Missing Her

Evidence I’m Ok:

  • I’ve laughed.
  • I’ve cried openly.
  • I’ve been spending time with friends and family.
  • I’ve gone to two movies (Wolverine and Star Trek – both great!)
  • I’ve cracked jokes, even inappropriate death jokes (which really are the funniest)
  • I’ve drank a lot of beer.
  • I haven’t killed <fill in the blank from the following list: myself, someone trying to cheer me up, someone not trying to cheer me up, the happy cashier at the local grocery, someone trying to ask me cancer/death advice, someone trying to give me death advice, my dogs, my spirit>
  • I’ve been thinking about my future.

Evidence I’m Not Ok:

  • I cry often.
  • Sometimes I don’t cry and wonder why not.
  • I drink a lot of beer.
  • I sleep on Maggie’s side of the bed.
  • I keep smelling Maggie’s old clothes.
  • Nothing tastes as good as it used to.
  • I wear her wedding ring.
  • I carry her driver’s license in my pocket.
  • I sometimes hear her voice.
  • I keeping thinking she’ll call me.

Battles I’m Fighting:

  • If only I/we would have….
  • I hope she was happy with me and the way I treated her.
  • I wish people would go away and let me rot alone.
  • What do I do now? Where do I go from here?

As you can see, the number of items in the list of evidence that show I’m ok roughly equal the number of items in the list of evidence that show I’m not ok (purely by accident, I swear). Thus, if you throw in some good ol’ Maggie optimism to swing the vote, I’m ok. Really.

I’ve pretty much cleared out all the evidence of The Cancer out of the house, especially the stuff related to the last six months when crap really started getting bad. Her little pain pump was an odd one. It’s still here but I’m over it. The first few days I was very connected to it emotionally. While I suspected that I was supposed to return it immediately, I could not bare them coming to seize it. It was too important to me despite all the hate I had for it and what it represented. But by Thursday I was over it. My heart didn’t palpitate any more when I picked it up so I called them to give them the come-and-get-it. But it’s still here. And my feelings haven’t changed. I’m done with it. And it’s ok.

The oxygen concentrator, the oxygen bottles, the tubing, the bed side potty, the bed side table – all of that crap I got out of the house as fast as possible. I would have thrown that out last Monday if I would thought about it but I was too overcome with the loud buzzing in my head and the elephant sitting on my chest. Good riddance of that crap. I hope I never see that stuff again (although I took a picture of it all, just in case sometime far, far in the future I want to… uhm… dig.)

Many people have asked that I continue to write but I struggle with the question “about what?” This has always been about Maggie and my Great Cancer Adventure. Ah, yes, how great an adventure it was. But there are no more status updates to write, no crazy doctors visits, no MD Anderson sanity-busters. The party is over and I’m going to have to clean up the mess. Happily I have some friends to help but the maker of the stories, my muse, is gone. All I have to offer now is the miscellaneous meanderings of my own mind and, as fun as it might sound, multiple postings of me saying “I’m fine” will grow old quickly.

I’m not quite done yet. I want to write the story of our last few hours together. As you can imagine, that’s going to be difficult and I’m not ready yet. But I will. Eventually. I also want to write about the memorial. Wow, amazing. There’re a few more stories to come: the planting of Maggie’s tree, the burning of the Notes to Maggie from the memorial, and maybe other things. After that, I suspect my time here is done. Maggie’s light shined so brightly that it made this blog glow. Now, that light is gone. Or maybe it’s just shining somewhere else now and I can’t see it yet.  My eyes are too filled with tears.

27 thoughts on “Missing Her

  1. My father died suddenly when I was 14. I know what it’s like to lose someone who was there every day. I did ok for months. Then one morning, maybe 7 months later, I woke up and unplugged the telephone from the wall. I took it into the bathroom and took a shower. I took it to the dining room and had breakfast. I took it onto the school bus. It wasn’t until the girl next to me shyly asked if I was expecting a phone call ( this was pre-cell-phone) that I realized I had the phone with me and that, yeah… I was waiting for a phone call. A rotary phone on a school bus! I laugh about the phone thing now because, seriously, that’s funny! You’ll do odd things for a while, but don’t let it alarm you. You can fight it, but you’re just going to feel what you’re going to feel, react how you react. Well DUH you might think, but you’ll constantly assess your emotions to gauge how right or wrong they are. Don’t do that to yourself. Be as kind to yourself as you were to Maggie.

