1200 Days a Widow

Twelve hundred days have passed since I stopped being a wife and started being a widow. It is a change in title that no one ever wants to experience but so many of us will. You might be surprised that I am still counting. Let me reassure you that I don’t mark off each day on a calendar and count them individually, but please realize that they do all count. The Birthday Days, the special to only us days, the holidays, the anniversaries of everything; from the first kiss, to the first I love you, to the proposal, the first dance, the first vacation, the first everything that was supposed to be followed by years more of first’s, second’s, tenth’s, twentieth’s and so many more.

Widowhood doesn’t end with a new relationship, a new romance, a new first kiss. Don will always be the person I thought I would spend forever with and didn’t get to. Will I fall in love again YES! Have I already fallen in love again and had my heart broken again, yes! Will I risk it all again for love, ABSOLUTELY!

Becoming a widow doesn’t mean my life is over it simply meant that my life as I had thought it would be, never will be. Twelve hundred days are many more days than Don and I did get to spend together but life is not in the quantity of someone’s days it is in the quality of the living of those days.

Don taught me to live all of my days with passion, love, inspiration, truthfulness, transparency, and humility. I try to remember those things every day. I still to this day do not watch television, drink alcohol, smoke anything, or let the balance of my bank account determine the generosity of my heart, my time, or my passion.

My job as Director of Community Development at Butterfly Wings is a volunteer position that may never earn me a dime but it is something that I am passionate about and that is what helps me honor the things that Don taught me. Will I ever be rich? Yes, rich with the love of my family and friends, rich with the fullness of heart that comes with helping someone out who needs a hand up, rich in the knowledge that I am a beloved child of God. Will I ever have enough money to buy a brand new car again? Probably not. Do I care? No.

Life is not about the destination, life is not about the journey either, life is about the person, and people you get to spend the journey with. My wish for you today on this 1200’th day is not that you never ever have to lose someone, because that is unrealistic and not how this world of mortal souls works, my wish is that you love the people that you are on this journey with and that you love them fully, without reservations, without limitations and my wish is that you feel that love in return from your family, from your friends, and from God, because you also are a beloved child of God.

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The Grief Calendar

December 3, 2016

It has been two years since I published the thoughts that follow. The anniversaries still come, the memories still bring a smile or a tear, the calendar continues to be a reminder of what once was, but it is also a tool to help plan what is to come. There have now been more milestones since Don died than we actually shared together. More birthdays, Thanksgivings, Easters, and soon Christmases will be celebrated since his passing.

As I look forward to more birthdays, weddings, graduations and celebrations of all kinds it is good to also look back and remember what once could have been, and thank God for what there still is. There is still love, kindness, forgiveness, family, friends, and hope! Hope for a future that contains joy, love, happiness, and family.

As we all look towards Christmas this year during Advent let us not forget that for some this will be the first Christmas without someone near and dear. So please pick up the phone, send them a note, or just visit the person who is missing someone for the first time this Christmas.



December 3, 2014

I seem to have a different relationship with the calendar since my world came to an end six months ago. The painful passing of time being marked in increments of greater and greater length. First it was hours, then days, weeks, now months. Each leap meaning I am continuing to live and go forward.

Going forward also means sometimes looking ahead, which is not the same as it used to be. Looking ahead to the next meaningful date on the calendar means mixed emotions at best, or with fear and dread of the survivability of the date most often. First it was the blur of days before his funeral, then his memorial service in our hometown, and now all of the little, but oh so meaningful, anniversaries from our way too short life together. The first time we met, the first e-mail, the first card, the first letter, the first concert together.

That first time we hugged and felt the spark of desire. The first look into his eyes knowing that I would never be the same again after sinking into the deep blue pools of love that they held. The first time my lips accidentally brushed his cheek as we embraced to say goodnight. The first kiss. The first time he said “I love you” and the first time I replied. The first time we danced and the delight in his eyes while we clumsily made our way around the room.DSCN7188 (640x434)

Little anniversaries that we celebrated in small but meaningful ways, flowers, cards, a special dinner at home or a night out to hear some music. We both kept a dated journal to remember special days. There would be notes tucked into books to surprise each other, or sometimes a special sweet treat from the freezer or the oven.

I have also “survived” the big dates on the calendar; Our wedding anniversary, Thanksgiving, his birthday and my own. There are special dates in the Church Calendar that have great meaning to us as well. All Saints Day was a date not just to remember that he has gone on to join the Great Communion of Saints but it had special meaning to the two of us before this year as well. We had both suffered losses in our lives and it was through loss and through our faith that part of our connection was built. One of the early things Don did for me in our friendship was to go up in my place and bring home the rose offered in our local church for my Mother when I couldn’t be there that day due to obligations at school.

