Remembering Cathy

Warning: This post has been added to throughout the week, so it may be a bit jumbled and hard to follow. I contemplated posting it at all, but I know, for journaling sake, I want it in my blog.

I still feel like everything is so surreal… like this really can’t have happened. I feel like I’m waiting for my phone to ring and for it to be her calling me (she was notorious for calling quite often, and we always joked about it).

I’m not sure where to start. I’ve never lost anyone so close to me before. I’ve lost grandparents, great-grandparents, a grandparent-in-law and a cousin.. but no one that was as immediate family as Cathy was. And I hope that it is a long, long time before I experience a loss like this again. You hear about people losing their parents when they’re in their 20’s and 30’s but you never think that it could happen to you. I can’t help but feel like…. this SHOULDN’T be happening to Ryan and Lori. To our family.

I’ve known Cathy since I was 16- so nearly 11 years. Ryan and I started dating at 16 and 17 and throughout our high school years I spent a lot of time at Ryan’s house. I became part of their family even before I was “legally” part of their family. Cathy and I talked often on the phone- nearly every day. She liked to talk and so did I and we often chatted for quite awhile. I feel bad that the past few months I haven’t had time to talk to her like we used to before life got hectic with two kids. It didn’t stop her phone calls, though- she always liked to check in on her grandbabies and see what new crazy things they were up to.

And speaking of the boys- they (and the girls- Lia, Shae and Brenna) are the ones I’m truly so sad for. Yes, we (Dave, Lori, Ryan, Don and I) have suffered a great loss- a wife, mother and mother-in-law, but these kids… our babies… they are going to grow up without Nina (or Nana as the girls called her). I just hope that as their parents we can always let them know how much she loved them to pieces. She loved doing anything that had to do with her grandkids. She talked about them all the time. She loved being with them, playing with them, buying them things, teaching them things. In a way I’m a bit thankful that Porter is still so young and hopefully the loss won’t strike him as hard as it will us adults, but I’m also sad that he won’t ever truly know or remember her except for through stories he’s told or pictures he’s shown.

Since I returned to work when Porter was 6 months old, Cathy had watched Porter one day a week while I worked. It relieved a little financial strain on us daycare-wise, but I think more importantly it gave Porter a special day with Nina to himself. I am so thankful he had the last 2 years to have his “Thursdays” with Nina. I’m also sad that Hudson will be missing out on that. He had just had his first day with Nina last Thursday. He took one short 30 minute nap for her, and now for that I’m thankful- he got extra face time with her. She said he was giggly and uber happy all day, despite a short nap. Just a few weeks ago she watched Hudson by himself while I took Porter to Lori’s. He had one single day of Nina to himself. She told me that evening… “He’s not a baby. He’s a doll. He’s just so happy to sit and observe and laugh.”

My aunt and I were talking about how it seems God works in such mysterious ways. I was saying how thankful I am that we had done so much with Cathy in the past few months. Every year, the day after Thanksgiving, Lori, Cathy and I go to Ann Arbor to lunch and to the resale shops. This year we added in an extra trip the beginning of August. The three of us went shopping and to lunch and had a great time together. We had also just spent the weekend camping at Silver Lake with them. I am so thankful for this trip and that the boys got to spend so much time with them (and that I took so many damn pictures!). And more recently we had convinced Lori, Don and the girls to camp with us over Labor Day weekend. One last “vacation” with all of us together as a family. We normally do an annual “Father’s Day” weekend trip but last year we weren’t able to go because of the timing of our Florida trip and this year we postponed it because of Hudson being born just weeks prior and also having a family reunion the weekend after. So, Labor Day weekend was kind of our annual trip on a smaller scale.

My heart broke the morning we told Porter (last Sunday- the day after we were at the hospital). He knew we’d been sad the night before. He’s so sensitive when it comes to people being upset and it made him cry seeing Ryan crying. He was so upset that Ryan was upset. We told him that Nina is in Heaven with Jesus and Samson and that we weren’t going to be able to see her anymore, but we could talk about her all the time and we can look pictures of her and remember all the fun things we did with her. And that whenever we are sad its ok to cry and to talk about her. Porter looked at me and said “Well, we have to tell her to come back to her house.” How… HOW to you explain that it just isn’t going to happen? Later in the week I was asking him if he had fun at Nina and Papa’s house (I had been gone shopping for an outfit for Porter for the funeral) and he said “Yeah. But Nina wasn’t at her house?” 😦 I reminded him that she was in Heaven and we weren’t going to be able to see her anymore. He obviously doesn’t grasp that she’s gone/in Heaven/that we won’t see her. When will that sink in? Will he just objectionably accept that she’s no longer here, without fully understanding? Will her memory and her presence just begin to fade from his mind?