  2. Chris, in the not ok category, I think everything you’re doing is completely normal. I’ve known of people doing the exact same things. And it’s only been a week, so cut yourself some slack. I know 100% infinity that Maggie felt treated like the rare jewel that was her. You’re an amazing man, friend, brother, and husband. I am proud to call you my friend. And if you need to vent about any of the above (advice, non-advice, questions from others) you can vent to me, since I’ve known you forever, I can take it.
    And as far as the writing goes. Of course this is a good place for that. Not only do we want to know about the above that you will blog about, but I think we want to know about that future you are thinking about. I know Maggie will still be your muse, or your inspiration for the new chapters in your life. Maybe it’s because of this story you will educate others, save some lives. The fact is Chris & Maggie have stolen the hearts of thousands of people that neither of you met in person. There’s a lot of folks cheering you on, and I am one of them. If you start carrying a rotary dial phone well then you can worry… 🙂

  3. I’m another one of those people you do not know who has been reading your blog faithfully for quite some time. I lost my husband to cancer 6 months ago. Please continue to write. It will help me and hopefully you also with healing as we grieve the love of our lives.

    1. Joan, I’m very sorry for your loss. It is for you and others like you that I will make an effort to keep writing. Thank you.

  4. Thank you for writing, Chris. You have remained in my prayers! Leslee is right, you and Maggie have stolen the hearts of hundreds upon hundreds, if not thousands of people. I understand you saying this was Maggie’s blog, but it was yours too. I don’t want to be nosey and beg you to continue writing if you don’t feel compelled to, but I did want to let you know, from someone you have never met and may never meet, that I would love to see the continuing chapters in your life. You so eloquently and beautifully documented the final chapters in Maggie’s life. I don’t think there is any question that she knew how you felt about her. You can not fake a smile like that, not even in a picture. Her smile came from a deep true joy, love and a happiness that was so obviously genuine. As an outsider looking in there is no doubt that you filled every ounce of her with a love that was meant specifically for her, from you… you were hand picked to walk by her side and be with her during this journey of her life.

    When you’re ready we will all be waiting to see and hear how your next chapters of your life start unfolding. You were a gift to Maggie, but you’re also a gift to this world and your job isn’t finished yet. We all care about you and would love to see where all your road is going to lead you. I know that everything seems so dark right now, but things will turn light again. I have no doubt that Maggie will be a big part of that light in your life. You and the rest of Maggie’s family and dear friends will remain in my prayers!

  5. I have to tell you (and I’m sure all others would agree) that I would never grow tired of hearing that you’re doing ok and that you’re continuing to live as Maggie would have most certainly wanted for you. Your love for each other was so obvious in every post that you wrote and while the pain of living in a world where she doesn’t must be unbearable, it is your continued love for each other that will carry you towards whatever lies ahead.

    Love & Prayers,

  6. Some weapons for your battle “I hope she was happy with me and the way I treated her”:

    While in law school, Maggie and I were not close friends. We didn’t eat together, go out together, study together, or anything close to that. But sometimes, we’d visit with each other about random life topics. She was easy to talk to and her openness (is that a word?) made it easy to trust her and to open up to her. I really enjoyed it when we had the opportunity to talk to one another.

    One morning, Maggie and I were discussing various things. I asked her how she met you. While I don’t remember the exact story, I do remember the exact way she made me feel. I was envious of her at that moment. I knew then that she had the kind of love that I always thought only happened in the movies. She had her Happily Ever After. It was so clear from the way she spoke of you, the words she chose, the smile on her face, and the energy she possessed, she was happier with you in your 10 years together than than many women are in 50 years. So even to a bystander hearing Maggie speak of you, it was clear you made her happy.

    I pray that this will be a short battle for you because if you have nothing else to cling to, cling to the fact that you were a wonderful husband to Maggie, and you made her a very happy woman.

    1. Thank you very much for this. I realize it’s a silly battle. I know she was happy with me. She told me often. Better than that, I could feel it. But my brain keeps grabbing at silly things and this is one that keeps popping up. Other related and equally as silly ones include: I hope she was happy with the way I cared for her, I hope she is happy with the efforts I put forth to save her, I hope she felt that I protected her dignity during all this. All silly, really, and maybe reflective of my own subconscious feelings of failure since, well, she died. Apparently, I couldn’t fix that so maybe I didn’t do these other things right either. Absolutely ridiculous logic. But the brain seems to have short-circuited a bit lately.

