I have come to love my morning walks. Not just love them, crave them. They started not only as a way to get back into shape, to lose weight, but also as a way to try to find some sanity again. I have always gone to the woods when life has been too much. John Muir wrote “And into the forest I go, to lose my mind, and find my soul”. These days I find that many times, I’m finding not just my soul, but my my mind as well. The woods settle me, balance me.

Take this morning as an example. Like many mornings, I awoke to a brain that was already racing like it was Dale Earnhardt running the Daytona 500. So many things to do, so much to get done. So many worries. There was a time when I would start the work right away, check email, put laundry in, prioritize the to do list, but now I put my socks and shoes on, strap on my sidearm, grab my walking stick, douse myself in bug spray and head out the door. Yes, I said strap on my sidearm. I live in the north woods and share my beloved forest with bears, coyotes and the occasional wolf. My measly 38 won’t do much to harm them, but it will scare them and it will alert my husband that there is a problem and he should probably come check on me.

We had thunderstorms last night, so the grass was damp. It wasn’t long before my shoes and socks were soaked through. The plus side was there were hardly any bugs out, even those annoying little gnats seem to have been washed away. It wasn’t terribly early, 9 a.m., but if you know me, that’s on the early side. When I started walking last spring, it was closer to 11 before I got out the door. Who knows, maybe by the time snow flies I’ll be out by dawn. Anyway, there was still that just rained freshness out. The further back into the forest I get, the more peaceful it feels. Sparkling sequins of raindrops still decorate the edges of the ferns, here and there a crystal rainbow spun by a spider hangs between two trees.

At this time of day in the woods, I can remember that there is still magic in this world. Through the softness of the foliage I see carmel brown, a head lifts up over the raspberry bushes. Mama doe and I meet eyes. We silently watch each other for a few minutes before she flicks her tail at me and quietly walks across the trail, followed by a fawn that still has faint white spots. I curtsy as I pass the “fairy tree” and wish her majesty a good day. I know that the malevolent force that lives near to me is not likely to be out and about in the woods at this time of day, so I don’t need to be afraid. I breathe, I walk, I watch, I admire. I find peace, even if it’s only for a short while. My brain takes a pit stop for refueling. I stop worrying about lawsuits, and loss of family, about people who care more about money than feelings and just appreciate the goodness around me. The way the light filters differently through the leaves on the trees than it does through the ferns. That there’s still a raspberry or two hiding on the bushes here and there. That a very pretty rock sparkles on the path in front of me, like a gem that spilled from a treasure chest.

By the time I return home, I feel balance again. My mind, my heart, my soul are more aligned, better able to face whatever the day will throw at me. The end of the day may see it all askew again, but if I have the courage, I can put on my socks and shoes, pick up my walking stick, and in the still of the morning go into the forest to “lose my mind and find my soul”.


A Broadway Show

Last weekend I went to New York to see my youngest son, Jason. He received tickets to a Broadway show for Christmas, and, lovely surprise, wanted Mom to be his date.  I love spending time with this young man. We have wonderful conversations about books, friends, life. We sit on the couch in his Upper East Side apartment, sharing a whiskey, talking into the wee hours of the morning. One of the joys of my life. I was looking forward to seeing a show with him. If I had remembered what he had told me about the story line of the musical, however, I wouldn’t have gone.

The show was Dear Evan Hanson. A musical that has won six Tony awards and a Grammy award. The music was wonderful, the dancing terrific, the staging unique. And the story line heart wrenching, for me triggering. You see, it is a story about a socially  awkward young man (Evan) who invents a friendship with a young man (Connor) who kills himself in the first few minutes of the show. Evan’s lies comfort Connor’s family, and it all sparks a movement about suicide. It is an important conversation that is often hidden in today’s society.  We try to sweep suicides under the rug. We feel shame that our loved one decided to end their own lives. We believe that it is our fault. We don’t speak of them, as if their death negates their lives. We grieve in silence, pretend to have moved on, for to do otherwise is to invite judgement by society. Unless someone has experienced it, they don’t understand that suicide causes a grief like no other. We have guilt like no other. If someone dies of cancer, do we blame ourselves? No. We believe it is fate, or God’s will, or it was because they smoked.  If someone dies by suicide, the survivors will always believe there was something they could have done to prevent their loved one’s death. We have failed, in our love, in our roles of loved ones. In the show, Connor’s parents feel like they have failed in their roles as parents.  I failed in my role as wife. I should have seen the anguish he was in, and been able to stop him.

