18 Months

I want to say so much, but, for a change, I am confused about how to say it. I just know that these days don’t really get any easier. They’re still painful. I still get really angry when I think of you laying in that bed in the ICU. I’m not mad at you, I am just mad that I have to live my life without you. I’m mad that I’ll forever be defined as a grieving mother. It’s like a coat I can’t take off, and we all know how I hate being hot. The anger still makes me want to swear and hit things and break things, maybe even my hands like you frequently did (it’s like the anger you had has been transferred to me). Then when I’ve expended all my angry energy, I want roll up in the fetal position and cry it out. Then that makes me angry because I can’t cry enough.

I wish I could cry more. I wish the flood gates would open. Maybe then I’d feel better. It’s so stupid. I tell other grieving mothers that there is no single right way and that it’s as individual as a fingerprint, but then I get pissed at myself because I feel like I am dishonoring you by not crying enough.

All of these emotions and feeling and expectations and I don’t fucking know what to do with them. Then that makes me angry again.

Preemptively, I’ll say that I see a therapist. I love her. She is awesome. I’m working on all this shit. I think I’ll be done working on it when I am dead. In spite of all of this, I hope that is a long time from now.

I miss you, Samuel. I wish you were here. I wish I could punch you on the arm and call you a jerk and you would respond by saying, “You eat poop.” Which we all know means that you love me.

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Another Piece

About three weeks before our little dog, Delilah, died, I had a dream. In the dream, I was sitting outside on our front step, having a cigarette with Sam. (No, I don’t smoke anymore.) He was on his phone talking to someone and he was charging his phone while he talked on it. He had an absurdly long charging cord. I’m talking about a length that I’m sure that they don’t make because, in the dream, he could literally walk around our whole yard. There were times where he would walk over to the other side of our garage and kind of hide out in the big lilac bush when he wanted his conversation to be more private. It was during one of those times that Delilah ran out of the house and discovered him in the bushes. He was a little perturbed because she was barking and carrying on since she was so happy to see him and also because she had outed him in his hiding spot. Finally, he bent down to pet her and said, “Hi, Delilah. I know, I miss you, too. Yes, I love you, too.”

I remember thinking at the time (we didn’t know that Delilah was sick at all) that he was telling me that he was still here with us, attached by a really long (figuratively speaking) cord. Then weeks later, when Delilah got really sick, I started thinking that while maybe that was true, perhaps he was really trying to warn me that she was coming to find him. Then she did. On February 27, one year and 8 days after Sam died, we had to make the difficult decision to put Delilah to sleep.

Cali, our black lab, was Sam’s baby. I mean, she belonged to the family, but he was her boy and she was his baby. He took her on walks with him down to the creek by our house. He took her to the Mississippi river with him when he went there, too. He trained her and he played with her. It was he who named her. Cali. Short for California. The place he always wanted to go and never got the chance to experience.

By default, because she loved him so much, she also loved his friends just as much. She would jump all over them whenever they came over. When it got to be too much, he would say, “Cali, get where you go!” And she would run and lay down under the table or the bench seat in our kitchen. It was her refuge.


About 2 months ago, I told Jason that I thought something was wrong with Cali. She was drinking way more than normal and, consequently, she was having accidents in the house. He didn’t really agree with me until she stopped eating. We brought her to the vet and they ran some tests, including two biopsies of her lymph glands in her neck and her hindquarters. Initially the blood work was normal, but the biopsies came back positive for lymphoma. Cali had cancer. We were devastated.


For awhile we contemplated doing either chemotherapy or prednisone or a combination of the two. Chemotherapy would not have cured her, it would have only extended her life for 6-8 months. That would have given us another death around the time that we already face the anniversary of our greatest loss. Also, it would have meant bringing her to the vet once a month for blood work and she was extraordinarily terrified of the vet. We couldn’t see doing that to her. Then it becomes more about what is best for us and not what is best for her. Plus, the cost was also pretty prohibitive. Prednisone would have alleviated her pain to some degree, but it would also have increased her thirst and her accidents. We didn’t think that was fair, either. So, since she wasn’t acting sick, and, as soon as we brought her to the vet, she started eating again, we decided to just wait and let her tell us when it was time. She was still happy and active and played hard when she wasn’t sleeping.

