A Tour of Our Home

Dear Greg,

It has been 8.5 months since you were here. I look around our home, and I realize that it is mostly the same, but also different. The inside of the house is mostly unchanged. The pictures are all the same, the furniture is mostly the same. I haven’t done any painting. But some things have changed.

You weren’t here when the wind chimes were dropped off, but they hang over the pantry door, right where your mom put them days after your death. Every time we open the pantry, we hear a chime. There are also flowers from your funeral, still hanging over the table. We put them there to dry but have never moved them. At this point, it will be sad to put them somewhere else.

There are other changes. Do you like our new couch? The old one carried so many memories. It was once my dear Gram’s, which made it even harder to part with. But it was torn, and cotton kept coming out of it. It was time. I also got new chairs in the dining room. If you were here now, you wouldn’t complain that you might fall when you sat down. I got 8 chairs, even though we only needed 7. We save a spot for you.

The fridge. You always wanted a new one. It mattered so much more to you than it did to me. A new one arrived the week after the funeral, a generous gift from anonymous friends. I know you would have been so thrilled.

Our bedroom is now mine. It was the first thing that changed. I couldn’t stand to look at all the pictures. I couldn’t look at the sign that said “You and Me.” I wallpapered the wall and bought a new bedspread. I took the pictures down, except one. A few of your things remain, but most of them are in storage. The closet is full of my things. I look inside, and in my mind, I separate the things you have seen and the things you haven’t. I wonder how it will feel someday when you wouldn’t recognize any of my clothes or any of my things.

The garage has never looked better. I’m not known for my organizational skills, but I’d dare say yours were lacking even more. I think you would enjoy knowing where everything is. I wish you could see it.

I did a lot of work on the yard this summer. I finally had the front stairs fixed. We now have a bigger driveway and a beautiful patio with a hot tub. These are all things we talked about doing in the future. The future came too soon. The kids love to ride their scooters and wiggle cars on the new concrete. We spend a lot of time outside roasting marshmallows and enjoying ourselves. It fills me with sadness that you can’t enjoy the yard with us, and that the reason we have it is because you are not here. You would have loved it.

You were building a clubhouse for the kids. I didn’t know what to do with it. I was originally going to have it finished. But in the end, that felt too overwhelming. I had it taken down, and a playground is in its place. The kids love it, though probably not as much as they would have loved a clubhouse.

I wonder if you already know about the changes to our home, or if it even matters to you. Our home will continue to change with time, but it will always be ours.

Melancholy Suits Me

Half of our lives are spent in the darkness of night. Why do we want to dismiss this fact, and only see the light? “Choose to be happy,” people say. Why is it wrong to actually feel things? Why is it wrong to sit in the darkness of the night and recognize its presence?

I know that some people are uncomfortable with my rawness. I know it’s hard for them, and that I concern some with the things I say. But I see nothing wrong with acknowledging the darkness in my life. It is not healthy to avoid the difficult feelings and cover them up with smiles and sunshine. 

I am more cynical and pessimistic than I was in the past. I used to consider myself an optimist, and in a way I still am. But I also see loss in everything now. Truthfully, there is loss in everything. It is just not comfortable to see it. It can feel scary. I see sadness in things I never did before. Every special occasion is full of sadness now. Every holiday, birthday, first experience. Celebrating is harder because there has to be sadness behind it as well. There is sadness in the happiest of times, just as there can be joy in the saddest of times. I wish more could understand this. I am not dwelling on the negative. I am acknowledging it. 

Life is fuller when I acknowledge the darkness, when I welcome it into my life. It’s there, just as surely as night falls on the earth each night. When I acknowledge the darkness, the moments of light are brighter. The truth is that where there is love there is also loss. Where there is beauty there is also devastation. Where there is light there is also darkness. Melancholy suits me, and I don’t see how I could be any other way.

The Colors of You

Blue and orange. The colors of the blanket you chose when we went to Mexico. I think of that blanket, and I think of you. Blue and orange were your high school colors. They are also the colors of you. 

Orange. The color or childlikeness. You were a kid at heart, and you found joy in simple things. You loved to tell jokes and prided yourself on your dad jokes. Orange is also for the fire inside you. It motivated you to succeed. You were excited to learn and grow. You taught yourself any skill you decided you wanted to know. You learned how to do home improvement projects, built a beautiful chicken coop, and were working on a clubhouse for the kids. Orange is for your love of those silly little chickens. Something about them made you so excited. I couldn’t get rid of them even though I don’t love them as much as you do, and I even collected a few more this year. 

