The Light And The Dark

We were away this week. And by away I mean away. I completely checked out. No phone, no email, no texts, no TV, no Facebook.

Just people. Sand and seals and starfish. Card games and songs and mini golf. Lobster rolls and three different clam chowders. Bright sun and cold fog. A precious baby boy who shares my name. Family.
Chatham vacation beach family

I was so unplugged I didn’t even take that many pictures. And it was amazing.

Maybe I didn’t check out as much as I checked in.

There was some hard stuff too. That town, that house – they are filled with ghosts for me. I stood at the same counter where I heard my dad’s last words. I walked the same stone terrace where my brother and I lay hand in hand later that night. I drove the same winding streets where we followed the ambulance for miles. Read more...

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Years That Ask Questions: A Letter To My Father On The Second Anniversary Of His Death

Years That Ask Questions And Years That Answer

Dear Daddy,

It’s been over a year since I last wrote you a letter. Two years since I stood in church clad in a black dress that mom told me was more appropriate than the orange one I wanted to wear.

I had thought about that dress the whole 12 hours we drove home from Cape Cod, in the silence that filled the car between the calls. The calls about death certificates and funeral receptions and Valium prescriptions. I thought about it as we drove past New Haven and I made Billy stop the car so I could walk on the Green just as I had 15 years before. Just as you had 40 years before. Read more...

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Father’s Day Without A Father

Father's day without a father

This Sunday will be the second Father’s Day since my dad died. Thus begging the tricky question of what to do on Father’s Day when you no longer have a father.

For some, I imagine that Father’s Day without a father is a reminder of the giant gaping hole in your life. The display of Hallmark cards, the inundation of emails entitled “Give Dad What He Really Wants!” and the heartrending TV ads of dads as our first loves and our heroes all feel like salt on wounds that have not healed, but have just been bandaged over. Read more...

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Joy Comes in the Morning

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The night my father died, I did not sleep. My mind was humming with the kind of things you think about after your dad dies.  But mostly I was thinking about how to tell my children. How to tell them that everything had changed but that everything would be okay. How to counter the blows which their faith in God, still nascent and unquestioning, would suffer. How to protect their innocence, their joy.

I sat on a sofa, waiting for them to come around the corner. My 7 year was the first one down, his hair askew, holding his blanket around his neck like a superhero cape. The child whom, a few hours earlier, I had held while the paramedics tried to resuscitate my father. The child who believed the reassuring words I had whispered in his ear to muffle the sounds of the static on their radios. He rounded the corner cautiously, afraid of what he might find, yet positive, in the way that only a child can be, that there was a happy ending.  My 5 year old followed him, blissfully unaware that the world he knew when he fell asleep was no longer the same. Read more...

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The Big Dance


Three years ago, Virginia basketball was headed for the NIT, another in a seemingly endless series of mediocre seasons ending in disappointment.

Exactly one year later, they were the ACC regular season and tournament champions and a Number 1 seed in the NCAAs.

So much can change in one year.

That season was magical. The kind of magic that you feel when you are a kid on Christmas morning. The kind of magic that makes you believe anything is possible.

We lost in the Sweet Sixteen that year, bounced early by a foe we never saw coming. A few months later, I lost my dad. Read more...

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Image courtesy of Pexels
Image courtesy of Pexels

My favorite time of the day is the space between sleep and wakefulness, when you are vaguely cognizant of being warm and comfortable and you have not yet remembered the things that hurt. The blurry place before the light sharpens into hard angles when you cannot yet distinguish between what you have dreamed and what is real.

The place where, for one brief moment yesterday, I had a father again.

Like most of my dreams, this one came back to me in a series of disjointed pictures. We were looking for something. Keys one minute, pieces of a puzzle the next. One nameless object after another. Read more...

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54 seconds

For 39 minutes last Tuesday night, Virginia played its worst basketball of the season. For 39 minutes, they played like the team that had lost four games to unranked opponents.

Those losses stung. Losses always do. But what I told my boys – and I’m fairly certain I meant it – is that losses are okay, good even, if you can learn something from them. If they show you what your weaknesses are so you can figure out how to correct them.

I’d like to say I was just talking about basketball but I wasn’t. We all lose. We lose friends, we lose business deals, we lose arguments. Read more...