In the beautiful Music Box Theater, I cried through half the show. My hand clutched by my son, my head on his shoulder, tears falling unfettered down my cheeks and onto my blouse. Thank goodness we were in the back.  This musical, no matter how difficult, was an important one for Jason and I to see together. An important step in our healing. One song in particular pierced my heart. And gave me hope. Hope that someone, somewhere would hear this song and put down the gun they had aimed at their head, or flush the bottle of pills down the toilet instead of down their throat, or drop the razor in the trash.  Evan’s lies created a movement. An awareness of suicide.  A powerful prayer. I hope it translates from the stage into the world.

“You Will Be Found”
(from “Dear Evan Hansen” soundtrack)

Have you ever felt like nobody was there?
Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere?
Have you ever felt like you could disappear?
Like you could fall, and no one would hear?

Well, let that lonely feeling wash away
Maybe there’s a reason to believe you’ll be okay
‘Cause when you don’t feel strong enough to stand
You can reach, reach out your hand

And oh, someone will come running
And I know, they’ll take you home

Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
And when you’re broken on the ground
You will be found

So let the sun come streaming in
‘Cause you’ll reach up and you’ll rise again
Lift your head and look around
You will be found
You will be found
You will be found
You will be found
If you are in the depths of despair, as I have been several times since Tim’s suicide, reach out your hand. Someone will come. Someone will find you.  I will come, as others have come for me. If you want to listen to the song, here it is:

Time is a funny thing

I’m sitting in the Alaska Airlines lounge at the Seattle airport, watching the planes land and take off. We have a couple hours to wait until our connecting flight to San Francisco, where we’ll spend the night before getting on a ship and heading to Hawaii. 4 days uninterrupted by email, voice mail or phone calls. Just the ocean, good friends, books and fun.

It’s a grey morning in Seattle, but isn’t it usually? The sun seems to be trying to fight its way through the clouds, so it may end up being a sunny day. The view outside reflects how I feel inside today.

5 years ago today was the worst day of my life. It was the day I walked into the garage and found Tim, lifeless with a gunshot wound to the head. My world shattered that day. It has taken a tremendous effort to rebuild it. There are those who try to destroy that peace. And there are those who help me preserve it. Most days, it’s a small ache in the back of my heart. It’s seeing his picture and smiling, because I remember the joy he brought to my life. Sometimes it’s a curse and a thrown rock in the woods because I still don’t understand why he did it. Some days it feels like it happened a very long time ago, and some days it feels like it happened yesterday. Time is funny like that.

In the last 5 years, I’ve found that the best way to move through this day, is to keep busy. Traveling is the absolute best. Being with my husband Bill, who helped me want to stay in this world, makes me want to fight those grey clouds away. I will let the grey sit for a little while yet, but then the sunshine of love, friends, travel and adventure will fight it’s way through.

As my son told me this morning, “watch out for pirates Mom…arrhhhh”, and I heard Tim laugh.


A year ago today my phone rang at 8:10am. Sleepily, I reached for it, saw it was my sister and answered. “She’s gone.” “What?” “She’s gone. Mom’s gone.” My first thought was, where did she go? How did she get out? She’s in a locked dementia ward, how did she escape? Did they leave a door open? Have they put out a silver alert? And then it hit me. My sister wasn’t telling me that Mom had run away, she was telling me she had died. In a way, I guess she had run away. She had escaped in the most complete and final way.

Mom loved to travel, to take trips and explore. Summers, when we were children, my Dad worked long hard hours, from sun up to sun down, pouring concrete. He gave us a very good life, one that meant Mom could take those trips, could travel and explore. It meant he didn’t actually get to enjoy that life with us much, but he was happy if his Nancy was happy. It was nothing for Mom to load up the car with us four, plus how many other extra kids were around (and there were always extra kids) to take us on an adventure. Sometimes we would end up driving through endless forests, looking for unique places. Sometimes it seemed like we were driving in circles. My brother would ask if we were lost, and Mom’s response was always no. We were just exploring. I wonder what she’s exploring now?

