Five years

A while ago I received a beautiful save the date in the mail for my cousin / Godfather’s daughter’s wedding. It caught my eye immediately with the date:6/11. That date always jumps off the page. I am excited today to celebrate a new marriage, young love, and I hope dearly that they experience the same beautiful union, with all its messy pieces that I lived (hopefully with many more years). At the same time, I hold Tim in my heart in a special way on this day. In a quieter way than his birthday, perhaps, but in a way that is deeply meaningful for me.

Recently, I saw a note in a widow’s group that said “When’s the last time you took a moment to appreciate how far you’ve come since your loss?” – Jen Santaniello

Five years certainly seems like the right time to pause and do that. While its hard for me to quantify how far I have come, I can certainly see how far the kids have come. My ability to shepherd them through life on my own, is certainly a thing I would have deemed impossible for the first 35 years of my life. I hold that as the greatest measure of how far I have come, but there are small, less measurable ways that I have evolved that I know Tim would truly appreciate. Reflecting on those allows me to see “how far I’ve come.”

I read this in the book I am reading this week, and it deeply resounded with me:

“All will be well”….
And when I had recoiled at how trite and superficial that sounded.. she’d said
“I don’t mean that life won’t bring you tragedy…
I only mean that you will be well in spite of it… there’s a place in you that’s inviolate. You’ll find your way there when you need to and you’ll know then of what I speak.” – Sue Monk Kidd (The Book of Longings)

It is my greatest desire to honor his life, all that he loved and held dear, while living my own life to the fullest, honoring all that I love and hold dear, and ensure our kids are held and safe, as they continue to become.

Life check

There are a lot of memories for me today… 5 years ago today was the last time I heard Tim’s voice. It was the day that I decided to take him to the hospital, and he never came home. I wrote about this a bit in my letters: A year without your Voice and Another year without your voice.

Today, I want to reflect on this past weekend. I chose to go out to Vegas with my 3 best friends from college for a reunion weekend and an all day Music fest: Lovers and Friends. I know that everything is a risk. Especially these days, with covid (less life-threatening thanks to vaccines) but still rampant. Especially, because we live in America.

My friend Anne was ready to go before the headliners, so we walked her to the gate and told her to get an Uber not the bus back to her hotel.

Shruti, Stacia and I went back in, to the main stage area for TLC (which was awesome). Next up was Usher, Ludacris and lil Jon on the main stage. It was a break so we sat down on the ground. There were a good number of people around us also sitting down. There was DJ music, so medium loud but the three of us were chatting. I was beat. Closed my eyes a few times. Trying to think if Stacia and I could convince Shruti to leave before Lauryn Hill, because it was a long day standing on blacktop that was hotter than the surface of the sun and I was whooped. All of the sudden Shruti says “Get up! Get up! Get up!” I look back and see a wave of humans coming at me in the dark. Shruti grabs Stacia, Stacia grabs me, I grip my water bottle and hat (which I ripped off my head) And Stacia for dear life and RUN! People were ducking and running but very little screaming. It was so scary but the crowd was so NICE! Everyone who touched me was gentle like they didn’t want to hurt me but wanted me to know they were there/ to move forward. We rushed towards the stage and ended up near the front, Shruti pulled us to side thinking of getting trampled and we ended up near a security gate to the VIP section and people started jumping it. No one knew what was happening but there was a buzz of possible gun fire. (Because we live in America) I strained hard to listen. It was absolutely terrifying. I’ve never been in a situation like that before. I managed to be afraid both of getting trampled and of being shot at the same time. People were trying desperately to stay together with their people, and also move in the right direction, and keep each other safe. Stacia started shaking with repressed sobs and I nearly lost it too. I immediately thought “I cannot let my children be orphaned because I wanted to go to a concert.” Somehow this steadied me. I knew I had to keep my senses sharp and remain in control.

When we got to the fence, Shruti struggled to get over it and people helped her. When we got over into VIP we were able to head towards a VIP exit but still no one knew what was happening. But we were ready to get out! We got back to the hotel where we parked, and asked security for first aid because Shruti’s foot was bleeding. Some random concert goers stopped and had bandaids, gauze etc in their clear plastic bag. Stacia and Shruti had some things in a locker, that we will never see again but thank God Stacia had her car keys! (She also had my sunglasses and I had everything else I brought, phone, wallet in my skirt pockets.) It took a long time to get out of the garage but we eventually made it home to Stacia’s house. While exiting we heard Usher and realized that they kept playing! But clearly, we were done.

