What a Doozy – 2018 So Far

It is only January 4th but this year feels life forever so far. It will be a short post because I either have pneumonia or something so close I am being treated for it anyway. The last several days were spent in bed wondering why I was so tired and then hoping it was a nasty cold.

Yesterday I got up and tried to get ready to return to work, my first day in the New Year. It was obvious from my struggle to breathe it was either to my doctor’s or the local ER. Luckily the doctor took me in right away and hooked me up with some medications for pneumonia because all parts of my lungs were noisy not in a good way. I had a chest x-ray at the local health services unit, located a one minute drive from both the doctor’s office and my home, both of which I was extremely grateful for. I was able to squeak in for the chest x-ray there so avoided again, a trip to the ER. John was home with his own miserable cold but drove me around our 3 kilometre circle because it was just very, very hard.

I slept pretty much from Saturday on so don’t remember the New Year much but woke up long enough to fire up the computer and bring up a picture of Mathew so I could ring in the New Year with him. Moving into a new year is a dread all bereaved parents feel although it feels like our pain is unique. Now that hurdle is done there are a few more to be faced this year, like his birthday and his death day.

For now I am hoping the medicine gets me back on my feet and doing things I haven’t been sick like this since I don’t know when. There is a phenomenon called a “bomb cyclone” happening somewhere near here…or maybe here?… right now. It is moving up from the Eastern States and it is an event when the barometer drops 24 millibars in 24 hours. So for us that translates to lots of snow, high winds…maybe some sleet then the temperature dropping hideously low again, down to the mid minus 20 Celsius range.

It seems the weather is having a bad a start to 2018 as I am.

I am so happy I hired a plough to shovel the driveway this winter!!


2017 is Almost Over

I know, no postings since September. Sorry about that. We are keeping busy and going a lot which doesn’t leave much time to post anything.

Kristen is home for Christmas and flies back to Ottawa tomorrow. We had a quiet Christmas at home; John made a lovely turkey dinner and we watched tv. It was very hard with the quiet and huge gaping hole that Mathew left behind. Wrapping Kristen’s presents brought out the tears as there is nothing for Mathew this year.

I just finished 2 evening courses in photography and more to the point; how to use my digital camera. Fall found us driving to different places a lot and me taking picture after picture. Most are not worthy of even keeping but a few here and there are good enough to keep. Besides the photography and just going out on weekends the other activity for me was quilting.

I am just finishing up my first ever quilt, complete with plenty of errors throughout. It is a fun hobby and one which I will continue.

I visited my parents and brought back another car stuffed with fabric for sewing. There is enough that my sewing area will move downstairs and Mathew’s room will be left intact with my photography equipment in there. Photography has a lot less stuff and the sewing was taking over way too much of Mathew’s room. We all want to be able to sit in his chair or bed and read or talk…. just to be closer to him.

The initial numbness finally wore off and now life is a breath at a time and a moment at a time. The pain of losing our child (and brother, in Kristen’s case) is with each breath and it is there for the rest of our lives. Something unexpected will pop up to remind us afresh that Mathew is gone. Forever. Then a fresh wave of grief takes hold and you are in its grasp for however long it takes to go through it.

Each new thing that happens, or new purchase….basically anything new is difficult to accept because it means moving forward without Mathew. He will never hear that new song I like that he probably would tease me about. There are new movies he would want to see and games he wanted to play. We preordered a video game that released in October I think it was, and when the store called to let us know it was available for pickup it was a terrible punch to the gut.

It is horrifying we are 7 months away from the day Mathew died. How did the time go by so fast? Why didn’t it stop and let us stay back in summer? He is gone so long and missing him gets worse as not seeing or hearing a loved one does.

Yet time, that cruel state, marches on. I am grateful the initial shock and numbness is gone but am so not looking forward to the new year for the first time ever. In 2017 Mathew was alive and still part of our home. He isn’t a part of 2018; he never lived in that year and only exists in our memories. It is another brutal wack to the heart.

I ended up avoiding stores for the pre-Christmas shopping. So did John. Every year I spent so much time and energy (as did we all) keeping Mathew busy until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, when he could finally have his gifts and relax. Then he and I spent the entire night checking out his games, books and just talking (or me trying to stay awake while Mathew chatted away). The stores, the sparkles, the festive airs were too much for us.

