Tuesday, April 28, 2009

that time of month

Dear Brian,

This is so personal that I can't believe I am choosing to write to you about this. I think I am choosing to write to you because even I am surprised by my reaction.

It is "that" time of month for me again right now. Yesterday was the beginning. And you know what? That simple, stupid, regular biological condition makes me miss you so much.


I have really never missed a cycle in our entire relationship except for when we forced my body to do so during our in-vitro and insemination attempts. I have never been pregnant. I gave up the idea of becoming pregnant several years ago. So WHY THEN would this make me think of you and miss you more?? I can't make sense of it.

Is it because my emotions and hormones are on overload causing me to overreact to everything?

Is it because this biological function reminds me of my own sexuality and the fact that I forever lost my partner?

Is it because it reminds me of the monthly conversation that would ensue after I told you things would have to be "on hold" in the bedroom for a few days because I "started"? You would almost always reply with some sort of sassy "Ah... That makes sense now," or, "Yeah, I kind of figured it was coming" comment to indicate in recent days I had been perhaps less than rational or a bit overemotional. To which I would ALWAYS reply, "Babe, if you THINK I am emotional or PMSing, then it is REALLY UNWISE to point it out." Is it really possible for someone to miss a conversation like THAT?

Is it because this time reminds me of the longing look you would get in your eyes after a few days and the gentle nudge you would give me as you passed by whispering, "Are you close to being done yet?" You always made me feel beautiful, loved and needed. Is it because no one is here making me feel beautiful and loved in an intimate way now?

Or is it simply because it is yet another painful reminder of the fact that despite your absence we cannot stop life from moving on? I can't even stop my own body from moving on.

I don't know the exact reason, but I do know that right now I miss you more than ever. I love you.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

finding humor

Dear Brian,

A couple things around here have been making me laugh lately. I know how much you loved to laugh - how easily you found so much delight in life and circumstances and even the most questionably humorous programming. When things make me laugh, I want so badly to call you or rush in the door and tell you, "listen to what I heard today." So, I thought I would write them for you here today.

First of all, the boys and I went to the China buffet today. I was craving Egg Drop soup which is 90% of the reason I go there. The boys are generally pretty well behaved and enjoy making their own plates. I like watching Grant suck his thumb after touching all the sneeze-infested ladles and bacteria-ridden soft-serve handle. Oh, wait, I hate that part. I think I like going there so much because it was the last place the 4 of us went together. It is a precious memory to me as Gavin declared when we entered the parking lot that he loved that place and it was the only place he ever wanted to eat for the rest of his life. This was remarkable to us coming from a picky eater at a place that shares a parking lot with an adjacent McDonald's.

Anyway, I wanted to share my fortune with you.

"Be patient. The Great Wall of China did not got build in one day."

The incorrect grammar as the boys insisted I read it aloud made me laugh out loud. I know you would have cracked up and would have quoted it to me all night.

We were walking through our front yard today and this is blooming again:

I commented on the foul odor of the tree and Gavin said, "Yeah, we call it the tree with flowers that smell like farts." HOW TRUE!

Lastly, my cousin, Kaylie's 5th grade religion class made us some sympathy cards. They must have done them the week you died because they were largely decorated with shamrocks, rainbows and and pots of gold. Most of the cards were genuine and sweet with an occasional misspelled word or a less than sensitive picture of a tombstone and a cemetery. Then, we came to THE CARD. Here it is:

This boy's complete breach of social etiquette has me in stitches. Note the broken heart on the cover. I read this card periodically throughout the day whenever I need a laugh. It is my favorite card of all the countless cards we have received. The brutal honesty of a child cannot be paralleled when it comes to warped humor- a brand we both enjoyed. I know this would have been your favorite card you showed everyone when they walked in the door. It fits you perfectly.

I miss and love you, Brian.


