about the men i love... for the girls that are my world.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

It isn't perfect... It isn't pretty.

It's been awhile....  I wasn't going to post anything about today. Things didn't really go as planned. But then I decided something, I'm all about sharing the reality of grief, the good, the bad and the ugly. Because if it will help one person, then so be it. It's worth it. So here it goes.
Today, was a bit on the ugly side.
Ok, a lot on the ugly side.
The embarrassing side.
The side of grief that you desperately try to avoid, to keep locked up inside.
But sometimes, sometimes you just can't.
I took a Conceal Carry Class this weekend. I've been wanting to do it for awhile now. I always used the excuse for not wanting to carry a handgun, being that I wasn't comfortable, didn't know enough about the mechanics, etc. I've never been afraid of guns. Just never knowledgeable or comfortable with them either.
Then, a fantastic, too good to pass up, class became available, so it was time. I was excited. It was intriguing to learn about the basics, and empowering, thinking I could learn to protect myself.
Then the time came for qualifications, at the range.
I thought I'd be just fine.
The guy next to me started shooting. Every shot, every casing falling to the floor, shook me to the core. I couldn't stop it, and I couldn't suppress it. Almost 8 years later, the thought of that sound, and my husband Brian fighting for his life, took me right back.
I couldn't hold it in. And I started crying. Not the pretty kind of "tears rolling down your cheek" crying. But the sobbing, blood shot eyes, mascara running, UGLY crying.
And then I got mad. I got mad that I couldn't control my emotions. I couldn't hide my grief, I couldn't stay strong.
But you know what.... Where there once was great love, there is great grief. I've forgotten who quoted the original statement, so please forgive me, but it couldn't be more true.
I was so mad. So angry that there are terrible people out there, who want to harm someone, purely because of the uniform they wear.
I was beat down. Mentally defeated. And I wanted to quit, I wanted nothing more that to leave. To say.... I'm sorry, but I can't do this.
But then, all of a sudden I could feel Brian, I could feel him smile and roll his eyes and say "Sarah, get yourself together, are you kidding me??? You CAN do this!"
So, I pulled myself together, and I finished.
And I passed.
It wasn't perfect, and it wasn't pretty.
But you know what? Life isn't either.
My target kind of looks like shit (sorry for the language).... but I'm still learning.
And, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't pretending that it was the person who killed my husband, so that seems about appropriate now doesn't it?
Here's the real deal... grief sucks. Grief comes out of nowhere, and it slaps you in the face when you least expect it. But it's also a reminder of great love and a great person.
And for that, I'll take it whenever, wherever. Because he's worth it...  Always, and forever.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

When You Remember....

