“Without Her: 9 Months Later, I’m Not Okay”

    I was sitting down watching Nashville the TV show the other week. I was so happy that it returned. Since ABC cancelled it, Country Music Television picked it up. I can’t say I’m anywhere close to liking the writing this season. First off, they are screwing up every relationship on the show, everyone is breaking up or going through drama that doesn’t make since. Well, at least to me. See when you change too much too fast you lose the audience. I’m a die hard fan so, I would stick it out. I learned that  the show runners are from ThirtySomething. Do you remember the show? The characters spent most of the time wining. So understandably I’m concerned about the writing and direction of one of  my favorite shows…
     Out of nowhere, they killed  Rayna Jaymes

 I’m like “what the heck!?” What made things worse was that the hospital scene mirrored my conversation with Sharol. I knew Deacon Claybourne’s pain. Like Deacon, my loss was sudden and unexpected. Like Deacon, my life has been a series of twists and turns down dark roads. Conquering addiction depression, assaults, bigotry and fear. We both found a confidence and strength that came from the relationship with the women in our lives. Who also happened to be the absolute love of our lives. 

Deacon and Rayna we’re working on an album of duets together. It was the story of their life together. It was a pretty adventurous task which brought up old feelings and anxieties as they tried to write together. So at one point they decided to write separately and meet to put the songs together. Coincidentally, it was the same formula I came up with when we decided to write our own  autobiography about lives before we met and then our life together as a couple, the struggles of parenting and becoming One. That was about 5 years ago. We were up in Albany for a weekend because Sharol had to take a class. It started on a vacation, then when that weekend trip came we decided to spend some more time writing…. we never finished it. We didn’t get pass the outline of the chapters. Only God knows where Sharol’s notes are. Like me they were scattered all over the place, a notebook here a piece of paper there…

    I fell apart when Deacon did. I couldn’t imagine him living life without Rayna. Raising the two girls alone, the unfinished album, the business up in the air, a custody battle, a music career that was halted, teenage daughter dating an older guy that’s bipolar… and the only way Highway 65 was going to survive, is for him to finish the album that everybody’s waiting for…

      I once told someone “how am I supposed to be Papa without Nana?” They responded with “Aww”. Someone hit the buzzer please. “Aww…” is the wrong response! “I don’t know”, would have been better. I think what followed was something like “you’ll be okay” …in the words of President Trump “Wrong!” I won’t be okay, heck I’m not okay. My life was and in some small ways, but less with each day; intertwined with Sharol’s. Thankfully, I did not die with her emotionally; as so many surviving spouses do. Things would have been far worse for our two youngest that I still have to raise. So, how am I supposed to be Papa without Nana? How can I  finish the book we were working on, much less consider an autobiography without her? How will I lead this nation(6 children  and 4 grand) of ours forward without her by my side?.. a month ago I woke up to a runny nose. I thought it was a runny nose, it was blood. It took me a bit to figure it out until I saw the bright red on the pillow. I tried not to panic, but this is the thing I was most concerned about over the months. What happens if I get sick? Ill be alone. Usually, we’d wake up, one would  stay with the other just to make sure everything was fine. One would pray with and for the other. But my prayer partner is gone. Who will take care of me…? I thought, thinking of the future. I didn’t want to go back to sleep. The kids can’t loose both of us within the same 12 months I thought as I laid back down…

      So, you see, dear reader. When the car ran into Rayna, when she laid in the bed promising Deacon that she’d come back to him and when he said “don’t you die on me” as they ushered him out of the room…it was all too familiar with me. Some years ago, probably within our first two years of marriage. We looked at each other and I said “Dag, why didn’t you wait for me?”  I was referring to all the stuff we had gone through in our past relationships. If we had just waited for the one God had for us. We agreed it would have been fun to have had more time together. Like Deacon and Rayna we struggled but the love was real and genuine. They were arguably one of our favorite characters/couples  of the show. Now, Sharol  wasn’t a great big country music fan but she did like a good drama and watched the show with me from time to time. It’s one of the few shows that I can stomach watching without her, probably because I started watching it before she did. 

