Sunday, March 17, 2019

10 years

Today marks 10 years of life on earth without Brian Edward O'Neill.

Such an understated sentence.  Mostly because it's not completely true.  I was going to focus this post on the immeasurable loss of life on earth without Brian, but I did that 5 years ago.  And everything I wrote in that post 5 years ago continues to be true and amplified. However, the truth is that while Brian is physically gone from this earth, there are pieces of him everywhere.  I strive to keep his memory alive in the boys.  I share with them his little mistakes when they make similar ones.  I tell them about how proud he would be in those moments when I know he would be.  I tell them that he wouldn't want them to react a certain way when I know he wouldn't. I tell them about his love for a song or band when we hear one that brings back memories.  We have pictures and memorabilia and bible verses and even tattoos around to help us remember and to keep him with us.

More importantly, I see signs of him in the boyz' hobbies and activities.  I recognize him when I respond to a situation in a way that is contrary to myself but a way that I learned from him.   I hear him in his brothers' inflections. I feel him when his mom hugs me.  I visualize his giggles and smirks when his dad does some "Ed'ism."  I taste his tastes when I eat mint chip ice cream, a cadbury egg or  drink a nice dark beer.

So while I was going to focus on this post on "10 years later where are they now?" and share some of the heart-breaking circumstances and effects of his loss on our lives, I decided not to.  Mostly because, Brian wouldn't want us to. Yes the loss has had a profound negative effect on our lives, and we have had some incredibly difficult obstacles to overcome.  Yes, we have and continue to have issues and struggles because he is not here.  Yes, things would be different. But at the 10 year mark and beyond, that really isn't the focus anymore.  We deal. We grieve.  We process.  We acknowledge. We remember. Most importantly - We Honor the life and LEGACY of Brian O'Neill.


Monday, March 17, 2014

If he were still alive

five years

FIVE years


I remember a dear friend of mine telling me a few years ago how she hated the anniversaries of her mom’s death. She didn't want it to be a whole year that had passed.  She didn’t want it to be 2 years later. She didn’t want it to be FIVE years since her mom had left this earth to be in heaven. She didn’t want it to be that long.

It’s strange. It’s hard to describe. It’s hard to understand.  Each passing year accentuates the fact that life on this earth is so unsubstantial. So, temporary. So fleeting. It accentuates that death is imminent for each and every one of us, but that with our own death, it will simply not impact the rest of the world from moving on.

When Brian first passed, it seemed incomprehensible that life could go on without him. It seemed only fitting that each event would be scattered with “if Brian were here” sentiments. It seemed impossible to imagine ever going on a vacation without him, to celebrate without him, to entertain without him, to just GO ON without him. It seemed as if we were SUPPOSED to sprinkle a memorial tribute to Brian into everything we did. Earlier on it was as if everything the boyz and I did was because “Brian would want us to.” The idea of doing things because “we want to” felt like nearly an insult to his memory.

I’m not really sure when it changed. It wasn’t an event or moment. It was a process of accepting our new life without Brian. It was an evolution into our family structure from living "for what it was" to living "in what it is." I don’t remember when the feelings of guilt began to subside.  Not that they ever totally go away, but they do fade. I suspect there will never be a day that some guilt for moving on doesn’t creep in.

As life without Brian has become “normal” in the last few years, this 5 year anniversary mark has caused me to pause at what life would be like if he were still here. There are the OBVIOUS things that would be so different if he were alive, like we would still be married, and he would be at family events and such. However, what I have really reflected upon, is how different certain things would be if he still had every day involvement.