This post may be a little different than the ones before. But it's something that has been weighing heavily on my heart and mind lately.
My first husband Brian, and my first true love, has been gone now for almost 6 years.
In those almost 6 years, not one single day has passed that I haven't remembered him, missed him, or thought of him.
Just because time moves on, and the days go by and everything changes, doesn't mean the hole in my heart has closed.
And I think I can speak for anyone who has lost someone very close to them, especially a spouse, when I say, thank you for remembering.
Thank you for remembering that on occasion, days can be hard. Not just the anniversary days or the birthdays. But the normal, run of the mill, everyday kind of days.
Thank you for remembering that even happy times, such as another first day of school, or milestone that our daughter achieves, is a source of joy for me, but also sadness for the one who is missing it.
Thank you for being there, even if you didn't know what to say, but for just being there. Your presence and support means more to me than you'll ever know.
Please don't be afraid to mention his name to me.
You won't make me sad, I promise.
You'll make me smile, because you remembered him. Because you reminded me of a memory, or his smile, or his laugh.
Thank you for understanding that I will speak of him often, even to people who didn't know him. I will always carry his memory with me and sometimes I just need nothing more than to share who he was with the world, thank you for listening.
If you didn't know him, thank you for asking me about him. It saddens me, that so many people never had the privilege or honor to know him and his quiet, revered, stoic personality.
But if you ask me, I'll tell you.
His name is an everyday name in our household. And our daughter does things that remind me of him daily. I thank God for her everyday, she is my living piece of him. She will carry on his legacy. She is proud of her Dad, and that makes me proud.
Thank you for knowing, that I am truly happy again, and for sharing in my happiness.
Yes, I still have times when I hurt and there will always be a piece of me that is missing.
But thank you for not treating me like I'm broken.
Because I'm not.
I'm the same person I was before, in many ways, and a different person, in many ways too.
Because the loss changed me, a part of me went with him. A part of me that will never come back.
But believe it or not, I gained something....
I gained the ability to enjoy life to the fullest. I have a new found respect for life. And for the blessing of my husband Derek and all 3 of my children. I appreciate every minute God has given me with them.
My faith is deeper because I know this is all bigger than me, much bigger.
I may never understand why things that have happened, did happen, but I realize that's just it, I'm not supposed to.
I gained the ability to find great peace in the memories I hold deep in my heart, and the ability to live in the moment, and make new memories with those I love.
I've learned not to live in the past, or worry about the future, but instead to live in the present. Life is complete when you appreciate all aspects of it equally.
I'm not perfect. I never have been, never will be. But I am happy, and I am thankful. I appreciate the past, I enjoy the present, and I look forward to the future.
Sometimes when the cards I've been dealt cause my heart to feel heavy and moments are difficult, and I am sad for the loss I've suffered...
I remember Brian, because that's the easy part.
Thank you, for remembering, too.

Monday, May 4, 2015

what Really matters...

Fourteen years ago tonight, Brian asked me out on a date. For the first time. He picked me up in his moms car and took me to the Outback Steakhouse. I still remember what he was wearing, the booth we sat in, what we ordered and what CD he was playing on the drive there. Fourteen years ago. It seems like yesterday, and a lifetime ago, all at the same time.
It's impossible for me not to reflect back on so many things this time of year. Or, to look at the present and the future and realize how many events in our life are different now. Different now because of the absence of one person. A very important person. Whose life mattered.
As my 3 year old newly diagnosed diabetic daughter will tell you, at times, when we have to check her blood sugar or give her insulin.... it's not fair.
And I have to say, I agree with her, it's not fair. Because I miss him.
Sometimes life's not fair.
It's not fair that he wasn't here to see Natalie make her first communion this past weekend. She was so excited. And part of me would have given anything if he could have shared in her joy with her.
It's not fair that he won't be here this upcoming summer to see his beautiful little sister get married.
I could go on and on with the pity party.
But I won't. I refuse to do that.
Instead, I feel like it is my responsibility to share his memory, most importantly with our daughter Natalie, but also with the rest of the world.
I'm sick of the crap in Baltimore, quite frankly its disgusting. But it is, yet once again, a reminder of a life that was taken from us all to soon. And of course a lack of outrage because the tables were turned. I'm not even going to get started on that... I could write a book.
But the more I think about it, I don't want Brian to be remembered just for that. I want him to be remembered for the man he was.
Brian wanted nothing more than to be a Deputy, so that he could help people. And that's exactly what he was trying to do that day in September. Trying to help someone who he thought was the victim of a crime, and instead became the victim of one himself. "Not fair," doesn't even cut it.
He's not here with us anymore, but who he was mattered. His life MATTERED.
He was a loyal, dedicated family man. He was quiet, but he was funny. He was sometimes sarcastic, and never took himself too seriously.
He was a fantastic cook. He loved BBQ sauce, and beer.
He was very intelligent and graduated from WSU with honors.
He was a huge fan of the Kansas City Chiefs, and loved cold weather. We made it to a game every year, despite the temperature. Those are some of my most favorite memories.
Christmas was his favorite holiday.
His idea of the perfect vacation was a trip to the lake.
He had seen every episode of Seinfeld and could quote the entire movie Dumb and Dumber.
He loved to hunt. But, I know he loved Natalie and me more than anything in the world, even hunting.
It deeply saddens me to think of all the people whom never had the privilege of knowing him, and never will have that opportunity.
But you can spend your life focusing on a myriad of what has gone wrong, or might go wrong...
OR, you can focus on what has gone right. I am forever grateful that I was one of the privileged people who did really know Brian. How blessed I was that God chose me for Brian's wife and the mother of his child. I feel honored that I can be the one to teach our daughter all about the man he was.
How very thankful I am for all the memories.
People have often told me, "God doesn't give you more than you handle." However, recently, I read, "God helps you handle all that you are given." ...that's more like it.
So even when life seems unfair and the daily struggles are overwhelming, or the pain in my heart is over flowing... I can handle it. It may not be easy, or fair, but I can handle it.
I know, by the grace of God, I feel Brian with me every step of the way, and nothing could ever convince me differently.
So here we are, fourteen years later. I'll share, with Natalie, some funny memories I have of that first date... and I'll tell Kate and Charlotte about him too... really, anyone who will listen.  I will keep his memory alive.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Joy and Sorrow

