Saturday, August 23, 2014

Your closet.

I finally cleaned out your closet yesterday. It was actually easy to sort through the clothes I wanted to keep. Your familiar sweaters and favorite jeans looked as comfortable on the hangers as they did on your body.
I know you were never a fan of “keeping stuff to keep stuff” so I did my best at creating piles: one for me, one for Good Will, and one for some well dressed friend that might like your brand new, never worn Dunhill shirts and pants. I bought those for you right after the boys were born. I loved shopping for you. You hated that your pant size was constantly decreasing.
I expected that it would be hard to clean out your closet. Every time I opened the door to it, I gently flipped through your clothes until I came across an item that you wore all the time – your blue Patagonia, your perfectly soft yet crisp button down...I would find myself clutching the arm of your shirt staring ahead blankly and wondering how empty and far away the clothes feel. You once walked into the room with such vitality and glimmer.  It makes sense, I suppose, that your closet is empty now too.
With each jean pocket, blazer pocket, and backpack, I found myself checking for treasures that you may have left behind. One more chance to find something of yours I had never seen – a note to me, a receipt from a dinner we shared, a movie ticket stub, perhaps. Your jean pockets felt like they might contain something and I got excited too hastily.  A stash of catheters you used toward the end was the only thing hidden in your jeans. Opening up your hockey bag, I thought for sure I would find something good to save for the boys. Nope  - just a dozen or so of those morphine lollipop sticks. Painful mementos of your suffering…It made closing the door to your closet a little easier.
I went to sleep last night thinking heavily about your empty closet. But, this morning I woke up to a beautiful sunrise and the boys in my arms. And, when I opened my closet door, I saw the beautiful reminders of you – your colorful Hermes ties making my morning a little brighter. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Holding On

Throughout my life, I have always been attached to inanimate objects: When I was a baby and well into my childhood, I carried around a blanket; At Taft, I had a disproportionate fondness for my bathrobe; In college, I wore the same Patagonia vest every day regardless of the weather or my outfit underneath….

My attachment disorder began to wane when I met Todd. He wasn’t a fan of clutter and couldn’t understand why I was holding on to mixed tapes or notebooks from 11th grade French class. He believed in a “zero sum” policy and explained this to me one Christmas when he gave me a new bathrobe, “Now you can get rid of that robe you’ve had since high school.” And he was right. It felt good to shed some items and embrace new ones. 

However, since Todd’s death, I find myself clinging to his possessions with such a reluctance to let them go or lose sight of them.

A few weeks ago, a friend stopped over for some coffee. She helped herself to a mug from my cabinet. I saw the mug from the corner of my eye… “Oh, not that mug. That’s Todd’s mug.” Todd used that mug pretty much every morning for 8 years. I don’t know. The thought of someone else using the mug just didn’t feel right.  While the boys were napping yesterday, I organized my mug cabinet and safely “retired” Todd’s mug to a higher location. I don’t have too many tall friends so the likelihood of someone taking it down is slim to none. Was it a productive use of the only free hour I have in a day? Probably not. Did it give me peace of mind? Yes. And, I guess that’s all one can hope for after losing someone.

Todd didn’t have many pet peeves. But one of his weirdest pet peeves was seeing a collection of hats or stuffed animals (which were usually cats) in the back window of someone’s car. At the time, I sort of agreed with him.  It was only after he died that I deduced a theory on those drivers: What if those hats or stuffed animals belonged to a loved one who’s no longer here? What if those drivers were like me? A recent widow driving around wishing your best pal was still upfront with you? I keep some of Todd’s baseball hats (his favorite ones) right where he left them – on the dresser in our bedroom. But, one of his hats has a prominent place on the dashboard of our car. At the very least, the hat in my car is a good conversation starter for passengers who wonder why or how I’ve become a Kansas City Royals fan.

Tomorrow, I am trading in that car for a new one. There’s no doubt that I will be happy with the new car and that the boys and I will be much more comfortable. But, I just can’t get past the fact that the steering wheel I will be holding on to won’t be the same one that Todd held on to for all those years. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Year Ago Today

This time last year I was getting dressed and ready for Todd's funeral. Thought I would share the letter I wrote to him and read at his service (2-2-2013). 