The music was absolutely phenomenal, but it’s definitely my last festival. That’s not a risk I need to take. Earlier in the day, I thought the heat was the big drama. I will always hold close that in the heat of the moment, Shruti saved my life.

In all things, I wonder #WWTD. I know he’d have understood my desire to go. He’d have wanted me to see my friends. He’d have encouraged it. I went out to Vegas with those 3 when I was very pregnant with D in 2016. I am a person who knows deep in my bones that no matter what precautions you take – tragedy can strike. That even when you marry a man with excellent family history, who takes little to no risks, follows all the rules, avoids tobacco, drugs, motorcycles, firearms… you can get hit with a perfect storm of nearly unbelievable disease and he can die at 37 years old in the prime of his life.

I live in the balance between carpe diem and which risks are too much.

I came home today. I held my babies close. I told them the story. I held HIS babies close.

I reread tonight Another year without your voice and I am reminded how much I’d want to share not only our children, but this world we live in with Tim. I watched one of my friend’s husband’s respond to what we went through and I saw Tim. This, remains so true today:

I’d want to tell you about the disappointing things going on in our country and in the world… I’d want to hear your outrage – not because I want you to be upset, but because it always inspired me, and because I’d know there was one more white male in this country who GOT IT.   I’d want to tell you what has happened with me, with my work,  ask your advice, report on friends, with other family.. well, I’d want to tell you everything.  But you probably wouldn’t let me get to it if we were short on time.  All you’d want to hear would be our children. I wish you could see them now!  I like to believe you can.  I wish we could see you!   I guess I do.  I see so much of you in them every day.   No matter what, you live on in us.

Another year without your voice

On the very same day that I experienced this, in Buffalo, NY, a city that my Tim loved with his whole heart, from his camp days – experienced a terrible white supremacist’s massacre in a super market in a predominantly black neighborhood.

The terrifying experience made me realize just how much I need to appreciate my life. It is, of course, a thing I should have learned 5 years ago when Tim’s took the craziest turn. But all of the things I worry about daily can be reduced to nothing when you consider the sanctity of life. May we remember that, appreciate it, and fight for it always, not in cells that are growing as a part of a woman’s body, but full, live humans of every race, religion, orientation, gender identity.

May we all offer each other every day the same love, grace, and respect I experienced from the Lovers and Friends festival-goers of May 14, 2022.

Four years

Recently, a friend told me that a friend of hers (who I don’t believe I’ve ever met) said “How long has it been?… almost 4 years? She’s not seeing anyone now? What are you doing to help her with that?”

I have found that there is a continuum of widowhood. At least on the observation (judgment?) scale. Its “ooooh, too soon” to “mmmm, when is (s)he going to move on?” There is no set time when the switch flips, but as soon as it does, you can FEEL it. Not internally, but in the way others treat you.

There have been things in the last 4 years. Flirtations, situations, intimacy. I have no regrets. Things happened when they did, why they did, for reasons that I can not explain, and yet for which I am very grateful. The first was, by all external observation “too soon.” And yet, I am extremely grateful for it. It was just what I needed, when I needed it. It was joy, excitement, sadness, distraction, but most of all, it helped me understand myself so much better than anything else could have at that time. I guess I could say it was a revelation. It was about me, and not about only my loss. And when it needed to be over, it was so very clear to me, in a way that it would not have been for a younger version of myself, for a pre-Tim, pre-children version of me. In that time, I was telling myself I was only surviving, but I found that I wasn’t only surviving, I was fully living, and I was getting to really know who I am. If anything, I was falling in love with myself. Another situation was just as rewarding. It was good for my heart, fun, and freeing. It may have been cut extra short by global pandemic, and yet helped with that too. It was truly always on a timeline. And in all things, as a mother, my children – their happiness and safety – come first, and other choices fit around that.

I told someone else recently that my father died last year, and their first question was whether my mother would remarry. I immediately found this an interesting and (to me) unexpected response. Like, do you remember you are speaking to a widow at this moment? I’m not sure he did. He was thinking of when his own father died, and that his mother did remarry. And that’s ok. I understand that we live life relative to our own experiences, what we know, what we understand.