This past week I had a moment where I realized how awkward and strange and unfamiliar and sad this is going to be without Cathy. See… Ryan and his dad are a lot alike. And it was always a fun banter between the 4 of us- Cathy and I trying to make these crazy Polish men come to their senses and see that they have wacked out ideas (especially when it came to home improvement things). Ryan and his uncle were putting in a dog fence and his dad was supervising. And I, being woman and obviously right, chimed in that the fence was crooked and joked about how jacked up their job was going to look (its all in fun and jokes… really). And then I realized… its just me. My bantering partner isn’t here anymore. It was just me and these guys- Ryan, his uncle, his dad and Porter and Hudson. No one here to take my side and set these men straight, because let me tell you they come up with some crazy ideas and it was always Cathy and I telling them how crazy their ideas were, or setting them straight when they wanted to do some weird project that would definitely not turn out as cool as they thought it sounded. I’ve lost my ally.

Cathy was so much more than just a mother in law to me. And I’m starting to realize that. She was more than just my kids’ grandma- their Nina. She was a friend. A confidant. My bouncing board for ideas. My recipe adviser. She was another mother to me. While I never took to calling her mom (because I knew her for so long before we were married, and she had always been Cathy to me), but she truly was a mom to me. I was accepted to this family and was always treated like a daughter. I never really realized, until now, that we really did have a special mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship. Not everyone can say that they are truly friends with their MIL. We talked on the phone often, and while I’ll be honest- sometimes her phone calls were persistent, but I knew that whenever I wanted to run someones ear off she was there for me to chat with. And now it seems like our phone doesn’t ring as often and I’m just waiting to answer and hear her voice.

I found myself numerous times this past week just wanting to get this week over with- to move on with life and to just get back to “normal.” If there is a normal. I guess its easy for me to say becsuse I didn’t live with her. It was easy for me (us) to take for granted that she was just minutes away across town, or just a phone call away. I keep thinking on a day-to-day basis I could go back to “normal” and forget this all happened. But, really, it can’t work that way. Even though we didn’t see her everyday, we usually spoke or emailed once a day at least. She was a part of our daily life.

There will be days I want to call her and ask her a question. Or tell her some crazy story about Porter. Or need her to babysit. Or just need to talk or vent or ramble on about something. And I won’t be able to. And I’m going to realize that life isn’t “normal” anymore and our family isn’t the same and won’t ever ever be the same anymore. Its just this absolutely insane feeling- this feeling that you could try to forget and ignore the sadness, the empty space in our family. When Dave drives up in the van and Porter says “Nina and Papa are here!” and you realize…. no. No its not Nina and Papa. Halloween will come and Porter won’t get to show Nina his Buzz Lightyear costume that he’s so proud of. I took pictures of him in it but never emailed them to her because I wanted him to show her on Halloween when we go to their house to trick or treat. The holidays will come… our day-after Thanksgiving shopping trip will be missing her. Christmas Eve… Hudson’s first Christmas. Porter’s birthday- his 3rd birthday…. Nina and Papa buy all the grandkids their first bike on their 3rd birthday. Hudson’s first birthday. It will all be a little lonelier… we’ll all be missing her.

I’ve been so torn up about these damn pictures I took a few weeks ago. The first picture of all 5 grandkids together. I never shared it on my blog. I was waiting to give it to Cathy for Christmas. Lori and I had planned to do this collage frame for her and this photo was going to be the center of it. And I’m so upset that she never got to see it. She would have loved it. She’s have laughed her silly chuckle because Hudson was sitting in the girls’ doll stroller.

We made it through the service today. It was so hard. I feel like this week has dragged on… slowly anticpating and dreading this day, yet hoping for it to be overwith so we can attempt to resume life. I feel like I’ve supressed my emotions this week and today I was finally able to be sad. To cry. To feel empty and alone and angry and loved and upset and regretful and thankful all at the same time. Her service was beautiful. There were so many gorgeous flowers, so many MANY people showed up to honor her and even more, to be there for us. Friends and family, her old co-workers. Friends of ours that barely knew Cathy. A co-worker of mine who didn’t know her at all.

I arrived home to find a mailbox packed with cards and well wishes, and a package from some blogger friends… Thank you Denise, Jamie, Mary, Anne, Jenny, Kim, Kristi, Gina and Jessica. I was touched at your thoughtfulness, as was my father in law. Our neighbors brought over brownies and a card. We’ve received so much support and meals (thank you also to Les, Jane and Kristin for the delicious meal last night) and phone calls and emails and checking in and prayers. I keep thinking “We’re so blessed to have all these people here for us” but then I think… damnit no. No, this isn’t being blessed…. losing Cathy is not being blessed. I feel thankful for everyone but I hate the situation that has brought everyone here for us.

Anyhow… I’m rambling on now. If anyone has made it this far, wow is all I have to say. I’m not even sure this post makes any sense.

For the funeral, I created a DVD slideshow. I wanted to post it to share, but I can’t figure out how to upload an .exe file to blogger. If anyone knows how to, let me know. There are so many great memories throughout the brief 15 minute “recap” of her life. I hope that in the future Porter and Hudson will like to look back on this video.