   Okay, back to Decon; facing finishing a work they started together with everyone pushing and pulling on him. But of the crowd came a voice of reason, Avery Barkley, who reminded them that the man just lost his wife. Avery later came up with a brilliant idea of how to finish the record. I have been fine for months moving forward, getting done what needed to be done. Until I woke in the middle of the night. Followed by the past few episodes of Nashville…

     But don’t you worry none, dear reader, became my hope and trust is in God and I have seen him move mountains for me these past few months. Friends have come and gone but Jesus has remain. Like that poem Foot Prints, I have only seen one set of boot prints in the snow of NYC. But I know he was with me before, so why not be with me now? If the Lord said he would be closer than a brother, as close as the mention of his name, if he gives birds food and I am more valuable to him than them, then why not take care of my needs in this dark hour? 

    Of course, that does not change our human feelings and the need for human to human contact. That need to be held. Isn’t that the reason for Eve? After seeing Adam alone, with no one like him; God decided that it was not good for him to be alone. Then by God’s grace he gave Adam someone to walk through life with. So, in this too I must trust him. I don’t just say this to encourage you but also to encourage myself. As Fred Hammond  once said sometimes we just have to encourage ourselves. By the way, Decon and the girls are doing much better. I suspect the rest of the season will focus on the continuing life, after Rayna Jaymes. I know that feeling too.

Until next time…

“Without Her: 7 Months Later”

Walking home across the Willis Avenue bridge. We went to dinner at a local restaurant (Perkins)and decided to walk home. 2015

  Hello, dear readers, a lot has happened since I last wrote to you. I started a “6 Months Later” but never posted it, I didn’t feel it and thought it’s better to write honest feelings, rather than write  something I forced out. Hey, if I’m gonna write about this stuff, that I really don’t want to do publicly, it should be truthful…

  6 months later…  I was sitting at my desk at work , checking my bank statement when I noticed a deposit. I Looked at the date and suddenly felt sick, it was the 14th.! The reason for the deposit was for a the loss of another’s life. And if you have loss your spouse to death, then you know  the feeling I’m talking about. It’s NOT a happy one. Some spiral into depression. I, slipped into deep blue mood. I immediately text my youngest child and told her we would be ordering the mattress she needed…it didn’t matter what we did with that little bit of change, it still came with a sickening feeling. It’s like coming late to work and your boss says  “I understand you’re going through a lot right now”. All I (or you too) could think of is, I got a pass because my wife died. People excuse you and give you an excuse. For some, they’ll milk it forever. Me? I’m not built like that. I was raised to stand on my own feet. Sure, today I’ll take the pass but I’m smart enough to know it won’t last forever. I reached for my blue pen and started filling out the withdrawal slip…I heard my coworker talking. The tears started. I was running late and stopped for breakfast, so I was eating and fighting the tears that wanted to fall at the same time. I walked in, and my boss said we were having a meeting. She was going away for the holidays and would be gone for 2 weeks…

So, my coworker turned to me and said we’re going back to the Bronx office. “Oh,@$%#$ no!!!” I thought. That place was horrible! Sharol had to literally lift me from the bed to get me to work. I was so depressed working there. I think I was more upset about going back there than anything else. I’d just spent 3 weeks there!!! I was so downcasted and didn’t have my counterbalance to help me through it. Dear reader, it was not a good morning. Uncharacteristic, I took to Facebook to complain! Many came to my aid with words of encouragement. My co worker said there was “nothing we could do” I said “I could and would quit!”…I meant it. I think he knew it too. We’d been working 9 to 9 for 7 days a week since November 9th. I had enough and hadn’t seen my daughter. I begin to plan our escape from the city…

 I went to the bathroom and cried, then begged God not to send me back there. When I returned to my desk , I was told that I was staying in my office. But many of my other coworkers were deployed elsewhere. Some I hadn’t seen in two months, more on that later. 

Escape from NY! Our first Christmas without Sharol.

I kept to myself for the rest of the day and It was an emotional lunch! 

Dec 14, 2016

Lunchtime at the Freedom Tower. Dec 14th 2016

Dec. 14th 2016 lunch at gound zero reflective footprint.