Thursday, April 23, 2009


Dear Brian,

Some days are just harder than others for different reasons. Some days I am so overwhelmed with my own grief, I feel angry at the world for carrying on as if nothing happened. Some days the housework and other chores pile up. Some days the children act out or simply act up.

And then there are days like today, for which I am completely unprepared.

The boys are going through a "FEAR" phase. They are afraid of so many possibilities of catastrophe happening to us. The other day, Gavin was terrified of possible burglary. He asked me a million questions about burglars and "what if" scenarios.

What if a burglary came?

We lock the doors.

What if we forget to lock the doors?

I never do. But you can start helping me lock the doors each night if you want. We can be a team.

What if the burglar has a saw?

I would hear it and I would call the police and the police would get the burglar.

What if the saw is quiet?

There are no quiet saws.

What if the burglar is faster than the police?

Then I would call Mike or Chris and they would be here and beat up the burglar really fast til the police came.

If a burglar came would you leave and run?

Gavin, I would run into YOUR and GRANT'S room and I would protect you and I would save you. I would never leave you behind. AND? I am a lot stronger than you realize.

It is difficult being the knight after so many years of being the princess. It makes me miss you so much.

Then, tonight, Brian, we had our first thunderstorm of the year. The boys were both terrified of the lightening, insisting the lightening would strike our house and cause a fire. I kept reassuring them our house was safe, pointing out all the times we have had wind or lightening or rain, yet the house has never had a problem. We would be fine. I missed you and your ability to reason with them. Sometimes your reasoning boiled down to comments like "Lightening would never strike here because I am Superman and it is afraid of me." They would giggle and move on, assured of your unreasonable ability to protect them. I felt safe, too.
You always had a way of turning this:
Into this:

Their fears tonight consisted of fire "what if" scenarios.

What if the lightening strikes the house?

It won't. Our house is safe.

What if it does and there is a fire?

Then we will get out of the house.

How will we get around the fire?

We will run.

What if we can't?

I would totally be able to. I would run and save each one of you and get you out safely. I would protect you.

If we have a fire will we have to live outside?

We would live with Mommo and Poppo until we fixed our house. Besides, why are you so scared of a fire. Why weren't you scared of lightening and fire when Daddy was alive?

Cuz lightening was afraid of Daddy.

of course
Well, I think Jesus will protect us all now that Daddy isn't alive. Lightening and fire are afraid of houses that Jesus protects, too

What if you don't survive the fire, Mom?

I will. Our house is not going to catch on fire and we are all going to be fine.

Mom, what if...?

I am going to pray now. Jesus, please protect this house. Keep us safe from all things that could harm us. Protect us. Help us to feel peaceful and calm. Help us to not fear. I, especially ask that you protect Gavin and Grant's rooms. Be present with them. Fill their sleep with good thoughts and love and peace. Help us to remember that you told us to Fear Not.

And, Brian, you know what? Gavin fell asleep to that prayer. His little eyes peacefully closed and he drifted into slumber.

I pray that I can fill the role of superman in their eyes. I pray that they can learn to accept that I would give my life to protect them. I pray that I can come across as strong and valiant to them to ease their fears. Because, you know what, Brian? Sometimes I share their fears. I can't help but thing some of the same "What if's" Would I be able to handle it? I think I can.

With Christ's help, I know I can.

I miss you, Brian, I love you.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Dear Brian,

The loneliness is starting to settle in. It is very tempting to keep Gavin up in the evenings past his bedtime for some company. It is equally as tempting to stay snuggled in our bed in the mornings sleeping the day away.

There are two small motivators forcing to me to face each new day right now:


Monday, April 20, 2009


Dear Brian,

After a weekend of almost too much activity packed into it with the hope of keeping myself preoccupied enough to avoid the pain of your absence during our anniversary weekend and the first weekend without family staying in the house, this Sunday evening Gavin and I unwound in front of the TV with a video. Our wedding video.

It was painful.

First of all, the quality of the video is so poor it is sometimes nearly impossible to distinguish who is who.

