Sunday, August 27, 2017

Love, Sorrow and Joy

To say that my heart was shattered when Jeremy died would be an understatement, to say that it was shattered exponentially knowing that my children would grow up without their dad, would also be an understatement.

Let me just tell you about Jeremy.  He was one of the most patient men I have ever met, his parenting was patient and kind.  Not without frustration nor exasperation, but he was patient.  His skills as a teacher made him so good at explaining everything to the kids.  He was one who emoted, not overtly nor openly, but he felt feelings.  He cried as each of our children were born, he held them and loved them hard.  He was truly the best dad, ever.  His parenting is so missed by me, obviously, but by the kids.  The saddest part of all of this is that they didn't get him for long, we were ripped off.  And because of that, their lives will be different than either myself or Jeremy ever imagined.  Like EVER.

When Jeremy died, my sister found grief/bereavement resources for myself and the kids.  I have said from the beginning, I KNOW I will be ok, but my kids hearts...their souls...their lives.  I do everything I can to normalize our experience, to show them other people, other children who have experienced what they have.  To know other kids who have lost a parent provides normalcy.

We have attended Jeff's Place Bereavement Center in Framingham from seven weeks after Jeremy died.  I have a ridiculously awesome community of fellow bereaved humans, we laugh a lot.  We get it.  We really REALLY get it.  And my kids have this special place where they speak about their dad, twice a month.  They speak about their dad without awkward pauses or glances.  It isn't the elephant in the room here, it is life and it is love and it is safe.  Recently we went to the beach with a dear friend whose husband passed away in March.  My son was asking her daughter if a lot of people were at their house after her dad died.  Did a lot of people bring food over after their dad died.  It was the sweetest thing I have heard in a long time.  My heart swelled and sank at the same time.  And yet, this is life.  No one gets out unscathed.

This past week my three oldest children each attended grief camps.  My oldest, attended Circle Camp, in Maine.  My middle two attended Experience Camps, also in Maine.

Circle Camp is just for girls, my oldest said she didn't want to go, but I reminded her that this is not negotiable.  She went.  She had a great time!  She spent the week with other girls who had, for the most part, lost a dad.  She went swimming, she swam across the entire lake!  She talked about her dad.  She supported other girls, did team building events.  Wants to be a CIT next year.  More exposure to other girls who have had a loss.  Win!

Experience Camps, ManEx, is just for boys.  The end result was fantastic!  They were active, tried new foods, talked, laughed, and spent a lot of time with other boys!  They played hard and they slept hard.  They supported other campers, they talked about their dad in a safe and loving place.  Thought they attended together, they were not in the same groups.  They had different bunks, different teams, different tables in the dining hall.  But they had each other.  And a pudding slide, bananna boats, scavenger hunts, hand ball, gaga pits, basketball, swimming...a dream experience.  Supported by clinicians and LITs, it truly is a magical experience for the boys.  Truly.

My heart and soul are content, knowing how much my children have connected with other children.  I would take my husband back in a nano second, but if we have to suffer this unimaginable loss, we will do it with a wonderful loving supportive community.

Sunday, May 7, 2017


It truly is magnificent.  The stone is gorgeous.  The epitaph.  

It is not too close to the trees.  Not totally in the shade.  The location is just right.  The back has no carving, the kids can use chalk to write and the rain will wash it off.

For as horrifying as this whole thing has been, I am peacefully content in how this honors him.   I know 100 years from now, a cemetery stroller would be able to understand how special this human being, this son, husband, father, friend, uncle, teacher, runner, soccer player, coach, Jeremy Eschelbacher, was.
My love is deep and constant.

Sunday, March 12, 2017


The week after my husband died, I started obsessing about a head stone.  I went so far to go to a memorial stone place near our home.  In those early days everything I did was in his honor, to my mind anyway.  I just wanted to honor him in any and every way.  As I was driving over to the memorial stone place I realized that there was absolutely no way that I could use granite for his headstone, absolutely no way.

You see, Jeremy and I met in college where we studied Geological Sciences.  In September 1994 we attended a The New England Intercollegiate Geologic field trip, to Maine.  This was so far before we were us, so far.   And at this time we were friendly, not yet friends, but cordial.  We ended up on the same trip on a rainy Saturday at the Monson Slate Quarry.  There were many people at the quarry that day, and all of us, men and women alike, were simply amazed at the fore arms of the tour guide.  You see, he used a jack hammer every single day.  He looked like Popeye!  He would throw pieces of slate to at the wall of the quarry to show us specific geologic structures.  And each time he asked us to look at something, he hit it.  Every. single. time.  It was beyond impressive.

No one who was on that field trip ever forgot the beauty of that slate.  When Jeremy and I were married, we would dream about of having a sink made from their slate.   Jeremy's Aunt and Uncle have a beautiful sink made out of that very slate.  Just gorgeous.