What a bittersweet time of year... I have always adored this season, with the cooler weather, and the excitement of the upcoming holidays. Lately though, it definitely brings on a different set of emotions and memories. Ones that didn't exist 5 years ago. Now, the first crisp fall weather day, makes it almost impossible not to feel as though I've been transported back in time to 2009. I can't believe its almost been 5 years. Sometimes, September 28, 2009 and the horrible events of that day, feel like yesterday. But, September 27, 2009, the last day we spent together and the last time I saw Brian, feels like a lifetime ago. Weird, I know.
I've been told there is really something unique to experiencing grief in the fifth year after loss, I believe it.
5 whole years.
1,825 days.
It seems like such a vast amount of time, and yet sometimes I feel like it has passed by in the blink of an eye. So many things have changed and happened. I have been so blessed, and have so many things to be thankful for, and so many wonderful memories to lean on. But a part of me feels as though I have been on an emotional roller coaster this past month. I can, and will, cry at the drop of a hat. Although, I'm certain now that there is another little one on the way, these pregnancy hormones aren't helping that aspect.
I really dislike grief being referred to as a "process", to me that means it would consist of a beginning and an end. Not the case. I feel as though its something you learn to live with and carry with you always, and it ebbs and flows. Maybe some would think that after 5 years had passed, it would be easier. Most days it is easier to live with. But some days it's harder. And it's always there.
So, here I sit, almost 5 years after losing Brian, and so many memories, feelings, and emotions are coming back with a vengeance. Only with almost complete clarity of mind. None of the initial shock the body produces to save the mind...
In many ways the grief feels so raw. So intense, just as it did right in those first days.
But its not all bad, it's also been good.
It seems that the feelings of pain and sorrow can come out of nowhere, and knock the wind out of you. Thankfully, also, so can the good memories. Recently, I was having a bad day and felt myself feeling devastated for several senseless officers deaths around the country. I was thrown back into going over September 28th again in my mind. And the days that followed leading to Brian's funeral.
I said several Hail Mary's in my mind, and tried to refocus on September 27th instead. And that last evening we spent together. We were happy and it made me happy.
That's what I have to focus on.
It's been so fun to share more and more little things with Natalie, as she gets older. We've watched old home movies, looked at pictures, talked about things he liked and didn't like. We've been talking a lot more lately about who he was, and his personality. She loves hearing about his love of animals and hunting. His magical ability to get her to go to sleep at night, after I had tried multiple times and failed. I've told her the songs he liked and she will recognize them when they come on the radio. She loves hearing about all of the things he did to aggravate me. She giggles singing "God is great, beer is good, and Mommy is crazy." She and Brian changed the lyrics a bit on that one.
Kate knows who Brian is, and jumps right in the conversation whenever we talk about him.
And I think, what a blessing.
I have all these wonderful memories, a beautiful daughter who will always carry on his legacy, and a growing family who bring me so much joy every single day.
Natalie recently came up with the idea to raise money and make a donation to the zoo, in honor of her Dad's memory. 
"He would really like that, because he loved animals. He used to want to be a vet. Did you know that Mom?" She asked me proudly with a smile.
"Yes, honey. I did know that. And I think you're right, he would love that."
She set her mind on doing something to celebrate his life. And although sometimes my heart is heavy, I am so proud. During the rough patches, that come around this time of year, she helps me to reminisce on the good times.
Life is always full of ups and downs. It was before September 28, 2009. And it is now. But it's all God's plan, and it's all beautiful.
I think back, and I smile. I look at Derek, Natalie, Kate and this new growing life and I smile.
I read something the other day, about not trying to minimize the pain of someone's grief. But instead to validate their feelings. Because it matters. Those feelings of grief matter. The person who is gone, mattered...
I am beyond blessed to have a husband who knows that, and to be surrounded by family and friends whom are there for me, when I don't even have to ask them to be.
Joy and sorrow can co-exist.
And they do.
I'll let the sorrow come and go when it needs. But I choose to live in the joy.

