Archive | Remembering

remembering daddy through pictures

I don’t want my girls to forget. It was one thing that Greg was terrified of; that the girls would forget him, especially Squeaky since she was just 2 when he got sick and not even 2-1/2 when he died. I remember coming home from Hospice in early May last year and Greg insisted on stopping at Best Buy in a wheelchair and his pajama pants to get an additional external hard drive so we’d never lose photos of him.

I like having photo albums to look at. I know they are heavy and take up lots of space but there’s something so real in sitting down next to someone and looking at printed photos with a heavy album in your lap. I’ve been falling behind in printing out pictures of the last few years of our lives – some very, very important years.


So, I’ve been printing out hundreds of photos at a time to get caught up. So far, I’m only to 2011 but it makes Squeaky happy that she can finally see photos of her as a baby.

We’ve been looking through them together and I’ve already found the girls sitting together with the albums, looking at and talking about the pictures to each other.

I’m now not as concerned about them forgetting. These pictures and my stories will help fill their sweet memories.





bliss lane

I met Greg when we worked together in Minnesota about 10 years ago. He lived in a house on Bliss Lane in Bloomington that he absolutely loved. It was a California-style ranch, I think. It had no basement and the walls stopped short of the ceiling so it was all open on the top. Greg was so proud of the space and used to love showing people this house.

The girls and I just got back from a 5-day road trip to the Twin Cities and River Falls, WI to see some great, old friends and great, old places. As I was pointing places out, “That’s where Daddy and I met and played basketball together on the roof of that building…That is where Daddy’s office was…This is where I used to live when I started dating your Daddy”…, Squeaky asks me, “Mama – why are you showing us all this stuff?”

Bliss Lane was one of the stops we made.

We pulled up to the house mid-morning on Thursday, behind the owner who just happened to be coming home at that exact time. He let us take some photos and invited us inside to see what had been done to the place since Greg had owned it. I guess he likes showing other people the house too. :)



I wish I could have had a moment to just take a deep breath and feel Greg in that house. But I was standing right next to this stranger (in HIS house!) and didn’t really want to break down right there so I scooted the girls out of there after a couple minutes. Greg would have loved to see this house again. I could just hear him say to me, “Good job, Red!”

So…my dear, little Squeaky…I know that these places don’t mean a lot to you now, that houses are just houses and buildings are just buildings. But this building, this restaurant, this basketball court and this house – especially this house – just might someday help you understand a little bit of who your wonderful Daddy was.

Until then, I’m showing you all this stuff…for me.




a photo that never existed

Has anyone ever given you a photo of yourself that you completely forgot about or had no idea that it even existed?

This one was sent to me yesterday.

Mariah and Greg Usually when I see a photo that I didn’t know was taken, I remember the day and love to see that moment from a different perspective. But I don’t remember the day of this photo – it was a day that has skipped my memory. In a way it seems like a new experience, a new memory even. I can still feel my arms around him, the way his waist felt, the way that shirt felt, the way I could lean into his chest, my head tucked right into his warm neck so he could rest his chin on me. I can feel myself giving him a big squeeze just by looking at this.

Thank you for this photo.




asking for help

We were having a HORRIBLE time at bedtime. Every once in awhile it gets pretty bad, but once last week, I ended up running to my closet, falling to my knees, crying and yelling into my hands. I tried to close the closet door to muffle the sound so I didn’t scare the girls. Squirmy came in and said, “Mama, you can call Nana and ask her for help. She can help you.” After thinking how sweet that was for her to say, I then thought, “What is Nana going to do? Come over here and put you to bed a half hour from now while I’m crying in the closet?” I got up, gave both the girls big hugs and kisses, apologized for “freaking out” and we all went to sleep, exhausted from our drama.

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A few nights later (damn daylight savings time change!), it was almost the same thing though not quite that bad. After the kids went to sleep, I took Squirmy’s advice and called Nana, my mom. We brainstormed ways to help the girls get to sleep and decided that even though they share a room, they need different bedtimes and they both need a little bit of one-on-one time with me before they go to sleep. So, I’ve started working on this with the girls and a few nights later, Squeaky is quiet and cuddled in bed within minutes! I have been able to lay in my bed, cuddling and reading books with Squirmy uninterrupted AND listen to HER read to ME! This makes me so, so, so happy!

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Squirmy and Nana, helping me out.

Last Monday night was also my first group therapy session with other widowers. This was the one I missed last month. It was a big group. I walked in and saw only one box of tissues on the coffee table in the middle of the room. I thought of grabbing it and putting it on my lap immediately! But I sat down and waited until a few tears fell in my lap. Then, someone passed it over. We went around in a circle talking about our experiences with loss. I was by far the youngest one there. There were a lot of different feelings and thoughts shared. Not all applied to me but I took at least one thing that everyone said and could relate.