Secondly, the videographer was such an amateur. There is constant background noise, sometimes video of the floor or of the wrong event, etc. The splicing is poorly timed. The focus is in and out. It is awful.

Thirdly, the Catholic service we had was so ridiculously long with every single option thrown in for the sake of hearing another song or adding every bell and whistle possible. To all our guests who were there that day, WE APOLOGIZE FOR MAKING YOU SIT THROUGH SOMETHING THAT LONG!!! It had to be painful for you. I fast-forwarded through half of it, and it was still painful for me.

Fourthly, Gavin was on my right side the entire time asking a constant stream of questions:
Was that when Dad could walk fast?
Is that you in the fat puffy dress?
Mommo looks way different.
Where am I?
Why does Andrew look so mad?
How come the limo we rode to bury Daddy wasn't like THAT ONE?
Why is Mindi pulling on your dress?
Is your finger too fat? Daddy can't get the ring on.
Mom, stop rewinding. I already saw this part (Mindi was fixing my dress again.)
Mom, when are you going to talk?
Why does Dad have a flower on his shirt?
(During the Ave Maria) Mom, why are you and Dad looking at that? Did they make you?
Did you want your dress to get dirty now? (after I was bustled and stopped having someone carry my train)
Did you get married in the 80's?
(After pointing out all the great=grandparents who are now passed) Mom, do ALL great-grandmas and have to die from cancer, too?
Why is Murph marrying Heather? Where is Jen?
When can we watch the other video where you and Daddy talk?

Also, it was painful because your cancer was in your brain that day, but we had no idea. Just 30 days later, we would know it. We had our dreams, ambitions and so much excitement welling up in us, blissfully unaware of the drastic change soon to uproot us. It is surreal to watch us knowing what came next.

Lastly, it is painful because I long for you. I long to be kissed by you. I long to feel your fingers entangle with mine in our comfortable hand hold. I long to hear you breathe. I long to feel your warmth. Even in your failing health, you provided me with a sense of security, safety and protection. I yearn for more of you.

I miss you, Brian. I love you.


Sunday, April 19, 2009


Dear Brian,

I couldn't believe it today. I woke ready to face my next milestone date - our 12th wedding anniversary. I came down to a ready-made programmed cup of Starbucks in the coffee pot, sat down at the computer while the kids were still asleep ready to read some comments from yesterday's post. Then I saw it. Look at the blogroll on the right side of my screen. Do you see it?


On a day when I ache to celebrate our love together - our triumphs, our struggles, our perseverance and our devotion through it all, I struggle to live our motto - KEEP BELIEVING.

Then I see that so many I have never even met are mourning with me. They are celebrating with us. They are sending me their love and thoughts and prayers and links. This whole blog world that has introduced me to a new kind of friendship - one that has been very one sided for the last 6 months - continues to amaze and humble me.

And I can find the strength to KEEP BELIEVING.

Here is last year's post I wrote on our anniversary. It made you cry. So few times I saw you break down and lose it. This post made you fall into a heap in my arms declaring your love for me and how lucky you felt to be my spouse. I still think I got the better end of the lucky stick. Even now. Even without you here. :

Brian,11 years ago today, I donned my princess wedding dress in great anticipation of becoming Mrs. Brian O’Neill. 11 years ago today, I stood in front of hundreds of people and God and declared my life-long love and commitment to you, and you to me. 11 years ago today, I became the luckiest woman alive.

One month later, we would find out you had brain cancer. The next 3 years, while we were still newlyweds, would bring us despair, surgeries, chemotherapy, insurance battles, abstinence from sex so we could bank sperm for a possible future family, uncertainty, and turmoil. The next year would bring more chemo, a move, a job change, more uncertainty. The next few years would bring infertility, adoptions, another job change and move.

