Black Friday

For much of the nation the term “Black Friday” brings up visions of waiting in long lines at ungodly hours of the morning to take advantage of super savings on whatever the must-have gift is for this Christmas.  Well, I’ve actually never done Black Friday shopping personally.  And the term Black Friday has developed a completely different meaning for our family in recent years – usually involving a trip to the farm, a calamity, blood, x-rays, stitches and often a trip to the hospital emergency room.  Let me explain.

In late 2009, Michael and I bought the farm.  Literally.  A beautiful stretch of 250 acres near McComb, MS.  And with that purchase we began taking a trip up there every year on the day after Thanksgiving.

In 2010, the girls wanted to go horse-back riding.  So Michael arranged for one of the local men to bring three horses for Christy, Emily and I to ride. Now these turned out to be not your average trail horses, but specially trained cut-horses (which we soon discovered react to very small movements of your body or their reigns).  It didn’t take long for Christy’s horse to take off running.  When she pulled the slightest bit on his reigns, he made a quick left turn that sent her sailing like a Frisbee off into the back pasture.  While Emily and I are trying to control our horses and gather her runaway horse, I am also calling Michael on my cell phone to get help, as Christy is still laying on the ground and unable to get up.  This is when I discover that Michael has taken my parents on a ride in his Hummer through the woods and the Hummer will now only go in reverse.  So he is having to drive backwards out of the woods to try to find us.  To make a long story short, my brother and I had to transport Christy back to NOLA in his truck for ER and x-rays while Michael waited on a tow truck to find his Hummer in the woods and tow it back to NOLA.

In 2011, the kids decided they wanted to go fishing in the ponds on the property.  By now we had a tiny cottage with the minimum needed to survive.  Naturally we went up to the farm that day only to discover it was 30 degrees with a stiff wind.  But the kids braved it and actually caught a few, though we were frozen to the bones.

In 2012, we began building our farmhouse.  So once again on the day after Thanksgiving we rode up to the farm.  This year was for some shooting and riding the Kubota four-wheelers.  Things were going well, until Michael fell near the home site and his knee hit the concrete brick ledge.  By the time I got to him there was blood everywhere!  One of the workers took his shirt off and made a tourniquet around his leg to try to stop the blood flow.  Andrew raced us over to the local hospital ER while I held Michael’s leg up and tried to keep pressure on it.  He left a trail of blood from the entrance all through the waiting room.  Eventually they got the bleeding stopped but didn’t know how to deal with such a large wound.  So we loaded Michael up on pain killers, packed him in the car and drove back to NOLA where they were at least able to close a portion of it with 24 stitches.  It took 2 full months to heal.

Last year, we decided we would celebrate Thanksgiving at the farm.  It was a wonderful day.  All the family was willing to come from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas.  We figured at the time that it would be my dad’s last Thanksgiving, but we didn’t know it would be mom’s last Thanksgiving too.  And no one would have guessed it was Michael’s last Thanksgiving.  It was a sweet time together.  Only to be followed a week later by diagnoses of cancer for both mom and Michael on the same December day.

This year the kids wanted to go back to the farm on Black Friday again.  We drove up the night before and the day was beautiful – brisk and clear.  We built a fire in the fireplace and in the fire pit outside too.  We grilled burgers and steaks.  And the kids had a great time skeet shooting.  No blood this year.  No stitches or trips to the ER.  We nearly escaped calamity entirely except when Emily decided that one of the Kubota’s should double as a swamp buggy and got it stuck in the mud.  And she did a real good job too because she had to call for help which I know she hated.  I’m fortunate to have one son-in-law who is an Eagle Scout and one son-in-law who is in the Coast Guard.  But she managed to do such a good job that she had to call on her SuperHero Keith to pull her out!  Well at least there were no lasting scars.  And by now everybody’s arrived back home safe and sound.

This has been our first “big” holiday without Michael.  We’ve tried our best to maintain the family traditions.  But everywhere we look there’s an emptiness.  I am thankful.  I am nostalgic.  And I miss Michael.


Emily stuck

The Twenty-First

Michael died on July 21st.  As the days and then weeks passed, there it was looming ahead – August 21st.  I guess it was the first evidence that time was passing without him.  On August 21st, one month after he died, it was hard to breathe.  The kids and I all knew it was a difficult day.  Friends marked it as well.  Many called to check on us.  There was still unbelief that this was our life.  I gave platelets in the blood bank that day.  And as much as I thought I would be able to be strong, the irony of it made me cry through the procedure.

On September 21st, Michael had been gone two months.  It was Sunday and quiet.  The night before, the kids and I went to Emeril’s for dinner, a place filled with lots of memories of special occasions and “no occasions” spent there.  The day after, I gave platelets in the blood bank, complete with tears, though fewer than the month before.

On October 21st, Michael had been gone three months.  It was a Tuesday with business to take care of and lots of things to do.  I was scheduled to serve dinner at a ministry of our church that night.   But out of nowhere that afternoon the emotions came.  Try as I might I just couldn’t get it under control and had to cancel.

This last week I knew would mark another 21st, four months since Michael’s death.  Throughout the week I knew it was coming on Friday.  Always on the horizon.  Getting closer each day.