   I took a walk down to where the World Trade Towers used to stand. It was cold!!! But I wasn’t the only one dealing with loss that day… After my Facebook post, I learned some of my kids were having the same sort of day. I called Amtrak, our travel plans were set…

   The first Christmas without my wife was odd. My older children made plans to be away with their own family. I totally understood that and didn’t force the issue of us being together for the holidays. Thanksgiving was quiet, we met for brunch then parted ways. For Christmas we basically just went our own way. Guess what,its not uncommon for families to so after such a loss. This gives everyone and the family as a whole the opportunity to create  new traditions for the holidays. As for me, I took the two youngest to Washington D.C for the long weekend. It was odd without Sharol, but not too strange because the 4 of us had been traveling together for the past 4 or 5 years. So, we were just down one. I didn’t have Sharol by my side but… I had my two running bodies. We didn’t do much but it was a good time to be away from home and relax. 

Just Because… it’s what we do now. Amtrak bathroom, Selfie. Dec. 23, 2016

 7 months later:

       One day, when I was home alone, shortly before we left for the Christmas break. I signed up for Internet dating, no I didn’t tell my kids…but they know now. In short, this is not for me, I’m far too old school to find this form of meeting people useful or endearing. Within 48 hours I ran into 3 crazies! And blocked them all! One asked me for money to get her back to the U.S., she was in Ghana taking care of her ūüėČsick mother. That first experience set the stage for me. I don’t trust people to begin with, so this was NOT good. The second person to contact me 24 hrs later, had the same air about her… why would a beautiful 36 year old white woman  be interested in me I thought. Yeah…about that. Next! The third was the same. One week later, I gave up!. I miss talking to and dining with a woman and hearing laughter, after talking to a coworker he told me about another website, he was right it was better. I met someone…everything was fine for a week. She was kind, at times she reminded me of my wife.She laughed easily, had a brilliant smile, easy on the eyes too. She was totally compatible! But by the second week something broke. I left the city again for New year’s. I discovered something, a coworker told me once, that “you don’t want to either ” she was right. The subject was about me being a writer and needing the time to do it… what I’ve learned, is that I live a crazy, hectic life right now. I work for the state but I’m employed by the ciry. My job at times comes with a high level of stress. My world is communications , politics to be exact. And  as much as I want to be normal or live a normal life. The truth is, I don’t want to. My wife is with Jesus and I have nothing to (pleasantly) distract me from writing. Something I really want to do and I’m also fascinated by the world I work in. I don’t have the time, nor do I wish to give the time it takes to build a relationship from the ground up. Something that requires me to spend hours on a phone or video chat. I will be far too consumed by words over the coming months. Sharol understood this,but we were also married for 19 years. It took time for us to become what we were. That means starting all over again… It would be incredibly hard for a woman to deal with my lifestyle and artist moods. 

    Yes, I long to hold hands but… there’s so much I want to do. I once wrote that I didn’t know who I was without Sharol.I know now. I am a single dad, a single man…free to do whatever my God has for me. Free to enjoy life. I enjoy hanging out with and having lunch with my coworkers. One such lunch buddy I hadn’t seen for nearly 2 months, we were deployed to different locations. On New Year’s eve morning we had breakfast together. I said “hey, you wanna have  breakfast with me to say goodbye to 2016” the answer was “yes“, we had a nice time talking and eating. Then we parted. Would I like more? Absolutely!, but it’s  all I have to give  right now. This discovery, was hard to swallow. I don’t want to be alone, but I didn’t pick Sharol, God did, I can’t trust my heart. So, for now I’m going to trust Jesus to once again open my eyes to the one he has for me. If, like her, it’s someone I already know, someone right under my nose… Someone willing to come along side of me, love me, go where I go and eventually  send me home to the Father, Sharol and all those who went before me. Then that would be awesome. 

Dec. 26, 2016 teaching the kids how to play pool. In D.C.

D.C. Metro station. 2016

Show off our rings. Dec 24, 2016 dinner at a China Town, Washington DC.

Christmas dinner at Legal Seafood. Washington DC Dec. 25, 2016

  At the moment dear reader, I’m enjoying time with my two youngest children, looking for a new place to live  and still opened to whomever the lord my have for me. But I am also going to focus on my book right now. Who knows…maybe next week I’ll change my mind. But for now, my relationship plane is a holding pattern. This widower’s  life is an odd one. Wait. I failed to mention that we who have lost our spouse, not only feel guilty for living but often feel as though we’re cheating on our spouse. It’s crazy, right? Yep. But like I said, it’s an odd life for us.