Friday, June 13, 2014

In the moment...

There's a full moon. It's Friday the 13th. It's almost Fathers Day. My anxiety is in overdrive tonight and I have a feeling this post may be all over the place. Please accept my apologies in advance.
I've been trying desperately to collect my thoughts, in some sort of organized manner, for the past week or so. Yet, every time I sit down to type, I feel like I can't make sense of anything inside my head, much less record it down. But I've got to try, it helps me in so many ways. So, I decided I'm just going to start typing. Here goes nothing...
Another May has passed, another month of memorials, another birthday of Natalie's has come and gone. It's always such a bittersweet day for me. But this year was a little different. My youngest daughter, Kate, is just a little over the age that Natalie was when Brian was killed. I look at her, she is so sweet, so very innocent. So trusting and accepting of everyone she knows. So sheltered from any hurt or wrongdoings in this cruel world we live in. It is such a reminder of how little Natalie was at the time. Such a reminder of how much she has grown, how much she has changed and how much Brian has missed.
Attending the police memorials this year had also taken on a bit of a different tone. It was the first time we attended a memorial and Natalie became upset. I don't mean, cry a little because she saw me crying, I mean sobbing, tears running down her face, hard crying. For the first time, she was able to put it all together, to look around and see so many officers, so many families, so many men and women whom all gathered together for one purpose. The honor and respect paid to all fallen officers, the honor and respect paid to her Dad.
What a dagger to the heart. To see my child physically hurting, and to feel so helpless. I remember sitting there for a minute, not knowing how to comfort my own daughter, because at that moment I couldn't comfort myself. All of those horrible feelings of pain, anger, hurt and anguish came flooding back in.
Then, I remembered the best advice I've ever been given....
Live in the moment.
Not too much in the past, not too much in the future, just right now.
At that moment, we were both sad and upset. As expected, and as we should have been. And you know what? That's ok. I hope if I can teach my girls one thing about grief... It's this: It's ok to cry if you need to cry, cry. It's ok if you need to laugh, laugh. It's ok to throw yourself a little pity party, kick and scream if you need to, just don't get stuck there. It' s ok to live for right now, and be happy.
Yes, I realize at times this advice can be much easier said than done, I struggle sometimes. But I try. I try to honor Brian's memory the best I can, by sharing stories and memories about him with Natalie, and with our whole family. Because I vow that he will never be forgotten, but I refuse to put the focus on the terrible events that happened which took him from us. He lived a life of 26 years, full of love, laughter and some trials as well, but wonderful memories were made that I will carry with me always. Natalie will always know the great man and father that Brian was.
And I vow, to do my best, to listen to that amazing woman's great advice and live in the moment. To soak up every moment of this life I've been blessed with, and the loved ones I share it with. As we all know, none of us are promised tomorrow.
This Fathers Day weekend, we will honor Brian's memory as always, and we will live in the moment. I give my thanks and praise to God for having blessed our family with a man whom is truly an amazing man and father. Derek is the most fun loving, ice cream for breakfast eating, always up for a good time, strong faith based man I know. And my girls are beyond blessed to have him for a father.

