“You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.” – Oscar Wilde
This picture was taken 2 years ago on the night I heard the news that would upend the lives of those who love you most. The day began with me dropping off our children to their various activities and with me visiting you after. I came to pick up the boys at my mother’s and she gave me this fake Christmas tree to set up in our home. You were always so good about getting a real tree and decorating it with our boys. You loved the way the pine scent permeated the living room and you were so diligent about watering it every day and making sure there were no pine needles on the floor. I remembered thinking you would hate this fake Christmas tree but I also knew that it would have to do for this year at least.
The boys and I came home and eventually we put the tree together and finished decorating. I remember us talking about how we wished you were there to help us. Jacob went upstairs to play on his tablet after his bath and Connor played with his blocks on the floor and I took this picture. This picture was posted with the hashtag #alliscalm #allisbright. I didn’t realize it then of course, but it was the calm before the storm. The last few precious moments in time when our sons were innocent and before tragedy and death touched their lives and mine. I saw this picture on my Facebook memories today and realized that this was the time of what I now refer to as the before. The definitive time when hope was alive in my heart and in the hearts of those who love you. I remembered how peaceful I felt in that moment watching our smallest child playing on the floor. I remember his tired arms around my neck and his sweet cherubim face as he crawled into my lap for a hug and a kiss goodnight. A bit later they called me to tell me that you had flatlined and that they resuscitated you. That is the day the music died.
There have been moments in my life when I have felt hopeless but I have no words to describe what I felt that night. The agony and the anxiety that coursed through my body. I remember begging God to let you be okay. That I would do anything if you would be okay. I don’t remember sleeping. I just remember sitting on our front porch chain-smoking and sobbing while our sons slept peacefully in their rooms upstairs. My intuition told me then that all would not be okay but I believed that if I bargained with God and the universe that the fates would align and hope would be mine again. All that begging and negotiating with God was to no avail and the next two months would be my own personal hell of hopelessness and despair.
I have smelled you all day today on my hands. Not your actual scent. The scent that makes me smile. That’s the scent of you working on your car, or changing the oil on mine. Rotating my tires. All the things you used to do to show me that you loved me so much. All the things you did for me that made my life easier and that I never got to thank you for. Today I smelled on my hands the smell of your skin in the hospital. The way it actually smelled in your room. I smelled the scent of sickness and once again I was transported back to that day when the music died. It’s not ironic that I named this post the name of the John McClean song. The chorus of that song has played repeatedly in my mind today. You’ve been sending me so many signs recently. I came home and started my Spotify and looked up the lyrics to the verses and began to cry.
But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.
A month before our wedding we drove to Liberty State Park and took our engagement photos. The picture used in this entry was the final product of that day. It was a crisp autumn day and it was really cloudy and windy. I had on my crochet white sweater which was definitely not substantial for the elements that day and you kept hugging me. You kept hugging me while wearing your nice cozy fleece. We had to do some really corny and overly dramatic displays of affection, which looking back on now could only be described as cringe worthy. I remember the videographer asked us some questions individually in his SUV. In the video montage played at our wedding you said with your voice breaking “ I want it to be like The Notebook, where in the end we die together, because I can’t picture my life without her.” In the end that’s not what happened. God took you first. I wonder sometimes why that is. Most of all I think about how a long life is not promised to anyone and sometimes the things we want are not the things we end up getting.
I’ve learned so much about marriage being a widow, ironic isn’t it? Partly it’s because I got to reflect on our years together as man and wife. When most of us first fall in love it’s so euphoric. We are optimistic and happy that we are feeling love’s light shine on us. I reflect back on our earlier years and think about those feelings. How we both had so much hope. How deeply we loved each other. How optimistic we both were. Then I realized there came a time when I took you for granted. This is the part of me that has been hard to admit. I think of the times when I wasn’t the best wife. I wonder sometimes what happens between two people when that early passion weans. What remains? How does love endure? I dont’ know the answer yet, but I think I might be starting to figure it out.
