Because It Was All A Blur

When I met with my therapist on Friday, I told her that I was concerned about this weekend. I knew it was going to be a busy weekend between several events on Saturday and the addition of Eleanor’s birthday party to our already busy Sunday routines. And, while busy times can actually be good for me, I was scared how all of the social situations would play out given the significance of this weekend’s place in the calendar.

Today marks five months since we lost Emily.

I think that, if you saw me yesterday or today, you probably wouldn’t have realized the impact this date has on me each month. However, as I sit in the stillness now that the kids are asleep, I can feel the emotional weight of the weekend in every part of my body. And, although most of the weekend flew by in a fast-paced blur of tissue paper and baked goods, I was fully aware of every moment I cried or longed for Emily over the past two days.

It started Saturday morning, as I stood in the background for a moment at the bowling alley, and I wished for her presence by my side. I held back tears in the card section of Target a few hours later when the kids saw a hedgehog card and said, “This would be a great card for Emily.” As the kids and I spent the evening at a birthday party, I stepped outside in hopes the cold air would calm me down as I suddenly became very acutely aware of the fact that I was the only person in the room without a spouse.

During Sunday School, I had to reel in my emotions when a classmate brought up his wife’s gallbladder surgery happening this week. I cried during the baptism that happened in worship, and again during the final hymn (Here I am, Lord) because both of those moments made me think of Emily for very different reasons. Then there was Eleanor’s party, which came with so many emotions and moments I had to stuff down just to get through the afternoon.

It all flew by so quickly. And yet, each of these snapshots I mentioned makes me think back to the day it all ties back to: October 19.

Trauma Brain Explained

As I told someone just last weekend, much of October 19, 2022 is a blur. I don’t remember what I was wearing that day, nor can I recall a single thing I ate. I suppose part of this could be chalked up to the fact that I hadn’t slept or changed my clothes for two days prior to that since I took Emily to the emergency room the evening of October 17 and never left her side those last 48 hours minus the couple of times I ran to the cafeteria to grab food.

However, there are some very specific moments I do remember from that day. And, if you asked me to, I could describe the small snapshots I do recall in great sensory detail. And, because I spent the last half of 2020 and first few months of 2021 going through very specific trauma treatments with my therapist to process past sexual assaults, I know that these highly detailed snapshots and large bits of missing data from that day are simply my brain working as it should because Emily’s death was very much a life trauma for me.

When we experience any type of trauma, our brains do very specific things to protect us. In some instances, it stores every sensory detail it can about the traumatic event so that it can use that data later to protect us from the same trauma happening again. This is why seemingly small things, like the scent of lavender or the sound of boots on stairs, become very intense trauma triggers for people.

However, our brains will also sometimes “wash away” memories as a way of protecting us from experiencing painful emotions again when we recall a specific memory. In these instances, those same sensory memories like the smell of lavender or sound of boots may make someone panic, but they don’t understand why.

And these “protective measures” are exactly what makes trauma so hard to process or even cope with.

Pieces of a Day I Never Wanted

It’s funny, because as much as I’ve tried not to think about Emily’s death this weekend, random pieces of that day have popped into my mind. Yet, even when these snapshots appear, they’re just that — tiny fragments of time, with no connection to the moment before or after they occurred.

I remember the doctor telling me that ECMO didn’t work and Emily was gone. My entire body felt cold, and I kept saying, “No… This can’t be happening… She was fine… No…” on a loop as I wavered between crying and panicking.

Yet I don’t remember anyone calling Emily’s parents (they did), nor do I remember calling my mom or texting one of our pastors (but my phone logs clearly show it).

Time passes, a break in my memory.

I remember sitting in the room with Emily all by myself. I remember the sounds of the machines still running. Her hand felt cold as I held it, yet it was just as soft as always. My voice trembled as I talked to her, and the silence swallowed me as I asked her questions I knew she couldn’t answer. People walked in and out of the room to check on me. Time felt frozen but moved so quickly at the same time.

Silence. They still have her hooked up to machines. I hear it pumping air, but she’s not breathing. Her body is there, but she’s gone.

I don’t remember taking my mask off (I did because I realized it was missing later when I went to leave the room), nor do I remember anyone handing me her ring (it was in a plastic bag in my pocket when I got home).

I contemplate climbing in the bed with her. Maybe if I lie there long enough, I can be with her. My eyes scan the room for a way to escape life. Her lips aren’t moving, but I hear her say, “No, babe.”

Time passes, but I feel frozen, just holding her hand. I can’t tell you if more happened, but something tells me it did.

I remember hugging Emily’s mom when she arrived. The tears started all over again, and the only thing I could get out was, “I’m sorry.” The guilt and the pain hit me like a semi truck, and I kept wishing I could trade places with Emily so she could simply walk out of the hospital with her parents, alive and well. A pastor arrived, more hugs, more tears. Time continues moving but I’m still frozen in this moment, I can’t help but continue holding her hand.

I remember a brief break from the tears when someone said something funny, yet I don’t even remember who said it or what they said. People are talking, but I’m barely processing the words. In my head I keep shouting, “Wake up, Emily!” but really I’m just holding her hand that’s still cold, but soft.

Time passes. It’s a blur again.

The next thing I remember, we’re leaving the room. We go into a sort of private waiting area, and I feel like I’m watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, not living my own life. I become very aware of her shoes. Why she wore her Chacos, I’ll never know.

Someone is talking, but they might as well be speaking a different language. I space out and hope Emily’s parents are paying attention. I want to go back and be with her. My phone rings. I don’t remember the conversation.

I’m standing outside the hospital, still holding her shoes. My mom pulls up. Introducing my mom to her parents feels so wrong. We were going to do this over dinner soon to celebrate the engagement. This can’t be right. I pinch myself, but it’s not a nightmare.

Time passes in the car. I remember sitting at a table, texting my therapist to please fit me in today if she can. I think I ordered food. I don’t remember eating it.

Time passes. Another break in my memory.

I pull into the garage at home. I leave her shoes in my car. I don’t want to look at them. If I don’t confront the things, then she’s not really gone. I walk into the house. It’s exactly how we left it Monday night. I yell at myself for leaving dinner out, but I have zero motivation to do the dishes right now. I sit on the couch.

Time passes. I think I sleep. My phone goes off. I don’t remember texting people, but my friends know what happened. They ask me if I’m safe.

Time passes. It’s all a blur. Eventually I look at my phone, and it’s not Wednesday anymore. It’s Thursday.

Will It Ever Not Feel Like A Blur?

