Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


Be Careful What You Wish For

So it has been an exciting, emotional week. Me? Emotional? I have been recognizing that as the book draws closer to the launching date, I am getting more and more intense. Crying at the drop of a hat. Sometimes the hat doesn’t even drop and I cry anyway. I have theories I guess. The subject matter is intense and grief-ridden. That’s one thing. When you pour your heart and soul into something for 13 months, that’s pretty intense. That’s another thing.

On Monday, Brigette was here working with me and we had a conference call scheduled with our Hospice contact. There was some question as to whether they were going to be able to be involved or not so this was a crucial call. They came through with fulfilling our highest hopes. They are going to handle all the press releases which is a huge burden lifted from our shoulders. The release will go to radio stations, newspapers, and tv stations. She mentioned that we would probably get at least one tv station to cover the launching.

They are also trying to get a tv personality to emcee the event and get us on their tv program the week before the launching. We answered “okay” as if this sort of thing happens to us every day. I was stunned and silent, terrified.

On Tuesday, we received a review of the book from a big, important dude at Sloan Kettering in NYC, the #2 cancer treatment center in the USA. We asked for a two sentence blurb. We got a two page review. And it was GLOWING. And more importantly, his words indicated that he truly got the whole book- he just plain got it. He got what I was hoping readers would get from it. He is a total stranger too. No bias on his part. I sobbed. Like a baby.

Tuesday afternoon I made contact with Roswell (Cancer hospital in our area). Given the other events of the week, their person was like “thanks for letting us be a part of this!”…. She was thanking me and excited about figuring out how they could help. What??

This all set me into a tailspin. Isn’t this what we have been working our butts off for? Then why I am numb? On Wednesday I talked with my daughter Emily. I decided she has a very wise, old soul. She listened to everything, including the review. She calmly said she knew exactly what my problem was. My problem was that my world just got bigger. Much bigger. My problem is that I’ve never experienced this level of success in my life before. She calmly said she now knows the purpose of why her father died. Now she knows that he is taking care of Frankie and I. We are going to have enough to live on and we are going to be able to take care of our house. Anyone that knew Tim, knew he worried about that. That’s why he worked til two weeks before he died.

Emily. She’s brilliant. She put it into words for me. It took some of the terror away. Today I had my spiritual direction session and we discussed it further. She cried too when she heard about the events of the week. We talked about how I don’t know how to wear success. I understand hard work, but I don’t know what to do with having it pay off.

Don’t get me wrong. When I wake up from the dream, I will be grateful. I figured out how to be grateful in the face of disease and death. I just have to figure out how to be grateful in the face of positive happenings. But careful for what you wish for, it just might scare the pants off you!



Bitter and Sweet is not just the name of my book coming out. It is the mantra for my life. There is always a healthy dose of bitter and sweet in every day, don’t you think?

Take going on vacation. Definitely a sweet, right? Getting to see my daughter and her family is a treat any time of year. Actual travel? Big mix of bitter and sweet.

I get these cheaper tickets by flying out of Niagara Falls rather than Buffalo. The only problem is, there are not many options. The airline only flies on certain days, and then only once a day usually. So cheaper airfare, but Frankie and I have to fly out at 2 AM.

We agree to go to bed at 8 PM to get some sleep before we leave. After a lot of tossing and turning, I finally kick Frankie out of my bed because he’s driving me crazy. He goes to his own room and I fall alseep. Before I went to bed I set my alarm and then second guessed myself. I set the alarm on my phone too, just in case I goofed something up.

I have to laugh. I got a text about 25 minutes before we have to get up. A concerned friend making sure we didn’t oversleep. I get up and then the phone rings. My dad says he just happened to be up going to the bathroom so he decides to call to make sure we didn’t oversleep by accident. Then another text comes for another friend, just making sure we didn’t oversleep. Now I don’t have a history of oversleeping, or of missing flights. So I find it all very amusing that we were all worried. I do have a history of loving to sleep so I guess that’s what it is.

