The Sun Will Shine

I wasn’t going to do a journal entry today, rather just reflect on past entries from this day, and other days, but after finishing the entry from year one it made me realize something. Reflecting from where I was to where I am right now continues to do wonders for my ever present grieving process. Balancing my current grief and the profound love I have for Julie seemed, at first, to feel like a contradiction. 
I lead GriefShare at my church. I have seen the videos two times from when I co-chaired at my church in Dallas. Last night a section of the video hit me. It discussed memories. It said there are two kinds of memories: emotional and historical. The goal is to realize when you have moved largely beyond emotional to thinking in historical memories of the loved that passed. Remembering the past in thoughts of the good times, mainly, as opposed to deep sadness is when you start to realize your grief is transitioning. 
I read back, in tears, through the journal entry from year one of  losing Lindy. That entry partially reflected the first day I started the hike in Spain after landing in Barcelona three days after her funeral. The  pain and struggles I felt that unfolded were unbearable at the time, I wrote. Very hard to read  for me, again. 

I then moved to the journal entry from year two and reflected on the progression of a new normal seeming to start to unfold, and my joy slowly being restored, albeit very slowly. 

Then I clicked on year three, February 2016. The title of that journal entry was Julie and Michael’s Proposal Story. This took my breath away for a moment, as I wasn’t expecting to see it. Seemed soon to me in the eyes of a perspective reader. I read through and I started to smile and wipe tears away. I smiled ear to ear.

 

It’s currently overcast and raining this morning here in typically sunny California. It’s overcast  the way it was 4 years ago just this very morning when Lindy left this world. I remember I left the house that morning to walk, cry and sob in the rain minutes after she passed. A  a tiny ray of sunlight shined on me in my tears as if she was saying her last goodby on her way up.
I can’t help but think that the sun will completely part the clouds today to remind, again, and shine on me, that my that grief has moved to complete joy and happiness with Julie; a bunch of rays to show me the bright future Julie and I have together.  I will hope that it’s  Lindy’s way of saying congratulations. 

I wrote this scripture verse in my first blog entry and it has been a promise I have tried hard to believe:

Jeremiah 31:13 ….I will turn your mourning into gladness; I will give comfort and joy instead of sadness.

Oh how God was and is faithful!

Lindy you are missed today, appreciated more than words can describe. Now mixed with joy  and the passage of grief, you will always be a memory I will always cherish, everyday.

Julie and Michael’s Proposal Story

In 2015 I (Michael) went skiing in Mammoth, CA over Valentines weekend. It was a sad time for me as I was still grieving the loss of my late wife. She had passed away two years prior. Two to three months before I went skiing I thought it may be time to get back out there. At the rehab center my wife was at in the final days, she made me promise that if this is the end, that I would find love and live happily ever after. She said that was her dying wish. 

 Prior to the trip I, unknowing of it’s reputation, decided I would join a super classy dating site… Tinder! I’d had absolutely zero good dates, (lots of great stories though) from that site and really didn’t pay it much mind anymore. One of the married girls in our ski group told me she wanted to set me up with somebody back in California (I live in Dallas, TX) when and if I get ready. I told this girl that I do not do set-ups at all. Definitely not in the state of grief I was still on the mend with presently. She said, ” have you tried it yet? How do you date now?” I jokingly said “I’m on Tinder;)” She eagerly cheered, “oh wow I love Tinder! Let’s go on a Tinder Binder right now! As someone may or may not know about this app, it pulls up profiles of people in your current proximity. Not only do you have to swipe right to like them, they have to do the same on your profile in order to connect with each other. She grabbed my phone and proceeded to swipe right on one or two girls that she thought would be my type. I realized that evening, while playing poker and drinking too much, that I had a connection and message on the app. I reached out to Julie Gormick, who invited me to the tavern where she and her friends were hanging out. I didn’t make it out that night, but I texted her the next morning to see if she wanted to ski together that day. She politely texted me back and said that she was on her way back to Orange County. 

 That started a text mania between us for the next 45 days. I finally felt I was starting to re-entered the land of the living again. She was exciting, sweet and very empathetic to my grief. We texted every day. Sometimes 10 to 15 times a day. We had a real connection, at least in cyberspace! 