Our home was not decorated neither inside or out. Kristen, John and I discussed it and wanted a low-key season and we didn’t want to celebrate. We spent time with family when we could and that was wonderful. Losing a loved one nails home the true reason for the season. Spending time with friends and family is what we enjoyed as much as we could.

It will be another blow when Kristen goes to her home; we miss this sweet, funny, intelligent and beautiful young woman something fierce. It helps that she is happy there and has friends and a good life. We are bruised and missing something but life goes on ~ not the same and I don’t want it to be the same, but it does go on.

Loss and grief comes to us all sooner or later, unless fate dictates you are the first to go. Perhaps that is the kinder path as ours is not to be wished on anyone. It is not something you ever “get over” or “get through”. A piece of your heart is broken and shattered forever and absolutely nothing can fill that space. That is fine by us because grief is a part of love and loss. We loved and were loved. The burden of the pain of loss is something we are willing to carry for someone special touched our lives and shaped who we are. We honour Mathew and ourselves with the sorrow and I can’t imagine living any other way.

We are doing okay. I want you to know that. I am saddened by the loss of more children, youth and young adults to this wretched Ewing’s Sarcoma. There are too many dying or living terrible lives with this cancer and it is my hope that better treatments and perhaps a cure can be found so that not one more child or person dies from it.

Once this week is over and life settles to our new normal again I plan to post pictures from my camera on here. It is a promise I made to Mathew and it gives me peace when I am wrapped up in composing a photo, trying different settings and perusing all the results. I am definitely a novice photographer folks and have considerable hand shake so sharp and crisp photos are still few and far apart.

I will return in 2018 but must get through going into a new year without our precious son by our side. There is a community I keep in touch with (through Facebook) that gives comfort. It is for bereaved parents.

We wish you warm greetings for this season and the new year. Hang on to precious moments and revel in being with the ones you love. Time is shorter than you might realize and you don’t want to waste a minute.

Fall Equinox

Today brought another poignant reminder how long Mathew has been gone. It is a summer. The last of spring and the whole of summer. How is that possible? How are the days going so fast? How have I managed to live fairly normal when everything changed in the blink of an eye?

When Mathew died our whole way of life died. From the 24/7 care he required to not leaving him alone because that was the worst thing for him. Being alone. Spending most of the last year; or 9-10 months, hanging out in his room. Reading on my iPad or watching videos with him, watching him play games on his iPad and later his Nintendo Switch. Sleeping on the mattress on the floor. Managing his medication schedule, shower or sponge bath, changing his sheets and trying to keep him dry.

When he died that all disappeared. The last 4 years, since he was diagnosed with cancer, disappeared.

So began the drifting. It is a strange thing to suddenly have a silence in the house and hours of nothing. Life had to halt while his memorial was planned and other details were attended to but very quickly that gets wrapped up except for bits and pieces that show suddenly and without warning. Like mail addressed to “the estate of the late Mathew Bullock”.

John quickly started to fill our days with anything. Anything to keep us going and going until we dropped from exhaustion. In those first weeks it was trading in the truck, buying the camper (and boy did THAT keep us busy!!), trips around Atlantic Canada and to Ontario. Then John’s issue with his health/heart and us going back to work. Eventually it was bound to slow down and fall would be the impetus to slow that lifestyle to a quieter pace.

I need it. I am tired. An awful lot happened this last year and grieving and trying to come to terms with a different life and its subsequent upheaval feels awfully rushed. John and I did go on another trip with the trailer; we went to Maine in the US for 8 days. We brought the cat, Gimley with us. The trailer behaved except we discovered the shower is leaking somewhere when that gray water tank gets full. Gimley tried to be a good sport but on the drive down it didn’t help I neglected to put kitty litter in the truck for him. He had his harness on and sat on the console between the front seats. No he was not happy but was stressed. Anyhow he peed on the back seat of the truck…*sigh*… our fault.  Kitty did better when the camper was set up and he could cruise in it. The trip was broken into 2 parts; the 3 nights in Bangor and the 5 nights in Kennebunk. Driving to Maine took unusually long but still not as long as the 8 or 9 hour drive home from Kennebunk. Gimley was very happy to be home. We won’t take him again; he is too old and was kind of drooling from the mouth and meowing a bit on the trip back. Oh yes and he did use the kitty litter twice on the way back (we learned from our mistake!!!!) but barfed on the floor of the back seat area.