So many moments over the past five months have felt like a blur. I don’t always remember time passing, yet it does. And, with every minute of time, that much more distance comes between October 19, 2022 and the present day.

I don’t know if life without Emily will ever feel right. Part of me thinks it won’t, and I’m willing to live with that. Because of Emily, there’s a very specific period of time in my life that felt truly incredible. And if that’s all the time like that I’m ever given, it would be enough. Because to me, even one day in her presence is worth an entire lifetime of days that feel like blurs. And that probably doesn’t make any sense, but I think I’m to a point where I’ve realized very little about life makes sense. So, I guess it’s all par for the course.


I Almost Called — A Poem

I almost called you today
just so I could hear your voice.
I've tried imagining it in my head all day,
but it's like the sound faded away,
just like your presence here on Earth.
I almost texted you today
just because I wanted to share a moment.
I've tried journaling instead,
but I miss the interaction of your responses,
just like I miss your embrace.
I almost yelled for you today
when I needed help for just a minute.
I've tried learning how to do it by myself,
but it's much harder than I thought,
and I'd rather just not do it at all at that point.
I almost called you today
like I always did when I was heading home.
I've tried listening to podcasts,
but they just make me realize
I'm completely alone now.
I almost texted you today
because, for a brief time, 
I forgot all about your death.
But as I reached for my phone,
I remembered...
And I fell apart all over again,
just like I have every single day
since I watched you stop breathing.

Because She Could Spend Hours Inside Costco

This may sound ridiculous, but I took what I’d consider a small step forward today. I went to Costco for the first time since Emily died.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: What the heck does Costco have to do with anything? But, there’s a lot more to this warehouse store than you’d think. Or, maybe I’m overly sentimental… Who knows?

Costco Was Uncharted Territory

If you’ve lived in Murfreesboro for a while, then you know Costco is a fairly new addition to our city’s shopping options. In fact, the warehouse chain just opened the Murfreesboro location in July 2021, which was 3 months after Emily and I started dating.

As the opening date approached, Emily kept talking about how wonderful this was going to be. She’d talk about all of the incredible things she’d bought in bulk at the Nashville Costco, and how she was so glad she had a membership. Sometimes she sounded like a walking advertisement for the place, because she would just insert how we could “save so much” and “stock up on essentials” with a single trip every few months.

Meanwhile, I remained full of scepticism because I’d never been in a Costco before. It was uncharted territory for me, and I just didn’t see how anything could be that amazing. I’d been to Sam’s Club, and it was alright, but only if I needed 800 of something and was willing to deal with the ridiculous crowds. (Spoiler Alert: I hate crowds.)

But, just like with everything else in our relationship, Emily always wins. So, after it opened, we went to check out Costco.

A Magical Warehouse

I’ll be honest, my first encounter with Costco was a lot. I think we spent over two hours in the store, and I got to see every inch of the warehouse. Emily was determined to walk me through every single aisle (I later learned when we went to IKEA that this is just how Emily operates) and show me everything.

Like Sam’s Club, the store has a little bit of everything. Yet, in many ways, it had a wider selection of things, especially for those who follow specific types of diets. Certain sections had a lot more to offer, while there seemed to be less “junk” items available to buy. It was fascinating and overwhelming all at once.

And yet, it was one of those places where Emily seemed to shine.

If you’ve never watched a woman who doesn’t even clear 5′ tall push around a giant cart full to the brim of groceries, paper goods, and various household items, then you’re doing life wrong. It’s hilarious. And, honestly, I’m still not even sure how she did it besides to say magic played a part.

Costco Became Date Night

Over the course of the next year or so, Emily and I made several Costco adventures. And, because we essentially turned it into a date night, we often went when the kids were with their dad.

One time, we completely lost track of time and eventually were ushered to the front because they were trying to close. Another time, we sat in the massage chairs they had on display and spent 30 minutes testing them out and sending each other ridiculous text messages because we couldn’t talk to each other without yelling. Sometimes we’d even eat inside Costco because it was cheap and honestly not that bad.

It didn’t matter what made it to the checkout or how much we spent: we always had fun together inside the store.

We Always Went Back

I remember some of our favorite purchases, too. For example, they had this giant package of sliced cheese you could buy, and Emily made sure that ended up in the cart every single time we went. We’d buy spinach, almond milk, laundry detergent, nose spray, snacks and more. We loved the salmon patties as well as these prepared entrees of Indian food. Oh, and we fell in love with the Truly popsicles and had to get those each time.

So, every couple of months, we’d go to Costco together and stroll through the store together, laughing and filling the cart.

It Felt Strange to Go Without Her

I’ll be honest, I was a bit hesitant to go to Costco today. But I sucked it up and went because I desperately needed laundry detergent and a few other things. And, sure, it wasn’t nearly as fun without her, but it was helpful nonetheless.

Now that I’m back at home, reflecting on my day, I’m realizing that part of the journey we all go on in our grief is reclaiming places and activities after the loss. It’s not that we ever want to erase our person or want to “move on,” but rather that we have to figure out how to exist in the world without the person we loved.

When my grandmother died, I had to learn how to feel comfortable playing card games again because that had been such a huge part of our shared story. She taught me how to play almost every single card game I know, and it felt wrong to play these games without her.

With Emily, nearly every aspect of my life feels wrong when she’s not by my side. Yet, I only have two options: do the things anyway or stop living. And, deep down, I know that Emily would never want me to choose that second option.

So, yes, I’m sure it sounds silly for me to say, “Hey, guys, I did this huge thing today — I went to Costco!” But, because that was something I only did with Emily until now, it’s important for me to recognize the effort it took to step inside the door without her.

Because I’m Still Heartbroken

Last weekend I made the trip from Murfreesboro to Knoxville. I’ve made the trip so many times lately that it’s really become commonplace. Yet, just two years ago, I’d only ever stopped in Knoxville if I needed gas or something on the way to or from Gatlinburg. But, because of Emily, I started making that trip quite frequently in 2021 and 2022. She loved going home any chance she got, and I can’t say I blame her. There’s just something about visiting that town that feels welcoming and calm.

Over the past 4 months, that three-hour drive and my weekends in Knoxville have become one of the things I look forward to the most. I think it’s because it offers just the right mixture of comfort and catharsis. She’s everywhere I look when I’m in Knoxville, so I feel connected with her when I’m there. Yet, at the same time, the heartache washes over me at the most random times while I’m there — and I’ve simply learned to embrace it.

