My Story



My name is Denise. On November 2, 2010, my husband of 10 years, Ely, died suddenly of a cardiac arrest as we were watching TV with our 8-year-old son.

It had been a perfectly normal day. He went to work that morning, sent out several cheerful texts to various friends and family, took this picture of his feet at break time

and posted it on Facebook.

He came home in a good mood, exclaimed how great dinner smelled (garlic-lime chicken, one of his favorites), and thanked me for hanging up his Steelers sign over the TV. ("Aw, you do love me," he said with a smile and a kiss.) After dinner--he had two helpings--we poured ourselves a cocktail and settled in to watch TV. As our last show was winding down, and we were about to turn it off and go to bed, Ely leaned over and died.

And just like that--suddenly, shockingly, in less than a minute--our lives were forever changed. I was now a  47-year-old widow, and our little boy was fatherless. My three older kids lost their stepdad and friend.

It's almost impossible to describe what those first few weeks were like. I never realized before that grief physically hurts. It actually hurt to breathe, to speak. For the first few days, I couldn't sleep or eat; I felt like I would never laugh again. I kept forgetting things and losing things. When I lay down at night and closed my eyes, the horror show would start up again, Ely's last minute seared into my brain, playing over and over in a continuous loop I couldn't shut off. I couldn't even read. My usual source of escape, comfort and solace was lost to me because I couldn't concentrate on the words.

I got sick twice in the first month, my body's immune system completely wrecked from the shock and the pain. Looking back, there were two things that kept me from falling apart in the beginning: my kids, and comedy. That's right--comedy. I discovered sometime in the first week that I actually felt temporarily human again while I was watching a funny show or movie on TV. I think that's when I realized I was going to be okay: when I watched Baby Mama the day after the funeral and yep, sure enough, it was still hilarious. Ely was gone, but Baby Mama was still funny. There was hope.

That's what this blog is about. Hope. And healing, joy, gratitude, acceptance, laughter, and love. Yes, love....because as I write this just over 14 months since Ely died, I have found love again. Love showed up again in a most unexpected package: a friend and neighbor Ely and I had known for more than four years. There are a few issues--not the least of which is that he's fourteen years younger than me--and I have no idea what the future holds for us. The plan at the moment is to move in together this coming May and take it one day at a time. [UPDATE: As of February 2012, that's over. Oh well. Life goes on.] Because if there's one thing I've learned from Ely's death it's that, as much as we all want to, we can't count on permanence. All we can really be sure we have is today.

And even that much, my dear friends, is a miracle. Every day, every hour, every moment we have here on this planet is a gift. On some level, I always knew that, but now I truly get it in a way I never did before. And now that I know this, deep down in my bones know it, I feel like joy is the only option. As the saying goes, pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. I see it as my responsibility as a human being to feel good and be happy as much as I can. Life is amazing, in spite of everything. I would even go so far as to say that life is amazing precisely because it is so fragile and fleeting. Knowing that makes everything so achingly beautiful.

This blog is about my ordinary, extraordinary, mundane, achingly beautiful life. I hope you come along as I live out my next chapter one day at a time.

One last thing: That photo of me and Ely at the top? That was taken almost 5 years ago by our friend PJ, the man who is now my boyfriend. It just goes to show, we never really have any clue what life has in store for us.