Leaving 2014 Behind

Would you be surprised to hear that I am reluctant to leave 2014 behind?  I definitely have mixed feelings about it.  Yes, it was the year that I experienced the most devastating moments of my life.  I doubt more than a day or two goes by that I am not transported back to that hospital room.  I weep when I think about him in that bed, holding his hand, listening to him breathe.  The injustice of it all makes me nauseous.  I wasn’t alone in that room, and I wonder if his parents and brother and sister struggle with these memories too.  I don’t know.  We have never talked about it.  I hope that their coping mechanisms are better than mine.  Maybe 2015 will help ease that burden.

BUT before the devastation we had almost six months of 2014 with Dave.  We had swim meets and kid activities.  We had our daily walks and talks.  We celebrated family birthdays.  We had an incredible trip to LA.  We watched and dissected Man Men and The Wire.  Dave had a blast in Chicago with his dad, uncle and brother.  We lived.  and laughed.  and loved.  Together.

It is hard to imagine starting a new year without him.  Life and time march forward whether we are ready or not though.  So, in lieu of resolutions, I once again remind myself of the truths which make me a more understanding, more patient, and more forgiving person.

1.  People are who they are.  And they are doing the best that they can.

2.  It is better to be kind than to be right.

For 2015, I would add that it is important for me to carry on some fundamental beliefs that Dave held dear.  He firmly believed in the power of being positive.  He believed in getting out there and doing.  I think that we managed both of these things over the Christmas holiday with our trip to Florida.  For those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, I was flooding the stream with pictures.  We did have a relaxing and wonderful trip, but I was also trying to let everyone know that we were doing okay.  We talked about him a lot.  And most of the time it was through smiles and laughter.  We ate at least one type of key lime pie every day in his honor and grinned imagining how much he would have loved that challenge.  He is so firmly embedded in our hearts that his spirit lives on through all of us.

The other message that Dave gave us before he died was “look out for each other”.  I cannot say that I have always been the ideal daughter-in-law or sister-in-law, but I know how important Dave’s family was to him.  I believe that now that our connection is missing, it is even more important to honor his family and have them be a big part in our lives.  It is what he would have wanted but it is so important to me too.  Dave lives on through ALL of us.

So ready or not, 2015 starts tomorrow.  We will feel his absence but will continue to honor him through our words and actions.  And our love.




Thank You.

I just wanted to say a BIG, HUGE thank you to everyone for supporting Dave’s scholarship fund. We are so very lucky to have you in our lives and to be surrounded by so much love and support.
Sunder Aaron
Ji Ahn
Howard Altman
Adam Anthony
Bruce and Brad Awadlio
Valerie Baker
Megan Baltimore
Greg Barbera
Brian Barker
Debra Barker
Anne and Dave Belardo
Kimberly and John Berry
The Blankenships
Linda Boatright
Scott Brabrand
Evelyn Breitbach
Marci Britt
Anna Brussel
Sharon Bury
Chris, Rebecca and Hannah Carney
Catherine Carr
Joe Ching
Peggy and John Claxton
Betty Cook
Emily Cope
Tara Cranford Teague
Janell and Doug Crum
Pat and LG Crum
Norbert Daleiden
Anneke Davies
Mose and Ashley Denton
Beatrice Dermer
Warren Dern
Susie Doak
David Dobbs
Jess Dove
Elizabeth Dunn
Jayne Dunnum
Robert Durbin
Aimee Eliason
Paul English
Tony Etz
Connor Evans
Fairfax Association of Elementary School Principals
Gioia Caiola Forman
The Frego Family
Carolyn Freitag
Kendra Gaeta
Mimi Gallien
Pam Galyean
Anneke Gibbons
Ann Godden
Sue Goldberg
Sandra Goodwin
Michael and Trish Graves
Amy Guerber
Brett Gurley
Ann Gwynn
Dave and Helen Hadani
Julie Halse
Ben and Maja Harris
Karen Harris
Hayfield Secondary Administrative Team
Lisa Heilbronner
Mike Heller
Herndon ES Teachers and Staff
Mathew Hoffman
Kate and Chris Hood
Kelly Horne
Jennifer and Dan Hudson
Carol and Allen Hughes
Elaine Israel
Candice and Travis Johnson
Tara Jones
Natalie and Matt Kaar
David and Pam Kanstoroom
Jeanne Kelly
Louisa Kenny
Jack and Sara Kirby
Kiszka Family
Michelle Klepper
The Kohles Family
Guenther and Victoria Kolb
Karen Kranyak
Sylvia and Jeff Lamb
Tracie and Steve Lambakis
Kirsten and Dave Landeryou
Jenni Lawhon
Kathleen and John Lee
Raba and Paul Letteri
Stephanie Lewis
Colleen Line
Megan Lister
Corey Lodico
Alex Lopez
Bruce Wirtz MacArthur
Scott MacArthur
Maggie Mack
Deborah and Kevin Magee
Sandy and Gary Malady
Meredith Mani
Stefanie Marik
Jean Martelli
The Matthes Family
Cheryl McGovern
Jacquelin McKeown
Suanne and John McLellan
Taaron Meikle
David and Nanette Miller
Susan Miller
Chris Minegar
Rita and Jeff Monner
Julie Moore