Friday, January 31, 2014

A Thankful Grieving Heart

It's been a quiet week around here. My poor sweet Kate has been sick, so I've barely left the house, other than to take Natalie to and from school. Life this week has consisted of lots of snuggles and watching movies on the couch with a 2 year old, who usually won't stop moving.
I will be honest, I hate it that she's been sick, it breaks my heart, but I am so thankful for the fact that she doesn't want to be more than 2 feet away from me, and isn't really content unless she's in my arms.... I've been eating that part up. She's finally feeling better, thank goodness. However the weather here is anything but desirable, so we still haven't left the house. Being cooped up can make you a bit stir crazy, but Natalie was out of school today, so we took full advantage of that and spent the whole day doing arts and crafts, which is one of her favorite things to do.  Other than the stress of a sick kiddo, the dreary weather, and feeling a little like you're being held hostage in your own home, things had been going well.
Until I started looking for something this week....
I needed to find some paperwork. I'd been putting it off, but it needed to be completed by the end of the month, so earlier this week I peeled Kate off of me, turned on Toy Story and went to the spot where I keep important paperwork. I just knew in my head exactly where things should be. Until I started looking, and couldn't find what I needed. I'm usually organized. Very, very organized. Anyone who really knows me, knows this to be true. However on the rare occasion, that's not the case.
I started to panic a little, and was angry with myself for procrastinating, which is something I rarely do. But thinking things maybe just got cluttered up a little bit, I started to look through the file box, of "important papers".
It went downhill from there.
Oh, the things I found.
I came across everything from medical records to funeral plans, complete with my scribbled notes on what readings were to be read and what songs to be sung. Funny, because I don't really have much recollection of writing it, and it doesn't look my handwriting, but I know it is. Among these important papers are multiple different birth certificates, and but one death certificate. Prior to 2009, I'd never had a death certificate in my possession. And most certainly not one in my "important papers file folder".
Mind you, I've needed it for several reasons in years past. It's not as if this was the first time I'd seen in awhile. But for some reason it really hit me this time. It hit me as much as it did the first time I held it in my hands. Opening that letter from Kansas Office of Vital Statistics, in my parents dining room, is one of those moments I will never forget. I remember looking it over. Thinking, this piece of paper, that came in the mail, makes it all that much more real. I remember when I saw it on an official document for the first time.
Cause of Death: Homicide.
Homicide. Something that happens in movies, or on TV, or in bad parts of town. Not to my husband. Not to my daughters father. Not to someone I loved more than life itself.
I looked at it again this week. And it hit me, just as hard. I was mad. I was angry.
That's when I came to a realization...  You don't lose someone just once. It doesn't happen for just one day, or one month, or one year. It happens over and over and over again.
It happens when you come across an old picture. A picture that you didn't think was even usable. Because I took it with my first smartphone, on a ride along with Brian, and it didn't have a flash. His face was so dark you could barely see it.
Derek looked at it, and thought he could edit it for me. And he did. God bless him.
When I first looked at it, I thought it was probably one of the best pictures I have of him. Because, it's perfectly him. And in a way, looking at it, for the first time in a long time, made me feel that pain of losing him all over again.
It's not just a one time thing, for someone you loved so much, it's forever.
It happens when your daughter asks you more and more questions, the older she gets. When, amongest the important papers, you find the folder where he saved every UPC code of every appliance or electronic you bought together. When you find the notes he had taken for an interview with the Wichita Police Department, long before he was hired by the Sheriffs Office, complete with bullets and a section on "Why I want to be a Police Officer".
I sat down on the kitchen floor and cried.
And then a little hand grabbed my arm.
"Momma, what's wrong?" Kate asked as she sat down on my lap.
"You crying?"
I wrapped my arms around her and cried even harder, but just for a little bit.
For a moment I was so angry, so upset. There is much truth in the fact that one doesn't go through the stages of grief just once.
But I looked at her and smiled. And she smiled at me.
What an amazing gift from God she is. And I never take her for granted.
I feel that the pain I carry in my heart from the loss of Brian, is somehow, in someway to thank for that.
The pain that is constantly there reminds myself to never take anything for granted. To be thankful for all that God has blessed with me with.
To take every moment, and soak it in.
Because it changes you. And in many ways for the better.
I am so thankful to be able to look back on so many happy memories I made with Brian.
And I am so grateful for the husband and father that I've been blessed with in Derek.
My girls will know nothing but love, and the memories of love. How very indebted I am for that.
Thanks be to God, for both of them, both of my girls and the many abundant blessings in my life.

