worry that as time passes I will forget the most endearing parts of our relationship.  I take notes on what I miss most.  I look at pictures each day. Surprising to me, I do not miss his image as much as I miss his actions.

I miss cuddling.
He was a great hugger.
He would spontaneously hold me.
At our age, and with his physical being, sex was not the great part of intimacy.  It was holding me.

I miss his presence next to me.
The way he would look at me and let me know that he was in love with me.
We fell in love the first time we saw each other and it never stopped

He was also good at verbalizing his love.  He would tell me each day that he loved me.

I have recently gone through a lot of paperwork to get rid of the stacks of things that need to be gone.  I found his cards that he had given me for birthdays and Valentines and Mothers’s day and anniversaries.  I read each one and the wonderful words he would add to the already lovely message of the card.  He was great at expressing love.

I really miss affirmation.
I have no one that tells me that I am doing a good job or I am an OK person.
I have no one that lets me know that I am a hard worker or that they appreciate me for all that I do.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have wonderful children.  I know that they love me.  But there is just something about having someone who tells you that they appreciate you…frequently. My husband did that for me. I knew he admired me for what I did and he let me know that my mind was sharp and my actions and hard work was in concert with him.  I felt good about myself.

I miss the little things he did that showed he cared.  He bought the gas.  I did not have to be concerned about a car on empty.  He took care of that.  He carried the garbage and the recycling to the center.  He wrote the checks and paid the bills.  He bought the groceries. The list could go on and on.

When I start looking at these things I begin to wonder what I did.  But we were good partners so I did the laundry, the cleaning and making the grocery list.

He loved to run errands.  I would make the list and he would run the errands.  He could spend all day running errands.  He love to interface with people when he ran the errands.  If I do the errands I make a list and try to do it with as much efficiency as I can. Not Ray; he enjoyed running errands and would dilly dally and backtrack and enjoy each person and each experience.  That is why he is missed by so many people.

To say that there is a void in my life is not doing it justice.  There is a huge hole.  As good as I feel I am doing without him, I cannot seem to fill this hole.

They say that time will heal.  I don’t want time to take away my memories or to replace missing him.  But there are some things that hurt so much I don’t think time could come close to repairing.

Be My Valentine

Since I was fourteen years old I have had a boyfriend give me something special for Valentine’s Day.  Even before that we had boxes in our classroom where each student would put a paper valentine in for all other students.  We coded our names by putting numbers for the letters in the alphabet so it was fun to figure out from whom the valentine was sent.  Valentine’s Day has always been a special day for me.

This year I decided to ignore Valentine’s.  I knew that my true love was not going to be here.  I knew that I would not get that special card, those flowers and that extra long hug. I had prepared myself for the fact that my husband had died and Valentine’s Day for me would be just another day on the calendar.

I did great.  I was rocking along getting my chores done and my “to do” list was getting checked off in the speed of lightning. I was proud of my moving along and ignoring the special day of love.

Then my wonderful daughter comes up to me, gives me a great big cuddly long hug and says, “This was sent to you from heaven from Dad”.  That was it.  I looked at her and lost it.  My big bravado heart broke wide open.  I could no longer ignore the day.  I loved him so much while he shared my life and I love him now in all of my many memories; I could not act as if it didn’t matter.

Valentine’s Day is a special day to acknowledge our love for our special people.  I know it is usually marked for the romantic love in our lives.  It is designed for dinners out, flowers, candy in heart shaped boxes and expensive jewelry.

But shouldn’t it be a time that we say “I love you” to all of our special loves?  I, as much as I tried, could not get past the hole in my heart where my true love had lived.  I ached as I let myself release those feelings of emptiness, loneliness and sadness.

I was on the way to church for Ash Wednesday services and the radio seem to play every song that my husband and I had called “our song”.  I cried through everyone.  Then the next song would play and it was, once again, another of the songs that we loved.  Those songs reminded me of many special moments that only the two of us shared.