John is sure he can clean the backseat so he stripped it out as soon as we got home and has been working on it since, with every product you can imagine. The cover is off and the foam is out on its own. It no longer looks shiny and new. It had what appears to be a burn mark on it but otherwise wasn’t particularly dirty. It is now, with heaps of different chemicals soaking in. I expect it to dissolve at any time. It is about $700 to replace that foam. I doubt it will feel decent or smell good when he is finished with it and it may be its own hazard after this experiment.

Camping is done for the season. It was peaceful on our trip because school started so many families returned home for that. The campgrounds weren’t empty but there weren’t kids crawling everywhere. It was definitely a change from summer crowds!

We ended up doing excursions from the campsite and most days were gone for around 8 hours. We drove a lot, walked a lot, sat on the beaches a lot and ate a lot too. The weather was fantastic and the Eastern coast is absolutely beautiful with stunning beaches and scenery. We won’t mention the freezing water as it is the Atlantic but focus on the beautiful coastal towns instead. Portsmouth, in particular, struck both of us and just lovely with beautiful old buildings, roads and the downtown core looking like you think it would.

We didn’t shop too much while in the States and not because our dollar is weak. Shopping wasn’t our purpose and neither of us felt much like hanging out in factory or outlet stores. We did wander in and out of quaint shops in the towns though, just puttering along.

That trip was early this month. Since our return we have been washing the vehicles, travelling up to Moncton to get my sewing machine back and just running the roads. This weekend I am not going anywhere! As I said, my Pfaff sewing machine went in for a tune-up while I was away and works beautifully now. I started on the quilting again. I also signed up for a camera class.

I have a Nikon D3100; it is a DSLR that I haven’t used much beyond the automatic setting. I want to get into photography and learning about DSLR camera’s was a good place to start. I attended the first class and already know more about my camera than the last 4 years I’ve owned it. I’ve ordered a flash and my tripod arrived today. There are photography classes offered after this course and I’ll probably pick one of those to try. These are hobbies I promised Mathew I would do after he was gone; the ones I couldn’t do while he was so ill. I hope he is smiling at me wherever he is. I kept my promise.

Kristen is coming home for the Thanksgiving long weekend. The airline, Porter, just started direct flights between Saint John and Ottawa (where she lives). It would have helped a LOT if this initiative was put into place last summer….!!! There won’t be a thanksgiving meal in our home as we have no desire to celebrate anything this year. We had an awesome dinner last year and I gave my thanks then, knowing this year was coming. It will be so good to see our daughter but hard for her. It will be her first time home since Mathew’s memorial and it is causing her a lot of sadness and grieving.

I cry when I think of how long it has been since I last heard my son’s voice or saw his beautiful face. Missing him is so very, very hard. We hung out all the time. I haven’t watched a single wrestling ANYTHING since he died but I still catch an advertisement or something in the news and it becomes a few emotional minutes. Yesterday I shopped at our local Walmart but ended up leaving rather quickly when the memories overwhelmed me. It saddens me terribly that there was no available treatment to save his life. Why? What is the justification that not enough is spent on childhood cancer? Wouldn’t better treatment or stopping it in its tracks be far more cost effective in the long run?

I am too busy to sit and blog much. I work fulltime, do regular chores and cooking, etc, and my free time is spent doing stuff. A lot of days I don’t want to write anything, I just want to feel and live. It isn’t easier at all, now that we are almost 4 months past Mathew’s death. It is just a little different.

I miss you son. I always will.


































Another Month Gone By

It is almost 3 months now since Mathew died.

I can’t say it is getting any easier. In some ways it is the exact opposite. I worry I will forget the little things; the odd little jokes or comments Mathew made, the way he laughed, his thoughtful observations…. I worry I am forgetting how he sounded. I haven’t heard his voice in 3 months. I haven’t talked to him, hugged him… nothing.

Nothing is so very, very hard.

John and I keep busy; too much idle time leaves us open for memories.  If we are tired or didn’t sleep well then the memories are overwhelming. It is better to stay occupied and think about Mathew in the background.

We got our trailer back from the dealer’s a couple of days before we left on our Ontario visit. After carefully parking it in our driveway, John pressed the button for the slide-out to move. It did. It slid out one inch and then stopped. It refused to move.

It wasn’t a good night and no one’s suggestion (family came over to admire the camper) got the darn slide-out moving again. We contacted the dealer the next day and a day or so after that we left on our trip without the camper.

Leaving the camper behind was a good idea because campsites were booked everywhere. The weekend we returned to New Brunswick; the long weekend in August every hotel and motel was booked for all the towns and cities in the area we were driving in. We ended up staying in a $300/night room which was the only hotel room left! It was either that or sleep in the car ~ that didn’t appeal to us in our older age.

