The End of My Sheloshim – Well, If I was Jewish

IMG_0359  My husband and best friend, Mason, passed away right before the New Year and today marks the first 30 days that I have lived without him, grieved for him, missed him and experienced the saddest days of my life. 30 emotionally charged, draining, poignant, friends and family filled, challenging, lonely, horrible days.

June 3rd was that day for Sheryl Sandberg, celebrated COO at Facebook, and she wrote a very moving post on her Facebook page about what she has learned from the loss of her husband and her search for meaning in all of it during her first 30 days. I had actually read her post over the summer while my husband was in the hospital, it had been circulating on Facebook and several other outlets and I was moved to tears when I read it. I was carrying on a vigil at my husbands bedside willing him to get better and watching the doctors and nurses like a hawk. I was emotionally drained, but I understood every word she wrote about losing the love of her life and trying to get through it. And at the time I was just so thankful I still had my beloved.

My mother phoned to check in with me over the weekend and mentioned Sheryl as someone who’s writing I should consider, she wasn’t sure what I might be reading or doing to help me get through my grief and she thought I could relate to Mrs. Sandberg. It triggered my memory of her post from the summer.  Thanks mom for thinking to mention her; I can relate very well to much of what she has written; in particular this passage struck a cord when I read it again:

“I can’t even express the gratitude I feel to my family and friends who have done so much and reassured me that they will continue to be there. In the brutal moments when I am overtaken by the void, when the months and years stretch out in front of me endless and empty, only their faces pull me out of the isolation and fear. My appreciation for them knows no bounds.”

My family and friends have been and continue to be amazing and I could not have made it through these 30 days without them. Thank you to my little brother for driving 3 hours to stay with me that first night. Blessings to my sweet friend Rebecca for bringing me coffee and something to eat the next day and staying with me until my parents arrived.  And to my parents who dropped everything to spend the next several days with me; helping me cope, comforting me – even oddly at times, making sure I ate and helping me care for my dogs. I don’t know what I would have done without you. And to my sisters and brother who sent their love, stopped their lives, traveled from near and far to come and celebrate Mason’s life  – Thank You – that meant so much. And to my step-daughters and grandchildren who have all sent love, checked in on me and helped me plan the celebration of Mason ~ I will forever love you like my own. To so many friends and colleagues at work and in life who reached out via text, email, phone, Facebook and through cards and letters to remind me of happy stories of Mason and tell me about the positive impact he had had on their lives, it has helped me smile and meant more than I can ever express and I truly appreciate your ongoing love and support.

I couldn’t really imagine one day without Mason, he was my best friend, my champion, my confidant and my companion for my entire adult life. I shared everything with him and no one in the world knew me better or more intimately. During these 30 horrible days, this is the part of my broken life that brings me to tears, the loss of my other half, the keeper of my stories, the shared jokes, the little things that made us happy everyday.  A hug and a kiss at the end of a tough day, a “don’t let the bastards get you down” when life got hard, a reminder to look at a beautiful sunset, a chuckle and a point at something silly our puppies were doing or a belly laugh at something funny Tony Kornheiser said on PTI.  It is all irretrievably lost and I am sure I will feel that loss forever.

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life:   it goes on.”  Robert Frost

I loved him so very much and I know he loved me unconditionally and with everything he had and I was so fortunate to have 30 amazing years with him. My life will never be the same, but I also know he would want me to be happy, to make him proud and to go on and live a good and fulfilling life. And for him and for me I will live that life.  I will count my blessings everyday, I will take care of myself and my family and friends the very best that I can, I will smile at that sunset and think of him, I will find ways to laugh and find joy and I will take every opportunity to tell those that I love and care about how much they mean to me.

If I have gained any wisdom through this loss, it is to always love with all your heart even if it might break one day, because it was so worth it.




What Keeps You Together?

I will have more to say on the subject of love and loss soon, but in the mean time I wanted to re-share one of my husbands favorite stories on Random and Rhyme.

Random & Rhyme

Carmen-de-Lavallade-and-Geoffrey-Holder Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade (Picture from

I was filled with both sadness and happiness while listening to the story of Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade with Elizabeth Blair on NPR this week and hearing about their 59 years of love, partnership and marriage. You might remember him from the Roger Moore, James Bond days playing the villain in “Live and Let Die” or 80’s 7UP commercials and she has been a dancer for most of her life, dancing with Alvin Ailey, the Metropolitan Opera and on Broadway.

Mr. Holder passed away earlier this month on October 5th. He was 84 years old. Ms. de Lavallade spoke to Ms. Blair about going on with the show, she has a one-woman event at the Kennedy Center called “As I Remember It” where she is dancing and reminiscing about her life and a little bit about…

View original post 330 more words

Self Criticism and Some Instructions on Life

I just re-read this one and I needed that little kick to get myself going again! Plus an update, I did release a copy of Bird-by-Bird in the Portland, Oregon area awhile ago; I hope someone found it and is enjoying the read.

