Thursday, May 31, 2007

Jacob Got married!

While playing with his best friend (Mel's daughter), he was proposed to. The happy couple couldn't wait for a proper service, so the got married in Mel's apartment. They even remembered to kiss. And yes, Jacob does have fairy wings on. He was "Prince Jacob the Butterfly." (Don't ask)

I Got In!

The workshop starts next Wednesday.
Now I'm nervous!
Wish me luck!


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pictures From Yesterday


Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Tonight during dinner
I told T
that this was my favorite
Memorial Day weekend ever
"Ever?" he asked
"Ever," I responded

and then I felt sick
to my stomach

How could I have forgotten
Memorial Day Weekend
10 years ago?

That was the weekend that
Joe proposed to me
he got down on one knee
on the swan boats
in Boston

He pulled out a ring
that was perfect in my mind
he asked me to be his wife
and I was happy
I was beyond happy

We celebrated by walking over to
Fenway Park
and telling the man at the gate
that we just got engaged
he let us in to the game for free

The next day I graduated from college
and I got to show off my ring
to all my classmates

How could I say that this weekend was better than that?
What is wrong with me that I could forget
such an important weekend?

What is wrong with me that I would rather redo
this weekend
and not that weekend?

I'm so screwed up....

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Great Day

You know those rare perfect days?
The ones where everything falls into place
and no one fights
and the sky is the perfect shade of blue?
We had one of those today.
Here are some pictures:

We are really lucky to live around the corner from the coolest sprinkler park. To get there you walk through a really pretty park full of paths. Here are the boys with T walking over the bridge:

Jacob having some fun with water:

J & J playing with water:

T and I had a date tonight, and he gave me my graduation present. Here it is! My very first ipod ever:
Here's hoping the night continues to go as well as the day!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Reason # ____ That I Love T

I hurt my neck last night. I'm not sure if I slept on it wrong, or what. But I can barely move it today. It hurts big time. T found me outside with the boys tonight looking like I was in a lot of pain. He rubbed my neck, and I couldn't even thank him.

"Go upstairs," he ordered.
"Go upstairs, take a bath, and lie down."
"But the boys.."
"I'll play with the boys. I'll get them changed. I'll get them to bed. You go lie down."
"Do it woman!"

I'm crying as I type this. I'm so lucky. I'm so in love. Or maybe it's the vicodin I took. Either way, T is pretty cool.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Some Pictures From Saturday and Today

Mel came over with her girls to help me clean out the attic. I hired a sitter to watch all the kids. Josh also got a new bed delivered that day. Here they all are, still in pajamas, watching the bed enter the house.

Josh's new bed with the overflow garbage bag on it

The hallway

Tomorrow is garbage day, so tonight Mel, T and I brought the garbage to the curb. I really need to tip the garbage men!

The kids never get to play in the front yard, and for whatever reason they thought it was great fun. Here they are playing tag.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Allow Me To Explain
(If that's even possible)

disclaimer: I am about to put down someone who is dead. I know I'm not supposed to do that, but even the dead aren't perfect. If you feel like you will be offended, please don't read.

The person that I was when I was married to Joe is no longer the person that I am today. So many of you have commented on this blog about how strong I am. It hasn't always been that way. I loved Joe. You all know that I loved Joe. But I don't love who I was with Joe. Remember the title of this blog? I was ALWAYS on relaxed alert. I could never fully relax, and I never stood up for what I believed in when it came to my marriage.

This wasn't Joe's fault. It just was what it was. My childhood was less than ideal, and I met Joe when I was 15 and vulnerable. He took care of me, and I fell in love with him for that reason. But Joe always ruled our marriage. He was never abusive, he never mistreated me really. But I never told him what was really on my mind. I never said, "no" to anything. I mean, I had a whole freaking room of my small house dedicated to cigars! Who allows that?

Was Joe a perfect husband? No. Not in the least. Was I a perfect wife? No. Not in the least. We both did our best with the baggage that we both brought to our marriage. When I was unhappy with Joe's behavior, instead of confronting what was bothering me, I looked the other way. When he was upset with my behavior, he took off, and drank.

I can count on one hand the number of fights we had during our 14 years together. I don't think that's a good thing. I was always scared to fight. Not because Joe would hurt me, but because I was afraid he would leave. This was not the behavior of someone who was strong.

After Joe died I became someone new. I gained a strength that I never knew I had. I stand up for myself. I speak my mind. I don't stay in relationships that aren't healthy for me. I fight with T when I feel a fight is warranted. I don't take crap from people.

And so, when I went into the attic after three years, and found remnants of Joe's past that I wish I hadn't found, I got angry. Angry at Joe for lying to me. Angry at Joe for keeping secrets from me. Angry at Joe for being so selfish. But mostly angry that my new strong self, will never have the chance to confront Joe with what I found. Because the new me would love to confront the old him.


