To read the Hallmark Channel movie of the week version of me, read the About Me page. To get an uncensored, raw look into my life, read on….

Mikes-FB-Cover

SHOCK

It’s some time in the early spring 2008. I am staring down into my husband’s casket. His body is at rest. And save for the familiarity of his closely bitten down fingernails, nothing looks like him. I hardly recognize the man I married.

Suddenly, he awakens and to my shock and horror he hops out of his casket to ask me what I was doing. I am stunned and I can’t speak. He looks confused too. He asks me to take him home. We don’t have a home anymore, I tell him. He tells me to stop kidding and let’s go get in the Land Rover. I sold the Land Rover, I reply. He is clearly agitated and asks me about his other belongings. I told him that they are gone too. My husband is clearly angry now and he demands an answer to which I scream in response YOU DIED FOUR YEARS AGO!

In reality, Mike died just a couple months prior. My daughter (who was 5 at the time) and I came home one cold January afternoon and found him lifeless on our couch in the living room. And this scene that I have just described was one of my dreams that I had shortly after his death. I awoke when I heard myself yell in my dream “YOU DIED FOUR YEARS AGO!” I had to wonder what that meant. He had only been gone a couple months by this point and then it hit me. Four years ago he had undergone weight loss surgery – a surgery that I asked him not to have. I knew my husband and I knew that there was something going on with him that made him hate who he was. He had fixed his teeth while I was pregnant with our daughter and now he was insisting that he needed weight loss surgery so he could be thin. He deliberately gained weight during the first 9 months of 2004 so he could more than be approved for the procedure. I sadly watched him gain pound after pound so he would tip the scales at 300+ pounds when he went in to the hospital. I remember kissing him goodbye when they wheeled him off to surgery. That was the last time I saw the man that I married. When he came out of surgery nothing was the same.

The weight dropped off for sure and he was happy with his skinny self. But he tried to return to old eating habits which made him sick. And when the food couldn’t comfort him, he turned to artificial means to numb his emotions. By the end of 2007, he was a full-fledged addict to prescription medication and when he could no longer get any of his own, he took to stealing it from family members.

It was the night of January 1st, 2008. Mike stepped into the doorway of our daughter’s room as I was putting her to bed. She was saying her prayers and as sweetly as a 5 year old could pray, she asked Heavenly Father to help her daddy get better. Mike realized that his problem was real. The next morning we were sitting in a drug counselor’s office of a local facility that “specialized” in bringing people down from their addictions. Their treatment was one I didn’t agree with – use methadone to break the addiction cycle. So drugs to get rid of drugs and not just any drug, one that kills people. I voiced my opposition to the counselor and was told flat out that my opinion didn’t matter. Mike got his first dose and was instructed to return at the same time each morning for his next dose. 72 hours later that dose would kill him…alone in our home with just our dogs and cat as his companions. By the time we found him, he had been gone for hours.

Every night I wake up screaming
we’re the last you and me as the world stops turning
Every night I wake up screaming
The end of everything very near
And everything looks better with my eyes closed
everything looks better with my eyes closed
Click here for the song…

DENIAL

It took me five years to admit the cause of his death out loud to others without my hands starting to shake, the chills overtaking my body and feeling physically ill. I have wondered many times if he continues to feel anything or am I shouldering the burden of his shame alone. People talk about addiction as a disease and I suppose it is or at least it becomes one because the brain is convinced over time that it can’t function without whatever it is that a person is addicted to. But it initially starts as a choice. Mike ultimately chose his addiction over his family — at least that is how I felt. And to tell people what had happened to him was not something I was good at doing.

Black rain, fall hard
Caught me, off guard
Shooting, bright star
Shine on, where you are
When they sang for you I could barely feel
Numbing down the fact I’m alone
Forever
Forever is a long, long time
I never thought it would hurt like this
I’d rather be, I’d rather be
Oblivious
Click here for the song…

And this leads me to…

ANGER

I have felt like I wear a scarlet letter, a badge of shame when I admit to anyone how Mike died. And it makes me angry. I am angry at him for choosing drugs. I am angry at him for leaving his child fatherless – we had worked hard and prayed for for 5 long years to have a baby. Michaela is our miracle. I am angry at him for giving me the burdens of his choices and most of all I am angry at him for crushing our dreams of the future and abandoning me. Oh yes, I am angry.