One thing that stuck in my mind was the feeling that after a month or so go by, people forget about what you’re going through. One of the women in the group said exactly, “At the funeral everyone says, ‘Let me know if you need anything. I’m here for you.’ But then a month later, they stop checking in or asking you how you are.”

I understood where she was coming from but the words that she used finally made it click for me. I completely understand that a widow (or anyone grieving) needs a lot of love and support and it can feel very lonely. But at some point, your friends and family do need you to let them know how they can help. Most people don’t know how they can help. To be quite honest, I wouldn’t necessarily know how to help a grieving friend, even though I’m going through it myself! And I’ve learned that, most of the time, it’s up to me (or my 5 year old!) to say it out loud. Because at this point, nobody really knows what we need but us.

I recently pulled a little quote from a magazine that asked the question, What’s the most important question you’ve ever asked yourself? One woman wrote, “I’ve always thought that asking for help was a sign of weakness, but when my mother died, I learned that it takes greater strength to lean on others than to stand alone. In order to heal, I asked myself, What help do I need in this moment?”

When Greg got sick last year and we heard the word cancer, my dad had JUST driven home from our house, seven hours away. After putting the girls to bed, Greg and I were struggling with the weight of it all coming down on us. In between tears, Greg said, “Can you ask your dad to come back? We need him.” I was thinking the same thing although I had been too scared/proud/??? to say it out loud. I called my dad immediately and he packed his bags and came right back. In the days and months that followed, when someone asked me what they could do to help, I told them. And in those three months, we were never alone. There was always someone living with us, running errands for us, fixing things in the house, helping with yard work, bringing us dinner, babysitting the girls or keeping Greg company. There was NO WAY that we could have done it alone.


Papa with Squeaky


My aunt and uncle lived with us and helped us out for over a month.

Our case is pretty extreme, I guess. We needed lots of help. We still need lots of help. I know that everyone is going through different struggles and your friends and family do want to help. But if nobody knows what you need, it’s really hard to get that help. People aren’t cold. People aren’t heartless. People need to know.

So, how can I help you?




calvin and hobbes and greg

I came across this photo today (taken in 2005 when Greg still had long hair) and had to laugh because every time I look at it, I picture a Calvin and Hobbes collection of comics that Greg had (and we still have!). He used to read it with Squirmy and explain to her what all the jokes meant. :)


Calvin and Hobbes sledding

Just this.

Oh and Happy Spring!





When I was pregnant with Squirmy, and at our doula’s suggestion, Greg made me a bunch of heart-shaped post-it notes and put them up all over the house with positive pregnancy/birthing affirmations. As a first time mother-to-be, I had a bit of anxiety about giving birth. I knew I wanted to have a natural birthing experience and having these post-its around the house helped me to stay calm and reminded me that I was strong enough to do just that.

When Greg got sick, he wanted to use this same idea to stay positive and let go of his fears, so I made him some. They said things like, My family loves me more than anything…I accept help…I am healing. As I was going through a box of his things last week, I opened up his wallet and found this.

i am healing

In the end, these post-it notes didn’t save his life. But they were a nice reminder to him that he was loved, his body had been good to him and if not in a physical way, there were parts of him that, through this intense process, WERE healing. Parts of him that had been hurt in the past and had essentially shut down. I’m not sure if I ever wrote about how much Greg reached out to people when he got sick. He was a man that, for the most part, stayed away from a lot of social situations and he now wanted people around. He reached out to people…and he let them reach right back, sharing the love.

I was making some of these post-its for a pregnant friend and I had a few ideas but wanted more. I found this list. It’s a long list at this specific website but I’ve compiled my favorites, things that really spoke to me. I know it’s just words on paper but that simplicity is part of what makes it so great. I think I might start including these as gifts to all my pregnant friends.

My baby is strong and healthy.
I trust my body.
My belly is full of light and love.
I am a strong and capable woman.
I have patience.
There is no need for us to hurry.
My body knows exactly what to do.
I trust my labor.
I embrace the wisdom of my body.
I am surrounded by loving, nurturing support.
I feel good being pregnant.
I listen to my body and my heart.
I believe in birth.
My baby knows how to be born.
I put all fear aside as I prepare for the birth of my baby.
My mind is relaxed, my body is relaxed.
My baby will be born at the perfect moment.
My body knows exactly what to do.
I love and trust my body.
I am a wonderful mother.

Sometimes all we need is a little reminder.






A friend from Madison sent me this last week. I gave Agrace the okay to use our photo for a billboard and I guess it’s already up. I’m not really sure where it is…somewhere along the Beltline in Madison. We haven’t been back to visit yet and I’m not sure I’ll ever see this in person. That’s probably just as well, it might be overwhelming.