Love, in the romantic sense of the word, can never be long lasting or enduring without some basic and practical elements. They go broader and deeper than attraction or other materialistic veneers. When we are married we go through ups and downs. However there is something that I had forgotten in the course of our own marriage. Whatever problems or troubles come during a marriage it should never be that we were pitted against the other, but together against a problem. Today in age statistically nearly 50% of marriages end in divorce. Scientific studies have been done on the matter and there have been many socio economic theories about the reason behind the increase in the marriage fail rate. I think there’s a simpler answer. Barring any egregious reason (violence primarily) the reasons most marriages fail I think are because we put so much before our spouse. When we start on the road of matrimony, for the most part, our spouse is always prioritized, but how come this isn’t the case 10 – 15 years down the line? I am not innocent in this. In that instance I too failed as a wife.
On Friday, October 13th 2006, a day I picked due to the 10/13 anniversary of the Virgin Mary appearing in Fatima, I woke up and went to get my hair and makeup done. I went to my mother’s home and with the help of my family and friends I put on my princess cut wedding dress named Carmen. I had a drink with my friends as we waited for the party bus to come pick us up. In the afternoon I walked into Saint Cecilia Church, where I had received my sacrament of Confirmation and we were married by a priest I had known since I was a little girl. I will never forget how you cried when you saw me walk down the aisle or how much I cried when I saw you. I think about my vows to you, and I think about how we stuck by each other, through good times and bad, in sickness and in health, until death did part us. Wherever you are amongst the stars tonight I hope you are thinking of me the way I am thinking of you. And no you and I are not like Noah and Allie in the Notebook, but love didn’t die now did it? When it’s true, it endures, even when one is in the Heavens and the other here on Earth.
There is something really powerful about the moon. Since you’ve been gone I have found myself consistently called to live by it’s magneticism. I did not understand until recently that the moon (lunar) is female. Essentially feminine energy. The sun is masculine. Two opposing forces. You were a Leo (fire) and I am a Taurus (earth). If every energy is a positive and a negative charge then I am the receiver and you were the giver. That is what you have with two opposing energies. There is something always to be discovered in solitude, in the woo-woo or what I have heard it be referred to as the woo. These little things like birthdays and zodiac signs and all the things that worked for Galileo but we forget about.
Tonight is a full moon. The full moon usually marks the end of a lunar cycle. Normally whatever negativity we have held within us should be released. The thing about this release, is that it requires deep introspection and essentially the ability to call oneself out. Who the hell wants to call the self out? Apparently this year I have wanted to do just that. So tonight I wrote a letter about all the things that I needed to let go of and threw that letter into this little fire pit in my new backyard. Coincidentally this full moon marked me putting the last of your things in a storage unit. This was not by design but necessity as I was able to hire someone only for Monday night on TaskRabbit to move your heavy trunks filled with your things so that in some years our boys can open them and see a part of who you were.
You are somewhere among the stars and I sit here on this Earth with our babies releasing the past. The past which you have been such a vital and important part of. I asked myself how best to remember you in my home. I took a part of the wall with some shelving on it. I placed your ashes and your obituary that I wrote, along with the cross that laid on your casket and put them on the top shelf. I placed your father’s ashes and your mother’s ashes on the second shelf so that they are close to you too. I placed a sign that said because “someone we love is in Heaven, there is a little bit of Heaven in our home” so that it would help the boys see that Death is never final. I placed your burial flag that the United States Army soldier sympathetically handed to me along with your Police Officer hat and your official Army photograph in the third shelf. Yet when I took a step back and examined this shrine to the past I still wondered “Is this enough”? I hope that it is. I don’t want you to be a shadow of a memory in people’s mind, primarily our sons’ which is why I do what I must do to continue honoring you.
The past is a funny thing isn’t it? We hold on sometimes when we really need to let go. To start anew I guess. I have cut and I mean CUT so many things (and people – primarily the empty no moral kind having) from my life in the last year. I assure you it feels wonderful and I am quite proud of my ability to do so. The things is that I’ve realized this is more a trait you inhabited then one I did. You were good at telling people to go. This was admirable. It might have taken you awhile at times to do so, but when you did, it was permanent. Cutting you out though is never an option. You are present. So this brings me back to the full moon and the power of letting go.