This week we have had the First Sunday in Advent and World Aids Day. A year ago those two dates coincided with Communion Sunday and I had the privilege of helping to serve communion to  Don for what I thought would be the first time. It was the only time I offered the elements to my husband and I am eternally grateful that I had that chance.

There are more dates to come as I look at the calendar and sometimes I am not sure if I can endure the memories and other times I know that without the memories I could not endure.

In this season of preparing for Christ, in this season of Advent, I will prepare my heart for the pain it must go through and I will prepare my heart for the JOY of Christ, because in  ‘All My Days’  I know that Christ is with me, just as I know Don is with me always.

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Autumn Anniversary

Route 30 Adirondack State Park
Route 30 Adirondack State Park

That first year, less than five months after he died,   I could not even see their beauty. The second year their beauty haunted my dreams and stung like thistles.  This year their beauty brings warm memories and a tear or two. You see we were married In Autumn, October 11th to be exact, right around the date that the trees in Upstate New York reach their full beauty. Their splendor, something that people drive miles to see, was all around us as we celebrated our love.

Blue Mountain Lake October 2016
Blue Mountain Lake October 2016

I have always loved Fall. It is refreshing and inspirational to me; to say goodbye to the long hot days of Summer, to lift the windows and feel the crisp air. To occasionally catch the scent of a neighbors wood stove taking the chill off the night when turning on the furnace just seems too soon. There is nothing better than that first walk in the woods crunching leaves underneath my boots or wrapping up in a sweater for the first time of the season.


All funds raised support mission projects and trips supported by the church.
All funds raised support the mission projects and trips of the church.

Pumpkins covered the lawn of the church the day we were married. The church fundraiser seemed so appropriate for the wedding day of this girl with the pumpkin colored hair. My dress was green, his suit was brown, the wedding was a beautiful expression of who we were and who we hoped to become. We made a commitment before all of our loved ones and God that we would be together from that day forward, together in service and together in faith.  It was a musical and love filled ceremony with six songs and vows that we had written together.

The reception was simple and elegant. A musician played the guitar while our guests helped themselves to desserts and sparkling cider. We danced together to the beautiful wedding song we had practiced to during our Fred Astaire dancing lessons, carefully we counted out our first steps as we nervously stepped onto the dance floor.  Soon the rest of the room disappeared and we were alone together for the first time as husband and wife. It was what we thought would be the first of many dances, but in the end it was the only time we “danced” together.

Blue Mountain Lake October 2016
Blue Mountain Lake October 2016

There are other ways of dancing of course and Donald and I lived our lives as a dance every day that we had together. While our time together was cut short unexpectedly we lived each and every day with intention. We did not know that our time together would be so brief but I have very little doubt that we would have changed a thing about the way we spent our time together. We didn’t have a television or a subscription to Netflix or any other streaming service. We choose instead to spend our days learning about each other and deepening our relationships with friends and family.

The trees are beautiful in the Adirondacks this year. My photos do not begin to convey their actual beauty. Take some time to look up and around during this beautiful season, and while you are doing so, remember that you are also a creation of the amazing God that created the beauty you see.

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Leaving a Legacy

They say that a person dies three times; the first time when their heart stops beating, the second when they are buried or cremated, and the third time when their name is no longer spoken.

We all want to be remembered. We all want to leave behind a legacy.

When someone knows that they have been diagnosed with a terminal illness they begin to think of what their friends and loved oves will remember about them when they are gone. My husband did not have this luxury. Donald died in less than a day. He woke up healthy and vital and before the next sunrise he was gone.

We had no goodbye.

Maybe that is why it is so important to me that his story be told, because to tell his story, is to keep him alive,

Donald fell in love with Drew almost as much as he fell in love with me. We lived on the campus,Drew Gate a scenic, serene, and at times breathtaking one hundred and eighty seven acre oak forest preserve. We walked hand in hand from Seminary Hall to the student center, the library, the bookstore, the mailroom, the undergraduate “Brothers” college, and the United Methodist Archives.Our dorm room apartment was three hundred and fifty square feet including the three square feet that housed the shower, when I say it was small I don’t mean that it wasn’t spacious I mean it was miniscule. The playgroundPlayground was outside our windows and every afternoon we would be serenaded by the laughter and cries of the many toddlers and children that enriched our life there. Donald knew the name and purpose of every building on the campus and he loved giving visitors a tour.