We would spend our 10 year anniversary in a romantic little restaurant in San Francisco with your brothers by our sides sharing our eclectic dinners because you would be going in for major surgery the next day to remove part of your brain tumor, yet again. This time, we would be warned of the risks of paralysis and speech deficits, just to name a few. Your brothers shared our anniversary because, well, everyone wanted to share that night with you not knowing what tomorrow would bring. The next year would bring more heartache, more struggles and more chemotherapy. We would live our lives from test result to test result, dreading what may come next. We would find ourselves here, fighting every day for balance between normal and battling cancer.

There is no perfect balance.

If someone would have told me on our wedding day what would evolve over the next 11 years in our lives in detail and asked me if I would marry you anyway, my answer would be a resounding, ABSOLUTELY.

You see, if I had all the knowledge of what I just detailed, I would also have known that we would be blessed because of each other. I would have known that I would get the shot-gun seat to your spiritual growth. I would have known that because of you, I would become a better person. I would have known that our trials, while surreal and sometimes horrific, would shape our character by the way we choose to adhere to our bond, believe in an all-knowing God, and respond to the trials. I would have known that we would have a beautiful family of 4, just not in a traditional way. I would have known that you would bring me joy and happiness and love and strength - emotions so raw, pure, and true that they hurt. I would have known that as I watch you in anguish fight for your life every day living in fear of becoming a family without you, you would be the one giving me the strength to know we would be okay. You would be the one consoling me. You would be the one continuing to lift me up telling me, “You can do it, baby. You got mad skills. You got it going on. You are beautiful. You are better than you give yourself credit. I believe in you.” I would have known that every life you touch has a new piece of happiness they didn’t even know was missing – the laughter you bring, the sarcasm, the witticisms, the thoughts you provoke, the insight you provide.

I would know all that and I would want it all again.

I love you with a indescribable passion,
Your ever-adoring wife, Angie

I miss you, Brian. I love you.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

finding time

Dear Brian,

I am finding it increasingly difficult to take the time to write to you these days. With the dawn of Spring come many chores and tasks. The lawn needs tending. The children have messes both inside and outside that need tidying each day. The weeds need pulling. The planters, umbrellas and other outside furnishings need to be placed and cleaned. There is much to do.

I miss you so much right now. Today, I mowed the lawn. I had to adjust the height on the lawn mower to what I thought you would consider an appropriate setting for the season opening mow. As I started, I saw that the side attachment was not in place so I had to adjust that, and as you remember that can be a booger. About 1/4 of the way through the lawn mowing, the children showed me how the trampoline net had fallen off one of its posts. Upon further examination, I realized the support post had slipped down the frame. I was angry because I know this happens when the kids are rough on it and roughness is against "house rules" on the trampoline. They continuously disobey and I am constantly the mean, mad mom making kids get off for disobeying. I digress. Anyway, I got the socket set from the garage and as soon as I lifted it from its place, the entire contents spilled all over the garage floor because it was not properly locked last time.

Then, I cried.

I sat on the garage floor and cried my eyes out while 6 children between 6 and 9 looked on in shock and horror. Then, 4 little 6 and 7 year olds sat next to me and eagerly helped me reassemble the socket set.

When we were finished with the socket set reassembly, I realized the project of adjusting the trampoline post was not a task for one adult. So, several children went seeking assistance. Mike helped. Willingly. Eagerly. Patiently. It was a relatively easy task. When we went to tighten it back up, the spacer had fallen. I was going to leave it because I was tired and frustrated, but I knew you couldn't stand a half-ass job on things. We loosened everything back up and refastened with the spacer in place. That is what you would have done. I couldn't help but think if I were helping you do the project, I probably would have impatiently huffed at you for forgetting the spacer. I internally apologized to you for every time I ever did that. I would take back every one of those moments right now to have just a few more minutes with you. Anyway, I am thankful that you taught me how to use the sprockets over the last couple of years. I feel confident with tools due to your instruction and patience with me.