Random & Rhyme

I recently started reading Anne Lamott’s, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life and coincidentally one of my favorite blogs, BrainPickings posted an article, The Definitive Manifesto for Handling Haters: Anne Lamott on Priorities and How We Keep Ourselves Small by People-Pleasing. The article calls out items from the book and some commentary from Ms. Lamott’s Facebook page.

What makes Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (public library) so timelessly rewarding and one of the greatest books on writing of all time is that besides her wisdom on the craft, Lamott extends enormous sensitivity to and consolation for the general pathologies of the human condition — our insecurities, our social anxieties, our inner turmoils. Among her most powerful and memorable meditations in the book is that on how our perfectionism kills the creative spirit — something she revisited recently in a short…

View original post 413 more words

Health Care Cost Rant

Another health care cost rant. I wrote late last year about the high cost associated with a hospital stay and this is another high cost situation that really ticks me off.

Since the issue that put my husband in the hospital was a bad drug interaction between an anticoagulant and a heart regulating drug, he had to be taken off the heart drug and be put on an old-fashioned anticoagulant – Warfrin. This requires frequent blood tests and regular visits to a clinic which is a pain in the butt in and of its self, but the part that really makes me crazy is the bill for it.

The test takes place in what amounts to a small office with a desk, a computer, 3 chairs and a tiny tray of test items and takes a total of about 5 minutes, for the use of this room they charge our insurance $195.13 – you gotta be frickin kidding me!  $195.13 for the room only, the technicians time and the test are a separate line item. Our total co-insurance cost is: $25.04 and our insurance company actually pays them $141.86. So a $232.67 bill gets adjusted down to $176.90. $176.90 for a 5 minute test that involves pricking his finger, seeing where is anticoagulation level is and giving him his pill schedule for the next two weeks. So conservatively, they turn that room over 10 times in an hour or let’s even say 5 times in an hour, that is nearly $750/hour for that room or easily $7,500/day for a 10′ x 10′ room alone. For 4 days in ICU they say the bill was about $15,000 “retail” or about $3,600/day and that is a room with tons of equipment that is 4 times the size and a bathroom.

Ok, my rant for the day, but still don’t these things seem out of whack? Or am I wrong?

“Follow the pencil!”…today’s historic Paris unity march

Nous sommes tous Charlie! We are all Charlie.
Thank you for a great article Caitlin!


By Caitlin Kelly


They came in wheelchairs and on crutches.

They came carried in baby slings.


They came — like Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Association Journal who I randomly met this morning at the cafe at St. Pancras Station as we were both about to board the 8:19 Eurostar to Paris — from other countries to show their solidarity. He decided, last-minute and spur of the moment, he had to cross the Channel to lend his support in person.

They came in six-inch stilettos and black leather trousers, teens to seniors, a river of humanity that started flooding across the city by 1pm heading to Place de la Republique.

I am Charlie, I am Arab but not Muslim, I am Jewish, I'm a cop, I'm North African...I am Charlie, I am Arab but not Muslim, I am Jewish, I’m a cop, I’m North African…

I joined them today — although to say that I marched would be inaccurate. There were far too many…

View original post 509 more words

The Lack of Assurance with Insurance

A recent NPR story about a couple, Jennifer and Jeffrey Hopper from Austin, Texas, who ended up in an emergency room after Jeffrey was hit in the eye with a baseball got my blood boiling again about our experience last year when my husband became ill we went to a hospital emergency room to seek treatment.

In the story, Jennifer tried to do what was best for her husband’s health and their families pocket-book at a very stressful moment;

“Even in that moment of panic, Jennifer Hopper realized that there are rules when it comes to using health insurance that can hugely influence the size of the medical bill. Care providers who are “in network,” she knew, cost much less, so she made absolutely sure to drive Jeffrey to the emergency room of a hospital in Austin that is part of their insurance network.

That sounds straightforward, but, as the couple soon learned, it doesn’t always work out that way — some patients still get slapped with big bills, even when they try to play by the rules.”

It is kind of hard to play by the rules, when no one wants to tell you what the rules of the game are at any given moment. The night my husband was wheeled by ambulance into the emergency room(that arrived after I did by-the-way) he was met by one doctor that went off shift shortly after our arrival, then another doctor took over, then another doctor evaluated if he should be admitted to the hospital and then yet another doctor did the actual review and hospital admittance. He then was finally assigned to the hospitalist on-duty once he was admitted to the hospital. He then went on to have care by multiple kidney specialist, pulmonologists, a substitute cardiologist(his was on vacation as it was the holidays) and on the second day he was assigned to a hospitalist doctor that luckily was the one constant during much of the remainder of his stay.