Blue. The color of your eyes. That piercing blue that I thought might see through to my soul. Blue is the color of Utah State, your Alma Mater. It’s also the color of BYU, who you cheered for over Utah State every time. I never understood that and wished you could find it in your heart to cheer for the red team. Blue is for your steadiness and dependability. The softness about you is also blue. Blue is for all of the decorating we did together in our home. We didn’t mean to make everything blue, but we did. Blue is the color of your casket. I chose it, thinking you would have chosen it. But I still wonder if you would have chosen the black one instead. 

Blue is the color of forgiveness. The gift I gave to myself. I hope it means something to you too. Giving myself that gift has made me remember more and more special and happy memories. It is both beautiful and difficult to remember.

Blue and orange. Orange and blue. These are the colors of you. 

Found Word Poem

For my writing class, I was supposed to open a book to a random page and start highlighting words. I then was to put them into a poem. I realized my poem could end up being about anything with this strategy. Interestingly, the page I opened up to had words that were perfect for a poem about losing a husband. Here it is:

I wailed when I saw my husband was dead

That sickening night

Finality hit

My heart transformed in the hospital room

My night’s work became thinking in the dark

After that, I wished for something that could make it stop

Nothing brought back life

Being alone is isolation

Who is Grief?

Grief has shown herself to me many times in the past years, and especially in the past 8 months. She wants to be my friend, my constant companion. I don’t feel the same way about her as she does about me. I want her to go away, and I know that others are uncomfortable with her nagging as well. Sometimes I forget she is there for a moment, and she slithers in like a snake to start the waves of my soul crashing into each other. She brings tears to my eyes, anger to my heart, and longing to my soul. 

She sits in the corner of my heart, whispering to me, reminding me of what I lost. She wants me to cry. She wants me to be upset and angry. She wants me to remember and feel my loss. She enjoys my devastation and anguish. 

She makes me see Greg in places he isn’t. I gasp when I see a car like the one he drives, thinking it might be him. But then I realize I am driving his car. She brings him to me in my dreams, only for me to be disoriented and confused when I awake. She makes me think I see him in crowds, or that maybe he is calling me when my phone rings. 

She reminds me of what I once had in ways that feel cruel sometimes. I see my loss in the happy couple walking down the street, holding hands.  I see it in the family that is together at the fun center or at church. I hear songs that remind me of special moments we shared. Grief is always reminding me. Reminding me why I am sad, why I am angry, and what I have lost. 

“What do you want from me? Why can’t you just leave me alone?” I ask.

“I want you to remember. I want you to remember the good, so you recognize that you truly loved. You need to remember the bad so you can learn from it and heal. I will always be with you. I am something you will become familiar with and learn how to carry. I will change with time, but I will never leave you. I will always remind you, every single day. That’s what I do. I remind.”

I don’t want Grief to be my friend. She is a torturous companion. But it seems I will have to learn to acknowledge her as she shows me daily that she is always by my side.


It’s 11:00 on a Tuesday morning, and I can still smell Greg’s cologne lingering in our bedroom, even though he is at work. The cologne bottle now lies in my bathroom drawer, untouched for 8 months. The cologne is strong, and sometimes it gives me a headache, but it will forever be Greg’s smell to me. So many memories come when I think of his smell. They are all good. Going on dates with him, getting ready for special events, nestling my head into his chest as we danced or hugged and breathing in his scent.  Now, I almost don’t remember it. Nothing smells like him anymore. His clothes smell like clothes now. 

Greg loved to cook, and I miss the smells that filled our house. He loved to cook with garlic salt. Everything had garlic in it, and I wasn’t a fan of the smell. Now I would love to smell him cooking garlicky foods again. He cooked anything and everything from treats to meats, and he loved to experiment with new things. His banana squash soup will not be missed by the kids, but I imagine if we smelled it again, we would all consider liking it.

The smell of death. That’s the last smell that I smelled of Greg. I can still remember it. He smelled strongly as he lay in the casket. I was surprised by this. The smell stuck on my hands after I touched him. I wished for the smell of his cologne instead, but at the same time, I relished in his scent, as I knew it would be the last scent. 

What People Don’t See

People tell me I’m strong. They even go as far as to say I’m the strongest person they know. They tell me I seem so put together. But I don’t show them everything. They don’t see my weak moments. People don’t see the times when I’m in bed at night, remembering how it felt to have Greg’s warm body beside me. And then my mind remembers that he is now cold and buried in the ground now. I cry almost every night when I am finally alone to remember. Sometimes I can’t sleep because the emotion is too strong.

People don’t see the times that I cry out in the car. The times I let myself show the intensity of what is inside of me. The rage, the sadness, all of it. 