 I finally texted her and told her that I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves. “I feel like we should meet to see if we have physical chemistry as well” I politely texted. She told me chemistries are the easy part, real connection is the hard part. So I booked a flight on AA and I flew from Dallas to Orange County to meet her. 

 As she pulled up at the airport, I saw her from a distance. I was in lust immediately. As she approached, I took off my wedding ring that I had moved to my right hand after my wife passed away, and put it in my pocket. I knew it was time to start moving forward. All I could see from the curb was just this beautiful blonde girl picking me up in her black BMW X5. And I also immediately thought I was out of my league here:) We were instantly both googo gaga!. 

 Over the next year I flew out there and she flew to Dallas every 2 weeks. We really got to know each other and fell in love. Head over heals in love!

 Last December, she and I flew to Maui for her Maui Jim Sunglasses International Sales conference. Three days before the conference we flew to the Big Island to hang out with her brother, his wife and their two really cool boys. I had a lot of fun getting to know her family. The third day they drove us to the airport for us to pick up an inter island flight on Mokulele Airlines. Upon getting out of the car her nephew, Noah, looked at me. While swinging his leg back and forth, he said, “I like you a lot Michael, but please do not come back here again unless there’s a ring on my Aunt’s finger!” He said it jokingly but it was kind of adorable. Funny because what neither one of them knew was that I had already put a couple thousand dollars down on a ring I was going to buy from a private jeweler. I really didn’t have the money at that time to pay the rest the ring off, but it was a great deal and I knew I was going to propose sometime in the next few months. I was waiting for something to come through for me financially. 

 When we landed in Maui that something came through. I called my jeweler and he was able to FedEx the ring over to our hotel in Maui. The day it came I sat in the lobby of the hotel while Julie was in her meetings, anxiously waiting for that purple and green logo to appear. I rushed out to the van, grabbed the package and immediately took it to the front desk to rent a safety deposit box! The proposal is on. Now the hard part! Where! How?!?

 The three days she was in her sales conference I was out scouring the island, inside and out, for the perfect place to do it. (She would interject here to say that she thought I was sipping cocktails on the beach all day while she was in her meetings, she had no idea what I was up to). I ended up going over to Kapalua to hike for the day. I found a possible private beach. Then I found this magnificent tall cliff with a big hole overlooking a pristine blue water cove. I found a wall near it and started to carve into the side of this wall “Julie will you marry me”. I only got ‘Julie will you’ when a gang of kids climbed over a big rock with their bright orange boombox, passing a doobie around and very rowdy. They started cliff diving, smoking pot and blaring some Kanye West. (I have heard that’s what the kids listen to these days I think, ha). I knew I had zero privacy,so I abandoned that idea. 

I then left the cove and hiked over behind the Montage Hotel back in Kapalua bay. Climbed out onto this lava made levee and hid a white coral heart-shaped rock, that we had found snorkeling in Kahaluu Beach Park back on Kona. The plan was to climb out there with Julie, dig that heart rock out of an alcove and hand her the rock with the ring and propose. Then we would go over to a little beachside bar and have some pre-ordered champagne and watch the sunset. I walked over to the little bar and talked this idea up with the bartender. I asked how the sunset was there and he said it was just “ok”. Then he told me if I wanted a spectacular one, I should go outside Lahaina and watch it set on the water between the islands of Lanai and Molokai. It’s the only place on Maui you can see the sun sink into the water. He told me that it was just outside of Lahaina about 5 to 7 miles from the city limits. So I went back to our hotel and started to research hikes in that general area.

 I found a hike that we could do on her day off, which was also our last day in Maui. I reserved a jeep and thought we would go and have a fun filled day all over the island and end with a hike, and me proposing to her on this hike up the small mountain with a beautiful sunset view. I had plan A, which was the heart rock. Plan B was to be on the lookout for an opportune moment throughout the day. If all else failed, I had at the very least plan C- the hike. 