  1.  With respect to the boyz, I know Brian would have handled all the minor and major discipline issues I have dealt with over the last few years with great patience, a firm hand, healthy boundaries and realistic but challenging expectations. I know he wouldn’t have lost his temper as often as I had. I know he would have remained logical and fair when I fly off the handle and find myself having a heated argument with my disrespectful tweenagers. In short, he would have kept his cool and modeled an example of discipline that mirrors the kind that God gives to His people. That’s just the way Brian did things.
  2.  I know my boyz would have more confidence and would be more comfortable with who they are and who they can be. Brian was uncharacteristically confident in a humble way in himself. He was incredibly comfortable in his own skin and it was apparent to all around him. The boyz would have emulated that same confidence. Instead, they are often awkward, or showing off or simply oddly quiet at times.  I look at them so often and lament the young men that the WOULD be if Brian were here to make his mark on them. As it is, there are often times when I JUST DON’T GET THEM.
  3.  I know my boyz would be better athletes. They would spend more time outside and playing at a level appropriate to their abilities. They are both better athletes than me and I can provide them opportunities, but I cannot coach or assist them. Plus they do not take instruction from me very well. Brian would have easily been able to guide them and challenge them and have fun with them.
  4.  I know Brian would have LOVED and enjoyed the fact that each boy shares a little bit in each of the hobbies that he loved and enjoyed. From sports, to nature to a funny flick, the boyz , as they grow up are developing their passions. Brian would have been wonderful at honing in with Grant on target shooting, hunting and he would have thoroughly enjoyed the trail aspects of his program – orienteering, the safety and logic portions. He would have been passionate about learning to shoot a bow right along next to his son.  He would have loved watching a movie with Gavin laughing at the same ridiculously stupid parts out loud. It would have been beautiful to witness.
  5.  I know my boyz would be better students. Brian was the teacher between us. He was more patient and had a better ability to explain things in practical ways. He was approachable and helpful. He would have been eager to sit along next to them where they struggle and be involved in their studies.
  6. I know the boyz would get along better. Brian had a fantablulous relationship with his two brothers. They shared a camaraderie and the same dry sense of humor and very similar interests - fishing, shooting, music, tie dye. But more importantly, they each had and still have a strong sense of loyalty and respect for each other. They get along and when push comes to shove (and even when it doesn't), they have GOT EACH OTHER's BACKS. I cannot say the same for my boyz. The bicker and torment and pester like normal siblings, but some days they are downright MEAN to each other and are more jealous than happy for each other. Brian would never have tolerated that and he would have shaped their relationship into a more mutually respectful and caring relationship that celebrated the others accomplishments and differences. 
  7.  I know they would have a better appreciation for music. Their musical interests would be 80% old and obscure music and 20% pop/top 40 instead of the flip flopped ratio that is today. He probably would have taken up guitar right along with them. He would have LOVED that his boyz were learning an instrument because, while he had almost none, never playing an instrument was a regret of Brian’s.
  8.  I know that Brian would never have made the same mistakes I have. I know that 5 years after my death, Brian would be comfortably involved and established with a good woman that shared his values, faith and sense of humor and one that balanced him well. He would not have wasted 6 months of his life with love interests that deep down he knew were wrong twice like I did. He NEVER would have married someone that he had a slight reservation about. He was simply too smart and too practical and too intuitive for that.  He knew what he wanted and he didn’t compromise. He wouldn’t have been judgmental and would have tried things out, but he wouldn’t have wasted more than 2 months of his time with someone that wasn’t right.  I am confident of that.
Regardless how I feel about how things would be different, the fact is that, currently, they aren't. I can't make sense of why God would choose to take Brian from this world and from his boyz. Thing is, though, I stopped trying to make sense of it. Who am I to question God's sovereignty, and judgement? NO ONE, that's who! So, I continue to trust. As I wax nostalgic of what life would be like if Brian were still alive, one thing that can happen is that I can make positive changes in my life and in my boyz' lives to emulate what we would be like if Brian were still involved.

 INot because Brian would have wanted it that way.

But because that's they way I want it and that's the way it should be.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Spirit?

This  Sunday evening, our church, Harvester Christian in St. Charles, MO, was hosting a concert all about worship this Holiday Season. As the messages have focused on Christmas, - preparing for the arrival, giving gifts, and today, WORSHIP, the church offered a Christmas worship and praise session with the hope of just glorifying God and offering praise this Holiday Season to get us in the TRUE Christmas Spirit.

I informed the boyz we were going. They weren't exactly thrilled, but they weren't exactly resistant either.

On our way there, as they were commenting about being at church for the second time that weekend and the 4th time in 8 days, I said, the reason we are going is because we tend to get so caught up at Christmas with getting gifts and giving gifts and shopping and everything else that we forget about why we have Christmas at all.

We passed a house just up the street that has my all time favorite yard decoration. It is cut out of Santa with his hat off kneeling in front of a baby in a manger. I said, THAT is why we are going to church tonight. THAT is the Christmas spirit we need to have.

I explained that how humbling Easter is - when we remember how Christ was brutally killed to pay the penalty for our sins - yet Christmas is a time when we should be so much more humble. That God came to Earth as Jesus as a baby. That he was GOD and was capable of doing ANYTHING HE WANTED and ANYTHING HE COULD, but he came as a baby to understand us and to help us understand Him. THat he messed his diaper and cried and was a toddler but was going to some day save the world! I said how I wished the Bible talked more about how Jesus was as a child. That one day he was the same age as them and had the same issues they have with friends and stuff but was GOD and in the middle of that could have done ANYTHING, but he loved us so SOOOO much he became one of us anyway. That he let himself fall down and skin his knees and stub his toes and do all the things babies and then kids do. WOW. Isn't that amazing? Let's go to church tonight and worship Him because of this amazing gift.

Grant said, "I know one thing. If you died and Jesus was our parent, he would probably let us open one of those presents under the tree early or allow us to go to Dairy Queen (next door to church) after we worshipped Him tonight."