Friday, October 25, 2013


I thought I'd have a few more years before the really tough questions came...
Most parents should only have to worry about the dreaded "where do babies come from?" question and etc. I have always been honest with Natalie. If she asks something I tell her the truth. Well, ok, maybe I fudge on a few certain topics, where Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are concerned... but I really do try to be honest with her. Not that she needs all of the details about every aspect of life. But honesty has always been my policy. I want to know the truth, why would I deny that to my kids? 
But what happens when I don't what to say? 
Last night as we were driving home we stopped by the substation before Derek's shift started and talked to him in the parking lot. As we drove away, Natalie says to me "I don't want to be a police officer when I grow up. I want to do a safe job, one where people don't get shot." 
Feeling a bit of a lump in my throat, I try to turn to a positive outlook. I tell her that police officers are very safe and they keep us safe (although, don't get me wrong, that's a career path I'd prefer none of children choose). She starts asking me questions... about what happened to Brian, what happened to Derek.
I try to be as simple and honest as I can, like I said I want to be honest, but she's only 6 years old. The last thing I want to do is scare her. 
Then she says it.
She asks me "Why?" 
"Why would some bad man do that?"
A million thoughts are racing through my head. I want to scream, I want to cry. Why is my first husband dead? Why did someone attempt kill my second husband?
I don't know WHY???
I don't think I ever will.... But my daughter is asking me. Maybe I should have sheltered her more. I want to protect her. I don't want to see her hurt. 
I will never forget when I had to tell her what happened. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I remember where I was, sitting, in an arm-back chair in my parents living room. Thanks be to God (and April) that she spent the day with a great friends, and she had fun. She dressed up, and played. She didn't have any of the pain or hurt that I did. 
I remember it, but I remember it in a fog. She walked into the living room, she'd had a bath and she was wearing Eva's pj's. She ran up to me and she was happy to see me. She was happy we were spending the night at Grandma and Poppas house.
Then I told her.
She cried. 
I sobbed. 
Here we are 4 years later. And she asks me "why?"
I guess I shouldn't be surprised, she is a smart kid. She is so inquisitive, so caring, so giving of herself. I thank God for her everyday. I want to teach her well.
I don't really remember what I said to her last night. But I know I didn't kick and scream like I felt like doing, and I remember her replying back to me "if there are bad people, we should pray for them, then maybe they won't be bad." 
I want to teach her to forgive. To be the bigger person. In all aspects of life. People will hurt you, they will say and do hurtful things. Set a better example. Never lower yourself to their level, rise above it.
But how do I even do that in this situation? I'm not sure I can ever forgive, for a life that was taken away. And a daughter that lost her father at the age of 2. 
So I pray about it. 
All any mother wants for her children is for them to be "ok". I was worried about that last night. Did I say the right thing? Do the right thing?
Then today, when we were driving back to the school after the field trip, we hit a red light at 119th and Kellogg. Natalie looks over to Resthaven and says "Hi Daddy! I love you." 
I look in the rear view mirror. Natalie's friend Mary is looking at her. Natalie tells her about her Daddy. Mary looks over towards Resthaven and says "Hi Natalie's Daddy!" and they start talking about something else. 
She's ok. 
She's proud of him. As she should be, as I want her to be. 
I look back at this last year past. And this last September 28th past. We celebrated life. We celebrated Brian's life. We celebrated Derek's life. 
As any mother, all I want, is what is best for my children. I want them to have the best life possible. 
It's funny, I look at this and realize, my girls are the ones teaching me what life is all about.