Monday, May 21, 2007


I hate secrets
I hate keeping them
I hate telling them
I hate finding out
that the person I loved
that the person I knew
(or thought I knew)
kept so many
I think he even
kept secrets from
Sometimes I hate him
How's that for a secret?


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Cleaning House

We did a lot of cleaning today
and by a lot
I mean over thirty bags of trash

Most of it came from the attic
and all of it
belonged to Joe

It was hard

I found things that
I wish I hadn't

I didn't find things that
I wish I had

Joe was an interesting
complicated guy

That's what made
people love him
I guess


Thursday, May 17, 2007

I Need Your Help

My neighborhood bookstore that I frequent is offering a four week writer's workshop course. Each session is three hours, and they are led by a well known author. The workshops are geared for those wanting to work on a memoir, and it costs $100. The bookstore is currently accepting applications, and will only accept 8 writers in all. To apply you need to submit 5 pieces of writing.

I originally started this blog with the hopes that it could possibly be turned into a memoir. So.... do you think I should apply? Will it be worth the money? And if so, help me choose 5 blog entries that show quality writing. (If any of it is quality writing.)

If I do someday publish a memoir, it will most certainly be dedicated to all of you. (and Joe, and my family, and T, and the boys. But you'll be mentioned. I promise :O) )

Analyze This

Horrible Nightmare

Joe wasn't dead, but had gone missing 3 years ago
Every thought, every movement I made
I was wondering where Joe had gone

Finally he called

"I can't tell you where I am, or who I'm with, but I'm happy."

"Happy without me? You left me here with all your crap to clean up, and no note, and you're calling me now to say you're happy!"

"I'm sorry B. I'm really sorry."

At this point I forced myself to wake up, and felt relieved that he was dead, not missing, but dead. Or is that the same thing?


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dinner At Our House

I always swore that I would be
the type of mother
who cooked one meal
for everyone

We would sit down
as a family
and everyone would eat
what was on their plate

No exceptions

Hasn't quite worked out that way
Somehow no one can agree on
what to have for dinner
and if T isn't here
I don't argue

Here's what the boys had for dinner

(Tuna sandwich on whole wheat, scrambled eggs, oranges from a jar)


Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Soon after I became a widow, someone posted a song on my widow support board. The song had been written by a 17 year old girl who lost her father. She won an award for young song writers, and I fell in love with her song. Even though she wrote it about her father, I could so relate to it from losing Joe. When you read the lyrics, I think you will understand why. I couldn't find the song for the past two years. I lost it and couldn't find it through google. Today it showed up on my computer. I don't know how or why, but it was there. Someone on the widow board then helped me find the lyrics. I hope you'll take a listen, and read the lyrics while doing so.

Take your last step towards heaven and its glow
Take your last breath of sunlight, don't let it go
Take your last look to remember, so that you know

I wont let you fade from no mind
I wont let you fade from no minds
I wont let you fade from no minds

Hallelujah for these eyes to see your painted life
Hallelujah for the touch of skin to skin with mine
Hallelujah for this mind that keeps our souls combined
Hallelujah for this life that let me be your child

Have your mind, have your strength to stay alive Keep your eyes open with mine

You followed the road for the angels and you left me behind
A face without words can last a lifetime but it's never the same
So, don't say goodbyes that last forever just for a while
Because I'll be by to see you some day soon

Hallelujah for these eyes to see your painted life
Hallelujah for the touch now of skin to skin with mine
Hallelujah for this mind that keeps our souls combined
Hallelujah for this life that let me be your child

Hallelujah, to be a part of your life
To see inside of all your smiles
You're a traffic light of fire
You're a man who I believe will never die


Monday, May 14, 2007

It May Have Taken Seven Years But...

Guess who got her Master's Degree in Elementary Education?

Yep, that would be me.

And my GPA was 3.987

Hey, if I can't brag here, where can I brag?


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Our Weekend in Pictures

It started out yesterday morning. We all waited very impatiently for Mimi (my mother) to arrive and whisk the boys into Boston with her. She finally showed up (she was only 25 minutes late, but it felt like forever!) and we all rejoiced. The boys left, and T and I hopped in the car.
We stopped in York so that T could show me his favorite diving spot. We sat on the benches and he told me all about what he finds under water. We then went to the Maine Diner
for breakfast. I forgot to take a picture of it, but if you should find yourself there, you must order the blueberry pancakes. They are the best blueberry pancakes I have ever had.

After we checked into out Inn we walked around Kennebunkport.
It was a very cute town, with lots of touristy shops. While shopping, we spied a horse and carriage that was taking tourists on tours. I looked at T, and said, "Wouldn't that be fun?"
Here's a picture of T and me on our very own horse and carriage ride.

Dinner at sunsetThe bush Compound

When we got home, T made us cappuccinos. He topped mine with a heart.

