Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Testament to How Well I Am Handling My Grief

Last night, after I published my entry, I completely lost all ability to cope with anything pertaining to the last three years of my life. I could no longer deal with Chris’ illness, the diagnosis, his death, my grief or the threat of a new relationship with Marc. All of it seemed a cruel injustice to my memory of Chris.

I needed Chris more than I have ever needed him. I felt my way to the bedroom through my tear-obstructed view and walked straight to my closet, stumbling along the way, broken and dizzy with grief. I needed his trademark jacket and stripey shirt. I needed them. I pulled the articles of clothing off of the rod and sank to my bed, clutching them to my chest, holding onto them as though they were Chris and I could hug them and hold them until I could feel his body, warm with breath inside of them, all the while howling like an injured animal. My body shook with anguish and the tears would not stop coming, nor would the mucus stop running from my nose. I didn’t care. I let it drip to the floor as I sat, once again, completely deflated, defeated and beaten.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the full-length mirror and realized that altering the angle of my reflection allowed me to see Chris there, in my arms. I could creatively combine his jacket and shirt and my jeans and shoes into a whole Chris for me to look at. Needless to say, my little imagination game proved to be disastrous.

I dropped to the floor, tears pouring from my eyes and my body cold with grief, and began speaking through my choked sobs, “Please come back. Please, Creej.” over and over, living only for the moment of his return to me.

I became vaguely aware of myself at that point and turned my prayers to God, chanting from within my broken, deflated, defeated mantra trance, “God, help me. Please help me. I can’t do this. Please help me, God. Please.”

I began to feel traces of calm entering my body, washing over me. I thought of Chris, wondering if he was there with me and God.

The effects of my episode never really left me, last night. I managed to pull myself together enough to pick up the pizza Carol had ordered and bring it to her house for dinner. I couldn’t put Chris’ clothes back in the closet. It just didn’t feel right. I considered wearing them as I used to do when he was alive and during my early days of grief, but somehow, that seemed wrong. Those clothes are sacred items not to be worn around. Eventually, automatically, I lay them out on my bed. I then turned back to the closet and chose my favorite dress, removed it from it’s hanger and lay it atop Chris’ shirt and jacket, wrapping the arms of the jacket around my dress, leaving them, leaving us embracing, a symbol of the two of us and everything I wish could be. I turned and shut off the light, and left the room and my apartment, my eyes all but swollen closed, and drove myself to the pizza place wondering how I was going to walk in with my “junkie” eyes.

I pushed everything out of my mind and sat with Carol, my body still numb with exhaustion, unable to talk or even think about the events of the previous hour.
My body still feels numb from the undoing. Once again, I frightened myself with the sheer intensity of my grief that continues to lurk within the darkest corners of my psyche.

Last night felt dangerous and scary and showed me just how powerful and humbling grief can be.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Another Season

So many things are happening at once. Tonight I feel the melancholy that comes along with autumn and I wonder if everybody feels it every year, or it if it is just a part of my own past.

When I got home earlier, I went straight to my computer and began tinkering on a Flash web site that I am building. The air coming through my windows was cool and crisp and the room was dark, save for the light cast by my monitor. I felt familiar excitement while I illustrated backgrounds, activated buttons and tested the movie scene I had been creating. I was lost in my excitement, filled by it.

Memories of autumn aromas filled my senses. I could smell apples, breathe in the view of a giant pumpkin patch and I felt safety. For the first time in a long time, I felt safety. I remembered what it felt like to feel safe, a feeling I haven’t felt for what seems a lifetime and the moment I identified the feeling, I became frightened.

I’m not supposed to feel safe. Feeling safe means letting go. It doesn’t matter how hard I try to hold onto him, he’s going.

I used to come home and work on my web pages when Chris and I were not yet living together. I waited for his phone calls, felt the same cool, crisp air, tinkering in the same cloak of stability and safety I felt tonight. I don’t want it. I don’t want any of it. It’s much too scary.

I don’t want somebody else’s love. I want the childlike friendship back that Chris and I built together. To say that I “loved” those days, or “yearn” for them in no way satisfies my desire to describe how it felt to meet him, to get to know him and to ultimately love him beyond any love I have ever felt my entire life through. He was my first.

I am so afraid of what’s happening.

Autumn. Youth. Safety. There is romance in my near future.

I feel robbed and raped and beaten.