By the time I got to church I was a basket case. Probably, for the sake of others, I should have turned around and gone home, gone to bed and cried through the night.  But I didn’t.  I sat through a very moving service and thought about repentance and the sacrifice of Jesus and how I was going to ponder that for the next 46 days.

Thankfully my friends are sweet, caring people and they accepted my quiet sobs.  They knew my distress because they knew how much my husband and I were in love.  They understood my pain.

I made it home and the next day I was moving on with life.  But I learned that as hard as I tried to ignore the love that is expressed on Valentine’s Day, it has to be acknowledged. I hope that everyone could have a Valentine in their life as dear and loving as mine was. He was a true romantic. We fell so deeply in love that it is hard to imagine living without him.

So now in my memories, I think of him and want to say, “Please be my Valentine forever”.  I love you and miss you.


I had an epiphany the other day.

I. Am. Alone.

I guess as you read this you would say, “Really, you are just realizing that?”  But yes, it just became so apparent to me that I am all alone.  I realized that we are all traveling through this world alone; as an individual.

We come into this world as a single being.  Although we have relationships, we are still individuals.  Some of us have very good relationships.  We have close friends with which we can share both the happy times, as well as our sad times. In fact, some folks share every intimate detail with close friends.  Some of us never have close friends and we are only comfortable sharing a limited amount of our lives with others.

In retrospect, I had a great relationship with my parents.  I don’t remember having many moments that were trying with them.  They were reasonable, flexible, and easy to get along with all of my life.  My mother died at 98 1/2 years old and was a good friend the entire time.  My brothers were younger and different from me, but we always got along.

I left my parents home after college and married my best friend. We had 54 1/2 years of great friendship.  It was such an amazing journey through life with him. We enjoyed years of goal setting and accomplishments.  We were partners in raising six children and fulfilling our mutual desires.  We dreamed our dreams and worked on them through the years. We sort of melted into one person, instead of two, living together.

Then, life happened, and he left me abruptly.  I now realize I came into this world as an individual…I traveled these years as an individual…I will leave this world as an individual.

I cannot expect anyone to be responsible for me.  I don’t have to get permission from anyone to do something.  Sometimes there is no one that actually knows what I am doing or cares what I am doing.

I am alone.

As this concept occurs to me, I find that there is some good and some not so good things to this.  The good is the independence.  If I want to eat chocolate all day I can do that.  I am the only one that is accountable.  But eating chocolate alone is no fun.  As a person that always had a partner, I really prefer the connection to another person.  I want someone to know where I am and what I am doing.

There are lessons to be learned here.  First, I think we have to appreciate the persons with which we are connected.  With all of their faults or irritations, we need to stop and consider that if they were not there, we would be so lonesome.

Second, I think we need to prepare ourselves for the alone-ness.  What will you do if you find yourself alone without people around you. Do you have hobbies? Do you have projects to do?  Can you amuse yourself enough to be alone? Do you feel comfortable reaching out and starting over to find new relationships?

I am very alone.
I am experiencing major loneliness.

My comfort so far has come as I am experiencing a great joy in my relationship with God. I am trying to deal with this new individual life.  It is God’s will and he will give me the courage to be alone. Then someday, as an individual, I will return again to God just as I came alone from Him.

The Return of the Squirrel

Do you believe in reincarnation?  Do you believe that persons are sent back to earth as animals?  I don’t know.  But the little light grey squirrel has returned.  You may have read the story of the light grey squirrel that got my attention by dancing for me on a Sunday morning shortly after Ray died.  He looked just like my husband with the shaking of his bootie.

I distinguish him as the light grey squirrel because most of the squirrels in our yard are dark grey or black.  This stylish thing is very light grey, so I think he is unique.  He certainly is different.  And he certainly does different things from the other fuzzy creatures in my yard.  He is bold, knows no boundaries and pushes the limits.

I was in the keeping room the other day and looked out to find this creature on my porch.


How dare him to come up on my porch.  My husband and I purposely cut down some gorgeous trees on our property so that no tree would be close enough that a squirrel could jump on the new house.  I HATE SQUIRRELS.