      As an example of short-circuiting, the other day was her (and my) good friend Denise’s birthday. She’s struggling with this stuff just as badly as I am. My short-circuited brain thought “Ah, I’ll text her from Maggie’s phone ‘Happy Birthday!’. It will be like a sweet message from Maggie.” (Pause to appreciate how incredibly bad that plan was…..) Fortunately, the non-malfunctioning part of my brain quickly put the kibosh on that plan. My mental oversight brain area still functions, thank goodness (unlike the genius who thought, “Let’s fly Air Force One low over downtown NY chased by a fighter jet. It’ll be great!”)

      1. …” All silly, really, and maybe reflective of my own subconscious feelings of failure since, well, she died. Apparently, I couldn’t fix that so maybe I didn’t do these other things right either.”…

        I’ve only responded to your blog posts in the last couple of weeks, but I’ve been reading for awhile. I’m the primary caregiver for my mom, who is currently batting Stage IV colon cancer. She was diagnosed in Aug. 2006 and at that time she already had mets to her liver and lungs.

        Off and on, I have blamed myself for her disease. Why didn’t I see that she had a colonoscopy when she should have (never mind that her doctor NEVER advised her to have one, which is odd because she went to see him every 3 months and had routine mammograms, blood tests, etc….)? Why didn’t I take her to the doctor sooner? (Never mind that I took her to the dr. numerous times, the ER 3 times and she was given several wrong diagnoses.)

        And, like you, I’ve been along for all the wonderful side effects of cancer and chemo. But, I can’t fix her. I can’t make her cancer disappear. I can’t make her feel better (except to give her the meds and pat her forehead, etc.). And, I feel guilty about it.

        Okay, I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say here, except that I know how you feel.

        But, I can be objective in your case and tell you that YES, you went above and beyond the call of duty for your precious Maggie.

        And, wanted to add that I too would miss your blogs. PLEASE continue. It has been a real blessing to read of your journey. You have no idea how many people you have helped. You posted this entry last night and you already have had almost 500 views. Maggie may be watching from above now, but the journey is NOT over.

      2. Chris,

        One of the ways I have described your blog and the way you wrote about it was using the word dignity. I think you exhibited incredible dignity in the way you so beautifully wrote about something so intensely intimate and personal. You have a beautiful gift for writing and I so appreciate your courage in sharing the good, the bad and the ugly. All I can offer in return are many, many prayers for you.

  7. Hey Chris,

    Get some exercise, walk the dogs, go witness the pure joy of distraction at a sporting event. If you want a beer go out for it. Quench your thirst with a tall glass of water so you can more slowly enjoy and savor the beer. Just ease yourself into the now more experienced and worldly person you’ve had to become.

    Hold Fast, Let the future unfold & Smile whenever your thoughts turn to Maggie.
    Don MacLeod

  8. Hey Chris,

    Yes, it’s me, your sister. You know I can’t stay silent any more than you can…especially with you involved. We share so much (were we separated at birth? we should ask Mom…), our hearts, our brains, our compassion….our loves.

    You might think that this “Cancer Adventure” is over, but it is not. This Adventure will continue, for years down the road. And we ALL want to join you. We are here to hold your hand and remind you that there is no one specific thing that is normal (ok) or not normal (ok). Everyone is different, everyone grieves and recovers at different paces. We want to share that with you, but we can’t unless you let us. Maggie is with you too, but she’s coming from a slightly higher angle, and she’s encouraging you and supporting you. Just be ready to see her presence. She’s there, and we are too. So keep blogging, and we’ll keep loving you.

  9. Thanks, Chris, for writing this. Thanks for provoking more tears. Every time I cry about Maggie, I feel it is a little bit more of a healing. I am glad you are letting the tears flow and sharing how you feel.

  10. Chris,
    You have been in my thoughts a lot lately (duh). I can honestly say you have changed the way I look at life, and the people in my life. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I found myself checking your blogs, smiling with your joys and crying with your pain. Your an amazing human being, I always have known that. You were one of the nicest people I knew in high school. Take it one day at a time, one hour, one minute or even once second. Cry, laugh, even get mad if you need to. You have been through so much that so many can’t even fathom. Warm thoughts and prayers from west Texas coming your way!

