Tidying Up

Sunday night, my dog of 12 years, Max passed away at home. I sat with him as he was dying and intermittently would get up and tidy up around the house. I would wash a few dishes, then go sit with him. Throw out the trash, then sit with him. Go through some mail, then return to sit with him. Gathered laundry, then sit with him. I had a moment in my kitchen as I was cleaning up, where I had a memory come back to me.

The memory was of me- I was 13 years old and I had just found my stepfather dead from a prescription drug overdose. Hours later, after they removed his body, my family sat around the kitchen table. I decided to go upstairs- to the bedroom he had died in. The room where I found him. I stood there in the doorway, looking at the bed he had just laid in less than an hour before. The silence of the room, the stillness. The image of him there as I found him. His face. The buzz of activity- first responders, friends, phone calls, family. I stepped into the room. Still processing, still trying to make sense in my 13 year old brain what had just transpired. I moved to the table by his bed. I picked up his glass, still half full and I picked up his donuts, still half eaten. I began to tidy up.

I am 44 and I have never stopped.

I recently read Chelsea Handler’s book, “Life Will Be the Death of Me”. In the book, she dives deep with a therapist, Dan, revealing and processing the trauma of her brother dying when she was nine. Throughout the book, there were many passages where I saw myself. I saw my trauma, my coping (or lack of), how I survived. I understood how she came to be who she was, and I understood how I came to be who I was. There are many excerpts I could share, but these four resonated with me deeply:

“I learned from Dan that being in motion was a way for me to avoid sitting still with my feelings. You can’t let anyone see you cry, so you move. Action is motion- is doing. Sitting is being. I had been a doer my entire life. I never sat still long enough to let anyone unglue my pain.”

“Dan explained that in very traumatic times, you freeze. You do the only thing you can do to survive the pain, which is to shut off and retreat to your own world, because if you were to absorb the pain from all the people around you or acknowledge your own pain, you wouldn’t be able to cope. So, you coped, just like everyone else in your family coped- each in different ways. Your coping mechanism was motion. Do something- anything other than sitting around with your feelings.”

“To know I’m going through something and not try to keep circling around it hoping to avoid going through it. Sitting and experiencing, and feeling, and not running. To understand that things take time, and to be okay sitting with my pain. To understand the only way through something is through it. Not to rush through life hopscotching over or around it. No one is fully cooked. No person is complete.”

“I learned that adventure is never bad, but the alacrity with which you go through life has an impact on the wisdom life has to offer you. That slowing down doesn’t mean you have to do less. It means you have to pay attention more and catch what the world is throwing at you. That every situation you put yourself in deserves your full attention, and that each of us has a responsibility to be more aware of ourselves and others.”

I stood in my kitchen, head in my hands crying, releasing 31 years of avoidance- of coping- of tidying up. I remembered these parts of Chelsea’s book, realized the pattern and in that moment I made a different choice. I stopped tidying up. I went to Max, brushed him as he laid there. I petted him, stroked his precious face, spoke to him and lovingly helped walk him home.



The Brief Life of a Newborn

This month, our grandson, Wilder Owen Walsh, passed away at only twelve days old. While death is something I have experienced in many ways throughout my life, I have never experienced the loss of a baby. I had no experience with Neonatal Intensive Care Units. I wanted to share a few things I observed and learned in just a few days of his brief life.

The NICU world is a completely different realm. Time itself takes on a whole new meaning. Victory comes in small doses. You are literally in the moment. You live an hour at a time, one test at a time, one result at a time. The NICU staff are a group of amazing souls and frankly, I don’t know how they do what they do. The balance of education, knowledge and experience with love, compassion and sensitivity for the baby and family is impressive to say the least.

I was in awe of our physical bodies and what they can endure. Based on my previous experiences with death, I thought I had a deep understanding of the fragility of life. I don’t think I fully grasped it until I watched a newborn fight for his. The moment where Wilder was methodically disconnected from all support, and soon afterward took his last breath, is a memory that will never fade.

I was reminded that none of us are exempt from death, loss, grief. We will all experience our own loss of loved ones while we are here. I was reminded that while the pain of the loss can be shattering, each loss helps guide me in the life I want to live while I am here.

I spoke at Wilder’s service. While it was intended for the family and friends during that personal moment, I am choosing to share the eulogy here. My hope is that someone will find comfort, especially if enduring a loss of their own.

Much love,



Wilder’s struggles and his passing away is tragic. It is a loss that will be felt by many forever. It’s normal to question why. It’s normal to want to know the purpose behind the tragedy. The reality is, we may never know the answers while we are here. Many of you may ask, “Where is God in this?”- “Where is the good in this?”.

I can tell you the good I observed:

The good was in his calm, easy-going demeanor after his birth. The bonding as his mother nursed him. The awe in his parent’s faces as they looked at him. The excitement of his sisters. The joy of his family upon his arrival. The love given to him through every person that held him. The concern from the medical staff. The tenderness of each NICU nurse. The knowledge of every NICU doctor. The strength and unity of the family. The relationships that were built. The hope expressed in every comment and message on social media. The support of friends, family and in some cases, strangers. The compassion of the NICU staff in is last hours. The comfort given with every hand held and every embrace given during his passing.

There was some aspect of good in every moment.

Wilder’s life didn’t turn out the way we wanted, expected or hoped for. His loss is heartbreaking. But each of us can honor him as we move forward in our lives. We can display the very traits he embodied and the traits embodied by those around him. We can honor his life and memory by freely giving the same love that was so easily given to him.

1 Corinthians 13:13 states, “And now these three remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

In Wilder’s brief life, one thing that impacted me was the amount of love he had while he was here. I believe he received more love in his few days than some receive in a lifetime.

For those of us here grieving, the pain is intense and the journey through it is difficult. While Wilder will never be forgotten, the pain will lessen. Be kind to yourself in the process. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and there is certainly not a specific timeframe to do so.

I encourage you to focus on his beautiful presence while he was here with us, rather than focusing on his absence. I encourage you to focus on what we gained through him, rather than what was lost.

For me personally, I am honored and grateful that I knew him at all.




Podcast Conversation

In September of 2018, I had a conversation with my friend Thomas for his podcast: RISE/Inner Monologue. The story I chose to speak about was my most life defining: finding my stepfather dead from a prescription drug overdose when I was 13.

I’m not afraid of public speaking, to talk in general or to tell my story. Over the past thirty years, I’ve talked about it with numerous people. But to talk about it in this forum made me nervous and anxious. How many people would hear it? Who would hear it? It would be out there FOREVER.

I chose to do the podcast with the intention of helping others. Maybe my story or something I said would resonate with someone. I wanted to be open and honest and (in spite of the fear). The episode (162) aired yesterday and I am so happy I did it! I am grateful for the opportunity I was given to share. I did what I set out to do- I showed up and shared authentically.

If you haven’t listened to his podcast yet, I encourage you to do so. He has a different guest every week. Awesome people of various backgrounds making a great impact in the world!