Category Archives: grief


Coraline and Abuela Lupe

Today would have been my Abuela Tulita’s birthday. She’s been gone far longer now than she was in my life, but I miss her every day. I know she would have loved Coraline’s spunky personality, curly hair, love of all cheeses, and the button nose she inherited from her.
Which is why I am so grateful that Coraline’s own abuela lives a few minutes away and is always happy to spend time with her — and with me.

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Filed under family, grandmas, grandparents, grief, personal

Grandma Lee

Song Lyric of the Day:

Somebody saved me from the world you left / If you’re gonna cry my tears / If you’re gonna hold my breath / If you’re gonna let me see the sun you set / Oh, I am lost and found / Oh, I am lost and found

Katie Herzig / “Lost and Found

My grandmother-in-law is being laid to rest this morning in Iowa. Grandma Lee passed away last Thursday after suffering a stroke. And even though she reached the impressive age of 99, I think I took it for granted that she would live forever — she was just so spunky and full of life that it’s hard to imagine that life would ever come to an end.

I first met her back in 1998 when I accompanied Rich to Iowa for the first time. Grandma Lee was a tiny little thing — tiny but mighty. Mighty enough to have raised four kids. Mighty enough to have been a nurse. Mighty enough to beat breast cancer. And lord, was that woman quick with a comeback. Her snappy wit could (and probably did) cause whiplash in those fortunate enough to be witness to it.

The last time I saw her was September 2011. It’s really hitting home for me that the last time I saw her was truly the last time I would ever see her. Which is why I’m writing this through yet more tears. But I was lucky enough that my last visit with her was also the first (and only) time she would meet her great-granddaughter Coraline, which was a wonderful thing to behold. Coraline was almost 1 year old and more interested in running around the nursing home than sitting still, but I still managed to get some nice shots of her with Grandma Lee. While Grandma Lee didn’t quite remember me, she did remember her grandson Rich and knew that Coraline was his daughter.

I wish with all my heart I could be there with our family in Iowa to not only say my final farewell to Grandma Lee, who treated me like one of her own grandkids, but to be there to console my husband and father-in-law and our many other relatives as they lay this sweet, incredibly beloved woman to rest. I may be mourning from afar, but I hope everyone there knows I’m with them in spirit.

After our visit to Iowa, Rich’s Aunt Linda sent Coraline the most amazing birthday present, a hardbound book of photos from our visit with Grandma Lee. And while Coraline will never remember on her own meeting her great-grandma, Rich and I will never forget.

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Song Lyric of the Day:

Words don’t come easily / When most I need them / I do not have a key / I am breaking in / There’s people / People going out of their mind / Right into each others’ arms

A Silent Film / “Driven By Their Beating Hearts

Our weekend started out well enough. Fun family time, a movie with my sisters. Everything changed with a phone call from my mother-in-law late in the afternoon. In a panic, I listened as Rich’s voice rose, his mother’s crying audible from several feet away. I let Coraline continue happily watching Olivia even as I burst into tears when Rich repeated the news to me; I didn’t want her to get scared.

A young member of our extended family had died unexpectedly, on his 23rd birthday. I didn’t know him very well, but every time I saw him, he was so happy and so sweet and so fun to be around. I’m trying to process how someone I met when he was only 8 1/2 years old is gone. And his family … my God, I can’t even begin to imagine what his family, especially his parents and siblings are going through. Except that I can. I can imagine it. I’m a parent now, I have siblings.  And I start crying all over again for them, for their loss, for our whole family’s loss. Life can be so unfair. Right now it seems exceptionally cruel that these wonderful people, people who I love, who greeted me with open arms from day one, who have invited me into and hosted me in their home, are going through every parent’s worst nightmare. My heart breaks into another million pieces every time I think of what they and their other children are facing. And it’s all so very unfair.


Filed under family, grief

Remembering Ryan Means

Song Lyric of the Day:

Oh good people’ve been here over ten thousand years / Everyone bright as shining sun / We’ve got no less days to sing God’s praise / From the time that we begun