Short Time, Long Story

I won’t go into details now, but I will say that much of my life before Emily wasn’t great. Because of the signals I received during critical points in my life, I repressed a lot and placed much blame for every horrible event in my life upon myself. But, thanks to months of trauma therapy and Emily’s love, I’d reached a point while we were together where life was good. So, naturally, one of my first fears, when Emily died, was whether or not I was about to fall right back down the mountain I’d worked so hard to climb.

I really don’t remember much from October 19. My memory from that day is a blur, with random snapshots of single moments or items I can recall, almost like polaroids. But, one of the things I do remember doing was texting my therapist from the table at First Watch. I told her, “Emily died. I know I have a session scheduled for tomorrow, but I could really use support before that.” And, as soon as I met with her that afternoon and shared all that had happened in those last 48 hours, I told my therapist that I had no idea how I was going to work through this, but I knew that if I didn’t start doing something right away, I was going to fall all the way down the mountain and I probably would never make it back up again.

So, for the past few months, I have been working through The Grief Recovery Handbook (or “the purple book” as my therapist calls it). It’s different than any other workbook or therapeutic modality I’ve ever encountered, and yet I’ve found it incredibly beneficial.

Anyway, the final three activities involve a lot of memory recall as you essentially map out every single loss you’ve experienced in your life (the loss history graph), then make a timeline about your relationship with one of the losses you selected from your loss history graph (the relationship graph). And, I’ll admit, I’m a bit of an overachiever when it comes to therapy homework, but doing so with these activities really helped me see a lot about my life and, more specifically, the years where Emily’s life intersected with mine.

I often feel like people judge me a bit when I say that Emily and I only knew each other for 4.5 years and then call her the love of my life. But here’s the thing: when you look at all that happened in our lives in the time period between when we met and Emily died, it’s as much as some people experience in a decade or more.

In less than 5 years, Emily and I went from being strangers who sat next to each other in a room for a couple hours each week to the person we wanted holding our hand in our final moments. We took a half dozen vacation-type trips together, plus went on even more weekend road trips. We watched each other make major life changes, land new jobs, buy cars, and earn a master’s degree (at least Emily did). We spent late nights confiding in each other, and spent many mornings sipping coffee together with no pants on. We hugged, we kissed, we had sex, we lived together, we got engaged… I could name all the things we did for hours without even starting on all the plans we made for our future together.

I know people say that when you find the right person, time often ceases to exist. However, I think the reasoning behind the way Emily and I lived our lives together is even deeper than that.

I think that Emily approached everything in life with the mentality of “live every day like it’s your last” and “you only get one life, so make the most of it.” And, I guess that’s how most people would approach life if they’d almost died and received a life-changing miracle. She never once took a single breath for granted, and she was determined to do as much as she could with whatever time she had here on Earth.

Meanwhile, I think my approach to life became focused on finally having the self-worth and tools I needed to build a life that made me happy. In a way, I felt like I had 30+ years of playing catch-up to do. But also, I just didn’t care about what other people think anymore, and I wanted to carve out the life I’d always dreamed of.

Together, I think our approaches to life in general created a perfect storm the moment we both looked at each other from across the table at Hooters. We both had “lightbulb moments” simultaneously, and we just knew without even saying a word that we both wanted a “happily ever after” together.

The Aftermath of an Unexpected Storm

I knew going into it that this week would be hard. Our Week 2 task for the grief group I joined was for each of us to share the story of how our partner died. Then, as if it was perfectly planned to coincide, my homework for individual therapy was to write a letter to Emily about anything possibly left unsaid between the two of us (with specific parameters outlined in the book).

With both tasks, I couldn’t help but focus on the suddenness of her death. It was so unexpected and completely unpredictable. And yet, it happened. It’s like a tornado that fell from the sky without warning or a hurricane that changed course in the 11th hour, leaving people with no way to prepare. We were planning a wedding, we were going to have a child together and be a family of 5 with a dog and an adorable house with a backyard that had trees for Emily to climb or hang a hammock up while the kids and the dog ran around. We were going to open a treatment center together, then eventually retire to the beach and spend our days making music together and collecting sea shells.

But, that’s not what happened at all. and I am stuck in the devastation without any sign of rescue… or so it feels at times.

And I think that, although Emily and I were not at all on bad terms or holding onto any type of resentment, the suddenness of it all left me with a lot of unsaid words.

So, when I sat with Emily at the cemetery on Saturday afternoon, I talked to her about it all… a lot. In fact, I told her about the letter my therapist had assigned me to write, and I actually wrote it while I sat there on a blanket in the grass right next to her. A lot of it, as you can imagine, was filled with apologies and regrets. I was sorry for not telling her how I felt about her sooner, I was sorry for getting her kicked out of DBT group (remind me to write a post about this), and I was sorry for not protecting her when she dated Julian (another post for the future). But, at the same time, almost half of the letter was me thanking her and acknowledging all that she did. I thanked her for taking a chance by sitting next to me in DBT group on the first day, I appreciated how she loved me and my kids, and I was so proud and awestruck by her willingness to risk a lot by simply coming out.

When I finished the letter on Saturday, I read it to her, word for word. And, just like when I read the speech I’d prepared for her funeral, I completely broke down as soon as I read the last sentence. But, instead of melting into the arms of a dear friend like I did as soon as I walked away from the pulpit at the funeral, the only thing I had to melt into on Saturday was the ground. And boy, did I wish for a moment that I could melt down into the ground with my sweet Emily.

It’s funny, though, because this week has felt much different than anything that’s come before it. As I told my therapist before I read the letter to her today, it almost felt as if I left some of the wreckage of this disaster there in the grass on Saturday afternoon without even realizing it.

I’ll Always Be Broken, But Not Beyond Repair

Don’t mistake my words in this post. I am a heartbroken human who will probably never understand why everything happened the way it did with Emily. In many ways, I saw her as my redemption arc, my opportunity to love and be loved the way I always wanted to love someone and deserve from another. But, I think this week, and especially writing that letter to Emily directly, has helped me see that there’s a difference between broken and unfixable.

Because of Emily, I not only learned what true, unconditional love from another person felt like, but I also started to see that I deserved such a thing. What’s more, I learned that I could, in fact, tolerate or even like myself. And, by sharing with her the pain points of our time together, especially those thing I’d wished I’d done differently (even if none of them were things I could have done anything about), I think I finally let go of at least a portion of the burden I’ve felt every single day since October 19.

I don’t know that I’ll ever even think about dating again, and I know that my heart will always be held together with superglue and duct tape because it completely broke in those early morning hours of that October day. But, thanks to Emily’s love and our time together, I now know that I never have been, nor ever will be, broken beyond repair. And, anytime I need a reminder of that or need to recenter myself, I know exactly where to go — Knoxville.

