Thankful

Everyday I choose to be thankful. Could I focus on what I’ve lost? Sure. But I choose not too. It’s still hard to be happy thinking of happy memories. But it’s not as hard to be happy making new happy memories with the kids.

Tomorrow is a day of being thankful, but I am thankful every day. I have 3 healthy kids. Amazing parents who love me so much they built a house next door and moved in today. I have two amazing sisters who help with babysitting or just lend an ear when I need it. My kids have uncles and aunts who support them. The have cousins who are their friends. I have amazing friends who make me go out and have some “me” time.
We are blessed to have a roof over our heads, food on our table and love in our hearts. Nothing means more than the support of our family and I don’t think we would be moving towards healing as we are without them. Thank you to the most awesome, fabulous, wonderful (okay, I think you get it) family. We love you so much. Happy Thanksgiving!

Numbers

8: Number of months since my first blog post

100: Number of posts since I began

2,440: Number of views in one day (thanks to you all sharing!)

42,924: Number of views since I began

368: Number of days since Mark died

368: Number of days I have wished I could understand

368: Number of days my kids wish they could snuggle with daddy

3: Number of times I said “Daddy loves you” at bedtime tonight

3: Number of times I heard “I love Daddy, too”

Sunday is my baby girl’s 9th birthday. It will be her second birthday without her daddy. Last year was so awful (thankfully her party was earlier in the month last year). That day really stands out to me. E ran a 1 mile run in the morning. I picked up her glasses and saw a flier for a benefit fundraiser for Mark in the window of the eyeglasses place. We then headed off to a waterpark (it had been booked months prior). I was in a horrible place. It was all I could think about and I couldn’t see anything but the dads playing with their kids at the waterpark. That place is somewhere I will never visit again because it holds such a bad association for me. This year I am determined to make E’s birthday special this year. I have lots of awesome plans and too many presents (I know, stuff doesn’t make it better, but if it makes her birthday exciting, I’m happy!). I just want the kids to be happy. To know they are loved and that even though Daddy isn’t here on Earth, he loves them. They are my reason for smiling and I thank God (and Mark too 😉 ) everyday for giving them to me. I know we will miss him this weekend for her special day, but this is ONE year behind us and a LIFETIME of love a joy to come.

One Year

I’ve thought for a while what I would say on this day. And now that it’s here I got nothing. And just like so many other times this year, someone helped. I didn’t have to ask. I don’t even think she knew this was something lurking in my mind (even though we talk about everything). So thanks to my sister for writing today’s blog post. And thanks to everyone who stepped up when I was too afraid to ask for help or didn’t know I needed it.

What Mark’s Death Taught Me About Life

Hi Sister,

I know you didn’t ask me to write a guest post for your blog, but as your older sister I am used to just bardging right in. So if you would like to share this on your blog…feel free.

I began to think about the impact Mark’s death has had over the past year on my life. His death has taught me an abundance of things about life and living life. It’s ironic, huh? The lessons of death aren’t about dying but about really living. While we all know the clichés associated with death (i.e. don’t take others for granted), there are deeper truths that I’ve been grappling with this year.

Don’t be afraid to feel what you feel and let it come out when it needs to come out. I have cried more over the past year than I have in my entire life. While the reality of Mark’s death was public so is my pain and the pain that all of us have felt. And public pain is OK. Most people aren’t judging you, they are supporting you. And if they are judging you, they are just assholes (hey, it’s my blog post). When I have had hysterical crying moments at work, my colleagues have supported me. They have loved me and not judged me. They have hugged me. They have picked up where I couldn’t. They have covered for me. When I cried at the t-shirt store when I saw a shirt that reminded me of Mark, the nice lady behind the counter handed me a tissue. Crying doesn’t make you weak, allowing others to see your pain means you are really strong.