Cat Power & Dirty Delta Blues / “Amazing Grace

On July 13, 2009, I wrote a post about the passing of 35-year-old Staff Sgt. Ryan Means. The story behind what led me to write about — and be so affected by — Ryan’s passing began with another blog post, one I wrote to commemorate the fifth anniversary of 9/11. For it was in that post that I eulogized another young man, Adam Shelby White, who happened to be Ryan’s best friend. It seems only fitting that two of the posts that were so emotionally hard for me to write still resonate years later. Since my posts about Adam and Ryan, I’ve received comments from and exchanged e-mails with Adam’s father, Ryan’s niece, some of Adam’s friends, and, most recently, Ryan’s Aunt Ann and one of his brothers, Tommy. Thanks to the combined graciousness of Tommy and Ann, they’re allowing me to share the beautiful tribute video Tommy made for his brother to memorialize Ryan on Memorial Day 2010. The video begins with Ryan’s burial at Arlington National Cemetery on August 3, 2009. It ends with photos of Ryan with family, friends, and his Army unit, many showcasing his sense of humor (I’m particularly fond of the one with his daughter on the massage table). One of the most poignant photos is the next-to-last one, a black-and-white photo of a young Ryan holding a young Adam on his shoulders.

I knew before clicking on play that the video would be hard for me to watch. And I did cry for Ryan and his family all over again. But I like to think that maybe, in even the tiniest way, his family knows that I (and other strangers throughout the world) share their grief and they’re not alone in remembering this brave young man, husband, father, son, and brother, and that it helps them a little. I know it helps me.

Ryan Means Tribute Film from Tommy Means on Vimeo.

My eternal gratitude to the Means family for sharing their story with me, and for letting me share it with others.

Please stop by the site for Ryan’s daughters, The Sophie and Elizabeth Education Fund.

Visit the Ryan Patman Means Tribute Page on Facebook.
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Supporting a Local Blogger

Song Lyric of the Day:

One of us is gonna be here / And one of us is gonna be running / Off alone into a great unknown

A Fine Frenzy / “Blow Away

As almost every Knoxville-area blogger (as well as many beyond our city limits) knows by now, one of our own suffered the worst loss on Monday night. Katie Allison Granju, Mamapundit blogger extraordinaire, lost her beautiful 18-year-old son, Henry, 37 days after he was first admitted to the hospital suffering from a massive drug overdose and severe, brutal beating.

I don’t know Katie personally, only through her writing. Having read her blogs (including her one at Babble) for the last two or three years, I feel like I have gotten to know her, though, which is why Henry’s death has been so hard for me to process. It’s why it’s taken me three days to be able to write about it without crying (and as it is, I’m failing at that).

For a while now I’ve enjoyed Katie’s stories about what it’s like to be a busy mom to four — with a fifth on the way — as well as her career trajectory as a social media/PR guru. Which is why it was so heartbreaking to read not only that Henry had been admitted to the hospital but the story behind his four-year history of drug abuse, which Katie finally decided to talk openly about. I — and I suspect many of her other readers — was shocked to read about Henry and the family’s struggles with his addiction. Through it all, though, so many of us in the online community were praying for Henry’s recovery as soon as Katie shared what had happened. And up until last Friday night, when she revealed that Henry had taken a turn for the worse and was in extremely critical condition, I, and everyone else praying for the family, had hope that the small improvements Henry had been making were in fact going to lead to his recovery, however long that might take. By the time she posted the simple and heartbreaking “H is struggling tonight” on Sunday night, I started to get a bad feeling about what the outcome might be. I began checking her site more often than I already had been (multiple times a day) and burst into tears upon reading the simple, devastating update on Monday night. My husband, who knew how upset I was about the story already, did his best to console me. I felt — and still feel — like I lost a loved one, all through the power of Katie’s writing.

I also feel a tremendous empathy for her since, like me, she’s pregnant. I can’t even begin to imagine she must be feeling right now, dealing with the worst grief a parent can experience while … I literally have no words for it. And every time I think of the baby girl she’s carrying and how she won’t get to know her big brother, as well as Henry’s three other siblings, I start crying all over again.

If there’s anything positive that will come out of Henry’s tragic and unnecessary death, it’s his legacy. His family — especially his mother — have shown a strength and grace throughout this whole ordeal that can only be described as inspiring. I hope Katie and her entire family know how loved they are and that they are constantly in my, and countless others’, thoughts. They will be for years to come.

RIP, Henry.

*Special shoutout to Shane Rhyne, Katie’s friend and colleague, for his efforts to get the word out about the foundation, donations for funeral arrangements, and other blogs sharing this story. Everyone should be blessed to have a friend who offers this kind of support when it’s most needed.

UPDATE: The Granju family has started what they hope will be a permanent, endowed fund (non-profit status) to help other families who need help affording drug and alcohol treatment for their children. And, per Katie’s blog, “Now Knoxville music legend Carl Snow has set up a wonderful way for people to donate to Henry’s Fund by offering $1 downloads of the GORGEOUS song he wrote about our boy. Just visit Carl’s site and all the details are there.”