The last couple of years of Mom’s life were not easy ones. It became evident about 4 years ago that she was having difficulties with her thought processes. Blank looks when something was explained. Poor financial decisions. Outbursts of anger. Paranoia. Meanness. Each getting progressively worse over the years. Slowly my sparkling, witty, charming momma was disappearing. Trips were on the well traveled roads to the doctor, not exploring what was around the next bend of a fire road. By the time Dad died in December of 2019, we could see that things were not going to get better. And so began a series of moves.

From the house they had lived in for 50 years to an apartment in a very nice assisted living setting. When Covid hit just months later, she couldn’t understand that the whole world was shut down. Everyone was being restricted, not just her. The assisted living no longer worked, she needed someone with her all the time, which the assisted living didn’t like. So we brought her to the cabin. My sister and her son were there, and my brother moved his family in as well. I live next door. There were plenty of us to take care of her.

From spring until the end of summer, she stayed at the cabin. By August, the world seemed like it might be getting back closer to normal. School was supposed to start again, people were going back to work and the decision was made to find a place for Mom back home. Back where she had friends, could have more of a social life, and closer to her regular doctors. Move number three was to a new living facility near our hometown. On the surface it looked ideal. Beautiful building, lots of activities, people that she knew. Unfortunately, with this move she was placed in the dementia part of the building. An admission of where things were with her mind. After a couple of months, it became apparent that she wasn’t being cared for properly. Covid had tightened restrictions again, they were understaffed. Her room wasn’t being cleaned thoroughly. We met with the staff, and were assured that changes were being made. They weren’t. December led to another move.

With this last move, she had constant supervision from family. Even though the facility was still in fairly strict Covid lockdown, we thankfully had family that worked there. They were able to check on her everyday, which she enjoyed immensely. She had several health challenges during this time, including several falls. And I think she got tired of it all. So she took her final trip and made her great escape. She got up that morning, needed some assistance in the bathroom. As the aide helped her stand, she died. Just like that. One minute she was here, the next she was off exploring.

I miss my momma, the momma I used to have. But I can’t help but be grateful that her last journey started the way it did. The end stages of dementia can be very ugly. I’m glad she didn’t have to go through that. I hope she is dancing through the clouds with Dad, twirling and laughing as they travel new roads together.

Too Long Away

I’ve been away from this blog for too long. I have dozens of drafts that haven’t been published but it’s time, no it’s beyond time, to let my words escape back into the world. I’m not a good judge, so I will let others judge me if they so choose.

This time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is bittersweet. It’s happy and hopeful, sad and sorrowful.

I’ve always loved Christmas. It’s a time of hope, of peace, of love. And for a while, a time of pain and despair. We put up the tree today. It’s in the corner, as if it’s being hugged by the window and walls. Little white fairly lights sparkle throughout it’s branches. Outside, traces of snow grace the grass, glowing softly under the remains of the moon. More will come, and soon, but for tonight it is only a promise. As the tree is a promise of brightness and joy.

If you’ve read my blog before you know that I’ve had great joy, and great sorrow. I’ve fought hard for life, despairing many days that there was any life worth living anymore. I was fortunate, no, I was blessed, to find someone who convinced me that life was worth living, that I was worth loving, who understood my sorrow as he had his own to mourn. Together we have built a home and a life in a place that we both love.

This year is once again a different holiday season. I lost my hero, my dad, two years ago, my mother last January. My siblings have kicked me out of the family for trying to do what my father taught me to do. So for the first time in my life, I have no birth family left. I won’t pretend that it hasn’t hurt. They aren’t gone because they died. They’re gone because they chose to leave me. I’ve spent my time crying. But I have a family of love and choice. I have those who want me for who I am, for what I am. No blood sister and brother, but those of my heart. A gentle man who holds me close, as I hold him. Friends who value me.

I will continue to build, a family, a life, a home. And I will continue to write, to publish, to release my words to the universe for the world to judge. I won’t hold them in anymore. Maybe something I write will strike a cord with someone, inspire, soothe, entertain. For better or for worse, I’m back at the keyboard.

