Tag Archives: death

Bad Things Happen in 3’s

bad things happen

I know it is a superstition but I am sure that you have heard the phrase, “Bad things happen in threes”.  After Francine died, we kept hoping that this would not be the case for our family, but considering her death and my mom’s were so close together, we could not help think it.  It sounds kind of silly, but my mom went in the hospital on 3/8 and Francine on 4/9 so we sort of “half joked” to stay away from St. Barnabas Medical Center on 5/10.  Secretly, I thought that if we could get past that date, maybe our “bad luck streak” would be over.

Sadly for our family, we did not get that far.  Today, my sister’s father-in-law passed away.  He was 76 and had a fatal heart attack at his home.  I was not close to him at all, so I sort of feel like I am standing on the sidelines this time.  He lived in Maryland and did not come up here to New Jersey very often.  My sister and her family made the trip to his home a few times a year.  They will be heading to Maryland for his services.

Although his death is not affecting me personally, I just question “why”?  It is still our family that is being affected.  My dad is asking, “What did we do?  Is our family being punished for something?”  I don’t think so, but really…it does make me wonder.

I have definitely come to the conclusion that life is fragile.  We need to be better to one another.  We need to mend broken relationships.  Keep the positives in our lives and get rid of the negatives.  I know that my brother-in-law is struggling with the fact that he and his dad had not spoken in awhile, and that last time they spoke was an argument.

I don’t know if I believe in the quote, “everything happens for a reason”, but right now, I think our family need to focus on that, even if we never find out what that reason is.

A Roller Coaster Ride

 roller coaster

There are so many things that can happen in our lives, sometimes it seems like it is hard to have a positive outlook in life.  With all of the ups and downs and sharp turns that life brings our way, sometimes it seems like I am on an emotional roller coaster.   One month of sadness, preceded by three months of a crazy headache that just would not go away, has made this year the wildest ride ever.  I am now managing the headache and I am finding ways to manage the sadness but still, I am worried.

I worry for my brother Tim, a young widow now.  I worry for my dad, who is trying to be strong for Tim, yet hasn’t had time to grieve for himself.  I worry for my kids, who were so close to both my mom and Francine.  I worry for Francine’s mom and for her two best friends who loved her so much and seem so sad without her.  I imagine this is the steep hill of the ride – the one that climbs up and up and up, until it reaches its peak before falling at full speed down the other side. The promising part of falling, is knowing that eventually you will reach the bottom and plateau.

Going back to work has been the plateau on my ride.  The flat, level, balanced part of the ride that comes after the big hill with loops, twists and turns.  There is so much love at my school.  I am getting it from the families, from my staff, from my students.  I know that my father and brother are finding the same thing as they have gotten back to work.  The love is genuine and confirms that fact that we are not alone on this wild ride. 


stormy time

Spring has always been my favorite season. 

The promise of warmer and longer days,blossoming trees, blooming flowers…rejuvenation.  It gives us such a sense of hope.  I always think of the coming of Spring as a time of new life.  After what has been a miserable Autumn and Winter weather wise, I could not wait for Spring’s arrival this year. 

T.S. Eliot wrote, “April is the cruelest month”.  Before this year, I NEVER would have agreed but in the shadow of Francine’s death following so quickly after my mom’s, I am beginning to think he was right.  With Francine dying in April and my mom being buried on the first day of Spring, it has not only been cruel but merciless.

This season that is supposed to bring “New Life”, has brought my family the complete opposite.   It seems so nonsensical.   My greatest hope right now is that these April showers that we are experiencing will bring our family May flowers and that the sadness and grief that we have experienced throughout this season will lead us to a period of contentment. 



What a difficult time we are going through.  Yesterday was the second funeral in one month that we attended for a family member.  On Tuesday, between the two wakes, we went back to my brother’s home and while we were there we turned on the television to find out the horrendous news of what happened in Boston.  Initially we were all stunned and shocked to see what happened.  We were all so sad to begin with and this news just seemed so senseless.  As more and more information came in, it just became so much more horrific. 

