Posted in Death&Dying, Grief, Marriage, Relationships, widow, Women

Remembering #myKevin Day 3 Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Day of the Fire…

When I awoke Sunday morning, December 17, 2017, Kevin didn’t speak to me when I said “Good Morning” to him. I knew he wouldn’t but I always tried to show him my willingness to move on. I was determined have a good day.

This was the 3rd Sunday of the month. I wasn’t scheduled to work in the trustee office but I was going to church anyway. My son and I. After church, I wasn’t ready to go back home to deal with the tension-filled, silent environment, so Nate and I went to the movies.

We returned home about 4 o’clock. Kevin was in the bathroom, a place he treated like his private office. He had his MacBook, his keyboard, and a beat machine that he creating original beats with. About a month before he’s started uploading his creations to his page on a site called Soundboard.

I didn’t have to worry about cooking dinner. On my caregiving journey, I’d finally learned how to ask for help. I’d enlisted the help of my in-laws to help me out with meal preparations. One of Kevin’s was cousins was a caterer. He’d hooked us up with a pan of baked chicken, green beans, and roasted potatoes. I ate some food and propped myself up on the couch to watch a few Hallmark holiday movies, something I was entertaining for the first time ever.

Kevin remained in the bathroom for the remainder of the evening. I was on the couch. Nate and Tya, my kids, and our two dogs were upstairs. Around 10pm, Kevin emerged, appearing in better spirits. He was going to go out for a drive and asked me to make him a couple of tanks. I did, knowing he’d be in even better mood when he returned. He always was after getting some fresh air.

I returned to the couch for my Hallmark holiday and eventually drifted off to sleep. When I heard Kevin come in, I got up to assist him with connecting back to the home oxygen tanks. Before he walked back to the bathroom, he kissed me softly on my cheek and said, “Thank you.”

The small gesture of kindness was monumental. My heart smiled.

Less than an hour later I was awakened by the smoke alarm blaring through the house. Though I’d heard it before, for some reason, that night, I knew something was wrong. I jumped off the couch and ran into the entryway of the kitchen and saw Kevin holding himself up against the wall, looking down. I looked down to see what he was seeing. One single flame coming from the oxygen cord that would change the everything.

I wanted to ask, “What the hell happened?” But that wasn’t the time for questions. It was a time for action.

After our efforts failed to put the the flame out, I found the courage to pick the cord up and carry it through the living room, and then out the front porch, dropping it on the bank of snow of the porch.

The flame was extinguished. I breathed a sigh of relief. I thought the worst was over.

It wasn’t.

Everyone made it out of the house, including Kevin. But he wouldn’t come off the porch. When I urged him to get in the truck with the kids, he said, “I can’t.”

Those were the last words I heard from my husband.

When he sat down on the porch I thought he was waiting for help to arrive. That’s what I was waiting for. We literally lived less than a block away from the fire station.

The fire trucks and ambulance finally arrived. I immediately directed them to Kevin.

“He needs his oxygen,” I instructed them like I was the professional. As the tended to Kevin, I watched flames tearing through the little cute house we had just moved into.

In hindsight I wish I had run to Kevin’s side, grabbed his hand while it was still warm.

By the time the fire inspector finished questioning me and I was able to get to hospital where they’d taken Kevin, the doctor told me Kevin had gone into cardiac arrest and was on life support.

By this time it’s nearing midnight. The hospital transferred us to another one. They gave me hope that Kevin could come out of this state. I wanted to hope but I felt like he was already gone.

Posted in Family, Life After, Relationships, widow, Women

Life After Vlog Series–Widow’s Who Say They’re Fine

In this second video of my Life After Vlog, I talk about celebrating my 2nd birthday last month without my husband as well the approaching holidays. It still seems surreal that I’m living without him.

When asked in those early months how I was doing following my husbands passing, the answer was the same as what it is now.

“I’m fine” or “I’m doing okay”.

But what else would I be in those particular settings–at church, in the office, at a sorority function, at a party. I was absolutely fine in those moments. No one was there , however, to ask that question when I was alone in the rental house awaiting the repair of my home, or driving in the car listening to a song Kevin loved to sing or traveling along a route we drove so frequently together, or when I was enjoying something that I wished I were enjoying with him.