A couple weeks ago, she started showing signs that she wasn’t doing so well. While playing fetch, her legs would give out. She would have a hard time getting up from the floor or getting down from the couch or bed. Her legs started to just randomly give out, too, in the last few days, and she was in increasingly more pain. Listening to her cry out in pain is more than we could take, so we made the decision that it was time. Since we couldn’t fathom bringing her to the vet for her last few moments on earth, we decided to have them come to us. If you have to face the end of life for a beloved pet, I suggest that you look into this in your area. It was a beautiful experience, in as much as it can be, and it was peaceful and humane. In Minnesota, we used Minnesota Pets. They came out and we all sat in the grass and petted her while she went to sleep and took her last breaths.

Today, she went where she belongs. And we lost another piece of our Sam. But, she belongs with her boy. Run and play and kiss his face for us. We’ll miss you, Cali-girl.

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I look at this evening with mixed emotions. I’ll be leaving the absolute worst year of my life. You would think that it would make me happy. Happy isn’t exactly the correct word. Maybe relieved is more applicable. And yet, it’s with some measure of sadness that I leave 2017 behind. People who haven’t experienced what Jason and I have this year may not understand. This is the last day of the last year that my son was alive. He lived 50 days in 2017. Obviously, he will not have lived one day in 2018. I feel like I am leaving him in the past. Alone. In my head, it’s irrational, but my heart doesn’t understand what my head tries to tell it.

I love you, Sammer. Stay with me.

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Wary of Enjoyment

We were at my sister-in-law’s house. It was 18 years ago on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1999. We were all squeezed into her living room, singing karaoke. A good friend of ours, Tom, was doing some really silly moves and he was making me laugh so hard, I had tears running down my face. I don’t know if it was that everyone thought the world was going to end at midnight or if I had some awful premonition, but I remember thinking that it was going to be the last time I laughed like that for a long time. The next morning, my mom called and said she was taking my dad to the hospital because he was in severe pain. My dad was strong and stoic. He never had severe pain. I met them at the hospital. That day, the most difficult 6 weeks of my life began and after they were over, my life was never the same again. My dad died from pancreatic cancer on February 15th, 2000.

Flash forward 17 years. It was February 17, 2017. We were in Las Vegas to celebrate Jason’s birthday. I was at the roulette table, again with Tom* . I had never played roulette in my life, but Tom encouraged me to try. He asked me for a couple numbers and placed a bet on those. He said if I won, the money was mine. I chose my husband’s birthday, 11 and 16. I hit it. I won $180! I hit again for smaller money and soon everyone we were with in Vegas that was at the table were asking me for numbers. We were having a great time. The next morning, we all went to the Venetian to find some coffee. As we were walking there, we were laughing and being super silly. Jason bought me the best coffee of my life. We were staring in wonder at the ceilings at the Venetian and our friend, Amy, took a picture of me and Jason, smiling, on a bridge by the water inside the Venetian where the gondolas would start their day in a few hours.

My phone started going off and Amy said, “That’s just me sending you these pictures.” I looked at my phone and, in that split second, my life changed forever. It was a text from my neighbor saying that there were multiple emergency vehicles outside of my house back in Minnesota. In that very instant, I knew it was Sam. I fell to the floor and Amy and one of my sisters-in-law  helped me to sit down by the wall. I feel like throwing up just thinking about it, much like I felt that day.

Ten and a half months later, I can smile. I even still laugh. I do find enjoyment in things. However, more and more often, I approach true enjoyment with some wariness. I find myself, when I am not feeling some guilt for being happy in that specific moment, wondering if or worrying that something bad is going to happen. I know the metaphor of life being like a roller coaster. I’ve never been a huge fan of roller coasters. I am afraid of heights and I don’t really like the plunges. Now I feel like, even though surely I must be at the bottom of the roller coaster, I could drop even further if I am not careful. If I’m not wary.

*(Tom is a good family friend. All of us–Jason, his siblings, their spouses and various other friends that have become family–have hung out together since high school and we do many things together, including family gatherings, parties, camping, vacations, etc.. It would appear that moral of the story is to not spend anymore time with Tom. I don’t hold it against him, though. 😉 )

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Six Long Months

Six months ago today was the last time I saw my son awake. It was the last time I spoke to him when he could answer me. It was the last time I could’ve hugged him and he could hug me back. I didn’t because, when we left, he was smoking a cigarette. I spoke to him one more time on the phone once we were in Vegas and that was it. The next time I would see him, he would be in a hospital bed on life support.

These next few days are going to be extremely difficult. I know I’ll get through it, but I wish, more than anything, that I didn’t have to. If you could just think of us, or take a moment to say a little prayer for us, if you are someone who prays, I truly believe it will help us in some way. Thank you for all the support from family and friends these last six months. We couldn’t have survived this without such wonderful people in our lives. I’m sure we’ll need you in the months and probably even years to come.