A widow’s progress


In this new world of mine, there are so many things that I miss, so many things that I am trying to adjust to. The haze of absolute grief that has shadowed my world this last year is beginning to lighten a bit, becoming dark grey instead of complete black. Sometimes there is even sunshine.  Yet, there are still so many things that I don’t understand, and I’m realizing I will never understand them. Why he didn’t talk to me? Why didn’t I see it? Why did he do it where he knew I would be the one to find him? I know I will never have these answers. I know I have to try and go on.

But there are so many things that I miss. I miss having someone to talk to at the end of the day. Someone to celebrate my triumphs, and sympathize with my defeats. Someone who encourages me each and every day. The dogs listen with cocked heads, but they don’t talk back. They just want another cookie. I miss human touch. A hug, a kiss, holding someone’s hand, just the presence of someone else in the room with me. I miss shared meals, and laughter, conversations over whiskey and dancing in the living room.  Hearing a good morning, and being wished a good day. A good night and sweet dreams.

For the first time since I was 22 years old, I am living by myself. Sometimes the emptiness of the house is overwhelming. Even when I was a single mother, and my sons were with their dad, I knew they were coming back. Their things were in their rooms, toys in the living room, their books were on the shelves. It wasn’t like I was truly alone, because their essence filled the house. Now it is just me. No one has ever lived in this house with me before. There is no other human’s  presence here but mine.

Being a widow is a lonely journey. Becoming a widow by suicide is even lonelier. Yes, I have some terrific friends in my life, but they can’t truly understand. And they get tired of hearing about it. No one can understand unless they have experienced it themselves. Suicide causes a different kind of grief. Not worse, but different. Knowing that the person who pledged to love you till death do you part, chose death instead of spending more time with you creates questions that no other kind of death does. Questions I will never have the answer to.  And yet, I try to move forward. Still one day, one step, one breath at a time.




The Empty Boat

The Empty Boat

In the dusk of the evening, the haunting wail of a loon searching for it’s mate drifts over the lake, and an empty boat waits. There is no one at the helm, no fishing line in the water. It waits for a pilot who is no longer here. You have left us, with no explanation, no understanding. My grief is as deep as the lake, as dark as the approaching night. Did you take this boat to the other side? Did you drift upon the crystal clear surface of the lake to somewhere you felt no pain? I see you in the evening light, the skies purple, pink and blue, your hand on the trolling motor, a grin on your face. Why have you drifted away from me?

A year ago today, you decided for some reason known only to you, that you could no longer stay in this world. Did you know that you would destroy my heart? Did you know that my world would end when that bullet struck your brain? It may have ended what pain you were feeling, but it exploded mine. Charon has carried me across the river Acheron into my own personal Hades but left my body here.

This has been a year of unending grief. Will things change now that all the firsts are done? The  first holidays, the first birthday, our anniversary, and now, the first angel anniversary? I don’t think there is any magic to the first year being over. My grief hasn’t ended. Every day is still a challenge to move forward, to live, to have a life not framed in sorrow. But move forward I do. One step, one breath at a time.

As Maya Angelou wrote, “I answer the heroic question ‘death where is thy sting?’ with ‘it is here in my heart and mind and memories’. “. My heart and mind are full of you today. The memories are overwhelming.



It’s been four months since that terrible, awful day. Four months of pain, disbelief, anger, loneliness.  The pain is as sharp today as it was the day I found him. My grief knows no boundaries. But I am trying to find positives in my life. The biggest one is gratitude. I am so grateful for all the people in my life who are concerned, who care, who keep me going.

I am grateful for my sons. They are truly wonderful men, all four of them. My John, Tim’s Jon, Ben and Jason. Without them, I would simply follow Tim. Their love, support and concern help keep me going.

I am grateful for my family. My mother and father, who support me through all of this. My sister Micki, her husband Kevin, my nephew Kodi, brother Dan and his wife Jean, who care so much about how I am doing. Tim’s mom Deannie,  and brothers Mike and Todd.

I am grateful for my friends. I have some really good ones. Gina, Don, Dean, Gloria, Bob, Cindy, Tracey, Deb, Anne, Rich, Don, Cathy.  I am grateful for all of those who loved Tim, and reach out to me in his memory.

I know I am blessed to have all these beautiful souls around me. I try to remember that everyday. But as I sit here, wrapped in Tim’s jean jacket, I still can’t see a way forward. Is gratitude a strong enough emotion to sustain a life? How do I move forward in a world that doesn’t have him in it?