I have had experience with squirrels.  They can get in your attic.  They can nest in your attic.  They can chew through lines in your house; electric lines and water lines.  They can urinate and do other things that are disgusting in your house.  And ultimately your house will smell from all of the things that squirrels can do there.

So, I’ll say it again, I HATE SQUIRRELS.

So here is this sassy squirrel on my porch.  I carefully watched him.  He came up to the door.  He perched up on his hind legs and looked in the glass of the door.  He turned his head from side to side looking in the door.  Then he casually walked to one of the windows.  He perched up on his hind legs and looked in the glass of the window.  He turned his head from side to side as he looked in the window. [If you are visual like me, I hope you are actually picturing this as you are reading it.]

By now, I was sure that he was assessing the best way to enter my house.  While he was doing this, I was assessing the best way to get rid of this pest.  I walked around to the door of the porch.  I was certain that he would see me through the glass and run away. That was not the case at all.

He walked casually back to the center of the porch, raised up on his hind legs and looked at me.  Amazing.  Who did he think he was?  I stomped my foot to scare him away.  He just kind of turned his head as if to acknowledge that I was there and to say hello.  I waved my arms to scare him away.  Amazing.  He just looked at me as if he was amused.

After a few minutes of me looking at him and he looking at me, he slowly turned away and SLOWLY walked down the spiral staircase.  Oh yes, this is not a porch on the bottom floor.  This squirrel walked down a twelve foot spiral staircase to get up and down to the porch.  It was as if he felt he owned the place.

When telling my granddaughter about the return of the squirrel, she laughed. She said you have to see the humor in this.  And I replied, “What is humorous about this?” She said, “God has the last laugh.  He sent Poppy back to us in the form of the thing you hate the most, a squirrel”.

Secretly, between you and me, the little light grey squirrel is really very cute. He does remind me of my husband.  Bold, no boundaries and pushes the limits. Thank you God.

One of the many Voids

As life rolls along, we are not very conscious of the specifics of daily actions.  We get caught up in our to do list, take actions and perform tasks and count it as normal behaviors.  We don’t sit down each night and evaluate what was done, by whom and whether the actions were excellent, good or poor.

Most of us live with others and we melt together as each person takes on roles and responsibilities.  Some people fix the coffee each morning, others load the dishwasher, while others pay bills or cook.  The fact is, all of us fall into a routine of doing our thing.

I enjoy cleaning while Ray, my husband, was a lover of laundry.  I did the taxes while he paid the bills.  After 53 years, we were a great team that had divided all chores and did not have to say, “Are you going to take out the trash?”

You may say we had fallen into a comfortable living where we very seldom had to ask each other their thoughts or feelings.  We just knew because we had shared everything and had grown to be almost one.  I think that is a successful marriage.  We never took each other for granted but we had a definite division of labor.

Since July when he died, I find myself overwhelmed with tasks that I never had to do before.  I am at the beach house and we have just survived 8 days of subfreezing weather.  It seems like it was a month.

Dripping water each night to keep the lines from freezing.  Trying to understand what to do with water lines under the pools and how to turn breaker boxes off to protect things.  Figuring out how to turn off water to the house because there are now leaks in water lines because we are finally above freezing.

I had to hire plumbers, electricians, and painters.  I had always been the 2nd in command of our many building projects, but now find I am the leader.

I am not qualified to be the leader.  This is being baptized by fire.  I am using a compressor, a nail gun, buying equipment and making decisions as if I were trained to do it.

Frankly, I would much rather be 2nd in command.  It was so comforting knowing that Ray knew what he was doing and I could just relax.  But there are two lessons in what I am now going through.

  1. Husbands, thank your wife each day for the great job she is doing as she juggles her schedule and does her assigned tasks. Wives, thank your husband each day and hug him for all the things he does in his role and his assigned tasks.
  2. Pretend that your partner might disappear tomorrow and you have to do your and your partners chores.  Pay attention to the details.  How do you care for the car?  Where are the records for the maintenance of the house and the vehicles?

Have discussions on each others’ tasks so you will know how it is done, who needs to be notified, what vendors are your favorite, and what skills you need to be able to take over.

