And If You Did Know?

In Memory of Sharon Michele McAvoy Nichols .:. December 24, 1949 – October 10, 2005

December 20, 2005

I Need Your Council

Filed under: goodbye — mark @ 2:07 pm

Dear Sweeite,

I need your council. I need to explain my work situation to you and have you strategise with me about what to do and when. Your being gone hurts me in two ways here. First I am struggling to find my balance about normal things like eating, doing laundry, and paying bills. Having to cope with something as major as a forced change of jobs adds more than insult to injury, it overwhelms me. Secondly I don’t have your wisdom to counter my fears. I have to navigate treacherous waters without a lifeline and it is very scary.

For several weeks after you died I fought the urge to sink into the quagmire of “why me?” and “what if?” and was largely successful. Being told that my job may go away in a few weeks (15 working days after today) is proving to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I feel like I’m standing on ice that is breaking beneath my feet and, instead of moving towards safety, I am detached from myself and caught up in observing the water rising over my feet, and then legs. What would it be like to let go of the need to direct my life at all and just let myself be swept away by whatever forces are present?

My favorite quote these days is the one about faith that goes, “faith isn’t believing without proof, faith is trusting without reservation.” Michele always believed that things that were meant to be would happen, and things that weren’t meant to be didn’t. This is not to say we don’t have free will; rather it is an extension of the idea of reincarnation. Between lifetimes here you setup events or situations in the next lifetime to provide you with lessons or lesson opportunities. Getting a job or losing a job is part of that matrix designed by our essence, felt but not seen. Shaping the large contours of this lifetime without deciding every last nuance.

I view this contract situation as a test of my faith, and of my belief in my own essence, indeed, in my own divinity. So I want to let go of the need to control this situation and make it be what I want or think I need. Instead I want to find enough grace to accept what happens as necessary for my growth. The trick is knowing where the very fine line between letting go of the need for control and giving up lies. With you, Michele, I was usually pretty good and finding that line and following it. In three weeks or so we’ll know if I am any good at this with you here in spirit only.

I lov eyou Tinkerbell,

December 13, 2005

One For Our Side

Filed under: goodbye — mark @ 6:11 pm

Michele would have loved this, the CEO of Diebold is resigning under a cloud of controversy.

I think the pendulum has reached its apogee and is starting to head back towards the center. Finally.

December 8, 2005

Two Months

Filed under: goodbye — mark @ 8:44 pm

Dear Sweetie,

It has been almost two months since you died. I find that some parts of life seem almost normal while others remain surreal or worse. I’ve got most of the daily chore activities figured out, except for vacuuming maybe. The activity makes me sneeze (I know – every activity makes me sneeze) and the lack of it makes me sneeze more. The laundry, cooking, and daily tiding is relatively easy. Going to the grocery store is still tough. I have only been able to go to Whole Foods once in the past eight weeks, and then only because I couldn’t find the Seventh Generation laundry detergent anywhere else. I have been trying to use Target as it has all the things we like and it isn’t a place we normally shopped.

Work has its ups and downs. Having the routine is good, but I find my focus is sporadic at best. Some days I get a lot accomplished and other days… well, let’s just say I don’t get much done. My co-workers have been great. My initial fear returning to work was that I would feel stigmatized, perhaps ostracized. Quite to my surprise I have been treated in a way that is caring and concerned without being intrusive. I know that part of my experience there is due to the work I was able to accomplish with you that allows me to accept friendship freely now. I will be indebted to you for the rest of my life for that, among many other things.

The hardest thing I have to deal with now is your birthday and Christmas. My current thinking is that I need to spend those two days by myself here in Kansas. I want the freedom to do what I want when I want, be it a good cry or midnight movie. Traveling to Illinois puts me at the mercy motels or family for lodging, and the agenda would entirely out of my control. However, mom has just returned home from two weeks in the hospital, and I am acutely aware her health could take a turn for the worse. She has already made an overture about my traveling to Illinois and staying with them and participating in the activities there. To her credit she was gracious when I replied that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do yet. I’ve still got a couple of weeks to decide.

I have been buoyed by cards, email, and calls from several people. And I have reached out when I’ve needed immediate connection with someone other than a cat. Speaking of the cats, both are fine. Nekko was hidden and very skittish for a long time after you died. She is coming out when I am home now, and seeks me out for attention. I make it a point to sit on the couch or chair everyday so that she gets her ears rubbed. She has even, just this week, started getting on the bed while I watch TV at night, and laying next to me they way she did you. Taz greets me at the door every time I arrive home, and follows me about the house demanding attention. Now that it is cold outside I’ve been using a throw on the couch to keep warm and she loves to sleep there, which is very nice.

