Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
When I look back to how I was dealing with everything a few weeks ago, I really have come a long way in just a month - I'm not crying constantly, I don't feel like driving off a cliff, I'm eating and sleeping (mostly), and I'm starting to get back into the routine of taking my vitamins. I can thank my sister for most of this - she's been on my case constantly reminding me in a loving way that I need to take care of myself. I can actually laugh, too! I am making an appointment to talk to a grief counselor soon - that's something else I need to do for myself, and then I'll see if it's necessary for Jacob to see someone, too. He'll probably need it in the future when he's a bit older than he does right now. He's handling things pretty good. His fear that I'm going to abandon him isn't as bad. A few times when I was going somewhere or when dropping him off at school, he would scream for me not to leave him, clutching my leg. I promised him I was coming back, but it didn't matter. It was like ripping my heart out to leave him, but I had to do it because otherwise, how would he understand that I really am coming back for him?
Today, Jacob said, "I'm gonna blow up Daddy's chair (his recliner in the living room) because he doesn't need it anymore."
I said, "But don't you think of Daddy when you look at it?"
"Yes" said Jacob.
"And don't you feel closer to him when you sit in it?"
"Yes" said Jacob.
"Then, we want to take good care of it and keep it around, right?"
"Yes" said Jacob with a smile.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Oh yeah - today is nine years since Matt proposed to me at Niagara Falls. It was so cold that night, and after he asked me, I didn't feel cold anymore! He proposed again a couple of months after that... We had gone to the mall to have my engagement ring inspected, and they handed it back to him after they cleaned it. He wouldn't give it back to me, and I was getting mad at him - I don't like being without that ring on my finger! Finally I told him (in jest), well I guess this means the engagement is off! We walked the mall a bit, then got to Kirklands. We were looking around in there, and we were in a back corner of the store when he got down on one knee. We ended up with a crowd around us, and one lady said, "Oh! Are we witnessing a proposal?!!" LOL
I said yes. Again. And if he would have asked me a month ago, I still would have said yes.
Another time, Jacob said, "It's gonna be Mommy and Jacob riding bikes in town now."
"Yes, it is, my Little Love" I told him. I've got some big shoes to fill.
The other day, I was talking to my BIL Greg on the phone, and as we were talking, I looked over at the fish bowl. The fish was at the bottom on the rocks. That stupid fish that always played dead floating at the top of the bowl... Now that it's dead, the stupid thing sunk to the bottom. Stupid fish.
The day Matt died, the police officer who told me about his death stayed for quite a while. He told me that the company was sending over some people to explain what happened. We waited and waited, and no one showed. The police officer then called the company and asked where these people are, and that we've been waiting all morning. Cameron finally sent a human resources person to my house to explain what happened. A very nice lady, but she had no clue of any details, had only worked for the company for about 2 years, and never dealt with a situation like this where an employee died on the job. The police officer and I were under the impression that more than one person was coming to the house to explain. After waiting so long for this lady who didn't know squat to show up, it was apparent that the guys that were supposed to come over chickened out and sent this lady to do their dirty work.
The day after Matt died, his parents and I went to meet with some executives from Cameron who flew in from their headquarters in Houston, the Safety Inspector from the Buffalo location, and Matt's immediate supervisor. Renee (the HR lady) said we had the option to meet with them if we wanted. There was no way I was turning that down. I also told her that before she came to the house, we were under the impression there was more than one person coming over, and everything else I felt about that situation. I asked her how many people we were expecting to be meeting with when we went there, and she said eight. I told her I wasn't sure what time we would be done at the funeral home, but that whenever we were done making arrangements, we were heading over to Cameron, and that I expect to have eight people there waiting for us when we get there.
When I was in the shower getting ready to go, I had an epiphany. I was going to bring pictures with me. I frantically picked out pictures from albums while brushing my teeth.
