Election Day

Four years ago, we went to the polls together.  John took Nathaniel with him to vote and even let kiddo help him select his choices.  John was tickled pink to take kiddo to take part in his first election.  Nathaniel even got a sticker that said “future voter!”  We smiled and were so proud of our boy and that he will have the luxury of growing up as an American.  Part of a country where he can work to make himself successful and to make the country a better place!  I’m glad we live in a country where upward momentum is possible and dreams can become reality!

John enjoyed politics.  He enjoyed listening to and analyzing the candidates.  He liked watching the debates.  We’d discuss the pros and cons of the candidates.  I really don’t care for politics much and the negative campaigning of this election has disenfranchised me.

In 2008, I felt cheezy taking the camera with me… who takes their camera to a polling place???  But ultimately, I was very glad that I took a camera with us when our family went to vote.  I captured these three photos… a confused chubby baby and a proud papa!  These are some photos of John that I will treasure and Nathaniel can not only identify with but can see the love and pride that his daddy had for him.

Nathaniel, Election Day 2008

Father and son

John and Nathaniel

John and Nathaniel, Election Day 2008

So… follow the signs… “Vote Here!”

In the morning, I plan to take Nathaniel to vote.  I wish I could get somebody to take our picture in the same spot, but I doubt it… it is just the two of us now.  I think back to how optimistic and happy I was four years ago… hopes, dreams, new baby boy.  Now, four years later, I’m a bit like the American economy… worn out, run down, and lacking energy and sluggish and slow moving, with little forward momentum, but maybe the two of us can spring back to life… rejuvenated, invigorated, and solid, strong, and moving forward.

We’ll see!

At any rate- when you think about Election Day- remember a proud papa, teaching his baby boy what this country was about.  Remember the hopes and dreams for the future.  Vote for the best candidates… those who can once again make the American Dream reality!

Do your civic duty!  VOTE!!!!



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SHE GETS IT!!! “You don’t need closure to heal.”

“Meet me where I’m at!”  Nancy Berns truly “gets” it!!!  FINALLY, somebody who can put into words the process of dealing with grief… or even hard times- like a health crisis.

It’s not about forgetting… pushing away… moving on… it’s about moving forward, remembering, treasuring, and honoring.  Yes, grief comes with sadness, tears, and heartache, but often there is joy and love and remembrance!!!

I seem like my life is filled with those who want everything in the box and to leave the box and go back to the spot of joy.  I know there are the people who think, “Geez, Mary it’s been 3 years since John died.”  And the people who think “maybe you’ll meet somebody else.”  But the truth is… it doesn’t matter if there never is “another man.”  John will be with me for a lifetime… forever in my heart and never far from my mind.  He was that amazing and had such a tremendous impact on my life.  We shared a true love… a great marriage… and produced an incredible son.  Those are things to treasure forever.

I truly would like to thank those people who understand that it’s not about closure and forgetting.  THANK YOU to those who have truly been there for me and for Nathaniel.  Thank you to those who “get it!”  Thank you t those people who have met me where I’m at and not ran away when I’m not in that place of joy and loved/cared about me for who I am.  There aren’t many people that have but for those who have they don’t know how much their friendship, compassion, and caring has meant for me in my times of grief.

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The Cancer Card

My aunt is in the hospital.  She is sick with pneumonia.  I stopped to bet her a Get Well card.

And there it was… “The Cancer Card.”

Pretty as it may be, it is still not a card anybody ever wants to get.

It is the only card I’ve seen a condition for.  I couldn’t bring myself to open it and read what it said.  I was on my break from lunch and needed to keep it together.

The Cancer Card

P.S. Please keep my Aunt in your thoughts, she’s been in the hospital for a few days and is pretty sick.

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Memoir of Smith Island

Reading a book about life on Smith Island (Maryland), these words pop out at me…

I’ve never been to Smith Island, but I enjoy books on local history and memoirs.  Smith Island  is a small island on the Chesapeake Bay with a tiny population and the people residing there mainly make their money from crabbing, fishing, and harvesting oysters.