And I’m tired. I’m so tired and eternally sorry for everything that has happened.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Friday evening, I went over to Marc’s for dinner and a lovely evening of conversation, laughter and getting to know each other. The night was quite fun. I arrived at 7:30 and left at 1:00. He cooked out on the grill, steak, couscous, grilled vegetables. Dinner was delicious. He even gift wrapped a bottle of A-1 for me, based on a conversation we had the last time we dined out in which I disclosed my severe addiction to the tangy, sweet sauce.

Earlier in the evening, Marc told me that I was welcome to stay if I didn’t feel like driving home. “I’m a good spooner.” he said. I knew instantly that I wasn’t staying. I just couldn’t. I thanked him for the offer but maintained that I needed to go home.

I was afraid of feeling his arm around me. I was afraid I would awaken in the middle of the night and feel tempted to pretend he was Chris lying next to me. I would have done that. I know myself very well.

He mentioned that he might have tickets to a ball game at Fenway the next day with Rochester playing Pawtucket. He wasn’t sure that he would get the tickets, but just in case, he wanted to invite me to come along. That was the start of my panic.

I was planning to visit a friend in Plymouth the next day but I didn’t know what time so I couldn’t commit to anything else. As it turned out, I was seeing her for dinner so I wasn’t able to get together with Marc the next day. I was glad. I was scared.

Everything seemed to snowball after that. I was painfully aware that I was avoiding calling him and also aware of the message I was unintentionally sending. I felt bad. Sunday morning, I wrote an e-mail to him explaining what happens in between dates with him. I described my grief in as comprehensive a way as I could. I told him that I needed to take things more slowly, blah blah blah.

While I was writing, I couldn’t stop crying. I fell apart. All I could think about was how much I loved Chris and didn’t want to leave him behind and all of the trauma that accompanied his deterioration and death and all of the pain and just how much it sucks that we’re no longer together. We will never be close again.

To make a long story short, he thought I didn’t want to see him anymore. We ended up getting in touch that evening and talked on the phone, me disclosing more about the way my grief attacks me and he listening and letting me know that he understands. Before the end of the night, we had ironed out the kinks.

Marc called me tonight to say hello and then asked me how I’m doing. He’s very sweet. We talked some more about what my grief is like for me. I shared. He shared. I’m beginning to think I may be brave enough to walk away from the silly notion that Chris is only temporarily gone.

How am I ever going to get along without my Creej?

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Romantic Dinner for Three

Wednesday morning, I woke up and immediately purged the tears that had been welling up in my eyes for the past few days. I got ready for work and left my apartment to walk to the train station. On the way, I felt a very strong desire to listen to the Ellis Paul song, “If You Break Down” which has become an anthem in my life that encapsulates the entire cancer ordeal beginning with Chris’ diagnosis and ending with...well, the end.

More tears welled up in my eyes and I was not successful in my attempts to squash them back down. They flowed freely as I continued walking, unable to control the flash flood, and I thought I was not going to be able to get on the train.

I have published the lyrics here before, as this was the very song I quoted at Chris’ memorial service back in 2005. I love the song, but it holds so much pain and broken promise for me. I love the songs of Ellis Paul dearly. His voice is unlike any I have ever heard before and his lyrics, image-driven and pregnant with symbolism, take me places, some good, some bad, but every one extremely enriching and all-encompassing.

These lyrics are from the album. They’re a little different from what he actually wrote.

If You Break Down (from the album The Speed of Trees)

So you’ve come to a day
where you wish the clocks
could roll backwards
in the cover of night
you're begging the stars to stay
asking satellites
to stop and help you remember
how to picture the world
before everything had changed

If you break down
I'm at your shoulder
Take me at my word
You can break down
I will tell you over and over
A reliable sound is coming around
If you break down

If fear comes without invitation
and lays its head
in the green of your tired eyes
if it's paralyzing
I will wake you
We will walk a thousand paces
walk away, walk away
till you are walking on your own

I remember what it felt like to wish the clock cold roll backwards.
I remember the helpless feeling of begging stars to stay.
I remember the moment I realized I could no longer remember a life that hadn’t been marred by cancer.
I remember hoping against hope for that reliable sound to come around and save me.
My eyes have been nothing but tired since Chris got diagnosed.
The only thing I wanted was for Chris to wake me up and for us to be able walk away from the nightmare.
I am still not walking on my own. Limping, maybe, but I don’t really believe that I will ever walk unaffected, again. The song is a broken promise.

I brought my laptop to my session with Clay and played the song for him. I wanted him to hear what I feel. I think he heard.

After the song, I couldn’t speak about my feelings. I couldn’t stop crying. I still can’t. There is so much association wrapped up in those lyrics. I wish I could enjoy the song again, but I’m not expecting that to happen.