Donations can also be made directly to:
The Henry Louis Granju Memorial Scholarship Fund

(Via administrator James Anderson)
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
2000 Meridian Blvd., Suite 290
Franklin, TN 37067

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Staff Sgt. Ryan Means

Song Lyric of the Day:

Got a man of the people / Says keep hope alive

Neil Young / “Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World

I check my StatCounter and Site Meter stats fairly regularly to see what keywords are leading people to my old blog here. Almost always, it’s song lyrics that lead people here. However, over the last several days I’ve noticed a lot of hits on my blog for the name “Ryan Means.” I immediately worried as to the exact reason why so many people were searching for his name; had something happened to him? I recognized Ryan’s name immediately because he reached out to me almost three years ago with regard to the 9/11 tribute post I wrote for Adam Shelby White, who died in the World Trade Center. You see, Adam was Ryan’s best friend, and Ryan e-mailed me to thank me for remembering his friend:

You somehow have chosen to honor my best friend Adam Shelby White who was murdered on 9/11. Adam was perhaps one of the greatest people I have ever known. We had been best friends since 1st grade; college roomates, fraternity brothers, climbing partners and a whole lot more. He was 27 years old when he died. Adam absolutely loved life and was always fun to be around. Everybody loved the guy. He wasn\’t very big but was incredibly talented and very intelligent. A true renaissance man; bigger than life itself.

I was there that day and watched the whole thing. In the weeks following I searched for him in the various hospitals and waited for him to be pulled out. During this time, I met many of the families and friends of other victims. It was brutal to walk the streets for days and see the massive walls of photos and information looking for the thousands of dead. I have ASW tattood in small letters on the right side of my torso to remind myse!lf of him every single day. Since then I have left my job and New York and joined the Army. I\’m 2 months away from graduating from the Special Forces and receiving my Green Beret. Afterwhich I\’ll be going to find the people responsible and do what I\’ve been trained. I do this for Adam and the other 2,993 vicitims.

Thank you for remembering my friend.


Ryan P. Means.

You can see what a special person Ryan was, in no sm
all part because of how he chose to honor his late friend, as well as all the others lost that day. Which is why I was devastated this morning when my Google search for “Ryan Means” didn’t take me back to my own tribute to Adam as it had for the last few days, but instead pulled up his obituary: Ryan died last Tuesday, July 7, of cholangiocarcinoma. He was only 35. And even though he’s someone I hadn’t ever met and with whom I’d only exchanged a couple of e-mails, I had to hurry to the bathroom because I started crying. I cried because he was so young, because he leaves behind a wife and two young daughters, his parents, three brothers, and countless friends; and because it seems like such a cruel twist of fate that this brave young man, who risked his life defending our country, ultimately lost his life to cancer.

I encourage you to read more about Ryan Means on the website his family set up for his daughters, the Sophie and Elizabeth Education Fund. (His obituary has also been re-posted on some military message boards.) I think that this statement from his family says it all:

We will remember Ryan as a sweet son, a loving husband, a doting father, a wild-man brother, an unwavering friend, and a fearless soldier. But most of all, we will remember Ryan as our hero.

And if any of his family or friends read this, I want them to know I’m grieving right alongside with them. All because of two e-mails.


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Song Lyric of the Day:

But they tell me / I’ll be fine / That it will all get better / Just try to write it down / Or put it in a letter / But the words won’t play / And there’s no / Easy way to say / Goodbye, goodbye

Natalie Imbruglia
/ “Goodbye

I had to step back for a while, pretty much from everything. On July 26, only 31 days after losing my baby Yum Yum, our sweet, 13-year-old girl Snoops left us, too. I imagine a lot of non-pet owners can sympathize some, but my fellow pet owners know how devastating losing a pet is. And to lose two of my babies only a month apart … I can’t even express it in words. Especially when the two of them were so close — Snoops falling in love with her kitten from the first day she set eyes on him; Yum Yum playfully swatting her on the butt to get her to wrestle; the two of them sleeping, side by side; right up to Snoops’ obvious mourning once Yum Yum was gone, which we watched hasten her decline.

While Rich and I were heartbroken over having to take that final trip to the vet with Snoops, we did what we could to make sure her last afternoon was filled with her family’s love: We called our family, and my parents and sister Vanessa were able to come over to say their goodbyes to her. Snoops responded to that, even raising her head and smiling, which she hadn’t been able to do for a while. So she definitely felt her family’s love, despite all of our tears.
And when that awful time came at the vet’s office later that afternoon, I gave her countless kisses, one for each family member and friend who loved her, and many more just from me and Rich. I think that actually helped a little, really, just a little in the grand scheme of things — but it helped nonetheless — knowing that so many of the people close to us loved her and would miss her, too. But nowhere near as much as we would.

