I think I took this picture the last time we were all at Hayfield.  I made Dave put on his goofy hat so that I could take a picture.  He was happy enough to ham it up for the camera.

To say that Hayfield was a big part of Dave’s life would be a huge understatement.  There were times when he stayed almost every night of the work week for some meeting or activity.  He was always so happy when we would join him.  Some or all of us attended footballs games, wrestling matches, plays, Broadway nights, car shows, basketball games, the JROTC ball, basket bingo, and college night, to name a few.  Dave liked to attend all the different events and see his students in their many talents.  I wish I had said yes every time he asked me to meet him.  I wish I had just jumped on Fairfax County Parkway and headed south.  Kids’ activities, work, and sometimes just general busy-ness got in the way.  If I had known our time would be so limited, I would have found a way to do more.

Our family’s favorite restaurant, House of Dynasty, is across the way from Hayfield.  Some nights we would meet Dave at school, visit with the animals, goof around in his office and then grab dinner together.  It seems like we did this on a semi-regular basis, but I am wishing we had done it a few times more.

Today we went in to pack up his stuff.  I think we were all dreading it, and last night I began to have doubts as to whether it was a good idea.  As soon as we walked into Dave’s office we were greeted with a table full of goodies left by two of Dave’s favorite Hayfield moms, Heidi and Liz (even if your child graduates you are still a Hayfield mom, right?).  Tina and Cheryl, two people Dave was so grateful for and whom he relied on daily, had boxes ready and were happy to help in any way.  Some of Dave’s favorite people stopped by to say hello.  So, although it was so hard to be there, and I was fighting tears pretty much the entire time, it was good to be there too.  Hayfield is such a special place filled with amazing people who are so caring and generous of their time and spirit.  It makes sense that Dave was so happy there.

When I spoke to the Washington Post reporter the morning after Dave died, he asked me of what Dave was most proud.  In the article he says that Hayfield was Dave’s dream job and that he felt like he was just getting started there.   What he left out and what Dave truly was most proud of is the team he put together.  With each new hire to the “A Team”, he got more and more energized by the possibilities.  He was SO thrilled when these incredible people agreed to come work with him.  Thank you Alfonso, Bianca, Chris, Jesse, Matt, Tangy, and Warren for being his Dream Team.

The kids and I look forward to returning to Hayfield sometime in the future as we have plans for some projects there.  It will forever have a special place in all of our hearts.




We have definitely been feeling the love and support around here.  Today Bonnie dropped these off.

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When I put out on Facebook that I would be happy to help people get “Tremaine Strong” magnets and bracelets, the response was strong.  50 magnets and 52 bracelets (plus an additional 50 bracelets picked up by the swim team) requested in less than 48 hours.

Also, a couple of my neighbors put together a fundraiser which resulted in an unbelievable amount of money being raised for our family.  I appreciate so much everyone wanting to help us.  The support and love that we have been shown reminds us how very loved Dave was and how many lives he impacted.   I am overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the people we are lucky enough to have in our lives.

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***I also need to add (I can’t believe that I forgot) that we have also received many many kind cards to the house.  These cards so often also contained lovely gift cards for meals or money for us to use “in any way that is helpful”.  We have been given so much and I have been remiss in not thanking everyone individually.  Thank you all so much.  



Avoiding Foot in Mouth Syndrome

My alternate title for this entry was “How to Deal with the Bereaved” but that sounded far too depressing.  I’ve been thinking about a conversation I had on the blog a few weeks ago regarding the right/wrong things to say after a loss.  I thought of some lessons that I have learned along this journey.  Please know that if you think you may have said any of the following, I am definitely not referring to anyone in particular.  It is the words that have stood out to me, not the speakers.  My intent is not to call anyone out.  If I am being honest, I have probably said or done some version of all of these myself at some point.  These are some behaviors that I will be mindful of in the future.

1.  “There is nothing worse than losing a child.”  This idea has come up in conversations several times in the last few months.  Thankfully, I don’t have the experience to know first hand how devastating this is.  For me, losing my husband is the worst thing that has ever happened to me.  For my kids, losing their dad has been traumatic.  Do we need to rank loss?  Everyone’s experience is different.  Everyone’s loss is gut wrenching and life altering.  If someone else’s loss is considered worse, am I supposed to get over my loss sooner?  I can’t imagine that this sentiment is helpful even if you have lost your child.  Not really helpful.