I don’t understand why he did what he did. I don’t think I ever will. I don’t understand why he didn’t’ take me with him. He destroyed my life, why didn’t he just finish the job? There must be a reason that I am still here, but I don’t know what it is. And I don’t know why I shouldn’t follow him.

The funeral home made me a necklace with his fingerprint. On the back, it says I will find you. How long do I have to wait, before I can go find him?

If you read this, give me a positive. Give me a reason I should go on. Tim took my heart, my love, and all my plans for the future with him. Where do I go from here?

Nightmares of the soul

Once again, I sit outside in the dawn light, computer on my lap, trying to write. The sun is coming up, highlighting the oranges, reds and yellows of the trees across the lake. But through my tears I don’t see their beauty. A month ago, I sat outside on the front porch at home, staring out at the dimming darkness, trying to write the hardest thing I have ever written in my life – my husband’s obituary.  Now, I sit on the deck at the lake, Lobo at my feet attempting to make sense of it all, wondering how I can go on without him.

I call this nightmares of the soul, because I no longer have any daydreams. He took those with him when he decided to leave. I only have nightmares. Nightmares of finding him, covered in blood. Nightmares of guilt. Why didn’t I, the person closest to him, see how much pain he was in? You see, my husband didn’t just die – he chose to die. Suicide is an ugly word, an ugly act. It leaves those left behind with a hole in their lives that can never be filled. Death of all kinds leaves a hole, but suicide consumes you with questions of why. It leaves you with no time to prepare for the grief, no sense that death is a natural progression of life. It’s a life abruptly ended with a single gunshot. A single gunshot that took not only his life, but mine as I knew it as well.

We were supposed to grow old together. It took us so long to find each other in this life, and  we had so many plans. Plans for travel, to beaches, to return to Ireland. Plans for dinners, and parties, and walks in the woods. Why couldn’t he tell me of his despair? Everyone tells me how wonderful it was to see how much he loved me, but if he did, how could he do this? The grief of his loss is unbearable. It eats at me day and night, each day I miss him more.

I sit in this place that he loved, in a place where he always found peace, and wonder why didn’t he come here and ground himself again? Feel the leaves crunch under his feet, smell the forest, stare into a fire burning brightly in the fireplace? I have no answers, I have no why.

There are so many that miss him. Our boys, our grandchildren, brothers, sister, mother, my parents and siblings, nieces and nephews, friends. I grieve for their loss, as well as mine. But the nightmare is mine alone. And I’m afraid I will never wake up from it.Tim with flowers

Giggle, a light silly laugh. Laugh, lively amusement. Guffaw, a loud and boisterous laugh.  It’s a progression. Sometimes you have to start at the beginning, and work your way up.

After a very hard year, I’m working my way up from giggle to guffaw. Some days I can giggle, some days I can laugh. I haven’t reached guffaw yet, but I feel I’m on the verge.  There are many things that make me giggle or laugh these days. Listening to my fourteen-year old granddaughter talk about a book she’s reading makes me giggle. It’s so good to know that she loves books as much as I do.  I watch her, walking with her nose in a book, much as I used to (okay, I still do).  I laugh when my six year old grandson and I blow a stream of bubbles and then try to catch them.  Or when the goofballs we call dogs have a romp in the backyard.  It is pretty silly looking to see the 20 pound Westie chasing the 180 pound Pyrenean Mastiff.

There are loud laughs, quiet laughs, and laughs that just won’t stop.  Giggles at breakfast, and in the middle of the night. Laughter of any kind brings relief, excitement, joy. Laugh, and you can literally feel the tension leaving your body.  It just melts away.  Sometimes it is hard to find something to laugh at. Sometimes, the world just seems to dark and dreary. But if you can find something to make you giggle, or laugh, or heaven help you, guffaw, you’ll find the world just a little bit lighter, a little less dreary. Go ahead, try it.  If it seems too hard, start with a smile.  That’s where all laughs start. With a gentle upturn of the corners of your mouth.

What things make you giggle and laugh?  When’s the last time you’ve had a good old fashioned, belly aching,  guffaw? Tell me about them, and I’ll have a laugh with you too.