Thursday, October 2, 2008


It seems melodramatic to say that I've survived one week without the love of my life--especially when other wives send their husbands to war with no promise of a return or even a phone call for months or years on end. Indeed, if at any point during Jeff's illness God had said to me, "Kelly, I will cure him. He will live forever in complete comfort and happiness, but in return, you have to promise to never see him or hear from him again" I would have quickly and without hesitation agreed to the bargain. The fact that Jeff is dead really doesn't change the terms all that much--I merely need to uphold my end of the deal. So, now I must wait for "forever" to come so that I can see him again.

The trouble is that forever can be a very long time. I used to never feel like I had enough time to do anything--I rushed from task to task and place to place under the constant pressure of too little time. Now, all I have is time. Now, there is nothing BUT time. For Jeff, "forever" was only 36 years, 4 months and 4 days. I think of all the times I prayed for a long healthy life and now I think, "be careful what you wish for--you just might get it." And of course, I want to live a long and healthy life--especially for my children--but I long to see Jeff's blue eyes again and to hear his voice and I worry that my memories of these things will either distort or diminish over time and that, eventually, I will only remember the Jeff that I created and not the one that was.

I know I will never forget Jeff. The kids will never forget him. And it's clear from the amazing turn-out at his visitation and funeral that others will remember him fondly and often. I know it sounds crazy, (I'm convinced that grief breeds insanity), but I would love a little reciprocation--just a little sign from Jeff that he remembers me too. I thought that death would bring more mystery and emotion. I thought that I would have a dream or hear a song or see a cardinal in the yard (Jeff loved watching them from our back porch) or some other glimmer of other-worldly communication unmistakeably intended for me. Instead, I am astounded by the nothingness of death. There are no signs. No sense of his presence. No shadows or flickers in the corner of my eye. There is, quite simply, nothing.

Even stranger, is that this does not upset me. Today, no one has cancer. Today, I am no one's wife. Today we are a party of five instead of a family of six. I have pondered these facts with an uncharacteristic ambivalence. I love Jeff and always will, but he is dead and as much as it pains me to say it, I will be fine without him. I have to be. And my kids have to be. So we are going back to school and back to work and will continue to live as the living do. Furthermore, I believe that if Heaven is all that we are told it is and someone in Heaven can only experience blissful moments, then the more we cry and lament and beat our chests in grief, the more we separate ourselves from Jeff because he cannot share in our agony. However, by living joyfully and by laughing and smiling we draw him nearer to us. So, I am choosing to grieve happily and to mourn consciously in joy and with the expectation that it is helpful to Jeff and, therefore, to all of us.

In the meantime, I am tethered to this world and the human emotions within it, so I still cry and feel sorry that Jeff had to suffer and die so soon and I make room for him and his memory in our "new" life without him. I have visited his grave twice each day since he was buried. He does not yet have a headstone (they take two or three months to deliver) and in the meantime, his grave is unmarked, so I bought a "shepherd's hook" (for hanging baskets in a garden) and placed it at the corner of his grave with a special wind chime hanging on it. Jeff loved wind chimes (which is not something he widely publicized), and would always shop for one as a souvenir when we went on vacation. Unfortunately, he never found one that had a sound/tone that he liked. So, I don't know if he'll like the sound of the one I gave him, but it is beautiful to look at--very eye-catching--and will at least make enough noise to herald the fact that he is buried beneath it.

Well, this is a long and rambling post, but now that I have no one to talk to at night, you will likely see more where this came from. Sad, but true.

Until next time, thanks for continuing to support us and pray for all of us. I am slowly making headway opening all the cards and memorials and have been overwhelmed by people's generosity and kindness. Our house is filled to bursting with flowers and food and it is such a comfort--not to mention a flattering reminder of what a wonderful father I chose for my children and that you all chose as your friend. May God Bless him and Keep him.



Mary M Clay said...

Thank you for the blog, Kelly. The wind chime is a wonderful idea and a beautiful reminder of the Angel that lies there. We'll be joyfully remembering Jeff with you and the kids.
We love you,

Kara Smith said...

Thank you for the blog. After a rough night, to read what you wrote reminds me of what it is that I should cherish. I was on a pity party, and your words booted me outof it! Thank you, I needed that.

I love that you can "ramble" to us as you say. More of us need reminders of how different our lives could be. I can know your feelings of nothingness, as I felt the same when my Mom died. I too expected to have a dream. Nope. Nothing. I too looked for the little things that would maybe be signs from her. I think in time, you may look back and think of things that have happened and maybe think of them as signs. Right now they may just be everyday happenings.

I know I can't tell you how to feel. I can't imagine what you are feeling, I just remember my feelings of loss of my loved one. I hope you feel God's loving arms now holding you when you cry. I hope you can find comfort in His word. I hope you can find peace. I pray for you and all of the family daily. Thank you Kelly for your strength and wisdom.

Heather S said...