Because I Can’t Help But Blame Myself

Today’s therapy session really hit me hard. The part where I lost it was when I realized how little time had passed between the proposal and Emily’s death. (It was less than 3 weeks.) Regarding the timeline of our relationship, those two items rest directly next to each other — both equally impactful, yet in stark contrast to each other, like polar opposites. They’re like day and night. The beginnings of forever and the ending credits, with nothing more than some spreadsheets and Pinterest boards in between.

I’m unsure how to share everything inside my mind right now. It’s chaos, yet the thoughts keep rolling as if my brain thinks it can piece everything together in a way that makes sense. Unfortunately, all it keeps coming up with are ways to blame me.

I’m No Stranger To Blaming Myself

Emily’s death isn’t the first time I have experienced life events that cause me to question everything about myself. In fact, many thoughts eating away at me today sound eerily similar to thoughts that lived in my head rent-free through most of the early 2000s when I was in middle school and early high school.

I realize many aspects of my life made me vulnerable to the events that unfolded during my middle school years. And, everywhere I turned, I was confronted with even more evidence that the things that happened to me were either not as awful as they felt to me, or they were merely consequences I deserved.

My abuser made it clear that I brought out the worst in him, and he couldn’t control himself around me. The adults I told (a teacher and the guidance counselor) both found reasons to pass the blame onto me or take my assailant’s side.

So, eventually, I started blaming myself. And that trend stuck with me. Bullying, failed friendships, future assaults, mental health crises — all of these things were my fault. I even found a way to blame myself for a classmate’s fatal accident in high school even though I was no where near the accident the weekend it happened.

Even now, anytime anything goes wrong, I immediately seek anything I can use to blame it all on myself.

The Blame Game Is An Easy One To Play

Once you start fishing for ways to make something your fault, it’s incredibly easy for that list to multiply. You can twist almost any situation in a way that places the blame on you, regardless of whether or not there’s any truth to it.

The easiest way to make Emily’s death my fault is to simply say I should have made her go the emergency room much sooner.

The week after I proposed, she saw her PCP about the symptoms she was experiencing, but the doctor didn’t seem concerned or in a rush to diagnose what was going on, even though it was obvious Emily was in pain. I told her how concerned I was, but each time I mentioned the ER, she came up with an excuse to not go. And, because I hate conflict and I never wanted Emily to feel like I didn’t see her as an equal adult, I never pushed. I was weak.

From there, I can go down several different rabbit holes to blame myself even further. I could say I wasn’t reminding her to take her medications, nor was I doing my part to make sure she was taking care of her body. Emily picked up tons of extra shifts in September. 2022 had become an expensive year for us, and she thought the extra money would help. But I knew from watching Emily work 60+ hour weeks in previous years, it’s just not good for her.

Then we can say I messed up her medication routines with the move and my own routines and schedules. Or the stress of wedding planning threw off routines and habits she’d developed. In fact, you could say (and some have) that the fact that I proposed is the entire issue and that she died because I “turned her gay.” Or maybe she gave up because she didn’t really want to marry me.

Now, am I saying any of these thoughts are rational? Not necessarily. But I am saying that there are all sorts of ways to blame me for Emily’s departure from this world.

What Do We Do With Blame?

I feel like blame is one of the heaviest loads I’ve ever carried around in my life. Because, at least in my mind, I’m not just living with the burden of it all in my current lifetime, but it’s also left me permanently flagged and taken away what chances I might have had for an eternal life after this.

In middle school and high school, I channeled the negative energy self-blamed filled me with into very unhealthy decisions. I self-harmed as a form of punishment. I went to confession and prayed the Rosary. I stockpiled medications then consumed large quantities at once to make myself sick or experience the way it temporarily altered my brain. I even tried to end my existence a few times.

But, that was two decades ago. So what do I do with this guilt and shame that I’m feeling now?

I’ll be honest, what I’m doing now isn’t any better than what I did back then. And, just like I discovered in my youth, nothing provides much more than a temporary drop in my emotions and intrusive thoughts.

Each day, there’s a part of me that wishes I could talk to Emily and find out whether she blames me. But mostly, I just wish I could either bring her back or, at the very least, trade places with her so she could continue down the incredible path she’d outlined for herself.

Like I told my therapist today as we discussed the entire history of my relationship with Emily, what upsets me the most is that fact that it all ended so soon. It’s not how it was supposed to be, and it’s not fair to Emily that she didn’t get to do all the things she dreamed of accomplishing.

When Emily was around, I didn’t have any reason to blame myself because she made my life so wonderful. But because she’s gone, I can’t help but wonder if everyone would be better off without me.

Because She Wanted A Child

I watched our pastors baptize a precious baby today at church. I realize this is a fairly common thing that happens, and usually it’s not that big of a deal. But, as is the case with many things lately, it just hit differently today and left me desperately trying to hold back tears and hide my emotions from anyone sitting next to me.

I spent a lot of time thinking about that moment today, trying to decide why a simple ritual brought such a strong wave of grief. It seems weird to cry about a baby getting baptized, right? Well, maybe not if you know the plans Emily and I had… plans that will never happen now.

Baby Talk

When you’re friends with someone for a significant amount of time, you learn a lot about their dreams for the future, and Emily and I were no exception to that. We both shared many of our hopes and future plans with each other, even before we ever started dating. And although I eventually want to share many of those dreams in this blog, there’s only one that’s relevant to this post, and that’s Emily’s desire to be a mother.

I knew that Emily wanted kids one day. And, because I’d watched her with my own kids and heard her talk about her nieces for hours on end, I knew that she was going to be an amazing mom when the time came for that.

But then, life took an unexpected turn, and Emily and I became much more than friends. And, as most anyone who is likely reading this already knows, I have kids from a previous marriage.

So, fairly early on in our relationship, I decided to ask Emily more pointed questions about future children because, although I knew she wanted kids, I didn’t know much more than that.

I learned that she always dreamed of having two girls and a boy. I also learned that she wanted to name one of the girls Eleanor, after an Eleanor in her family. So, because she’s Emily, she said, “It looks like I’ve got the two girls now and one of them is already named Eleanor, so my dreams will come completely true if we have a little boy together.”

As we continued this conversation, I learned a lot about pregnancy risks and issues Emily would face if she carried a child. It would have required her to completely change all of her transplant medications, which scared her more than a little bit since the medications she was on were working well. She also had concerns about how the bodily changes of pregnancy would affect her mental health, especially since she’d finally found a fairly stable point in her eating disorder recovery. And, of course, there were all of Emily’s fears related to her health in general, and how many things like her short stature, congenital heart defect, and hyper mobility, were genetic.