Questions kept running through my mind,

·       Why?

·       Where is the reasoning behind all of this?

·       Why do bad things happen to good people?

·       How will these families get past this?

I know how incredibly sad we all are right now and how difficult it has been for us.  Francine’s death was tragic and unexpected.  My mom had been ill and even still, her death came as a surprise to us.  No one is every ready.  I question why God allows things like this to happen.  In Francine’s eulogy, I said that God must have a plan. I wish I knew what it was. It does not make this any easier but how do we just move on from here?  Do we try to move on and become “normal” again?  Is there really any normal anymore?  Our children are seeing so much violence and no matter how much we try to protect them from it, I fear that they will become desensitized to it. 

Our family has received prayers and support of hundreds of people and that is getting us through it.  The victims of the tragedy in Boston are receiving prayers, well wishes and kind gestures from all over the world.  We can only hope that these prove to be reminders that there is more good in the world and we can overcome this senselessness and find a light in the midst of darkness.

In this difficult time, we need to look for what is good in our lives even in the midst of tragedy.  It seems like a very hard task but unfortunately good and bad exist everyday and we need to concentrate on the good.  Make positive choices and spend time with people that you love and care about.  Let them know how much they mean to you.  Unfortunately our family learned that life can change in an instant, and if we do not take the opportunity to live life to the fullest now, we might just lose out.

Another Eulogy


Today, I gave a short eulogy for my sister-in-law at the cemetery.  I am sharing it here.

 We have gathered here together to offer our support to Francine’s family and friends who cannot believe she is gone. We gather for Tim and her parents, and for all of our family members.

 For those of you who do not know me, I am Timmy’s sister Claire.  Our families want to extend their gratitude to all of you who came here today and have supported us through this extremely difficult time.

 There is never a convenient time for any of us to die.  Sadly, our lives have been touched by death twice this month and how do we make sense of it?  How do we deal with it when a person’s life cut short?  We are all grieving and trying to figure out why Francine had to leave us so soon.

 Francine was not afraid of death.  She dealt with it on a daily basis while working part time in the funeral home while she finished her schooling to become a mortician.  This was her dream.  Perhaps when you regularly deal with death, there is not much about it that will faze you.   She talked openly about it to her family and friends and I can only hope that this will bring them all comfort.

 If you live in this area, you probably noticed the wicked thunderstorm that we had on Wednesday night.  The storm began with an enormous black cloud rolling in.  We did not see in the hospital, but many people saw it and it was so ominous, they remarked about it.  An enormous thunderclap shook the windows of the hospital right at the time Francine died.  There was no way to not have noticed it.  We remarked that it was a sign from Francine, letting us know that she had arrived.  Francine liked to make an entrance and perhaps this was her way of letting us know that she was crashing  through the gates of heaven.  The storm went on for quite awhile and several hours later, as we all left the hospital, the rain and thunder were over but the most beautiful lightening was filling the sky.  Every single one of us thought of Francine.

Francine and Tim had just found out that she was pregnant- it was very early into the pregnancy. They knew that it was much too early to tell anyone yet, so they had not shared the news yet.  They were waiting to get results of their first ultrasound before announcing it.

Only my mom and Francine’s mom knew that they had been going for fertility treatments.  Although my mom died before they got pregnant, I know that Tim found comfort in the fact that she knew how hard they were trying.

Sunday would have been their 6-year anniversary. They should be celebrating what should have been the happiest time in their lives with this new addition to their family.  Tim should not be spending it burying his wife.

I realize that death will leaves behind scars that don’t seem to fade, but when a death is unexpected, it just seems so much more painful.  For our family, two deaths so close together also seems unfathomable.   It will take a long time to recover, especially for Tim.  It seems so very cruel.  We can only hope that there truly is a reason for everything and that God has bigger plans for all of us.

