So…Coronavirus is in full effect. The kids are out of school. You may be working from home. God-forbid, you’re in self-quarantine! Whatever the case, many of us are spending a lot of time in our homes these days. Why not take some time to catch up on my Life After Vlog series? Posted here are the last four of 2019. And if you subscribe to my channel you’ll be one of the first to see my first video of 2020. Like the videos? Then hit the “thumbs up”, then subscribe. Have a question or want to suggest a topic, put it in the comment section or comment in the blog.
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.
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.
I can’t properly remember my husband without remembering the bad times. As a married couple, we had just as many of those as we had good days. And even more as his health worsened.
Having a great night like the one we’d had the night before didn’t prevent me and Kevin from have a typical Kevin and LaCharmine argument. The kind where the real small things blows up into something much bigger.
After Kevin and I got home the Friday night, he went back out. Apparently his car wouldn’t start so he asked if he could take mine. I’m like, “Sure honey.” He goes about his business. I go to sleep.
The next morning, per usual, I’m up early, preparing to go out for my morning errands and such. I go outside and immediately notice my truck kinda hanging off the driveway . My first thought was like, “Hmm.” I get into the truck, crank up the engine, put in the reverse to back out the driveway. The wheels were spinning on the snow covered driveway but the truck wasn’t moving. Then my thought changed to , “Kevin, what the F$ck?”
I go in the house, fuming. Just not understanding why he couldn’t turn into the driveway like a normal person.
I say, “Kevin, my truck is stuck. I can’t get out the driveway.”
He says, “Oh yeah. I meant to tell you that. We’re going to half to call AAA.”
I think to myself, You forgot to tell me this important detail as I walking out the door.
But what I said was, “Well we don’t have AAA anymore. The membership expired. Are you going to pay it today?”
He says, coolly, “Nope. I paid for it last time.”
This ticked me off but I kept my mouth closed. I called AAA, paid the membership and put in the service call. The tow truck arrives in 20 mins.
Cool, I think. I can get out of here.
Now this is where the day went downhill…
Kevin says, “I need you to take me to get this part for my truck.”
Blank face…What, sir? I think to myself. Then I say something like, “You didn’t want to pay for the AAA to get the truck pulled out the ditch BUT you want me to put you above my plans for the day and do what you need me to do. I don’t think so!”
The yelling and cursing began.
I eventually caved and took him where he needed to go. But I was not happy about it. In the car, we continued to argue. At one point he threatened to get out of the car! LOL. I think I literally laughed at him on that one.
I dropped him off at home to tend to his car and finally got about my day. I knew I would pay for mouthiness with him later. Kevin was a silent treatment kind of guy.
That particular day, I was like, whatever. It was my 5th Deltaversary. I was going to enjoy my day with my line sisters.
My line sisters and I met at a local Applebees to have our annual toast for our Deltaversary. I was having a great time but Kevin was not far from my mind. I really hated arguing with him. Particularly because he held on to anger like a dog holding on to a bone.
Back at home, like I suspected, Kevin wasn’t speaking to me. I remember going to bed thinking, Damn. There’s goes our Merry Christmas…
The anniversary of my husband Kevin’s death, 12/18/17, feels more like a weekend event rather than one day. Because we had such an eventful weekend leading up to his death, my memory of his passing begins on the Friday before that fateful day…
In December 2017 the 15th fell on a Friday. Kevin and I are had plans to celebrate his sister’s surprise 50th birthday which was the day. I remember being at work that day and talking to my friend about possibly not going to the party. The terminal illnesses Kevin was dealing with, interstitial lung disease, caused him to be increasingly angry, resentful, and quite frankly, not pleasant to be around. For me, as his caregiver, at least. I was beginning to tire of the Kevin that Kevin became in the presence of his family. Positive, glass half-full, God is good all the time Kevin. Because with me, in the privacy of our home, I witnessed the total opposite. Full disclosure, he was often a jerk. But the expectation was for me to be with him. Not because he enjoying my company but because I was his wife, his support.
However, this day I was considering letting him go on his own and use the time with him away to enjoy some peace at home. I had a conversation with my coworker about it and she understood but she encourage me to go. And by the end of my workday I decided to do just that. Putting Kevin’s needs before my own.
I didn’t tell Kevin that I had thought about not going to the party. That would have just soured whatever mood he was in when I got home. Plus I had decided that we were going to have a good night. I was not going to press him about us being on time to the party to be apart of the surprise. He hated when I rushed him for anything. I told myself, “This is his sister’s party, and we will get there when he wants us to.” Once I relieved myself of that pressure, I was able to relax to tend to his his needs.
While Kevin prepared himself for the party, I prepared Kevin for the party. I put 8 full sized metal oxygen tanks & all five of the liquid oxygen tanks in the back seat of Kevin’s truck. We would need enough oxygen for the 35 minute ride to and from party and for the time we were at the party and anything that came up along the way. The time we had been dealing with life with supplemental oxygen we tried our best to prepared for anything.
Thankfully we made big to the party in time to yell “surprise” along with everyone else. Though kevin was physically struggling breath, I could tell he was happy. Kevin loved being around his family and his family loved to be around him. There was a lot of love between them.
If there was a prayer to be a given during a family gathering, Kevin was always the one to do it. But at this event, after taking family pictures, Kevin’s mom or sister requested prayer for Kevin. We formed a circle around him as the minister present prayed for him. When the prayer was finished Kevin had his own words to share.
“I don’t want y’all to worry about me. My God’s got me and I’m gonna be alright!”
He’d moved everyone in the room, in kid me, to tears. In that moment I couldn’t have been happy that I decided to attend the party with him. To witness the heart of a dying man who thought so much of his family to have comforting for them when he was one in greater need of comforting.
When we got home, I was in such a good mood. Kevin was too. The night had been a good one.
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.
Thursday, August 1, 2019 marked the culmination of my first year as a graduate student of the Masters of Library Science program at Wayne State University! Only a special kind of person–or maybe a glutton for punishment–undertakes a graduate program while displaced from their permanent residence due to a house fire, adjusting to life after the passing of their spouse, taking responsibility over a rental home that deceased husband managed, and a host of other things that you’ve probably already read about on my blog. But, I did it! And quite successfully, too, I might add. 4.0 GPA first semester, 3.5 the second, and a 3.0 this current semester.
Although I did well, I put myself through a lot stress at a time in my life when I should have been relaxing as much as possible. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should do something, I advised myself.
Now, I don’t regret, at all, the decision to begin this program. I’d been contemplating it for a few years before finally applying. However, it might have been a good idea to start with one class instead of two. It took those first two semesters of talking myself out of quitting a time or two before I came to my senses and only registered for one class this last semester.
Forty-three year old LaCharmine cannot do graduate school the way twenty-five year LaCharmine did it.
Prior to the end of this semester, I told myself it was time for a break.
“Not even one class, LaCharmine,” I said to myself sternly. (I need that kind of talking to sometimes).
I need my evenings and weekends as free as they can be (given my church & sorority commitments).
I need time for writing.
I need time for reading.
I need time for getting my house how I want it.
I need time for dating. (Yes, I said it. Dating!!!)
Hmm…will I listen to myself and take a break from school? How will my first date go after 10 years out of the game? Will I accomplish the goal of completing novel #3 by end of 2019? Follow my blog for more #lifeafter posts.
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.
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
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.
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.