This was a very good weekend, indeed. Happy Mother's Day!


Friday, May 11, 2007

Away With T

Tomorrow T and I will
head off to Kennebunkport
for our anniversary weekend
I am not bringing my computer
Somehow I think I will be ok without it
I will post with pictures upon my return
Have a wonderful weekend


Thursday, May 10, 2007

My Little Magician

On the way to preschool this morning, Jacob and I had the following conversation:

J: Mommy, when I grow up, I'm going to be a magician and a doctor.

b: That sounds great!

J: That way, I can say the magic words and bring daddy back, and then I can fix him and make him all better!

b: (at a loss for words) Oh sweetie, that would be so great if you could do that, but it's not possible.

J: Yes it is. You'll see.

b: If there were magic words to bring daddy back, we would have said them already.

J: Hmmm. (long pause) Maybe I'll be a singer instead then.

b: Sounds good.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

1st Anniversary

One year ago tonight
I was coming out of a deep
month-long depression

I had a date set up
but I didn't want to go

Patrick came over to babysit
I told him I just wanted to stay
home with him

He kicked me out
of my own house

I drove to a neutral meeting spot
and waited anxiously
for you to arrive

We sat for hours
It was so easy
and you made me

It had been so long since
I had laughed

A year has gone by

and not one day in that
has passed
without me thanking
my lucky stars

that you came into
my life

Happy Anniversary, T


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Missing You

"I miss you T," I said to T tonight.

"How can you miss me? I'm right here."

"But I don't feel like you're here. And I miss you."

"You're so strange, B."

"I know. That's why you love me."

"You keep telling yourself that."


Monday, May 07, 2007

Meet my niece

Isn't she cute?

The boys (my nephew included) were pretty cute too


Sunday, May 06, 2007

May 6th (again)

Today marks 3 years since Joe died. It's crazy, really. We were in NY for the weekend visiting my sister and her family. (pictures tomorrow) We talked about Joe, but it was not a sad weekend, by any means.

It has been requested that "Ghost Story" be reprinted, and today seems like the fitting day for that. Joe's doctor was haunted by Joe's death, and ended up writing the following story, which was published in a medical journal in the fall. I love this story because it shows just how much Joe's doctors did care. They really wanted him to make it.

So here is my final post about Joe's story. Thanks for reading it.

Ghost Story Ian Jenkins, MD

On my first day as a nervous, third-year medical
student, a nurse offered to orient me to the pediatric
ICU. I expected a litany of facts to memorize.
Instead, she pointed at each room in turn and
described the tragedies they had hosted.

"Room one: a little girl just died of meningitis
[brain infection] there. Room two: that boy'­s liver
transplant failed and he had a massive stroke." The
father sat holding the jaundiced hand of his
unresponsive son, whose
stapled abdomen held back
tense ascites [fluid filling the abdomen]. "His wife
died of cancer two months ago. Now he has no one.
Room three: teen with cystic fibrosis; sheíll be ok.
Room four, I will never forget. A teenager died of
leukemia there and refused all painkillers. He
to be lucid for his family, and they huddled on his
bed and sang "Amazing
Grace® until he died. Most
beautiful thing I have seen."

I had thought, "Beautiful? How can you even come to

Five years later, I remembered that conversation as if
it had just happened. I was the senior resident in
the medical ICU, it was 3 AM, and I was gathering my
thoughts amid the whooshes, beeps, and flickering
monitors of the sleeping unit. I was preparing to go
tell Betsy that Joe, her 31 year-old husband, needed
prone ventilation. Joe lay dying, of all things, from
chickenpox. He was receiving twelve infusions,
including four
pressors [blood pressure medicines],
sedatives, antibiotics, acyclovir, full strength
bicarbonate [combats acid], his 26th amp [or ampule]
of calcium, and liter number-who-knows-what of saline.
He sprouted two IVs, two central lines, a foley
catheter, endotracheal and orogastric
tubes, an
arterial line, and an array of monitor leads. His
blood pressure
plummeted*from a systolic of
80*whenever we interrupted his bicarb drip to spike
[to start or hookup] a new bag, so we knew moving him
might kill him. Every nurse raced to finish tasks on
other patients, preparing to help.