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I’m still so angry. I’m not really angry with anyone or anything specific. Sometimes it just bubbles up inside me and I want to hit things. I don’t want to hit people, I just want to feel my hands or even my head making contact with something. I want to feel that pain.

I guess, if I’m honest, there are specific things that I am angry about. The first is that I’m just pissed off that he’s not here. I’m pissed that I cannot see him, touch him, talk to him, hug him, hold him. Most of all, I’m angry at myself. The reasons are so many that I’ll have to save that for another post. For now I need to figure out what to do with this anger. Something more constructive than punching the steering wheel of my car or banging my head on the wall.

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These are the things I wear on my left arm.

On the top is my Fitbit Alta. It tells me the time and every hour, it reminds me to move.

Next is my son’s bracelet that was given to him by one of his best friends, Konner, who has become an important part of my life. It reminds me of Sam, of course, and of precious friendships.


Then there is the Reminderband that I had made to honor Sam’s life. It is purple, red and black, which were his favorite colors. On the front is his name and on the back it says 02/10/95-02/19/17.

The blue  band is my reminder to continue my fitness journey. It says that I am stronger than my excuses. It reminds me of that and also that I have to be stronger than my excuses because of this little guy:


He’s my little superhero sidekick.


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Two Weeks

Two weeks ago they took my son off of life support. Two weeks. Two weeks since I was able to touch him. Two weeks since I got to hold his hand. Two weeks since I have seen his face.

And yet, I still expect him to come home. I still think of things to tell him. I still laugh at things and think, Sam will think this is so funny when I tell him.

I feel like what happened didn’t really happen. In my logical head, I know it did, but my heart doesn’t feel it yet. It’s sort of a surreal and odd feeling.

I miss him, yes. I love him and I miss him.

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Now and Then

Things that make me angry:

  • I can’t see my son, except in pictures.
  • I can’t hold his hand.
  • I can’t touch his face.
  • I can’t hear his laugh or his voice, except in videos.
  • Sam’s dealer.
  • That Sam’s dealer had the audacity to show up at his funeral.
  • That I can’t fix my husband’s or anyone else’s pain.
  • That my grandson misses his dad.

Things I miss that used to make me angry:

  • When Sam would take a shower in my bathroom and use my towel and it would end up in a wet pile on his floor.
  • When he would use the last of something, like my coffee or my creamer, and not tell me so that I wouldn’t have replaced it before I needed it again. Usually I would notice at 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning.
  • When he would leave messes.
  • When he would take my wet wipes out of my bathroom to use on Mateo and leave them in Mateo’s room. (Mateo would be sleeping when I needed them and I couldn’t go in there to get them without waking him up.)
  • When he would leave wet clothes in the washing machine.
  • When he would leave his clothes in the dryer.
  • When he would leave the baby gates or the garage or front doors open.

I would rather have all of the things that used to make me angry instead of the things that make me angry now.

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One who imagines the ‘worst-case scenario’ as something so completely horrific it borders on absurd.

I’ve always been a catastrophist. Those who know me well know this about me. If you are late meeting with me, I’m sure it’s because you were in a car accident. If you don’t call or text me back, it’s because you don’t like me or I’ve made you mad in some way. Once when Sam was in middle school, he didn’t come home right after school. I couldn’t reach him on his cell phone. I was sure that he had been kidnapped walking home and the kidnapper threw his phone out the window as they drove away. I’m not kidding. I was absolutely panicked trying to reach all of his friends to find him.

I have worst-case scenarios for everything. I often play out these sick scenes in my head and try to figure out how I would react, how my life would be or how I would feel. I’m sure there is something wrong with me. Don’t worry. My therapist will figure it out.

This part of me created a scenario where Sam was killed in a drug deal or died of an overdose. We, Jason and I, often would tell Sam that we were worried about how we would survive if anything ever happened to him. Of course, he always believed nothing would. He was invincible. In fact, his last spoken words were to Arika and they were, “Don’t worry, I’m indestructible.” Alas, he was not.

Since Sam died, I find myself thinking about how I’m going to get through the rest of my life without him. Some protective part of my brain tells me this is just one of those catastrophic scenarios that I’ve created. The rational part of my brain argues that this is real, that it is not a dream or a scenario. The rational part of my brain is getting closer to winning the argument. I mean, I know it’s a reality, but something inside of me just isn’t letting me believe it or feel it quite yet. I’m terrified for when that happens.
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