I told her, “We can figure all of this out. There are doctors out there who can help with the genetics, and surrogacy is a thing, so we can use your egg and I’ll just carry the baby if that’s what is safest.”

Emily liked the idea, but said if her eggs were “messed up,” she wanted our backup plan to be using my egg with a redhead sperm donor because “a redhead baby would be so cute!”

Then, it was Emily’s turn to ask the questions, and I could tell there was something on her mind she was hesitant to say. Finally, she said, “This might be weird, but how would you feel about naming the baby after my donor?”

I didn’t think it was weird at all. In fact, I loved the idea. We agreed that Victor would be an adorable name for a little boy, and settled on Max for a middle name, after Emily’s grandfather. As I explained to her, I already got to name two children, so my only request for this one was that we at least consider hyphenating his last name.

And, just like that, we had a plan.

More Plans Laid To Rest

I’ve thought a lot about the little boy we wanted since Emily’s death. After watching an episode of Virgin River a second time after the fact, part of me almost wishes I would have had the time and brain capacity to think about these kinds of things right before she went, but my mind was too focused on praying for her to live. After having people say, “You can still make that dream come true for her,” I’ve cried because I just don’t feel let it would be the same for me to have a baby on my own and name it after my dead fiancée’s organ donor. So, it’s just another part of the love story Emily and I shared that was laid to rest with her.

I think that’s why today hit me so hard. There was a baby boy, alive and with his parents, beginning his life in the church. It’s a moment I saw happening for Emily and I in the next few years. A moment I desperately wanted to experience with her. A moment I’ve never gotten to nor ever will get to experience now.

Let me tell you, it’s heartbreaking to rehash your person’s death over and over again each time you encounter something that perfectly mirrors the dreams you had for your own future.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my two children with every fiber of my being. And, I also know that Emily loved my children as if they were hers. She always did.

But, I always dreamed of more kids than two. I just thought that dream died when I had a miscarriage back in 2017. That is, until Emily came along and brought it back into the realm of possibility.

I couldn’t wait to see Emily holding a baby that shared DNA with her. A baby who would have been so loved and cherished by her, by me, and by his siblings. A baby who would have been named after the man who made his existence possible.

Because of Emily, I was completely sold on having another child. But once again, I can’t help but feel like I did something to ruin my own dreams. I’m just heartbroken over a child I never got to meet, and I can’t even turn to Emily for support… And saying that makes my heart start breaking all over again.

I’m so sorry, Emily.

Because It Didn’t Feel Like Her Last Day

On the Monday after Thanksgiving, a three-hour car ride home from Knoxville turned into a complete breakdown for me. When I discussed this with my therapist after the fact, she mentioned that music could be a partial trigger. So, she recommended I find some podcasts to listen to during car rides for the next several weeks, and see if that helps.

The next time I got in the car without the kids, I did exactly what my therapist recommended. I started with a grief-related episode of I Weigh with Jameela Jamil, then moved to Last Day, a podcast Emily’s mom had mentioned while we were on vacation in August.

Last Day is a podcast two sisters started after they each lost a sibling to accidental overdose related to opioid misuse. I realize the topic of the podcast (issues that are killing people in America) has nothing to do with Emily’s death. Yet as I listened to one of the episodes about how normal one brother’s last day was, I couldn’t help but think about how much that same sentiment applied to Emily’s final 24 (or really 36) hours.

A Final Mundane Monday

I’ve mentioned this in other posts, but I will say it again: I’ve replayed the footage on those final two days of Emily’s life over and over again. I keep thinking that I’ll pick up on some clue, recall a moment that I missed, or finally piece together what I could have done differently to save her.

None of that has happened yet. Instead, all I’ve pieced together is that it never really seemed like the end until it was.

Monday, October 17 mostly started like any other Monday. Emily’s schedule meant she was almost always off work on Mondays, and the kids go to their dad’s after school, so it was our day to enjoy together.

I took the kids to school. I texted Emily as I left the school to see if she needed anything. I let Emily sleep in while I started my work day. When Emily came downstairs, she mentioned her abdominal pain, but insisted it wasn’t too bad. She also mentioned that she just had to make it through Monday, as she had an ultrasound appointment scheduled for the next morning and was hopeful they’d take one look at her gallbladder and schedule the surgery.

So, Emily went through her usual motions for a Monday. She had a monthly appointment with her dietician over Zoom, and she had an in-person therapy appointment that afternoon. She was drinking a little bit of water, but was having a hard time eating. Both her dietician and therapist asked her about going to the hospital, which she declined because she said the pain wasn’t that bad.

Once she returned home from her therapy session, I could tell she wasn’t feeling well. We cuddled up on the couch and started watching 9-1-1. As the clock approached dinner time, I told Emily I’d make literally anything she was willing to eat. She asked for the tater tots from the restaurant in our apartment complex, but I think she only took two bites of one before she felt worse. I looked at her and said, “Give me just a minute to pack a bag, and then we’re going to the ER.” She didn’t fight it — she just nodded.

The Waiting Game

If you’ve needed any type of emergency medical care since March 2020, you know what a shit show it is. Most hospitals are understaffed, over capacity, and fighting an uphill battle. Needless to say, we knew we were in for a long wait when we walked into the waiting room at our local ER that Monday night.

We arrived right around 7:00 pm. Because of Emily’s history, they called her back for an EKG right away. That looked fine, so they sent us back out to the waiting room. They called her back for labs about two hours later, and then sent her back out to the waiting room again.

As the hours ticked by, I could tell Emily felt frustrated. She kept saying, “Clearly I’m fine since they don’t seem to be in any rush to call me back,” and, “I’m probably just being a big baby and we shouldn’t even be here.” I tried my best to remain calm and validate her feelings while also reminding her that the long wait didn’t mean she was blowing things out of proportion.

Finally, they called her back sometime after 3:00 am. Since every other room was full, they put us in what they called the “fast pass” room, which was normally for quick treatments. However, they assured us that they weren’t going to send her home immediately, and they would do what they could to figure everything out. They performed an ultrasound, gave her some IV fluids and an antibiotic, and had her take some sort of cocktail for her nausea and abdominal pain. By 6:00 am, they had determined her gallbladder was the issue, but some of her labs also looked concerning enough that they wanted to transport her to Vanderbilt (where she had her transplant).

So, after an entire night in the local ER, we boarded an ambulance to transfer. Perhaps I should have taken her directly to Vanderbilt instead of going to the ER 5 minutes from our home? I’m not sure.