Feeling rather defeated from trying to get a point across, but also admiring his wit and determination, I asked which he would choose if Jesus was his parent. He said, "Well, since I don't really want to waste your money on ice cream we could get at home and since this is a privlege to do early. I think He would allow me and Gavin to open one of the presents to both of us. I would choose that. Wouldn't you, Gavin?" Gavin agreed.

They praised Jesus in their own beautiful ways at church. Gavin - through the awkward, puberty-inflicted "Im-not-sure-who-I-want-you-to-see-who-I-am" phase - tight lipped, occassional head on my shoulder, barely audible singing. Grant - through the - "mom-needs-to-hear-me-and-believe-I-am-sincere-because-I-really-want-to-open-that-gift", yet, "I-am-still-a-kid-and-I-am-not-ashamed-to-sing-as-loud-as-I-can" worship voice explaining to me all the songs they had recently sung in kids church and all the kids in the audience tonight that he recognized. I loved every minute of it. I know Jesus is pleased by worship and that He knows the motives of a heart and who is worshipping Him with a pure heart. I know Gavin and Grant's motives were pure beneath it all.

As we left, Grant inquired- "How did I do? I sang every song. And you know what? That was actually kind of fun. I enjoyed it."

They are now home playing NHL12 (won't buy NHL13 due to strike season) for the XBox - a new addition to their collection after opening it from under the tree tonight.

Judge me. I don't care. It was a great night.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Loving me

 Dear Brian,

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Today, I was at our old house. The house that is now rented out to a wonderfully gracious family from Japan that has absolutely no clue whatsoever about taking care of a yard. I pulled weeds. And then I pulled some more weeds. After that, I pulled some more weeds. Then I began to hack at some weeds. Then I tugged at some deeply rooted thorny weeds. Later, I told my father in law to whack those puppies with the trimmer and douse em with chemicals!

While I was in the midst of weed pulling bliss, my old neighbor came out. Connie and I began to share in some pleasantries and then get to the meat of what is going on in my life. The injustice of divorcing a man that is incapable of compromise, yet totally capable of manipulation and outright lies. The horrific process of moving my children for the third time in a year due to my own inability to see him for who he really was. The bitterness my children are feeling towards me and towards Bill for having to move from their friends and their neighborhood since he refused despite the fact that we had lived there for their whole lives and Bill had lived for less than a year. The sadness Connie feels as a neighbor who simply misses me and my boys' smiling faces. The regret she feels for us as all anyone wanted for us who had been through such hell in the last several years was to have us HAPPY. And how we were... for a while.

Then she shared a story with me -

A few years ago at a school function of the children - you were sitting in the front row on the bleachers where you were capable of sitting when you could no longer maneuver stairs. I was on the floor taking pictures or videoing or something along those lines. She said, she looked at you and you were smiling and just gazing at me as I unknowingly went about my business. She saw what you were looking at and said, "She's quite a gal there, isn't she?"

You didn't stop your gaze and said, "Yup, she sure is."

Connie tapped your leg and said, "She's gonna be just fine, Brian. She's a strong woman."

You looked at her and said, "Yes, she is. I know she is."

And I remembered. YOU LOVED ME. You loved me for ME. I didn't have to be someone I am not. I didn't walk on eggshells. You didn't try to control me. You loved me for all I am. You accepted me as I am.

So as I want to thank you for loving me for the way you loved me. I want to thank you for showing me what true love is. I want to thank you for accepting me as I am. I want to thank you for making me a better person because of your love for me. Thank you.

I needed today, more than ever to know that I am lovable. To know that unconditional love exists.

Because if what I experienced over the last year is all I knew of love. And all my children and I are experiencing now at the hands of someone who claimed to love us was all I knew of marriage.

I would give up.

Thank you, Connie, for the reminder that there is real love. That there is truthful love. That i am worthy of it.

Thank you, Brian, for personifying it.

And I am gonna be just fine. We all will be.


Monday, February 21, 2011


Today, Gavin excitedly entered the kitchen as I was preparing breakfast on this President's holiday ready to tell me something. He announced, "Mom, I am not going to go to college." He has told me this before, and I believe in promoting higher education without forcing it upon my kids. A skilled trade or some sort of technical training would also allow them a very respectable living some day and not everyone in our world has or needs a college education. So I inquired why. He explained, "I am going to stay home and go to college instead. I know how. You do it online in your pajamas."

I think it may be time to limit TV viewing again.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

a rough night

November 3, 2010
Dear Brian,

I pray that heaven is as I describe it to the boyz. I do not understand it, but I have heard it described as a place void of and incapable of having any sadness, longing, jealousy, anger, or any negative emotions. And if it isn't, I pray you do not have the omniscience I inquired about last post.