Dear Todd,

I was walking to work one day listening to a song that made me think of you. The lyrics struck me and, as I often do, I called to tell you about it. I thought, at the time, it would be a good song for one of our Seas It videos. Usually, when I play songs for you, you listen patiently but are pretty eager to get back to your sports radio…As eager as you are for me to turn down the music, you always waited for me to get out of the car before changing the station. Anyway, I realize now that the lyrics are more appropriate for today and I wanted to share them with you once again.

Very fitting for two Jersey kids that the lyrics are by Bruce…

“Now there’s tears on the pillow, darling where we slept.
And you took my heart when you left.
Without your sweet kiss
My soul is lost my friend.
Tell me how do I begin again?”

And, I can hear your voice singing the chorus telling me what to do. The chorus goes like this: “Now with these hands. I pray lord. I pray for the strength lord. I pray for the faith lord. We pray for your love lord. Pray for the loss lord. Pray for this world lord. Pray for the strength lord. Come on Rise up…Come on Rise Up. Rise Up”

And, that’s what I will do every day, Todd. I will rise up to be a better person because of you. I will rise up for our two boys. I will rise up for you.

Last week, I had a really great day with the boys. I can already see so much of your personality in each one but in different ways. Just like you, Andrew is curious, nimble, determined, and quick. And, just like you, William is easy going, strong, patient, and kind. And, both boys – just like you - even on your sickest days, even all the times you were in the ICU, greet with me a smile each and every time I come into the room.

They seem to have gotten the best of you but your legacy doesn’t end with them…your legacy is so much more. I take pride and comfort in the fact that you talked so passionately that one day the boys would inherit Seas It. And when we are both gone, perhaps our boys may not inherit material possessions or wealth but they will inherit an organization so completely inspired by you and your approach to life.

The other day, your dad told me a great story about you that I had never heard before. He told me that in all your years of playing baseball  - in little league, at Taft, and at Colby, you only struck out once. That’s pretty remarkable. Even more remarkable though is that in the past 8 and a half years in your fight against cancer  - you never struck out. Not once.

My grandparents are really looking forward to finally meeting you. My Nan was a die hard Yankee fan and I know you will have a great time watching games with her. Just don’t let her know that when we lived in Boston we secretly rooted for the Red Sox. Your Uncle Freddie will also be there waiting for you as will our best buddy dog, Luca.

I have so many great memories with you and I know that our friends and family will help me teach the boys about their incredible father by sharing their memories and the infamous Gov 21 highlight reel each time they see the boys. I will teach the boys about what it means to be a good and loyal friend. I will teach them, as best I can, about baseball and the beauty of the game and about the 4-6-3 double play.

My favorite memory with you was our wedding day and I know it was yours too. Almost 9 years ago, we were married in this church. If I could go back in time and change just one thing about that day, it would be that instead of walking down the aisle to meet you at the altar, I would run towards you.

Toddy, I want to thank you for so many things. But, today I want to thank you for taking your last breath with me on Monday night. Every breath I take now and forever will be deeper and stronger because of you.

I love you with all my heart Toddy.

Forever and always yours,

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Where to Begin?

I’m not sure how to pick up the pieces or where to connect the dots for everyone since my last blog entry from August of 2010…(Unexpected Date Night Blog). 

So much has happened since then.

Where do I start?

Do I write about the time in June 2010 when Todd and I were in his hospital room at UPENN?

I was in the corner of his room trying to give myself IVF shots in my thigh while Todd was lying in his hospital bed coming to terms with his new reality of eating through a tube and learning how to pump his stomach through a different tube. That was pretty much the beginning of the last chapters of our lives together.

Or, do I fast forward to a scene from September 2012 where I was simultaneously feeding our twin boys at 3am while Todd was splayed out on the floor in our room violently throwing up?

I could start that way. But, I'd rather not. 