Most of all I miss talking to you. Whether about little events at work, or changes in the political landscape, I miss the conversations we had. Going out to dinner isn’t fun any more as I miss the far ranging discussions about anything and everything. Reading a book while eating just isn’t the same. I still talk out loud to you at times, especially in the dark of the bedroom when I can’t sleep. You’ll be happy to know that if I listen with my heart I can still hear your answers to my questions.

This week it snowed for the first time, almost 10 inches by my measure. I deliberately went out and drove in the evening so I could see the snow rushing towards the car in the cone of brightness from the headlights. The flakes were large and plentiful. You would have liked it very much. I am thinking that this weekend I will get out at least some of our decorations and bring some of the magic of Christmas here. You showed me how special this time of year could be, and I know my connection with your spirit will stronger if I let myself have some Christmas cheer.

I lov eyou Michele
I miss you every day
I am grateful that you are no longer plagued by the demons that haunted your life here, but I am sorry our time was so short together
I will always be in lov with eyou My Darling

November 27, 2005

Memorial for Michele

Filed under: goodbye — mark @ 10:32 pm

I went forward with our plans for Thanksgiving and remembering Michele and her mom, Virginia. It was a beautiful but cold day. The sun was shining brightly. I had Michele’s and her Mom’s ashes sitting on the hearth along with pictures of each. The only recent picture of Michele was one that we were all in a Ginny’s memorial… actually Michele is very beautiful in it even if the rest of us are there. Mark’s hand is on her shoulder. She looked happy!! Anyway, I had candles burning and the glow was quite beautiful.

I managed to say a few words about how lucky I was that Michele came back into my life and how much I enjoyed talking with her. Just beginning to really know and understand her more but as life’s tradgey happened she was once again gone from my life. However, this time I have some wonderful memories. Then between Josh and myself, we read Mark’s eulogy for Michele. That was not an easy thing to do. You have such a way with words!!! After the small informal ceremony, we traveled to Jeanette’s Fishing Pier in South Nags Head and walked over on the beach. The wind was brisk but it didn’t faze us. We were on a mission. Our loved ones were on their journey home…. I mixed the ashes together as ONE and when the right moment and wave came, we said farewell to our loved ones.

Michele, I had so much more I wanted to say to you when you were alive. If I’d only known our time would be cut short. The most important thing is to let you know I LOVE YOU! and I think you know that.

Betty Lewis

November 23, 2005


Filed under: goodbye — mark @ 7:32 am

Dear Sweetie,

This week it is Thanksgiving. We were going to travel this year to Currytuck to see your aunts and remember your mom. Instead I am staying in the apartment and eating dinner with strangers. Betty was more that willing to have me come there anyway and I was sorely tempted to go, but in the end I couldn’t bring myself to go without you by my side. I did send a portion of the cremains on to Betty; she is going to put you with your mom and on Friday a little of both of you will be spread on the ocean.

With just one day off this week I am not traveling to Illinois. Going there this year would be doubly hard as mom is in the hospital. It’s a long story, but it doesn’t appear likely that she’ll be home tomorrow. Her week long stay (so far) has been hard on my dad. I talk to him almost everyday. Last night he said that it has been very helpful to share with me what is going on with him. It felt so very good to have that kind of connection with him after all these years. I know that where ever you are, you are wearing your fierce smile, and that you are genuinely pleased for me. And for him.

Friends of mine from Ohio are coming here to see their family for Thanksgiving. Ann, Dan and Katie are going to stay with me tonight at least, and probably tomorrow night as well. I made a pot of our spaghetti sauce for them for dinner this evening. And I baked a chocolate cake too. It’s the first cake I’ve made since you died and it turned out pretty good. The frosting is maybe just a hint too bitter, but it is very smooth and chocolaty. I can’t eat a whole cake by myself so I’m not sure how to have them anymore. I guess I could eat what I want for a couple of days and then bring the rest into work to share. I don’t want to stop having cake, but I don’t like not being able to make them for you any more.