I fell into the black depths of hell on Tuesday and Wednesday and I wanted to tell Marc that I had to stop seeing him. I didn’t do it, though. Instead, I e-mailed him after the open mic on Wednesday evening just to say hello.

Tonight, he is cooking dinner for me at his house. I cannot help but live in two parallel worlds right now. Chris cooked dinner for me right around date # 5, too. I still remember what he made, where we sat, and talking on the sofa afterwards. I am not trying to compare the two men, but it’s happening, anyway.

Tonight, dinner will be with me, Marc and Chris.

No man in his right mind would put up with that.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Marc's Stay of Execution

Today, I managed to convince myself that Marc just isn’t the right guy for me. I had a bunch of reasons I could bring to mind very easily.

I shared all of the reasons over lunch with my friend and she agreed with me that he wasn’t right for me.

I wanted to date other guys. I wanted to be alone for a while, too. I wanted to focus on school, my life and my grief. Once I decided all of these things, I felt enormously relieved. It was just a matter of telling Marc and backing up and reclaiming my life.

Back at my desk, my cell phone rang and caller I.D. said Marc was calling. I panicked. I picked up my phone and hit the “ignore” button to stop the ringing. I was petrified. I couldn’t answer it. I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to talk to him.

After taking a few breaths, I took my phone into an empty area of the office and called him back. We talked for a while. It was nice, as usual.

When I returned to my desk, there was an e-mail from my lunch-friend. She had pasted the following excerpt from an earlier entry of mine:

I elaborated to Marc that if one of my girlfriends had died, nobody would be telling me not to talk about her. Chris was my best friend. “Husband” is just a title.

Marc’s expression was one of thoughtful consideration and with a smile, he replied, “That’s why you married him. You wouldn’t have married him if he wasn’t your best friend.”

Where did he come from? He embodies kindness, patience, optimism, good humor and brilliance. Marc is not without his own grief, having lost his bother, sister and father. He understands that what I feel is normal.

I’m still felling pretty terrified, but I feel a little better.

Way to grant Marc a stay of execution.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Love Again?

Since I can’t have you back, the one thing I want in this world is to love again the way that I loved you.

Since I can’t have you back.

I woke up upset this morning. I just miss him. If I could have Chris back, I would drop everything and just love him.

I miss the way we interacted.

Yesterday’s date with Marc was difficult. It was nice, but difficult. I just kept wanting to be walking on the beach with Chris, dining with Chris and kissing Chris.

My love for Chris became effortless. I want that, again. I didn’t think about what to do, what to say, how to look or how to feel with Chris. I was just me. I want that again.

I keep telling myself that getting to that point took a long time. I have to remind myself about how I wanted to end my relationship with Chris three months into it. I felt like I didn’t like him. Marc and I are already two months in and I feel some things, but I want to feel what I felt for Chris for Marc...or for somebody...anybody.

I still feel all that for Chris. I’m in love with my husband. I feel like I have to stop before anybody finds out. Before Marc finds out.

Or maybe I just need to still be me and anybody doesn’t like it, he’s free to go.

I love you, Creej.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Sliding Doors

The other night as I lay in bed I had an interesting thought.

Of course I wish Chris was alive, so much so that I began to cry. I became aware that I met Marc because Chris died. I would not know him today if Chris was alive and we were still married. I worked myself into a grief episode and thought, “I wish I never...”

The wish was going to be that I never met Marc, but then I realized that I could not finish that wish. I’m glad I met Marc, even if Chris’ death is what made it so. I am really beginning to have feelings for Marc.

Confusion and more grief are setting in. I wish Chris was still alive and that we were still married to each other. I am glad I met Marc. Both of those statements are true and that realization has the capacity to lead me to the brink of insanity.

Two men. One dead. One alive. I feel like I love them both and I feel as though the two of them are intertwined in some way. The two of them are intertwined in my grief and contrasting happiness.

I believe that Chris brought me and Marc together. How else could I possibly have found a man so much like Chris, unless he was a gift?

Marc has a Novocain effect on me. When I am with him, grief fades into a fog. I forget my sadness during the time I spend with him.

I am not yet ready to let go of my sadness. To do so is a horrible act of abandonment on my part. I cannot yet abandon my Chris. I feel as though he still needs me.