I wasn’t always fine when I said I was. Sometimes I say, “I’m fine”, to convince myself that I was. Other times, like I say in the video, it’s because I actually was in those moment. The best advice I can give when dealing with the widow in your life is to prayer for her continued strength. She’s needs it.

Naturally Yours,

Posted in Family, Inspiration, Relationships

Honoring My Veteran

Though my dad and I are currently estranged, his choice, I might add, I still take the time to honor him for his service to our country. My dad served in the United States Army and fought in the Vietnam War. I hadn’t been born yet, but it would be many years after my birth that I would begin to touch the surface of what he truly sacrificed for this country.

My dad never talked much of his time in the war. I can count on one hand how many times he mentioned something about it in my 44 years of life. But from what he shared about what he endured during the war coupled with his abandonment issues from his youth, I know my dad returned from the war physically whole but with emotional issues that only issues that God deliver him from.

My understanding of this is the only thing that allows me to focus less on my own pain from his deliberate absence from my life and to pray for his pain. I know my dad is only one of thousands of Veterans who return from war forever damaged. I’m sorry for the other children suffering in relationships with their mothers or fathers who suffered emotional damage from war. Our Veterans deserve so much more than the freebies they get on this day.

Today I texted my dad “Happy Veteran’s Day”, pushing away any expectation of a reply. It could go either way. Instead I reflected on fond memories of these pictures of better times with my dad. It was November 2015. My late husband, son, and I had gone to meet my dad at one his favorite steak joints. He way happy. I was happy. My husband and son were happy. It was a good day.

I was sharing these photos with a coworker when I received a text.

“Thank you”. My heart kinda leaped.

Happy Veteran’s Day,

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Posted in Christianity, Death&Dying, Family, Husbands, Marriage, People, Relationships, Uncategorized, widow, Wives, Women

My Grief Journey—45 Days In

What does 45 days of being a widow look like? At the same time that everything has changed, so much is the same. The very next day after my husband passed, I had to get up to take my son to school. Crazy, right? Well, it made perfect sense to me at the time. It was semester finals, only 2 hours over 3 days, and then he’d be out for the two week Christmas break. The first day and week was spent with phone calls from family, friends, expressing condolences and investigators from the fire department and insurance company asking me the same questions over and over again. That was annoying but obviously necessary. I was glad when it came to an end.

Thanks to all those phone calls and the pressing need to shop for all of the necessities we’d lost, the days were busy but not long enough. It was the early morning hours and late nights when my grief wouldn’t let me avoid her. It was then I had no choice but to acknowledge that Kevin was gone. Now that I’m in my temporary rental home, away from the full home of my sister and her family, thus having more time to myself, those moments are more frequent yet sporadic. I’ll been browsing the cable guide and become sad, my eyes are filling with tears as I see the programs that he enjoyed—namely MSNBC and Supernatural, and Young & the Restless. He was a All My Children guy until I decided started back watching Y&R a couple years ago. Then in true Kevin fashion, it took over. I’d just get the highlights from him. Now I watch hearing his commentary in my head.

My news junkie is gone. Now I have to force myself to watch more news since I don’t fall asleep and awake to MSNBC.

The first couple of trips to the grocery store were tear jerkers. Whether at his favorite spot, Meijer, or mine, Kroger, all I can think about is stuff I don’t have to buy or think about cooking because based on his needs and wants. Will I ever buy tuna again or Crystal Light packets?

It hasn’t been all sadness over these first 30 days. The journey of mourning the loss of a loved has also included joyful laughs and some guilt along the way. The week he passed I went bowling with my daughter, her boyfriend, and my son. I felt ashamed and guilty for having fun, though I could hear Kevin saying, “You better live Char! You know I’m just chilling up here with the Lord and my boy Job.” That same day, we ate dinner at me and Kevin’s anniversary spot, Cheesecake Factory, ironically, seared at the same table as Kevin and I did on our last visit. Rather than request to be moved, I recalled fondly our time there on our 5th anniversary last March. On the flip side, the kids and I have shared genuine laughs recalling our favorite “Kevin” moments and sayings. One of mine is, “You don’t think fat meat is greasy.” My son’s should be, “Going to see a man about a dog,” Kevin’s reply whenever Nate asked where he was going.

As I prepare for the rebuilding of our home I feel guilty for looking forward to having virtually a new home. When the word “widow” fills my mind, I feel stuck in quicksand, unable to move. Kevin thought telling me frequently about his imminent death that he could prepare me for this time.