Joe'­s admission began, like several earlier ones, with
a chief complaint of "Crohn's flare." This time,
however, he had a new rash, and while John's ward team
suspected medications were to blame, they soon started
acyclovir. In days, hepatitis, acute renal failure,
and pneumonia prompted his ICU transfer. He required
intubation hours later.
His course since had been
like watching a pedestrian struck by a truck in slow
motion: a sudden, jolting, irreversible cruelty*drawn
out over hours. Anasarca [the diffuse swelling] had
folded his blistering ears in half and forced us to
revise his endotracheal tube taping
three times so it
would not incise his cheeks. He had
hypotension [low blood pressure]. His transaminases
climbed above 6,000 and his creatinine to 6 [measures
of liver inflammation and kidney failure]; his
arterial pH dropped to 7.03 and his platelets fell to
16,000 [both commonly fall with infections]. His
partial pressure of oxygen sank below 60 mm Hg despite
paralysis, maximum PEEP and 100% oxygen [we were
unable to keep his oxygen at goal despite best
efforts]. Crossing that terrible threshold felt like
drifting below hull-crush depth in a submarine. I
waited for the walls and windows of the ICU to groan
with the strain as
disaster neared.

My intern followed me to the waiting room where Betsy
slept. She hadn't left the hospital in days. I knelt
beside her cot and woke her, and she supported her
pregnant abdomen her hand as she rolled to face me.
We smiled. Then she remembered where she

"Is something wrong?" she

"No, he's about the same. But the other things we
tried didn'­t help. We need to do what I mentioned
before*turn him over so he can use his lungs better."
She nodded. "We're very careful but he has so many IV
lines right now. If he loses one, he could get much
worse. So I wanted to make sure you spent some time
with him now, just in case."

Her eyes teared. "He could die?"

"Just a small chance. But possible."

"And if it works, he might get better?"

I paused. "He's very sick."

"There are other things you can do?"

"We have to really hope this works."

"This isn't supposed to happen. I don'­t know if I can
raise two children without Joe. I can't be a widow
at 29." I sensed I could have talked her*sleep
deprived and stunned*back into sleep, into a
conviction her nightmare would pass by morning.
Instead I squeezed her hand
and listened.

"We need to do this, ok? You'll have ten minutes to
talk. Remember how his blood pressure rose when they
cleaned him? He's still in there. I believe he can
hear you. So you tell him to keep fighting."

Betsy wiped her eyes and searched for her shoes. As
we walked briskly back to the unit, I composed myself
and told my intern, "I'll be 29 in 3 weeks."

"Me too. What day?"

"May 28th."

"Same as mine," he said.

It took 25 minutes to prone Joe with every nurse
assisting, but the maneuver went well. His
oxygenation improved, but his relentless decline
resumed within hours. Sometime the following
afternoon, I went home to sleep, and Joe's blood
pressure eventually dwindled to nothing, leaving only
sinus tachycardia on the monitor [the heart electrical
system working but no blood pressure] and the rhythmic
puffs of the ventilator.

Then, within two weeks,
resident team managed a series of unexpected
tragedies: we lost young mothers to acetaminophen
overdose and lung cancer, and cared for two young
adults with septic shock and a perimenopausal woman
for whom the cost of pneumonia was her first and
probably only pregnancy.

Five years before, when I first stepped into an ICU, I
imagined the residents held a dozen lives in their
hands and faced critical illness at all hours*alone.
By the time Joe died of disseminated varicella, I
realized the truth was far from that vision. Joe'­s
nurse had worked in the ICU as long as I'­d been alive
and expert respiratory therapists guided his
mechanical ventilation. I had co-residents and
consultants*even a rabbi when I guided a family
meeting on declaring "CPR not indicated." Our
institutionís overnight attending assisted me
throughout the night, and the primary attending drove
in at 2 AM to supervise nitric oxide
therapy. At no point did I ever
care for Joe alone.

Instead, the challenge lay in facing the winning
smiles of our patient Joe and his young son, waving
from a month-old photo taped by the head of his bed,
and a young wife refusing to leave her increasingly
unrecognizable husband as his body failed, despite her
conspicuous, 8 month pregnancy. And in the surprising
futility of all of our interventions. Perhaps most
of all, in the persistence of the sights and sounds
and smells of that night, and many others. I've seen
the ___expression a pathologist makes on learning his
daughter has anaplastic thyroid cancer [99% fatal
cancer, something a
pathologist knows best]. I've
heard the sound a daughter makes when her mother has a
ventricular free wall rupture [heart ruptures] while
welcoming us into her room. I've smelled a teenager
who burned to the bone while conscious yet pinned in
his car. I'­ve felt the crackle of subcutaneous
emphysema [air in the skin]after chest tubes for
malignant pleural effusions [fluid in lungs from
cancer], so severe the patient could not open his eyes
or close his hands. And the papery skin and tremulous
handshake of a man after my news of his wife'­s
prognosis promised the 64th year of their marriage
would be the last.

Far from alone, I spend much of my time in the company
of these ghosts, as must many health care workers.
How we make our peace with them is up to us. With
tears? Humor? Alcohol? Sometimes it is by numb
indifference; from most of the businesslike
discussions I'­ve heard physicians hold, you
might wonder if they even existed. Or, we can make our
peace with words. I am grateful for a chance to speak
with Betsy some days after Joe died to assure her that
while we did ask Joe to fight, in the end no effort
could have saved him. I am grateful she later wrote
us to celebrate the healthy birth of their second son,
Joshua.  She assured me Joe would live on for her in
their sons, and live on for them through her memories.
Her strength helped me welcome Joeís ghost, and many
others, into my life.