We made the most of our time at Drew in every way we could. Lunches and dinners in the Student Center, with the undergraduates that graced our lives by sharing their lives with us, quickly became one of our favorite activities. Musical productions in the Performance Center allowed us to experience operas, comedy, plays and classical performances by just sharing our Drew I.D. cards. Donald went to all of the sporting events held at the university, he wrote in his journal about the baseball games and lacrosse matches, he went to the tennis tournaments and swim meets, his enjoyment of the sports at Drew was so complete he never once mentioned bringing our television out of storage where it sat ignored until I finally gave it away not long ago. Lectures made possible by the Drew Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies allowed us to meet speakers that we could have never met on our own. Educational programs put on by the Undergraduate Student Groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine opened our eyes and our hearts to a part of the world we knew very little about. Dinners in our tiny dormTipple Hall with fellow classmates from places like Tanzania, Burma, Mexico, Puerto Rico, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa and South Korea widened our world view in ways that were never possible before we came there. When I say we showed our I.D. cards I mean we were both students. Donald enrolled at Drew as a Community Fellow in the Lifelong Learning Program. He audited classes right alongside me so that when my education was complete he would not be uninformed.

I would be remiss, however, if I did not mention what Donald loved most about Drew and that was Chapel. We have Chapel services three times a week at Drew and Donald attended every service he could. Many times he would attend Chapel on his own because I would be working on an assignment or paper. He wrote in his journal more often about Chapel than any other topic. He would record who the guest preacher was and how the service filled his soul. He loved the Black Ministerial Caucus Chapel services best of all. He wrote that we “the white church” need more JOY in our celebrations!

Donald had grown up in the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church had always been a place of welcome and acceptance for Donald, something he had not always found at home. Donald and I met at our church and it was at church that we deepened our connection to each other and to God. Giving back to the church by supporting Drew Seminarians was something Donald did during his life at Drew so deciding to support Drew Seminarians in Donald’s memory was a natural decision for me. The Donald K Baxter Prize for Community Engagement will be awarded for the first time on April 20th, 2016. The prize will go to a student who is graduating from the Theological School who has made the most of their time at Drew by engaging in the wider University Community in much the same way that Donald did during his time at Drew. The prize will be awarded annually in perpetuity. My deepest gratitude is extended to the staff of the Alumni Relations Department at Drew for helping me honor Donald in this way. I know that he will be smiling above us when the prize is awarded.

They say a person dies three times; the first time when their heart stops beating, the second when they are buried or cremated, and the third time when their name is no longer spoken.My gratitude goes with this prize for assuring that Donald’s name will continue to be spoken.



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My Husband’s Collection of Quotes II

I have read “Delicious Ambiguity” almost daily now for the last few months. I don’t think that reading it any longer will change my feelings about it. Life is ambiguous, life is fragile, life is fleeting, and indeed life is delicious, life is exhilarating, and life is passion and love. Finding the deliciousness in the ambiguity of life is something I admire Gilda Radner for, it speaks to what an incredible woman she was. I wonder if she was able to embrace the ambiguity of life because she knew she would not be the loved one left behind?

It is time for a new quote and so I have pulled out my husband’s little pile of carefully hand cut pieces of paper each with a quote on them and each dotted with thumbtack holes from being posted to the walls of his office cubicle and I read the next quote.

Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it

                                   William Feather
Twentieth Century American Author and Publisher.

What I can tell you about my husband and I is this; we always stopped to enjoy our life together. We were intentional about every moment we spent together. We never once took our love for granted. We had both lived long enough to appreciate the fact that we had been given this opportunity to experience life , love, learning, and laughter that we always made the most of each day. Never once would we have dreamed we would only have such a short time together but at the same time we lived each day as if there were no tomorrows.

I can’t really explain all of the reasons why we had this attitude about living but much of it had to do with the fact that we had both experienced great losses in our lives and we knew how precious life was. What I can explain to you is that because we choose to live each day this way, I have no regrets. I will never look back and say “If only we had taken the time to….” because we did take the time for each other. We did tell each other how much we meant to one another, we did spend time with the people who loved us and we them.

Maybe that is where the deliciousness comes in, we savored our lives together and we enjoyed every precious moment we were given. So that is my wish for you when you read this; savor your life, your love, your passions, your family, your friends. Savor each moment you are granted here in this world before you are called upon to journey into the next world, because you never know when someone’s journey will end and you may never get to say the things you think you can say tomorrow.

Tomorrow is not promised to anyone, make today a gift you give to yourself.



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Happy Birthday My Brave Knight !

If you have followed my blog for any length of time you may have come across a post or two where I refer to my late husband Donald as my Brave Knight. Over time friends and family have asked me just how did I begin to call him that. So in honor of what would have been my Brave Knight’s Birthday I have decided to tell the story.