Until next time…

“Without Her: Friday Night Booze and Bluez”

Atlanta, Ga in my Sandy Springs apartment. With friend and neighbor, Cat; I was 23 years old.

   It started with one glass then another then another and another…

    Like a fisherman I casted out my text to see who would bite. I was in the mood to talk. There was a lot on my mind and I needed someone. It was a long  day. I just wanted to go home and  commence with the Friday night ritual…two glasses of wine and a movie. The text from the therapist earlier to confirm our appointment, set the blue mood I was now in. The thought of finally talking about Sharol and the loss, unfortunately just depressed me. I wasn’t nervous, just unsure about opening up a can of worms. I told my daughter I didn’t feel like sitting outside, I wanted to be alone for a bit. Maybe I’d come out and watch a movie later. Perhaps I should have just watched a movie. What followed was nowhere near anything good, at least for me anyway.

    I waited, but no one texted me back. I finished the first glass and laid down on the bed and started watching Chicago PD  on my phone. I poured the second glass…now my mind was calm. My usual eradicate thoughts were in a single focus…

    The first text ring in…then the next and then another. I was watching PD and having three conversations at once. Then a fourth! The therapist cancelled our appointment! First, I find out that the church that Sharol and I started to attend just closed its doors. Some other silliness happened earlier and now, a cancelled appointment, after opening up a crappy can of “feelings” worms. Are you kidding me!?!! The second glass was done…the texting continued. Unfortunately, the more relaxed I became, the more I felt. Lost…alone… missing the woman whose picture I was staring at. The bedroom door was closed and my pajamas on…the text went on. One conversation was encouraging, the other made me laugh and I needed that, the other was familiar…it took me back to a place I hadn’t been in a while. I liked that feeling. I waited to hear from the other two. But the last one, that was nice. I was compromising myself, my integrity, my faith and my heart. It felt great. Doesn’t sin always feel good?  

Text one, was about business, well the business I’m in. Text two, continued to make laugh and smile…as hard as its been, I enjoyed laughing. Text three, continued to take me down a dark path… 

   Sharol used to jokingly say”I’m glad I didn’t know you when you were younger”… she was right and I don’t think we would have attracted one another. I was a little free spirited, lack massive confidence, filled with pain and constantly battling depression and had many ambitious plans. Oh…I forgot to mention, always drinking, all day and many times high on something…

   I have survived many things this year, but the cancelled appointment was the proverbial straw. I poured another glass of wine exceeding, me and Sharol’s agreedupon two glass limit. I drink with malice. There was nothing I cared about at that moment. I wasn’t trying to wash away my pain, in fact I wanted to feel; feel the lost, feel the abandonment, feel the shock of that Tuesday night when she slipped into eternity in my hands. I’m not a person that can easily relax. My mind runs millions of miles a second. So I’m always in a constant forward motion. Years ago when I suffered from severe anxiety attacks, the medication that I was given help me to relax and for the first time in my life, my mind was quiet with a single Focus. Well I discovered, by accident, a glass of wine with my wife has the same effect. But relaxation was not what I was going for. I wanted complete and utter abandonment of my barriers.

    As the text conversation went on, my mind drifted away. I could smell the Old Spice and other cheap cologne in the air.

I was taking back and saw a guy I hadn’t seen in over 30 years. All the years it took to bury him. The mountains I climbed, to distance myself from him. The man I’d become, under God’s love and Sharol’s care, was gone. I was that guy posing for a picture with a 40 once bottle of Old English 800 malt liquor under my foot. One next to me and me drinking the other. I called it “King of Beers” today I might call him prince of fools. As I continued to slip backwards in time. So did my thought process, I’d forgotten who I had become; the man so full of faith and strength that Sharol wanted to marry. I became the dead man of the past, that texter  knew and wanted.  The first two conversations ended but the third continued…the pit was deep.