When we walked into the plant, there were eight people there waiting in line. At first, I walked past them after giving them all a glare. I just couldn't say anything or shake their hands at that moment. Ginny, Matt's mom, was much more gracious. She introduced herself and shook their hands. That gave me the strength to go through with my plan. I didn't want to waste this opportunity to talk to these guys who flew all the way from Houston. I asked them to repeat their names to me again, and I shook their hands. I'll try to recreate my schpeal to them:
"I brought some pictures with me that I want to show you all to give you some insight as to the kind of man Matt was outside of his role as employee at Cameron. You already know what a great worker he was; I want you to know what a great father, husband and friend Matt was, and what has been taken away from me and our children. Here's a picture of us when we got married. Here's a picture of Matt graduating from college in May just last year, where he got his bachelor's degree. It took him nine years working full time and going to school in the evenings to get to that point. He worked his ass off, built our home, and still made time for me and his kids. Here he is riding bikes with our four year old son, Jacob. Jacob just took the training wheels off his bike this summer. This is their favorite thing to do together - they ride for hours at a time. Here's Matt tracing the puzzle pieces to make it easier for Jacob to see where to put the pieces on the board. That's just one example of the time, detail and care he took with his kids. Here's Matt holding our daughter, Sydney. Sydney is Daddy's little girl. She fusses and fights when I go to change her diaper or change her clothes, but if it's Daddy doing it, she's calm as can be. She's been wandering around the house crying, and calling for Daddy. Here is Matt and Jacob working on the deck in the back. Matt involved Jacob with everything he did around the house, and Jacob was learning a lot from him. There is so much more he could have learned from his Daddy that I'll never be able to teach him. Here is Matt with both kids on his lap on the couch, reading to his kids. This was a common sight. Here's Matt helping Sydney to take her first steps. She will never remember her Daddy. Jacob might have some vague memories of him, but Sydney won't remember a thing."
There's more, but I can't remember all of the pics and all of the stories, but I talked their ears off. They all looked at each picture and listened to my stories. After I was done with the pictures, I said something along these lines:
"Matt was working 2nd shift until you hired someone to take a 2nd shift position so he could be bumped to 1st. You had made an offer to someone recently, and he turned it down. Matt said that you weren't in any hurry to make an offer to someone else. I know it's because Matt is the kind of worker that can do the work of two people. So why pay to hire another person when you have a superstar employee like Matt? Matt ended up working even later that night because he was covering someone else's shift. He started at 4pm, but probably got there even earlier because that's just the kind of worker he is. It was around 5 when this happened? He was working for over 13 hours at that point! I know that this is the end of the month/end of the year push to get these compressors out the door, but you can't work your employees to the point of exhaustion. Their safety should take priority over the bottom line. Now I have to raise my children by myself, and live my life without my husband. I just want you to know that it's my hope that you make sure this never happens to anyone else."
Then we were escorted into the Plenum Room where it happened.
After Matt's brothers arrived in town, we went back so they could see, and have an opportunity to talk to the executives. His brother Jeff laid into them wonderfully, and I'm so proud of him for expressing his anger to them. Chris did something similar, and also expressed his theory for exactly what happened. They all had chimed in with their theories and opinions.
I've had to go there a couple more times since, and every time, I get more of a bad attitude with the people. I just can't help it. Anger has set in. I WILL show my face to them any chance I get, though, no matter how painful it is to be there and see those people, and the place where he died.
Cameron put a collection together for us. They also paid for the flights for our immediate family. Then, just before I went to Arizona for Thanksgiving, I had to go to Cameron to meet with the Human Resources person, and she gave me an envelope filled with cash. Every year, they have a pie contest (not sure what that is exactly) and raise money for City Mission. Since they knew the funds were going to the kids and I this time around, they raised three times what they normally do. Someone also gave us a frozen turkey. I am so bitter and angry with Cameron and everyone associated with them that I have a hard time being nice to anyone over there. I was so close to just giving her the envelope back saying, "give it to the City Mission to people who really need it. It can't bring Matt back. And really - what am I gonna do with a fucking turkey?!" I was able to keep my mouth shut and say thank you, but my attorney who went with me to that meeting talked me down a little while later and put things in some perspective for me. I gave them Matt's funeral bill. Renee said she would give it to Corporate and 'hopefully' they'll cover it. I told them they had better cover it since they're the reason he's dead.
I know that the employees and Matt's co-workers are angry and sad about what happened, too, and just want to help any way they can. It seems to be a good company with good people, but made some very bad choices which ultimately lead to my husband's death. I can't help but hate them all right now.