I decide to answer an email about the book before loading the car so that puts us a little behind schedule. I call my sister-in-law and tell her we’re running a little late. The roads are clear so I’m speeding. I think that if I get pulled over, I’ll just explain we’re trying to make a flight. Must have jinxed us. Sure enough, I get all the way to North Tonawanda and the lights are flashing behind me. VERY nice cop. Lets me go when I tell him the situation and doesn’t keep me pulled over very long. Bitter being late, bitter being pulled over. Sweet cop 🙂

Get to the airport without further incident. Find out the flight is delayed an hour and a half. Risked a speeding ticket for nothing. Worse though, we could have slept another hour which would have been immensely helpful. Oh well. I go over to the check-in monitors and get us all set. So I think. I find out that Spirit Airlines do NOT give you one free carry on bag. That’s only if its a backpack that fits under your seat. Guess how much it is to carry on a bag that fits in the overhead bin? ONE HUNDRED BUCKS. I almost fainted. I am certain I rode with them last year and this wasn’t the case. They are certain I am wrong. (I realize later that I flew out of Niagara Falls last year but with a different airline so I was wrong). I am in tears. That is crazy money! So I leave the counter and try to go on my smart phone and buy the luggage on line. No luck. I call my friend who gets out of bed and goes on her computer for me. Also no luck. I head back to the counter in shame, in tears. Bitter hundred bucks to swallow. Dear and sweet woman at the counter takes my license, winks at me, and checks my bag at no charge. I could have kissed her. Wow, two mercies within an hour.

By this time Frankie is complaining that he has a stomach ache and needs to eat. They announce that the snack bar is closing prompty at 2 AM. It is now five minutes until 2 AM. Can we get through security that fast? I will be miserable the rest of the day if Frankie doesn’t get some food. We run to the snack bar and another mercy- nice guy lets us get some food. Bagels. Cream cheese is gone but we’ll take butter. Not enough butter either, but at least we get some food into Frankie. Next sweet? Snack bar guy brings us over two slices of pizza. They are going to have to throw them out so he offers them to us. Sweet.

We get on the plane, praying that we will not miss our connecting flight in Ft. Lauderdale. That would be really bad. My plan was for both of us to sleep on the plane. No luck. Frankie is relentless. I think I am going INSANE.

Mom, that woman has her cell phone on. Are we going to crash?
Mom, that woman is reading a Kindle. Are we going to crash?
Mom, look out the window at all the lights. They are so cool!
Mom, look out the window. It’s completely dark out.
Mom, what happens to our bags in Ft. Lauderdale? Do we have to take them to the next plane?

Thought I was going to ring his neck in front of all those witnesses.

Get to Ft. Lauderdale. Didn’t miss our connecting flight. But they don’t seem to be boarding. Is this flight delayed too? Thank God an employee looks out in the waiting room and asks if anyone is going to Atlanta. Several of us say yes. Oh, well, the gate has been switched. THEN they decide to make an announcement. Grab our stuff. Run to the men’s room and ask the custodian to please go in and find a blond haired boy. I tell Frankie the gate has been switched and off we run. Phew, got there.

Big, big sweet. Frankie falls asleep on the second flight. Thank God.

BIGGEST SWEET OF ALL??? Hugging those beautiful grandkids. I’ve got nothing to complain about 🙂

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I have been following the blog Riding Bitch for some time. I recommend you check it out too! (Her blog link is listed on the right below). We have recently decided to do some guest interviewing with each other as we have a lot in common. She posted an interview with me last week. Here is some information about the author.

Niva Dorell Smith is a screenwriter, director and producer. She has directed award-winning short films, music videos, television and documentaries. She has been an educator at the New York Film Academy and is currently a film mentor for the Make a Film Foundation, an organization that assists children with life threatening illnesses in making small “legacy” films. She is currently writing her first book about her experience of loving, caregiving, losing and grieving her late husband who died of brain cancer in 2011.