On our trip we went to Ottawa first, to visit Kristen and my sister. It was a rushed visit and we stayed in downtown Ottawa so lots of traffic. We ended up parking the car in a lot that you had to pay at 6:30 am for a new day so our days started early! The best part was seeing family and hanging with them. We visited Kristen’s apartment, did some shopping and ate out. We had gotten a suite at Les Suites with the thought of cooking in the kitchen but that never happened! Our visit was so fast and tightly scheduled that I wasn’t able to see some people I wanted to. Fortunately an aircraft carrier is starting direct flights from Saint John to Ottawa in a few weeks, so trips might be easier to do after that!

Once our visit to Ottawa was done, John and I headed west to Kitchener-Waterloo. I truly believe the Maritime Provinces are much more laid back than anywhere in Ontario and our traffic is a joke. The crazy traffic combined with summer construction did mean for slower drive times and a few more stops than anticipated.

My mother and step-father live in a beautiful place just outside of Kitchener-Waterloo. You have to know exactly where it is to find them though. I still can’t figure out how they found this place because even the GPS sent us off on a wild goose chase! Eventually I looked at google maps and thought I recognized the peculiar convergence of roads where they are. We took a chance and drove to that place and my memory was correct – *whew*!

It was good to see them too. I saw Mom and Peter a year ago in May,. when my sister and I drove out. This time it was John and I and we stayed in their big hybrid trailer on their property. It enabled us to spend much more time with them than driving from and to somewhere else.

My mother has Alzheimer’s/dementia that is slowly progressing. With the prevalence of this disease more and more families are affected by it. It is a dreadful, unrelenting and progressive disease at whatever pace it grows at. My mother is living capably at home with the help of my step-father. She is happiest in her home and puttering in the huge sewing room he constructed for her. It is where she and I spent most of our free time. This visit Mom gave me her old Pfaff sewing machine and a trunk full of fabric. John was none too pleased that a new “collection” or hobby was coming home but I started on quilting as soon as we got back and I put everything away.

We stayed 3 full days, an evening and left on a Saturday morning. I wish we lived closer so I could spend more time with them. Mom and I enjoy each other’s company and nothing fancier is needed. Peter is wonderful in caring for her. He is in his mid-80s and has a routine they live by that works well for them. My mother no longer cooks or sews. Those were probably her greatest loves and something she did from her teens onward. Talking is difficult especially as the day grows into evening.

I don’t mention Mom or Peter on my blog because they are private people and the focus of my blog is not to highlight someone else’s life. I write about it so you might know that it is not just Mathew that weighs heavily on me.

After we left Mom and Peter’s we opted to drive back to our house through Canada. A trunk full of good quality fabric, along with sewing books, a sewing machine and odds n ends…. trying to explain that to either the US or Canadian Customs?? No thank you! Our next trip will be to the US and we won’t have a little sewing store to explain to anyone in our vehicle!!

Once we settled back in at home, I set up shop in Mathew’s room. The sewing/quilting goods fit nicely with his things and nothing has to be moved out. I enjoy quietly going about my hobby in his room. I spent so much time in there over the last 4 years he was sick that it feels natural to be in there. With one huge exception. I figure if Mathew is going to haunt me that is where he’ll go to find me. So far I haven’t heard a peep, a sigh, or a cuss from him. Not that it was expected but if he ever did show up, even in some otherworldly form, I KNOW I’d hear about all the fabric in his closet!!!

By the time we got back to our home, John’s brother, Harry, figured out the slide-out wouldn’t work because one of the motors burnt out. The dealer was kind enough to give us a new motor at no cost (which closes out our 30 day warranty) and John replaced the motor himself. It is one heck of an effort to access either motor for the slide-out so John also spent some time making some of it a little more accessible.

We have just about had our fill of bad luck with that camper. We are taking it out for another run in a couple weeks, down into the US; around the Boston area. I hope it behaves. I truly love the trailer, its layout and space. This is not the best time for it to run into a host of problems though!!