It all began with a children’s storybook called “Sir Kevin Of Devon” published just one time in 1953 as a weekly reader that somehow ended up on my bookshelf when I was a small child and, according to my Mother because I have no memory of this whatsoever, this book was my favorite book of all of the books I owned. Well when my Mother told me this information, before I met Donald, I searched Amazon and the internet for the book to no avail.

My Mother passed away not long after that conversation but I kept searching every once in a while for this mysterious book that she insisted I had made her read to me over and over again. Time went by and I went away to school and Donald and I fell in love and sometime before our first Christmas together I FOUND the book , there it was on Amazon used books, it wasn’t expensive and I thought how perfect I will tell my sweetheart the story and surely he will surprise me with the book. Well, Christmas came and Don bought me a beautiful gift but no he didn’t buy the book. So I thought surely if I drop a few more hints he will understand by Valentines Day right ? Wrong, flowers, chocolate but no book. Just when I had about given up hope of dropping hints along came my Mother’s Birthday and I went out to lunch with her best friend to reminisce with, and wouldn’t you know it when I came home from lunch sitting on the kitchen table was my very own copy of “Sir Kevin Of Devon” . Kevin of Devon happens to be a smallish lad of not nearly eleven who proves himself to be a Knight who is Brave!

Don proved himself to be brave all throughout our all too brief romance. Don was

Donald on his last birthday at Boldt Castle standing in front of the Knights Entrance. 8/5/2013
Donald on his last birthday at Boldt Castle standing in front of the Knights Entrance. 8/5/2013

used to vacationing with Yankee Trails Bus tours or Triple AAA Trip Tips and pre planed agendas. I had grown up vacationing by throwing a tent in the trunk and taking off to parts unknown. Don would sit in the passenger seat while I drove us down the highway and ask me why the GPS lady wasn’t talking and I would say because I turned her off. He had a plaque that read “LIFE BEGINS AT THE END OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE”  and every day he would venture out a little farther from his comfort zone and bravely go into a world that he had not known before, a world that he loved, and a world that loved him back in ways he had never known.

So Happy Birthday my Brave Knight! I love You !

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One Year

It doesn’t seem possible, it is so hard to imagine, completely unfathomable that I have not seen your face, heard your voice, felt your touch in a year. This is what the calendar tells me. I look all around me and see all the signs of springtime that were all around when you passed and I know it is true. The Students have graduated from the University this past weekend the parties and picnics that we attended last year together have taken place without us, because you are gone. It feels like only yesterday you whispered to me “I love you” and I whispered back “I love you too.” Now those are memories that I will treasure forever.

Photographs and memories is a line from and old poem or song I can’t quite remember now but that is what I am left with a year later. Wonderful memories of a romance that was like no other. A romance that defied the odds and succeeded when some thought we were two different to succeed. A romance I never dreamed that I would experience. We learned to dance together you and I and we didn’t just dance on the dance floor but we danced through life.

I pray that you are dancing in heaven and singing with the heavenly choir. I pray that you are free and joyous and light and at one with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I pray that you are free from worry and pain and struggle and strife. I pray you are home.

It has been a year since you left meDSCN7188 (640x434)

You have gone but you will never be forgotten

You have gone on to be with God

Go and dance a heavenly dance

Go and sing in the heavenly choir

I will remember your voice, your laugh, your face, your hair

I will remember your serious look, your smile, your eyes, your lips

I will remember your silly notes, your lists, your hands, your touch

You will forever be my dancing partner, and while we only danced one dance

oh what a dance it was

Because we made our life our dance my sweetheart,

I have no regrets,

I wouldn’t change a day, an hour, a minute, a moment

A year I have been without you,

I have not lived, I have only existed

I can’t promise to go forth and live from this moment

But I can promise to try

So sing with the angels my love

Dance to the heavenly tunes above

I can’t promise you I will live from this moment, but

To dance, I will try

To dance , I will try

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Memories of Springtime Worries

Memories can be soothing reminders of happier times or painful yanks on our torn and tattered hearts. As the anniversary of Don’s death approaches so also come flooding back many of the happy memories of the days and events leading up to his death. It was a beautiful springtime and we were looking for a new home, a home off campus, our first real home, it was a happy time and a stressful time too. We wanted someplace big enough that my sons could come and visit if they wanted to and we wanted a little space outside for Don to putter as he would have said. He loved to plant perennial flowers and would watch them come back year after year.

