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April 29th ...13 months

Hi Fight Like Mike Army, I hope you are all doing well.

I find my thoughts have been all over the place and very unorganized ( more so than usual haha) But I keep writing. I told Mike I would keep writing for him and our kids and with the hope that our story might help just one person. I have been stuck in feeling sorry for myself lately. And the guilt in that right after. Grief is a vicious monster that messes with your head in not good ways. And so if you have felt that way, please know you are not alone. As I feel I am riding a good wave in one moment, just as fast the next wave comes , and I feel stuck and sad yet again. It is hard to feel unstable but I am working with Ginny on just accepting that it is all ok . That eating a box of hot tamales only two days after swearing off candy again is ok too. Self compassion right,? I tell her :) Waves of the ocean keep coming and as normal as that is, the grief waves are just as normal. To just allow myself to feel whatever I am feeling. It's hard, especially with the kids. So I won't sugar coat that it is easy and we have figured it out. Missing mike will be forever a part of us. And it will be a lifetime of ups and downs.

But if there was ever a time to lose your young husband and father to your three kids, it would be at the beginning of a pandemic. I say that with deep sincerity. It has taken me months to be able to reflect on this and really believe that this is true. Because in the beginning I only saw the unfairness . and I still fight that mental battle on days. It has been the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life don't get me wrong.

But . But the entire world lost their people this year.

We were not alone.

We are all suffering.

We will all lose loved ones.

and we will all also die.

The last thing mike would want is to have pity. He never did for himself.

I remember the Thursday morning we met the most gentle , humble , loving Dr. Kota ( "My main Man" he would soon become to Mike)in May of 2016. He asked us kindly , if we had plans for the weekend? And if not he advised that Mike be admitted that evening. We looked at each other , like ummm, probably nothing more important than Leukemia ( ha) except take care of our kids. And we agreed we would go see them, pack a bag and head back to the hospital.

After Mike had time to drink a beer, visit with each of them , and soak in all the love and hugs he could , he bravely walked out of the gate of my parents back yard to his truck. And when we were out of view of anyone , he stopped , and started to cry. The months of figuring out what was wrong were over . And the fear and relief were both felt immensely in this moment . As we tried to surrender . We hugged each other so tight , not wanting to let go. We both knew our lives would be different from then on. There was hope and fear and sadness felt in that hug. Feelings so alive and lasting , that I can still feel it in my bones as I type and remember the da y like it was yesterday.

He finally let go and said to me " Ok , that's it , I am done feeling sorry for my self. That's all the time I am allowing . Now we fight."

And that was it. I could name on one hand the times he cried in the years following. ( I made it up for all of his) He held true to those words. And I have never forgotten that moment.

As it was the moment he stepped out of fear and into trusting.

The moment his fight began .

And did he ever fight ...

But what inspires me the most each day, more than his fight.

Was his faith and trust in Dr. Kota and God,

and mostly his ability to not ever make it about him .

And so I keep writing to keep perspective.

That this is not about me .

This is about helping others .

We are built to do hard things.

We just have to have a little more faith and keep swimming.

Dear Mike ,

13 months.

I showed up to Ginny on Monday with a heavy heart.

I felt like the kid’s did last week, as they expressed the fact that they were “done with counseling “.

“ how much longer are we going to we have to go do this ?”

Forever - I said with love 🤔


You may need to go forever and that’s cool for you , but I’m pretty sure I’m done - Jake said. 😜

I had to laugh at his honesty and how your voice comes through him every day. Especially as I baby Graham and tell him I’ll pick him up early from school. Jake cuts his eyes at me , “really”? , I know it’s you.

It’s hard work each day to live without you. It’s hard work each week to show up with this weighted blanket of grief and share our broken hearts with someone.

But when we are done . We feel lighter. And I sense that same lightness with the kid’s too.

So for now , Jake will continue to roll his eyes at me while I take him.

I told Ginny that the past two weeks felt like I was starting all over again.

Every new moment , every step I have tried to take forward has felt like I am triggered into missing you so bad that tears just come with no control.

Maybe Because the second year feels like another new set of first. Especially coming out of the pandemic. I mean dang ,If you ever needed an excuse to become a hermit crab. And emerging as humbled me again. I am still human. And I still

Miss you so very much.

I want you here to drag Your youngest little clone in the school building by his hair with your tough love. We had a Pre-k drop out on our hands for a week 😜 and honestly the verdict is still a question mark each day ?!?

Will he go. Or will he pull one of these lines and tug at my heart again.

He told me he was just going to go to work like you. Also that he was feeling too sick. Or that he just missed me too much.

He puts up a good fight ...much like you. I give him credit.

I want to send the video of Jake’s touchdown pass to you. Better yet I want you there to watch it.