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August 21st

One year ago, as our family vacation at the beach drew to a close, I felt more than the usual end-of-vacation melancholy. All summer long we had been living with my mother, sheltering each other after my father’s unexpected death in July. And it had worked like a dream: in that idyllic bubble we created, temporarily freed from any commitments or expectations, we had managed to buffer each other from the worst of the shock and pain.  But like all dreams, it couldn’t last. After our vacation, we would be returning not to my mother’s house and our safe little bubble, but back to our house. Back to real life. And I wasn’t sure I was ready for it. Read more...

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The Last First: A Year of Grief

2014-10-07 14.27.41***Update: See this post featured on Scary Mommy and The Mighty!

In the last 365 days since my father’s death, we have faced and surmounted a litany of firsts – from big ticket items like holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries to smaller hurdles like the first time my mom had to zip up her own dress or the night I absentmindedly called my dad’s phone and heard it ringing in my own desk.

Today is the last first. The first anniversary of his death.

In some ways, it feels like just yesterday he was standing in my kitchen and in others, it feels like I have aged a lifetime in these 365 days. A year is so short but the days are so long. Read more...

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The Still of the Night


I am an unabashed night owl, a trait I inherited from my father.  No really – researchers have actually found that there is a genetic component to a person’s circadian rhythms. Growing up, I would often come downstairs in the middle of the night to find him reading or working or making up his own crossword puzzles. Sometimes we would talk but often I would simply curl up next to him, my head rising and falling on his chest in rhythm with his breathing.  Nighttime was when he helped me solve my problems, mended my broken heart, and told me fantastic stories.  Nighttime was our time. Read more...

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The Picture We Never Took

Last Friday was apparently National Sibling Day.  I didn’t know that was a thing until I saw the plethora of pictures pop up on Facebook and Instagram.  Hallmark used to be the inventor of fun but meaningless holidays.  Now it’s social media.

But maybe it shouldn’t be a meaningless day.  We have holidays to recognize mothers and fathers – why not brothers and sisters? They are, after all, our first friends and our first loves.  It is from our siblings that we learn to share – the affection of our parents, the space in the backseat of a car, the last piece of cake.  From them we learn how to fight fairly and how to forgive. We learn how to keep a secret and how to communicate without uttering a word.  We know each other’s greatest sins and biggest dreams. We have seen each other at our best and at our worst and we love each other anyway. Read more...

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The Moment When Everything Is Possible

Sunday morning I put on my lucky orange pants for the last time this season.  I didn’t know it at the time of course, although I had an inkling. That is, after all, the nature of the post-season – survive and advance or lose and go home.

One year ago, I stood in a similar stadium, watching Virginia play the very same team, and there wasn’t a single part of me that believed it would be the last time.  Hope is a funny thing that way.

But one year ago, I didn’t know what I do know. That you cannot will something to be simply because you believe.  One year ago, I hadn’t yet listened to the voices of the paramedics performing CPR on my dad.  I hadn’t held my child and told him everything was going to be okay, even though I knew it wasn’t.  In my head I knew.  But my heart still believed in the improbable.  As my brain was busy calculating the ugly logistics of death, my heart was exhilarating in the moment that was surely ahead of us when the doctors would joyfully tell us of the medical miracle that they had performed. Read more...

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A month ago, I had the great pleasure of accompanying Jack’s class on a field trip to the Chrysler Museum.  As we were passing through Huber Court, Jack caught sight of my parents’ names etched in the marble wall and stopped mid-stride.  Oblivious to the boisterous chatter of his classmates fading into the glass gallery down the hall, Jack stood immobile.   And then he slowly reached out his hand.

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Silently I watched him run his fingers over the grooves in the marble, painstakingly tracing each letter in my father’s name.  I knew what he was doing.  He was willing himself to see and feel my father instead of just a name carved in the cold marble. Read more...

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What Harry Potter Taught Me About Love and Loss

In the months since my father has died, I have heard the same question over and over again: “Are you really okay?”  Most of the time it is a genuine question, although sometimes it is dutifully asked as a perfunctory exercise of social graces.

Either way, my answer is always the same: “I’m really okay.”  I always have been, even if I didn’t understand why.

But the parade of confused looks and barely hidden disbelief at my unconventional reaction made me start to think that everyone else knew something I didn’t. Read more...

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A Year in Review

I should have known that 2014 was going to be a . . . challenging year when it began with a virulent bout of the stomach flu.

But things started to look up after a week at Disneyworld with our favorite people. After the Lucky Orange Pants had the time of their life at the ACC tournament and the Sweet Sixteen.  At Will’s preschool graduation. An unforgettable weekend at UVA basketball camp.  When my brother got engaged to the greatest girl in the world.  After an inauspicious beginning, 2014 was looking like the best year on record. Read more...

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