Suzanne Morgan
Sarah Nash
The Negris
Faith Nettnin
Derrick Nguyen
Marcia O’Brien
The O’Brien Family
Marie O’Grady
Jason and Rachel Oh
Anella Oliva
Nancy and Bruce Oliver
Mark Ozer
Bob and Carole Parsons
Joy Patterson
Carl and Mary Plath
Theresa, Mark and Harper Poquis
Merrill Press
John Quast
Louise Quirk
Marc Rainford
G, Blair, and JR RamosCarr
Allison Rankin
Todd Reamon
Emma Riccardi
Mark Root
Caitlin Sansonese
Ruth and Chip Schaller
Bonnie Schipper
Mary Schwarz
Dave and Kathy Sestak
Paul and Robin Sgambati
Courtney Shea
Lindsey Shupe
Shermin Sirajudin
Christine Slingerman
Alfonso and Marie Smith
Brian Snyder
Joy and Anthony Stets
Mitch and Kate Stines
Jill Stryker
Sulekha Subhash
Priya Swaminathan
Kay and GJ Tarazi
Jeri Thomas
Matt, Michelle, Joshua and Alex Thompson
Paul and Pam Thompson
Kathie, Gary, Danielle and Rachel Turner
Deborah Ulbrick
Christy Vieregg
Lori and John Vintilescu
Walter Welham
Jennifer Welsh
Theresa West
Heather Whitman
Dawn Wilsey
Lance Windel
Lynn and Donna Windel
Amy and Greg Wolf
Brandon Wolfe
Hannah Yu
Shanna Zablow
Laura Zabrocki
William Zotti
Thank you all for your generosity. Thank you also to our “anonymous” donors. We know who you are but wanted to respect your wishes to remain unnamed. If there is anyone I omitted from this list, PLEASE let me know. We are so grateful to everyone for giving to Dave’s fund.
If you are still interested in donating, the fund will remain open through the end of the year.




Final Push

I am making one last big push…there are only 15 days left to donate to Dave’s fund. We will be ending the fundraising drive for this year on New Year’s Day. If you still want to donate, we would be thrilled to accept! Thanks to the 166 donors online and numerous offline, we have been able to raise about $52K. We would LOVE to provide scholarships at Hayfield for years and years to come. Every dollar helps make that goal a reality! Thank you for your support!!


If you need a receipt for tax purposes, you can donate directly to College Access Fairfax.



6 Months

I wanted to write something profound and meaningful to mark the passing of six months. But I find that the words just aren’t there. So instead I will just say this. I have spent six months missing you. Every single day.

I have cried at memories. I have laughed too. I have spent six months appreciating how amazing you were and mourning not having more time together. It seems impossible to me that we have gone six months without hearing your laugh, seeing your smile, holding your hand. You did your best to ensure that we would all be okay – mentally, emotionally, financially. That last one brought you so much relief when it was all figured out. You were so concerned about us being okay after you were gone.

Impossibly time marches on. Lives go on. Days turn into months. I wear your wedding band on a chain, and I find myself slipping it onto my finger when I am lost in thought or puzzling over something. I believe that I know what you would say to me, how you would support me and encourage me. There is comfort in knowing someone that deeply.

We did not have enough time together. We were cheated of that. But we have a lot to show for the time that we did have. Three beautiful children. So many memories. We had some tough times. We had amazing times. I learned a lot and grew a lot because of you. You taught me to be silly. Really ridiculously so. You brought a lightness to my life.

I feel proud and privileged and honored to have been your wife. And this I know for sure – I will never meet anyone else like you. You were absolutely one of a kind. Thank you for twenty two years. And for your strength and encouragement and grit because that is what has gotten me through this last six months. We are doing okay. I know you wouldn’t want it any other way.

Loving you and missing you.