 I rented a jeep and was hoping to take the top down and cruise the island and feel the true Uhane of Maui, with the wind blowing through our hair. My lack of understanding of basic mechanics on how to take a top-down would create Julie and I’s first real frustration and fight. There were sighs, Cyclops laser looks and her sternly telling me to please rent a different car. That comment made me furious! It made me so angry that I couldn’t think straight! I finally got it partially down and we left and headed for breakfast. When getting to Lahaina I equally had a hard time getting the top back up, so that her bags wouldn’t get stolen. Rinse and repeat the cyclops laser looks! I finally got the top up and we went to breakfast. I won’t bore the reader with all the walking and frustration we had trying to find a breakfast restaurant. We finally made it to a quaint beach side diner. A little bloody Mary in me and I was starting to feel mildly happy again. We agreed to go rent some snorkel equipment and drive to the other side of the island to snorkel.

 We left Lahaina to drive over to Wailea Beach, about 30-45 minutes away. On the way over we stopped and found the trailhead where we were going to hike to watch the sunset that evening. (I wanted to make sure we made it back in time to get to the top of the hill). On the way over to snorkeling ‘Ureka” I had a brilliant idea! We would snorkel together. I would dive down and act like I found something shiny, come up and it would be the ring. I would propose to her in the water. But when I sat down in the sand to put on my fins on, Julie said, “You may not want to put your fins on in the water like that. The waves will wash them out to sea”. I murmured, “I got it, I got it. Don’t worry”. Just then a wave came up and washed one of my fins out into the water. I spent the next 20 minutes trying to find it. It was in that moment I realized that taking a ring out of my pocket while in the ocean was probably not a good idea. Actually I realized it was a horrible idea!!! Plan C was now in operation!

 After a beer at a local pub across from where we were snorkeling, we got in the jeep and went to the grocery store. I had already bought two small bottles of champagne earlier that morning for the big moment. She suggested that we stop and get some cheese and crackers to have a small picnic at the top of the mountain. We procured said cheese, got in the jeep and drove to the trailhead. As we climbed, I started to realize that this was an un-shaded, hot and dusty hike. I couldn’t find a single moment that would even hint at being romantic or memorable. I resolved that this was not going to happen today or on this trip. When we got to the bottom of the trailhead I noticed the beach across the road. I told her let’s at least go over there, have the cheese, crackers and champagne and watch the sunset. We found a little private cove called Secret Beach, and set up on the beach and watched a beautiful Hawaiian sunset together. As the sun started to drop I thought “man this is the perfect moment and place to do it”. I suggested we wade out in the water, and I would do it there. She said she didn’t want to get wet again at that time in the evening as it was starting to get chilly. I started to think this day had beat me. Just then all of these tiny sand crabs were popping up around me as the sun was setting. I felt like they were telling me, “Do it. Do it… Just do it!” So I did it! After she started crying and said yes, I pulled out two separate notes. One was from her mom and dad congratulating her, and one was from my mom and dad welcoming her to the family. I had previously asked them to write these for this moment, whenever that moment would happen.

 The day before we left San Clemente to fly to Kona, I had made a lame excuse to get out of the house so that I could meet her dad to ask permission for her hand in marriage. I had also asked Julie’s mother earlier that morning if she could write a note and send it with Cal, her father. I had also asked the same of my mom and dad prior to leaving Dallas. 

 I am excited to be marrying the love of my life, soul-mate and best friend.

  •  We are going to get married this June 25, 2016 on the cliffs overlooking Crystal Cove Beach between Laguna Beach and Newport Beach! We couldn’t be happier.

   
    
    
  

Day 1095: Power in Journaling

I started blogging on my Camino de Compostella hike 3 years ago. It has become the single, greatest tool in my grief process. Reading and reflecting over the last three years and seeing my heart heal within the raw words I wrote, I get to slowly see myself become whole again. It does something for me that has been unexplainable.

I don’t, for one second, forget this day three years ago. Every day I remember sitting in our room watching her life literally vanish from this world. As I watched, I felt a void in my life grow to a point of crippling proportions. It was as the sun vanished to leave me in a cold dark world.

Every minute of every day, I still think and talk about the last month of Lindy and I’s life together. The guarded barrier she held since I met her, like the Berlin Wall, crumbled to the ground these last three weeks. It was maybe one of the most beautiful moments of our life. It was the culmination of eight years of trying like crazy for me to get to her to understand what unconditional love looked liked. In her final days she finally felt and knew it existed from me to her. I relive and cherish these moments so often.