My nephew gets married in 2 weeks, in Ottawa. My sister’s oldest. Somehow that sweet, little boy grew up and is in his late 20s. When did that happen?? He is an awesome adult and we fortunately visited him during our Ottawa visit too. He knows we are not coming to his wedding; it wouldn’t lend to a party atmosphere if John and I both cried our way through their celebration. My nephew understands and asked if it was okay to put a picture of Mathew on display, to which we agreed. I sent off a wedding card and gift and truly wish them a fabulous time. It will break my heart that Mathew didn’t live to see the wedding… not that he cared about that (he didn’t) but because he enjoyed hanging out with his cousin last year during the Comic Convention in Ottawa.

How do I think I am doing with the grief process, you wonder? I am doing ok. Not great, not bad. Just ok. I can function normally most of the time; go to work, eat, grocery shop, go out for lunch, etc. None of it has the joy I had before when everyone was alive. Life is ok this way. I did notice my drive and desire to work took a hit. If I could retire now I probably would. There is enough to keep my days filled and busy but I need a few more years of working to hit 30 years’ pensionable time. That will be when I’m around 60. Although it is hard to believe I’m 53 already (I still think I’m in my 40s) I recognize the privilege it is to be this age.

The shine and sparkle in my life is gone. I try to remember that Mathew didn’t want us to cry or be upset and would just want us to think about him. The emptiness and loss of a loved one has no real words to fill the hole. It is just there and sometimes it hits you all over again that he is GONE. Forever. No more pictures, no more chats or late night snuggles or anything. Granted he is no longer in pain or suffering and that was dreadful to endure and watch so I don’t want him back like that. I am trying to adjust that the summer has come and is almost over. Without Mathew. He didn’t live to see it.

Time is short people. Do what you love and be with those you love. Try to have few regrets.

Life is short and goes by faster than you think. Then, one day, it changes and nothing will ever be the same. The days go on but are tinged with sadness.

That is all.



It’s Been a While and a Little Crazy

So. Here we are.

8 weeks after Mathew died. What’s been going on with you? How are you doing? You might think we disappeared to hide for a while but that isn’t the case. Not at all. Let me catch you up on happenings around here.

The week following Mathew’s memorial service, John and I decided to buy a travel trailer and go camping. We travelled a lot before the kids got old enough that it created more problems than we could solve; John and I travelled a lot in the years before we had our pumpkins. After the kids were born we started with a tent then moved to a tent-trailer when I quit the tenting gig. Then, when work life and home life became intertwined while we were living in Alberta, the stress of everything became too much for me and I was too tired to go anywhere on weekends. John took them, on his own, for many a weekend. I don’t recall when we sold the tent trailer… for the last 2 years out west, John brought the kids to New Brunswick to visit family in the summer. I never had enough leave to join them so didn’t return to the Saint John area until we moved back 10 years ago.

With Mathew growing up, and his disabilities becoming much easier to see and work with, we decided that trips would go with hotels. It worked fine for us and especially for Mathew.

Now, being in a different situation, we decided to do the camper thing and give it a go. We spent some time going to the different dealers the week following Mathew’s memorial and found a 28 foot Shadow Cruiser that we ultimately bought. It is a 2014 only 3 years old and set up how we liked. It has a slide-out, and a dinette, couch, and two little rockers at the back.

In order to tow this rig the Honda Ridgeline had to be upgraded to something with the right towing capacity. We traded “up” to a 2016 Dodge Ram that I could barely climb up in to until John put running boards on the side.

With the new truck we hooked up the trailer from the dealer and left for some camping. We went to PEI (home of Anne of Green Gables) for a few days, spending equal time shopping for the trailer and sight seeing. Travelling did not lessen our grief; we just wanted to leave everything behind and go away to be by ourselves.

After PEI, we drove to a camping site near Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. This is a world heritage site for good reason; the area is beautiful. We did Peggy’s Cove in the fog and driving rain; Lunenburg on a beautiful day and “The Ovens” on another gorgeous day. The Ovens is located on private property and consists of walking along the cliffs (bluffs?) and going up and down stairs to admire caves and old sailor stories.

The final leg of the inaugural trip was to stop at Seafoam, Nova Scotia. We arrived and a mini-disaster happened when we attempted a drive-thru to our camp site. The back end of the camper didn’t quite make it before hitting the post carrying the water and power cables & wires, etc. It caught the back end of the camper, gashed the side and then pulled the back left corner of the camper out. The campground owners were very kind and helpful; there was no charge for shearing off the water pipe or pulling the electrical box off the wooden post. They were more concerned about our trailer. While we waited for the water to be turned off (it resembled a fire hydrant being flushed!) a small group of men gathered and pondered over the trailer. Nothing like a little accident to bring good souls together.