Nope, epic fail.

It’s just one day at a time kind of thing. But each of those is filled with missing various aspects of him….us.

This is my grief journey.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

(C)2018 LaCharmine (L.A.) Jefferson

Posted in Caregiving, Death&Dying, Family, Relationships, widow

Happy New Year Somehow

Less than a month ago I was contemplating my end of year post. I didn’t want to follow the usual course of declaring what I’d planned to do in the new year. Instead I began compiling a list of what I was leaving behind in 2017.

Stressing over weight loss

Lack of confidence

Indecisiveness

To name a few…

But the night of December 17th changed all of that. After a day of church, movies with my son, and an evening stretched out on the couch watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel, I fell asleep easily on the couch feeling that it had been a good day.

Then at about 11:30 that night, not long after I’d fallen asleep, the fire alarm broke through my restfulness. I leaped from the couch and came upon a torch-like flame blowing from my husband’s oxygen tube in the hallway of the kitchen.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. From there everything went so fast.

My husband was standing in the doorway of our bedroom. Not panicked at all.  He calmly told me to get the fire extinguisher. I did. I pointed it toward the flame, squeezed the lever and hardly anything came out. I didn’t waste anytime with it anymore. My son was there too. Both of us tried to extinguish the flame to no avail. I thought I saved the day by carrying the burning cord onto the porch, throwing it in the snow, where eventually that flame went out.

But, apparently, something else was burning. When the fire department arrived and I stood outside hoping that they arrived in time to get our dogs out of the house, I saw a flame coming through the other side of the house. Obviously, the firefighters were as cautious as I was about entering the house with oxygen inside. Still, I thought we’d only end up with some smoke damage in the back of the house.

Not so.

Within a few hours I’d lost my home, my two dogs, and my husband.

My husband’s scarred lungs and heart couldn’t handle the smoke inhalation and trauma of the night. He suffered cardiac arrest, I believe, before the fire department even arrived, which was within 10 minutes of me calling. From one hospital to another, he never regained consciousness.  He was never able to tell me what happened, what caused the fire, if he even knew. He was never able to tell me that he loved me. Not that night. But luckily he expressed his love to me all the time, even when the frustration of his illness got the better of him and he wasn’t so nice. I never doubted for a minute that he loved me and appreciated me for being there with him during this challenging time in our life.  And he knew I loved him.

Now I’m beginning a new year without him. Totally didn’t see that coming. Nothing in my plans for 2018 included him not being apart of it. I had bought into my own optimism that my husband wasn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. God knew better.

My husband departed his earthly body in a hospital room with myself, my children, and his two daughters by his side. I know he didn’t want to leave. But when the Lord says its time, it’s time.

My heart is broken. I miss my husband. Still I was able to receive Happy New Year wishes and express the same because I know healing and restoration is coming my way.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Posted in Family, People, Relationships, Religion, Spirtituality

Letting Go

I celebrated my birthday on yesterday, October 15th.  My Facebook notifications began chiming as early as 12 a.m. Text messages a few hours later. Birthday wishes from my husband, son, daughter, other family, and closest friends.  A beautiful brunch of fine dining with my husband at a historic mansion in our city of Detroit. A gorgeous bouquet of fall flowers and a scrumptious cupcake from my daughter added to the festivities. It was a wonderful day. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.

Why, then, on the morning after such a wonderful day was my heart saddened that my own father didn’t call or text, at the very least, to wish me a happy birthday? Though I’m not surprised, my feelings are still hurt. Hurt that my father willfully didn’t acknowledge my birthday. Who does that to their daughter who has only shown him love, kindness, forgiveness, and respect?

I wouldn’t be surprised if he was waiting for me to call him for a personal invitation to tell me happy birthday. Honestly, I considered it, then decided not to. I’m in the midst of raising a 13-year old soon-to-be young man, caring for and dealing with the often bad attitude of a chronically ill spouse. There is no time in my schedule to hold the hand of the man who should be the strong shoulder for me to lean on.

daughterdad

According to him, he lost me and my two siblings in his divorce from my mother 5 years ago. Five years ago, meaning all of us are good and grown. He didn’t lose anyone. Instead, he cast us away in the guilt that he feels for intentionally losing our family home to foreclosure so that mother wouldn’t get it; the guilt he feels for turning his back on the daughter he had with another woman at the onset of his marriage to my mother; guilt and shame that he can no longer declare himself  to be one of the last good men around as we know much of his dirty deeds.