Over and over I say, pay attention.  You are not promised tomorrow.  But as much as Ray and I talked about the possibility, I have so much to learn by trial and error.

Thankfully, I think I am doing pretty good.  But I know that I cannot take the credit.  God is with me every morning as I think of the new chores I have to accomplish.  He is guiding me and helping me and I am so thankful.  It is not easy doing both jobs.  But I am learning.


The first time I went into public by myself after the death of my husband was to run a few errands.  I went to a shopping center to pick up a few things.

I don’t know why I noticed people more than usual.  Maybe it was because I was just more sensitive than before.  Maybe my perception of life had changed.

That day, I saw some very stressed, unhappy and harried folks.  It was still early in the day when you would think life would be easy going. This was after coffee, the kids are in school and you can get on to your time of day.

I saw people standing in the line to get checked out of the stores that were impatient. Looking at their watches.  Not impatient with the check out person, just worried about time and pressures of their “to do lists”.  I saw toddlers being dragged around stores that were certainly not happy about their situations.

Store after store, I observed these unhappy people.  Seemingly upset over mundane lists and life-centered problems.  They seemed to be preoccupied with daily errands and were stressed about chores so early in the morning.

I finally could take it no more.  In between stops, I parked and had a good cry. I wanted to turn to these people and shout, “STOP, PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT IS IMPORTANT!”  Did they realize that those lists and those errands would be of no importance in a blink of an eye if they lost a loved one?

I wanted to shake them and say, “GO HOME AND HUG YOUR HUSBAND.  CARESS THAT TIRED TODDLER.  LISTEN TO THE TALES OF YOUR SIX YEAR OLD”.  We take for granted that they will be there tomorrow and we will have more time.

In reality, we all get caught up in the necessities of living.  We all have obligations to fulfill.  Some we care about and some we do not.  But there has to be a balance.

You have to put the love of God, the love of your special partner and the love of family at the top of the list.  All of the rest is filler.  Also, it cannot take more of the time and energy than you are willing to give.


Knowing how to balance so that we aren’t stressed and that we can face each day relaxed and at peace.  I will guarantee that a morning prayer asking God to give us the grace to live an unstressed day and a day that focuses on the right things will be the answer.

Start by thanking Him that you have awakened to see another sunrise and that you will welcome Him by your side in all of your chores.  Ask Him to guide you in a balanced, loving day.

You will be amazed at how life takes on a different meaning.

Multi-Generational Living

When my husband and I started to design our house many years ago, we wanted a large house that many people could enjoy.  As the design progressed and the days moved on we realized that we wanted to have a place that we could be assured living our lives out with those that we loved.

Now most people do not understand multi-generational living.  And I would be the first to say it is not for everyone.  Basically, it is when more than one generation lives together in a cohabitation arrangement.  That means that everyone has roles that are clearly defined and everyone pitches in to make the living arrangements comfortable for all persons.

That being said, there are some guidelines that must be followed for the living to be successful.  Expenses are shared.  This is not a “let’s move home and mooch off Mom and Dad”.  It is assigning certain expenses to each person living there so all people carry the burden of the cost of living.

It also means everyone must share in the chores.  This is not a situation where mom does the laundry or picks up after a lazy adult child.  Mom might be retired but she did not retire to be a slave to others.

Everyone has chores that they prefer to do.  Some people are talented cooks.  Others don’t mind cleaning.  Some people are responsible for carrying out trash, watering plants or doing yard work. You get the picture.  All general living chores are divided up between inhabitants.

A major component of multi-generational living is knowing how to communicate. If you can’t talk subjects out, best not try living together.  In some homes there are subjects that are just not touched.  Politics and religion are off limits in some homes.  We happen to be of like minds in our house and can talk about almost anything without getting upset.  But you have to be willing to set limits.

One other consideration is parenting.  We go with the thought that “It takes a village to raise a child”.  So we all sort of co-parent.  But I know other folks where only the parents do the parenting.  You have to communicate about the roles persons need to play as you all live together.