Without dragging the story out, I started to journal in 2004, one year before I was to meet Lindy. I apparently, in a devastating heartbreak of my own, started to journal. Well, drunken journaling in a New Orleans bar while day drinking. It was me and my friend Jack Daniels, that was. I drank and in anger wrote out what a perfect woman for me would look like should I ever want to put my heart back out there. After that weekend, I lost that journal, only to find it a year after I married Lindy. I opened it up and read it. I was in shock that I described Lindy to a T on those pages.

Two years before I married Lindy, I started to write out my goals and post them on a board in my office. The other night I was cleaning out my attic and I ran across that board.

One of my goals was to have one of my homes on or near the ocean in Southern California. I truly had forgotten about that board and this goal. Yesterday, while driving from Orange County with my fiancé Julie, five hours north to Mammoth Mountain to ski, that board popped into my mind. I shared with her that this moment is a bit surreal.

Now, I am engaged to a Southern Cali girl, in a made for Lifetime type of meeting and story, doing pre-marital counseling out here and I am excited about the plans God would have for us.

Today marks another seminal marker in my journey of grief and life. I will always celebrate Lindys life, like I do everyday now, but today for the first time, I am truly happy and excited about what life has in store for me again. I am getting married to my perfect partner-in-life and new best friend, future mother of our kids, and the one who was truly put in my path to help God redeem me. I am at that stage of recovery that is not the end of pain, but the ability to function with it and let myself reconnect to the happiness I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Lindy is cheering on for me from Heaven. I know she is smiling that I have met the perfect girl for me. My hurt will never be forgotten, it will just start to recede into the background of my life. This is a fact that comes with great tears as I write this. My grief has always kept me close to Lindy. This may be the moment Lindy has been waiting for so that she can finally know I am ok. Me being ok is something I found out recently from one of her dear friends that was very important to her.

I love you sweetheart and you will always be in my heart and thoughts.

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Day 1003: Fit to be Tied

As I calculated the number of days, I was floored to see it come up on the calculator. A Thousand Days! Since Lindy passed? Wow. Some days it feels like it was yesterday. 
I feel like I have been floating along…going nowhere since her passing. But when I caught up today with a old business partner from 15 years ago, I began to tell him what all I have been up to since I lost Lindy.

As I stepped outside of myself and listened closely, I realized that I have been blessed with an amazing almost 3 year season of life that at times seems like a fairytale in and of itself. 

The places I have been, and the things I have done seem like someone else’s story, not mine. I shot up with pride as I was telling him my story, “yea I really did that!” 
Everything I have been blessed with being able to do over these past years, I owe to Lindy. 
In her disciplined and dedicated fashion, she was planning for our future. A future she wouldn’t be able to enjoy herself here on earth. 
Me? I thank her every single second of every day for being amazing with our finances. Lord knows I am not the greatest at it now, but I am forever thankful that she was. I fought the meshing of finances in the beginning, but acquiesced and wish I would have sooner. 
She made me a better person all the way around. She even told me before she died, “make sure your next wife thanks me for making you the perfect husband!” (Tears flow even as I type that) and I will always be proud to call her my wife. I tear up at least once a day over our life together being tragically cut short.
I am also convinced that she had a hand in me moving me forward in life. The serendipitous way I met Julie is confirmation that Lindy and God’s hand was in Julie and I meeting. I can’t even explain how perfect it is, and my relationship with Julie, in the beginning, was still overshadowed by the fact that I loved Lindy to her core, and I didn’t think that I could ever feel that way again. I felt a little like I was betraying her in the beginning of my relationship with Julie. I came to terms with it when I realized how affectionate, caring, and loving Julie was and how much I needed/missed that.  
Struggling through the guilt of letting myself be happy again, Julie happened.  She happened and I couldn’t be happier right now. We couldn’t be more in tune with each other. She is even in tune and often comforting to me when I have a moment of sadness with a memory or moment remembering Lindy. Where on earth can you find a woman like that? I did. I did in a very odd way. But that makes it even better, our story that is. 
She encourages me not to hold back on celebrating Lindy’s life. So comforting. She is extremely secure in herself and who she is. I love her and hope to move into a life and family with her, when the time is right. (I hope that door opens soon:) 

