Monday, March 8, 2010


Many people have asked what I will be doing next week to mark the one year anniversary of Dan's death. I have to admit that the topic was causing me stress, as I am sure it was others who are trying to figure out what to say to me or even do on their own. I really did struggle with it. Dan died on March 16, and my birthday is the next day. For those that don't know me, I love my birthday. I was born on St. Patrick's Day (in a car, mind you- kudos mom and dad for pulling that one off). Since I am Irish Catholic, and spent every year having my birthday celebrated at my parent's annual St. Patrick's Day bash, I had come to know that when March 17 rolls around, there will be a party.

Last year, Dan and I actually talked about the potential that he might pass on my birthday. I actually asked him not to- as if he could be so kind to grant me that wish! Well, he actually did. Even more amazing... he managed to send me flowers all on his own despite his condition. Only Dan would be on his deathbed and still manage to make sure there was one last gift from him.

As the anniversary has been approaching, I really didn't know what to do with the fact that one of the darkest days of my life is now the day before one of my favorite days. What does one do on the anniversary of a death? For me, it has become all about doing something Dan would have done. I know that he wouldn't have sat inside and felt sorry for himself, so that is not an option for me. For some, a good way to remember him may be hitting the driving range for the first time this season. Or it could be going for a short run (he was training for a marathon when he was diagnosed). Maybe it's just as simple as picking up with phone and calling a friend who has been down or you haven't talked to in awhile. Maybe it's having a Miller Lite and making a toast to him. Or taking the dog for an extra long walk. I can't imagine Dan would want us all to be sad- after all, it was Dan who left me with the 90/10 rule: It's ok if you want to cry, but limit it to 10% of your time.

And it was Dan who so often spoke about his attitude towards his diagnosis in this way- if you're going to sit around and think about cancer, you might as well do something about it. So after much thought, I decided that I wanted to go visit other young adults currently undergoing treatment on March 16 at the University or Maryland Cancer Center. I know some people think this is crazy- why in the world would I want to be around anything to do with cancer on that day ?!?!?! Well, because it feels like the right thing to do to honor Dan and respect the legacy he left us. And maybe just by talking to these patients, they might get a break from the monotony of the hospital. Plus, I decided to bring a few gift bags with treats because I would have loved to have had someone do that for those of us that were waiting during treatments.

And it also feels like the right thing to do for me. I've come to understand why some people are fireman or rescue workers. These are people who run into burning buildings or disaster areas when everyone else is running out. I used to think these people were nuts. Now, I think that these people go in because they know they CAN. They know what they have inside. I kinda get that now. I understand what I went through (still going through) is tough. But I am able to look back and realize that last year at this time was tough, and I made it through, so I will keep going. And instead of feeling sorry for myself, I am taking guidance from Dan- I am just going to make that small effort to do something good with what I've learned. So for me, I want to be no other place on March 16 then a place that allows me to give back and connect with others going through what I did. And then that night, I am going to celebrate the birthday of a family friend. Because Dan would have insisted on keeping going with all the fun things in life as well. As for my birthday- I look forward to celebrating it with family and friends and green beer.

I actually like that the anniversary falls the day before my birthday now. I like that I have a day to remember Dan, feel a little sad and hopeful. And then have a reason to celebrate the next day. It makes me feel close to him. And I know I will be able to see many friends and family during this time, which helps us all.

I hope you won't be afraid to laugh that day. Remember all the fun Dan had in life. The huge smile he always wore, and his character and good nature. He lived more than many of us ever will, and he will live on through us as well.

PS- If anyone does anything really fun, let me know! And please don't be afraid to post, write or call. Don't feel like you'd upset me or you won't know what to say. I think it's gonna be ok.


Karen said...

Hi Meg. I'm a friend of Holly's and I've met you once or twice. Haven't commented on your posts, but I've been reading them all. Wanted to comment on this one.

My mom died of metastasized bladder cancer last year -- on Thanksgiving morning. Such a coincidence could pull either way: making a festive holiday always a little dimmer...or, happily ensuring that I'll always be around family/friends to share stories about - and a formal toast to - my mom. (Yeah, the date of Thanksgiving floats and won't always be the anniverary of her death, but I will operate as if it does.)

As for doing hard things because you know you CAN, I fully agree and have seen it happen for me, as well. I'm now an active hospice volunteer, which some friends say would be too hard for them. It's hard, sure, but life has a way of adjusting what "too" means.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us these past months. I always send positive thoughts your way when I read your posts. Good luck on the 16th and Happy early Birthday.


Anonymous said...

I think that is a wonderful way to honor Dan on the 16th. We'll be thinking of you.


Jeanne B said...

Meg, I went through a similar thought process as you did, at first I thought the timing was tragic but then I thought actually there could be no better, more beautiful and poetic timing, than to spend a day remembering and cherishing Dan, and the next day honoring yourself and letting others celebrate you. It seems like an annual literal and figurative re-birth. I will be thinking of you next week, and hope to find some green beer in Gulu to drink in both of your honor.

Patrice said...


I think that what you are doing on 3/16 is the most honorable thing to do for Dan on that day--he would not want anyone to be sad and sit around and feel sorry for him--he would definetly want people to give back to the cancer community and what a great idea to do it on this day. Thinking of him even more these days and still can't believe he is not here --but I guess that is becuase he is with us all. Love, Patrice

Anonymous said...

Meg - You and Dan are on my mind - missing him and loving you. You are an amazing woman and I am sure you will find a way to remember and celebrate him. Your Indy affiliate of WWW will start our day with a few moments dedicated to you both. Love you! Linda