   I had always seen the devil’s attacks miles away. It would start with me and fail. Then my kids…then my wife…then back to me. Attacking my wife and kids would just piss me off and make me pray more, fight harder. But his victory that Friday was the result of a thousand tiny cuts. My tendons, that I needed to stand and fight with were slashed. Kind of like shooting Achilles in his heel.  A slow weakening of my defense. I kinda saw it coming, but hadn’t the strength or will to fight…

 Saturday morning…

My mouth felt like an aspirin bottle cotton ball. I felt dehydrated. The guilt from the night before didn’t come…but anger and disappointment did! “You’re a really nice man” one person said. “You know, you’re a stand up guy” another said. One person, over heard me calling home to check in on my daughter’s homework. “You’re a good dad” she said. “You’re a good guy…people are responding to that, they want to help” still another said. “I love you Ty…” Sharol would say, especially when I was going through something. All of the words folks had been saying to me started flooding my mind. How could I have let them down. I thought. How could I let my troubles get to me, get me to the point that I was so weak.  I’d determined that I couldn’t do anything about the night before or my past. But I had full control of the present and the future. This was not the hill in which I was going to die on!  Sunday morning, I was at my computer watching a church service online. I was reminded of who I was, of whose I was. I was reminded that years ago a good work was started in me. I was reminded of Sharol’s words, that God had her with me so that I would be the man he wanted me to become… clearly, that old dead guy wasn’t it! I determined, at that moment; however arduous this journey to the end of my life is, I will continue to beat down and bury the old man. This is not The Walking Dead.  That which is of the past and from the past will remain in the past. What has been risen like the Phoenix from the ashes of my old life is something entirely new…

    It is the thing, that encouraged the maintenance man in a hotel room, listening to me talk to my 13 year old daughter. It is the thing, that blessed my boss when he came Sharol’s funeral! It is the thing, that encourages and blesses my Co workers and bosses, when they see me working diligently! It is the thing, that, shapes generations to come simply because I gained new wisdom! It is the thing, that makes me stand and fight… and tell that hellish old man from the 20th century, he has no place in the 21St century!

     I don’t know, dear reader, how I’m going to continue to navigate through this strange time I’m in. I assure you I didn’t intend on writing about it. Heck, I thought I’d be in the forth chapter of my book by now. But life has taken me along the scenic route. Crazy, people keep telling me to continue to write. Really? Are you all crazy? Have you any idea what this subject is like for me…? But, apparently, there are some reading this and being blessed by it. That, my dear reader, was the reason I started writing in the first place. Now, I’m going do as The Afters said and have the time of my life.

Until next time….

“Without Her: Anger”

January 2014

I have stacks and stacks of papers and letters on my bed, desk, chair and ottoman. I now nap (I don’t really sleep) with half my bed covered in bills, letter…and newspapers. Well, the newspapers I’d fully intended on reading. But in the beginning I didn’t want to read the news. Now I don’t have time to because of the constant shifting through letters and threatening bills…

Looking at her phone of course.

The other day as I sat with a letter in my hand, a thought hit me what else am I missing. One of those letters was a bill for the three cell phone lines I’m still paying for. But I said I wouldn’t turn off my wife’s (Sharol) until I had contacted everyone and changed all the billing information into my name. So I unlocked her email to check for a bill that might have been a online/direct payment. I found two…and much more. As read a few saved emails I was instantly transported back in time and became very angry. What did I find? A few old angry emails from past arguments!! I remembered them well too. I could hear Sharol’s voice, see that annoyed look in her eyes, I could hear her yelling above me, I could smell the air of that day, I could feel my heart rate raising, my glucose level as well. I remembered the look I gave her, the thoughts I was thinking about her, how I hated her in that moment… I couldn’t believe I kissed that foul disrespectful mouth! I could feel the taxing drain of hours of combat. The dry mouth and hurting feet from standing. What was it about this time…? The kids? Something I said? Something she said? Something we did? Does it really matter?! Why keep such things! And when you die, leave it behind to be read!…

I remembered one day so clearly… we were fine, in fact it was a good year for us. But something happened, we argued, didn’t talk to each other. I believe I threatened to leave. Sharol didn’t care. I was furious, I had enough of the kids, married life and arguing. I packed a bag and walked out. I found a cheap motel up by Co-Op ¬†City in the¬†Bronx. I’d taken my cell phone just in case she decided she loved me enough to call. ¬†I bumped into our oldest son on the train, he was clueless. So, I handed the guy my ID and credit card. He gave me a key…I walked in the room, turned on the TV and checked my phone…no call! As the night progressed I became more and more uncomfortable be in the motel and not at home. But I crossed a threshold, I did something I’ve never done before. I can’t turn back, I left, like many of men before me…but why didn’t I feel good about it?! I went to the bathroom…stared at the TV, then suddenly dread fell on me. What if I die here? What would the headline say? What about the kids?…but if Sharol cared she’d call… ¬†

2014 weekend getaway. Sharol liked picture.