So as I was driving to the memorial stone place and realized that granite was not an option, the memory of our dream, the beauty of the slate and the meaning behind using the stone to honor my husband, well it was right.  The woman at the store, did not have a lot of experience with slate and really preferred the Pennsylvania slate over the black slate of the Monson Slate Quarry.  And "Besides, " she said, "it would take at least two years to have the stone quarried."  I was simply stunned.  It was important to me to have a place, other than a spot in the ground, for our children to visit, a true physical marker.   I left the memorial stone place empty handed save a few brochures, which I promptly threw in the trash.

When I was unable to sleep that night, I started searching the Internet for the Monson Slate Quarry, hoping that this quarry had not been closed down, as often happens to small family owned quarries.  I kept searching and would hit a dead end.  I would change my search words and hit more dead ends. Then I found a craftsman who works almost exclusively in slate and he works and lives in Maine.

I called him the next day while I was at our friends house, I asked him if I could tell him my story, he graciously obliged.  Remember I was, at most, two weeks out from my husband's very sudden and very unexpected death.  He was warm, interested and very very eloquent.  I corresponded with him over the next several months and when I was in Maine visiting family, I decided that I would make the trip to his studio.

I arrived at his studio after an hour and half ride, during which I heard music that reminded me of my husband, I believe them to be signs.  His studio does not have a ladies room, so in keeping with my geology background, I asked if the property around his studio was his and ducked around back and did my business.

Jeremy would have liked this gentleman very much.  He was extremely well read and versed in many of the classics.  And his name, Douglas Coffin.  Yes, Coffin.  The irony, I know.

We talked about Jeremy, he shared with me how much he loves working with families on memorializing their loved ones.  He urged me to walk around cemeteries and read epitaphs.  He told of stone for a mother and her infant, he was so moved by the words that, after all of these years, still can touch the heart of another.  He said, carving letters, words into stone is extremely powerful.  This is an art, a craft, a calling.

After our visit, we continued to correspond until I had decided upon an epitaph.  It is so very hard to sum up the life of your husband, your soul mate, your best friend, the father of your children in a few lines.  One of the hardest things to do and to do to honor your loved one.  

One year and three months after I lost my husband, I received the proof of the headstone.  A few edits and then approval.   I fell apart hard.

This week, one year, six months and 3 weeks after I lost Jeremy Eschelbacher,  I received a picture of the final product.

It is magnificent.

Friday, March 3, 2017


Tomorrow our first born will turn 14.  It will be her second birthday without her dad.  WITHOUT her dad and the 2nd of many more birthdays to come without her dad.  She is going to the cemetery tomorrow to visit.  My heart hurts that this is our reality.  But this is our reality.   It is hard to be a teenager.  It is hard to be a teenager who lost your awesome dad.  It is hard.

Our darling.  On your 14th birthday you are loved, you are cherished and you are one of the best gifts that your dad ever received.  Don't ever forget his love is with you always.  I love you Merriweather.  I love you, always.

Monday, November 21, 2016

It just hurts

Grief is one of those things that hurts SO much and then the hurt wanes over time.  But it comes back with avengence as you move along the continum of grief.  I am 15 months into the loss of my husband.  FIFTEEN MONTHS.  I can hardly breathe today.  People say the holidays are hard, and they are, I am not denying that, but Thanksgiving wasn't a huge tradition at our house.  We did some things a few  years in a row, then we did others.  It is the mere absence of him that is painful, but not just this week, every single day.  With every single breath.

I recently received the proof for the headstone of my husband...I had planned the epitath, I chose the stone, I visited the stuido where it will be hand carved.  But to see that full size proof of the headstone?  Well suffice it to say I don't wish that punch in the gut on anyone.  Ever.

I am blessed to have support this far in my grief as I have heard countless stories from other widows whose friends dissapeared or their family just doesn't want to listen to it any more.  I feel so blessed for my friends and family.  I am even more blessed to be part of a wonderful bereavement group with others who have suffered a loss of this magnitude.  They get it.  They get all of it.  Because you see, there are many of us who were done growing their families, many who had dreamed of having more children with their partners, many of us lost a child, or a parent.  Many of us who were divorced when our partners died.  The common denominator for all is the pain.  The ebb and flow of our new reality, in which there remains this gaping hole.  A hole so large that you wonder if it will ever grow smaller.  Some days it is smaller, other days you are thrown so far back into the depth of despair, you cannot climb out.

I recently visited my doctor, my provider had retired, so this person was new to me.  I have always gotten on the scale backwards and educated the one taking the data, "it is not discussed."  I had not been to this office since my husband died.  My weight gain is significant as I have learned that I take comfort in eating specific foods, none of which are vegetables or salad.  The new provider encouraged me to try Weight Watchers, a program that I have had previous success on.  But I am not there.  Will I get there, probably, but I am not there yet.  Solo parenting and working full time and grieving and honoring the memory of my husband takes up a lot of time.  Not to mention getting kids to where they need to be for sports, appointments, social activities, etc.  I am tired.  A lot.  Would I feel better if I were to exercise, probably.  But I am not there yet.  Would he encourage me to get out for a mind clearing walk and to start running again, without question.  But I belive that he understands that I am just not there yet.  And I do believe that is his here with us.  I believe his love for me and our children continues, just as our love for him continues.