Instead, I find myself reading an excerpt from an article written in 2005 (ABC News Article) that foreshadowed our fate:

To celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary in May, Todd and Amanda took a trip to Puerto Rico. 
While they were floating together in a raft in the Atlantic, Todd turned to Amanda and said, "Hey babe, wouldn't it be great if we had 10 more of these?" 
The thought floored Amanda. 
"Just 10?" Amanda recalled thinking. "I thought we would have our lives together." 
While Amanda and Todd are hopeful the cancer will not come back, the odds are it will. As Todd puts it, it is a matter of when, not if. 
That knowledge makes it hard to move on, seizing each day no matter how hard they try. For Amanda, it is difficult to return to the life foreshadowed in those perfect wedding photos.
May 8th, 2004
Does she want to go ahead with their plans of having children, knowing that one day she could be taking her kids on a cross-country trip and Todd will not be sitting beside her in the station wagon? 
What about Seas It? The whole effort was initiated because of Todd's fight, and will forever deal with people in the same horrible situation. Amanda says she would ideally make Seas It her full-time job, but can she really continue if Todd loses his battle to cancer? 
"I get chills when I think about the year we're going to have the Team Gov Invitational and Todd might not be there," Amanda said. "But I was walking Luca [the dog] the other day and was thinking that Seas It is Todd's legacy, and I will be the proudest wife if I can carry on that legacy."

The excerpt is only a few paragraphs but within those lines are references to so many harsh truths I have had to face since 2005:

1. On January 1, 2010 I had to put our dog Luca to sleep. Todd waited in the car because he was too upset to come in with me. Not a great way to start 2010. And, according to one of the last texts I received from Todd about a year ago, was the saddest day of his life. Up until January 28th, 2013 it was mine too (my texts are in blue, his are in white):


 I like to think that Todd and Luca are somewhere together (let's just say Heaven) having a great day.  Lying in the sun, salt water in their hair, bellies full. 

2. "Just 10?" Well, we almost made it. May 8th, 2014 would have been our 10-year wedding anniversary. In reality, we only celebrated 8 anniversaries together. Despite having a marriage that was centered around Cancer, we lived and loved as though it wasn't. I'll be celebrating our 10th anniversary a little early this year as I honor Todd's wishes and scatter some of his ashes on our favorite beach in St. Bart's. We spent our honeymoon and 5th Anniversary on St. Bart's and made plans to head back down there for our 10th. I, for one, will be glad to be away from dreary, cold NYC during the 1st Anniversary of Todd's death not to mention the gridlock and craziness of a Super Bowl in the city.

Todd kept a journal for the last 3 years of his life. He never let me read it nor did I ask to read it. After he died, I took great comfort in many of his beautiful entries especially his entry from May 8th, 2011.  
3.  Children & the Station Wagon? Yes and Sort of. Todd and I first began seriously thinking about having children in the Spring of 2010. I spent all of May 2010 injecting myself, having blood drawn, and getting prepped and geared up for IVF's Main Event: "The Embryo Transfer Date".  If you or your partner have gone through IVF, you will be all too familiar with this lingo. If you haven't, then this will definitely sound like a foreign language. To make a long story short, on the Eve of my embryo transfer date (June 30th, 2010), I had to call our IVF doctor from the ER at UPENN. I explained that Todd had a recent setback and was recovering from a 5-hour abdominal surgery (Back in the Ring Blog). She listened empathetically and told me it would be best to freeze the embryos and wait for the transfer until Todd had fully recovered. She wanted to make sure "the embryos weren't going to a hostile environment." Wow, she really knew me. After all the yelling and arguing I had to do with some of Todd's medical team that week, those embryos definitely wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere near me or my hostile environment. So, we agreed that we would freeze the embryos and wait until next month to do the transfer. Well, one month turned into two, then three, then four...and so on. On the home front, Todd was slowly recovering but was still eating from a tube. The thought of kids and a future with Todd seemed like a long shot.  And, I was just too busy trying to balance being a caregiver and working full time in a demanding career to even really remember to think about those little, frozen embryos.  We spent the next year and a half getting back on track. Todd was eating again and working out. He looked good and felt good. My career was going well, Seas It was going well, and life in August of 2011 seemed really nice.  I had just spent a great vacation at home with Todd where we caught up on being a couple.  We were very much in love and enjoying life together. It was my 36th birthday and we walked down to the beach to watch the sunrise. Maybe it was because I was turning another year older or maybe it was because Todd seemed so vital and youthful. Or, maybe it was simply that I was still really in love with him. Whatever the reason, I asked if he thought we were ready to start thinking about those frozen little embryos again. As Todd always did, he responded quickly and confidently but not hastily: “Well, babe. It's 2011. It's Now or Never." And, so, those frozen little embryos (half of which, by the way, came from Todd's little "deposit" back in 2004) began to enter our lives. 
"Its Now or Never" August 30th 2011