I had a really hard time eating in the beginning. Nothing looks good. When I put something in my mouth and chew, I can't swallow it. If I do swallow, it gets stuck in my chest. I felt nauseas. Even when I was hungry, I just didn't want to eat. It's not as bad now, thank goodness, but it gets bad again during the really rough moments. I probably lost 6 lbs in those first 4 days. I put the scale away after that because I didn't need anything more depressing to look at. I wondered how it would be with Thanksgiving - with all that food. Thanksgiving. I had a really hard time being thankful for anything. Forget about saying Happy Thanksgiving.
I took the kids and went to Arizona for Thanksgiving. We left the Wednesday before, and I'm so glad we decided to go at the last minute. It was therapeudic being with Matt's immediate family, and I think it was the same way for them to have us there. It was great to be with everyone... The whole family gets together for Thanksgiving - Greg and his family from San Diego, Chris and his family from New Mexico, and Jeff and his boys who are already in AZ near Matt's parents. I decided that even though it's the busiest time of year at my work and I usually need that time to get caught up, we are going to make it an annual tradition to get together with them for Thanksgiving. I'll make it work somehow.
Jacob got to ride in the Rhino (a four wheeler with a little cage and straps) and loved every minute of it. His first ride was around 10:30am on Thanksgiving morning, and that's when I started drinking. I figured it was 1:30pm where I lived, so it was OK! LOL My wonderful sisters in law whisked me away for some shopping and my sweet mother in law watched the kids so I could have some free time. It was great to be thousands of miles away from my house where the reality of my situation and all of my new responsibilities and confusion were staring me down. By the time I got back, I was a little more refreshed and able to tackle some of it. My sister (who is staying with me until the beginning of January, thank God) had my house spotlessly cleaned by the time I got back. Everything sparkled! I'm so glad that she left Matt's t-shirt and shorts on the floor by the bed where he left them on that Friday before, though. And his work-out clothes that he had washed and hung on our drying rack in the bedroom. I just can't bring myself to move those yet.
The flights there and back were rough with the kids. Sydney does not like being confined to a small space - Jacob being a little older could tolerate it a bit better. We had a layover in North Carolina on the way there and back, and I thought for sure on the way from Phoenix to Charlotte that they were going to make an emergency landing and kick us off! Fortunately for us, we had some really understanding passengers who were trying to be as helpful as they could. I think the guy that sat w/us from Phoenix to Charlotte was an angel from heaven. He looked pretty rough around the edges, and I bet most people probably would have been afraid of him, but he had really kind eyes. During the times when Sydney wasn't screaming, we talked a bit - his name was Rod - probably in his late 40's, early 50's maybe. He said he raised his two young kids - a boy and a girl - by himself due to divorce. I told him that my husband died a couple of weeks ago. It was a bit awkward for a few moments after that - I mean, other than I'm sorry, what can you say to that. I actually feel bad for people trying to come up with what to say to me. Honestly, I wouldn't know what to say to someone that is in my situation, either.
For nearly the whole flight, Sydney screamed, cried, kicked, squirmed, you name it. She was so tired, but fought sleep with everything in her. My kids aren't the kind of kids that will sleep through anything because they don't want to miss a thing. There were a few brief moments when she would settle down, and a couple of times even put her arms out for Rod to hold her! Anyone who knows her knows that she doesn't warm up to people she's not very familiar with. It seems now, though, that she takes to most men - maybe because she was Daddy's little girl and she is now looking for any kind of comfort from a man for some familiarity? After that hellish flight, we landed in NC, and I thanked Rod for being so understanding and helpful, to which he responded, "It was the best flight of my life." I couldn't believe my ears. That's when I came up with the conclusion that he must have been an angel.