It All Seemed Fine… Until It Wasn’t

Although there was a bit of initial confusion when we arrived at Vanderbilt, everything seemed in order once they got Emily into a room. The team confirmed that she needed her gallbladder removed, and a general surgeon came to talk to us about the procedure. He said they’d likely schedule the surgery for the next day (Wednesday), assuming cardiology signed off.

Emily had an ultrasound and a cardiac echo. They ran some labs. All in all, though, she was mostly free to get out of bed, use the bathroom on her own, and hang out.

Later that afternoon, someone from the transplant team came by. They made the same comment as St. Thomas about her troponin levels, but didn’t seem overly concerned. As a precaution, they scheduled a right cath for Wednesday morning, and said they’d start Emily on IV steroids that evening to counteract any potential rejection.

I think I was the only person who seemed even mildly worried. Emily seemed more concerned about my feelings than anything the doctors told her. The doctors seemed calm and collected, and they continuously reassured us that Emily would be fine.

They served her a ridiculously bland dinner. I grabbed Chinese from the cafeteria, and of course Emily stole several pieces of my orange chicken. She wasn’t in pain, she was carrying on conversation as usual, and was texting folks with updates.

At some point, I asked her if she wanted to stream something on my laptop, and she said yes. We got into a minor disagreement because I mentioned climbing in the bed with her and she insisted there was not enough room for both of us in the hospital bed. In true us fashion, we spent the next 5 minutes apologizing to each other, then I slid a chair next to her bed and set up the laptop so we could watch 9-1-1.

Part of the way through the episode, Emily started to fall asleep. I wasn’t surprised since we’d essentially been awake for over 24 hours at that point. So I turned off the show (insert more checking in that no one was mad), and she slept in the bed while I positioned the reclining chair as close to her as I could.

At some point, I think it was 9:00 or so, Emily got up to use the bathroom. I asked her if she needed help, she said no. But when she stood up to get off the toilet, her knee decided to sublux (very common issue for her), and she fell. I pushed the call button for the nurse, then asked her what I could do to help. The nurse came and got her back into bed, asked if she wanted ice for her knee, and told her to not get out of bed unless someone was helping her. Then we went back to sleep.

The Final Hours

You know that feeling when you’re in the middle of a detailed dream and your alarm clock goes off and wakes you up in a panic? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me. I woke to machines beeping and immediately panicked and looked at Emily. She looked awake, but wasn’t alert or responsive to me. A whole team of people rushed in, and asked me what was happening. I just looked at them, horrified, and said, “We were asleep. I don’t know. Everything just started beeping and she isn’t responding when I talk to her.”

Within a minute or so, she was fine again. When they asked her if she knew what happened, she said, “I woke up because I needed to go to the bathroom and my partner was asleep, and now all of you are in here.” To her, that entire period of time with the beeping machines and me trying to talk to her didn’t happen.

More labs were ordered, and the doctors asked us both questions about her medical history and health. They asked her a lot of questions to confirm she was cognitively fine, and all the nurses looked at me and said, “Aw! How romantic!” when Emily told them the proposal story.

Finally, people started leaving the room. One of the doctors told us she’d look over all the labs and let us know what they found out. Again, no one seemed overly alarmed yet, mostly just perplexed.

Emily jokingly said, “Well, I’m awake now… Let’s talk about the wedding!” We briefly discussed our plans for what we wanted the wedding party to wear (we both agreed we wanted people to pick outfits that made them feel comfortable and confident, as long as they matched the colors of purple for her side and green for mine). We also joked that we’d offer our brothers the option to wear dresses but knew all too well that none of them would.

I don’t know for sure, but I think about an hour had passed since the initial episode when, mid conversation, the same thing happened again. I couldn’t even think enough to find the damn call button, so I just shouted, “Help!”

I said her name a few times and tried touching her before the nurse ran in. He looked at her, and then immediately asked me if I would help him flip her on her side since it looked like a seizure. As we did, the same group of people from the first episode rushed in again. I stood out of the way, crying and panicking, as everyone rushed around to care for her.

It took a bit longer this time, but Emily started responding again after a couple minutes. More labs, a chest x-ray, and an ultrasound, all done in the room. They kept asking me if she’s had seizures before, had any issues like diabetes, and more. I kept telling them no, all of this was new. Somewhere during this time I texted Emily’s mom, and she called me.

At this point, Emily was responsive and still firing off sassy comments, but she was visibly unwell. She told me she didn’t feel well, and I stroked her hair. I stayed by her side while the doctors talked. She started feeling nauseated, so I grabbed one of the “puke tubs” (my term) and held it for her. I know she apologized at one point, and I just kept telling her it was okay, I wasn’t upset. I also told her I was not going to leave her side.

No one knew what was going on, so they decided to move her to the ICU so they could keep a closer eye on her. One of the doctors looked at me and said, “We’re going to figure this out. We’ve got her.” But it didn’t matter, I still fought tears the entire time I walked beside her bed as we made our way to the cardiac ICU.

We made it into the ICU room. I sat our bags down in a chair. Then I stood beside her bed as they started getting her all settled and hooked up to monitors. She looked at me and said, “Babe, I’m feeling weird. I think it’s about to happen again.” I said, “It’s going to be okay, I’ll tell them. Just sit tight.” And that’s it. That’s the last thing I said to her.

As I turned to get someone’s attention (there were 3 people in the room), the same thing happened again, only this time she completely coded. They started CPR and were all talking to each other before a nurse realized I was standing there crying. He made me leave the room and assured me someone would come update me soon.

I don’t know how much time passed as I paced the waiting room. It felt like forever. I prayed, I cried, I emailed all of our pastors to ask for prayers. I ran to the bathroom and threw up. I cried some more. I forced myself to drink water and tried every mindfulness exercise I could remember from our DBT group. I kept grabbing my phone to text or call someone, but then realized it wasn’t even 5:00am yet so everyone would be asleep.

When a doctor came out to update me, I was sitting in a chair staring at the ceiling. She told me they’d put her on ECMO, and I completely lost it. I swear Chasing Cars should have been playing in the background, because it felt exactly like a scene from Grey’s Anatomy.

And then, not even 30 minutes later, the same doctor came out to tell me ECMO wasn’t working and she was dead.

Nobody Knows

I know that most people don’t wake up in the morning and think, “Today is my last day of life.” In fact, I think most of us would say that our lives unfold much like the lyrics of Cosy in the Rocket (the Grey’s Anatomy theme song): Nobody knows where they might end up.

Emily and I certainly didn’t know how those final two days would play out. But then again, Emily did make a comment when a friend of ours visited Tuesday morning that it “felt a lot like 2017,” so maybe she knew something we didn’t? It’s hard to say.