I had corned beef stew this week. It turned out very nicely. I like that you left me with all sorts of favorite dishes. I like that I know how to cook for myself and take care of the kitchen. I miss making a salad for you, or a plate of raw veggies. I was going to make little pizzas one night but when I thought about making a pile of cheese on the foil to toast for you I couldn’t do it. Ever time I run across a new memory that brings the sense of loss up again I wonder if I’ll ever stop hurting over your death. Intellectually I know I will, but in my heart I am filled with despair at the thought of never again hearing your voice, seeing your smile, or touching your face.

I will always lov eyou
I will always miss you
I am still in lov with eyou

November 19, 2005

Best of Times

Filed under: goodbye — mark @ 10:36 am

One of the best times Michele and I had together was going to Chicago in the Fall of 2003 to see Eddie Izzard perform live. Eddie, for those of you who don’t know, is British comedian Michele discovered while we were living in South Carolina. She had been ill for months and wasn’t able to sleep well. The sleep pattern that worked best for her was going to bed around 3 or 4 in the morning, and sleeping most of the day. Consequently she watched a lot of late night television, and one night stumbled on to the middle of Eddie’s ‘Dress to Kill” HBO Special. She said she laughed so hard she cried. Seeing that it was repeated, she taped it and showed it to me. Before the end I was laughing so hard I thought I would need oxygen.

In the years that followed we collected all the video performances of Eddie that we could find. Michele always said she would be willing to travel a long way to see Eddie in person. As luck would have it, his 2003 “Sexie” tour came to Chicago – only three hours drive away. I remember spending 30 minutes on the phone dialing, and also online refreshing the ticket ordering page, until I got a pair of tickets in the tenth row, on the right center isle. Absolutely perfect seats. We would be close enough to see, and Michele wouldn’t have to sit next to anyone but me. Next I made reservations at the Palmer House Hotel in downtown Chicago, as the map online showed it being the closest to the theater.

The day of the show we drove up to Chicago, stopping on the way to see my brother and my two youngest nieces for a few minutes. The hotel was sumptuous, and, having learned how all this works, I was able to smoothly allow the valet to park the car and the bellboy to carry the bags. We had dinner in Trader Vic’s (still the BEST egg roll I’ve ever had) and casually walked 1/2 a block to the theater. Yes, it was practically across the street from our hotel. You could see one entrance from the other. Our seats were indeed perfect. As we sat waiting for the show to start, enjoying some Tom Jones music on the PA, Michele struck up a conversation with the two women in front of us. They were also long time Eddie fans who had traveled (flown actually) to see him perform live.

The show itself was simply fantastic. Eddie was on that night. We both laughed and laughed. His encore was superb and I was literally gasping for air before he was finished with us. In the morning we set off to find the village of Canesteo New York, a favorite childhood home of Michele’s. That trip was also special, but that is another story.

I am so glad that Michele got to see Eddie perform live, and that the accommodations, seating, and everything were perfect for us. This is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life.

November 11, 2005

If I had Known…

Filed under: goodbye — mark @ 5:25 pm

If I had known that I was spending your last days on earth I would have held your hand tighter. If I had known that you were leaving I would have said goodbye. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I at least wanted to say goodbye. If I had known how precious you were I would have gotten to know you much sooner. It has been a while since you have been gone and I have lost track of the days, I miss you as if I had known you forever. Sometimes I can’t wait to see you. I just cry alot because I miss you, and I miss your way of talking. I wish I could comfort myself, like you comforted me. I really need you. I miss you so much. I wish I had more time with you. I feel lost without you on the campus. I know that some of your students feel that same loss also. If I had known I was going feel such an huge loss I would have done something differently, although I don’t know just exactly what it would have been.


November 6, 2005

28 Days

Filed under: goodbye — mark @ 9:11 am

Dear Sweetie,

Tomorrow it will be 28 days since you died. In this case 28 days is both a lifetime and an instant. I still expect you to appear from the next room, or to wake up in the night and find you reading in your favorite chair. But as I move through the daily chores (which are ALL mine now, thank you very much) I know that you aren’t coming back, that you are truly gone. The range of emotions I have as a result of this dichotomy is stunning in its diversity.

I get so mad sometimes. Little things set me off, like not being able to dice an onion finely like you did, or Taz licking my face. I yell and stomp, or pound on the desk until the white-heat part of my anger passes. I am mad at you for leaving me here to deal with all of this, for having to be alone again, but mostly for not having a place to feel safe anymore.