A final area is respect.  You have to respect everyone’s personal property and the need for everyone’s privacy.  Sometimes we love to be together.  Other times, we need our space.  Understanding that each person is an individual and should be respected is essential in living together.

I love living multi-generational.  It keeps me young.  I know the latest fads, slang and dress of the teens.  I understand the issues of the forty somethings.  I listen to music, ideas, philosophies, that I would not be exposed to if I lived among only my generation.  I eat foods I would not touch without the encouragement of the younger people.  I venture into activities I would not be invited to if not for the younger ones.

But most of all, I have been saved since my husband died because I have people that are with me almost 24/7.  I do not have to be alone unless I choose to be.  I am cared for and kept busy by my wonderful live-ins.  I am a social person but I am also a private person. But I cannot imagine having to go through this tragedy without my roommates.  It may not work for everyone but it is the wave of the future and it is a wonderful way to face the real world.  Love you guys.


Busy, busy, busy.

That is my new motto.
Stay busy.
Keep moving.
Keep doing.

Wake up with a things to do list and don’t stop until it is finished.  There is lots to do and I need to get it all done.

I believe that distractions are the key to keeping sadness at bay.  If you don’t have time to think about the loss in your life you will not have time to focus on the sadness.

My children have been great to help me with this plan. In less than four months, I have traveled to Boston for a week, Seattle for a week, Phoenix for a week, the beach three times, the mountains one time, Ohio one time and (at the time of writing this) am in Healy, Alaska.  I have cleaned, organized, learned new things, visited the sick, written lots of letters, worked puzzles, painted walls and generally stayed busy.

I have found that when my “things to do list” gets done too fast, I have time to think. Having time to think is my enemy.  When I am not busy I begin to travel back in time and remember when my husband was alive and when we were having fun and doing things together.  I miss him greatly and that leads me directly into sadness.

They say that time is on your side.  As time goes forward you will heal.  You need time to move so you are further from the loss.  I am not sure what the words “closure” and “healing” really mean.  But when I am not busy, time stands still.  When I am not busy, time drags and the days are long.

I believe that your mind controls your thoughts and your thoughts control your moods and your emotions.  So if your mind is focused on your “things to do list”, you do not have time to let your thoughts go to the things that will make your mood get sullen and your emotions become sad.

Others say that you need to process for “closure” and “healing” to take place.  But when I think about processing it takes me back to thinking about my loss and thinking about my loss takes me into sadness.

Maybe I am all wrong.  Maybe someday I will wake up and find that I have just put it all off.  I may see that I have locked everything away in a trunk for another day. I may find that I totally fall apart.  Maybe I will someday become a basket case.

But I don’t think so.  I have made my peace with God.  I have processed the death.  I have reviewed my personal thinking about life and death.  I have come to terms with my new life.  I can talk about my sweet husband without being sad.  I can remember our fun life and reflect on the past sometimes without being emotional.

I really believe I am doing OK.  But I know that I am better on the days that I am busy, busy, busy.  When I was doing grief seminars (yeah, imagine that) I taught all the theoretical concepts of the grieving process.  I studied the experts and I, as Dr. Priestino, presented the information as if it were the tried and true.

But if I were to do that today, after I have lived the experience, I would have a different story to tell.  I believe you need to process, think, review and then stay very busy to get through it.  Yes there is shock, denial, etc. but essentially it is acceptance and stay busy, busy, busy.  Thank you God for giving me caring children and good friends that will keep me distracted.




When there is something hurtful, either physical or emotional, the natural response is to cry.  Obviously, tears were shed when my husband died.  It was the display of a horrible event.  It was the natural thing to do when the hurt was so deep.

As the days went by I was encouraged to cry.  “Let it out” I was told.  “It is helpful to cry”.  “You will feel better if you cry”.  “Crying will cleanse your soul”.

I am here to tell you that I don’t agree with any of those statements.  But to be honest, I have made the same statement to many people.  I really believed it to be true.  I thought there was something therapeutic about shedding tears.