But, just like the Hoppers, I wasn’t going to stop care and check to see if these doctors were in our insurance network, I wanted them to save his life and get him well and I would figure out the bills later. Or, so I thought. Like Jennifer we had a few surprises along the way;

“Jennifer, however, was surprised by what happened next. After she’d already settled with the hospital, paying the copayments for the ER, the ER doctor sent the couple a separate bill for more than $700.”

“It felt kind of random,” she says. “How do I know who’s going to charge me, and who’s not going to?””

We started receiving bills right after we got my husband home from his 8 day stint in the hospital, with four of those days in ICU. Some of the bills were for doctors I don’t even remember, some of the doctors bills came with the hospitals bill, and then the lab test and X-rays came from yet other providers with separate bills. Then there are the “itemized statements,” I use this term loosely, from the insurance company outlining what they have been billed, what they adjusted on the bill(no information on when and why they do that), what they paid and the amount of the bill that is our responsibility. I would try to match the insurance statements up with the actual bills we received from the providers and very little matched or added up. It was really chaotic jumble of numbers, dates and information.


Last years stack of documents, with more in 2014

It is nearly a year later, and we just finally got the billing straightened out for the ambulance ride. The provider double billed and the insurance company mistakenly double paid. Then the insurance company tried to get us to pay them back for the double payment, not the service provider who received both payments. I feel like we should bill them for the time we spent trying to get that straightened out.

And despite informing the four, yes at least four, billing people who visited my husband’s room and got copies of our insurance and billing information that my husband does not have Medicare Part B insurance because he is still working and has insurance coverage through his work; some providers still billed Medicare Part B. Six month after his hospital stay we start getting bills from doctors because of non-payment by Medicare. Seriously, it was crazy.

Overall, the care seemed to be very good and people were very kind and helpful with the exception of one very annoying nurse and he is home and doing better.  The whole event if I went by the “retail” or “sticker price” was over $75,000. Now, I can’t tell you the exact amount the insurance company actually paid, but of the just shy of $65,000 bill from the hospital alone(on the insurance statement is says this includes; rooms, ICU, lab work, pharmacy, ER, respiratory, radiology, etc), they adjusted off $41,000 and paid roughly $23,000.  With all of the different bills we received and had to pay I am guessing our out-of-pocket cost was in the $2,000 – 3,000 range and that is a bargain considering what it could have been. But that is the scary part too, $75,000 worth of health care and it is very difficult for the consumer to account for it other than our loved one healed and came home or in some cases received lot’s of end of life care and the person passes away and the family is left in sadness and major medical debt. I think I read somewhere the that majority of bankruptcy filings are due to medical debt.

Maybe that is why we continue to put up with this system that seems so broken, because we are just so happy our loved ones came home or were at least taken care of well until the end no matter the cost.

Do you have a pro or con health care story that you would like to share?


What Keeps You Together?


Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade (Picture from

I was filled with both sadness and happiness while listening to the story of Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade with Elizabeth Blair on NPR this week and hearing about their 59 years of love, partnership and marriage. You might remember him from the Roger Moore, James Bond days playing the villain in “Live and Let Die” or 80’s 7UP commercials and she has been a dancer for most of her life, dancing with Alvin Ailey, the Metropolitan Opera and on Broadway.

Mr. Holder passed away earlier this month on October 5th. He was 84 years old. Ms. de Lavallade spoke to Ms. Blair about going on with the show, she has a one-woman event at the Kennedy Center called “As I Remember It” where she is dancing and reminiscing about her life and a little bit about her life with her love. I was really touched by this quote from the story;

“De Lavallade says she wasn’t counting the years they were married, but she’s pretty clear on why they stayed together for so long.”

He allowed me to be myself,” she says. “He was my champion, he was my biggest fan, and I was the same way with him.

The story had me reflecting, as I approach my 25th wedding anniversary early next month, on what has kept me and my husband together and what I love about my him in no particular order;


  • He always let’s me win – just kidding – we know when to compromise
  • We never go to bed angry
  • He tells me I’m pretty, even when I am feeling anything but pretty
  • I cook the food and he cleans the kitchen or vis-a-versa (I usually cook) – we share the responsibilities around the house
  • We enjoy a lot of the same things – travel, food, reading, etc
  • But we don’t enjoy all the same things – and that’s ok – having our own interests keeps it interesting
  • I can talk him into things he thinks he won’t like – and then he does like them – our sweet puppies are top of that list – 3 years to talk him into one, now he can hardly stand to be away from them
  • We allow for each others bad habits – his for leather jackets(sorry to my vegan readers) and mine for bed linens – we both have enough for two lifetimes.
  • I know he has my back and I know I have his back
  • We make each other laugh
  • He drives and I navigate – it works – we get where we need to be in our car and usually in our life.
  • We love each other no matter what!

Have you been married or with your significant other for a long time – what are your secrets to marriage longevity?