Dealing With Grief

dealing with grief

With all that has been going on, I have been doing a lot of thinking about my own life and how I would deal with this if it were my spouse, or my child.  It is not something I want to think about.  It is something I feel I have been forced to think about.  How would I deal with it???  After losing my mom, going back to work was a break – a break from the commotion, a break from the grief.  It gave me the chance to focus on other things.   If it were one of my children or my husband, I don’t know if I could go right back to work – back to “normalcy”.   My mom and I talked everyday, several times a day, but we did not live together and this is a huge factor that my dad and brother have to deal with.  I miss her terribly, but when I go home, my own family is still there for me.

My dad went back to work right away after my mom died.  For him it was cathartic.  He was surrounded by my brothers, friends and neighbors and for him, it has been just what he needs.  With Tim, is has only been four days.  He went to a hockey game on Friday and has joined all of us for big family dinners.  He is playing softball today.  Until the wake and funeral tomorrow, there is nothing else for him to do.

Some might question how he could do these things already, while others think he is doing what is best for him, but the truth is, there is no right answer.  I would imagine that coming home to an empty house is not easy.  There would be no one to greet you, no one to sit with at meals.  An empty house is a reminder of being alone.  Being with others is comforting to my dad and to Tim and it is giving them the distraction that they need.

Losing their wives, the women that they shared their life with…there are reminders everywhere.  Being away from those reminders seems to be what they need right now.  Of course, they need to mourn.  Mourning is how they will deal with their emotions.  It is essential in the healing process.  Life is never going to be the same for them and there is no timetable for when it will get better.  We all will be there to support them.

Family will be our biggest support system.  I cannot imagine how this last month would have been without our extended family.  We are together all of the time.  Even last night, in the midst of all this grief, 30 of us got together for dinner.  It was fun and we laughed, but we also remembered all of our loved ones.

No one can tell us when any of us will feel better.  There is no time frame.  It is different for everyone.   We are all going to have to face a new normal.  We will never be the same again.  Each one of us is changed.  We will celebrate what we had with our loved one and relish the memories.

Already we are finding things about mom and Francine that make us smile.  We need to embrace these things. We are never going to forget, we are just looking for a way to intertwine them into our “new normal”.

Another Funeral to Plan

death peaceful

I went with my brother to help with him the funeral arrangements.   Tim did not want any services on Sunday, (what would have been his 6th anniversary).  That is totally understandable.  The wake will be on Monday and the funeral on Tuesday.  They chose the funeral home where Francine worked and loved.  Mr. Prout, the funeral director treated Tim and Francine’s mom so well.  The church is St. Lucy’s in Newark, where she was baptized, had her 1st Communion, Confirmation and wedding..  That was her parish it is appropriate that is where she will have her funeral.

 They chose a coffin, with just enough “bling” to appease Francine while still being tasteful.  ((For those of you who knew Francine that would have made you laugh).    Her obituary was written, her outfit chosen and services decided on.

 Tim held up very well.  Her mom wept through it all.  I cannot begin to imagine how she feels losing a child.  She gave her ideas for what she thought Francine would have wanted.   They only thing that they had a difficult time deciding on was where she will be buried.  Her mom wanted her with her grandma.  Tim wanted her with our mom – and a place where someday he would join her.

 Many years ago, (when I was a teenager), my grandfather passed away.  He was buried in a crypt in a mausoleum.   At the time, my dad and his brother both purchased a crypt as well.   This way, they felt that one day, they would all be together.  Each crypt is a double, which means that they will be buried with their wives.  At the time, my uncle also bought another one.  Back when I was 17, I could not understand why he needed to do that.  They told us it was “to have just in case”.  Well, this seems to be the  “just in case”.  Many times Francine had told her mom and Tim, that she wanted to be buried in a mausoleum.  Tim seems to be finding comfort in the thought that she will be right next to our mom.

 Since Francine worked part time in the funeral home while she finished her schooling to become a mortician…her dream.  Perhaps when you regularly deal with death, there is not much about it that will faze you.  She was not afraid of death.  She dealt with it on a daily basis.  She talked openly about it and perhaps this will bring Tim some comfort.