Now I put these statements in the same category with those other myths my wonderful mother said to me.  You know, things like “If you cross your eyes they will get stuck like that forever” and “If you go outside without your coat you will catch a cold” and “If you swallow seeds they will grow in your stomach”.  We grow up and figure out that these are myths.  Now I believe that ‘crying is cleansing’ is yet another myth.

Don’t get me wrong.  Crying has a place in our lives.  Babies use crying to tell us something is wrong.  They are hungry, uncomfortable, sick or distressed.  It is a way to alert us that someone needs to pay attention.  Older children also use crying to let us know that they are hurt or need attention.  You fall off your bike, skin your knee and need to cry to alert someone that it hurts.

But crying does not make the hurt go away.  It is a way to get attention and to alert people to a need. But to me, crying is not cathartic.  It is not cleansing.  It is not therapeutic.  It gives me a headache.  It makes me more sad.  It deepens my despair.

I realize that I may feel this way because I see crying as a loss of control and…

let’s face it…

I am a control freak.  

I said it.  
I know it.  
I own it.  

I don’t know why or how I got this way but I do not want to let myself be out of control. Therefore, I do not like to cry.

I know all of my friends are trying to help me the best they can when I get emotional. After all, they heard the same myth from their mothers.  And they want to help me.  So I do appreciate them when they say I should cry it out.

I am trying hard to be rational, logic, sane and non-emotional.  I try to block all of the sad thoughts.  I try to put myself in control mode and think happy thoughts.

But just in case I am not successful, I will announce to you now…

My red eyes and sniffling nose is because I have bad allergies.
And I have lots of headaches these days.

Happy Birthday, Ray

My dear sweet husband was a New Year’s Baby.  I have a small ceramic shoe that he was given when he was the first child born in 1941 in Santa Monica, California.

On New Year’s eve each year, the family would watch the ball drop in Times Square, toast with champagne or similar liquid, sign Auld Lang Syne, kiss each other and then turn to Ray and sing Happy Birthday.

Many weeks ago we began to get concerned about how to celebrate New Years without “Poppy”.  I knew it was going to be tough getting through the holidays.  But we felt like New Year’s would be even harder than Christmas.

As a family, we committed to keep things positive.  We would talk about Poppy,  but we were not going to let it get to us.  We would think of something funny and bring the conversations to a upbeat level.  But what to do with his birthday?

The following was our plan and it worked well.  At 10 minutes after midnight, when we had watched the ball drop and we had hugged and toasted the new year, we had a birthday party.  We sang “Happy Birthday” to Poppy.  We had ice cream and cake.  Then we had a birthday gift exchange.

Instead of re-gifting or using a “white elephant gift” we each brought a gift that “Poppy” would have enjoyed.  Whenever Ray received a gift, he always said, “Oh, this is just what I always wanted”.  So saying that when we received a gift was a funny and respectful way to remember him.

When we sat down to have the gift exchange, we drew numbers and Cheri, the daughter in charge would call out a number and we would either choose a gift from the stack or “steal” one from another person.  We were all amazed at how clever people were in their gifts.

It seems that each year, “Poppy” got socks or underwear for his birthday and this was no exception.  Athletic socks were there as a gift.  He loved, loved, loved to play cards and so it was no surprise that two gifts included playing cards.

Although he became a teetotaler and hadn’t had a drink since the 90s, the kids remember how he loved his bourbon and coke.  So there was a salute to his drinking days in two of the gifts.  Because we traveled so much and had long, long drives, Ray would mix cans of trail mix to nibble on as he drove.  So, of course, trail mix was one of the gifts.  There was an Ocean Isle Beach hat, which is the island he loved so much.  There was even a fidget spinner.

The gift that brought us the most joy was a hammer.  Engraved in the side of the hammer was the statement, “I love building memories with you”.  We all knew Poppy well.

We have decided that this is a fun way to respectfully remember Ray on his birthday.  We look forward to continuing this tradition.

My hat is off to all of my children for helping us keep the spirits high and remember Ray.  It was good memories.  Happy Birthday, Ray.