The camper is made of fiberglass so it isn’t a bang-back-into-place situation. On closer examination however, you could see the underlying floor in the exposed gap between camper and its back wall. That floor was black and rotting off. The wood crumbled in our hands it was so rotten.

That didn’t happen overnight or in the 7 days we owned it. Neither John nor I were in any mood to continue the trip and have the camper exposed to the elements. We called the dealer and told them what happened and mentioned the rotted floor. We drove it back to the dealer’s – which was closed for the weekend by the time we got there – and disconnected the trailer. It was left in their yard to be looked at the following week.

That was on June 23rd we dropped it off. We have yet to see it. The floor was damaged and so the dealer replaced the rotted areas. The trailer is now waiting to get in for the fiberglass siding to be fixed. But……………………

Life is funny………………

We returned home June 23rd to find a couple of messages from the family doctor’s office, wanting to speak to John about the ECG he had done just prior to us leaving on our camping trip. The messages were worrisome; sometimes you just know from the tone and how it is worded. We waited all weekend and then John called the office on the Monday, only to learn the doctor was away that week!!! The earliest John could get in was July 6th, in the following week.

The next day however, I stopped into the doctor’s office to pick up some paperwork (dealing with Mathew’s estate) and the doctor heard my voice. He popped out to ask how I was doing. I gather it is impossible for our doctor to not see his patients even when he isn’t scheduled to! I replied that I wasn’t going to talk to an illusion since we were told the doctor was not in that week, so I wasn’t sure WHO that image was. He laughed and then I told him I was very worried about this test John had. The doctor replied he needed to speak to John about it asap, and so we could come in the following morning. Wow. I was so relieved to hear that.

The following morning we both went in and Dr. Poirier indicated the test showed there might be a problem with the blood flow to John’s heart and he needed to see a Cardiologist. John was advised not to do anything beyond simple walking until he saw a Cardiologist. Oh and if he started to get any kind of chest pain to call 911 or rush straight to the emergency room.

This was just 3 weeks after Mathew’s death. Not wanting to sit and around and stress even more we drove an hour down the road to the beautiful St. Andrew’s. It is a flat area on the coast and it wasn’t overly hot or crowded. I kept both eyes on John and we did a casual walk. On the way home we stopped at a diner and had a very generous and excellent meal…. *sigh*…. of fried fish, clams, etc. Oh and don’t forget the yummy Strawberry-Rhubarb pie too.

On the drive home, the Cardiologist called for John on my cellphone (did the guy have eyes on us at this diner? Was he there, watching us??). A stress test was set for John the next morning. So on Thursday 25 June, John went in for the stress test. This is where they connect a bunch of electrodes on to your chest and have you walk on a treadmill. John’s test was great ~ until he sat down to rest. Then, as the Cardiologist put it, the ECG bleeped a concerning movement on the paper that earned John a dye test.

The offer was to admit John immediately to get the dye test done either that day or the following day or, for John to leave the hospital and wait for an appointment to be arranged as an outpatient…. maybe in a week or two. In the meantime do NOTHING and call 911 if the chest started to hurt.

No way was I letting there be any further discussion on option #2. I never gave John a chance to speak up before I offered him up for immediate admittance. That being agreed to, John was admitted to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and prepped for an emergency. We watched the procedure on the television a kindly nurse brought us, and heard about the risks of what they were going to do.

Then they took John! I called his brother and wife. The same brother I called the morning Mathew died; Harry and Christine who came to get us, brought us home, made the cremation arrangements for us and got Mathew’s ashes when they were ready. John’s other siblings were in the United States, vacationing. Thinking about the risks again, I then called John’s parents. He didn’t want me to but I could not NOT call them in case something happened.

We gathered to wait for John’s return. It took about 2-1/2 hours or so, but John came back with 3 stents and a 100% blocked artery on the right side of his heart. When I heard that I thought I was going to drop to the floor; it was too much. The angioplasty put 2 stents in one artery – the so-called “widowmaker”- that was 70% blocked. The second artery was 90% blocked and it got the third stent.

The blocked artery had developed its own blood flow. There was no heart damage detected and the Cardiologist said John had been experiencing angina. The only restriction was no driving for 48 hours and that was it! John sees the Cardiologist again in August for a follow-up and is supposed to have an stress echo done. This test stresses his heart and then it is checked; the purpose is to see if, by opening the other 2 arteries, there is any change in the function of the right side of his heart.