It’s quite right that this full moon is called the Harvest moon. The traditional time when farmer’s reaped what they sowed in the last year. It’s my time to reap what I’ve sowed in the last year. So this isn’t goodbye or a cut from the past. Just my time to live a new life based on the events that have unfolded recently. For those reading this I hope you take the time to think about what life you want to live and GO live it. Don’t care about the opinions of others. Their opinions are not tied to your happiness. At the end of the day all that matters is being a good person, maintaining a set of boundaries and having a high moral standard. Reap what you sow.
Today would’ve been your 43rd Birthday. The boys would’ve made you birthday cards and we would’ve gone to buy you a small Carvel ice cream cake. At the end of the day, we would’ve lit the candles on the cake and sang you “Happy Birthday”. Your face would’ve turned crimson red but a beautiful little smirk would’ve played on your lips the entire time. The boys and I are somewhere in the Midwest with your ashes today as we make our way across the country to our new home. “No Novak left behind”. How smart of you to want to be cremated, now we can just take you everywhere with us. Some reading this might think it’s morbid but I find it humorous and picture what snide comments you make in your place in Heaven. I have found myself talking to you so much lately. Things have not gone entirely the way I wanted them to the last week but I have an overwhelming feeling that everything will be alright and I can’t help but to think that’s you somewhere keeping me grounded.
So much has changed since last year. So much has changed in the last two years. The only thing constant is change. A year ago today I would never have considered leaving, but staying in our old home just proved to be too hard. Home is a sanctuary. It should bring you peace. I remember all the times you would tell me that you wanted to move out of the state when you retired and I didn’t really buy into it. Did you make me change my mind somewhere? I kind of think you did. Either way I am fulfilling your wish in not raising our sons in our home state. I am not sure Washington is exactly what you pictured as you always told me how you would send me selfies of you and the boys from the beach in your retirement while I was working. Your humor was everything. You really were very funny and you always knew what to say to make me laugh. Intermittently I hear “come on babe” playing in my head as I would prattle on about my day. I remember you saying “go get changed” when I would get home from work, because you would feel bad that I would get bamboozled by 2 small children and a dog and a cat when I walked into the house. These are the little things I took for granted but now I remember so fondly.
I have wondered what we would be doing today if you were still alive. Would I take the day off? Would we sit in our backyard drinking coffee and talking about our plans for the day? I imagine that we would’ve brought the boys to Jenkinsons Boardwalk or Keansburg. We would’ve watched them play on the rides and maybe taken them to the aquarium. We would’ve had some boardwalk fries and I would’ve teased you at the amount of salt and pepper you put on yours. We would’ve gone home, where the Carvel ice cream cake I picked up the night before would be waiting in the freezer. We would’ve lit the candles and then the boys and I would’ve sang you “Happy Birthday”. You would’ve blown out the candles and made your wish. We would’ve seen you smiling your smirk and we would be happy to sit there and watch you in your childlike joy. You are missed. Happy Birthday in Heaven and among the stars Michael.
About a month ago I was given the opportunity of a lifetime. I am so blessed and so grateful that life has opened so many doors for me. I know that you are in heaven helping guide the boys and I exactly where we are supposed to be. In a few months we will be living in the greater Seattle area. I have been so overwhelmed in the last month, between purging the house of 9 years worth of “stuff” and thinking about listing our home on the market. This place where we brought two babies home and where we have so many memories. Change is good. I am ready. Since September of last year I have felt that I have been barreling towards some unknown location and some long forgotten dream. You did not want to raise the boys here and I was always the one who was so reticent in taking a chance. I know more than anyone that life is too short. Maybe next year can turn into maybe never.