After five years of clinical medicine, I finally
understood the lesson I received from the pediatric
ICU nurse. Our ghost stories celebrate healing, or if
there was no healing, then release. At the very
least, great tragedy reminds us of the great meaning
of our calling.

(For Joe and Betsy B., and everyone at the Beth
Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, who helped
care for them them).

Friday, May 04, 2007

Dear Daddy,
Today we went to visit you at the cemetery. For some reason, we think the cemetery is a very fun place to go. We posed for a picture before we left. Mom was cracking up at our silliness. T came with us too, but found our visit to be a little strange. We're not sure what he found to be the strangest. Was it the fact that we kept asking the cemetery for toys? Or was it when we started doing headstands by your tombstone? Maybe it was when we started whispering you secrets and reporting back your answers. We particularly liked when you told us that we should go to McDonald's for dinner.
Regardless, we had a great visit. We told you that we loved you and missed you, and found some nice stones to leave behind. Someone had already been by with a Cuban cigar and a fresh match. Mommy thought that was really nice. T found it a little strange. That's OK, we were just happy he came with us, and held mommy's hand while she teared up. He's so good to her.
We know you're watching over us, and taking care of us the only way you know how. We love you.
J & J
(pre cemetery smiles)

(Josh doing a headstand at your grave)
(a cigar left behind by a friend)

(Searching for the perfect stone)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

On Letting Go

As I've been reading your comments, and emails, there has been one comment repeated over and over. Even though we know the story, as we read it this time around, we keep hoping for a different ending. Strangely enough, I feel the same way. I have been dreading posting today, because it will mean that Joe's story is over, yet again. It was so hard to let him go the first time, and each year at the anniversary, it's been equally as difficult. I don't want to let him go, I really don't. I want to write a different ending. But I can't. So here is the real ending:


At around 6am the doctors woke me up and told me that my talk with Joe, and my arms around him had worked wonders. His oxygen levels had gone way up, and he was in better condition than he had been the night before. I went into the waiting room to share the good news with all the sleepless people who had gathered. Melanie left to call people with the good news. My step-father questioned if my mother really needed to fly home after all. I left the hospital for the first time in almost 24 hours to walk next door for coffee. I felt myself breathing for the first time in days.

But within a few hours, his oxygen levels went back down. The doctors had to perform the same procedure that they did in the middle of the night; turn him back over, this time onto his back.

When I was allowed to go back in the room to see Joe after they flipped him, I was shocked all over again by what I saw. I had become accustomed to the huge amount of fluid in him, the 40 pounds that he had gained in the past few days no longer phased me.

What was new was the discoloration in his arms and legs. They had turned blue. When I touched them, they were ice cold. Even through my gloved hands, they were too cold to touch. His eyes, which were closed, had blood continuously pouring out of them. I asked permission to wipe them dry, and it become a never ending struggle to keep the blood away. His ears no longer looked like ears. They were completely crusted over and curled up.

I asked the nurse about his arms and legs. She explained that when your body's blood levels get very low, the blow circulates around the organs that need it most. Therefore it stops circulating through the limbs. I asked if he would lose his limbs, and she told me that was a possibility.

I didn't leave Joe's side all day. I kept rubbing his arms in legs in a vain attempt to warm them up. I also never stopped talking to him. I never stopped telling him to fight. I never stopped talking about our future, and our childrens' futures. I also kept singing him a song that he would always sing to Jacob. But every time I would sing it, my voice would break, and the tears would start up. I just couldn't believe what was happening before my eyes. I couldn't believe what was happening to my future.

My sister and the nurse insisted that I lie down, but I refused to leave the room. They set me up on a chair in the corner of the room. While I was sitting there, I heard my sister remark on how cold Joe was. The nurse decided to take his temperature. This was a disaster. Joe's tongue had become so enlarged, she couldn't get the thermometer under it. When she finally was able to get it in, it registered 92 degrees fahrenheit. This shocked me enough to get back up, and continue talking to him.

At around 3:30, my mother finally arrived. I was never in my life so relieved to see her. And so it was, for the next two hours my mother, sister and I stood by Joe and told him various stories, most of them funny.

At around 5 pm my sister went to eat some salad. She was also pregnant, and had not been eating or sleeping nearly enough. My mother insisted that I lay back down on the chair in the corner of the room.

I lay down, closed my eyes, and listened to my mother's familiar voice as she talked to Joe. She told him that my sister was eating salad, and that I was finally resting. I think that was Joe's signal. He had waited for my mother to get there, he had waited for me to relax just a bit, and now it was time for him to go.