On Glennon Doyle’s podcast, We can do hard things, she and Amanda were talking about the question “What happened?” Their topic was specific to infidelity, and the end of both of their first marriages… but Amanda talked about how awful that question is, and specifically because its never for the person being asked, always for the asker (I am paraphrasing – I 100% recommend listening to the actual podcast We Can Do Hard Things). Amanda talked about the person asking wanting to know what happened, so that they can understand, analyze, diagnose how it happened, so they can mentally come to terms with how it won’t happen to them.

How MUCH I identified with this. I had to laugh, too. Imagine Tim’s response if I told him I identified with a podcast about infidelity. He was the most fiercely loyal human I have ever known, he would have been initially aghast. But he also never lived through the aftermath of the love of his life’s death, and I know he’d have a lot of grace for that unknown. I had a very intelligent friend ask me if the fact that Tim lost his hair so young was a sign? Was it the cancer? I couldn’t even believe he was asking me this…. and yet I did. I understand the NEED to look for a reason, or for a sign that we all missed. I understand looking for that comfort. It may not be a luxury I have, but it doesn’t mean I don’t understand it.

I am, always, who I am because I loved Tim, and because I lost Tim. Not just because of our children that I am raising, but the forever imprint on my heart, my being, and my knowing. He is present in the decisions I make for our family, and I have silly moments when I think of him and it stops me completely still. We move forward as a family, always letting each other become who we were meant to become. I can not wait to see who our children will be in each next step in their lives. And I also look forward to learning who I am becoming.

My mind is open, my heart is open, and I continue to do just “the next right thing.”

“…I chased desire, I made sure I got what’s mine…. and I continue to believe that I’m the one for me. And because I’m mine, I walk the line. We’re adventurers in heartbreak so that our final destination we lack…We’ve stopped asking directions to places they’ve never been. To be loved, we need to be known, we’ll finally find our way back home. And through the joy and pain that are life’s brain, we can do hard things” – Tish Melton

Three years

I remember so vividly three years ago today.  There are times when I could not tell you what I had for lunch yesterday, but those last moments in the hospital are crystal clear.  I mentioned in June 11th is coming. that right there at the end I sang to him our wedding song, and I told him, “I will not make a big deal of this date.”  I knew he would hate that.  And I’ve tried to maintain that… plan the memorial sporting event around this time of year / father’s day, plus “celebrate” father’s day.  And I managed again this year to not tell the kids what today was… I didn’t think I would get away with it this year, because A mentioned it the other day, “isn’t June 11th the day daddy died?”  But she did not mention it today, and I did not bring it  up.  I told them there was a special end-of-the-school-year treat coming.  And it did – we had an ice cream truck come to our cul de sac!  They loved it!

Tim and I once took part in an “ice cream Thursday” tradition at work, and today being the ultimate “ice cream Thursday” brought me some joy.   It also brought the opportunity to celebrate the end of this difficult school year, with three months of the kids at home, all of us at home, staying safe from the corona virus.   We were delighted to have other neighbors come down for the ice cream truck, including R’s  first grade teacher!

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But I can not help that this day hits me hard.  As much as I want it to be just any other day.  The date is everywhere.   I wrote the date on a million forms and papers, had it engraved several places.  The date is engraved in my heart.  And try as I might to not make a big deal of the date, it ends up making a big deal to me.  So many memories flood in.  The whole day feels heavy.  Tim loved me so much for who I am, I am sure he would forgive me for this.  This guy here, his son.   This week I mentioned daddy while we were in his hammock together, and D turned to me and said very seriously, very matter-of-factly “Mama, my daddy  – he is always dead.”  It surprised me as he has never said this before.  But it is also simply true, however much I hate that this is his reality.

I am sad that due to the corona virus, we will not be able to celebrate with friends and family at the memorial sporting event this year.  But I am hopeful that we will be able to do that next year.  This time in history that we are in right now also feels very heavy: emerging into summer, and a phased re-entry into a “new normal,” and trying to imagine what comes next.

I so hope that this time brings transformational social change that we desperately need, change that makes it a better, kinder, safer world for every single citizen on earth.   I know that is what Tim would want for the world his children live in.