Monday, November 24, 2008
The memorial service we had for him was really something else. It was packed, there were people standing all over the place that couldn't find seats, more people standing outside in the cold because the building was filled to capacity, and some people that ended up going home because they couldn't get in. I'd say there were probably over 200 people there. It was really heartwarming to see how many people he touched in his life, and how much everyone loved him. It wasn't a surprise to me, though. He was incredibly special. He would do anything for anyone. He had a giving heart, as big as could be. He had a great sense of humor, and always made people smile. He was a prankster. He kept it real and said it like it was. He was brutally honest. He was comforting, strong, made me feel safe and secure, and loved me like no one else could or will ever love me. Just read the comments in his guestbook. The guestbook with his obituary. I can't believe I'm talking about an obituary for my husband. http://www.legacy.com/BuffaloNews/DeathNotices.asp?Page=LifeStory&PersonId=120308242
His favorite thing to do was take Jacob for bike rides in town - for hours. Jacob has a love for bike riding just like his daddy. He even took his training wheels off this summer because he's so proficient. He took Jacob to train shows, monster truck shows, air shows, drove him to Altoona, PA to see trains in person and ride in one. He lived for his children. I'm so thankful that we have so many pictures to capture many of the moments we had.
I can't believe I have to live the rest of my life without him. I can't believe my children are going to barely remember their daddy, if at all. I can't believe any of this. Someone PLEASE wake me up from this horrifying nightmare!!!!
I woke up around 4am and he still wasn't home, and I was *this* close to calling him to see how he was doing, but then I thought maybe he was sleeping in his office instead of driving home too tired, so I didn't want to bother him.
It was about that time that he speed-dialed his boss, or maybe just hit a random number on his phone, which lasted literally 2 seconds. He was found dead in the pipe around 5:50am.
Matt was a test engineer and after the industrial sized compressors were built, his job was to test them to make sure they're working properly and to troubleshoot any problems. There's a room off of the test bay called the Plenum Room, and that is where the air gets sucked into the compressor. Air comes through filtered vents in the floor and gets sucked into a pipe with chicken wire covering the opening that has some gauges on it to measure different things. According to the safety inspector at Cameron, it's typical for people to be in that room when it is operating, even though the air is moving hundreds of miles per hour, and increases exponentially by the inch as you get closer to the pipe. The safety inspector told the police that people don't go in there when it's operating, but with a roomfull of witnesses, he told me exactly the opposite, and I even repeated it for clarification because I couldn't believe they considered that safe. Also, the pipe was 2 feet in circumference, and apparently this was a wider pipe than what they normally use to test the machines. I'd like to know when that pipe was changed, and if Matt was the guinea pig that found out that it wasn't safe for someone to be in there while it was running with that sized pipe. How is chicken wire supposed to protect anyone from getting dangerously close? Matt was extremely intelligent and had good judgment, and never would have put himself in a situation that wasn't safe. He was mislead. Also, he was in there for nearly 2 hours before anyone found him, but the company's first claim is that it was just 15 minutes. Either way, it was too long. There is so much that went wrong that could have been prevented. It makes me sick.
His brothers have a theory that the POS (piece of shit) piece of plywood that was on the foor (so they could roll the pipe for adjustments) was a trip hazard, and when Matt went in the room to check something, he tripped on the plywood and ended up falling into the pipe. Once he got too close, it was too late. He broke his left arm in there, and was lodged from his neck to his waist. He probably couldn't breathe because of the force of the air. He tried dialing with his right hand (since he kept his phone clipped on the right side of his pants), but the air sucked the phone out of his hand. His head was up against the lip of the pipe. I can only pray that it was quick, but I can't help but see the fear in his face. My poor love.
The Plenum Room. Doesn't it sound like a title for a horror movie? It IS a horror, and it's real. My brother in law called it The Plenum Chamber. This room is a dump - it looks like someone's garage. Plywood windows, chicken wire hanging on the walls, etc. I would expect more from a multi-billion dollar company. Apparently OSHA has never once been in there.
Not only was the police detective told that no one goes in that room when the machine is operating, but no one told him about the new, wider pipe. Does that raise a red flag to you? OSHA didn't know that, either.
My husband did not have to die. This was a series of events that could have all been prevented. He was supposed to be in bed with me.
A police officer came to my door around 7:30am on Saturday morning to tell me my husband was killed. I knew before he even told me that something horrible happened, but I just prayed that they had it wrong, that it was someone else, that they made some horrible mistake. My 4 year old son was with me when he told me, as my 18 month old daughter slept in her crib.
I've always had this, what I considered an irrational fear, that a police officer would come to my door to tell me something happened to Matt, but I always thought it would be that he was too tired driving home and that he got into an accident. I never would have thought this would have happened at work. I thought they'd keep him safe. I never thought it would be this soon. I invisioned us growing old together and after raising our children and enjoying our grandchildren, that we would be in our 80's and he would die, and then I would die 3 days after him of a broken heart.