This last image… I took this at Silver Lake. She was on her way to go ride on the dunes with Ryan and she stopped and said “Take a picture- it might be my last!” She was always joking around and had such a funny sense of humor.

  1. nicole, that was fabulously, wonderfully, articulately, sweetly beautifully written. thanks for sharing her with us. i sobbed while reading your thoughts, feelings, and memories. you family is still in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. We will continue to pray for you and Ryan and the rest of Ryan’s family over the days and weeks to come. Thank you for sharing the pictures! What beautiful memories to pass onto the boys!!

  3. Nic, That was a job well done remembering Cathy. I can see how much she will be missed…I am so sorry for your loss and will continue to pray for everyone. Those were great pictures…

  4. i think when the boys look back on those pictures, they’ll know how much she loved them… i didn’t even know her, but you can tell just by looking at them how much those kids meant to her.thinking of you and all your guys.

  5. That was amazing Nicole, very touching. I’m really, so sorry. I can’t even imagine. You’re really lucky to have so many pictures of her. It’s something I need to work on.

  6. This is beautiful- raw and honest! She seems like she is such a wonderful woman! She will be missed for sure for years to come. I continue to pray for you guys- this won’t be over but know she is at peace.

  7. I can’t even make it through the whole thing, my eyes are swollen and my nose is dripping. I scrolled down to see if I could just read the end and well, the pictures did me in. Thank you for sharing. Again, I am so sorry for your family’s loss, but I am so glad you have all of the memories and pictures to remind you of her. Reminds me once again how much and how many people I take for granted. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Nicole you did a great job in this remembrance post! You and your family will look back on this and can smile in the memory of her. I hope things to get to a normalcy for you guys soon. I’m thinking of you all throughout the day.

  9. That was beautifully written and I lost it at the photos also. I am so sorry you are hurting right now and I can only hope that the pain will fade in time so that you don’t hurt so badly. Many prayers are always coming for you all.

  10. I guess it’s a good thing some of us have this “always taking too many pictures syndrome”, huh? The shots in this post are awesome and it’s an absolute blessing your boys and your family have them to treasure.It was so great to read your memories and reflections on your family’s loss. Like JoNa said, it’s such a humbling reminder of the people and seemingly trivial things, like too many annoying phone calls, that we can so easily take for granted. Thanks for sharing all of that.Always thinking and praying for you guys….

  11. Nicole – That was beautiful and made very clear just how important Cathy was, not only to you, but to her whole family. The pictures are simply gorgeous, and I agree with the other posters in saying how evident it is that she truly loved and cherished her family.My thoughts continue to be with you and your family – grief is such a tremendous ‘process’ (for lack of a better word.) I know there will be lots of ups and downs in the days, weeks, and months that come, but you will get through them.

  12. What a beautiful post and moving tribute to Cathy. Even though I didn’t know her I feel like you shared a piece of her with me. I am sure she is smiling down on you and your family from heaven thankful she was so loved.

  13. That was beautiful Nicole… you have taken so many wonderful pictures of her with your family that will be treasures for your lifetime… hopefully, they will give you peace some day and make you smile with the thought of her… I know this time is rough.. and the thought of your children understanding it, so hard… your family continues to be on my mind…

  14. Nicole, by no means were you rambling 🙂 You were just speaking from your heart and being a mom worrying about your kids missing out on what was so important to your family–a key component. I’m so sorry of your loss and will keep you all in thought and prayers. Blessings to your family, Lisa S.

  15. That was an unbelievable Blog entry. What an honor it was to read it and see a glimpse, I’m sure, of all the wonderful pics you’ve probably taken over the years.I agree it will be hard with the Holidays coming up in the next few months. BUT, after reading the Obit, it seemed that Cathy was also able share one more Birthday, one more Anniversary and one more ‘family weekend’ with her loved ones before going home to God. May you all feel some comfort in knowing that. Blessed be!!

  16. Nicole, that was a beautiful post. She was clearly a very loved woman. I hope all of the wonderful memories you all had with her will somehow help carry you all through this tough time.Hang in there Nicole…

  17. What a wonderful post! I was bawling like a baby! Don’t look back on the things that you should have shown her or told her and feel bad. I believe that she is still right there with you even if you can’t see her. Checking in now and then and who knows maybe looking over your shoulder giggling at that Adorable Cousin picture. Hang in there!

  18. Nicole, I’m sorry I didn’t comment earlier but I’ve had to come back to this several times. I am so torn apart for you, Ryan and the boys. I can’t even imagine having to say goodbye to one of our parents so early on in life. It’s so unfair to you and to the grandkids. They all deserved so much more time together. I think you should still create that photo collage for her for Christmas. Hang it in her house, she will smile down upon that gift. I will pray for your family and their healing.

  19. I am sorry for your loss and your husband and childrens’ loss too. You have been in my thoughts and will continue to be. That was a wonderful post, a great tribute to a great woman.Love, Danette

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