Support comes from the places you least expect it. When Mark died, I didn’t know who to turn to. I didn’t know who I could talk to or seek out for help. Because all of us were grieving together, I felt like a burden to others. But that didn’t stop you from supporting me in my grief. Here you were in your darkest moment, supporting me. Talking to me about my feelings. Grabbing the tissue box for me. It felt wrong, but on some level it was also right. Some people I thought would be there for me, were not. But an amazing thing happened, there were also new people who picked up right where others walked off. The right people are there for you if you let them be.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is the shield of the strong. When I began to ask for what I needed to others, would fulfill my request and then some. Practicing asking others for what I need was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. “Can you please come and be my friend?” “Can I talk to you about how I am struggling?” These questions were SO HARD FOR ME. I would have to practice in my head. I would be about to ask the person and then I would chicken out. For me, I had to be so strong inside to ask for what I needed on the outside. A hug. A conversation. A cup of coffee. A babysitter. Most people weren’t put off by my request; they were glad I asked them. People will help you and not resent you. And if they do, you will know. My friend told me, I want to help you. It really is a privilege for me.

Most people have scars, you just can’t see them. When you are open about your deep pain, others open up to you. I didn’t know that so many people have lived and survived so much pain. I honestly didn’t know. Prior to Mark’s death I was naïve. I portrayed a great life, great kids, and well, pretty much a GREAT life. Why in the world would someone want to share life’s struggles with someone who is so, well, GREAT? Mark’s death has made my life more real. Being open about my pain has allowed others to open up. They have showed me their scars without shame. They have showed me that they have been able to heal. I, too, have scars…these days, you can pretty much see them everyday. But I know it won’t always be like that. One day, my scars will be hidden and I will show them to others when they need help.

Even though you are my little sister, I feel like I have been chasing you and your good example as a sister (and a person) my entire life. I want to be more like you, and Mark’s death has allowed us to be even closer than we already were. Mark’s death has taught me more about our family than I ever realized. The first few weeks after Mark died, remember how we holed ourselves us at our other sister’s house? We moved the couches together in the living room so we could be physically REALLY REALLY close. We laughed and cried and cried some more. We let the kids be kids and work out their grief through slumber parties for two weeks straight and popcorn in their beds. I think we ate gas station doughnuts everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner, too. Oh and Skinny Pop…bags and bags of Skinny Pop.

Through Mark’s death I learned that family will always be there for each other thoughout each other’s lives…and it’s important to keep it that way.

I love you sister!

Understanding Suicide

I like a lot of what this writer has to say…

GenevaTheRamblingHobbit

When someone is diagnosed with a disease, we try to understand their condition and we talk to them about it. We make an effort to help that person in any way we can. If they die, we understand why and we try to make it so that less people meet the same fate. But somehow, when someone chooses to take their own life, we react differently than if someone died because they had a weak heart. We don’t like to talk about it. We don’t usually acknowledge how they died in their obituary. It’s as if we are scared to admit that we knew someone who ended their own life. Or maybe we feel guilty. Or maybe we just don’t want everyone to know what happened to the person we love.

The point is, we don’t like to talk about suicide. It’s kind of like this taboo subject that can…

View original post 1,005 more words

356… and more.

Since it was such a nice day I thought I would hang up my outdoor Christmas lights (yes, I’m serious). Unfortunately the bins that contain them are buried under some of the furniture I am currently storing in my garage. But while I was going through the enormous piles of bins in the basement I came across the bin of cards/letters from Mark’s memorial service. They have been stored away since that night. Yes, I said bin, I counted 356 cards/notes/letters. Many of them from former students, parents of students, co-workers, friends. I didn’t read them all, but I probably read almost half and they all had similar sentiments. Then I came across this one. It’s long, so be prepared. It was so thoughtful, handwritten in purple ink by a now-junior in high school who had Mark in 5th grade. This letter (and countless others) really touched me:

“Dear Mrs. Reilly,

I am truly sorry for your loss. I had Mr. Reilly for fifth grade and he changed my life. In fourth grade I had a good teacher, but not as good as Mr. Reilly. He was so caring and so funny. I have never enjoyed a class room as much as I have his. I look back now as a junior in high school and I can honestly say he is the best teacher I have ever had. He taught us more than math and science. He taught us life skills and what it means to be important. Before I had Mr. Reilly I was a quiet girl who thought a class only lasts for a year therefore it would be silly to actually become a part of it. He changed that. He made us feel important and made it easy to let down all of our walls. With Mr. Reilly we were not just 20 kids in the same room learning the same stuff, we became family. We bonded over time and learned it is okay to let people in and be close. I know this sounds a little silly when we are talking about fifth graders, but that is what makes him so great of a teacher. Not only did he teach us, but he cared about us as well. That’s what made the difference. I am truly blessed to have had Mr. Reilly as a teacher. I will always have the utmost respect for him. If I grow up to be at least half of the person he was I can trust that I will touch a lot of hearts as he did. We will never forget Mr. Reilly. He will always be in my heart. I will be praying for him and your family. I am sorry this letter is not fancy. I was going to re-write it, but I would start crying all over. I cannot express how blessed I am to have been able to have Mr. Reilly as a teacher. Thank you so much.