All I know is it never really felt like the end until the end was already there, and by that moment, all I could think about was that I was too late.

There’s a lot I’m grateful for when it comes to Emily. But I think that part of me will always carry regrets. And because of that, I will never be the same.

Because We Went To The Movies

The emotions have been all over the place this weekend. One minute I’m participating fully in the present moment, completely engaged and feeling content with life. Then, out of nowhere, the heartache and longing hit me out of nowhere and I feel my eyes fill with tears. Or, without any obvious trigger, my mind begins to race, my stomach churns, and my chest feels like a car is resting on top of it. Then everything settles for a moment… only for the madness to start all over again.

I was fully riding that roller coaster last night as the kids and I drove home from dinner with some friends. At one point, I was singing along to the music with the kids, and then I saw Burger Republic out the window, and I fell apart.

An Unforgettable Movie Night

If you weren’t aware of this already, Emily and I share a love of all things psychology related. We always went to that section in McKay’s, we frequently pulled our DSMs during discussions over what mental health condition we thought a TV show character had, and the majority of the memes, links, and videos we shared with each other were somehow mental health related.

Anyway, given that information, it should be no surprise that I wanted to go see Words on Bathroom Walls when it came out in August of 2020. It also shouldn’t surprise you that I asked Emily to go with me and she said yes without hesitation.

For your reference, the film is about a high schooler who is diagnosed with schizophrenia and has a hard time talking about it and coping. There’s also a love interest and other sappy things. So, the perfect movie for girls who enjoy tearing apart films that get mental health conditions like this wrong.

Back to the story…

We planned to start the night with dinner at Red Robin, but they had over an hour wait. So, we ran down the road to Burger Republic. We ordered, enjoyed our food, and talked. Unfortunately, we left pretty much immediately after we saw a mouse run through the restaurant, which meant we still had time to kill before the movie and we both didn’t get to finish our boozy shakes.

I can’t remember which one of us thought of it, but we decided to go to the liquor store and get some nips that we could sneak into the movie theater and add to our fountain drinks. We wandered around the liquor store for a bit, then bought what we came in for and headed to the movie.

The movie ended up being much better than I expected, and the company was obviously even better. I think her chillness with our rebellious move of taking the booze into the theater caught me off guard since she usually seemed to panic over anything that might get her in trouble, but it also made me see what a badass she really was, which made me fall for her even more. I felt like I was in high school or actually getting an authentic college experience (music majors who are working to pay for school don’t have time to be a “college kid”). It was so much fun. Emily was so much fun.

Movie For One

Since Emily died, I’ve seen a couple movies advertised that I wouldn’t have minded seeing. But every time I contemplated going to the theater alone, all I could think about was that magical movie night. Although I know I could sneak alcohol in (I’ve gotten good at that lately), I don’t know if I could make it through an entire movie by myself without wishing for my Emily.

Thanks to Emily, I have so many incredible stories like this one. And because of her, I relearned what it’s like to have fun, laugh, and enjoy life.

Yet, without her, I can’t seem to find the joy in life. I can laugh for a moment, smile through a two-hour ballet, or have fun with my friends for an evening. But eventually, it all comes back — the heartbreak, the overwhelming sadness, the anxiety and despair. It all engulfs me until I can’t feel anything else. Maybe soon I’ll learn how to breathe without her. But for now, I’m going to try my best to turn the tears into stories of the happy memories that came before.

Because I’m Struggling

If you’ve kept up with the blog thus far or know Emily and me personally, then you’re aware that we met in group therapy. Of course, the assumption underneath all of that is that Emily and I were both in group therapy because we were mentally unwell. And, as other posts have revealed, that assumption is entirely accurate.

I’ve been watching Ted Lasso after some friends showed me the first few episodes on New Year’s Eve. Although the show is partially supposed to be lighthearted and fun, I also see a lot of myself in Ted, especially lately because, as my therapist pointed out today, I’ve really downplayed how much I’ve been struggling, and the one person who would call me out on it isn’t here.

An Award-Winning Faker

On the surface, I think that I cover up my mental health reasonably well. I crack jokes, laugh, and ensure everyone around me has fun. I volunteer, I offer to help people, and I will always offer a listening ear to anyone who needs it. I find a way to accomplish all that needs to get done, and I try my best to always be a pillar of strength for my family.

However, what you see on the surface isn’t always me — it’s the mask I wear to fit in.

Honestly, I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been a perfectionist and people pleaser. I also don’t want to appear vulnerable or weak, because I know people will exploit it. So it’s just better for everyone if I say yes with a smile and push myself as far as I can.

I think the combination of my upbringing and the desire for others to like me have always been a motivating factor in this behavior. However, I also think that experiences during my middle school years really drove this notion home, and I carried it into my adult life.

Emily Always Knew

I know there are times when it’s obvious to everyone that I’m struggling. 2017 was a prime example of that. However, not every difficult moment in my life is a five-alarm fire. In fact, those moments usually start as something much smaller, something almost no one would notice.

And yet, somehow, Emily always did.

The first time Emily knew goes all the way back to 2018. We were a few months into our DBT group, and it was one of those days where everyone in the group showed up seemingly dysregulated. At one point during the group, I felt an anxiety attack coming on, so I tried to quietly excuse myself to the bathroom.

I felt Emily look at me as I left the room, but I tried to avoid eye contact. When I returned to the room, she mouthed, “You OK?” and I gave a thumbs up. The group continued, and I calmed down.

Of course, as soon as the group ended that day, Emily was there beside me. As we walked out to the parking lot, she said, “Dude, I know you got up to use the TIPP Skill. What’s up? I’m here if you want to talk about it.”

Over the years, Emily continued to just “know” when I wasn’t okay. By the time we started dating, she would just roll her eyes at me if I tried to put on that fake face when I was having a hard day. She always had a witty way of essentially calling me out and letting me know she knew I wasn’t okay.

I think part of it was the fact that she was literally trained to know these things. She was a badass social worker, and she was just naturally perceptive. However, I’d also like to think that part of it was just the fact that we always shared a unique bond. We just got each other in a way that very few other people did.

And here’s the real kicker: She never once reacted negatively when I opened up to her. Usually, she listened, comforted me, and asked how she could help me. Sometimes she’d say, “Which Emily do you want for this? You can have problem-solving Emily, non-judgmental social worker Emily, or girlfriend Emily.” Other times she’d worry that my feelings were the result of something she did, and I’d have to explain things to dispel that. But she was never angry, never critical, and never left me hanging high and dry.