Q: Under what circumstances did you become a widow? And how did that lead to the book you are writing?
A: My husband died in May 2011 from an aggressive form of brain cancer at the age of 43. We had married only 11 days earlier when he was on hospice. After his death, I experienced the strange sensation of feeling both like a newlywed and a widow. We had both been through such an intense experience in a short amount of time (three years total as a couple, one with cancer), it felt unnatural to cease communicating with him. I was also suffering from post-traumatic stress, survivor and caregiver’s guilt. I had been writing the whole time we were together – in my journal, in emails, in letters I wrote while working abroad for a few months. Once he was gone and I was alone in the silent apartment, the writing intensified. I continued writing in my journal. I wrote him love letters. I wrote down every memory I could remember from our time together. I didn’t know what I was writing. I just knew that I had to get things out, and from losing my mother 20 years earlier that Time erases memories.
After a while, I started piecing bits together, recreating our story with a literary patchwork of descriptive narrative, letters, emails, text messages, voicemail and video transcripts. The result is a book currently entitled THE HISTORY OF US. It isn’t published yet but it will be in 2013.

Q: Do you think there is an audience for such a book?
A: I think there is an audience for almost any book, but especially one about a real couple going through an extraordinary experience. My book is an emotionally honest and very compelling portrayal of two young people who were thrown into a “tsunami” of challenges before they had even moved in together, and end up making the ultimate commitment. I think many people will relate to it, both young and old, sick and healthy, because ultimately it’s a great (and tragic) love story.

As I mentioned, I think Niva and I have a lot in common. Check out her blog!


Fourth of July

So this is something that I am not sure I should go back and add to the book or not. My dilemma is, that it was a significant event in our lives. Yet I don’t want to anger anyone by including it either. Any opinions?

July 4, 2010

The last holiday we celebrated was Father’s Day and boy, it would be impossible to beat that. Holidays are already loaded most of the time, but now there is even more added pressure. What if this is the last (fill in the blank) that Tim has where he is feeling well? That was the inspiration behind flying Emily here for Father’s Day. Now it is the 4th of July.

We decided to go to spend the day with one of Tim’s family members at their cottage. It’s a lovely place about a mile from the lake. We usually walk down to the beach to watch the fireworks because there is little or no parking there. Tim and I discussed it at length and decided that in spite of the annoyance, we should not walk the mile there and back. His strength comes and goes and is often unpredictable. We knew his family would not want to drive, so we made our pact before we got there.

The weather was lovely. Things were great until it was time to go to the beach. Tim caved to the pressure to walk rather than drive. I got the clear impression that my concern was not welcomed by Tim’s family. It was like I was once again just trying to boss Tim around. It ticked me off because they had spent comparatively little time with us and didn’t understand Tim’s physical limitations. Of course, Tim wanted to save face with everyone and not admit that his abilities were compromised. Things were extremely tense between Tim and I. I went to the lakeside so Frankie could swim and just cried while I stood there alone. What if we don’t ever get a do-over? What if we have spent our last 4th of July together fighting?

On the way home, one of Tim’s family had too much to drink and was fighting with his wife and daughter. By the time the mile walk home was completed, there were a couple of people crying. We tried to interrupt the fighting to say goodbye but we couldn’t even break in. We got in the car and Frankie asked what the heck was going on? Tim fumbled an answer about how sometimes people get upset and don’t behave very well.

We ended up spending an entire counseling session processing this event. Tim and Scott concluded that Tim kind of gets out of sorts sometimes when he’s around his family. The fighting brings back tough memories and also reminds him of where his own temper can take him if he doesn’t work hard at controlling it. We were sad, but are hoping that we get a chance next year to have a more positive and happy 4th of July celebration together. Maybe we can even rival Father’s Day!