Rather than admit that he can’t handle being around us in his unveiled, flawed state, he projects onto us, claiming we have deserted him. In the case of my brother and sister, they haven’t deserted him, but stopped chasing behind someone who will keep running away and blaming them for the distance.

The sympathizer amongst us, I hadn’t gotten to that point…yet. I loved my dad so much and I know that the messages that he hears in head are from the pit of hell, designed to keep him alone, angry, bitter, and filled with resentment and un-forgiveness. I had made it my mission to be there for him no matter what.

“I’ll never let you push me away Dad,” I declared to him a few years ago.

Fast forward to the present, that declaration is slipping from my heart like a freshly peeled mango slipping from my hands. Worrying about whether or not my father will accept my love and my willingness to have a relationship with him is as emotionally taxing as trying to get my husband to stop saying, “This could be my last Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthday, etc.”

Last week I purchased a book: Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls. Interestingly, I bought it for spiritual guidance for loving but letting go of some of my husband’s wayward ways. Hadn’t considered that I’d need it for letting go of my father’s waywardness, too.

By the completion of the book and steadfast prayer, I hope to have the following questions answered:

Am I wrong if I don’t call my father again?

Am I acting out of hurt and frustration?

Am I contributing to the problem by letting go?

Will my father ever understand the effects of his behavior on his love ones?

Do I continue to pray for him while keeping my physical distance? Or is it time to trust God to answer the prayers I’ve already prayed?

 

Posted in Caregivers, Caregiving, Encouragement, Family, Health, Inspiration, Lifestyle, People, Relationships, Travel, Women

No Time Like the Present

My longtime girlfriend has been living in Dallas, TX for at least 7 years. She relocated there after accepting a promotion with the company she’d been working for in our hometown.  Once down there, she met her current husband and they’ve since started a family. Dallas is clearly her home now. As most of her family is here in Michigan, she comes to visit once or twice a year. However, her time is usually consumed with family so I never get to spend much time with her.

I don’t know why it never occurred to me to go visit her. Actually…I do.

Before I started visiting my husband on weekends he was out of town for work or attending a conference for my sorority, I was not really into traveling. The only trips that I took my children on was 5 hrs away to Chicago and across the bridge to Canada to enjoy an indoor waterpark. Traveling was not something I fit into my vacation or financial planning.

This past summer a friend invited my son to go on a trip to Disney World with her family. I didn’t want him to miss out on the opportunity but I was hesitant. First, he’d never been on a plane before. Second, he expressed fear about getting on a plane. So I decided that his first flight needed to be with me. Around this same time, I was on the brink of caregiver burnout and didn’t see a way to give myself a real break.

Lo and behold, the company I work for hosts an annual conference in Dallas that I always say that I’d like to attend. Why hadn’t? There was no good reason. So this year I took the opportunity to kill three birds with one stone: attend the conference, visit my friend, and take my son on his first flight.

Everything was awesome. That Dallas September heat was no joke but it was so good to be away from home. To be a guest in my friend’s home. To wake up on Saturday morning and not have to think about what I was going to cook for breakfast for myself or anyone else! My friend and her husband took good care of us.

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My son in the co-pilot seat

 

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A round of miniature golf in the hot Dallas son with my friend’s family

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Go-Kart racing

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Partial group family pic…my friend’s husband was MIA

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Taking a break from the conf. Enjoying a book in the pool

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My son getting his swim on

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Mom & Son chilling at the pool

The question that repeated through my head was, “Why’d it take you so long to do this?”

I have another girlfriend who’s been living in Atlanta for the last 7 yrs. Besides going down for her wedding five years ago, I haven’t been there for a real visit. After I visit family in Tennessee next year, Atlanta will be my next stop.

It’s funny how, in theory, we know that tomorrow is not promised. Still, we tend to live our lives like we have all the time in the world. My husband’s diagnosis with a life-threatening illness changed my perspective. Although  supporting him through this illness doesn’t allow me to a lot of time to do as much as I’d like, I still make a point to do as much as I can.

Is there anything you’re putting off for tomorrow that you need to be doing today? Share in the comments  below.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.