It’s not an every day thing these days… usually I am reminded of my dark side whenever there is a trigger. For example, the days leading up to his birthday are a trigger for me. I slide into a dark place which is hard to explain but I wear my emotions on my sleeve. So goes this saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Most recently the trigger was Mother’s Day weekend which was new for me. I just couldn’t get over the happy mommies out there being spoiled by their husbands and the celebrations they were having with their families knowing that I wasn’t going to have any of that anymore. It wasn’t true. My celebrations are just of a different variety now.

The anger that I need to let go of and the forgiveness that I need to give is within my reach. I know it but I am just not ready yet. I like to think that had Mike been ill or died in an accident that this part would be easier. But who am I kidding? If I’m not mad at Mike, then I am mad at someone else. I guess being mad is just something I gotta feel until one day I am just not mad anymore. I wouldn’t mind that day getting here soon. Just sayin’…

So I lied and said that I’m okay
Cause there’s the way you are
and the way I wish you were
And what you want and what
you say you want
are both different stories
I was standing here waiting,
my hands and knees shaking
for the one I thought was you
And you gave it away
like it was nothing at all
Tell me

Will I ever see you again, will I?
It is what it is
Will I ever see you again, will I?
I should just let it go
Click here for the song…

ACCEPTANCE

There were days in the beginning that none of this felt real. I thought at any moment Mike would come walking in through the front door. And as time has gone on, the reality of each day became easier to live with. You don’t “get over” the death of someone you love. And you don’t really “move on”… you just learn to live with what is.

Some nights I cried myself to sleep. In fact, MOST nights that first 18 months or so were how I fell asleep. The darkness of my room frightened me and it usually took exhaustion to make me pass out so I could rest. I am grateful that those nights are few and far between now.

I’m recognizing all that’s true and all that’s fake
Wrecking bodies, put a flower in its place
Soul surviving, in a pool of emptiness
All this trying, couldn’t fill me any less

And I’d love to see you tell me as I wonder why
How you’d change this worm into a butterfly
When I fly, flying faster all the way
I’m just one passenger aboard this train
Click here for the song…

So, now what?

For the most part I am just figuring this out as I go along. I found early on that escaping from the every day as OFTEN as I could was what helped me cope. So Michaela and I would frequently leave town, if only to be someplace different and away from the memories that were sad. Yes, they were here when we got back but having those new and good memories to draw energy from helped. A LOT. For that first year, our happy place was Disneyland. Had it not been for the flight benefits that we received from Mike’s employer, Southwest Airlines and the Disneyland annual passports, I don’t know what we would have done.

Disneyland - Fall 2011

Disneyland – Fall 2011

I also have done two more things in the coping department. The first was to reconnect with people in my past – namely high school. I haven’t reached out to many and actually a few reached out to me. I figured, what the heck? A lot of time has passed since high school and they can be different people now. And I don’t know if the people themselves are that different or if my perspective has changed but I am thankful to them for the friendships they have given me. Many were not in my circle during our teenage years and I regret not having known them better before because they are GREAT people.

The second thing I have done has been to go back to a time when I felt really happy. And what reminded me of that time was a concert that I went to a few months after Mike died. If you knew me at all as a child, you would be very familiar with my infatuation with Rick Springfield that began when I was 9 years old and watched General Hospital with my older brother & sister. My very first rock concert was a show by Rick when I was 10 on July 2, 1982. So from about 5th grade to 9th grade it was Rick, Rick and MORE Rick. I saw every show he performed at the Concord Pavilion (sometimes two nights in a row), wallpapered my room with his photos to the point that no paint was visible on the walls and was devastated when I learned he married his wife, Barbara (like he’d wait for me)! So, if you knew me when, then you’d remember that Rick was MY guy.

My First Rick Springfield Concert – July 1982

Our seats at that concert in 2008 weren’t that great. They weren’t terrible because the venue was small but regardless, we were pretty far back. As we sat there waiting for the show to begin, a lady walked by and offered us two tickets in the 3rd row. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I once had 2nd row tickets for a concert back in the 80s and I had some girl land on my back when she dove from 2 rows behind me on to Rick. It wasn’t a fond memory but this time was indeed different. Rick was different. He was far more energetic and accessible than he was 25 years ago. I was instantly taken back to that 10 year old girl seeing her very first concert again. And for the first time since the loss of my husband, I felt joy. And…I think it saved my life.