We had found the perfect place. It was a three bedroom flat with an eat in kitchen a dining room a laundry room and a large pantry. It had a large yard that we could plant things in and a two car garage to cover our cars in the snow. It was all on the first floor and the lovely couple that owned the home lived upstairs. It wasn’t polished or modern by anyone’s standards but the owners were willing to allow us to rip out a couple old carpets a replace a few light fixtures and do some painting and we could have made it our own. It was in the location we wanted and well within the budget we wanted and we were thrilled with it. We had worried about finding a home all throughout the springtime and now we had found it.

Matthew 6:25-34

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.



It was never meant to be however. Don had a heavenly home waiting for him that I was not aware of and God’s timing is perfect no matter what we happen to think of it. Don’s life was complete and mine was not.  We had spent the entire springtime looking for the perfect place and Don died the day after we signed the lease on the perfect apartment. He was so healthy looking the day before he died that the real estate agent, when he saw Don’s running shoes, told Don he could use the track at the High School right next to the apartment after we moved in to go running and Don just laughed and said he mostly walked these days. The agent had thought Don was about fifteen years younger than his real age.

Don had a complete physical just five weeks before his death and no one could have predicted that an abdominal aortic aneurysm was lurking inside him waiting to kill him. Don and I never lived in the future we always lived in the present and made the most of every moment but planned on a lifetime together. Never sacrifice the here and now for some far off tomorrow for tomorrow may never come, live in the present moment, yes planning for the future, but always living in the present, it is the gift you have been given to live in now, live in it!

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Driving Down Memory Lane

I returned home today from a road trip to visit a friend. A short vacation with a lot of time spent on the road. Many of the same roads that I had driven on just a little over a year ago on a trip with Don. I have gotten used to the roads near our home here in New Jersey and our home in Upstate NY. The painful memories of road trips close to home have faded a bit, but this trip was different. This trip duplicated a vacation Don and I took together during our Winter Break last year. The same highways, the same rest areas, the same scenery, the same landmarks, but a very different trip. All alone in the car without my traveling partner, at times missing him more with each passing mile.  There was no hand to hold when traffic allowed me to drive with one hand. There was no one to laugh with at the corny roadside signs. There was no one to have a quick bite to eat with or no one to make stopping for a real meal enjoyable and relaxing. There was no one to turn in for the night with at the roadside hotel and no one to wake up with this morning in the strange town still seven hours away from home.

Grief is like an ocean and sometimes the waves rush over you without stopping to take a break. Sometimes you get caught up in the undertow and have no idea which way is up or down and you feel like you are gasping for air. Sometimes the waves lap at your feet as you walk along the seashore and you can dip your toes in and take them back out again. There is noting linear about grief. It does not follow any predetermined pattern of healing. You heal from grief and then the wound is opened up again, only to scar over again waiting for the next memory or wave to rip it open once again.

mbskywheelI am glad I went on this trip. The time spent with my friend was good and healing. The next time I drive on those roads it wont be as painful, I have learned that now from experience. Grief is a great teacher, there is none like it for sure. I wouldn’t wish these lessons on anyone. Someday the lessons I am learning will help me to help someone else, for today I am grateful to be home and that is progress.

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New Hope New Spring

Today is the first full day of Spring. The sunshine coming in my window today reassured me that yesterday’s snowfall on the actual vernal equinox was just Winter’s last gasp and the crocus peeking out of the snow tell me I really can depend on Spring. Spring brings with it all kinds of wonderful blessings, warmer weather, tulips in my hometown, new life and new hope.

I am trying very hard to cling to this new hope today as I reflect on the ten month anniversary of my husband’s passing from this world into the next. I have hope that he is free from anxiety and pain, free from worry and care, free to bask in the love of God with reckless abandon, without fear of judgement, criticism, deadlines, or disharmony.

I want all of these things for him and more. I tried to show him a world of these things in our short time here on earth together. I showed him a world where he was never judged for his opinions, a world where he need not worry over a roof over his head or food on the table, a world where he need not worry about speaking his mind, a world where he was loved unconditionally in a way he had never known before.

He taught me things too. He taught me that love continues to take chances no matter how old we are or how hurt we have been. He taught me that unconditional love asks nothing in return and that lovers respect the wishes and dreams of each other. He taught me that when someone loses a spouse they may lose a part of themselves but they are still alive. He continued to live his life and when practicality advised him to limit his horizons he threw caution to the wind and opened up his horizons wider than he ever dreamed.

On this first day of Spring I make a promise to my beloved; I will not live in fear, I will not limit my life, I will be open to all that God has in store for me, I will love you forever and finally I will risk it all and love again when love comes my way.

You are my Brave Knight, Donald K. Baxter, I pray that you are dancing in Heaven.

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