For some reason I can’t put my phone down tonight before I write this.
The girls are finally asleep. Piper in her pack and play since she won’t stay in the bed I got her. Winnie on my floor because she also won’t stay in her bed. She told me tonight that she wasn’t tired, couldn’t fall asleep, didn’t want to fall asleep. But as soon as I gave into her begging, her asking if she could “pretty please” sleep on the floor in my room, she crashed. She didn’t want to be away from me tonight. And I’m okay with that.
I guess it’s time for an update on how we’re doing since it’s four months. I can’t believe it’s four months. It feels like it’s been four years and four days all at the same time. How does that happen? Why does that happen? Why does it feel that way? I’m mostly grateful it’s going by relatively fast though. I know from experience that with a loss, the first year is the hardest. So a part of me wants to just get this year over with.
On the other hand, the more time that passes, the farther away I feel from Denny. The more time goes on, the less I feel him around, the less we have visitors telling us stories, the less we talk about him… We do talk about him a lot. So many times throughout the day. But naturally it lessens over time. Because we are trying to build a life without him physically here, right? As impossible as that sometimes seems. And when I think about him not being at the center of every single interaction and word and movement and thought, it makes me sad. I feel like it’s more possible than it was before. But it’s still sad.
Does that make sense? I don’t want to forget things and I will make sure he is a prominent part of our life for the rest of our lives. But the reality is, we have to build a life around what is here in our field of vision. Otherwise we never move forward, always waiting for our loved one to magically reappear. That’s not realistic or logical, to wait for something that we know is never going to happen. Or to build our happiness around someone who can’t be here to make us smile anymore. We have endless memories and videos and pictures and stories that we will smile and laugh about. And that gives me so much comfort. As annoyed as he was with how I was always recording every second of our lives, now I’m forever grateful.
But we’re doing okay. We’re surviving still. We have some really good days. Some really bad days. But the good days are getting more frequent. I just get exhausted so easily. I guess it’s not easily when I haven’t been sleeping for a few months now. Rare nights when human angels take my children (with permission, they weren’t kidnapped) so that I can sleep. But Piper finally had her bottom two teeth come in and now it’s the top two. I’m already exhausted and living off of caffeine. But add the teething and it’s just chronic fatigue. I have a lot to say about my girls too. But I wanted to do something different for this post.
With it being four months, I wanted to share four ways Denny helped me and made me a better person. I hope that by reading my blog and posts you know how wonderful he was. But I feel like sometimes all of this talk of addiction and mental illness gets in the way of that. Something that is so important to me is that YOU (yes you, hi, thanks for being here) see how amazing he was. That without those stigmas and those things that he was burdened with from an early age, you can see he really was the best man. He was the best thing to ever happen to me. We had the best five years together full of love and laughter.
Laughter. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we laughed a lot. We laughed probably too much. No matter what came our way, we laughed through it. We laughed through sickness, through losing loved ones, through hard times. We also laughed through the many good days. He taught me to laugh whether it seemed appropriate or not. Whether it was socially acceptable or not. Whether it seemed necessary or not (it always is). I could have the hardest day and he would make me laugh. Within days of my mom’s death, he was making jokes about not making “your mom” jokes. It was probably later that evening to be honest. And it wasn’t that we weren’t sad about losing my mom. We were heartbroken, even Denny. But somehow through those tears and sobs he had me smiling. I miss him making me laugh. I always told him his inappropriate jokes weren’t funny. They were. I just tried not to laugh. But he always ended up getting to me in the end.
Quiet Service. Service is a big part of “Mormon” culture. I was raised being taught to serve and how important it was. But it also seemed kind of important to show people how we served. I mean service is such a wonderful thing, whether you talk about it or not. I’m sure it was born out of insecurity. But I always needed to show people how I was serving and that I was capable of helping so many. God showed me who’s boss. Denny too, though. He was constantly serving others. Countless people have come to me since he passed to tell me about how he had helped jumpstart their car, move their couch, sneakily dropped off groceries when they had no money to buy them, gave their kids Christmas when they couldn’t afford anything for them. He was always helping people. And these things happened often when we were married. And you know what he never did? He never came home and said, “Oh, hey, guess who I just helped?” Which is exactly what I would have done to him. I would have said, “Guess what? I helped so-and-so with their kids today.” But he didn’t. He didn’t do it for praise or attention. He did it because he genuinely wanted to help people.