It’s hard to put into words how much Agrace helped our family last year. I will be forever grateful.

If you see this, give us a wave.




reluctantly taking care of business

It turns out the days leading up to the anniversary of Greg’s stomach ache were much worse than the actual day. Last week, I had been gathering tax info for my accountant so I had to go through all of our medical bills and receipts. I even pulled out our CaringBridge entries and our 2013 calendar to help figure out our medical mileage. Greg’s handwriting had marked the days of important appointments, “Esophageal Ultrasound, MRI, UW biopsy”. And an appointment with his psychologist, written in classic Greg-style, “Brain Doctor – 11 a.m.”  :)  It was strange to be reminded of a time when we didn’t know, when we started worrying and then when we knew it was what we’d been dreading. It was almost as if I was a stranger looking in on us from the future…”Those poor bastards were so happy and clueless, they have no idea what’s about to happen to them.” It made me feel so sad for them – for us.

Not only was the process of leafing through those three months a painful reminder, it was frustrating to do because this was Greg’s job. HE was supposed to do taxes. HE was supposed to figure out our mileage and look through receipts and make phone calls.

The other day I finally figured out our healthcare so that I don’t have to continue paying $1,104.65/month to occasionally visit the doctor!  As I tried explaining to the woman on the phone what a frustrating experience it had been working with them (insert reasons I had to call them weekly to fix something), I started sobbing to her. Greg would have been taking care of this for us.

A few weeks ago, Greg received a packet in the mail stating that he was the beneficiary of a small account that his mom had had. She died in 2004 and this company was JUST NOW aware of her passing. So I called and filled out the proper forms to get it transferred to my name. They left me a message a week later so I called them back. The woman on the other line couldn’t disclose any information over the phone because the last name that it had been transferred to was different than mine. I heard her laugh a little when she said that. I thought that was strange but she told me to just fill out the additional forms with my real name when I received them and it would be fine. So earlier this week I got a package in the mail from them addressed to MARIAH CAREY. So maybe someone had that name in their head as they were mindlessly typing in my information and I’m hoping that’s all it was. I’m not a person that gets angry very easily but for some reason, this makes my blood boil. It felt like they were making fun of me. Here I am trying to get something taken care of from my deceased mother-in-law left to my now deceased husband and it’s like someone is making a joke about my name. And how do you make a complaint about that? “Hey huge corporation – I’m already sad and you hurt my feelings!” This is something Greg would have taken care of for me…and not only would he have taken care of it, he would have made it right. And made me feel better.

Yesterday I had to call Greg’s old employer to ask a question that was pertinent to our taxes. I typed in their 1-800 number that I found online. I forgot that this used to be Greg’s work number and that it was still in my phone. So as it starts to ring, this is what I see…


“Hi Baby! Can you please take care of all this stuff for me so I never have to deal with it ever again? And then can you please come home? Okay, love you! Bye.”





Here it starts.

Today marks the anniversary of the stomach ache that revealed Greg’s cancer. I didn’t think this would be so hard but leading up to this day feels like someone punching me in the chest, all over again.

We were at a child’s birthday party and after a couple pieces of pizza, Greg started feeling bad. I realize this is a weird photo to include and I’m not even sure why I took a picture of him laying like this. Here we are at a kids birthday party; a fun place to play and run around with our kids in the middle of winter. But Greg is in pain and has to lay down in the middle of it. I walked over to him after I took this picture and he stuck his tongue out to the side and smiled like he felt silly but just couldn’t help it. I wish I would have known how much pain he was in – this day and every day after this. I look at this photo and just want to scoop him up and rush him off somewhere to save him. But even in this picture, his cancer was already at Stage 4.

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At some point, we asked Greg’s oncologist how long the cancer had been growing. They estimated that it had been about 6 months based on how fast it was spreading. I look back at this photo of him during a really fun date night  in August and wish we would have known on this day. Or maybe the day after this – I wouldn’t have wanted to ruin this night. It was perfect. And then I could have somehow saved him.

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I’m counting on my girls to help me get through today. Like every day, I guess.




chocolate ice cream face

In yesterday’s post, I included a photo of the girls with Greg. They both have chocolate ice cream on their faces. Here’s what happened just before the picture with Greg. We had just gotten home from a fun day in Madison and the girls had ice cream cones. I can’t believe I let Squeaky (at 2 yrs old) have an ice cream cone in the van by herself but I did! So Squeaky chows down her ice cream cone and is finished before Squirmy. Squeaky is totally eyeing up the rest of her sister’s cone. She asks Squirmy for some of hers. Without hesitation, Squirmy reaches over with her ice cream cone for her little sister to share. I remember this wonderful gesture and it is part of what made this such a great day. This, and as far as we knew that day, Greg was healthy.

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2-24-13 photos 041I am so grateful for my darling girls.




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