Get Off Your High Horse Man

Posted by Danny

Yesterday afternoon I was in the car with Michelle and Stephanie and we were talking about Lisa.  After a few minutes of laughing about mom memories, one of the kids said, “What if you would have died and mommy would have lived?” 

I said, “Well, what would that have been like?”

Without hesitation, Michelle said, “That would have probably been better because mom could really relate to girls.”

Ouch.

Thank God for Stephanie.  My sweet child said, “Michelle.  It would not have been better; it would have just been different.”  She then proceeded to explain that I was funny and a good tickler and cuddler but that mom knew more about girls.  She also said that mom was very organized and didn’t really miss things like Awards Chapel at school. 

There must be comfort in having absolute confidence that your parent will show up for your special occasions AND will pick you up on time after school.

Stephanie then said, “But you know dad, we have DJ and she walks us up to the shopping center to get our nails done and stuff – so that’s pretty much covered.”

I’m sure she would be comforting Lisa in a similar situation.  That’s just what Stephanie does.

When I told DJ Michelle’s response to the question, she replied, “You shouldn’t have asked.”

When I start to get cocky about my parenting abilities, just when I jump on that horse, I’m immediately knocked off.   Thank goodness for kids who keep us grounded, I guess.

A Gift For Us

Posted by Danny

Today would have been Lisa’s 41st birthday.  I’m on a cruise – I just can’t face these days at home.

But I think that she has given me a gift on this, her birthday.

On February 14, 2010, Lisa wrote me a Valentine’s Day card.  It was ten days before she died. 

For some reason, I did not open it that night.  She was sick and I just never got around to it.  In fact, I didn’t decide to open it until the day after her funeral.

When I sat in my chair in the den and opened the red envelope, I was scared that I was going to be disappointed.  That perhaps she would have just signed her name.

I was not. 

It wasn’t a long card, but it was the most beautiful, selfless thing I’ve ever read.

I have written that I have very little guilt associated with Lisa’s death.  I think I did all that I could – and perhaps I have that clear conscience because she wrote that in this card. 

It was a message from the one I loved who told me not to worry, not to feel responsibility for the outcome of her disease – that I had done all that I could do.

It was a  get out of jail card from the only person who could issue such freedom. 

Although I was totally unprepared for Lisa’s death, my wife knew she was going to die and wasn’t about to let that keep the rest of us from living.  Instead of resentment toward those who were able to stay behind, she showered them with love and offered us an invitation to move forward without her. 

She gave us the gift of a clear conscience; she gave us the gift of a guilt free future.

Happy Birthday Baby.  And thank you.

Excelling at Grief

Posted by Danny

In first grade at my kids’ school, the children draw a picture of their family.  It’s a school  fundraiser.  You can get the pic put on a magnet, coffee mug, or an apron.  I think for $20 you can have it tatooed on your thigh.  The options are limitless.

Our tradition is to get the art on a notecard and then frame it.  We hung all three girls’ family pictures in our bathroom – over the toilet.

Last February when Lisa died, I would examine the drawings every time I stood in front of the toilet.  And for me, that was often.

I especially looked at the renderings of Lisa.  When I saw our family, standing there so innocent and happy, the gaping hole that was left was keenly apparent.  It was as if when I saw the scene someone had taken white-out to my wife.  I could see such a huge void between me and the girls. 

I wondered on many occasions how long it would be before I could pee without the emotional pain of looking at those pictures.  I wondered when I would go to the bathroom and not become focused on the three Lisa’s surrounding me.  Would I be able to look at those pictures and not be flung into my deep place of sadness?

This afternoon I went to the bathroom and as I was finishing up, I glanced at the pictures.  A smile came to my face.  I realized that at some point, I’m not exactly sure when, I began to enter my bathroom without being focused on our loss.  I looked at our family, zeroed in on Lisa, and thought of the woman I loved, not the one I missed.

It was a good moment.

But grief is strange.  My victory in the bathroom seemed to be overshadowed by a three mile run down Ridge Road.  I sobbed so hard that a lady walking her dog crossed the street to avoid the weird-o heading toward her.  I  think the grief hit because I didn’t cry in the bathroom.  Perhaps it was guilt that I could look at her and not always feel sad.  Perhaps it was the realization that I no longer expect her to be laying beside me in the bed at night.  Or maybe I just missed her as I do at some point in every day.

I’m so good at grief, I can find it even in the healing!  At least I excel at something.

Dancing

Posted by Danny

There is a lot of writing about guilt and grief.  I think many people who lose someone harbor a great deal of guilt or have a number of regrets about things they wish they’d have done differently.  I only have one.

Lisa and I loved to dance.  We weren’t always the best dancers on the floor, but we could hold our own.  We particularly enjoyed shagging.  You learn a handful of twists and turns and you can use those moves with any number of genres. 

I remember last spring when it first dawned on me that I would never be able to dance with my wife again.  I was driving back to Raleigh from my parent’s house in Fayetteville; we were on I-95.  The radio was on and the kids were distracted.  I don’t recall the song; but I do recall the stunning realization that I would never again hold her on the dance floor. 

I could picture the smile on her face when we would master a new move.  I could almost feel her body in my arms as we moved closer for a slow song.

I could remember sitting at a table when the music started – she’d say, “I love this song.  Let’s go.”

“Nah.  There aren’t enough people out there yet.  I don’t want people staring at us.”  Or “Let’s have a drink first.  You know I move better after a glass of wine.”

And that is my regret.  We danced a lot.  But there were times she wanted to hit the floor and I resisted. 

I can’t believe I let those opportunities slip by.  Why did I care what other’s thought?  Why wasn’t I sure enough about myself to respond to her request?  If I just had one more dance –

I’m determined not to make that mistake again.  At the wedding last month in DC, I grabbed my girls as soon as the band started.  Michelle and I hit the dance floor – Jesse grabbed Stephanie.  Soon all five of us were hands in the air, shaking our booties.  When our favorite family rap came on (doesn’t every family have a favorite rap song?), we all stood in the middle of the dance floor, singing to the top of our lungs:

In New York,

Concrete jungles where dreams are made of,

There’s nothing you can’t do

Now you’re in New York,

These streets will make you feel brand new,

Big lights will inspire you

Let’s hear it for New York.

Jesse and DJ are learning the verses – the rap part between the chorus.  We’ll be even better prepared at the next event.

It’s really about maximizing your time.  It’s really about maximizing your opportunities.  It’s about not sitting out of the dance.

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