One of my favorite examples of this was Denny and my mom. If you’re new here, I lost my mom in December of 2017 to lung cancer. She would be turning 62 this weekend, actually. She was really sick on and off for over 2 years before she died. As she got sicker and sicker, Denny spent more time at my parents house. He would tell me, “Hey, I’m going to talk to your dad about some financial/business/car (etc) stuff.” Little did I know, he’d end up spending most of the time there with my mom just chatting with her. He would find out what treat she wanted the most at the moment (chemo and cancer mess with your taste buds) and bring it to her. They even had the sweetest text exchanges where she shared how much she appreciated what he did for me and our family. He would tell her he admired her and that he loved her. It was the son she always wanted but never had, until Denny came along. I did not know about this sweet friendship until literally the day before my mom died. I was visiting when my mom had stopped responding and my aunt ratted Denny out. It was so tender to read those text messages and hear those stories. Finally Denny told me about it. He was such a kind and sweet man, although he’d be so mad that I labeled him as such.
Tough. Denny was as tough of a man as you could meet. Thing Ron Swanson (again if you’re new here). He went through a lot of hard things in life and fought through it all. He was also very outdoorsy, camping all year long (even throughout the winter here in Utah …does not sound fun), going on wild hikes. He was prepared for anything and everything. Always pushing himself physically to reach the next step. He wasn’t coordinated or good at sports, but if you put him in a zombie apocalypse, he’d be the last man/zombie standing. He was my rock and my solid ground. He didn’t get brought down very easily.
What he did for me is toughened me up. If you know me now, you know I’m overly logical and it takes a lot to get me to fall apart. If you knew me ten years ago, you’d probably say the exact opposite. I had worked through a lot of my anxiety before I met him, but he stabilized me in a way I never could on my own. He somehow found the balance between supporting me but not coddling me. There were times when he’d just hold me so I could have a panic attack, and other times he’d literally just look at me and say, “Uh…why are you crying? What do you…What do you want me to do?” He did that a lot. But it was good for me. I know it makes him sound like a jerk, but he wasn’t. And I’m so glad he did that. Because it taught me to calm down and work through my panic attack on my own. He would still talk to me and help me work through my irrational thoughts sometimes, but he helped me do it. I don’t know how to explain. But ya know how people think I’m tough? That I’m handling this like a freaking champ? Well it’s thanks to Denny. Absolutely. He is the reason I toughened up and became independently strong. He gave me safety and security and stability but let me move within that safety until I found out how to buoy myself up again.
Family. I always knew how important family was. My spouse and my children come before anyone else. I’d run my own sisters over with a truck if I had to for my kids (don’t know why or how that would be a thing, but just saying Jessi and Gabi, watch out 😉 ). Denny was so fiercely loyal to his family. And when we married, that transferred to me. Of course he still had loyalty to his siblings and his mom. But no one prioritized his wife and kids like Denny did. Many times he literally dropped everything to run to us when we needed him. No one fought for his wife and kids like Denny did. He would have done anything for us. And honestly, he thought he was making the ultimate sacrifice for us. That’s how much he loved us. It was dumb and delusional and I wish he could take it back. But he did it because he thought that’s what was best for us.
He did that in all aspects though. And not because he felt obligated to. He made us a priority because he wanted to. He would rather take Winnie to a movie then go to his friend’s to watch the game. If he was supposed to do something with Winnie but got a call that his brother needed something, he would go if he could take Winnie with him. He never wanted to disappoint us. He put unearthly amounts of pressure on himself to make us happy. But it also made him happy to finally have the thing that he always wanted, his own little family. And now, my girls are my number one. That seems obvious, right? But it’s really not to everyone. Denny was the opposite of his own father. And I’m so grateful for that example and for that bond he forged between us. That my girls know I am their person and they are mine. We’re getting through this together. And with angel Denny continuing to be as stubborn and tough as ever, fighting for us and right along side us. Helping us with our struggles and helping us to influence other families. I truly believe he’s a big part of the reason this has spread. Because nothing was more important to him than family. Well, except the Cubs. But, duh. Family and the Cubs. He never wants this to happen to another family. So he’s going to help me spread this message and keep helping people. As long as we possibly can.