On Saturday morning as I put my shoes on I realized that Friday had come and gone.  The day had gone by without a breakdown of emotion.  Without weeping and depression.  In fact the kids were here with me that day and several times we laughed until we cried about silly things.  But I never once thought – “It’s been four months!”

What’s wrong with me?  It’s not like I don’t think about Michael 187 times a day.  It’s not like I don’t miss him with every breath I take.  But how could I get through the day and not once realize it had been exactly four months?  It somehow feels like a betrayal to not have stopped for that moment of recognition.  How could I possibly have gotten through the day without realizing it?  It’s not like I didn’t miss him 372 times that day.  But that day I missed it.

I’m not sure what it means.  I’m not sure why I feel guilty about it or why it makes me sad.  Is this how it happens?  How you go on?  Does the twenty-first of each month pass and soon you don’t even notice it?  I don’t want it to be that way.  I don’t want the twenty-first to come and go without me marking it in some way.  I miss him 731 times a day, every day.  Why is it different on the twenty-first?  And what will the 21st of December be like?  And January?  And February?

From Wife to Widow

As a wife I was a partner. I was part of the discussion. I was listened to and could listen for his ideas. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I was part of a couple. I was part of “we”. I had someone I could call mine and I knew I was his. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had a travelling partner. Someone to fly with, ride with, cruise with, take a picture with, sit with, check-in with, share a memory with. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone to talk to. First thing in the morning. Throughout the day. And most of all at the end of the day. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone in my bed. Someone to keep me warm. Someone to feel safe with. Someone to hold hands with. Someone to fill up the empty places. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone who loved me, who knew me, who grew up with me. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I sometimes looked forward to having a day by myself. Some time alone. Now that’s all I have. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone to plan with. For trips and projects and finances and the future. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone to share my triumphs. A few pounds lost. A milestone with the kids. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone to share my failures. An embarrassing mistake. A hurt. A struggle. The death of someone close. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had a dinner companion.   Table for 2 or 4 or 6. Never worried about being the odd man out. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone to look out for me. Always checking in to be sure I was OK. Taking care of me. Being sure I had everything I needed. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone to care for. Someone to dote on, to take pleasure in taking care of. Someone I could please by making him comfortable. I don’t want to be a widow.

As a wife I had someone to call me dear. To smile lovingly at me. To be comfortable with just by being in the same room. I don’t want to be a widow.

I wrote these words a few months ago.  They are still true.  I don’t want to be a widow.  But I am.

I still miss all those things, though most of the time the pain is a dull ache rather than sharp and piercing.  I still have unanswered questions, but I don’t ask them as often as I once did.  I still cry, but sometimes it doesn’t show up in tears on my face.  The world goes on with seasons and milestones.  Births and deaths, celebrations and sadness, good health and bad.

I’m learning that society has certain expectations of widows, much like there are expectations of wives.  Expectations of how I should behave, where I should go and when, even what I should wear and look like.  Some expectations don’t really bother me and others seems to bump up against me pretty hard.

I know it’s cliché, but I wish for those around me, couples in particular, to love each other fully each day.  I thought that every married couple had what Michael and I had.  That “I wouldn’t rather be with anybody else” kind of love.  But I’ve learned that isn’t the case.  Figure out what it takes to make that person the major moving force in your life together and hang on to that.  Don’t let it slip away lest you don’t have the chance to get it back.

Thanks for following along.



When I turned 18, Michael and I had only been dating about 3 weeks. (I already knew I would be spending the rest of my life with him by then, but that’s another post.) He took me to the Beverly Dinner Playhouse, a very hot ticket at the time in New Orleans. It was the first theatre I saw other than a school play – and I immediately loved theatre.

Think of me
Think of me fondly, when we’ve said goodbye
Remember me Once in a while, please
Promise me you’ll try

We never said Our love was evergreen
Or as unchanging as the sea…
But if you can still remember,
Stop and think of me

Think of all the things We’ve shared and seen,
Don’t think about the things Which might have been

Think of me
Think of me waking, silent And resigned…
Imagine me, trying too hard to Put you from my mind…

Recall those days, Look back on all those times,
Think of the things We’ll never do…
There will never be a day when I won’t think of you

Nine years later Michael and I went to New York City for the first time. In true Michael fashion, he had the concierge at our hotel arrange for tickets to my first Broadway play – Phantom of the Opera. But of course not just any tickets. We were seated on the second row. Straight over my head was this huge chandelier. Little did I know at the time that at a crucial moment in the storyline the chandelier comes crashing down. At that precise moment the huge prop (which I thought was part of the theatre) fell from the ceiling and just in time was swept onto the center stage. I was in awe. Amazed.

So I guess it’s no wonder that theatre, and Phantom in particular, brings back so many memories and even a few tears for me. Why is it that words set to music can have such an affect on me? When the orchestra plays and the melody swells it makes my heart so full my eyes overflow. It’s not just the story being played out on stage, but the memories that come back of that first time and the special person that shared the story with me.

Say you love me every waking moment,
Turn my head with talk of summertime.
Say you need me with you now and always;
Promise me that all you say is true,
That’s all I ask of you.

Then say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime;
Let me lead you from your solitude.
Say you need me with you, here beside you,
Anywhere you go, let me go too,
that’s all I ask of you

Say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime;
Say the word and I will follow you.
Share each day with me,
Each night, each morning.

Love me, that’s all I ask of you