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Matt and I were together for 10 wonderful years - met in 1998, married in 2002, until his untimely death on November 15, 2008. We have two beautiful, healthy children - Jacob (born 5/04) and Sydney (born 5/07)... the most precious gifts he could have ever given me.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

A month today.

It was a month ago today that my life changed forever. Thank God I've lost track of the days being out of work and I didn't realize what day it was until later in the day, because I actually got out of bed for the first time without too much struggle, made the kids pancakes for breakfast and was in a half-way decent mood. I had motivation to go grocery shopping and get some organizing/cleaning done. In a way, it taught me not to dwell on the time milestones of Matt's death (although that'll be hard to do), that each day brings something different, no matter what the date is.

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

'Till Death Do Us Part.

This phrase keeps ringing through my head. I went to the Social Security office yesterday to take care of some paperwork, and because Matt's death is marked as "pending investigation" on his death certificate, the lady at the SS Office had to ask me what happened (because if I'm a suspect, they can't allocate funds to me). I had to explain to her what happened. Then, after she was done putting all the info into the computer, she printed a page off for me to review for accuracy. One line in particular was like being punched in the stomach: "MARRIAGE ENDED BY DEATH ON November 15, 2008." I'm still wearing my rings, we didn't get divorced, we were happy! I still feel married. My brain just can't process all of this.

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.

Jacob gets it.

He totally understands that Daddy is not coming back. There have been several little confirmations of this, but one in particular was pretty painful... We were in AZ at my IL's house, and Ginny had said something to her other grandson, Jeffrey, about when his dad gets home. Jacob thought she was talking to him and he said to her, "But Gramma, Daddy's dead!" All I could do was correct him that Gramma was talking to Jeffrey about Uncle Jeff.

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.

Stupid fish.

That stupid Beta fish that I've had for a couple of years now... it always played dead, floating at the top of the fish bowl. Everyone that came over looked at it and thought it was dead, and lately, everyone was really panicked about it because they didn't want to point out to me that the fish died, too.

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 Executives.

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've written so many entries in my head over the past few weeks, but just haven't sat down to write. I don't even know where to begin. For the most part, I think I'm still in shock. This past Thursday, though, was by far the worst day I've had so far. Up 'till then, I'd feel the pain of Matt's loss in short little spurts. Thursday was a different story. I felt it all day. It was horrible. I cried all day, and wondered if I'm too young to die from a broken heart. Does that only happen to old couples when one spouse dies? I know I have to keep going for my kids, and that's the only thought that barely kept me going that day. Tha'ts the thought that keeps me going every day.

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.