I heard the heart monitor making a strange sound. I sat right up and asked the nurse what was going on. My mother told me to lie back down, but the nurse told her no, that not only should I not lie down, but that someone should get my sister. I stood up and rushed to the bed. The nurse looked in my eyes and said, "This is it. He's going."

The room was suddenly filled with all of the doctors who had been treating him, along with numerous residents. I didn't notice any of them as I began letting go.

I had taken off my gloves when I lay down, but now I instinctively ran my hands through his hair. I suddenly realized what I had done and looked at the nurse. She told me not to worry, to touch him all I wanted. And so my hands never left his body. Finally we were skin to skin. For the last time, I was touching my husband.

I told Joe that is was ok, he had tried so hard to fight, but now it was time to let go, and rest. I promised him that I would talk to the boys about him every day, that they would know him through me. I promised him that I would be strong, and would make him proud. I told him how proud I was of him, and how much I loved him.

Then I panicked. I changed my mind. I wasn't ready to let go. I looked up at the nurse and said, "I've changed my mind. He can't go! Can I tell him to fight again?"

She looked at me with tears in her eyes. "You can tell him whatever you want. But he's going."

My sister has told me since that at that point she wanted to scream at all the doctors to do something, to save him. But as she looked around she could see that they were all crying too. She knew that there was nothing left for them to do.

I went back to telling Joe to go. I promised him we would be ok. I promised him he would never be forgotten. I let him go.

And then he was gone. The heart monitor showed that his heart was no longer beating. The doctor gently announced that he was gone. I insisted that he was lying, because Joe's stomach was still rising and falling. He then unplugged a machine, and his body lay still.

The doctors told me that they would give me privacy, and that I could stay with Joe for as long as I wanted. I remember standing there with my mother, sobbing. I kept asking her how I was supposed to leave him. How can you walk away from the love of your life? How can you say goodbye?

But he was already gone. The body that remained wasn't Joe. It didn't even resemble Joe anymore.

I had let him go.

I am still letting him go.

It's just so hard.


(To everyone who took the time to read this entire story, I thank you for letting me keep my promise to Joe. He will not be forgotten.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I woke up early, and called the hospital. Joe's nurse from ICU got on the phone and informed me that Joe had a really bad night. His heart had stopped (twice?) and his oxygen levels were far too low. She told me that I should get to the hospital as soon as possible.

Mel picked me up to take me to the hospital, and I remember that being the worst car ride of my life. (No offense, Mel.) I was crying the whole way, and Mel wasn't sure of the best route to get to the hospital. (I live in a suburb not too far out of Boston, and the hospital was right near Fenway Park. Kind of a confusing place to get to.) She took what may have been the longest route possible, but I couldn't focus enough to give her better directions.

I ran into the hospital, and took the elevator up to Joe's floor. Before the nurse would let me in, she prepped me by saying that Joe looked far worse than he had the night before. But that he could likely hear me, so to try staying positive when speaking to him.

You could not imagine more machines hooked up to one person. He had tubes coming out of every spot possible. He had also blown up to be even larger than he had been the night before, and his ears were folded over from all of the fluid. He was no longer Joe.

The only positive thing was that the doctors had determined it safe to not wear a mask if you had already had the chicken pox. I still had to wear gloves, which was annoying, because I just wanted to touch Joe, skin to skin. But at least my mouth was uncovered.

Wednesday was a long day. My sister arrived at around noon with Joe's parents. They provided the comic relief for the day. Not because they were trying to be funny, but because the questions they asked were so asinine. Joe's dad, when sitting down with the resident in charge for a family meeting, asked the following questions:

Where did you go to undergrad? (who the fuck cares! But he was pleased by the answer, University of Virginia.)
Will the chicken pox leave scars? (that's the least of our worries.)
and, my favorite:
Let me ask you something, have you tried penicillin? (Eureka! That's it! We can save him! Get the penicillin!)

His parents had Joe in their 50's, so they were pretty old at this point, and really couldn't grasp how serious the situation was. Neither of them could remember if they had the chicken pox as children, and in order to visit Joe they would need blood tests confirming that they had. Neither of them wanted to take the blood test. A nurse actually said to them, "This may be your last chance to see your son alive." I ran from the room crying, and the nurse later apologized to me.

Joe's parents eventually got tested, and were then allowed to visit him. That was terribly sad, especially when Joe's mom kept asking why he wasn't answering her. They really, truly, did not get what was happening. And I really couldn't blame them for that.

There were many meetings throughout the day with various specialists. The social worker from ICU would sit with my sister and me at all of these meetings, and would ask questions that I couldn't think of at the time.

I gave permission for them to try every thing they asked permission for. Every time we would meet with a new specialist my sister would ask him (it was always a man) if he thought Joe would make it. Only one doctor said he had seen people in worse condition make it back. Only one.