Three years, and so much has changed.  We have all changed – me, and each of the kids.  The world around us is changing fast.  I hope we continue to change with it.  I have no doubt that Tim’s light, life, and spark will be in our hearts always.  Always.

“You have stolen my heart
And from the ballroom floor we are a celebration
One good stretch before our hibernation
Our dreams assured and we are, we’ll sleep well… sleep well… sleep well… sleep well”
~ Dashboard Confessional “Stolen” (Our wedding song)

Let me tell you about right now

Dear Tim,

Here it is, 2020.  We are still in our house.  You’d recognize it with only a few changes.  But in the past few weeks, the world has changed rapidly.

Are you ready?  Please sit down.  They cancelled March Madness.

<Pausing to let that sink in.>

They also cancelled / postponed the Olympics. The Olympics.  This is the first time that has ever happened. (Which of course you would already know.)

I have imagined you with this ultimate set up in heaven where you are finally not limited by any number of screens… you can have ALL THE SCREENS, see ALL THE SPORTS at once!  Except now – all the screens go black.

Now, are you ready for this?  The girls  – our first and third graders – are not going back to school this year.  Their last day of school was to be June 12.  Your memorial sporting event was to be the day after the last day of school, June 13th. I have no idea if that will happen.  But I do know now that the last day our girls were in school for the year was MARCH 12th instead!  And when they left that day, a Thursday, they had no idea they wouldn’t be back the next day.  Also, understand that was less than 2 weeks ago!  That’s how much and how rapidly the world has changed in the last 2 weeks.  It’s a world you would not recognize.

People are dying.  This virus is spreading rapidly in every corner of the world.  Our healthcare systems are not equipped for this.  Do you remember when we lamented in November 2016?  May he never have anything big and important to lead us through as a Nation?  Well. Yeah.  Here we are.  And it’s exactly as bad as you would imagine.

Many times throughout this pandemic… because that’s what we are dealing with here – a Global Pandemic.  For real.  That is not melodrama.  That is actually what it is.  A Global Pandemic, called Coronavirus, or COVID-19.  Many times throughout this pandemic, my anxiety builds in my chest. All of the possibly possible “what ifs” go through my head in an intricate mental gymnastics.   Honestly, the “schools closed for the rest of the year” news today caused me to need a good heaving cry in the shower.   The anxiety builds because it is so much, for all of us.  It is a lot.  Because people are dying.  Because people are getting sick – and if they get better, their lungs may be forever weakened.  I learned a lot about lungs when you were in the hospital.   Because people are not following the rules.  Because some of the rules keep changing.  Because the economic effects are devastating, life-changing, unimaginable, unprecedented.  Because I need to not get sick.  Because I still need to provide for these three.  Pay the mortgage.  Survive.  Parent alone.  Because at the end of the day, when I turn out the light, your side of the bed is still empty.  Because you are still gone.  I can imagine what things would be like if you were here.  (For sure, I know our lawn would look amazing right now.) But that is not helpful.  Because you are not.  You will now always be gone.

So I allow myself the good cry.  The heaving sobs in the shower.  And then I ask myself “what would Tim do?”

And then the calm.  The calm that helps me take it one day at a time.  Because everything is changing so fast – worrying about June will not help me today.  It will not help me get ready for tomorrow.   You would tell me to worry about nothing else – simply make sure the kids are OK, that they are safe.  Do whatever I need to to keep them healthy, safe, loved.

I promise you that I will do “the next right thing” – whatever that is.  I will keep our babies safe.  I will try to make the best decisions for them.  And I will try to stay sane in the process.  Whatever that looks like.

Every day there is new bad news.  Every day it feels like we are living our worst nightmare.  The mantra in my head that plays over and over goes like this,

This is not my worst nightmare.  I’ve already lived through that.

Because I have.  That’s the only thing I can say about the loss of you.  I’d still take it back if that were a thing in my power… but since it is not… I appreciate the resilience it’s brought in me, and especially in the kids.  We are a resilient people.  The craziest part may be that when we lived through our worst nightmare, we looked around, and the world just kept spinning.  But now…  This is a nightmare for everyone!  We are not alone.  I am touched by all the people who have reached out, though truthfully there is very little any of them can do for me right now.  I am grateful for what we have.  I am grateful for who we are – who we are because we had you, and who we are because we lost you.