I am very happy that Julie and I share the same faith. God has been very good to me and to us. He is always faithful. I have a lot of friends that have never seen this side of me, simply because it didn’t exist for 22+ years. It is who I am now and I will always be. It’s not a fleeting thing. I love Jesus and I am proud to say that He is the reason I didn’t go off the deep end when Lindy died. It wasn’t an easy thing for me to reconcile with Him, but He was there and He walked me through it, and still walks with me.  God is really faithful to me, in spite of me. I do believe that He allows things to happen and that He works all things together for His good. He has opened doors, and He has closed doors. I have been frustrated, angry and flat out mad over these last 1003 days. I am comforted that He is always there and that loves me and that I have Him to not only look to always, but especially when times get confusing.

This digital journal has been the single biggest beneficial resource in my grief journey. It helps to read back (thanks to Facebook, it often reminds me of memories, and journal entries…when I least expect them!). I pray I will continue to make entries for years to come. 
I love where I am in life. The road definitely journeyed off into another dimension than I expected. 
I believe, for the first time in 1003 days, I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
  

Day 844: Intertwined 

July 6th,

San Clemente, Ca
It was a very fun weekend watching fireworks sitting on the beach. I smiled at every beautiful burst in the black sky, illuminating over the water, shedding light on the hundreds of kayakers, paddle boarders, and surfers watching from a better front row seat than us (not much better because we were dry). With my arm around Julie, I quietly shed a few tears that Lindy wasn’t here in person to see this beauty. She absolutely loved beach life!

  1. Julie loves the 4th celebrations (I do too) and wanted me to experience her vibrant beach town, as well as,  her friends and their private access to the breathtaking, Cypress Cove.  We started out in San Clemente watching the Office Chair Race, where people with their own rolling office chair carts raced down a winding hill, often cheersing the crowd with their beer, and fighting to stay upright, occasionally wiping out in the crowd (yes I laughed! Sadistic. I know)!  Then it was off to sit on the beach, lather up with sunscreen, wade into the tide and find baby octopuses in the seaweed, and meet her wonder friends that were sprinkled up and down the beach. She knows everyone! Her friends that we went with that had the beach access, and their kids, are amazing! I felt like I had known them for years. After the beach and dinner with them, we went back to San Clemente to watch the fireworks on the pier. After the show, we were walking back through the town to our car, often dodging the amateur pyro’s feeble attempt at an illegal fireworks show, I had another surreal moment. With the background of this small towns celebrations, I saw myself holding hands with the second most amazing woman I have ever known. She is so kind and pretty. She pays attention to me when I talk and rengages with fasccinating, thought provocative conversations. She genuinely cares about me. She is strong, yet gentle. We can disagree, get upset, and be made up in a matter of minutes. When we don’t agree with each other, at a not-too-much-later time, out-of-the-blue, we are both good at, especially her,  apologizing when we know one of us  was wrong. She speaks her mind in the most sensitive way. She is always graceful and loving with me when I get emotional about or mention Lindy. She is vey affectionate.  She is super smart and doesn’t take any smack! (I have no doubt, Lindy and her would have been good friends had they met at another place in time). Most importantly, she has a heart for The Lord. She really was meant to be in my life. 

Getting to be the godfather to one of Lindy’s best friends son, Billy, and having a friendship with her and her husband Paul, and getting to see them every time I am out here, has been an honor and a joy. Being apart of their life has been a great, and a great way to keep Lindy’s spirit alive too. I am so looking forward to seeing Billy grow, and I am hoping to be a good role model and significant man in his life. 
Seeing with a new eye, to what equates to my new path in life, is both surreal, emotional and healing, as I embrace all the new joys God has placed in my life. I want to believe Lindy has Gods ear in all of this. It’s all very healing the more I  accept, every day, this new, exciting life as it gives way to me understanding that her memory doesn’t ever have to die, or become second. She lives on in all I am becoming in her physically absence.

My involvement in my grief group(s) has continual taught me that we all grieve differently. It has also taught me that those that have lost spouses  move on differently. No two people grieve the same. After having your partner in life ripped away, there comes a time that you have to push to move forward or we risk becoming dead while we are alive. Living is what they would want, expect and cheer on for us. For everyone I have met that has lost a spouse, and has managed to forge a new life, I thank you for inspiring me. I realized at a point in my grief, I  had to also consciously force myself to engage in the process of building that new life. I know it’s  all in God’s time, but you also have to look for the doors he opens, and be willing to walk through them. It’s been a perfect process for me in retrospect.