My phone didn’t have reception…

After a sleepless and restless night I swiftly left the motel. It hit me that I had to drop the kids off to school. I didn’t know how Sharol would feel, would she answer the phone? etc. I called and said I would be there…Sharol told the kids, one of them ask where I was, that I was probably at store and would be there soon…

After the kids were gone I walked into the bedroom. No words said…we set on the edge of bed beside each other. Then she started crying, I did too…we talked about where I’d been, my horrible night and how she couldn’t sleep. We apologized to each other. Then Sharol did a strange thing. Strange because there are many “strong woman” that don’t or at least act like they don’t, need or want men in their lives. She asked me with tears streaming, not to do that again, not to leave her. I didn’t. She told me, but I could truly feel it at that moment..”I love you”

About a month or so later Sharol heard this word in church Akrogoniaios “Jesus the Cornerstone” ¬†after the service she told me the Lord spoke to her heart. And said she was with me to help me become the man God wanted me to be. Of course I was skeptical, we’d just had major marriage crisis. But there was a paradigm shift in our relationship from that time forward. Mostly because our dependency was focused on Christ.

I have been wearing a wedding ring for 19 years, there have been times when I took it off because I didn’t want to be reminded that I was married. A few days a week I’ve gone without it (feels very odd), because eventually, now that I’m a widower, they (She gave me one an anniversary gift, I wear both) will come off. The first day I went without it, I was reminded of a horrible day. Words were said, she and I were mad…Sharol through her rings, it went out the window! Apparently,I followed with you don’t deserve to have/where them!(I didn’t remember saying that,until she mentioned it about a year ago) Later that day Sharol searched the grass and street like the woman in the Bible looking for her lost coin. She vowed never to take them off again. She didn’t. My words cut her deeply…and taking off my ring now, has been incredibly hard. Not to mention the guilt and sadness over how simple minded I had been in the past.

My dear reader, I don’t know why we humans keep such heartbreaking things. The Bible does say that Love doesn’t keep a record of right and wrong. I can see why. Things like our angry word emails can last a long time. So can the effects of them. The day I read said emails, about a week ago, I spent the entire morning bitterly crying over the loss of my Abby. I didn’t go into work because I didn’t have the mental or physical strength to get up. Then came the reading of the emails, the anger, the rage and the questioning of Sharol’s love for me. A hellish pit a woe!!…

A few days later I was reminded of Lots’s wife who was warned to flee and “not look back”, she did. She died. She turned into a “pillar of salt”. This is what happens to many of us, we get stuck in a horrible loop of grief. Unable to move forward, backwards or any direction. And our love ones suffer for it too. Some of us need help dealing with our loss. My boss/friend suggested that I go to a grief counseling service for city workers. Her assessment of me was, I haven’t had a proper time to grieve because of all the things I’ve been taking care of. I chose to make the appointment. You know, not too long ago I was talking to my sister. She was telling me story about being around a group of mostly young people. They were talking about marriage, the usual ¬†whining and complaining. Someone posed the question “What’s the¬†absolute¬†worst part of marriage?” ¬†My sister said “One of you will have to die” ¬†She is absolutely right!! ¬†That’s why I’ve always hated standing around a group of guys whining about their wives and it never failed, someone would turn to me and say¬†“You know how they are,right?¬† My response was always the same¬†“No I don’t, I actually love my wife”¬† You could usually hear a leaf drop after that…¬†¬†

2015 summer vacation in Atlantic City. Picture taken at the aquarium

¬† I also chose to remember something very important…Sharol told me she loved me! And I have proof of that love. And it’s not in some old, out dated angry letter!! It was said to me daily and most recently in a Love letter.¬†

A letter from Sharol written May 20, 2016 I didn’t find it until a week after her death.

2014 Father’s Day

these are the things, dear reader, that we need and should hold on to. Be careful not to step in to the trap/pit that I did. Yeah I know, some of you have already done it…well, learn from my mistake. Don’t look back into the past, it could paralyze you. Rendering you powerless and incapable of healing and moving on.

Until next time…