Archive for From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother’s Journey Through Grief"

February 3, 2005

// March 8th, 2011 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

I’m always so sorry when I avoid my journal for so long. I often put aside for “later” the things that I know are best for me. The things I find the most personally enriching…prayer, bible study, meditation, exercise, and journaling. These I put on the back burner. Instead I sleep late in the morning because I’m so tired. When I finally get up around 9 a.m. I get lost in my day, literally. Sometimes I find myself standing in the middle of a room wondering, “Where do I begin?” If I can’t figure it out I sit to wonder, staring blindly at the walls.

A few days ago I got up early. I studied, prayed, and meditated. My entire day went great! I was productive and I felt excellent.

Today I woke up sluggish (catching another cold—blah) so I went back to bed and fell into a heavy sleep. I had another house dream. But in my dream this morning I was in was this house, our home of twenty-six years. For some reason Dave and I were inspecting one of the front hall closets and we found a passageway leading to a secret basement level. There we discovered three rooms. Of course, one was a bathroom; there usually is a hidden bathroom in my house dreams. In my dream we were so excited to discover these new rooms.

Now, what does it mean? Am I the house and the newfound rooms my as yet undiscovered potential?

October 28, 2004

// February 8th, 2011 // 1 Comment » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

This time last year I was overwhelmed with anxiety and panic attacks. But on November 14 I woke up feeling lighter….as though I had stepped out from a dark shadow. I knew then that Dave had been right. It was apprehension over Steve’s approaching birthday causing the anxiety. That was the first year the guest of honor would be missing from his own birthday celebration, highlighting his permanent absence. This year I’m prepared for these feelings. I’m allowing the emotion but not the anxiety.

Since I started meditating I’ve been better able to breathe through the beginnings of a panic attack so it doesn’t get a foothold. I’m able to recognize the first hint of a rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, and shallow breathing for what it is, acknowledge it, and release it. What a relief! Though the sadness comes and goes, the disabling anxiety isn’t the threat it once was.

I’ve been thinking so much about him today…

Steve, as a baby….

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Steve, as a boy….

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Steve as a young man….

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Steve, as Husband and Daddy.

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Steve, old before his time.

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Steve, who would never know old age….


October 7, 2004

// February 4th, 2011 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

Marisa and Ethan are home from the hospital! So good to visit them in their own comfy space.
Before going over to see them after dinner tonight, I took a special treasure to Albertson’s floral department.

The day after Nick was born Alice and Don came to meet their new grandson. She carried with her a small bouquet of flowers in a bootie shaped vase. As she placed it on the bedside table she told me, “This little vase was given to me the day David was born and I’ve been waiting all this time to give it to his first baby.”

I have protected this memento for 26 years, waiting as Alice did, to give it to my son’s wife when their first baby was born. I was terrified I would break it before I could carry on the tradition started by my sweet mom-in-law. Tonight I walked into the store hugging my carefully wrapped treasure to my chest.

As Lauren filled it with a spray of tiny blue carnations and baby’s breath I told her the story behind it. “…I’ve managed to keep it in one piece and now that my son is a daddy I’m relieved that I can hand it down to his wife.”
“No one has ever brought in an heirloom for me to fill. That is so neat!”
After finishing the flowers she placed the bootie in a box and protectivly surrounded it with floral foam to insure I reached my goal.

“Be careful! And, no charge for the flowers. I hope your daughter-in-law likes it!

She does….and now Marisa is waiting to pass it along to Ethan’s wife!


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October 6, 2004

// February 1st, 2011 // 2 Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

I woke up blue this morning. Steve’s absence has cast a pall over the joy I bathed in just yesterday. My limbs were heavy as I showered and dressed for my trip to San Diego to visit Marisa and Ethan at the hospital. During the thirty minute drive, alone in my car, I started to cry. The closer I got to the hospital the harder tears came. I’ve gotten pretty good at functioning while I have a good cry. I can sob, eyes wide open, mind alert to the cars around me on the freeway.