A bout of rage almost always leads to a good long cry. I picked up a really good book called Finding Your Way After Your Spouse Dies that is filled with two and three page essays on topics like “Ask for a Hug” or “Begin to Play (Again)”. One of the first ones I read was about “Creating Your Own Comfort Place.” In it the author, Marta Felber, made the suggestion that I use something of yours as a touchstone when I need comforting. Last night, after a failed attempt to fix dinner at home ended in diced onion all over the floor, I fell onto your side of the bed and cried and cried while holding one of your favorite dresses. The feel of the dress fabric in my hands and on my face was comforting, and I did reach some peace as a result of that venting.

While I do not feel alone, I am very lonely. Taz and Nekko are keeping tabs on me, Taz more than Nekko. However, Nekko is coming around again. Last night she spent some time on the bed with me while I watched television. I am learning to sit on the couch or chair and reach up behind me to rub her ears. (And you are right, that does make your arms hurt!) My friends, especially Laura, Ted, Pete, and Annie, are calling on me and sending me emails. Annie has family here in KC, so she and Dan, along with Katie, are coming here for Thanksgiving. They are going to stay with me and I have even been invited to her brother’s house for the day. Greg Lettow and Kristin have also invited me to join them for Thanksgiving Day.

The evenings and weekends are a very lonely time for me. I don’t feel like being around other people and yet I don’t like being by myself. I spend an hour or two here and then I have to run out to a store for something, even just to look, so I can be around other people. I know that in time I will start to develop new friendships, but for now I am very lonely.

I am scared. Scared of the future, scared of what happens next. For the first couple of weeks I felt cut off from the best parts of myself, the parts that were so intertwined with you. Being able to stand up and deliver the eulogy I wrote for you helped me a great deal. I reconnected with some of Pooh as a result. Finding my way through the weekly chores is helping as well. Having a semi-regular schedule for things takes some of the uncertainty out of my situation. I can’t look to far into the future yet, though. Getting to the end of the day seems to be my limit. Having a chore or errand for the upcoming weekend is helpful, but trying to think much beyond the next few days just leaves me paralyzed.

Oddly enough there is a feeling of peace at times. I know that you are still around, if only in essence form. There have been two or three instances where I am convinced you were here. The first week I was back at work there was a 4-day meeting. In one of the conference rooms the first day I looked up and saw you in an empty chair across the way. You were smiling at me and I felt very good for a moment. At your memorial service there was a moment when the pipes were playing that I felt every so lightly your touch on my cheek, and I have felt you moving around the apartment at least twice. I know that your aren’t in pain anymore, and that all the fears and demons you carried for so long can no longer attack you in the night. I am glad that you are at peace. I am even more grateful for the faith I have, otherwise I wouldn’t feel secure about where you were and what you were experiencing.

I lov eyou Michele. I always have and I always will. You are in my heart, and you touch my soul profoundly. My heart is filled with warm memories of the time we had together, and I know that with time and hard work, I will be able to touch those memories and feel good. For now I am letting myself express the fear, anger, sorrow, or whatever as it comes up.

I lov eyou
I lik eyou
I miss you
I believ in eyou
I am in lov with eyou

October 31, 2005

In Her Own Words

Filed under: her words — mark @ 2:41 pm

Beginning in 2003 Michele had her own web site, named for her favorite phrase, “and if you did know?” I have decided to re-add the postings she made to her site in the final years of her life. These were the thoughts important enough to her to share through writing. An intensely verbal person, Michele wrote reluctantly and only when strongly moved by the message she had to deliver.

Each posting is complete and unedited and has been saved with the original time-stamp and date. Click on any of the archive links to view the postings from that time period.

October 30, 2005

A Million Points

Filed under: goodbye — mark @ 12:11 am

From the very beginning of our time together Michele and I played games together. Trivial Pursuit was a favorite, as was Monopoly. We altered the rules to suit us. We wanted to play for fun and shared experience, not to beat each other. For example, in Monopoly we took out all the bad cards from the Community Chest.

Perhaps our favorite game was Gin. Over the years we kept a running tally, the stated objective was to get to a million points. I’m afraid we had a long, long way to go. The final Gin score was: Michele 9,550 to Mark 8,808.

Today I was cleaning the apartment and rearranging some furniture. In the process I had to move all of the game boxes. Scrabble, Monopoly, Movie Trivia, Trivial Pursuit (6 versions!), and the cribbage peg board. Growing up I didn’t like playing games because I didn’t like losing. Playing with Michele was always fun and light hearted.

Sweetie, we didn’t get to a million points, but I’ll spot you the 990,450 you need on the next hand.

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