It's a blessing we have these two beautiful children who are completely dependent on me, or I would have jumped in that machine after him. He was the love of my life. He was a phenomenal father. He was an incredible husband who always made the effort to work on the things I complained about in our relationship, which wasn't much. He worked his ass off for everything we have. He went to college for NINE years at night and worked full time to get his bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering at Buffalo State College, and finally graduated in May of 2007 with his degree. He got this awesome job in his field almost right away, and life was going to get a little easier after he got back onto first shift after Cameron hired someone for his 2nd shift position. They made an offer to someone who turned it down, and Matt said that they weren't in any hurry to make an offer to anyone else at that point. You know why? Because Matt is a superstar employee and can do the job of two people. This fucking company that made over a billion dollars the past year can't cough up the money to hire another engineer because why would they need to when they have Matt?
Now I have to raise my children alone. With all the dead beat dads out there, WHY did mine have to go? He was everything to us. He was my knight in shining armor. He lit up the room when he entered. He was 6'4'', tall dark and handsome with an incredible smile - complete with dimples that melted my heart. We were still so much in love - even after being together for 10 years. We've been married for 6 years, and he wanted us to go to Hawaii for our honeymoon on our 10th anniversary because we didn't go on a honeymoon when we got married. It was either have a nice wedding and forego the honeymoon, and start our family sooner or go on a honeymoon. Our parents were starting to get up there in age, and so we decided to start our family sooner. Thank God.
I had to explain to my sweet little boy that his daddy died. He's only 4 1/2. He understands what is happening and seems to be dealing pretty well considering. A few days before the accident, Jacob asked me out of the blue, "Mommy, where does God live?" and I told him that He lives in heaven, but He's all around us and in everything. When Matt died, I couldn't imagine how I was going to explain this to him, and then I thought of our conversation. I told him that Daddy is now living with God in heaven, but he is still all around us and in our hearts. He knows that he died in a very bad accident at work. He's asked some very tough questions since and I'm just praying that I'm doing this right. I asked the funeral director if Jacob should go to the viewing, and he said absolutely. I'm glad I brought the kids, but I had no idea what to expect. Jacob did better than I thought, but asked why daddy isn't opening his eyes.
Sydney was Daddy's little girl - just 18 months... Matt could change her diaper, etc. without her fussing, but as soon as I do it, all hell breaks loose. She's finally stopped looking around the house for him. For about 4 days, she wandered around looking for him, crying inconsolably. I don't wish any of this on my worst enemy.
I am blessed to have such a wonderful support system in my family and friends, though. God only knows where I would be without them.
Right now, I'm numb. I don't want to let myself feel completely because it is the most excruciating pain I've ever felt in my life. My guts feel like they're being ripped out of my body. So for now, I don't want to feel. The numbness is allowing me to do what I need to do to get through for now, and to be what I need to be for my children.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Sorry for the cheesy paper, but I wanted you to have this note. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me, and you gave me the BEST 10 years of my life. You also gave me your two beautiful children and I am forever grateful for your love. We have such big love that surpasses time and space, and I will carry it with me always, and will share it with our children. I will do my very best to make you proud with how I raise our children, and with all that I do. You are and always will be my hero, and I promise that our children will know that, and that they know who you are. I have been so incredibly blessed to have been your wife and friend, and anyone whose lives you've touched is blessed as well. You will live on forever in our hearts, and I hope you know that I will always love you - you are the LOVE OF MY LIFE. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything. I will see you again someday, My Love.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Jacob gave me another good laugh later that day when we were on our way home from Target and the song In the Ayer from Flo Rida was on the radio and we were rocking out (well, Mommy was rocking out) but then after we got home and I turned the van off, the split second of silence was followed by my little boy singing, "throw my hands in the ayer - ay ay ay ayer" - and he sounded great! Later that evening, he helped me assemble the toy organizer shelves - he loves doing that kind of stuff. He's got great hand/eye coordination or manual dexterity or whatever you want to call it. For a four year old, he's pretty darned good! He even enjoyed organizing his train stuff in the bins of the shelves- I think he gets it from his mommy... =)
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I came into work this morning and found 26 emails in my inbox from Facebook - all friends of mine wishing me a happy birthday! I feel so loved! I know having my bday posted on the home page of Facebook helps people to remember, but it means a lot when they take the time to send me birthday wishes. =)
My best friend Kim (from work) made me the most delicious chocolate cake for me (recipe on the back of Hershey's cocoa). It actually tasted like a truffle - sooooo good! She's such a sweetheart, and a wonderful friend. Took the leftovers home, stuck a candle in it, and my sweet little love (Jacob) sang the Happy Birthday song to me. Totally made my day! Matt wished me happy birthday again when I got home from work - it means a lot that he is making an effort to be more attentive. I also got phone calls from my Mom, Dad, Connie and Bryan. Poor Bryan got me on the phone after backing into the pole... At least he got a chuckle out of it!