Once home, I cried as I showed Caleb his big sister’s collar, which I had very gently removed from around her neck once she was gone (she would’ve hated feeling naked without it). I think he’d already figured out that she wasn’t coming back, and that was all I could think to do to help him really, truly process it. Because if there was one certainty, it was that Caleb knew his big sister always, always had her collar on.

Rich, Caleb, and I dealt with our grief in our own ways. So did our cat, Belle; having known Snoops since the day I brought her home, and having grown even closer to her dog since Yum Yum’s passing, Belle walked around caterwauling the first few nights, looking for Snoops. Troubadour, being just under six months old at the time and having only been with us for three months, didn’t feel Snoops’ absence the way we did. But, if anything, he ended up helping the rest of us. Because it’s impossible not to laugh and smile when you have a puppy. And in the weeks following her death, when Caleb would sit quietly by himself in a corner, looking as heartbroken and depressed as a dog can look, it was Troubadour who got him playing again.

*My little dog – a heartbeat at my feet. – Edith Warton


Filed under caleb, dogs, goodbye, grief, pet loss, snoops, troubadour

Victor Kinamon

Friday night, Rich, my family, and I attended the receiving of friends and funeral service for Mr. Kinamon. As I wrote the other day, our almost brother-in-law’s father passed away, sooner than we’d anticipated. We knew he was fighting the good fight, and we’d been looking forward to meeting him at his son, Kirk’s, wedding next month, but, sadly, that was not to be. Instead, we offered the little comfort we could in the way of emotional support when Kirk and his family needed it most. To that end, I also went to the interment service yesterday. An Air Force veteran, Mr. Kinamon received full military honors befitting his 13 years of service. I took my camera along, and asked if the family wanted me to take any photos. They said that they did, so I did my best to stay as inconspicuous as possible, capturing the most emotional moments, including when Kirk, in his full uniform (he’s an Army National Guard member) presented the folded flag to his mother. That almost ripped my heart out, but I managed to take a few photos through my tears. And, like everyone else at the service said, I was proud of how Kirk handled himself. More importantly, I know his father would be proud, too.

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Another Loss

Christmas Song Lyric of the Day:

Let loving hearts enthrone Him / Raise, raise the song on high

Sarah McLachlan / “What Child Is This? (Greensleeves)

The year that won’t end keeps on going. Our almost brother-in-law (the wedding is early January) lost his father last night. That’s all I have the energy to say at this point. Please pray for our family. Thanks.


Filed under family, grief, loss, personal

Grandma Edwards

Song Lyric of the Day:

Through many dangers, toils and snares / We have already come / Twas grace that brought us safe thus far / And grace will lead us home

“Amazing Grace”

I knew Rich’s Grandma Edwards liked me the first day sh
e met me, simply based on the fact that she felt comfortable enough to change outfits in front of me within minutes of meeting me. I’d accompanied Rich to his grandparents’ farm in Iowa to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary that April 1997. Rich found it very amusing that Grandma Edwards had stripped down to her slip and underwear, chattering away with me the whole time. He later told me that, later that same day, she’d taken him aside and told him I was a keeper.

The last time I saw her was last spring, when Rich and I went to Storm Lake, Iowa, for his cousin Kerry’s wedding. Grandma Edwards had fun showing off her bright blue nail polish; she’d asked the manicurist to make her nails match her wedding outfit, which happened to be bright blue. She was impressed I thought it was cool; seems a few people found it odd that this grandmother had dared to paint her nails blue.

So it was with a broken heart that I accompanied Rich to Iowa on Wednesday. We had gotten the call from his mother, Carol, that Celesta left us Sunday night at 6PM. We like to think that she would’ve loved the fact that we were at a wedding when we heard the news: What better way to hear that this amazing woman’s life had come to an end than when a young couple was starting a new life of their own together?

While the viewing Thursday night was hard, her funeral service yesterday morning was even harder. I don’t think it was harder because we’re all sad that she’s passed away (which, of course, we all are), but it was harder because, hearing about her life and her love of her faith, family, friends, and fun, we were all just so saddened to be reminded of how much love and sheer joy she brought to all our lives.

I’m truly honored to have been embraced by her and to have become a part of her family. Like Rich, Carol, Doug, Kirsten, and too many others to name, I’ll miss her the rest of my life.

Grandma Edwards makes Rich beg for cookies.


Filed under grandma, grief, iowa