I am still wearing my rings and don't see that changing anytime soon.  Many have suggested that I will find a new partner.  Well that isn't in my short term life plan.  I am a mother and was a wife.  One of those is no longer, however, when I became a mother I knew that my life was no longer about me, we knew that it was about us.  That they and our relationship with eachother came first.  My job as mother is even more important now as we navigate this loss as a family.  It is my job to be available, as much as I can be, emotionally for each of their souls.  It is my job to ensure our finances are sound and that they have positive experiences.  So will I find or ever want a new partner?  Not right now.  One thing is for sure, life is full of surprises, good and bad and for now. we continue to put one foot in front of the other.

Jeremy Eschelbacher, you are loved,  you are missed and you are cherished.  For all the days of my life.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


This is so good and it comes from Dean Koontz's book, Odd Hours.  But it is so full of truth.

“Grief can destroy you --or focus you. You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. OR you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn't allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it. But when it's over and you're alone, you begin to see that it wasn't just a movie and a dinner together, not just watching sunsets together, not just scrubbing a floor or washing dishes together or worrying over a high electric bill. It was everything, it was the why of life, every event and precious moment of it. The answer to the mystery of existence is the love you shared sometimes so imperfectly, and when the loss wakes you to the deeper beauty of it, to the sanctity of it, you can't get off your knees for a long time, you're driven to your knees not by the weight of the loss but by gratitude for what preceded the loss. And the ache is always there, but one day not the emptiness, because to nurture the emptiness, to take solace in it, is to disrespect the gift of life.”

Monday, April 11, 2016

He is gone...

It seems redundant to say it, but the heart ache and the reality of his absence are intertwined with denial.  It protects the mind from insanity.  How can he be gone?  Why is he gone?  He was here, he was real and he was ours.

The children have all been seen by a pediatric cardiologist, their hearts have been cleared for form and function.  Next step is the older three will have two blood tests.  One is a standard lipid panel test and the other checks the level of lipoprotein (a).  This test, is not a test that is performed routinely, and will show the levels of the "sticky" kind of lipoprotein/cholesterol.  They are testing the kids for this as it is a hereditary condition that leads to early death due to coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis.  This test would have provided my husband's doctors with more information than the standard lipid/cholesterol test, and would have likely saved his life.  Jeremy's lipid/cholesterol tests were text book as such he did not fall into any high risk category.  But this test will help so many other people, if they know about the test.

There is a foundation that is helping with education and awareness.  Ask your doctor for the test, tell your loved ones about the test, if one person's life can be helped by this test, then we have done our job.  It is too late for my husband, but it may not be for you or your loved ones.   And we will know how or if I need to manage my children's health.

The Cape Cod Marathon fall of 2013.  He did great and had a wonderful cheering section!!!

What I have found in my grief journey is that time and life just keep rolling along.  It is the way of life I suppose.  We keep loving and living and crying and laughing and missing him.  We were so very blessed and so very loved.  <3 p="">

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hearts filled with love

My husband was a smoker, but had quit 5 or 6 years ago.  He began running in 2011 and was training for a 50k before his death.  He had a physical in September 2014 and was told he was in great shape and he didn't need to be seen for two years. He was a vegetarian and his only vice was caffeine. He carried water on his runs and always stopped for fill ups during long runs.

My husband died of a massive heart attack that was caused by 99% blockage of the left anterior descending coronary artery.  This type of blockage and heart attack is called the Widow Maker.

What I have learned is he had asymptomatic coronary heart disease and that it had been going on for decades.  Running 17 miles on Saturday and 10 miles on the Sunday prior to his sudden death on Monday leaves us all stunned.  How can someone with that level of blockage do that?

It also makes me angry that his body betrayed him, that his body gave us no clues, that he was classified as low risk, as such none of the tests routinely done would have revealed anything.  All his blood work was text book within normal limits.

So we keep putting one foot in front of the other. And our children will now be classified as high risk and will do everything I can to ensure they all live to ripe old ages.

My heart is filled with sorrow but overflows with so much love.  Jeremy Eschelbacher, my husband, loved me with all of his broken heart, of this I am sure.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

One month ago today...

One month today, Jer died.  Prior to his death he had taken on our largest renovation project to date. He tore down the breezeway, single handedly.  Then he rented a jack hammer and tore out the cement steps, dug a hole for the foundation, shot lines and ensured that the measurements were accurate. Measure twice, cut once.

We took a mini vacation with the family and he had planned to order the gravel for the foundation upon our return home.  With one week left in summer, he hoped to bang it out and then frame over the weekends, to get it enclosed by the fall.

But he died.

If you know how things work when you do them yourselves, it is much less expensive than if you had to pay people to do the work.  Jeremy's colleagues approached me and asked if they could set up a GoFundMe to enable us to finish the project.  We are 2/3 of the way there.

Go Fund Me for Our Family

Monday, September 7, 2015


It has been 21 days since Jeremy died.  Those words still make me sick to my stomach.  The sorrow is so deep and the tears are endless.  His birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, 45.  He loved to point out that I was older and most of the time two years older.  He really was the best.