An Island Out of Time:  A Memoir of Smith Island in the Chesapeake by Tom Horton… from a section called “An Old Woman Recollects”

I’ve know widow ladies in my mom’s day was left when their husband died young with as little as $100, and small children to raise.  The made it with the help of relatives and the community.  People would put money in Christmas cards and birthday cards for the poor and widowed- some still do it.  There would be meals sent over and gifts of food; men would drop by extra fish and ducks and geese, and that’s how they’d make it.  Many widows would remarry quick as they could.  Nowadays it seems they don’t as much.  With Social Security and electric blankets, they’d as soon stay single now, they say.”

I had to smile after reading the passage.  Yep, old days are long gone… it’s an “every man for himself” sort of world that we live in now.  I thought it would be different for us with John being a firefighter.  If it weren’t for kiddo’s Social Security we would have lost the farm by now.  Electric blankets… well… they come in pretty handy… I don’t think there’s a single man out there that could ever hold a candle to the wonderful man, husband, firefighter, and most importantly father that John was and even if such a person does exist, he wouldn’t be looking for me.  I’m so blessed to have had John in my life.

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Those nights…

The light on the answering machine message blinked… I pushed play.  I wished I hadn’t… stress… stress… stress… stress… and of course the office was long closed.  I couldn’t sleep… laying there in bed, I tossed, I turned… and the only thing that could help me sleep was gone.

John had this way of calming and reassuring me… everything would be okay… don’t worry… “it’s okay,” or “it’s going to be okay.”  And wrapped in his arms, embraced in his arms… it was okay.

But the arms… the reassurance… the “okay” they’re all gone…

Finally, sometime after 3:30, sleep came.

This AM, I woke up, made the phone call and attempted to not worry, but worry is what I do best.  I’ve gone this far… I’ve been this strong… I can persevere.  It’s all mind games… meant to whittle me down and grind me into the dirt like a bug twisted into the ground with a boot toe… But, I’ve been through Hell… this is  piece of cake compared to losing John.

When I hung up the phone I glanced at the time 11:09.  Last night, I’d asked John for a sign and to help me make it through.  As they say, “here’s your sign.”

Feeding the horses, my mind was so cluttered, I had to double check myself to make sure I hadn’t forgotten to feed somebody!  Which reminds me… I forgot to feed the dogs!!!  The field horses were down by the road, I had hoped to take a walk this AM, bu  hadn’t had the opportunity with the lack of sleep, so I walked down to see them.

I marveled at how their head popped up like prairie dogs as they saw me.  Instead of going for the grain, Wilson stopped and waited… I wrapped my arms around him and gave him a huge hug.  Ever since I was a little girl, horse hugs made the world a better place.  Lu Lu nudged me… she wanted her hug.  I leaned down and gave her a great big pony hug!  Then Willow waited for hers.  In a pasture where normally the three of the four would have grain for their number one priority, today, they seemed to know, Mary needed a hug.  To give Remington credit, he first walked up to me for a face rub before heading off to scarf down his grain.

For those who want to grind me down, John may be gone, but I still have my equine therapists… Now off to feed the dogs…

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Prayers for George

Today, kiddo and I were having lunch at one of our favorite establishments, Miss Oxford Diner.  One of the waitresses loves kiddo and the two of them were having fun.  We were almost finished our lunch and kiddo was filled with smiles, and giggles.  A man and a woman got up to leave.  The man had crutches and bandages on his leg and his leg was swollen and inflamed.  The man was struggling to get around.  Nathaniel looked at me questioningly.

I could only hope that kiddo wouldn’t say anything too loud or two embarrassing.  I told him quietly, “The man has a boo boo on his leg.”

After the pair finished paying they walked slowly up to us.  He introduced himself as George and the lady as Lisa.  The man handed me two dollars and said that Nathaniel was inspiring to him.  I asked him if he was sure.  I didn’t want to be rude by saying, “No!”  But I didn’t necessarily want to take the man’s money.  He was obviously not in the best shape and looked like he could use the money more than kiddo.  He told me to keep the money and put it in Nathaniel’s piggy bank.  We told him, “Thank You!”  He told Nathaniel to, “pay attention and do well in school and go to college.”