Some of the things I have learned in the last year is that I do not want ANY of the same things I did before. I want a better quality of life for the boys and I. A slower pace, some cleaner air, an artsy city. I want coffee shops at every corner, maybe even two of them. I want soul and grunge. I want a fishing boat. I want to go hiking and I want to go camping. I want to go to the beach. I want to make so many memories with our boys that when they look back at their childhood all they see is endless streams of events with their mom.
I have never done anything on my own without someone else’s help. This is my big adult decision. This is the first time where I will be solely responsible for getting all interested parties (those with two feet and those with four paws) from one destination to the next. I wish you were here to help me figure out the details. You were always so good at that.
Seattle is the first city that I have visited in the last year where once I stepped off the plane I was confident in where I was going. Learning the city was easy to me. I felt like I belonged. It helped that it was raining during my first visit. I always did like those melodramatic romantic kind of days. I remember sitting in a coffee shop that day in April thinking this is it, this is the start of the adventure and sure enough in a few weeks time I knew for sure where we were going to end up.
I did not watch “Sleepless in Seattle” until a few weeks ago. Imagine my surprise when I realized it was about a widower starting a new life. The irony is not lost on me. However, there is no houseboat for the three of us, well at least I don’t think so.
The last week I had the opportunity to spend time with my new co-workers. I felt so welcomed and am so excited to begin this new chapter of my life. All I ask is that you stay with the boys and I Michael as we continue on this journey. This may not be the life I had wanted or planned two years ago, but it is the life I want NOW. I am once again making plans for 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, and 20 years down the road. This means something to me for not so long ago I was taking things day by day. For all of God’s continued blessings and for the joy and love my children bring to me I am so grateful. I am sure this blog will be riddled with some angst and stress until the move is complete.
“My dream is to have a house on the beach, even just a little shack somewhere so I can wake up, have coffee, look at dolphins, be quiet and breathe the air.” – Christina Applegate
The thing about death is that it makes you aware of the important things in life. Simple pleasures. Mine as you know has always been coffee and books. Coffee first. This elixir so bitter yet so sweet. Like life.
I have noticed that as time has passed by, my changes and preferences for coffee have significantly changed. When I was an adolescent my father would take me to the coffee shop with him on Sunday. I would sit on the bench next to him and have a cappuccino while he had his espresso and what I am assuming was whiskey. We would sit there in companionable silence. He wasn’t one for many words but I remember feeling comfortable engulfed in the quiet. I wonder if this is when the love of coffee started. I got to sit there in silence just enjoying my cappuccino. I probably thought I was more mature than I really was but was grateful that my Portuguese heritage afforded me a father who saw no issue with taking his daughter out for cappuccinos on Sunday afternoon.
College came. The first year when I was a student at Providence College I remember waking up each day, brushing my teeth, and bringing my portable mug to the cafeteria with me. The coffee was served in one of those airpots and one day the regular coffee was out and there were only two options left, hazelnut and decaf. Decaf like failure is not an option in my book so I tried Hazelnut for the first time. It was a hit. Equal parts bitter and sweet. For the remainder of my freshman year, before my 8 o’clock in the morning Microeconomics class, I would get dressed, brush my hair and teeth, grab my portable mug and make my way down to the cafeteria for some Hazelnut. The airpot was never empty, in fact it was always full. I felt like I knew the greatest secret in the world; the awesomeness that is hazelnut coffee.
The next year when I moved back home to be closer to my family and after 9-11, I remember my first stop before my classes at Kean University was Dunkin’ Donuts. For years until the age of 26, I felt that hazelnut coffee with a little bit of cream and no sugar was the way to go. The buzz of the first sip and the instant gratification as the coffee touched my lips are ingrained deeply in my memory. Then Jacob was born and that regular coffee was just not going to do it for me anymore when I went back to work.
I remember questioning myself do I spend the 5 bucks at the green mermaid shop or not? I remember feeling like I was betraying my old hazelnut friend. This felt like a luxury to go to Starbucks everyday but darn it the lattes were the best and kept me awake throughout the workday. I recall you laughing, Michael at how heavily I weighed this decision and telling me that Starbucks suited me better anyway. You always had an easy answer when I would fuss about really silly things (well at least silly to you). In the end I worked out a compromise, that way I could keep loyal to both franchises. My first coffee before work in the morning is a Medium Hazelnut with a little bit of cream from Dunkin’, but my second coffee before I take the elevator up to my office floor is a Venti Skinny Vanilla Latte, extra espresso shot from Starbucks.