I finished mowing and started to weed whip. I had to find the battery in the basement where we store for the winter for the weed whip. I finally did. I am thankful we bought the battery operated weed whip last year so you could easier perform the task. It makes it easier for me today. About 1/4 of the yard through, the weed whip ran out of string. I have to get the manual and determine how to thread new string. But, I couldn't find the string, so it doesn't matter. Another errand I now have to run for our family.

I think the van needs an oil change, too.

In addition, the gutter attachments we used last fall when we added the patio did not handle the winter very well. I need to fix those or determine a more suitable alternative for our patio. It is supposed to rain 1/2 inch tonight and our sump pump has been running a lot.

In between all this, I have broken up countless fights, corrected inappropriate language, forced sharing between a bunch of selfish entitled children, limited TV and video game time, cleaned up from a party last night and I just realized I forgot to eat breakfast as I look at the clock and realize I need to fix lunch for the kids.

Tomorrow is our anniversary, by the way.

That brings me back to my original point.

I miss you, yet I can barely find the time to write to tell you that. I miss you for practical reasons right now more then emotional. I hope you can forgive me for that. I am sorry. This family is just not whole without you. The everyday, practical things are reminding me of that right now.

I miss you, Brian. I love you.


Thursday, April 16, 2009


Today's post is not a letter to Brian, but a note to let anyone that doesn't already know become aware of a few things...

First of all, on May 16, 2008 there will be a KEEP BELIEVING event held at St. Richard's church (my grade school Alma Mater) to celebrate Brian's life. This makes me very uncomfortable to mention this here as so many of you have already received emails and notifications about this. Also, it makes me uncomfortable because "generous" does not begin to describe how people have been to us in the last few weeks and months. It is humbling beyond words. I have been assured by those putting on the event that there are many looking forward to celebrating Brian again or offering their condolences to us because they were unable to attend the funeral. So, I would like to say, that this is NOT A SOLICITATION FOR FUNDRAISING. It is a notification of a way to celebrate Brian doing exactly what he loved - playing cards surrounded by those he loved and enjoyed. Please know if you have already donated or just don't feel like donating, don't let that keep you from coming if you are otherwise inclined. We just want to celebrate and remember Brian again.

Here is the website with lots of information:

Also, for those of you who were unable to attend the funeral, I wanted to share with you the eulogy that Brian's best friend and best man, John Stork, delivered at the service. A full copy can be found here: http://3boysundermyroof.blogspot.com/2009/03/life-of-brian.html

It is a beautiful and accurate analogy of Brian's life and legacy.

Lastly, someone left a Columbia fleece-lined jacket at the Irish Wake bonfire the night of the funeral at Ed and Jan's. If it is yours, shoot me an email and we can figure out how to get it to you.

And that is all for today, folks!


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dear Brian,

The boys and I are still so curious about heaven. Can you see us? Can you hear us? We hypothesize about it and share our theories. Gavin insists it is full of sand and ponds and houses because he saw a picture in a children's Bible one time. Grant wonders if there is pizza in heaven. I just wonder at the amazing unknown of it all.

The memory of the last week of your life is fading from me. I think I am grateful for that. At the same time, it scares me a bit about how everything else may fade. I look through pictures frequently to keep your smile embedded in my mind. I recap events for the boys of things they did with you and things we did long before they were born in order to keep alive the memories that I know will be nearly impossible for their young minds to retain until their own adult life.

I still refer to so many things as "ours" or myself as "us." I say, "Brian and I" a lot as well. I think that is normal. In fact, I dread the day when it becomes more natural for me to say, "my," "me" and just "I."

I haven't been getting too sad lately. In fact, my lack of sadness is almost frightening to me. Is it denial? It is delay? Is it distraction? Is it just a gradual acceptance of something that I knew was a long time coming? I don't know. I know as I sit and stare at the picture of you and me on my desk next to the monitor it doesn't sting as much as I had anticipated it would nearly one month after your death.

When I do feel sad about something, it is usually regarding the boys - the realization that they lost their Daddy forever. As much I intend to surround them with male role models and I witness our family willing to help out, it just isn't the same. I do ache with hurt that they will not have that closeness and that bond that a father and son share. I will do my best to fill the gaps for them, but I know it pales in comparison. I am just thankful for the influence you had on their lives to this point.