Poor Grant

Image 1

Today, Sammi and I went to our local hair salon (I use the term salon VERY lightly).  Right before we got there, a customer apparently had a stroke and the EMTs arrived just after we did.  At about this same time Grant was on his way to swim practice, saw my car parked in front of the salon and the flashing lights of the ambulance.  He rushed in looking for me.  Given my recent medical emergency and his fear of “death taking more away”, he was anxious to make sure I was okay.  It upsets me that he has experienced enough in his 16 years that he was genuinely alarmed that something might be very wrong.  On the other hand, I do appreciate his protectiveness and that he loves me so.




What Lies Beneath

From the outside, I’d say it looks like we are doing well.  The kids are happy and busy.  They are fully immersed in swim and school and extracurriculars and friends.  I am working and socializing and appear to have my act together.  The cheery facade hides the truth beneath.  This Christmas season is rough.  Every where I turn, there is a reminder of holidays past.  In each quiet moment there is a memory that weighs heavy in my heart.

A wise person advised that the first year after you lose a loved one you think about the person they had become and then after that time you are able to focus on the person they actually were.  I look forward to that.  When I am alone, snapshots of assorted times pop into my head – the raw grief of my children at the candlelight vigil, Dave apologizing for leaving me behind, Dave telling me he was scared.  The memories break my heart.  And I can’t help but think about how hard we worked to keep him around as long as possible.  And I still can’t wrap my mind around him being gone.

When you have spent nearly every day of your adult life with the same person, almost everything is a trigger.  Music is especially powerful since it served as the background to our lives together. But it is also Christmas shows and silly phrases and the glimpse of someone who bears a resemblance.  It’s favorite meals and old movies and board games. It is his place at the table or knowing what he would say.  It is knowing how proud he would be of our kids and wishing he was here to share in all the blessings we have in our lives.

I appreciate people reaching out and supporting us with their kind words and love.  I appreciate you trying to make us feel better.  But sometimes I think you just have to let all the emotions simmer – even the tough ones.   To honor.  To remember.  To grieve.  To heal.


A Party of a Lifetime

I know that I have mentioned several times that Dave was quite clear about not having a funeral but wanted a party instead. That is not 100% accurate. He was VERY clear about not wanting a memorial or funeral after he died because he really disliked the idea of spending so much money for people to stand around and be so sad. He was actually content for me to do nothing. We talked about this some more because doing nothing was really not an option.

Every thing about the party seemed to fall into place without much stress or effort. As I started to call venues, I quickly learned that most places can only accommodate 150-200 people which I knew was not nearly enough. I put out a message on Facebook searching for ideas. My friend, Kathie, suggested the Torpedo Factory. It was the perfect choice. Not only could it hold a large crowd easily, it is also a place that we enjoyed visiting as a family. In fact, one of the pictures in the slide show was from a family art day that we attended.

I used the recommended vendor list to hire a caterer. As I scoured websites, there was only one company that stood out from the rest. The feel of their website, the comfort food on their menu and the rave reviews from previous customers sold me. I left most of the details up to them and trusted them to figure out our rentals of chairs, tables, glassware etc. I made two menu requests – the grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup shooters because yum and the pot roast because that was one of Dave’s favorite meals. The rest of it, they figured out for me. (As a side note, the food got RAVE reviews from everyone I talked to.)  We walked the venue and I told them where I wanted the bars, the slide show and the DJ to be. It occurred to me that in November we would need a coat check. That is all I had to say, and it was taken care of. The only other thing that I requested was the orange and silver linens that I had spotted on the rental companies website. They were so perfect.

The Torpedo Factory only uses one lighting company. At first I balked at the additional expense. My friend, Alex, and I discussed renting lights and plugging them in ourselves. I am SO glad that in the end, I just decided the extra money was worth spending. The lighting was beautiful. There was a warm orangish glow on the columns and spotlights on the tables. There were white fairy lights on the upstairs railings, and when it came time to fire up the dance music, they had bright colorful lights on the dance floor. It was the right mix of festive and lovely.

I knew that I wanted to use my friends’ entertainment company to hire a DJ. When I contacted Miles about it and told him what I was looking for, he took care of the rest. He hired the perfect guy for the job who kept the balance of karaoke and dance going throughout the evening. Steve even wore orange when he heard that was the dress code for the evening. And I hope that Miles and Michelle don’t mind me putting this out there, but they covered the expense of the DJ as their gift to us. I was and still am so touched by their generosity.