Only after John had returned and we knew the outcome did I call Kristen. Even then I waited until she left work because this was her Dad. I was so relieved to call with good news and to let her talk to her father. Ottawa is a long from us and coming on the heel’s of her brother’s passing, very upsetting.

John’s siblings weren’t supposed to know until they got back from vacation. Shall we say someone… a certain individual…. let the cat out of the bag a few days early. Wendy, Alistair and their families were on their way back and the news had a happy outcome but it was still upsetting to hear.

The only symptom John had was an unusual feeling in the right side of his chest while walking up an incline; some discomfort. He first noticed while doing an evening walk, when the discomfort hit and he had to rest going up a hill on his walking path. After a while it grew to where walking up the grass on the side of our house produced the same feeling. This started a month or two before Mathew died. John didn’t want to deal with it while Mathew was in the hospital, etc, and so the ECG was scheduled only after.

It shook us up that events might have happened differently. So, parents and children, if YOU notice something different please don’t wait. Get checked out right away if only to laugh at what turned out to be indigestion. Everyone would rather that than something serious and no one is immune. John certainly doesn’t look like a heart attack stereotype. But upon closer examination…. his father had a heart attack last year, his maternal grandfather dropped dead of a heart attack at age 53 – the same age John is, AND his paternal grandmother had a heart attack in her 60s or early 70s.

We upended our diet and are now eating much, MUCH better. It took nothing for me to switch gears and start the heart-healthy eating. The four year’s of Mathew fighting cancer took a toll on us and our mental and physical bodies. I am very out of shape, after sitting at Mathew’s bedside for so long.

After this, John and I decided it was time to return to work. I felt reasonably capable of doing my job without falling apart and I’m not sitting home while John is at work. Our house is so empty and missing the larger-than-life personality of Mathew.

We returned to work 2 weeks ago and so far it is going okay. It is a good distraction but it is so hard to come home every day to the empty and the still. The door to Mathew’s room stays open and we go in there to grieve here and there. I try to remember than Mathew didn’t want us to be sad or to cry. He didn’t realize that him and his sister are our lives and our happiness. Much of it died when he did. So even when we are smiling, laughing and carrying on, the grief runs deep underneath.

That’s the thing about grief. It has its own timetable and there isn’t much you can do about it. There are triggers all around and you never know what is going to set off a new wave of sorrow or when. You don’t know when it will completely overcome your senses and how long it will last. You just keep breathing. Minute by minute sometimes. We are only 8 weeks into this hated, despised path so I can’t comment on where we will be in another month or three. I do know this, our love for our children will always be first and foremost for us. No matter where they are.















A Hard Day

When Mathew was born a birth certificate was created. Over the years he got his own health care card, a passport, a SIN, bank accounts ~ all the little things that proclaimed he was alive! He was here!

Now it is all in reverse and is happening in fast sequence. When my brother-in-law went to the funeral home to direct them as to our wishes, it turns out the funeral home does take care of closing out certain items of the deceased. The death certificate was issued and we were given many “Proof of Death Certificates” that have to accompany paperwork…. anywhere…. to establish Mathew died. We handed in his health care card, his SIN card, his Handicap Parking Pass…. and probably more, I just don’t remember right now.

Today I sent in his passport along with the damned “Proof of…” that I despise so much. It broke my heart. We got the 10 year passport with so much hope and promise of his future. He had it for 3 years.

Tomorrow John and I go to the bank to prove Mathew is dead once again and to collapse his Registered Disability Savings Plan we paid into over the last years. The government will get their money back and I expect, any interest accrued. We will get the principal back. It is such a new program that the person responsible for creating and advising about the plan didn’t know what to do to stop one.

Social Development couldn’t stop June’s payment in time so Mathew got his “welfare” payment in a joint account he and I have. I called Social Development today to send it back. The lady told me who to write the cheque out to and to drop it off in person. I replied I had absolutely no desire to stop by in person and could I not send it in by mail, instead? Yes it turns out I can and that’s what I did. If I can’t keep my composure on the phone why the hell would I want to show up in person? It is another lousy step in erasing Mathew from the world around us.

It kills me every time John or I do another task to stop Mathew’s essence of being. To be slapped in the face again that my son is gone. It won’t end soon either. There is always tax time next year to bring this all back.

Oh how I wish we were filling out the birth notice, applying for a health care card…. anything to put him back into the living world.

Damn it hurts.