I wanted to let you know that you are thought of often and always with good thoughts for you and your family. Your insight and inspiration have reminded me of the important things in my life. You and Jeff have taught us so much about life and how to live it to the fullest, thank you for that.

mka said...

Kelly, you know you can call me at night and ramble on any time you want to. And remember the time change, and I don't go to bed as early as you do. If it's ten there, it's only 9 here. I'm never
sure when to call you at night because you might have just gotten Finn to bed or something and then the phone rings. So call me anytime at night after the kids are in bed. Love, Mom

Jason Bryant said...


Scott and I JUST got back from Wisconsin... never let him navigate. Several times on the way home I thought if Jeff was sitting next to me we would be home already.

I shouldn't complain... we did get to go to Elgin, IL and sit in traffic for about an hour and later got to see the "World's Largest Truck Stop". (Is it suppose to be an 11 1/2 hour ride to Lincoln?)

Anyway, it was great to see you and your kids and the great community you live in. If we ever drive out again Scott is going to be riding in the back with my kids watching movies.

Also thank you so much for keeping the blog going... it will be helpful to all of us.

Take care,


Laura Gilbert said...

Kelly -- I don't know the right words, and don't think I can offer comfort, but I do believe this -- you will never forget Jeff. It's been 13 years, and I still remember his voice and what his face looked like in action, usually smiling and laughing (this from a girl who can't remember the last name of that guy she dated for like, a year . It's a cliche to say you guys squeezed a lifetime into 14 years of marriage, because it's not true -- you should have had more time. It's that simple. But I believe that the love you two shared and the family you built -- those kids who all look like a perfect mix of the two of you -- keep him close by and with you forever, even if you haven't seen any signs yet. Maybe they're the signs. I bet you're sick of hearing how strong and amazing you are, but it's true. And because of that, I believe one day there will be beauty for you again, and light, and signs, and happiness without pain. And I'll keep praying for that, and for you. Your family is in my heart. Laura

Anonymous said...
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Ann R said...

Kelly and Family,
I was so glad you are here ! And to still be hearing your thought's and feeling is also very comforting and to know how you all are doing. You are such a strong person and a great leader so keep up the good work. I will be checking in to hear about your good and bad days.
Enjoy your blog.
Keep in touch, Ann Reins

Katie Clancy said...

Kelly, our dear precious friend! Thank you for the update. Many, many times each day this week I have thought of you and how you and the kids are doing. My heart aches for you. I hope it brings some peace that so many are watching out for you from the "bench" - all your fans here on the blog, and countless more I know. This is your path - my advice is to cut it in your own way as you always have and don't look back. Continue to do what's right for you and baby yourself. Everyone grieves in different ways and don't let people tell you you should be doing this or that.

We made it back to Idaho today and I will call you to check in in person. In the meantime, we're all with you in spirit and are rooting for you. Lots of love.
Ps. After your call your mom you can call me. I am on Mountain time and up late usually. Once the baby comes we will be up all night...

SandyS said...

If my sister isn't answerig her phone, you can always call me. I am the one who raised the night shift workers, as I refer to your cousins,and have never learned how to go to bed at night. I listen good, and promise to offer you useless advice that I don't expect you to take, and when you don't I won't be upset. (My kids don't take my advice so why would I expect you to, even if I am always right. LOL) I have always thought you were special and I haven't changed my mind a bit, so you go girl, your instincts are usually right. Don't doubt yourself now, it's time to do it your way.

Johnny said...

Please ramble...
It keeps us that are still fighting strong, it really does, when I get done crying, I really do have more strength to keep fighting this...thank you
And I hope that I can find the strength to make Jeff (and you) proud.


Joanne said...

I sat here and cried while I read the Lincoln Journal Star and then proceeded to read Jeff's blog. I do not know you and your family, but know that you (and Jeff) are helping others in so many ways. One way is by sharing how the cancer came to be. I, too, have had melanoma. I understand the bargaining with God Jeff said he went through. I did the same thing when I was first diagnosed. It has been 9 years and the doctors have quit with the chest x-rays and blood work, but Jeff has given me a "sign" to not take the years without melanoma for granted. I will now ask for a check-up with chest x-ray and blood work yearly. Thank you, Jeff and Kelly.

Family said...


I have just learned that there will be a memorial mass offered for Jeff's soul on Thursday, October 16th at 7:30 am at the Pius X Chapel with a light breakfast to follow. Please post this so that folks in Nebraska may have a chance to gather in prayer for Jeff. A general head count would be helpful. If possible people can let me know at

Please know you and the kids are in all our prayers. Thank you for continuing to share you thoughts with us as you continue through this journey. May God continue to bless you.

Kristie (Hanigan) Schroll

Family said...

Please consider that the long wished for sign from Jeff may simply be in the peace and quiet stillness of life,a bit of irony from the witty soul. You have an incredible insight and wisdom. How fortunate your children are to have such a strong and wise mother. Jeff is certainly looking out for you all.