Tonight, as I was putting away some of Grant's laundry, I noticed his looking at the photo collage of you and him on his wall. I peeked up at him sitting on his bed looking off into the distance and asked what he was looking at, knowing full well what he was doing. He said, "My daddy pictures". I noticed his voice cracked and he immediately looked down. I asked if he was okay, which of course he answered that he was. So, I asked if he wanted me to lay with him for a while and cry.

For the next hour and a half, he cried inconsolably. The only other time I have heard him or any child cry like that for a JUST CAUSE was March 17, 2009 when I had to tell our boyz who had been away for a couple days that Daddy had died that morning. That task is another one of those events that brings about certain tears when I relive it. To even write the words is horrific: I had to tell my 6 and 7 year old boyz that their daddy died while they were away. While seemingly handling the news okay, within an hour, Grant came running to me in a panic and cried inconsolably for a sold hour that day. It was the worst cry I have ever witnessed because it was so pure, so genuine and so justified. There were no words. No answers. All I could do was hold him and tell him, "I know" over and over again. In my mind I prayed I never heard such a cry again.

Tonight, I heard the cry again. I pray that either you can't hear it or you can't feel the emotions it stirs to those of us on earth. To hear your child moan in anguish over something you can never give them or fix for them is beyond heart breaking. I heard it for a solid hour and a half realizing there are no words that can ease the pain.

I heard him moan:
Daddy, I miss you just so so so much.
Daddy, I love you.
This isn't fair to me.
I wish life didn't have to be this way. I miss my Daddy.
I'm gonna go to your grave tomorrow and spend hours and hours there just praying.
I might keep crying all night. I have so many tears to get out and i think I have a million more. I may never be able to stop crying.
I can't get him out of my head. I keep thinking about everything with him.
That cup makes me think of him.
That song you are singing makes me think of him.

He apologized to me for making me cry and for getting me wet with his tears until he finally passed out from exhaustion on the floor next to my bed.

November 4, 2010
Dear Brian,

As promised, I picked up Grant and Gavin from school today to let Grant go to your grave. My co-worker wouldn't let me pay for my lunch today and insisted I use the money to buy the boyz an ice cream tonight instead. We stopped and got milkshakes.

Grant wrote you notes at school today. I snapped some shots of what he wrote. They reiterate what he lamented last night.

One thought that came to my mind last night as he was crying was over the new man in my life. He is amazing and he loves me deeply and it is obvious to me and must be to the boyz. I believe my reciprocated feelings for him are also obvious. He spends more and more time with us as a family and is becoming an important part of all of our lives. Grant is quite taken by him and is very "all-in" as I had stated in my last post with his emotions. It is quite obvious to anyone that watches them interact that Grant loves him. (BTW, to my guy, sorry for referring to you as a pronoun. Don't wanna reveal your name on the blog unless we have talked about it first.) I had thought perhaps Grant's feelings for him were making him feel guilty or confused as he mourned you, and perhaps that was causing some of his outbreak. So, I spoke to him briefly about it being okay to love someone else and still be sad for you. That I feel the same way, but that you wanted all of us to find someone in our lives that could make us happy and vice versa. He assured me it was not the case for his tears, but then I saw this letter he wrote to you:

We went to the cemetery. Grant began his uncontrollable sobs again. He sat on my lap on the ground crying over you and how much he misses you. It was cold outside. Cold and windy. I sat with him a while. Gavin watched us both and stated. "I wonder why I'm not crying." I told him it was okay to be sad and okay not to be sad, that we all feel things at different times. Gavin went to the car to warm up. Grant cried for about 30 minutes as hard as he did the night before. He said to me, as he traced the letters of your name with his finger on your tombstone, "I wish so bad we could just pull this up." I asked him, "Why?" He said, "So I could see daddy again." OH HOW I REMEMBER THAT FEELING. It was months before I could go to the cemetery because I could not handle the thought of your body in the earth. It was all I had to resist the urge to dig. Yes, it is strange, but I wanted to see you or save your body or somehow realize it was all a mistake or something. I assured him it was just your body and not you there anymore. He yelled at me, "I JUST WANNA SEE HIM ONE MORE TIME SO BAD, MOM!" So, I hugged him tighter and cried with him knowing and understanding.

Eventually, the cold got to me. I gave him my gloves, I did not have a hat. I saw Gavin getting antsy. Gavin asked me if he could kick around his soccer ball. My instinct was to say no thinking it was disrespectful at a cemetery. We were the only ones there. I had just told him it was okay for him not to be sad. It is a grassy area. So, I said, "sure." It was very interesting to watch their contrasting emotions and coping mechanisms. Gavin smiling and kicking a soccer ball and Grant on his knees sobbing and occasionally burying his face in the grass.

I felt odd doing it, but I snapped some shots thinking that some day they may want to remember how they felt those days when they are happy and wonder if they were ever sad over your death or when they are sad and wonder if they were ever happy despite your death.