  11. The day my mom passed away, I had to go to the grocery store to pick up some items. As I numbly walked through the store, I heard a couple arguing over a brand of cereal, a baby crying and observed people mindlessly going about their shopping. It was like being in the middle of a twilight zone. Didn’t everyone know that my mother, an amazing woman who meant the most to me in the world, had just died!!! Of course they didn’t. The realization sunk in that life goes on, oblivious to the loss of precious people in our lives. I truly felt at odds with a world that kept moving on while I felt stuck on autopilot. It took time, but I realized that grieving is a process that takes time and surfaces in many ways often unexpectedly. Be kind to yourself and do whatever feels natural for you to enjoy the memories of your beautiful wife. I have mementos of my mom in several rooms of my house. They are joyous reminders of the great times we had and what a wonderful person she was. She will always be with me. Maggie will always be with you too.

  12. Chris,

    The “Evidence I’m Not Ok” list needs to be nested in the “Evidence I’m Ok” list. It demonstrates that you’re doing pretty well. Why?

    First, because you’re able to step back and see yourself and voice your feelings.

    Second, because you are a living, loving, earthly, greiving human being and everything you list illustrates that fantastic fact. Those are not weaknesses. They are strengths of character that just present themselves in odd little ways.

    As the old saying goes, nine women can’t make a baby in a month. This is a process and it takes time. Just do whatever your instict tells you to. Based on what I’ve read, everyone has your back.

  13. Over the next few days, weeks and months, you may sometimes find yourself here:

    You’re going to get out of (Maggie’s side of) the bed. Perhaps some of these days, you’ll beat the sun up. On others, it’ll have hours and hours on you before your eyes open.
    You’re going to go to the bathroom and pee – some days, sitting down, but pee you will!
    You’re going to brush your teeth. Possibly with her toothbrush, in an attempt to taste her once more.
    You’re going to get dressed. Shirt on bottom, pants on top, right?
    You’re going to tie your shoes. Possibly together, but they’ll get tied.
    And the routine goes on.
    All these steps have something in common and nope, it’s not errors.
    It’s movement. Somehow, it’s healing. And you know this part, better than anyone else – it’s taking Maggie with you, each (bumpy) step of the way.
    Keep going.

  14. hey chris,
    im not gonna try to give you advice about anything one way or the other or tell you anything mushy or even try to cheer you up. i just want you to know that i am thinking of you and hope you are doing ok. you are a super intelligent dude with unbelievable motivation and potential and i know you will get thru this thing. i am proud of you and proud you are my friend. keep yer chin up! i wish i couldve made it to the memorial. but even though im 1500 miles away, i’ll be there in spirit with you next time you crack a beer open.

  15. I started to follow your blog when I began chemo for breast cancer back in Aug/Sept. I just want you to know that your story has totally touched my life. I don’t take a single minute for granted anymore. I recently have gone back to school and am doing things that before cancer I might have been too afraid to do. I am in awe of you and your writing and wish you continued peace and healing.

  16. Dear Chris,

    I had so much to say to you, but as soon as I start writing the words don’t seem to make sense.

    What can I say to you that will make the pain go away? Absolutely nothing.You are a hero in so many ways, you have to heal yourself, and mourn your beautiful Maggie the way that only you can.

    I guess I just want to say stay strong, I am sure that Maggie would want you to.

    Cry, laugh, and most of all try to remember all the good times. The bad things just pop without thinking.

    I am so sorry to see anyone in a situation like this, but as someone said to my aunt when my cousin died, he was the first victim of the war in Macedonia, Ex-Yugoslavia, 29 years old…he left a wife and two kids behind,they told her “we will all keep living, you can not throw yourself alive in the grave, so just grieve, but live for him”.

    Please live for her, and do write when you can, you have so many followers.

    When my little sister was first diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, all I did was cry, search, hope and pray to God. I wish that your story would have ended in a different tune, but I guess things always happen as they should.

    My heart hurts for you and you are always in my thoughts and prayers.

    I told someone else before and I can say it to you, cancer brings all of us together, like a family, and I am sure that you know that judging by all of us that love you and Maggie.

    Please be kind to yourself.