This is where we are right now, Tim.   I wish you were here.  Every day, I miss you.  You would have gotten frustrated, probably even more than me – but you would have taken on home-schooling with great enthusiasm.  In a few weeks, we will be celebrating what would have been your 40th birthday.  In isolation.  A day which by any measure you ought to have been here for.

But then, you never saw a world without March Madness and the Olympics.  And maybe a small part of me is grateful for that too.

Love Always,

MaryBeth

Third Annual Tim Gaige Memorial Event

This year, we are changing up the Tim Gaige memorial sporting event in June to a DC United game! Thanks so much to everyone who came out the last two years!  I love that the kids have a fun way to honor and remember Daddy while understanding the importance of giving back to our global community!

This year’s DC United game will be held at 8:00pm on Saturday June 13th, at Audi Field (100 Potomac Ave SW Washington, D.C. 20024),DC United vs. FC Cincinnati.  Tim was a big fan of this team, even getting season tickets with his friend, Mark, the last season at RFK.  Most unfortunately, Tim never got to a game at the new stadium.  But Tim, forever a fan, has a brick at the stadium!

To read more about why I chose to benefit Together Rising, you can go to My 2018 post.

The link to buy tickets is below, $45 each. This year $10 of your ticket will go directly to Together Rising to help people in need. You have to use our specific link to buy tickets for it to go to the fundraiser.  (And to get seats together! ) I strongly encourage buying your tickets EARLY for this!  Once I figure out the best lot to park in, I will send notes to encourage carpooling and tailgating before the game.

To make it easier to spot me on arrival I plan to wear an orange tshirt again, since it was Tim’s favorite color! I would encourage you to wear orange too if you have it!

Here’s where to go to buy tickets:

https://fevo.me/tgrdcu

For those interested in donating to the cause, but who can not join us for the game:

http://igfn.us/vf/TimGaige

 

New Year’s Resolution

Like all people, I am lousy at keeping them.

I will vow to write more, but I am unlikely to follow through.

“Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”

Eliza.  I do.  Just today I told someone who never knew him about how much he hated when people put their windshield wipers up on their car in preparation of a snow storm.  Only a few hours later, a friend of his reached out to me to share a post about someone not understanding that practice – and how it will always remind her of Tim.   (Because it snowed today.)  Yes.  That.  He hated that.  And he hated pie charts.

I will tell his story.

But my 2020 resolution is simply this: I resolve to fell less guilt.

Guilt runs in my veins. Catholic.  Female.  Not-quite-millennial.  Whatever it is, I feel all the guilt.  Like most mothers, I am sure, but extra as an only parent.

I resolve to remind myself that anything I do to take care of myself and be more physically and mentally healthy – is as a byproduct healthy for my children, and I do not need to feel guilty about it.

If someone – even if it is my children – look and say, Damn, she’s selfish…. This is not a thing I need to worry about.  If I reach that point – I will have arrived.  I have resolved.

 

Where his body is (a letter to our children)

Dear A, R, and D,

I know there are many hard conversations ahead of us.  Some, I can never imagine.  Others, I know will happen one day… and I always think “that day is not today.”

Maybe its true that I have already had the hardest conversation… but that doesn’t make  the future ones easier.

D, I often wonder how the understanding will have played out for you.  When you are grown, and look back, you will surely never remember a time when your father was alive.  But, how will you remember your understanding of death to have taken shape?  To be honest, I can’t say how I want that to happen for you.  When we were at the beach this summer, there was a day when you and I and A, walked back from town together, hand in hand.  R was ahead of us on her scooter.  We were talking about where in the beach house you left your daddy doll (I try always to know since you will not sleep without it – thank goodness we have 3!), when A said something about Daddy the person and you said, “where IS Daddy?… Big daddy?” and I realized it was the first time you’ve ever asked that. I said, “well, Daddy is in Heaven…”  Annabelle piped up and added to it, and we both talked about how great he was, how much we miss him, how much he wishes he could be with us.  But I really don’t know what of that you understood.  I don’t understand what Heaven is, so how can I really even try to explain it to you?  Recently, you looked at the picture in your room and said “I am wearing blue, and Daddy is holding me.”  I stopped what I was doing and looked at the picture and said, “that’s right, D, you are!” There was no more, but it pierced me.  I wanted that photo right there where you could always see it, and see his face, and how happy he was to be with you!  And here it was having that desired effect.  I think. I don’t know. I never know how to do this.