He’s probably laughing at me for that.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Howard Alan Burrage 1944-2006

NORTHAMPTON - Howard Alan Burrage was born in Ludlow, Massachusetts on December 2, 1944 to the late Earl and Dorilla (Boucher) Burrage. He died August 10, 2006 at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts of congestive heart failure and sepsis with his daughter by his side. Howard graduated from Cathedral High School in Springfield Massachusetts in 1964. After attending Marist College for one year, he enlisted in the Air Force and spent his time in the service in Biloxi, Mississippi learning Morse Code. After discharge, he returned to Springfield, attending American International College full time as an English major while working full time as an orderly at Baystate Medical Center. In 1970, he joined the Ludlow Junior High School faculty as an English teacher and several years later transferred to Ludlow High School as an English and Drama teacher. He remained on the faculty for twenty years until the cumulative effects of his bipolar disorder took its toll and precipitated his early retirement. While at LHS, he taught Drama classes and was the advisor for the Drama Club. During his time with the Drama Club, he continuously pushed himself and his students to strive to be the best, to always reach higher. Over his career, the group entered many state drama competitions that garnered awards and recognition throughout Massachusetts and New England. His children Chris and Beth developed their love of theater and acting both genetically and experientially as students of their father at Ludlow High School. Howard also enjoyed directing musical comedies for various local community theaters including "Finian's Rainbow", "Gypsy" and "The Music Man". His greatest personal triumph was "Camelot" directed for the Exit Seven Players. Howard was proud to be a founding father of the Exit Seven Players, rescuing an unused, somewhat decrepit old auditorium in the former Ludlow Junior High School building for their home. The company is still going strong some 20 plus years later. Howard spent the last years of his life living in Northampton. He directed several plays there and even last year was taking acting classes at Holyoke Community College. Howard was a dedicated volunteer at the Northampton Survival Center. He was well known and well loved at the Walter Salvo House where he lived and leaves many good friends there including Jim and Ray. Those who know and love Howard know that he was broken physically and spiritually by the death of his son Christopher J. Burrage on January 1, 2005 from cancer at the age of 34. He declined physically over the 18 month's since his son's death. We know he is sad to leave his beautiful daughter, Elizabeth (Beth) Burrage of Ludlow and her twin girls Hannah and Emily, age 8, who early on named him "Boppa" and "Candy Man" much to his delight. He also leaves Elizabeth's partner Bryan Cohen of whom he was very fond. Howard is survived by his former wife, Bonita (Bonnie) Krotkov of Hadley, Massachusetts. Despite their divorce, they remained friends and shared the love of their children and grandchildren and the profound grief in the loss of their son. He also leaves his daughter-in-law, Robin O. Burrage of Malden, legions of drama aficionados, both amateur and professional, and his feline friend Benvolio. Two brothers and a sister survive him. A memorial service will be held at a later date. Contributions in Howard's memory may be made to the Northampton Survival Center, the Walter Salvo House Tenants Association or to a charity of one's choice that supports the needs of people with mental illness. We know that somewhere Chris and Howard are together again in a joyful reunion and enjoying a spirited discussion of theater. Arrangements are entrusted to Nowak Funeral and Cremation Services, Springfield.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

At Ease

Despite the fact that I almost erupted into tears here at my desk after accessing the website from the synagogue I worked at in Los Angeles, not a single tear has run down my cheek since I last wrote. Los Angeles is a rough spot. I can't believe I lived there for two years and that Chris was alive and that we did things together and, and, and...

I am experiencing a lovely, lovely time with Marc. The time speeds by when we are together. Seven hours passed in a flash on Sunday. We shopped, dined, enjoyed Boston’s Back Bay area and talked about anything and everything.

I told him that I am not bothered, at all, talking about Chris but said he had to tell me if it bothered him to hear about Chris. The subject of my deceased husband did not bother him. He said my situation is unique, in that he is the man coming in and that it’s strange that the person who died was my husband.

I shared with him that there are a few people in my life who feel as though they have the right to bestow censorship upon me. “Don’t talk about Chris. Don’t talk about your husband. Don’t talk about your grief.” To those people, I say “It didn’t happen to you. It happened to me and Chris. I will talk about whatever I choose to talk about and any man who cannot handle conversations about reality is not a strong enough or dignified enough person to share my time. Death is a part of life. Truth is a part of love.

I elaborated to Marc that if one of my girlfriends had died, nobody would be telling me not to talk about her. Chris was my best friend. “Husband” is just a title.

Marc’s expression was one of thoughtful consideration and with a smile, he replied, “That’s why you married him. You wouldn’t have married him if he wasn’t your best friend.”

Where did he come from? He embodies kindness, patience, optimism, good humor and brilliance. Marc is not without his own grief, having lost his bother, sister and father. He understands that what I feel is normal.