I want to call you on our long road trip to visit Pap and Granny and to all your favorite places . And tell you Cat Daddy taught Sissy and Jake how to rid the mini motorcycle.

I want you here to figure out the rat and flying squirrel 🐿 problem in the attic.

Or send pics of the Celia’s

barracuda, and my tuna we caught on spring break.

I want to be able to tell you about Graham’s first fishing trip and his ability to amuse everyone and deem himself the new captain. How no one got sea sick even me 😜👏 you would be proud.

But better yet , I want you here experiencing these joyful

And hard things with us.

Mom always reminds me you and all our angels have the best seat in the house , on the field , or on the ocean. And I believe that too.

Everyone helps , loves us and shows up for our every need and I am grateful.

You are here too .

I know.

But it’s still doesn’t make the physical longing for you an easier.

So I have tried again with the signs this week.

I shouldn’t say try ...that’s an understatement. I have begged , pleaded , and as Ginny said strived so hard to find you that I have exhausted myself.

Nature is slow. And takes time.

But I’m in a desperate rush again for a tangible sign from you. I needed you to show up in some secretive way that only me and you would understand.

I know are frustrated with my neediness again. I can actually sense that the most. 😆

However Saturday I didn’t really care about annoying you while I talked to you on the back deck and went through a million different signs to make you show up as.

A crawfish , an auburn tiger , maybe a monkey with a banana . I couldn’t decide , as usual, but finally ended the search with an elephant.

I needed you to come as an elephant 🐘

Sunday afternoon the kid’s made a stuffed animal zoo in the living room .

And that night , as I was setting up their mattress beds 🙄🤦🏽‍♀️and kicking the animals out of my way.

Your sweet Celia out of know where picked up the big elephant out of all the 50 animals laying around. Yep we are still stuffed animal hoarders.

There is actually a graveyard of muddy, chewed and rained on stuffed animals in the backyard thanks to Pearl. You would love it 😳

Celia genuinely says , “ I know daddy is a cardinal , but I think he’s an elephant “. I looked up at her and asked why ...

“ I don’t know , because elephants are big and strong like him , and I think he comes as an elephant “

Did you send me the elephant through Celia ? She could have picked any of the animals.

I hope it’s you .

I think I believe it’s you.

It sure brings peace and somewhat eases the pain when I believe it is.

Reeling myself in to the present moment, lately , has felt As hard as reeling in the tuna.

Like pulling a sunken ship up to surface, I asked as I tried to reel it in.

When my dad let go of the pole , I felt I was going over the back of the boat with it. Seriously. That fish was heavy !!

It’s hard to get my mind out of an ocean full of memories of you that I am swimming tthrough each day.

If it weren’t for family , friends , healers , doctors , strangers , and your brave kid’s holding the pole of grief with me each day... I would easily fall over the back and sink to the bottom of the ocean.

Your love is not there.

I know that.

Your love is not on the bottom of the ocean.

Your light shines way too bright for that.

And so I keep my eyes on the lighthouse.

That comes in clear view, both literally and physically on our drive back to the shore.

I tell everyone I can’t reel in this monstrous fish of grief alone.

And so I might kick or scream like graham or pout like Jake , but I am trying so hard to let people love me through this.

Ginny reminded me that although the outward signs are amazing and she truly believes in the connections we can have with this spiritual realm as she calls it. She believed in my elephant story. Making me believe a little more too.

She also reminded me that I too have your love within me just as strong and that I can tap into that and feel your presence within too.

In meditation, in quiet , stillness.

I do find you.

I hear your voice loud and clear.

Keep sending graham to school .

Let Jake play tackle football.

Keep fishing.

Keep reeling.

Keep swimming.

Don’t let Celia wear shorts that are too short , ( that’s the hardest battle yet ).

I hear you telling me , yep I can be an elephant, a cardinal , a 29 , a a peach , crescent moon.

But I can also guide you from your heart.

I go into the week with the weight of grief a little lighter.

With hope in our dream to find purpose from pain. In our dream to help others fighting.

Watching you and Dr Kota that last 4 yrs of life reeled me in to the present moment through each frightening step .You both taught me we are not in control of anything outwardly.

Life or death.

But we can make the very best if each moment we are given. We can find peace there.

I’m finally understanding a little more how you were able to do that.

How you live so presently. And I am inspired to keep trying for you each day.

We can’t control our outcome but we can control whether or not we choose to be live in the present.

t is all we have.

And if we surrender and live there we will find peace.

“ I will survive another day

And I will hold on to this light until the day I die

So don't you give up on me

And I won't give up on you

And do you have faith in me

Cause you know that I still believe

In what we've got

One love, one life, throw your hands up high

Cause all I'm trying to is Stay human with you. “

Michael Franti



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