Emily always knew when I was struggling, but she loved me all the same.

I’m Trying My Best Without Her

Losing someone you love takes a toll on your mental health in ways that very few other life experiences do. However, sudden, traumatic losses like Emily hit in an utterly indescribable way. So, to say these past two and a half months have been hard is an understatement to say the least. They’ve been almost unbearable.

I have shared some of my feelings quite candidly on social media because I know Emily would want me to be honest about where I am mentally. However, I’ve still held back quite a bit. A few people have seen me on particularly rough days, and my therapist has had to deal with a few intense sessions over the past few months.

Really though, there’s so much that no one knows except me… But she’d know if she were here.

This week has been exceptionally tough. I’ve felt so untethered and lost. The new year has added a whole new layer of finality to Emily’s death, and the thought of going an entire 365 days without her really makes me want to give up. The grief isn’t coming in waves anymore. It’s a full-blown storm and I’m drowning.

I don’t know how to tell people what I’m doing and thinking. I don’t know how to stay afloat. Because I love Emily, I want to keep my promises to her and fulfill her dreams. But because I love Emily, I also just wish I could be with her again. But alas, those two desires are incompatible with each other.

I’ll end with this: Grief sucks. Losing the love of your life sucks. And the one person who handled me the best when I get in this state of mind is that love I lost. It’s a little too ironic, don’t you think?

Because She Mapped Out All The Adventures

I left for a week-long solo road trip across the Midwest on Christmas Day. I had no work obligations, no set schedule to maintain, and really just had the vision to check a few states off Emily’s bucket list. I’ll be honest, I didn’t do much ahead of time to plan the trip, and I changed course multiple times during the journey as I found things to do or I grew restless. It was the most I’ve ever flown by the seat of my pants in years.

On the second to last day of the trip, I realized I had not determined where to stop for the night. As I reached the Wisconsin-Illinois border, I pulled over at the Welcome Center and started looking at hotel costs for towns about three hours down the road. I couldn’t believe how ill-prepared I was in that moment. But instead of growing upset, I simply looked at the teddy bear in the passenger seat, laughed, and said, “Here’s yet another thing that wouldn’t be happening right now if Emily were here.”

Emily Made The Plans

Usually, I thrive on very set plans because I feel safe when I know what to expect. I need to know where I’m going, when, and who will be there so I can plan out what to wear, how to act, and what coping skills I may need to handle the situation. Without a plan, I often feel on edge and scared, which can make me act in ways that are really quite unbecoming.

Emily knew about my anxiety issues and a need for clear plans before we even started dating. She often tried her best to accommodate my need for structure whenever we made plans. Regarding vacations specifically, Emily absolutely loved to plan out every detail of our trips and vacations, so I usually let her handle all of that while I handled other things, like booking flights or preparing the car for a multi-hour journey. It was our system, and it worked.

We Went to St. Louis

I remember one of the first trips we ever planned together was to St. Louis. We had originally slated the trip for March, 2021 (before we started dating). However, I had some conflicts come up, and we moved the trip to September. Looking back, this ended up working in our favor because we were fairly settled in our relationship by the time we went, and this opened the door to some things that probably wouldn’t have been the same if we hadn’t been a couple at the time (like our “special cave time” in the City Museum… but that’s a whole other blog post).

When we started discussing the trip, Emily told me she’d plan everything out. However, I didn’t realize just how detailed she was until a few weeks before the trip. Essentially, Emily had a list of activities, the costs, and about how long it would take to do each one. She then planned out the entire three-day trip, with contingency plans based on weather or other factors. She also had a list of optional extras we could do if we had extra time. It was the most elaborate trip planning I’d ever seen. It made me laugh, but I also loved it.

Throughout the course of the three days we were there, we checked pretty much everything off the list. We went to IKEA, enjoyed tons of local food, walked through the entire St. Louis Zoo, explored a huge park and a science center, and went to the City Museum. Although we were flexible with timeframes, I really liked how Emily planned everything out.

A Knack For Finding Things Off The Beaten Path

One of my favorite things about the trips that Emily planned was that she’d always sneak something completely unique into the trip. For example, when we went to Chicago, we did a lot of the typical Chicago things. But Emily also picked out two things that were very random and very Emily, one of them being our visit to Hull House.

Unless you’re a nerd like us, you’ve probably never even heard of Hull House. The house was founded by Jane Addams, who is often called “the mother of social work.” The compound was a place to help immigrants and underprivileged people in Chicago obtain housing, medical care, and more. The entire museum was fascinating, and we even learned that the federal government investigated Jane Addams because she was “dangerous” due to her liberal views and likely a lesbian.

When we went to Melbourne, Florida, Emily found an adorable breakfast place we checked out one morning. It was clearly a staple for the locals, even though from the road you’d easily ignore it since it was one of those “hole in the wall” places. Again, I don’t know how she found these places, but she always did and it was always great.

She Didn’t Just Plan Destinations

With almost every trip we went on as a couple, Emily made these highly detailed plans. She even did it for our trip to Florida this August and went so far as to plan what we would eat each day so she could grocery shop once we arrived. I don’t know how she could work out all the logistics and find so many fun things to do, but she did.

Also, she didn’t just plan things to do. She also researched medical facilities in the area and had everything planned out in case either of us had a medical emergency while we traveled. I know this was primarily because of her own medical history, but it still made me laugh. She was so detailed and methodical with everything.

She’d always bring along a small notebook and would make sure I knew exactly where to take her if she had any issues with her heart of anything else while we were on the trip. Of course, we never needed any of the facilities she researched, but for Emily, this was just another part of the planning process.

I Can’t Plan Like Emily

I went into my Midwest adventure with virtually zero plans and made things up as I went along. Part of this was because, to be brutally honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d even make the trip at all. Also, I didn’t want to have set plans because the weather and my mood are both fairly unpredictable. So, I just sort of went with a general idea of towns I’d hit, and I decided to plan the rest as I went.

In reality, there’s no way I can plan trips the way Emily did. She just had a gift for researching, mapping itineraries, and finding hidden gems in every city. I didn’t even want to try being her this way, so I opted to go in the opposite direction. I’m sure it drove her nuts a couple of times (especially on the night when I opted to get high and watch five episodes of The Crown while eating cheese instead of going out and exploring), but it just felt like the right way to approach my first trip without my travel companion by my side.

Because of Emily, I enjoyed several amazing vacations and road trips throughout 2021 and 2022. I don’t think trips will ever be the same without her now. However, I also know that she’d kill me if I never went on vacation again because traveling was a love we both shared.