He then looked at my shirt.  I was wearing the “Cancer- Dislike shirt”  (For a pic click on the link and then click on RFL T-shirts and Hoodies).  On the front it says, “Cancer- Dislike” with a thumbs down and on the back it says “Cure- Like” with a thumbs up.  He asked me about the shirt and I told him that my husband had died of cancer.  He said that he had cancer.  Suddenly, it all made sense.

The woman said, “we’re past the doctor stage.”  I didn’t inquire, but to me that sounded like they weren’t doing further treatments.  George proceeded to tell me that the doctors had given him 6 months to a year.  I believe he said that today was a year.

They said that they’d keep us in their prayers.  I thought, here he is probably dying of cancer and he’s saying he’ll keep us in his prayers.  I smiled, managing not to cry, and said that I’d keep George and Lisa in my prayers.  After they walked away, I said a quick silent prayer.

I sat there for a few minutes processing what had just happened and thinking about what probably George and Lisa would be going through in the future.  I thought about how I can’t look at the menu and see Maryland Crab Soup and not think of John and how much he liked it.  And how much John missed their crab soup when he couldn’t eat anymore.  And of how once, I got a cup carryout and ran it through the blender for him, so he could have it without worrying about it blocking his GI tube.  And the smile on John’s face when he tasted his beloved Maryland Crab Soup.  I wondered what it is like for somebody to see an adorable, young boy, who is so full of life and happiness and to realize that he doesn’t have a Daddy to hug or to play ball with him.  I’m sure it is quite a shock to many.

So, please if you’re the praying type, say a prayer for George and Lisa and pray that George can continue to defy the odds and beat the cancer.  Cancer- DISLIKE!!!  Cure- LIKE!!!

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Another dream

When I woke, I felt as if I’d had a restless night.  Then, I remembered the dream.  John wasn’t in this dream… just a good friend and co-worker of his.

In the dream I saw a person, who had been a great friend of John’s.  I’d been in contact with him quite frequently when John was sick, but I haven’t seen or heard from him for a few years.  Haven’t seen much of anybody since John died.

In the dream, I see John’s friend across a crowded event outdoors.  I see him and get a big smile on my face because it’s been years and I’m just so glad to see him.  Our eyes lock.  I make my way closer and when I’m up to him, I’m grinning from ear to ear.  I reach out to give him a hug… it’s been so long and I’m just very glad to see him.  I’m really looking forward to catching up.  Then as I reach out to hug him, he pushes me… not only away, but down.  I end up on the ground and he disappears without a glance back.

And that’s the dream.  Pushed away… rejected… no wonder I woke up feeling like I’d gotten no sleep.

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Pre-K saga

I had mentioned previously how I worried that my son was being “labeled” because of his father’s death.  Apparently, the public school isn’t that concerned because we found out that kiddo didn’t get in… well, rather probing questions determined that we didn’t get in…

I’m calling to see if my son got into Pre-K?

Papers shuffle and lady returns… “If you didn’t get something in the mail, you’re still on the waiting list.”

Isn’t today the decision day? (today being the 17th with Preschool starting on the 27th and a parent conference in between)


I pause… wondering just how exactly I would receive something sent via United States Postal Service on the SAME day… I briefly ponder if I am an idiot because the woman sounded so confident and self assured.  Then I bite my tongue, take a deep breath and try to inhale some tact… So, you’re telling me he didn’t get in?


Way to beat around the bush… rolls eyes… This was Friday right before I had to go to work.  I half debated calling for a personal day, so I could attempt to find a Pre-K (that still had openings and that I could afford), so my child wouldn’t be forever behind in life.  The other part of me thought SCREW IT!!!  Child can learn his alphabet through Leaky Creek Preschool and Phillips Academy… and whatever we miss the public school can worry about catching him up…

Sunday, my parents asked if we’d heard about Pre-K.  Not thinking, I told them in front of kiddo.

On the ride home kiddo says, “Mommy, I want to go to school,” in a sad, heartbreaking voice.

So, first thing Monday morning I called a program that I could afford that had been recommended.  They had just a few spots for two day a week.  I paused, I was hoping for 3 or 5 days.  Two just didn’t seem like much.  But maybe it was better than nothing.  Then the lady checked… there was ONE opening in the 3 day a week class.  She said that if we were interested, she suggested we act on it because they were getting calls from people in the same predicament as myself.  I figured I didn’t have a lot of time before the people stopped waiting for their mail and realized the the secretary had ACTUALLY told them.  I threw kiddo, who now had changed his mind and didn’t want to go to school, into the car and away we went… no time for a shower.

