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We're friends, not doctors, financial or legal professionals, and we're not "grief experts." But we are here, and we've been "there."

My Sweetie Monika passed away in April 2015 after a 6 1/2 year battle with breast cancer.  She was diagnosed as late stage 3 on her 35th birthday in 2008 and was stage 4 in 2010.  She never let the cancer stop her from being a wonderful mother first, then wife and friend.  Even toward that later stages this year when she lost her vision and then had difficulty moving/talking, she still were very aware and made notice when either/both Maia and Evan (8yo and 7yo) were fighting or crying...she still trying to be the mother, though her body would not cooperate. We love and miss you; you are our hero and will always be remembered.

Note: I had originally written this on June 11, 2015 in our Caring Bridge site but I wanted to start with something on this blog.


As I walk on the deck ready to go inside to give Monika her next medicine dosage, this sound from above immediately catches my ear and I look up.  Flying majestically above me (and I mean directly above my head as I look up) about 30ft up is this beautiful blue heron with this huge wingspan.  "Hmmm, pretty cool.  Interesting that this was the first time I've ever heard a blue heron call out," I think to myself.  Blue herons are present where we live and I do see them around from time to time especially on the nearby lakes.

I go inside to the kitchen thinking how cool that blue heron was and that I should tell Monika about that heron.  Seconds later my friend Jen bursts into the kitchen with a look I'll never forget, grabs my hand and leads me towards Monika's bed in the living room - in those split seconds, my mind already knew what had happened.  I believe that the blue heron was letting me know that Monika's spirit was free to fly to the heavens and that there was no more pain for her.

It's been about a month and a half since Monika passed,  Those first few weeks were really rough for the kids and I.  Especially, on the Monday after the funeral when I went to pick up her ashes.  I talked to the kids about her ashes and the little memorial I have for Monika on the fireplace mantle where her urn is.  Along with her urn, is a picture of Monika (with platinum blonde hair) laughing and smiling at a New Year's Eve party at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, an amethyst geode piece, an angel statue, some San Paulo incense wood (her favorite) and a Phalaenopsis orchid that is currently blooming with white/lavender flowers (she loved orchids).  Every night since then and when I'm home during the day, I light a cancel for her.  The kids will remind me when I forget; they see the candle light as a beacon for Monika to find our house when she wants to visit.  Also, Maia just added a giraffe picture she drew yesterday for Monika at summer camp.

The amount of accounts and the paperwork for all these accounts have been a challenge.  I'm still working on the few accounts in getting them transferred.  Sometimes, I just can't due to the emotions that will work their way up.  Hopefully, in the next several weeks; I can be done with it.

Mother's Day was difficult for all of us and I think will be for a long time.  I had the kids make Mother's Day cards for Monika.  Maia insisted that I do not read her card, so as a concerned parent....I waited until she was playing downstairs and then read her card.  She wanted to know what's it like in heaven and if our three cats and dogs were with her and playing together.  She said she missed her "So much" (actually it was "so" with about 50 "O's", it took up half the page.  Evan drew hearts and said he loves Mommy.
Later that afternoon, I got the fireplace going since it was raining outside and we burned the cards - so that the smoke could fly to the sky and heaven where Mommy could read them.  Our new tradition for Mother's Day and also Monika's birthday.

Some say deaths comes in 3s; it would seem that holds some truth.  A couple of weeks later my friend (who submitted Monika's story to a local radio station and we were awarded a "Christmas Wish 2014") had her Mother pass away.  Then a week later, our across the street neighbor Bob passed away.  Monika and Bob would always check in with each other over the last couple of years because of the health concerns.  Bob would also help drop/pick-up the kids from the bus stop if Monika was running late.  He was our friend and will be missed.

So the emotions are still pretty raw and find their way through from time to time.  It is difficult at times but I then try to focus on the good memories, her smile, her comforting voice - her "I love you more" - those were the last words she spoke to me about week before she passed.  She was pretty drugged up and already in the hospital bed in the living room.  I told her "I love you" and she surprisingly responded back with a smile "I love more" - "I love you most", I responded back with a smile also (yeah, Tangled reference here).

So the kids are doing well and seem to only get emotional about Monika when they are over-tired.  I let them know that it's okay to still be sad and that the saddest will come and go and probably never go away, but that it's important to remember how much Monika loved us and to remember the times we spent together.  It still breaks my heart that new memories and adventures will not be with all of us together but the kids and I will work through that as they happen.

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Comment by kziss on June 25, 2015 at 11:40am

Your story of grieving and of your wife's battle is heart breaking. I lost my husband to cancer in December of 2014. I think it takes such a strong person to fight cancer and a equally strong person to be the spouse and caregiver to them. I pray that your family will continue to set new traditions and move forward. May you find peace in this hard period of time. 

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