Recently in the kitchen alone, R, you looked at me so earnestly and said you don’t know where daddy’s body is.  You said “I don’t understand what happens to us when we die,”  and I answered honestly.  “I don’t understand either.  But here’s what I believe…”

The other night, we were at the pool with friends.  The big kids did a play, and there were zombies. Later it came up about a smell… “couldn’t be the zombies! … What? …  Zombies are dead!  Have you ever smelled a dead body?…  No!? … Gross.”  My whole body went rigid, wondering whether any of the 3 of you heard… what you might say… what questions you might ask me.

Because here’s the thing. It’s been two years and none of you knows what happened to Daddy’s body.  I’ve explained that he died.  That he’s gone from this earth.  That he’s in our hearts. That he’s in “heaven.”  I know you understand that you will never see him again.  When I was young, as long as I can remember I went to funerals.  I grew up Catholic, where funerals are part of the social experience.  Where open casket viewings are common, traditional.  I grew up going to Mass on Sundays, and more often than not going to the cemeteries after for my parents to visit their parents, for me to visit with them – my grandparents.  I remember going to funerals.  The Mass, the viewing, the open casket, the procession line, the cemetery, the lowering into the ground.  Unfortunately, your dad and I never spoke very clearly with each other about our exact wishes upon death because it was the furthest thing from our minds.  Before our youngest child even finished nursing, or his first year of life, before our oldest child finished Kindergarten, the idea of one of us dying and the other needing to deal with death was unthinkable.  And yet, your father was a passionate, opinionated man and I did know exactly what he would NOT want.

You all know that we had a celebration of life because Daddy hated funerals.  We have a tree and bench (two actually in two different states) because Daddy didn’t like cemeteries.  But you do not know WHERE his body is.  And one day you will want to know.

So, here is the answer.  He was cremated.  This means his body was turned to ash, instead of being put into a box and lowered into the ground.  Does this sound harsh?  Both options sound harsh I think.  But in one you can keep the ashes with you at all times – or you can spread the ashes out in the world in a place he would love to be.  We are going to do both.  And I can tell you for sure Daddy would not have wanted to be in a box in the ground.  And here’s another thing.  I made sure he could be in so many places.  I used to tease him about his desire to go everywhere.  He was a homebody who was also restless.  He was no good at travel, and yet he dreamed of moving so much more than I did.  He’d throw out options all the time.  Let’s move to California!  Buffalo, NY.  Minnesota!  Wisconsin.  Boston – definitely Boston.  Austin, TX.  Ireland.  London.  Australia. New Zealand.  It never ended.  But the plans to move were never well formed.  Just dreams he liked to mention.  I wanted to visit these places, because I love to travel.  Your father simply wanted to move there.  I often wonder if somehow, he didn’t feel deep down in a place that never caught his conscious mind that he wasn’t here on Earth for a long time.  So how did I make sure he could be in many places? When they asked me about an urn.. they mentioned they could do several keepsake boxes of ashes, and I asked how many.  They didn’t know.  I said as many as you can.   So I have no big fancy urn on the mantle.  I don’t need it to have him with us. We have so many other reminders of him visible in our home.  I have all keepsake boxes.  I’ve already given away the ones to Daddy’s family.  To the other people who were blood and family and so special to him.  Allow them to chose where their part of him should go.  Stay close with them at all times – or spread in a place he loved of their choosing.  But the others are still home with us.  Home with us where he would most love to be while you are young.  When you are old enough to read this, to get this information and understand it, all of you, then we will talk more about spreading his ashes out in the world in places he would most love to be.  I have a small keepsake box for each of you.   I will give it to you when you are ready.  You can keep it with you, or you can spread it out in the world as you choose.  Then I have 3 more.  There is so much that can be done: keep, spread, and more… I’ve seen some add the ashes to an hour glass.  Still others have had the ash made into jewelry of all types.  I have a big trip planed for us when you are older to spread one keepsake box in a place far from here that Daddy and I loved, that we loved together, and I want to show you.  I think I’d like to spread another at his tree with you all, if you agree, when you are ready to do so.  And the last, I will save.  And my wish is that you will share it with my ashes someday.  I absolutely hope that you will have me cremated.  If nothing else, to save you the money of a traditional burial!  Mix some or all of my ashes with your dad’s.  Either keep the commingled ashes with you, or spread them in a beautiful place where we’d love.