Our house is overrun with snotty noses and sore throats, and everyone at school is hacking up a lung. 'Tis the season, I guess... I just hope this year Jacob is well enough to go trick or treating. Last year, he had a high fever and was confined to the couch - he didn't even want to go trick or treating because he felt so rotten!
Did I mention my big boy has been riding without training wheels on his bike for a couple of weeks now?! He probably could have gone longer without them, but he was reluctant to take them off. He actually took them off himself with a wrench, and then rode his bike like a little pro! He and Daddy love to go into East Aurora and ride on the back streets. One of his proudest moments was when he made it up the big hill without getting off his bike.
Sydney is really chatty lately, although we can't understand most of what she says yet. Yesterday she said "eyes" as clear as day, and we're almost positive she said "that's hot" and blew on her food to cool it off. She's picking up speed on those little legs of hers, and is smart as a whip!
I'm such a lucky mommy.
Monday, October 20, 2008
35 should be interesting... I'm expecting a call today from my doc with results from the myriad of tests I had done on Friday for hyperthyroidism, vitamin D deficiency... I'm actually hoping it's hyperthyroidism so I can avoid further tests and just take some medicine to feel better. Other than that, I have to say I don't feel a day over 25!
I named the blog Always Remember - not only for my bad memory, but because in keeping consistent with my desire to remain positive, I named it that instead of the negative alternatives of "Don't Forget" or "Never Forget."
Today is my mother's birthday, too - 69 years old... We had a surprise party for her at Sgt. Pepperoni's on Saturday, and Michelle, Dan, Michael, and his girlfriend Mwenya drove out, along with Mrs. Schueler, Mom's boyfriend Ron, Matt and the kids. It was actually kind of fun! (I'm sure the 2 beers I had helped w/that, too...)
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Today is October 19, 2008. Tomorrow is my 35th birthday, and my mother's 69th birthday. Yesterday was the 3rd anniversary of the D&C from my 1st miscarriage, at about 3 months along. My 2nd miscarriage came just a month after that. I was convinced it would overshadow my birthdays from that day on, but after having some time getting my priorities back in order, I realize my birthdays are an opportunity to be thankful for being here on Earth for another year, another year with my wonderful husband and incredible children, and another opportunity to count all my blessings.
I had a very strange and wonderful phenomenon happen on the due date of the first baby we lost. I had been searching for some sort of closure, and a way to put into words everything I felt about the whole situation, and a way to honor both babies. I woke that morning with the words. I can't take all the credit, because I truly believe I had Divine assistance with it, but here it is:
Written on April 27, 2006 (Due date of the first baby we lost)
Looking for some comfort
in something so unfair;
Did I do something wrong
for such a weight to bear?
Words can't express the sorrow...
it's my time to mourn;
Heaven has two more angels
never to be born.
Wish I could hold you in my arms
and cuddle you close to me;
I know I'm not alone in this wish -
it seems a common dream.
I believe things happen for a reason,
Though it doesn't ease the pain;
I'm even more thankful for my blessings,
So this all hasn't been in vain.
I hope you know you're loved
and will keep you in my heart;
At least you're safe in God's arms
if we have to be apart.
My son Jacob (born May 3, 2004) and my daughter Sydney (born May 23, 2007) have completed my life, and continue to fulfill me every day - who could ask for more?!