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.




Do You Think About Death?


My great-grandmother Kate standing near the grave of her late husband. (picture from a relative who uploaded it to


It’s something I think about occasionally; a fleeting thought, a sad reminder or at times it comes when thinking with regret about something I wish I would have done before a loved-one passed away. I do think about how I hope to die; peacefully in my sleep after a nice meal on a beautiful summers day spent with friends and family when I am really old.

After I’m no longer using this body I have considered donating it to science, but I am kind of hoping it is old and used up before that happens. Maybe I can put an age clause on my after life disposition; If I am “X” years old and in a state of interest to science please donate, but If I am old and have used my body to the fullest please cremate me. I think that is reasonable, don’t you?

The right to die or “Death with Dignity” is also on my mind. I live in Washington state, one of only 5 states that allow for “death with dignity” along with Vermont, Montana, New Mexico and Oregon. Oregon has been in the news recently because of the story of Brittany Maynard, the young woman with an terminal brain cancer who has moved from the San Francisco area of California to Portland, Oregon so that she can have the right to choose when she is ready to die. From a CNN interview;

“”I’ve had the medication for weeks. I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms,” she wrote on

“Having this choice at the end of my life has become incredibly important. It has given me a sense of peace during a tumultuous time that otherwise would be dominated by fear, uncertainty and pain.””

I hope I am not faced with that choice or need to choose, but I am thankful that my State does allow for that option if I were to become terminally ill. I have watched a couple of people deal with the end of the lives of loved ones, who are having little to no quality of life, yet they have been medically kept alive because they are holding out hope or because the medical system just does not allow for an assisted end. Just because a life can be extended does not mean it should be extended. A rational adult in control of their faculties should be able to make a decision about how they want to live their life and how, if necessary, they want to stop living their life. They should be able to do it humanely and peacefully rather than being forced to end it in trauma because the medical system isn’t set up to treat humans humanely.

During my husbands 10 days in the hospital last December, right before he was moved to ICU, a nurse asked me if my husband had a living will and told me to bring it into the hospital. My husband and I both have completed living wills and have made it clear to each other what the other is to do if we are facing making that decision for the other. The nurses request was frightening at the time, but I was glad that I did have an answer even if it was one that I didn’t want to face.

In a recent “Fresh Airinterview conducted by Terry Gross on NPR’s she speaks with Caitlin Doughty, a mortician, who has written a memoir and has a series of uTube videos about death, dying and some other pretty weird stuff. Her memoir is “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory.” An excerpt from the interview;

“On how she once romanticized crematory work, and how that compared with reality

I think it was probably more romantic than it actually ended up being. I thought of the idea of … the open-air pyre and leading the body to it and placing it on the pyre and everybody’s weeping and it’s beautiful. But the reality that I found is that modern crematories are really industrial environments and the body goes into large industrial machines and oftentimes I was the only one there. And it’s hot and it’s dirty and you get covered in dust [ashes] as you’re working.”

I have never had a romantic or mystical view of cremation or dying, but I guess that is because our western culture just doesn’t do that sort of thing and my family is a rather stoic lot. Several members of my immediate family have been cremated, my father’s mom and dad, my father and most recently my mom’s mother. My father’s parents, my grandparents, were cremated and their ashes were spread in area’s that meant something to them. My grandfather was spread in a field he used to love to go with his dog to hunt duck and pheasant and my dad and I spread my grandmother’s ashes around their home on the lake.

I took care of my fathers final arrangements and picked “him” up from the funeral home after he was cremated. I remember the person at the mortuary warning me before  giving me the wrapped square package that it was heavy so that I wouldn’t drop it when they handed it to me. It was heavy, the size and weight of a large brick, but wrapped in paper that looked like it could be used to wrap a wedding gift. It took us a couple of years to decide what to do with his ashes. Finally we decided, my little brother, my grandfather(my mom’s father) and I, to pack into the North Cascade mountains on horses and spread his ashes in a place that we thought was special to him. That is a day I will always cherish and remember.


Grandpa Chuck and my little brother Andy sharing a drink on top of the mountain after we spread my father’s ashes.

My grandmother, who passed away on mother’s day over 6 years ago now(wow time does fly by), was cremated and set in a mausoleum at the cemetery where her mother is buried. There is a spot for my grandfather to be beside her when it’s his time to go. I like the idea that they will be together someday, hopefully a long time from now, for eternity in their little spot on the wall.

Today, my wish is to be cremated and my ashes spread in Clear Lake near my grandparents home and around the lake where I spent many happy years as a child. I say today, because things can change, life goes on and some other place may develop that enduring impact on me that that place of my early childhood had on my life. In fact, I hope it does; that will mean that I have been truly living my life, tasting what it has to offer, enjoying it, finding pleasure and other places to be myself.

Do you think about death? Do your loved ones know your wishes after you are gone? Do you have a living will? Do you want the right to choose if necessary “death with dignity”?

No Refrain


Those unasked questions with answers never revealed.

Those questions haunt me and now with death forever sealed.

Why didn’t you ask a friend will say.

Because I always thought I’d have a chance another day.

I live with regret and not just a chosen few.

Those unasked questions stunt my life and dim my view.

A better daughter and more faithful friend,

what a different relationship it could have been.

Some chances lost, but other still remain.

So I’ll ask those questions now without refrain.