At the end of the day, it’s ash, it’s dust.  Our bodies will be gone.  But I hope that we will live on in you.  Always.

So that, my dears, is where daddy’s body is. Some day we will let go of his ashes together.  For now, they are with us.  His spirit lives on in our hearts forever.  The personality traits, quirks, mannerisms, and love that you have of Daddy’s – you have forever.  Daddy is in our hearts.  Always.

All my love, Always,

Mom

Two years later (alt. title Rainbow)

This was a post I started in June 2019… and had a sync issue writing it on different devices, and then never published it. I can’t believe its now been over two and a half years.  The two year mark was tough though.  D’s broken femur was rough of course, but R’s surgery brought it’s own unique challenges…

 

Last weekend, my sister put a song on she’d already played for the kids and they started all singing it. She said it reminded her of me, but I really couldn’t understand the lyrics with all three of them mumbling along.

So when we declared movie night, I ran up for a shower in the middle of Madagascar 2. I listened to it in the shower and cried my eyes out. Shower and car bawling has been on the rise again lately. I’m not sorry to admit it. I’m only starting to feel like myself again. For the last 6 months, I’ve been surviving. Surviving with the fierce determination of a mother. The broken leg, the secondary trauma, the anxiety I felt leading up to finally having my middle child – my passionate, decisive, middle child – have a surgery I was afraid of since her second week of life, that I spoke to and cried to Tim about, getting the surgery scheduled for the day after her father’s second Deathaversary, scheduling all the support needed to be with her for it / through it, bringing her up to Hopkins for it, being there for it, after it… Possibly the worst of it was that post op was exactly as bad as I had imagined it would be. Beautifully, our friend Dawn (I should say Tim’s friend but I will say our friend) was there with me and I remember saying to her “this is exactly what I was expecting, honestly, but that doesn’t make it easier.”

The longer story about Rose’s surgery starts when I was pregnant with A… at 36 weeks, they declared her with “hydronephrosis.” Unfortunately, our OB/GYN told us that “it could be nothing, and go away before she’s born, all the way to a possible sign of downs syndrome, or many things in between… but don’t worry, very unlikely to be downs based on your previous testing.” Wait.. what?!? Tim and I were distraught. At that time, I was blogging about my pregnancy and Tim asked me not to include this while we processed it. He was fretting that with kidney issues, she wouldn’t be able to play sports. (Because you know – of course he was!) I was just fretting because that’s what I do – and also isn’t that what first time moms do? They put A on an antibiotic the day she was born, and lots of early testing I remember fairly well considering the postpartum hormones. Mostly I remember feeling my first real mama bear instincts… when they put an IV needle in her tiny hand vein and all I could think was let it be me instead – I don’t want her to feel any pain! Then when they gave her a sugar water pacifier so she wouldn’t mind the catheter and it worked like a charm I thought: this is amazing!!!  Where do I get this miracle stuff?  After all the testing, A didn’t have reflux.  She had one kidney that drained slower than the other.  They kept her on the antibiotics through 7 months, monitored periodically, then at 18 months they told us we were done… except RIGHT at that time, they saw it on my last ultrasound with R.  Her hydronephrosis measured smaller (by .1mm) on my ultrasound than A’s did so I hoped hers would be even easier.  She also started on antibiotics on day 1 of birth… and then we went in for her first VCUG (voiding cystourethrogram) at 2 weeks of life just like we did with A… A VCUG helps diagnose vesicoureteral reflux – a condition in which urine flows the wrong way, from the bladder back up to the kidneys.  When we saw the images on the screen, it was obvious to us both that she had reflux… and then they told us: grade 4 or 5.  Basically, as bad as it gets.

Here is a photo of Tim right before R’s first VCUG:

IMG_20130502_093404

There I was, post partum with a two week old and the tears just streamed down my face. I knew this was not the end of the world, but I was so sad.   It was Tim’s turn to be strong.  He held me and soothed me, and held R so I could pull myself together.  And he put his big arms around us both while I held her, my sweet baby girl who I could not believe was anything short of perfection.