I really am not feeling sad for myself. And do you know why? I know you wouldn't want me to and I know you wouldn't do it for yourself. If this situation were reversed, you would grieve and mourn me with minimal energy focused on sadness and self-pity. No, you would pick yourself back up, grieve more for your boys' loss, and hold onto the happy memories, laughing as often as possible. You would begin to put your life back together. And you would do it with dignity, honor and integrity as you did everything. Your legacy lives in me right now as that is the route I am choosing. You always taught me in your brutally honest manner that my reaction to my situation was a choice. I could choose to wallow away in self pity or I could choose to live and laugh and love and look to Christ. I choose the latter.

I miss you, though, Brian. I do. I love you.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

stepping up

Dear Brian,

It is no secret that in the aftermath of your death, the boys lost their male role model. Because of this, I have to step up and take on some testosterone induced activities in order to let our boys be boys. This is so counter-intuitive to me, but I know it is necessary.

Earlier in the week, I took the boys to the St. Louis City Museum and climbed through some structures that I would have never considered a couple years ago. Also, I took them to the St. Louis Zoo and looked at nearly every exhibit. You loved the zoo. I don't love the zoo, but I loved it through your eyes and now I love it through their eyes. My own eyes would rather see the inside of the St. Louis West County Shopping Center.

Just yesterday, I took the boys on 4-wheeler rides. I even had to disconnect a trailer attached to one of the 4-wheelers. My hands and shirt were grimy and greasy upon completion, but I figured it out and we were on our way. Also, I took the boys to the barn at Memaw and Papa's to feed the goats and climb around on tractors.

Tomorrow I may even take them fishing and play in the hayloft.

Did I mention that your friend, John, is coming tomorrow with his own boys? That may help a bit.

Baby steps.

I miss you, Brian. I love you.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

road trip

Dear Brian,

We are on our first trip without you since your death. We took advantage of Spring Break to travel to see some of the family that has spent the last three months visiting us since we became immobile.

I miss you on this trip for many reasons, but especially for two small ones - toothpaste and hairbrushes.

I always forgot to pack them because you always had them.

Just another example in which I am learning (the hard way) how I need to change some of my old habits.

I miss you, Brian. I love you.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Daddy's truck

Dear Brian,

As you know, we discussed selling your truck around Christmas time when it started to become evident you were not going to be able to drive again with your right side weakening and your stability questionable. I just couldn't get myself to list the truck while you were still alive although you were very okay with it. Then, I didn't want the hassle of handling the transaction and phone calls while you were getting sicker.

This past week, I have been agonizing over when and if to sell your truck. It is silly for us to keep two cars in the garage taking space and paying insurance on a vehicle that has incurred 40 miles since January - 30 of which were in the last two days.

But, you LOVED your truck. The boys LOVE your truck. It reminds them (all of us) of Daddy. They play in the bed. They feel more masculine. They see you in the truck. Gavin insists I should keep it for him so he can have it when he drives. I told him we can talk about a different truck in 9 years when he can drive. He wouldn't want this truck by then.

So, I drove your truck around the last couple days to get a feel for you and for it again. Could this be the car I decide to keep instead of the van? I can feel you in the truck. I can see you changing the stations with your steering wheel controls. I love that image. Want to know what else I can feel? I feel that 5.4L V-8 going 55 down a 40 mph zone still seeming like I am crawling. My size 5-1/2 feet are not meant to have that much power under my tiny toes. Also? I parked the monster yesterday. Let's just say it doesn't have the zippy little turning radius for maneuvering through parking lots and city streets.

I feel like a Polly Pocket in that beast. And while it reminds me of you, Brian, it just isn't me. So, after Spring Break in a couple weeks, I am going to list your truck. I know you understand.

I miss you, Brian. I love you.