My 2nd foray into IVF was much easier. I had already done all the hard and taxing stuff from 2010.  Now, my only job was getting my body ready (and less hostile....) for those little embryos. Lucky for me, I began my first round of IVF shots this time in a beautiful Newark Airport.  Timing is crazy sometimes but I had to leave for a business trip in Paris and since Todd gave me the green light, I wasn't waiting a month longer. On November 2nd, 2011, Todd and I finally made it to the embryo transfer date. And, 9 months later on June 16th, 2012...William Todd and Andrew Todd McGovern were born. I just assumed that since half of them had been frozen for 8 years that they would turn out to be these lifeless, boring, little creatures. Contrary to my superstitions, the boys certainly were not lacking in charm, personality, or energy. What happened over the next few months is still hard to think about and put into words at this point. A few days after the boys were born, Todd was admitted to the ER. I was on my own in the hospital dealing with the newness of motherhood - the night feedings, the bliss, the exhaustion, and pretty much everything else that comes along with newborn baby twins. Meanwhile, Todd was fighting for his life in a hospital down the road. For now, I will say that we had, at least, one really good month together with the boys - August of 2012. He was feeling better despite the major setbacks and feeding tubes and he was fighting like hell just to get strong enough to be able to hold "his boys."  I hate this picture of Todd because this is really not how I want to remember him. But, it just shows so much of his character. I mean, the guy is carrying around a 25 pound backpack filled with his nutrients that were being pumped through his arm and he still managed to finagle his equipment in just the right way so that he could hold the boys, help me change a diaper or two, and even find the strength to read aloud to them.

He even instilled in them his love of exercise and sticking with a workout routine early on: 

Todd was a great Dad and would have continued to be the most amazing father to our two boys had he only been given the chance.  As the article foreshadowed, it just wasn't our fate.  

And, as for the station wagon...Oddly enough, I am still driving one. No, it's not the awesome 2000 Saab 9-5 referenced in the article (by the way, for any Saab enthusiasts out there, it's still sitting in our driveway and it's free for anyone who wants to pick it up). But, the boys and I just returned from a long weekend visiting friends.  Our trusty VW turbo diesel wagon did a fine job of navigating the snowy New England roads. The boys were happily entertained in the back and I was solo up front. Todd may not have been sitting next to me in the passenger seat but his spirit was very much with us on that ride. 

4. Seas It: "What about Seas It? The whole effort was initiated because of Todd's fight, and will forever deal with people in the same horrible situation. Amanda says she would ideally make Seas It her full-time job, but can she really continue if Todd loses his battle to cancer?"

In addition to the legacy Todd left behind in his sons, Seas It also serves as a constant reminder of the amazing life - albeit way too short - that Todd lead. Thankfully, I have already made it through the first Team Gov event without Todd. We celebrated Todd's life quietly but enjoyably last July with a home run derby, a 5K, and little keg party on the lawn. It was a tough weekend but we all got through it with smiles, laughs, and tears. As I was saying goodbye to our last houseguests, I realized not only was Todd an extraordinary man but what he did with Seas It was truly amazing. I have been given a unique opportunity in life and I want to make the most of it. Having just left a seven year career with Cartier, I finally have time that I can dedicate to Seas It. The time it deserves.  Time to  help get Seas It to the next level, time to spread the word and mission of Seas It, and time to reach as many cancer patients and caregivers as we can. Yes, I am carrying on with Todd's incredible legacy of Seas It but I am also benefitting in the amazing gift(s) he has left behind.

Our motto in 2011 was "It's Now or Never. In 2014, it’s "Onward and Upward..."

Stay tuned.

WTM & ATM Seas-ing; my 3 gifts from Gov