Meanwhile, my mother was still in Europe, but was going to be home the following day. I hadn't spoken to her since Joe had gone into the hospital, and finally, late in the day, she was patched through to a hospital phone.

As soon as I heard her voice, I lost it completely.

me: Mom, I don't think he's going to make it!
mom: He's going to be fine, I'm sure of it.
me: But what if he's not?
mom: Then I'll quit my job and stay home with the boys, and you'll go back to work.
me: ok. Please come home.

(Of course, after Joe died, my mom said she really didn't think he would die, and the thought of staying home with my kids was too depressing, so I'd better find day care, but that's a story for a different day :O) )

That night my sister and I playfully tortured Joe. First we watched American Idol in his room, and told him everything that was going on. At one point the nurse asked us if Joe was a fan of the show, and we had to tell her that he hated it. She gave us quite the look.

To make up for it, we watched the Red Sox game after Idol. We were trying to do play by play announcements, but kept screwing up. We imagined that Joe was saying to himself, "Will they please shut the fuck up!" This made us do it more of course.

Finally my sister said she had to get back to my house. Jrowe and Mark were watching Jacob, and she needed to relieve them. I didn't want her to go, but I understood.

The night nurse encouraged me to get some rest too. They set me up in a little room off of the ICU waiting room. There was a cot with a pillow and blanket.

I was awakened twice. The first time was at about midnight. Two doctors were knocking on my door. They were going to try some procedure, and they needed me to sign permission for them to do so. It took me a while to fall back asleep because I was so anxious, but finally I did.

Until the 2 am knocking started. The same two doctors were back, and they looked really upset. I sat straight up and asked them what was wrong. Dr. J told me that Joe's oxygen levels were horribly low, and the only thing they could think of to make the levels improve was to turn him over. But he had so many IV's in him, turning him over was very risky. If he lost any of the IV's.... so they wanted me to say my goodbyes to him, just in case.

I couldn't believe it. I begged them to save Joe. I told them that I was only 29 years old, that we had a baby at home, that I was pregnant. I told them that they were not allowed to let him die. They told me that they would try everything they could, but just in case, they wanted me to have a few minutes alone with Joe.

Before I went into Joe's room, the nurse asked me if I wanted her to call the hospital's rabbi. I said yes. She asked me if I wanted her to call anyone else. I said Mel.

I then went in to see Joe. I told him that I loved him more than anything, and that I needed him here with me. I told him that he needed to fight with everything he had in him. That he could not leave us. I reminded him that he wanted to teach Jacob how to hit a baseball, how to ride a bike, how to do so many things. He needed to fight. He couldn't leave.

The doctors came in and told me that it was time. I went into the waiting room and sobbed. I called Kristen on the phone, and told her that Joe was about to die.

The rabbi found me, sitting by myself in the dark, sobbing. He tried to console me, but it wasn't doing any good. Mel arrived and put her hand on my back. My brother, his wife, and my step-father arrived. No one spoke. We just waited.

Finally the doctors came in and said the procedure was successful. I was allowed to see Joe again.

I went in to find him now lying on his stomach. I wrapped my arms around him and told him I was so proud of him. I pulled a chair up next to him, put my head on his back, draped my arm around his side, and fell fast asleep.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tuesday continued

I made a request in the post below, for BCA (Brett) to comment about Tuesday. Brett was Joe's best friend, and he actually got to see Joe on Tuesday before he was put in a coma. He was kind enough to email me a post that went along with Tuesday. Thank you Brett. Your words mean a lot to me. Here it is:

I generally prefer to not think/talk about these sorts of things in life, mostly, I find it better to manage them internally…that's just me. For you B, I will make an attempt.

Though I have been reading for the past few days, and in some gross way, eagerly waiting to see how you'd capture the next day and the next, it is odd how much it's like a movie you've seen six, seven, eight times when it gets to that part where even though you know what comes next, you keep hoping there's a different turn to the story. Whatever human emotion/quality, I don't know what to call it, how can it- the thought of something different even happen, when you know the facts to be what they are. Bizarre…