    I hope that God will help you through all of this. You have touched so many lives, and are in all of our hearts.

    God bless you Chris…………I hope that cancer becomes a disease of the past and that no one will ever go through anything like this anymore.

  17. Chris – if you need to step away from the blog for a while, then do so. All of us who care will still be here. I would imagine this URL is bookmarked in many many browsers. Don’t feel any obligation … you don’t need the extra burden. Just write when you feel like it, even if you don’t want to share it with the world – just write for yourself. It’s been a good and useful tool for you – but never let it be a burden or allow yourself to feel pressure over it through the messages here that you receive on this blog. You probably need some quite space for yourself for a while. I can completely understand how you feel that the light of your inspiration is faded now – just step back and breathe for a while.

    By the way – I’m not sure what your beliefs are (and am not asking), but in my personal belief system, Maggie will ‘call’ – you just have to keep your eyes & ears out for it. I’ve no desire to open up a theological discussion here. I just wanted to share that when I lost two different people I was very close to … there were some pretty strange and coincidental things that happened. Repeatedly. I was not a spiritual or religious person at all, but these things just were TOO “spot on” to be ignored. I won’t go into them, no real reason – but just keep your mind open to the possibility that she will reach out to you. I know Maggie and if there is something after this life … she will find a way to touch you that you will understand. I claim no religion or faith – other than that of Love and I believe that who we really are doesn’t die with the body. Anywho … sorry for the ramble here. Just take care of yourself and listen to your intuition (not everyone else) for what is right for you.

  18. Chris,

    I was sitting next to my dad a year ago when he received “The” call from his Surgeon stating he could do nothing more for him in terms of removing his cancerous GIST tumor from his stomach. Dad was all of 120lbs at this point and the tumor was the size of a footfall for the second time. My dad sobbed and it tore my heart out. I felt so helpless. He passed away in Hospice with all the family there on June 20th of last year.
    (condensed version)

    Dad contended that friends and family were really what counted in life. He made sure that all six kids, (catholic family of course) understood that. All those feelings came up for me with you and Maggie.
    I can’t take away the pain but I can be your friend/family. You are truly a gift Chris and part of our family…….

  19. I think most of us will continue to be effected by Maggie for some time to come; I know I am.

    In a way Chris, we are all connected in this world. We don’t have to know one another, live next door to one another or hang out with one another; we happen to have run into one another at some significant time in our lives.

    We ran into you and Maggie for a reason.

    Now, I’m not a sensei, guru or the pope but I’m positive that we were meant to know Maggie; she was the pinnacle of strength that I will always admire and will never forget.

    I miss her too. And one thing I’ll never forget when I said “do I have to wear that?” She said: “Yes; you do.”

  20. Chris,

    You write and we read about you and Maggie. Your whole ordeal with this cancer adventure was about Maggie but it was also about you. Don’t forget that you went through all of it and I do believe that you writing about it was a way for you to cope with it all. We all have our ways of coping with tragedy, you decided to something productive. And you should continue to write about your feelings and your thoughts and your progress. Maggie’s adventure ended tragically too soon. Your’s continues. And while you probably have heard this numerous times before, you writing about this has helped all of who have read your blogs in dealing with our own personal tragedies, similiar to yours or not. Thank you for writing and for sharing. All you can do is keep moving forward and as you do, Maggie will always be a part of it, some how some way.

  21. Chris – Maggie was a wonderful person that I had the honor of meeting when I hired her to represent my sister in a family matter. She was always so kind and pretty and had a smile on her face. She did confide in us that her cancer was getting the better of her but she never showed it except for a broken out face (which seemed to bother her but we didn’t even notice that). She was unable to finish my sisters case and had Martha take over. WE knew she was sick but didn’t know it was this bad. I am so sorry for your loss. I have read your blog and it never fails to bring tears. My mother passed away in September 2008 of cancer. She suffered and fought it for 10 years. I stayed with her through the final weeks and it was so hard to watch her deteriorate so quickly. I don’t know how you did it and still managed to write about it. Thank you for sharing all your tales of her with us. I hope she and my mother have met by now in Heaven. Perhaps they’ve even discussed my sister…. If you are anything like my step father, you find that you don’t quite know what to do with all your free time now… Keep your chin up. You sound like a wonderful loving man and Maggie was very lucky to spend the last four years of her life married to you.

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