Once I found a parking spot on the quiet road behind the hospital I sat in my car and just let loose. I wanted to go in to see them, to cuddle my new grandson but I was overwhelmed with the sadness of this powerful first. The first baby born to the family since Steve’s death. Nick’s baby. Sitting in my car, tears running unchecked down my cheeks, I imagined how different this day would be with Steve here. Even the little boy’s name would be different. Steve’s first son is Nicholas, after his brother. For years Nick and Marisa planned to name their first son after Steve. But right now the family is still too raw to introduce another Steve into our midst. And such shoes to fill! How could Nick do that to his son? The time isn’t right…yet.

How Steve would have reveled in this event, sharing the experience of fatherhood with his brother! He was such a doting uncle to Kirstie, Kyle, and Josh. I know he also would have automatically loved Ethan, the baby of his lifelong best friend, his brother. And how Steve would have razzed Nick!

But I knew I was wasting precious time sitting in my car creating artificial memories. It was time to go in and enjoy my family. I sucked in a deep, ragged breath, mopped my face, and blew my nose. I started the long walk to their room, one foot in front of the other, getting a little easier, a little quicker, with every step.

When I arrived Marisa kissed Ethan’s forehead before passing her snuggly wrapped bundle to me. I pulled him close, involuntarily anointing him with fresh tears. We settled into the chair near the window, sunlight bathing this new little piece of our future.
My finger traced Ethan’s ear, jaw line, and nose as I examined the small details of my newest grandchild. Crooning to him and visiting with his mom my sadness was crowded out by new joy.
Two hours later I walked through my front door, memories of my own children bouncing around in every room. And I was smiling.


A new baby.

A new beginning.

October 5, 2004

// January 28th, 2011 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

He’s here! Nick and Marisa’s baby boy, Ethan Nicholas Haas is here. October 5, 2004, 4:23 PM, 9lb, 3oz. Healthy! Beautiful! A perfect little baby face! Marisa did great! Nick still seems to be in awe! He was with her the entire time. They didn’t want anyone else in with them for the birth so Lydia and I waited in the full to overflowing waiting room with rest of the family.

At about 4:20 I grabbed my fellow “Grandma-in-Waiting” by the hand and we took a walk around the hallway toward Marisa’s room. Standing outside her closed door we could hear the lusty wail of a newborn, our mutual grandson. Lydia and I bear hugged each other before heading back to the waiting room to share the news. Nick met us there minutes later, red-eyed and still teary, and led the family to the room where we were given a proper introduction to Mister Ethan. The throng that had been filling the waiting room now filled the birthing room.

What a wonderful way to welcome the newest member of the family!

A new baby. A new beginning.

September 30, 2004

// January 5th, 2011 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

I have felt so much more “together” lately. The pain, grief, and guilt seem be evaporating, leaving just a mist. The fog is leaving my brain. I feel happy again. Now my core is happy with the shadow of sadness, not the other way around. I don’t feel the presence of my other self as heavily as I did before. I feel liberated. Thank you Lord for guiding me to Toby! She has helped me find my way out of my prison of grief and guilt.

I was thinking back on leaving Steve when we went on vacation the June before he died and feeling bad about it, even though when I told him I decided to stay home, he insisted we all go as planned. The whole time we were gone I imagined how much better he would be by the time we returned. None of us had any understanding of how little time we had left together.

But if we hadn’t gone Amy wouldn’t have had the opportunity to help him as she did. She came over every day to help him with his daily needs, and in the evening to help him get ready for bed and get him into bed. They spent time together, they talked, and she cared for him. She also took him to several doctors’ and physical therapy appointments gaining a greater understanding of what he was going through.

Though I do have misgivings about not having that time with him I am happy that Amy was able to bank even more memories of her brother, and that Steve had that special time with Amy.

And I know that we’ll be together later.