2.  Sharing stories.  This is a tricky one.  I don’t mind it – although it probably depends on the day.  I think a good rule of thumb definitely would be not to share a story unless it is yours to tell.  All of the stories that have been told to me have been unimaginably hard.  I believe that people share as a way to relate, to comfort, to let you know you are not alone.  My friend, Alex, likens it to when you are pregnant for the first time and everyone tells you their delivery and newborn stories.  Could be helpful.

3.  Giving advice.  My thought on this is “only if the person asks for it.”  Advice is hard to hear when you are grieving.  Your mind is only taking care of its immediate needs.  If you are inclined to give unsolicited advice consider a few things.  Are you close to this person?  Do they generally appreciate hearing your advice?  Is your advice going to greatly impact them in some way?  What is your motivation for giving your advice?  Could be helpful.  Likely not.

4.  Speaking for the dead.  This comes in the form of “she would have wanted…” or “he wouldn’t have wanted…”  I think that unless you have specifically heard from the person to whom you are referring, it is better not to state your opinion as their wishes.  (I can’t take credit for this one.  Dave’s sister, Kris, brought it to my attention.  I think she is right.)  Not helpful.

5.  Silk Ring Theory.  I have saved the best for last.  If we all follow this one, we don’t even have to worry about #1-4 or any others that might be out there.  I posted this link over a year ago after my friend, Lexy, shared it on Facebook.  This is SO SO valid.  Comfort in.  Dump out.  Comfort in.  Dump out.  www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe/0407-silk-ring-theory-20130407-story.html.  So Helpful.

Grief makes you a crazier version of your previous self.  I find that often my reactions are not normal for me.  Things irritate me that usually wouldn’t.  Yet, I am more understanding and sympathetic about other issues which might normally make me nuts.  I think when you are dealing with someone who is grieving just try to remember that it is NOT you.  It really is them.




6 Weeks Later

5AMs are the worst.

The kids and I spent several days in Massanutten thanks to our friends, the Guerbers, who generously offered up their lovely vacation home.  We spent time relaxing, playing games, reading and reminiscing.  Massanutten has tons of things to do so we hit the water park, mini golf, and the kids even did some summer tubing and zip lining.  It was the perfect getaway.  Many many times we talked about Dave and laughed at memories of things he said and did.  We shared a few tears and one day emotions seemed particularly tender, but overall I would say the mood was light and fun.

Sunday morning I woke up at 5AM which is pretty typical for me.  This was different though.  I was so overcome with grief that I could barely breathe.  I got out of bed and tried to distract myself by looking at the computer.  Of course, that led to me scrolling through pictures which only made the whole situation worse.  Eventually I was able to shake all the sad thoughts that kept popping into my head and get myself under control.

I have decided that grief is not linear.  Things do not get a little easier every day.  For me, grief seems to be a continuation of the roller coaster ride.  You can be going along steadily and then out of nowhere the bottom drops out.  I would have never predicted my reaction on Sunday.  It felt almost as raw as those first days.

I have also realized that the spouse of the person who dies is in a unique position when it comes to grieving.  The kids come to me to talk and cry when they are sad.  I am certain that Kris and Jeff turn to their spouses when they are having a tough time of it.  And Dave’s parents have each other.  The person to whom I would turn to unburden my heart isn’t here.  So, I grieve alone for the most part.  At 5AM.  I’m okay, and it’s okay.  I just realize how much I leaned on Dave, and he leaned on me right back.  I miss that.

Six weeks sounds like such a long time.  Yet, it doesn’t feel like it has been that long since I talked to him, hugged him, held his hand.  Six weeks of time marching ahead taking me further away from him.  Unbelievable that somehow life goes on.




Public Service Announcement


If we are Facebook friends, you have already had to endure this lecture.  You are excused from reading today’s post.  : )

I posted a photo of my new car magnet on my Facebook page.  Afterwards, I got comments from friends who were interested in ordering them too.  So I offered to be the link between them and Bonnie, the student who is doing the fundraiser.  Within hours, I had requests for 39 magnets and 25 bracelets.  It is amazing how many people want to support Dave.  Well, all of us really.