How I feel about my loss isn’t of much consequence, since I cannot stop my heart from soaring whenever we’re together. I still have a ways to go before I can truly allow myself to fall in love, but he makes me happy. He’s a conversationalist, he’s pro time-alone, anti joined-at-the-hip, expressive and empathic and he sets me at ease.

I have only two more days to wait until I can sit safely enveloped within the embrace of Clay’s office and relay to him my reflections of the past two weeks.

How dare he take a vacation?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Play-by-Play Grief

I feel different and I am afraid of it. I haven’t cried in a couple of days, which is quite remarkable and unlike me.

I miss Marc. I actually miss Marc, and I can feel an onslaught of guilt threatening to wash over me.

I look at Chris’ pictures with the same fondness and love I felt when he was alive and the same sadness since his illness and ultimate death.

And I look forward to seeing Marc.

I’m trying, Creej. I’m really trying.

I keep dreaming of loneliness and waking up feeling empty and sad.

And I feel so damned tired today.

Still, the weather is beautiful, the sun is shining, I’m pulling the chaos aound me into order and I am enjoying today’s solitude.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Howard’s New Beginning

Chris’ father, Howard, died today. He had been sick for a while and then in April, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and emphysema. The doctors gave him one day to six months to live and he died today, roughly five months later.

I’m glad I visited him and got to talk about Chris with him. I got to see him smile and laugh and I saw all of his love for Chris shining through the intense pain that he felt. Howard was a very sad and tired man. I believe he wanted to die because he missed Chris and just because he had a hard life and I’m sure he was tired.

I said it back in April and I’ll say it now. In some bizarre way, I’m envious of him. He got to leave this place. His time was up. Mine will be, too, someday and I’ll be ready to go, too.

I ran after work today to clear my head but I had to stop after four miles. I just didn’t have it in me. After hearing the news about Howard, I sustained an instant headache and became desperately tired. I ran anyway. I walked home the last mile and jumped in the shower. As I stood under the water, I thought to myself, “Chris won’t be around to guide us tonight. He and Howard are having a reunion.” I imagine that Chris was right there waiting for Howard as Howard arrived on the other side. I picture an embrace and a lot of catching up, a private party for father and son.

I just know Howard is happy now, just like Chris after he got to leave his body behind. They’re elated. I can feel it. We wil all see each other again.

I’m half expecting a message of some sort to be delivered to me in my dreams tonight, but that never happens when I’m expecting it.

I feel better tonight. Somehow, knowing that Chris is no longer alone, that he gets to be reunited with is father and imagining the euphoria they both must feel, I feel a little more capable of loosening my white-knuckled grip on...

Hmm...I still can’t call it “the past.”


Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Ephiphany in the Middle of my Work Day

Last night, I had an insight into myself and my life which caused me to stop crying, sit up and ponder the truth about my life.

I am not just a grieving widow. I am not just Marc’s new romantic interest. I am so much more than those two things combined. I am a graphic artist. I am a web designer. I am a singer. I am a good friend. I am a wonderful daughter, sister, aunt and colleague. I am a runner and a biker. I am full of life, love and humor.

The point this moment of realization has brought into light is that I can blow any one of these things alone way out of proportion if I choose to. I can give any one of these aspects of myself far more power over me than it deserves or not enough importance and I can write my emotions as I go. Placing all of the emphasis on Chris’ death steals my breath and shuts me down just like he was shut down. The difference is that I am still alive. I have the power to become the living dead if I choose to live that way, or I can remember that I also have talent and the ability to feel alive. I am full of very powerful emotions.

My growing relationship with Marc has the power to shut me down completely and send me crawling under my bed, curling up into a ball and weeping for all of eternity. But I am not just a woman on the cusp of a new relationship. I am also the very proud aunt of four beautiful children who make me happy and thankful to be alive every moment of my life. I have wonderful friends who make me laugh during the entire time I spend awake each day. My grieving moments, though powerful and filled with agony, pale by comparison.

My job is the best, most creative job I have ever had in my life. I love coming to work every day. I love the creative license I have in the projects that come my way.

Granted, my love for Chris rivals the power of my grief over him, but I am not just a griever. True, part of me is, but not all of me and as long as that rings true, I can temper my moments of darkness with lightness.

Yes, I lost my best friend and husband to a horrible illness, but that doesn’t mean that all I can do for the rest of my existence is grieve. Sometimes I grieve for hours, sometimes for days and even weeks, but then the hours, days and weeks have passed and I have a wonderful time singing and laughing with friends and family.