By the day of the party our RSVP list had climbed to 437 people. I was a little nervous because I had told the caterer that our final number was 400. But with last minute cancellations and no shows, I think we were probably at 400 so that turned out well in the end. Once the party started the room filled up really quickly. People really rocked the color orange with its many shades and styles. It was such an incredible sight. It was amazing to see the different parts of Dave’s life and our lives represented by groups of family, neighbors, my work friends, Hayfield folks, FCPS friends from different times in our careers, his fantasy football buddies, friends lifelong and newer. People came from near and far and quite literally all over the country to celebrate Dave. The hardest part for me was not having nearly enough time to talk to people and in some cases not getting in more than a hello. I felt very ADD and am sure that I probably walked away from people mid-conversation. I wish I could have spent more time with everyone. It was amazing to meet people that Dave has talked about for years (Scott B, Debi T, Lora B, Ken T). The other problem that I seemed to have was not recognizing people out of context. I am chalking that up to just being a little overwhelmed and not old age.

We had about thirty minutes that we were a little more ceremonial in nature. I welcomed everyone and shared some details about our fundraiser. I was so nervous that when I walked down the stairs afterwards I wondered what exactly I had said. I stumbled over the quote that I wanted to share. (I had to practice it many times so that I wouldn’t get choked up when I read it.) It is from the musical RENT and just seemed so perfect.

You always said how lucky you were that we were all friends. But it was us baby, who were the lucky ones.

Representative Ken Plum presented Dave’s parents with a memorial resolution that was passed by the House of Delegates when Dave died. He did a wonderful job and I thought it was a very special moment. Ann, Dave’s mom, said a few words and was very gracious and thoughtful. Two of Dave’s best friends, Mark and Sam, spoke. They were spot on perfect combining just the right balance of eloquence and humor. Dave’s brother put together a slide show which I didn’t actually get to watch at the event because someone pulled me aside to talk to me. I think that might have been okay though because I got to watch it at home and really absorb all those moments captured. Finally, Dave’s brother and sister wrapped up the more formal part of the evening with a few words and a toast to Dave. I thought it was perfect.

The slide show –

From this point on it really was the party that Dave would have wanted – dancing, drinking, karaoke. In his honor, at one point, many of the guys had their shirts off and were singing and dancing. One of my friends asked if they were people Dave worked with. When I looked around to point out Dave’s “A Team”, I spotted them having an equally great time dancing around with their ties tied around their heads. I believe we achieved the right balance of ceremony and sloppiness of which Dave would have approved.

People have mentioned the expense of the party. I will say first and foremost that it was all worth it. I would not have done anything differently. As far as the cost, I will just say that I could be driving a pretty nicely equipped entry level BMW or in Sam’s words “two years of college”. : ) It was important to me that this be a blow out worthy of Dave. So, I have no regrets. Dave sister mentioned to me afterwards that they were all sort of dragging their heels about getting ready for the party because they were somewhat dreading it. I have to say that I never had that feeling at all. I knew that it was going to be amazing. It had to be. That is what he deserved.

Here is my vendor list. I would use all of these companies again without any reservation. They were all outstanding and helped bring my vision to life and then some.

The Torpedo Factory (Shai – contact) http://torpedofactory.org/rent-the-tfac

Spilled Milk Catering (Amit – contact) http://www.spilledmilkcatering.com

John Farr Lighting Design http://www.johnfarrlighting.com

MSE Productions (Miles Stiebel – contact) http://www.mseproductions.com

My friend, Alex. I don’t think you can rent her out, but she helped me through this every step of the way. If you came to the party, you met her. She greeted you at the door, showed you to the coat check and guided you to check out the welcome table to see the pictures of Dave and write a message on one of the memory cards. I appreciate her so much and couldn’t have done it without her.



Old Habits are Hard to Break

I got into my car after work today and sat there for a minute before starting the engine.  My first thought was “I can’t wait to tell Dave about my crazy day”.  Five and a half months later, that instinct is still there.

He would have been appropriately outraged at my moving violation/ticket today.  I was leaving my cardiology appointment and apparently turned right at a light where this is not permitted.  I considered giving Officer Bender my full on sob story (pulmonary embolism, blah blah blah, hospital, blah blah blah, husband died, blah blah blah) but in the end, I just accepted my ticket like a big girl.  Although we would have poked a little fun at the officer’s expense for telling me not to get out of the car.  Where did he think I might go?

Dave would have laughed with me when I told him about my strange doctor’s visit.  When Dr. B was typing on the computer and giving a running commentary which included, “Wow.  Your blood clot was really big.  We got lucky on that one.”  Or when the nurse completed my EKG, said “hmm”, then came back to check the leads and said, “well, they are all on right.  Okay, the doctor will be in in a few minutes.”  I would have told him that I spent the next ten minutes stressing and trying to read the EKG read out to see what caused that reaction.  (Apparently nothing as the doctor said everything looked fine.)

Finally, I would have told him about my day at work.  We would have talked about the highs of the day of which were quite a few and any lows of which there weren’t really any.  He would have given me his two cents on a few things and a little advice.

I miss that.