The Monk’s Widow

Trauma Memoir


In January 2018, I started writing a death memoir, a brutally honest one. The first days were so dark I didn’t think I would be able to get through them, flashbacks kept tripping me, I kept dodging them with. I woke up at 7:30 AM, but it took until 9:30 AM or 10 AM to […]

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Learning to be a Widow


When all was overturned into widowhood, my entire world collapsed on itself. Everything fell through. My husband David and I had been everything to each other. He had been my best friend, my coach, my critic, my fan, my adversary, and my accountant and chauffeur. The hole that had been David was so deep I […]

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The Isolation of Grief


Funerals are totally acceptable. As long as a widow doesn’t audibly cry, tears are allowed to come down her face. People quite easily tolerate death, but definitely not dying. The most taboo emotion is grief, especially if it’s visible. During the time of David’s dying, I stayed in the apartment as much as I could. […]

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The Death Room

I had to reenter David’s death room to finish this book. Being inside David’s death room again intensifies all the familiar wracking emotions: grief, anguish, frustration, and terror. They are always in the room like carpeting, underneath whatever else might be on my mind. I can walk on those emotions, laugh on them, jump up […]

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Dark Writing


A trauma memoir nearly destroys, certainly changes, the author. The best of the genre have been written with extreme anguish. Frank Conroy, for example, was drunk for weeks between writing chapters. Martin Ainslie felt suffocated. David Scheff felt he was slitting his wrist with a razor. Some authors become physically ill, many have great trouble […]

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Shopping for Funeral Clothes


David’s palliative care doctor had just predicted that his funeral would be in 3 to 6 months. That brought us to attention. We had not heard 3 before. So, David thought about everything that we still needed to do: obit written, tombstone purchased, funeral reception planned, liturgy chosen, pallbearers selected. I insisted that we had […]

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Being a Death Coach


Everyone understands the term “midwife,” but there is no term for describing the person who travels with the terminally ill person to their death. I use the term death coach in lieu of any ready-made term. The job is extraordinarily exhausting and emotionally difficult, requiring extreme patience, understanding of the dying person, and the ability […]

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The Ultimate Choice


No matter how we would like to deny it, we all will die. But, unless we have a heart attack or are killed instantaneously in an accident, some of us can choose how we die. We can spend our last days seeking treatment in the hope of gaining time, perhaps poor quality time, or we […]

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Records of Dying


We received the deadly diagnosis on September 23, 2013. By the next month, I had started recording our conversations. In early February 2017, I listened to them again, what I heard was very different from what I heard when I listened to them after David’s funeral. Listening to them again, I am struck by how […]

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The Death Date


Today, May 18, 2018, is David’s third death date. The term “death date” assumes huge proportions. The first year, I went from month to month, from the eighteenth of one month to the eighteenth of the next, anniversary to anniversary, wondering if I would make it to May 18, 2016. Each month became more difficult. […]

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Yes, Roz, Death Is Not Pleasant


When The New York Times published an early excerpt from Roz Chast’s Can’t we talk about something more PLEASANT?, I immediately rushed to my computer and ordered pre-publication copies. I could not wait to read it, and I thought everyone else would want to read it too, so I ordered ten copies. Does anyone want […]

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Dying, Slowly

People do not understand dying at all. In our case, dying was very, very slow. Knowing you’re going to die is not the same thing as dying. However, if you have a specific diagnosis which gives you, according to the doctors, 12-15 months, and if you are a thoughtful human, you will begin to prepare […]

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My Job


In September, 2013, when my husband David got a deadly diagnosis with a prognosis of 12 to 15 months, maybe 18, we decided to make something good come of it. We both thought since the cancer itself was so rare, and the early diagnosis so totally atypical, that our experience would be worth a book. […]

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Beginning Again


I stayed in the retirement home where David had died until the first anniversary of his death. After having a memorial service, I left the death place and returned to our home in the Allegheny Mountains. When we left our home in 2011, we add planned to return in 2 months, incredibly, we were trapped […]

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The Death of Dom Philip


My husband, Dom Philip, died on May 18, 2015, of a very rare liver cancer. For 26 months, 2.2 years, 790 days, there was not a single second that we were unaware of his inevitable death, with a constantly changing prognosis. With love and anguish, with laughter and tears, I learned how to be a […]

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