I am trying to let Marc in. It’s difficult because I feel as though I am pushing Chris out. Marc is new. I’m afraid of him. I don’t know him. I don’t know his idiosyncrasies. I don’t know if he will suddenly blow up at something trivial that I do or say. I didn’t know that about Chris in the beginning, either. Then I found out which things made Chris happy, angry or hurt and we worked those things out. It took six years for me to know Chris as well as I did and even at the six-year mark, I didn’t know him completely. What am I afraid of?

I feel buried beneath the rubble of a collapsed life, trapped under the fallen support beams but I am still alive and I can see light up above me and I can hear voices talking, laughing and singing. I can see and hear all of it and if I push hard enough, I can lift the weight of the collapsed debris off of me and make my way back up into the light. Sometimes I have to push really hard to uncover my spirit. Sometimes, temptation and determination to give up, close my eyes and die in my ready-made tomb is all that exists in the moment and I abandon all hope except the hope that my life will end sooner as opposed to later.

If I can hold onto the insight and use the knowledge that I am a singer, sister, aunt, designer, friend, daughter and love interest against the aspects of grief that knock the wind out of me.

I may be crediting my grief with more power than it actually has. I am not just Chris’ grieving widow. I am his wife, his lover, his friend and his legacy.

I know better than to believe this spark of insight will rescue me from my grief forever. I have a road…a lifetime…ahead of me.

Grieving widow is a component of who I am, but next to all of the other things I am, grief, by comparison, is relatively small.

I wonder when its next ambush will be.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Touching Chris' Stuff

The other day when Marc was in my apartment he was trying to explain to me how to brake a bicycle chain. He looked around for something to help him demonstrate.

He picked up Chris’ guitar hand-strengthener and began to demonstrate. I felt a surge of panic seeing his hands touching something that belonged to Chris. I wasn’t ready, but I held my emotions in check.

Chris’ Aunt Renee gave me a beautiful wooden box in which I keep pictures of Chris . The top of the box is a picture frame which holds a photo from our wedding day of a close up of Chris and I kissing. I keep it on my coffee table. I meant to move it somewhere a little less noticeable before Marc came up, but I forgot. Just now, I noticed that it was moved onto the end table at the side of my couch. I didn’t move it. I think Marc did. I’m guessing he saw it and picked it up to look at it and put it down on the other table. Tonight, when I noticed it was moved, I had a small breakdown and held onto it, sobbing on the couch. I couldn’t stop. I’m freaked out about another man touching my Chris-stuff.

There are so many layers to grief. I hate all of them. I’m so afraid I’m going to make a wrong move and piss Marc off. I know that if that happens, he’s not the guy for me. It’s just a matter of trust. Sitting here and trying to guess what might happen would be a huge waste of time and energy. We live in a free country. If Marc wants to pick up one or two of my things that belonged to Chris, there’s really no law against it. The obvious solution is to hoard everything away in a secret place but I want to keep them out in the open. I really don’t know what the protocol is. There is no crime in Marc touching things. I was really happy that he was looking at the pictures of Chris and me that I have hanging on my walls. He even said, “Is that Chris?” and then he said, “And that must be your wedding day.” He complimented the crown of flowers I wore. I loved that he wasn’t afraid to ask me about or look at the pictures. Is it fair that I keep them up? I can’t take them down. The thought of putting them away makes me feel like vomiting.

Ouch. My neck hurts.

When I began crying, I headed straight for my bottle of Ativan, but I stopped myself before I got there. I don’t want to take drugs anymore to aid me in my battle against grief. I only want to take drugs for recreationall purposes. Ativan feels so much nicer when I start out happy than when I start out in a fit of tears. I finished my bottle of Zoloft and I’m not having it refilled. I’m done. No more antidepressants. They’re so 2005.

Anyway, despite the fact that Marc’s actions threw me into a grief/anxiety attack, he makes me very happy. I hope he stays.

Sunday, August 6, 2006


Tonight, I ran six miles after being sedentary for two and a half weeks. Tomorrow promises to bring intense leg pain.

Depression has a way with keeping me from moving. Today I woke up happy for the first time in about a month or so, give or take a few days.

I continue to experience flashes of panic when I am attacked the realization that Chris once lived and has not been with me for nineteen months. I still can’t believe it. I still can’t believe how ripped off we both were Our love was too young to have to be ended. Even though some very nice feelings toward Marc are forming within me, I am still deeply saddened and haunted by all that has transpired over the past three years.