Making an Entrance


If you live in our area, you probably noticed the wicked thunderstorm that we had on Wednesday night.  The storm began with an enormous black cloud rolling in.  We did not see in the hospital, but many people saw it and it was so ominous, they remarked about it.  An enormous thunderclap shook the windows of the hospital right at the time Francine died.  Everyone noticed!  The storm went on for quite awhile.  Several hours later, as we all left the hospital, the rain and thunder were over but the most beautiful lightening was filling the sky.   “A sign from Francine” I thought?!?!?

We all met for dinner last night at my grandma’s.  We went to tell her about Francine.  Once again, it was something that had to be done in person.  Needless to say, she was shocked.  She could not even comprehend what we were saying at first.  She just kept crying “Poor Timmy”.  Tim was there.  He sat with her and told her everything and made sure she knew how peacefully she left this world.  Once again, it was almost like a party, with nearly 20 of us there, eating, laughing, crying and just being together.

At one point, one of us began talking about that thunderstorm.  None of us had talked much about it while we were in the hospital.  I don’t know if we just didn’t want to sound silly, or did not know if it was appropriate but tonight when the subject came up, we realized that not only did everyone of us take notice of it, but all of us thought that it was a sign!   We had all taken note of the time.  Many of our friends and family had sent messages, texts, emails about the storm and how it coincided with Francine’s time of death and we compared those stories.

We all are convinced that somehow Francine was a part of that commotion – that tremendous thunderclap.  She loved to make an entrance and we all think that she was letting us know that she arrived and that was just her crashing through the pearly gates of Heaven…

because of course, she had to let us know that she had arrived.

The Club I Never Wanted to Join

silent hug

My mom made it to the age of 67.  She got to see her four children grow up and three of us get married, She got to meet her four grandchildren and be a huge part of their lives.  Most people might think that was a life well lived.  I am in my 40’s, married, a mom with my own children and still, I am so sad without her.  Three weeks ago today – to this very hour she died.  Four weeks ago today this evening she really left us.  Living on machines for a week.  At least we got the chance to say good bye to her.  I just wish she could have done the same.

I am still thinking she is just away…maybe on a vacation.  I want to call her, tell her about my day.  We spoke everyday, most days more than once.  As I drive in my car, I am thinking of the things I need to tell her and then… I remember.  I have been thinking lately, that I have become a part of a new “club”.  One that I never asked to join.  I have been amazed at the love and support from everyone, but especially touched by those who have lost their own moms.  I have been told by more than one of them, “there is nothing as hard as losing a mom”.  So many times over the last few weeks, I have felt downright weepy and I wonder how our lives will be complete without her?  How is it fair that my children will have to grow up without her?  They were the light of her life and they thought the world of her.

Three weeks…21 days…have gone by.  I might not be able to call my mom everyday anymore to talk, but I have others that I can talk to.  So many people have been sympathetic to me, and it is just what I need.  A knowing smile from someone who has been through this, a hug, or a warm touch on the shoulder.  All of those right now, can bring me close to tears even though I know that they are doing it because they care – they know what I am going through.  I just wish that I did not have to join this “club” so soon.  I am so touched to have the compassion, empathy and support from all of them.  I don’t want that to stop.  Of course I wish it were my mom that was giving me all of this comfort, but right now, knowing how much others care is bringing me solace and I appreciate these gestures more than they could know.

The Way She Would Have Wanted It

dont cry smile

Many people might think that if  we are mourning the death of someone, we should not be thinking about entertaining and having having a nice time.  Tonight, at mom’s wake, the mood was not somber.  Yes, it was sad.  Yes there were tears, but it was also lighthearted in some ways as well.  There were so many people who came to pay their respects to our family.  So many people that loved my mom came to show us how much that they cared about her.  There were stories shared and memories recalled.  I heard much more laughter than crying.  It seems that a gathering like this; lively and loud, may seem disrespectful to my mom but, my mom was not a quiet lady.  Anyone that knew her knew how much she loved a party.   She would not have wanted us to be there weeping by her side.  She would have wanted it just the way it was.  With laughter and love and joy being expressed by everyone.  That is the way she would have wanted any gathering that she was at, and one that is honoring her should not be any different.