It was two years in February, this year. I was still in deep grief, but telling myself it was time to try and meet someone else. I read one of my post two days ago, that one of Julie’s friends found on my blog and reposted. Her friend lost her significant other, Kenny, a year ago. After reading her post that she inserted my post in, I remembered that I had met Julie (in an unexpectedly, wildly, crazy way) 8 days after I wrote and commemorated the two-year mark of Lindy’s death. I remembered that  Julie and I talked and emailed for a month before actually seeing each other. It was the perfect courtship,  for where I was in my grief. It made me feel 16 again, as we got to know each other through all day text, late night text, asking hard hitting questions to each other and basically not being inhibited with our questions. I remember the first time we saw each other. She picked me up at John Wayne airport. As I could see her getting closer, I took my wedding ring off (that I have been wearing on my right hand in memory of Lindy) for the first time since buying a replacement, shortly after I locked my old one on the bridge in Paris. This may not sound like a big deal, but in my mind it was a huge deal! My point is, God truly does allow joy back in your life at the right time. The beautiful thing is, his timing is always the perfect timing. He has slowly allowed me to let go of enough grief, at the right time, to find a place for this kind of joy in my life again. 
If I look down from a birds eye view of my life since her passing, I can’t deny the hands of Jesus at work. He has guided my life perfectly since her death. Every time I prayed for something I needed, God provided. I’ve learned to live simply. I’ve learned to appreciate everything and everyone that God has placed in my life. When opportunities arise, as long as I pray about it, and listen and act on the answers, it works out for my good. 
I have pledged my life, and time to helping others find the joy found in desperate dependance on God.  I get great pleasure in helping people in need too. It seems that when I surrender my wants and ambitions to Him, I get abundance in my life. To have potentially found a second love, is amazing to me and something I never thought possible. To have met new amazing people who care for me, is a great, priceless feeling. For me to pour myself into others that I can relate to in grief, gives me hope that my life will not be lived in vain. 

I still miss Lindy every second of every day. She was my everything and I will never forget what we had. I have dreams often, that she is in, where we have current, relevant conversations to my life. It’s as if she is really there helping me make decisions. I can’t explain why this happens, but I wake up the mornings after feeling happy that I connected with her. I feel she will always be with me beyond just memories. I don’t know the mysteries of the world, but I’m encouraged and happy that one day I will know those answers and get to see her again. Until then “Death becomes beauty, and love transcends that line”. It’s funny how words I put to music  in grief have evolved beyond what I intended them to mean originally.

   
    
 

Buon Compleanno Rigatoni!

Buon Compleanno, Happy Birthday to my best buddy! Two years old today. He has been an absolute joy in my life. So sweet, smart and very affectionate. I am looking forward to many more years with my fellow.

I realized today that I have never put his story down in my memoirs. So here is the short version!

I started duckhunting in 2009. I got married in Italy, to my late wife, in 2010. In late 2009 my wife, then girlfriend, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, given 6 months. She/we didn’t agree with that outcome, but we splurged and got married in Cernobbio Italy, on Lake Como. The day after we got married, I saw this beautiful dog across the park from our patio. I went over to see him and played with him for 15-20 minutes. Fell in LOVE with him! Told my wife, I am getting this breed when we get home. She said “there is no way in hell we were getting a 90 pound hound dog in our home!” Welcome to marriage, I thought! Next day, on a boat ride across the lake, she said, “I have the perfect name for our dog. We will name him Rigatoni and call him Rig”. She had looked the breed up online the night before and realized that he would be a great addition to our family, and a great hunting companion for my me. Got home and started searching for a breeder. By the time we found one, she declined. Had to put it off   until she got better. After she passed, a lady that Was helping me find a Bracco, called and turned me on to a breeder in Telluride, Co. Got on her waitlist and drove to Colorado and got Rig. He is super special to me for very obvious reasons. He is the dog she named.

He will see his first duck hunt, as an observer, at the end of this year. He is very affectionate, super smart and very very loyal. Great companion and friend and his hunting instincts are ingrained.

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