I don’t want to forget him. I am horrified of forgetting who he was, the feeling of his body next to mine, what he looked like and how we were together. The thought of his memory fading from my mind is terrifying. I grapple to keep him close but I know that as the years pass I will have to place him somewhere within my heart and eventually images of his face will not come to mind as readily as they do now. I am too afraid of that reality to be able to cope effectively.

I feel damaged and I wonder if the feeling will follow me throughout my life. Hyperventilation has become a regular part of my life. Why do I still feel as though I am suffering low grade post-traumatic stress syndrome despite the fact that Clay feels that I am experiencing panic attacks? I don’t feel panicked. I just lose my breath when I get struck with memories of Chris’ illness. I sat helplessly by his side screaming silently from the deepest part of my core, wanting his pain and fear to stop, stop, STOP.

There is nothing more painful in this life than watching someone you love suffer helplessly from a disease that cannot be stopped.


Today, by his own request, Marc came over and fixed my bike for me. I had gotten a flat tire halfway through an 18-mile ride a few weeks back and Marc, an avid quite passionate cyclist, told me not to waste money taking my bike to a shop to have the tire fixed. Today, we drove to Davis Square, bought a new tube and some rim tape and he showed me how to change a tire.

When he finished, I told him how difficult it was for me to let a man do something for me, being the self-sufficient woman that I am. He said, “You did. You supported me. You held the bike up. You held the tire...and kept me company.” What a sweet man.

He came up to my apartment afterwards. Marc is the first man that has been in any of my homes since Chris died. I just couldn’t bear the thought of another man being in Chris’ space. Even though Chris never set foot in my new apartment, he is still the only man I would allow to occupy my living space up until today.

With a quick call to Carol, I obtained guidance and the approval I needed to feel secure in my decision to keep my pictures of Chris right where they are. He will always be a part of my life and I could never put him away in a closet. Chris does not belong hidden away like some filthy secret. He was my husband. I loved him then. I love him now.

I gave Marc the grand tour of my apartment and then he began walking around looking at all of my pictures. He said, “Is that him? Is that Chris?” when he noticed our wedding picture and I said, “Yes. That’s him.” He looked at it and mentioned my little hippie-flower wreath I wore in my hair that day, a homemade gift from Meira. He looked at a small collage of pictures of Chris, and me and Chris together and said, “Is that San Francisco?” I verfied that it was. I don’t know how the pictures made him feel, but he seemed very sweet about them and I liked his curiosity. I liked that he wasn’t afraid to talk to me about Chris. Somehow, he lowered my guard, which has been up for so, so long.

Marc is very much like Chris in so many ways. He is sweet, funny, easy-going, passionate, brilliant, kind and nice to me. His degree is in audio engineering and he worked for a radio station back in the day and wants to get back into it. He is a HUGE Red Sox fan and is so patient with explaining the game to me, much like Chris was. He loves good food, gets annoyed with the general stupidity of society and likes to be alone, away from life sometimes. He’s very, very nice.

I believe that Chris brought him to me. How else could I meet someone so much like much like what I need back in my life. It’s like I lost my best friend in the world and that best friend sought out and found someone for me to be with and try to feel whole with again.

The other day I had e-mailed him telling him that my nerves were wreaking havoc and that I wanted him to know. He replied, asking me if it was something he did or said and I clarified that I was talking about my grief. I told him that I frequently become overwraught and that I just wanted to tell him so that I don’t have to pretend that I am not grieving. I thought it best to be honest with him so he’ll know.

Tonight, in the car, he brought up the e-mail and said he was glad that I wrote it. He said he understands grief (his sister, brother and father have all passed on). He told me he is not trying to put any pressure on me at all and that he has a really nice time with me everytime we go out and that he doesn’t mind taking things as slowly as I need or want things to go. I told him I also really enjoy his company.

Up until tonight, we had been very quickly kissing goodnight with a swift peck on the lips and a hug. Tonight, I kept kissing him. We kissed for a while and then I thanked him for everything and got out of the car.

I couldn’t go upstairs right away. I sat, looking at the stars, called Carol to tell her how smitten I was and how nice Marc is and now I’m writing this, considering watching a bit of tv and then drifting into sleep.

Tonight I am very happy. I am quite smitten with this man. I happy I met him and I’m happy with the way things are progressing. It felt good to kiss again.

And I am so thankful to Chris for watching over me and helping me.

And I miss him.

And I love him.