Mathew’s Star

One of Mathew’s Christmas gifts was a package to name a star. I found this at a Chapter’s store and thought it quite a unique idea.

The package contains information about the star enclosed and how to register the name that is chosen. Mathew never opened or paid much attention to most of his Christmas gifts because the tumours in his lungs started to cause severe pain by then.

Over the months both Kristen and I mentioned this gift to Mathew and she later told me that he joked about calling it his “night light”. He never did choose a name before he died and Kristen and I both decided we liked the name he kidded her with.

Thus, today I registered the name for this star. It will be known as “Mathew’s Night Light”. Sometime later I will look at the coordinates and use the resources provided to find out where this star is in our night sky.

I want to look up every night and know that Mathew’s Night Light shines down on me.

I miss him so.

We Carry On

Mathew passed away 13 days ago. A lifetime already. We had his memorial last Saturday and everyone came to remember him. It wasn’t easy and there was plenty of tears and laughter. We put things of Mathew’s out for people to take in remembrance of him. I hope each person got something meaningful to them. He had so much stuff. He collected what he liked and that spanned many interests.

John, Kristen and I went through Mathew’s things and sorted most of his stuff. We kept the items that were most special to us or to Mathew himself. His closet is still pretty full of things we couldn’t let go of.

I can’t speak for Kristen as she returned to Ottawa on Sunday but I expect she feels similar to us. We have good moments interspersed with many terribly difficult ones. Our house is just so damned empty and so are our lives. Even before Mathew was diagnosed with cancer our lives revolved around him; more so than the “regular” child because of his disabilities. Now, suddenly, that is gone.

John and I keep as busy as possible to keep the emotions from overwhelming us. It doesn’t always work and odd things will pop up to suddenly throw a monkey wrench into our mood. Settling affairs of a young man who lived at home still takes a while and requires dealing with people ~ something we aren’t very good at right now. It comes down to small things; like returning Mathew’s passport, looking at his books, showing his damn death certificate everywhere that needs to see it.

Walking by Mathew’s room is enough to reduce me to tears. Giving over to grief for one second is followed by my heart ripping apart again. The hole Mathew left is just so big and so awful that it can’t even be put into words.

I try to be grateful when I’m grieving. I know Mathew wouldn’t want to see us like this but it is so hard. So I start thanking Mathew for different things and being grateful he didn’t suffer longer. I’m grateful he was our son for 24 years and for the joy he brought us. I thank him for making me so much a better person than I was before he and our daughter were born (they both shaped me into a better person!). There is so much to be thankful for and I don’t want to lose sight of that. I have pictures of Mathew everywhere and whenever I see one, I say, “Hi Mathew!” as though he is peeking out at me. I want to keep looking at him, just as I like to look at Kristen’s pictures around the house. It just hurts to know there will never be any new pictures of Mathew. He will never grow one day older or talk to me again.

Our lives are changed and they can only go forward. It is so early in our journey of grief and there is no shortcut to the pain lessening.

Sometimes it is less and sometimes it is more.

I miss him so terribly.










His Ashes are Home

Yesterday was another punch to the gut.

Mathew’s ashes came home.

Another bout of breaking down and wondering how did this all happen and why is my son dead?

I will tell you that Mathew died in his Mom’s and Dad’s arms, just as he wanted to. His ending was swift and unexpected and caught the nurse off guard. We had maybe 10 minutes – at most – that the end was coming. Not even time to call anyone.

We are okay. People are worried about us; I guess that is what you do when you love someone. This was an ongoing situation and we knew how it was going to end. It did not help the pain of actual loss, of not seeing our beloved son again.

I will just say we “are”. We live minute by minute, some good and others bad. Some hours are filled with tears and others seem almost normal until we remember one of us is missing.

I do not want to bypass this time. I don’t want to medicate it away. I want to feel the pain and despair of losing my child. His life is worth that grief and anything less is an insult to his life and our grieving process.

We have tremendous support which may be why we are holding up as well as we are. John’s brother and his wife took on the task of cremation arrangements and started registering Mathew’s death to the various departments and Agencies that need to know. Other family members stepped up when I asked them to help plan our private gathering this weekend, and are preparing for it. Others are more than eager to help with any task, big or small, to help us out. We couldn’t have done it as well without all of you.

We are spending these couple of days resting, sorting things out and just living. We are just scratching the surface of grief as it grabs you when least expect it. It is a long and permanent path we walk now, with pitfalls and tears threatening at the edge.

We are okay.