-A Loving Junior, XXX”

I read this over and over, card after card. It feels I always knew how awesome he was, but it is amazing to see how many other people he touched too and realize he was even MORE amazing than I even knew! And while it does make me happy, mostly it makes me sad that someone that special is no longer here. And all of the lives he could have impacted (beyond the obvious of the kids and me) but now he won’t. It feels like the people my kids would have become is dramatically altered and I’m just doing my best to get them back on course.

So, its been an emotional day. With the 1 year anniversary coming up I thought about what I want for that day. So if you know me or knew Mark personally, I want my kids to know the impact their dad had on others. So send me a card or short note with a story addressed to the kids. You can also email it to jodis4@hotmail.com and I will print it out for them. I just want so much for them to know the amazing man their father was.

A serious one…

So with the passing of Brittany Maynard, I have had lots of thoughts about this idea of dying with dignity.  I have always been a huge proponent of “live and let live.” I believe that each person knows what is best for themselves on their journey through this life. It is egotistical to believe that somehow I know what is best for someone else. Because as similar as our paths may be NOBODY has walked on the path I am right now. I would not appreciate someone judging the decisions I am making. It is MY life and I will make the choices that I think are best. And I think that if I were in her shoes with a terminal illness, I would make the same choice she did (although it’s not something I could know unless it actually happened). This got me thinking about Mark. I think it made me have a little more understanding of his thoughts behind “choosing” to die. I think he must have been suffering immeasurable pain and saw no end to that pain. And just like Brittany, no cure.  Treatment, sure. But he made a choice to not live a life treating a chronic disease (just like some people with cancer choose not to get chemotherapy) and he chose to die. I have worked in a field with adults with mental illness and have seen the impact it has on not only their lives, but the lives of all those who love them. It is a horrible disease with no cure. Mark was incredibly smart. I know this is not a choice he made lightly. I will never know what he was thinking that morning or the days, weeks, years leading up to that day. But I have to trust that he did what was best for himself and us that morning. I know without a shadow of a doubt that he loved me and he loved our kids. He had a history of making good decisions and I trusted him implicitly. It is selfish of me to wish he was still here, living with whatever pain and anguish was going on in his head. I can’t even imagine the mental pain he was in to drive him to that decision, but I think about how bad it had to be, and well, I am thankful he is no longer suffering. I will never be angry at him for his choice but I will wish every day that it could have been different. Just like people whose loved ones die of cancer wish their loved one didn’t ever get cancer. I don’t want to get in a debate, I know it’s a sensitive topic. I respect your right to believe what you want on this topic. Please respect mine, too.

Up next…

Wow. The response to my last post was quite overwhelming! Since I posted there have been over 1700 views of that post. Thank you to everyone who shared my blog. I don’t know what my goals are with this whole thing, but mostly I just want to show people it’s OKAY to talk about suicide! I think that message got across and I am so humbled by so many of the comments and messages I received. I have to be honest, I don’t feel brave, or strong or amazing. I wish I did. I feel like I’m just doing what any person in this situation would do. I move forward because I have to, not because I want to.

So how do I follow up that post? I don’t have anything profound to share. Other than to say thanks. I am feeling the love from all of you, whether you know me personally or not. It really means a lot to have so much support out there. In just 13 days it will be 1 year since Mark has been gone. It is just crazy to think that. If you do know me personally, PLEASE don’t email me, or text me or call me. I know you will all be thinking about me. It is not really an “anniversary” I want to commemorate in any way. I don’t think I can handle reminders all day long about what happened on that day one year ago. Just say a little prayer for us. I plan to do something fun with the kids that day. We think about Mark every day, so we don’t need to set aside a special day to “remember” him. I’m hoping we can all just enjoy each other and make the most of the day. If you don’t already have plans, make some with the people you love. Nobody is guaranteed tomorrow, so enjoy each other today 🙂