Friday, August 4, 2006


Last evening, I brought the DVD of our wedding day and my laptop to Clay so he could see Chris in motion. For the first time, I watched the video from beginning to end without shedding a tear. Just last week, I could barely catch my breath and I was hard-pressed to peel myself off of my living room floor for the duration of the ceremony.

Clay liked it. He thanked me for bringing it and he commented on Chris’ quirky sense of humor and how good looking he was. Clay kept saying “is”, though.

Is this another shift in the tide? I feel as though I have admitted something to myself with the act of showing Chris to Clay. Something within me feels different. Have I admitted to myself, by playing the DVD for Clay, that Chris is gone. Who knows? Every time I think I make strides, I find that strides come complete with setbacks. And setbacks were two for the price of one last week.

I feel better, partially because I had a wonderful rehearsal Wednesday night but also partially because I disclosed to Marc that I am still grieving and that one of my fears is that people will expect me to have stopped by now. He was completely understanding and today, for the first time since I have known him, I felt the most minute, barely noticeable fraction of a smouldering spark somewhere very, very, very deep beneath the surface of anything I could possibly reach within me. It might have been a spark of trust.

I feel as though I honored Chris by sharing him.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Good Things Amidst a Sea of Grief

I just got home from rehearsal and I’m not in the mood to go straight to bed, so I’m taking the time I need to unwind. I’m guessing I’ll be hitting the hay at around midnight and that is just fine with me because I know I’m having Thai food tomorrow night and that’s all I really need to know in order to chase away my fear of being tired tomorrow.

I love my director and his husband. They’re very nice, good people. They don’t know how much they have helped me heal just by casting me in their show these past two seasons. Singing is the most therapeutical activity I have ever known. No matter how rough things can get in my life and in my mind, when I’m singing a song and being in each moment of that story, grief ceases to exist completely. I needed the break tonight.

There’s a duet from the musical “Miss Saigon” that one of my co-singers wanted to perform with me. We tried it this evening. I didn’t tell anyone, but I could never sing that song because it is much too painful for me. Coincidentally, the man they are singing about is named Chris. That, alone, is too much for me to bear. The lyrics are:

I still believe you will return.
I know you will.
My heart against all odds holds still.

love cannot die.
You will return, you will return,
and I alone know why...

I still believe the time will come
when nothing keeps us apart.
My heart forever more holds still.

It's all over I'm here, there is nothing to fear!
Chris, what's haunting you?
Won't you let me inside
what you so want to hide.
I need you too!

I will Hold you all night
I will make it all right

You are safe with me
You can sleep now
I'll Live...I'll live
You can cry now
You will return
I'm your wife now
For life

It took every ounce of concentration I had not to cry right there at the piano. I felt panic rising in my chest and I just wished Rob would stop playing. I stood there grinding my teeth, waiting for the song to end. I told him I didn’t like it and didn’t want to sing it.

After rehearsal, I was chitchatting with the two of them and I told them about Marc. They were both so happy for me. They’re so sweet. I felt really warm and really safe sitting there sharing part of my life with them.

When I got home from work today, I immediately turned on the air conditioners and went to my room, turned on the fan and sat in front of it. I glanced over at my night stand where my picture of Chris sits. I snapped the picture the last time Chris and I went to Venice Beach before we moved home from Los Angeles. We were happy that day. He looked good. He looked healthy. Neither of us knew that cancer was growing within him even as we enjoyed our cheeseburgers and walked the boardwalk together. Neither of us knew we wouldn’t get to spend our lives together.

I took the picture in my hand and sat there on the edge of my bed with the fan blowing me cool and once again, lost control of myself as I sobbed, hugging the photo against my chest. I just have to accept that I’m not in control for now. Grief has me in it’s jaws. I am completely at its mercy until I’m not anymore. That’s the story.

I sent Marc a quick e-mail the other day. At the end of the note, I informed him that my nerves have been wreaking havoc lately. We have since corresponded and I clarified that I am actively grieving and that I just wanted him to know. I don’t know what he will say to that. Maybe I have scared him off. I feel better since I put it out there, though. Telling him was like releasing the valve on a pressure cooker. It helped me. I guess I’ll find out if he ever wants to see me again. The poor guy doesn’t know what he’s getting into. I don’t even know what I’m getting into.

He knows grief. He knows death. I’m hoping he will understand. I like him.

Time will tell.

I wish Chris could see me now. I’m singing with a fabulous group. I’m singing in a documentary. I’m singing with my university symphony orchestra. My friend just offered me a job singing in a church, stating that the door to singing at wedding services will probably open. I’m getting paid to sing. He would have liked that.

But I did it all after he died.

Maybe he sees.