Friday, March 27, 2015

Year Without a Summer

Ohio in this time of year is a cruel joke.  Personally, I truthfully enjoy the snow, cold, blanket of white, and silence that winter brings.  It's something I begin missing every year around November, when the leaves have fallen, and the Autumn color palette of reds, oranges, and yellows have turned to brown death.  Winter comes along every year here, sealing the earth, and wiping it clean every spring.

But in March, we only get glimpses of the impending rebirth.  There will be a day of mid sixty degree weather, with the sun shining and the windows down, and then winter returns, just as it's doing today, as I write this.

Megan's rejection process followed much the same schedule.  Last winter, we were ready to start a new year of life and sunny days together with Shelby, but by spring, the cruel joke had started.  What we originally believed to just be a minor setback, the 30 degree snowy day following the hopeful, sunny day we had before, turned out to be a permanent winter. 

We had a year without a summer.  There were no spring flowers, no long lazy days sitting out on the deck, no happy, relaxing talks on a road trip.  It was just winter.  It was winter until October, when we got the fall colors that were the last hope of her getting a transplant.

November came, and the colors started to fade.  Leaf by leaf, certain aspects of her health, mind, and heart started to fall to the ground.

On November 19th, the last leaf fell, and I was plunged back into winter.  

Winter remained as scheduled here in Ohio.  When I just sat, frozen and sealed inside my mind after losing that last little leaf.  There were a few indian summers, like we always have, when I returned to Crossfit, for instance, and realized that even for a few hours a day, I could have warm sunny weather in my mind.  

But it wasn't enough to convince me that spring would eventually return.  I would still have to deal with returning home to the cold. 

But I found a place where spring could finally begin.  I had to go travel south, to Florida, where it's continual spring and summer.  As soon as I arrived, I caught a glimpse of that first daffodil, cracking through the frozen surface of the forest floor at the end of winter.  I could hope for what summer would be like again.  I stared at that daffodil for a moment, and realized that it symbolized a new round of seasons.  I could finally have a "next summer".  

Megan always loved daffodils, for the same reasons.  They were always the first indicator that the long, cold, crappy winter (that she NEVER enjoyed) was almost over.  

Although it may be cold, snowy, and generally crappy here in Ohio as I write this, I'm pretty sure it's a nice warm late spring day for me.  Summer is right around the corner, and I don't think I'm going to be missing winter for a long time.  


  1. dear Mike,

    thank you so much for directing me to your blog. i have read every entry and have been so touched by the story of your sweet Megan, you, and your beautiful little girl, Shelby. first, i want to tell you how very sorry i am that you and Shelby did not have more time with Megan, and how incredibly difficult it must have been waiting for the transplant that did not come soon enough to save her. i loved all the entries that captured so much of Megan's wonderful personality, her grit, her determination, her humor, and the beautiful, extraordinary love you shared, and are still sharing every single day.

    then, before i forget (i have both chemo AND widow brain) i want to thank you for the time you spent as a Marine serving our country. i send you a big, warm hug for that! each time Hugh and i encountered a soldier, we would feel so honored to get the chance to shake their hand, give them a hug, and thank them - sometimes we chatted about their families, their deployments, and often, each of us would walk away with tears streaming down our faces. once Hugh and i were both in remission at the same time, we were making inquiries about being volunteers at the Veterans' Hospital - but he died while in remission, and i at some point will be carrying on with volunteering myself. i was a hospice nurse for 30 years, and though after being diagnosed with 2 cancers, the second just 8 weeks after Hugh's death, i simply could not return to the hospice field.

    i am so impressed with your writing, Mike. and i am so glad that the Widows' Voice people had the good sense to invite you to be such an important part of their team along with the other gifted writers.

    going to Camp Widow must have been EPIC for you! and i am sure it was the same for all the people, men and women alike, whose hearts were touched forever just by hearing your story. hell, i would give anything to go to CW, but am currently on a schedule of adjuvant treatment for St IV metastatic breast cancer every 3 weeks, have 2 sisters to visit in cali and in oregon, with one of the sisters just having had a heart transplant a year ago - so it will take more planning than i am up to right now. but as soon as i am able, i'll be so happy to finally get to experience CW, and i can't wait!

    thank you for your kind, insightful, and encouraging response to my comment on your post. all the while Hugh and i were in treatment for cancer (his was multiple myeloma, a bastardly disease that required 2 stem cell transplants), the word BELIEVE helped us through many ghastly trials. (no reference to anything religious - just a word that was like a mantra). once, he had a professional artist paint a beautiful sign with that single word, believe, as a gift for me. i haven't had the heart to look at it much since he died nearly 23 months ago, but just the other day when i was thinking how much i would like to meet someone just like you have, i glanced at that sign and got a tingling sensation which i truly felt came from him. so now i have that sign more prominently displayed to remind me how powerfully it touched our lives, and big hope for how it might now touch mine!

    this last post was so poignant. we moved to NJ from Michigan where we were born and raised, so i know all about that cruel joke March can play, weather-wise.
    but i love that after seeing that lovely clump of daffodils while you were in Florida, you could know you could finally have a "next summer."

    keep writing, Mike! you have touched far more people than you will ever know, given them comfort, allowed them to relate to the raw candor of loss and longing and doubt and isolation and the truth of all the hard work it takes to get through the misery and loneliness of grief, as well as the triumphs of even baby steps that help us move forward. and come the day we should be so lucky to meet each other at CW, i will celebrate being able to call you my friend in person!

    with gratitude,

    Karen (Sutherland)

    1. Thanks again, Karen! First and foremost, keep plugging through those treatments! Although Megan did not have cancer, in the end, she was actually taking a few Chemo drugs, so I know the havoc that they can play not only on your body, but your mind as well. Here's wishing you as speedy and easy a recovery as possible!

      I am so happy for you that you are coming to the point that you feel Hugh is around, and encouraging you to "believe". Honestly, I didn't get to that point until AFTER meeting this new woman, but just the same, I have to believe in Megan's intent.

      As far as Camp Widow, I won't be in San Diego this year, but I will be in Toronto in September...hope to meet you there! It truly is an experience you should have! I was somewhat of a black sheep down there, but honestly, it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me.