September 26, 2004

// December 10th, 2010 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

Amy and I have been having trouble dovetailing our schedules lately to fit in our morning walks. For the last few weeks Dave and I have been getting up early to go for a walk before he has to get ready for work.
I don’t ordinarily like to look 5:30 AM directly in the eye, so when he whispers my name into the dark room it’s a real chore to force myself out of bed. As I’m getting dressed my eyes are still stubbornly pretending to sleep. Within ten minutes, after a glass of soy milk and victory over my eyelids, I’m good to go. I really like being up in the mornings. It’s the getting up part that’s so hard for me.
Forty-five minutes later as we trudge up the hill to our front door I’m on an endorphin high that lasts all morning. I’ve noticed that my energy levels are up dramatically since I’ve started the regular exercise. I’m also feeling happier as I go about my days. Now, my core is happy with a shadow of sadness instead of the other way around. The presence of my “Other Self” is fading, freeing me from that shadow.
I am so grateful to God for leading me to the massage therapist. She has been my facilitator, helping me find my way out of the prison of grief and guilt.

My eyes are opening to new views of my regrets.
I had been beating myself up over leaving Steve to go on vacation the June before he died, even though it was he that insisted I not change my plans. All the while we were away I imagined how much better he would be by the time we returned home. None of us had any understanding of how little time we had left together.
But if I hadn’t gone Amy wouldn’t have had the opportunity to help him as she did. She came over every morning to help him with his daily needs, and in the evening to help him get ready for and into bed. They spent time together, they talked, and she cared for him. She also took him to several doctors’ and physical therapy appointments and was able to gain a greater understanding of what he was going through.

I still ache for time I missed with him but I see that it was good for Steve and Amy to have had that time with each other. And I know that we’ll be together later.

September 11, 2004

// December 9th, 2010 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

Last night I had two vivid dreams. In the first one I was nursing a month-old baby and I had abundant milk.

The second dream was … complicated. I was parked on a quiet street in my van waiting for someone (a friend of Robyn’s?). He got into the back of the van and as I turned to tell him not to sit in the center seat I noticed that the car was full of people, each seat and the space between the center seats were full but I counted fourteen of us.
When I pulled away from the curb the van felt very heavy and the engine bogged down but I kept trying. Somehow I veered from the road into a small field that was surrounded by small asphalt roads and some buildings. I tried to drive from the grass onto one of the roads but I couldn’t get onto the first one. I turned left to drive across the open grassy area wanting to try for another of the roads…. Here’s where it gets weird! I drove toward a small patio (?) area where there were about a dozen penguins (the kind on the Mario games). They were waddling around randomly, eating French fries off the ground as they wandered. There was a two or three story building adjacent to the patio. Several people were leaning out of the windows laughing and talking to each other as they threw more fries to the penguins. That’s when Dave woke me up to go on a walk.

I researched a few of the dream symbols. The baby can represent advancement, a longing for rebirth, starting over. (I guess I am trying to start over.)
The number fourteen can signify the unexpected and a need to adapt to ever-changing circumstances. It is also symbolic of overindulgence and how one is giving too much into one’s desires. I guess my brain knows that I’m overeating and shopping too much.
I thought the car was me, but that didn’t feel quite right so I looked that up, too. It can mean a transformation into something new. Since I was having difficulty driving I’m sure that points to the difficulty of this journey I’m on, overcoming grief and guilt.
Just a guess…

September 8, 2004

// December 3rd, 2010 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

I went in for another massage today. I expected to be as out-of-it as I was last time but this was better. The meditation seems to help me focus on my future, keep me moving forward.

We chatted as she worked on my back. When she found a particularly painful spot she said it was good that everything was so near the surface. With her finger she drew a short line between my right shoulder blade and spine saying, “This is the gateway to guilt and grief.” I was stunned by her accuracy.

I have been holding in so much guilt in the form of “should haves”. As I lay there trying to let go of the guilty feelings I couldn’t. I asked why and she told me “It’s like being afraid of success. Afraid of the unknown. If you let it go, what will be there in its place?”
This has helped and I’ve changed my mantra ~ “With courage and grace I step boldly into my future for I am a woman of strength. I release the need to hold on to pain and grief for I know your mercy and forgiveness. Thank you, Lord.”