That feeling of joy didn’t last long. There is only so much a 90 minute concert could do. But since then, every chance I get I recapture that joy by attending a show. Michaela noticed a change immediately. She is such an observant child and could always read me even when she couldn’t see my face. She always knows when I am down. She asked me when she could go see a Rick Springfield Concert. She was 6 at the time and taking her to a show would be a challenge because the usual venue that Rick played near here (if you call a 2 hour drive near here) was a 21 and over venue. But I promised her that when Rick played a show that I could take her to that was somewhat close, she would get to see him. Until then she would request to listen to his music nearly every day as I took her to school. It was to the point that I would have to keep a CD in the player in my car at all times because she asked for his music that often. To this day, that CD remains in my stereo. What’s interesting is that for most songs, she knows the words but doesn’t really know what they’re about and that can be a good thing because the subject matter isn’t something I really want her acquainted with. BUT…the CD has versions of Rick’s songs about his father. The words jumped out at her. Those songs provided many an opportunity for us to discuss her father’s death because Rick wrote them trying to cope with the passing of his own father. Rick and Michaela’s birthdays are 7 days apart. Couple that with their shared experiences, she formed a kinship to him that I didn’t anticipate at all. And I promised her that when she finally got to see a show, that he’d sing with her. I am so glad he proved me right. Watching Rick climb over four rows of people to reach my 6 year old daughter to sing with her is a memory I will always cherish. That was the night she really became a fan because she finally had a real person, a tangible human being right in front of her singing the words to oh, so familiar songs that she had only heard on the stereo in her mom’s car.

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6 year old Michaela sings with Rick for the very first time!

Since then, we have had several opportunities to see Rick in concert and meet him in person. We finally shared with him a little bit of our story in 2012 when I got the nerve to tell him a little bit about Mike. It was more about how he and Michaela have a bond now and how much him letting the world in to his private moments has allowed us to learn from our own. Whether it’s his music or his book, he’s bared his soul to the world and I am grateful. Without the music, I couldn’t have escaped the pain or put in to words the emotions I was experiencing and without his story, I would never have been able to begin to understand and ACCEPT what happened to Mike.

Rick shared his life long battle with depression in his memoir, LATE LATE AT NIGHT. He gave his depression a name – The Darkness. And he described in great detail the times when The Darkness provoked him into doing things that he would regret and he talks of The Darkness in a way that made me understand that there is The Darkness in all of us and for some it can be something we can control and for others, like Mike it can be the thing that leads us to showing one face to everyone around you and seeing a different face when we look in the mirror. I get now that Mike was in a great deal of pain. He struggled silently and alone. And if there is anger now, it’s mostly at myself for not recognizing it as it was happening. But that is how The Darkness works. He is solitary in his destruction and the last thing he wants is for there to be love. And for as angry as I am for being in this situation and for Mike taking drugs and for him being gone, I do and always will love him….whole heartedly. And I have my old friend, Rick to thank for opening my eyes.

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Rick, Kris & Michaela – May 2012 the day we told Rick about Mike

I’ll Miss That Someday

Throw me out into the rain
Then you comfort me with pain
How can our love ever last
You’re just a big pain in the…
Ask of me, can we survive
This stormy sea, two worlds collide

And you and I
Will love when love’s invisible
Take the time to say
I’ll miss that someday

With every time you come unglued
I want to strangle you in two
Learning lessons here I sit
Cause love can turn out to be….
Chivalry, on Broken Wings

Yea you and I
Will love when love’s invisible
Take the time to say

Yea, Take the ride
when life is unpredictable
Take the Time to say
I’ll miss that someday

One season, one reason
Screaming I won’t say the words
Bite my tongue cause nothing lasts forever

Drag it out and take my hand
We’ll do the best we can

Oh you and I
Will love when love’s invisible
Take the time to say…..

Yea, take the ride
When life is unpredictable
Take the time to say
I’ll miss that someday

** Please note: Words in italics are lyrics to songs by Rick Springfield **