For me, Tuesday was the first time I knew about any of this at all happened to Joe, and I say this, not meaning I should have been told sooner, but to show just how odd it was to have spoken with my friend Joe so recently and now to be getting a call at work from B saying you need to come today, right now, because he may not make it. Make “what”, what the hell is going on, I thought. I didn't even know what had happened, though I think I assumed it was one of his "standard" hospital trips for the GI condition he had. I immediately left work and headed to the hospital. I remember B, though clearly being shaken and nervous, seemed to be composed enough to talk with me when I arrived, but to say you also seemed distracted would be understated. Yes, I remember having to glove my hands and put a mask on, all that precautionary stuff you mentioned. He was as you described. I had to look close, deep and long to recognize it was even him. I remember being the kind of surprised/shocked when I saw him that only truly skilled people can hide, because the rest of us can only act and talk normal, while our faces tell the truth of it all. I hoped he hadn’t seen the look on my face, I remember thinking that. The nurse gave me notice that I’d need to leave the room about 3 or so minutes after I entered the room, who knows why. He wasn’t able to talk, though it was absolutely clear he knew who I was and why I was there…you don’t need words for some things in life, you only have to look into someone’s eyes to exchange a message. Then I tried to talk a bit and keep it light. For anyone who has never had the experience to talk “with” someone who can talk, but is not able to talk, it can be a draining process. Fundamentally these are the things we all take for granted, talking, walking, hearing, etc. - basic human activity type things. I’ve had some family experience with it though so I don’t feel like I miss a beat and I tried to do that here also so it was less apparent to Joe hopefully. I told him he’d beat this thing and not to worry, just get some rest. Every other time he was in the hospital he had it tough but always came out OK, this would be the same. I had just recently gone to a Sox game and I think I was listening to that day’s game on the radio during the ride into town to see him, so I told him what I thought of the Sox lineup and pitching staff, and how this-guy was doing well for early in the season and that-guy wasn’t carrying his weight. (He loved the Sox, more precisely the Park they played in. Five months later they won the World Series. It pissed me off he didn’t get to see that.) That was the extent of it, the nurse asked me to leave again, so I told him I’d come back to see him and I left. To be fair, I feel like I remember coming back that week and they wouldn’t let me in to see him, but I don’t know for sure, after that visit I’m a bit fuzzy, until I got the phone call.

As soon as I woke up, I called Joe's cell phone. It went straight to voicemail. Each time I called it went straight to voicemail. It wasn't until I eventually made it to ICU, that I realized cell phones weren't allowed in the unit. I was no longer able to talk to Joe. Or more accurately, Joe was no longer able to talk to me.

My sister drove up from NYC first thing in the morning. My mother had flown to Europe for work the same weekend that Joe was hospitalized. We began trying to contact her through her work to tell her to come home.

I called the hospital and asked for permission to come visit. The Dr. told me that it still wasn't safe, but hopefully by the afternoon I could come in.

I got a phone call around noon. My sister and I had just sat down for lunch. It was the Dr. She told me that Joe was having a lot of difficulty breathing, due to the chicken pox in his throat. They decided that the best option for him was to put him in a medicated coma, so that he could be comfortable. Then, in a few days, when things were better, they would take him out of it.

I asked questions about the procedure, and kept making her reassure me that he would come out of it. She said she couldn't 100% guarantee it, but he was just too uncomfortable the way he was. There was really no alternative.

She then told me that she was going to put Joe on the phone with me, so I could speak to him prior to the procedure.

Regret number three is not jumping into the car, and driving to that hospital before they began the procedure, but I just wasn't thinking clearly, and there's no way they would have let me into ICU without clearance.

They put Joe on the phone with me for what would ultimately be our last conversation.

"Hello?" he said weakly.
"Hi babe," I responded, trying hard not to cry.
"Did they tell you what they're gonna do?" he asked me.
"Yes. How do you feel about it?"
"I'm scared," he said, choking up.
"Don't be scared. The Dr. told me this is just to make you more comfortable. You'll be awake on Friday, and this will all be over."
"I've got to go," he said.
"I love you!" I yelled.
"I love you," he whispered.

Finally, in the late afternoon, I was given permission to visit Joe. Nothing could have prepared me properly for the world of ICU. I'm not sure if any of you have ever been in ICU. First you have to ring a bell to get in. Then when you get inside to the unit, there are curtained off areas with beds in them.

But there are also mini rooms in the ICU, for those that are contagious. You need to go through one set of glass doors to a scrub room. There you need to put on a mask, gloves and gown. Then you're allowed to go through the second glass door to the patient.

That is the room Joe was in. But he was no longer Joe.

He was connected to numerous IV's, and was blown up like a balloon. The nurse, greeted me by saying, "We were wondering when you would get here." I felt like screaming at her, but instead focused my attention on my husband, who was a shell of the man I left on Saturday night.

Unless you saw Joe, I cannot accurately describe what he looked like. The best way to describe it, is that he was filled with about 20 pounds of fluid. He had gone from 160 pounds to 180 pounds in 72 hours, and at least 10 of them were in his face.

The nurse told me that although he couldn't respond, he could hear me. I spoke awkwardly to him for about an hour, and then we were told that we needed to go. I told Joe that I would be back in the morning, squeezed his hand through my gloved hand, kissed his cheek through my mask, and walked out of the room.

edited to add: I really appreciate all of the comments you have been leaving. If you have been reading, please at least just say hi. This story is so close to my heart, I just want to know who I'm sharing it with. Also, BCA, I know that you saw Joe on this day. Could you please share your version of the day with everyone?