When I started to think about it, I decided we could have a greater impact if we all SAID SOMETHING.  This is what I posted –

“here is my request – once you have your bracelet/magnet, people might ask you about it.  after you tell them about how amazing dave was, remind them about getting screened.  dave was 46 at age of diagnosis (too young for routine screening), healthy, exercised daily, ate right, and had no family history.  by the time he started having symptoms, he was stage IV.  maybe together we can help someone.”

Wouldn’t that be amazing?  If we could make a difference?  Spread the word!



Mixed Bag of Emotions

I understand there was a town hall meeting tonight to talk about the principal selection process for Hayfield.  Of course I know that this school deserves only the best.  Yet I couldn’t help but feel a little sad at the same time.  

On a positive note, at least my new car magnet makes me smile.




I Don’t Believe in Signs…..

But some things are impossible to ignore.  Today the kids and I were escaping the house for a few hours.  I pulled up behind this car at an intersection.  Initially it caught my eye because it is the same make and model as Dave’s car but in orange.  (He really wanted orange, but it was not one of the color options for the hybrid.)  Then I noticed the license plate.  It felt like a little nudge or a wink.  I don’t know.  Something. It made me pause and wonder if somehow, somewhere he was sending me a little message.




His Things


His clothes are slung along the upstairs railing. His clean laundry is stacked waiting to be put away. The fancy shaving kit that he treated himself to sits on the bathroom counter. I cannot bring myself to move any of it.

The house is pretty much exactly as he left it. The day after he died, my brother came over and helped me tidy up. We threw away medicines, and the medical supply company retrieved the hospital bed and the few other items we borrowed. Dave’s sister and her lovely husband picked up the recliner that I couldn’t bear to keep since Dave spent most of his time during those last days in it. But everything else remains the same.

His wallet and watch are still in my purse from when they were handed over to me in the ER. His lanyard and work ID hang from the passenger seat in his car. His book is next to his side of the bed. I am not sure when the right time will be to move things. It just doesn’t feel like it is here yet.

I set an arbitrary goal for myself to go in and clean out his office at school by the end of the month. Last week I emailed his assistant to let her know that the kids and I would be in on the 31st. We will see how that goes.

To me, these things feel like the last physical contact that I have with him. I find having them around comforting.  I can’t imagine letting them go.



5 Weeks Later – We’re Okay.

When people ask how we are doing, I’ve taken to saying, “We’re okay. Ups and downs. Some days are better than others.”

We had our end of the year swim team party last night. When it was time for Grant’s award, he was not content with the smattering of applause. So, he waved his arms and got everyone fired up until the volume was more to his liking. I think Dave would have gotten a big kick out of that.

Earlier in the evening, Sam was in the lifeguard office hanging out with some friends. A mom from the team came in asking for tape because “the only picture of the dead dad fell down.” Yea. Really. Sam handled it well and commented on how symbolic that was making the mom feel (in Sam’s opinion) pretty uncomfortable. I am quite sure she didn’t initially see Sam standing there, but honestly what an awful thing to say.

At the beginning of last week, Sam had a dream about Dave in which he came downstairs as if nothing had happened and went outside to clean up the backyard for us. I found this strangely reassuring.

On Wednesday, Parker came home from counseling with a journal of sorts. There are pages to reflect on feelings, deal with your emotions, consider what it means to die, ask questions, and share memories. She has been writing in it a little bit as the week has gone by. One page that caught my eye has to do with things that you miss. She wrote, “I miss doing things as a real family. I miss you teaching me things. I miss you tucking me in at night.”

Ups and downs.




So Excited…

I have booked this very cool venue for Dave’s big party.  It is in Old Town Alexandria.


Probably 3-4 times a year, we load up the family and head to Old Town for the day.  Our first stop usually involves Ben and Jerry’s.  Then we wander over to the Torpedo Factory to poke around the galleries.  Eventually we end up on the waterfront to take a relaxing walk.  I think it is the perfect location in which to celebrate Dave.


Friday, November 21st is the big night.  Start looking for your orange attire.  It is a must!    As we get closer, I will provide more details.  In the meantime, http://torpedofactory.org if you want to see what it’s all about.

Can’t wait to celebrate Dave and his amazing life with all of the people that know and love him!!



PS A huge thanks to Kathie for suggesting it as a venue.  It’s perfect!!