My favorite cup of coffee to have though is the one I make at home on the weekends. While the rest of the house is still sleeping, I get to sit at the aisle counter on my own with my puppies laying at my feet. I get to look out the sliding doors into the back yard and sit there once again in companionable silence. I am teleported to a time when I was 12 and had no worries or any real responsibilities. I am reminded again after your death that it’s okay to sit there with my coffee and my thoughts and enjoy the silence.
It is my second birthday without you. This morning when I was rushing out the door Jacob looked at me quietly and said “Happy Birthday.” The tears began to stream down my face almost immediately as I began to recall all my birthday mornings with you. I remember so vividly coming downstairs and you would already have a birthday card and whatever gift you knew I wanted waiting for me on the counter. The gifts were always really cool, thoughtful, and things that I still use to this day. I still use the iPad Mini and the Powerbeats you got me but you and I know that the gifts were not my favorite part. The best part was always the birthday cards that you left for me. They were always unique, witty, and included some of your most artistic endeavors. I laugh when I think about some of the ones that included various pets as stick figures, or my personal favorite which was when you drew a diaper on Piglet to represent Connor. I wish I had kept all those cards now.
I wonder if you saw Jacob today when he wished me a Happy Birthday. The way he said it so sincerely, that I dropped what I was carrying in my hands and immediately hugged him. I told him what a wonderful heart he had, that he was thoughtful and considerate like his dad and that he sure made a girl feel special on her birthday. Were these the things that made you proud from your place in Heaven? I hope you are as proud as I am of this sweet child who is your walking mini-me.
After I dropped our boys at school I cried all the way on the drive to the train station. I am still not quite sure what that was all about. I wonder if it was pent up tears? The ones that really have no rhyme or reason for being? Did I miss having those special unique birthday cards? I even laughed through the tears when I thought about how it was important for you to be the FIRST person to wish me a Happy Birthday. I wish I had kept those 12:01 a.m. texts that you would send me while I slept. I cannot wait to tell our boys how ridiculously competitive you could be about that.
I had so many people wish me a Happy Birthday today (I am so grateful, I wish them all so many blessings and lots of love and I hope they know they made me feel so special today). My good friend Tess took me out to lunch and my sister took me out to dinner. I have found that it is the simple things that make me so happy in the last year. There is nothing that can take the place of being with your family or sharing in the company of good friends. It is almost like your death reminded me that being with people who genuinely love and care for you is one of life’s greatest blessings. It is one of the things that I most value now and am so happy that I have such good people to share my joy with.
Today my sister bought me a Carvel ice cream cake. She remembered. You always got me a Carvel ice cream cake too. The kids sang “Happy Birthday” then they did the “Are you 1, Are you 2,…all the way to are you 35?” I am 35 today. I take a deep breath when I say that because although I am 35 today I also feel like a totally different person than the one I was 2 years ago. This evolution feels so honest. I am barreling towards something always meant for me. I thank you again for your continued presence that I feel and see in so many ways and for the 11 years of Birthdays that I got to spend with you…thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Around this time last year, when life began to present me with difficult choices, I began to ask you for some sign Michael that I was doing the right thing, or that I was proceeding in the right direction. In response to this I began to see the Blue Jay bird once a choice or decision was made. At times it would be subtle when I would walk the dogs in the morning and I would see the Jay contemplating on one of the trees and at other times it was overt, like the instances when the Jay would fly close to my windshield as I drove. The last year has been an exciting one in some ways, hasn’t it Michael? I learned a lot about myself. What I really wanted, what I really could endure, but the most important thing the last year has forced me to do is to contemplate stepping out of my comfort zone. The occurrences of the last week have really been the culmination of a series of peculiar events. It began with the shedding. The shedding of my former more guarded and walled self, the shedding of certain toxic affiliations, and the shedding of situations that no longer served our children nor I.