I know that neither Steve nor God want this for me, to carry such a burden of sorrow. I can serve God better without this load.

I know now, too, why I’ve been having so many physical symptoms lately (panic attacks, back pain, food cravings). My body is trying to find its new balance, asking me- ~ are you sure you want to let this go? Yes, body…I’m sure. But we’ll take as much time as we need. We won’t move too fast. We’ll be fine.

And it’s OK to let go of the guilt. There was nothing I could do to keep Steve here, even though my heart tells me I was his mom. I was supposed to make everything all better. But I couldn’t make this better. I couldn’t kiss this away.

September 6, 2004

// November 30th, 2010 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

Today I set up a “stamping station” in the spare bedroom. While a young friend had been staying in the room, I employed the den closet to store and use my card making supplies. Now that the small spare bedroom has been vacated it will be the perfect place for our crafts.
Seeing that I needed something to store my stamp sets in I decided on the plastic chest of drawers Steve had kept by his bedside. I grabbed it and the box of his things from the storage room and pulled them into the room that had been Steve’s childhood bedroom. Quietly pulling Steve’s things from the drawers, touching things he had touched, I shed no tears. I was even able to smile at some of the memories held within.

In the top drawer I found a stack of photos. Nic, Chris, and Annette smiled at me as they once smiled at Steve. How many times had Steve fingered these same photographs? I added them to the box.
Tucked behind the pictures were mementos from a night at Boomers where he, Nick, and Robyn spent three hours and about $100 playing games and accumulating more than 5,000 tickets. They came home that night high on fun, laughing and tripping over each other to be the first through the front door, arms full of booty. Among their treasures were two lava lamps, plastic hand held games, noise-makers, small high-bounce balls, and three small putty filled toilet-shaped containers. As soon as they burst into the living room, dumping most of their new toys onto the coffee table, they simultaneously flipped up the lids of the tiny toilets. Pressing the putty with their fingers they filled the room with disgusting, socially unacceptable sounds. In their best dramatic farce they made the facial expressions and body movements to go along with the noises. Their unabashed laughter was contagious!
I opened the lid of the toy toilet I found in Steve’s drawer. The putty had long since dried and stuck to the sides, but memories of that night brought a fresh smile to my face.

In the next drawer were things he needed to keep nearby ~ insulin syringes, alcohol and Betadine wipes, and clips to open the dialysis solution packages. Most of these I was finally able to throw out today. Their dates have expired and they only serve to remind me of the sick Steve. I’d rather have mementos of the healthy, fun Steve.

The bottom drawer was stuffed full of packages of gauze (large rolls, 4×4 squares, and 2×2 squares) and ointments. All for the daily dressing changes he needed to keep the head wound clean and protected.
That head wound seemed to be the only part of Steve that was working right. Only what was happening wasn’t exactly “right”. After the surgery to remove a tenacious infection from Steve’s scalp, his surgeon told us that the only way to repair the 4×5 inch open wound would be by stretching his scalp slowly until the edges would meet, and then to suture them together. It would be a long and painfull process. At the first post op appointment Dr. Kadesky noticed that there was new skin growing along the suture lines of Steve’s skull. He was amazed and told us that this was just didn’t happen! He gave us some special ointment and covering to use every day to encourage the growth. By the time Steve died seven months after the surgery new skin covered more than three quarters of the opening. At each appointment the doctor took pictures of Steve’s progress. These pictures were tucked into the drawer with the bandages. I opened the small photo album to look at them again. For the first time my eyes remained dry as my finger traced the edges of Steve’s open scalp.

I finished carefully packing these memories into the box with Steve’s few possessions, and put it on the shelf in place of the drawers. I returned to our new Craft Room without a dark cloud over me and organized the supplies, anticipating fun times with my kids and grandkids.

I’ve been meditating at least once a day. It’s still very relaxing, though I haven’t had another experience quite as profound as the first waterfall experience. I do continue to pass through the waters and feel refreshed.