R spent 3 years on antibiotics which I didn’t love.  Then at 3 years old, fully potty trained they let her go off to see what would happen.  What happened was we rushed her to the hospital or Dr’s office many times with spiked fevers close to 105 degreesF.  She always vomitted when her fever would spike.  They always wanted a urine sample which is HARD with a stubborn 3 year old.  I was relieved she got one right before we went to London so we had antibiotics for London so we couldn’t get it WHILE in London… then we returned and she and I spent New Year’s day at the hospital while I was still nursing D.  So… when the pediatric urologist suggested returning to the antibiotics I said ok!  Back to daily antibiotics… 3 months passed, she turned 4.  Another month passed and our whole world turned upside down.  On the six month anniversary of Tim’s death I found myself with R at the same ER I had taken her father to, in the middle of the night.  I wrote about this in The half year mark.  After that, at the pediatrician follow up, was when I was encouraged to seek a second pediatric urology opinion and referred to see Dr. Gearhart at Johns Hopkins.  That in itself  was interesting, from being asked to come back to discuss the surgery with dad (after it was laid out pretty plainly that it was necessary), explaining, the pity, the “you will find someone else” along with a story that included other men not being threatened because another man won’t be coming around… to scheduling the surgery for August 2018, only to have to reschedule it for June 2019.

It was scheduled for June 12, 2019.  I took off Tuesday through Friday immediately.  Tuesday was the second deathaversary, and the day before we had to be checking into Hopkins early for the surgery.   I did everything with conviction.  I did everything with the fierce determination of a mother.  I had great support at home from my au pair and my father-in-law for the other kids.  And yet.. it took everything out of me.

In October, R and I went back for yet another VCUG (easily her 5th or 6th).  We went to the Fairfax hospital.  The hospital where her father died, but also where he stood in the penguin radiology apron with enthusiasm.  While we were there, I saw that penguin radiology apron, and I told her how Daddy wore it for her very first one.  For the very first time, there was no sign of reflux on the VCUG.  This time, I could have cried from the relief.

As I move more fully into the third year, my goal is to see that rainbow over my head that my sister sees… Here is that song she said reminded her of me:

When it rain it pours but you didn’t even notice
It ain’t rainin’ anymore, it’s hard to breathe when all we know is
The struggle of staying above, the rising water line
Well the sky is finally open, the rain and wind stopped blowin’
But you’re stuck out in the same old storm again
You hold tight to your umbrella, darlin’ I’m just tryin’ to tell ya
That there’s always been a rainbow hangin’ over your head
If you could see what I see, you’d be blinded by the colors
Yellow, red and orange and green, and at least a million others
So tie up your bow, take off your coat and take a look around
‘Cause the sky is finally open, the rain and wind stopped blown’
But you’re stuck out in the same old storm again
You hold tight to your umbrella, darlin’ I’m just tryin’ to tell ya
That there’s always been a rainbow hangin’ over your head….
– Songwriters: Shane L McAnally / Kacey Lee Musgraves / Natalie Hemby

Second Annual Tim Gaige Memorial Event

This year, we will again hold the Tim Gaige memorial sporting event in June at the Potomac Nationals stadium. Thanks so much to everyone who came out last year!  I love that the kids have a fun way to honor and remember Daddy while giving back!

This year’s game will be held at 6:35pm on Saturday June 8th, at G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium 7 County Complex Ct, Woodbridge, Virginia 22192. Potomac Nationals vs. Lynchburg Hillcats – It is Military Appreciation Night, to include Camo Hat giveaway! Fireworks! and Kids Run the Bases!

To read more about why I chose to benefit Together Rising, you can go to last year’s post.

The link to buy tickets is below, $20 each. This year $14 of your ticket will go directly to Together Rising to help people in need. You have to use our specific link for it to go to the fundraiser.

We will sit in the Grandstands on the first baseline. If we sell 100 tickets, we will get to throw out the first pitch! (Like Declan and Lucas did last year!)

To make it easier to spot me on arrival I plan to wear an orange tshirt because it was Tim’s favorite color! I would encourage you to wear orange too if you have it!

https://pn1.glitnirticketing.com/pnticket/web/gpcaptchaRC.php?ordersrc_id=200&gpid=284
password is: gaige

For those interested in donating to the cause, but who can not join us for the game:

https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/GAIGE

Gaige #partyofFive (one in utero) enjoying a Potomac Nationals game in May 2016