When one has stayed in the same place for so long, one becomes stagnant and even comfortable. Through this grief of the last year I have realized what kind of life I want to lead, who I want to be, what I want to do, what kind of mom I want to be, and where I want to live. I have had opportunities presented to me in the last month that all came down to a choice…my choice.
There have been so many times in my past when rationale, common sense, and I hate to admit it, but what was easier, have been how I made my decisions. This last year I have consciously decided to listen to my inner voice and most importantly what is in my heart. In the last year I have also realized the power of manifestation. What thoughts and desires we manifest into the universe, if we really want them or really believe them, good or bad, inevitably come true. Thankfully, the last year has been of good thoughts and good desires and thanks to you Michael, God, and the universe, numerous opportunities have come my way. This week there was a choice to be made and I made a choice. The choice requires me to step out of my comfort zone in a big way and to in a large part say goodbye to familiarity and to the past. This choice will make me say in a large part goodbye to my life with you. The choice was not made in earnest nor impetuously but with the utmost of care and with a careful weighing of how positively it would impact our sons’ lives. Today when I was driving, guess which bird had a close encounter with my front windshield? There was the Blue Jay again, and there you were Mike, telling me the choice I made was the right one.
This morning when I woke up and while our sons still slept, I made my way downstairs to walk and feed the dogs and care for the cats. I really do enjoy my morning routine because the house is silent and I am alone with my thoughts and of course my coffee. I put on the fireplace because it had gotten chilly again and was enjoying the silence before the totality of the day would hit me. Jacob and Connor got up, Jacob first surprisingly enough while the morning bird Connor still slept. Jacob was so excited because today was his First Communion and he had been practicing so hard for the event all week. I fed them both and dressed them and we made our way out of the house so that I could get some more coffee and have my makeup and hair done. On the way to the salon, Connor throws up after telling me to roll down the windows because he was feeling nauseous. I guess I didn’t do that quite quick enough. Inevitably I laughed and thought of what your reaction would be Mike. I’m still laughing imagining how pursued your lips would be and how you would’ve been perturbed, to say the least, that the schedule had gotten a bit off track. I took them both home, wiped my car down with the Clorox wipes and changed Connor’s clothes. I made it to my appointment only half an hour late and was chuckling while recounting all the day’s adventures. Inside though I was really thinking about how much better it would’ve been if you had been there to share the chaos. I remembered again, how you were taken so young from us and that you missed out on so much. I just really hope that you are watching from the Heavens. I have felt your presence all day today. I hope that Jacob has felt it too. We got home with only 15 minutes to spare before making it to Church. I’m proud to say that I managed to get us all ready and at the destination on time.
I hope you were watching Jacob as he walked down the Church aisle solemnly with his hands held in prayer in front of him. He looks so much like you. I wonder if you cried like I did from your place in Heaven when he took the Holy Eucharist in the palm of his hand. Did you laugh when he finally got to take a sip of Holy Wine? He sure looked pleased with himself as he walked away. I noted with a sense of pride that he did not grimace from his sip like the other children did. That was either his Portuguese blood or he was just acting tough. He sang a little song and I wonder if you heard it. Did it make you cry too? I cried, because the little voices sounded so much like the song of cherubs I couldn’t help but imagine that God was happy to see such innocence. Every milestone in our children’s lives will always hit me so deep. I didn’t mean to cry when I made Jacob’s toast today either, but there I was a blubbering fool thanking our family for being there today. I thought how much you wanted me to raise them Catholic and how important it was for you that I was insistent with religion in their lives. I wonder now if you knew or had some premonition that they would need God’s comfort in some way. You were always good at foreshadowing things. I am home now again, with my glass of Pinot Grigio and the fireplace on. The boys are once again sleeping and tomorrow is Monday. It will be an important week for me and for them. I hope you stay with me and just guide me to things that are meant for me.