I parked the car and then for a moment my heart stopped… not because my baby is growing up and starting school… no… because the last time I’d walked through those doors, I’d had a different last name.  The last time I’d walked through those doors, I hadn’t been alone.  The last time I’d walked through those doors was when we’d met with the preacher before we gotten married.  Visions of smiles, complete happiness, John’s goofiness, young love danced in my head.  For a moment, I didn’t want to cross through those doors… I wanted to go anywhere but through them alone.

But, time was ticking… the horses needed fed… I needed to buy grain… and, if I hesitated longer, some woman in a mini-van might arrive and steal that last spot.

And then for a moment, I thought, this would probably be a decision that would make John happy.  The preacher who married us, and buried John, has since retired.  John wasn’t a church person, but if he had to pick a church or a preacher this had been where he turned to.  So, I took a deep breath and walked in the door.  I approved of the rooms, his teacher seemed nice, and I liked the lady in charge.  Usually, I’m that annoying, What about ____?  How does this work____?  Why do you do it that way? sort of person.  Today, on what most would consider a momentous decision, I had relatively few questions.  Looks good… where are the forms…

I started to fill out paperwork.  There was that blank marked PARENTS.  I still to this day can’t fathom not including John.  John is Nathaniel’s father… and my husband.  He gave kiddo half of his genetics and a lot of his personality traits.  Without John, there would be no Nathaniel.  So, I printed

John P. Smith II (deceased)

In some attempt to honor John as his father, but to acknowledge that he’s not actively here.  Dad won’t be picking him up at school or going on field trips.

The lady in charge noticed what I’d written and we talked.  She said she’d make sure the teacher knew.  That was important to me.

Then she told me a story about a child who attended who had a great father.  The child’s father dropped the kid off at school and then was killed in a car accident while the child was in school.  She said that it was really hard because the father was such a great guy and everybody knew him.  She said the school pulled together and mourned his loss, together and really supported the little girl.

I felt like I’d made the right choice.  Kiddo will be in a small class where he is nurtured and encouraged to grow… not “labeled”…  Oh… and kiddo is excited because his room has wooden trains and lots of track!!!

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Funny how a single instance can bring memories flooding back.  I was getting myself tangled in my cords to my headset and my earphones.  An inconvenient tug of the earbud and there it was… I was transported back in time.

John hated all of the cords, but they became a fixture in his life for a lot of the time when he was sick… gastric tube… IVs in the hospital… chemo… immunotherapy…  IV antibiotics, the backpack, feedings, flushing pic line, and the morphine pump, and all of the other things that I’m forgetting.  The whole nine yards…

In my case the cord was too short… and I got a slightly unpleasant tug in my ear.

In John’s case the cords were too long.

My mind flashed back to how methodically and neatly he patiently tried to keep his cords organized.  In the hospital with multiple IV lines it could be quite a challenge.  But John, like he was in life- mastered it… kept his cool… kept his composure and dealt with it.  And I think it was a way for him to pass his time and occupy his mind while he sat in the hospital room or in his bed.  I’m sure cords were better things to occupy his mind with than his cancer and the odds and his health.

“It is what it is.”

Love you, John…

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Moonlit profile

A full moon shines brightly over the summer sky, tonight.  As I walked towards the field, I glanced at the horse walking towards me, my heart stopped for a second… the image… the profile was that of my very beloved mare who passed away just two years ago.  I wanted to hold that moment and not let it go.

But, I knew it wasn’t her.  I wondered if my eyes were playing tricks on me.

In that one instant.. that one moment in time, with the moon throwing shadows and casting images as dark profiles… in that one moment frozen in time… the son looked just like his mother.

It made me smile.

Then I thought of Nathaniel… and how closely he resembles his father.  I didn’t know John as a youngster, but from old photos they look almost identical and I can see his father’s features in him.  John’s aunt recently came to see Nathaniel and just shook her head at how much Nathaniel resembles John.

R.I.P. Squall and John.  I’ll do my best to look after the babies.

Squall and Remington

Nathaniel and John


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