People don’t see that after all the trauma I have gone through in the last 6.5 years, I am actually weaker. I have grown in some ways as a result of my circumstances, but I am touchier and more sensitive. I have flashbacks that send me reeling. I still clearly see the horrendous moments after August’s birth. I see Greg’s body lying on the hospital bed, dead. I see my kids gathered around the casket. It is too much. I never know what will make these feelings and thoughts come up. I am weaker and stronger at the same time.

I’m scared of loss. I am hypervigilant with my kids. When Kayla goes driving, I hope I don’t have to plan her funeral. I still won’t let her drive on the freeway (though I know she actually does and doesn’t tell me). I have a kid with his driver’s permit, and he has driven a total of 20 minutes since May. I can’t do it. It causes me too much anxiety. When one of my kids screams out in pain, the worst case scenarios come to my mind. I have started planning my kid’s funeral at doctor’s appointments because my mind went that far. I worry about burial plots all the time. People don’t see that. 

People don’t know that even though things were complicated with our relationship, that doesn’t mean I can just be grateful Greg died. It is a special kind of torture to have so much unfinished between us. I am not relieved he is gone, and I’m not happy about it. As the anger toward him subsides, I only see that it is covering intense sadness and heartache. People don’t see that. I don’t let them see the heartache. 

People don’t see my kids’ sadness and grief. They don’t see all that my kids have dealt with and are dealing with. My kids have gone through more than a lot of adults have. They don’t even show me all of their pain. They will be dealing with their childhood for the rest of their lives, and that is difficult for me to swallow. 

People don’t see that my cares and worries are so very different from theirs. I can’t comprehend having the same things occupy my mind now that once did. I have too much on my plate. I don’t have the capacity for all the extra things and the fluff that other parents get to enjoy. We just survive. 

People only see what I show them. They only see the mask that covers the devastation, anxiety, anger, and grief. Sometimes the mask slips down in public, but usually not. I protect people from what is really there. The mask protects all of us from the reality of what I am carrying.

Who Am I?

I’m not the person I used to be. I don’t know who I am, and I am realizing that I never did. My recent journey has been to put that puzzle together.  

I was so young when I got married. I was considered an adult, but still a child in many ways. I was in a hurry to find a partner and start a family. That’s all I cared about. I have always been a people pleaser, and I am really good at changing to be what someone else needs me to be. I realize now that I did this a lot in my marriage as well. 

Together, we were Greg and Taya. But who am I alone? Who is Taya? We grew up together in many ways, forming our identities, but in a joint fashion. I realize now that our enmeshment wasn’t healthy in some ways. I gave so much of myself to him. In a relationship, some give and take is required, and there was some of that, but I feel that I gave more, and he took more. 

Now that Greg is gone, I have realized I don’t know who I am. It took him leaving for me to realize that. I felt lost at first, wondering who I am and what I like to do. Evenings with the kids felt confusing, as I wasn’t sure what our family did together without him. 

My sleep was and is still sporadic. I think that is normal with grief, but I also feel that part of it is self-discovery and a rebellion of sorts. I find myself staying up very late, which is something I never did when Greg was here. Greg went to bed early, so I did too. Greg woke up early, so I did too. Now, I am wondering what Taya does. Does Taya really want to get up at 5 AM? Does Taya really want to go to bed at 10 PM. Not really. What kind of music do I like? What kind of food do I like? What do I want to do with my life? I am discovering all of this. 

Looking back over the past 8 months, I realize I am a different person. But I also recognize that the changes are good. I am discovering who I am. I am stronger. I have a voice. I am Taya.

Woman of the House

“Now that your dad is gone, you are the man of the house.” This has been said to Reece many times. It has even been said to Kayla, which I find a little bit comical. If you are one of the people who has said this, it’s okay, and no one really remembers who you are anyway. However, I feel that this a very unhealthy thing to place on a child, and I cringe when I hear it.

Reece is a child, whether or not he has a father in the home. He is dealing with a big loss, and it is not fair to expect him to suddenly help run the household and take on all of the responsibilities that Greg once had. I don’t expect that of him, and I don’t feel it’s helpful for others to suggest that it is expected of him by society.

The truth is that we don’t have a man of the house. I am solely responsible for raising my kids, providing for them, and managing the household. I feel the heaviness of these responsibilities, and I would love to have the help of another adult.  

I rely on my older kids a lot, and definitely more than I used to. I expect all of my kids to help out in ways that are appropriate. My kids are very helpful, but they feel the unfairness of the extra weight on them. We have many conversations about how we need to work together as a team, even though it feels unfair. Life isn’t fair, and my kids have learned some hard lessons in their young lives.

I strive to make sure that none of my kids feel that they are being given responsibilities that place the weight of parenting on them. I worry that my kids have too much weight on their shoulders, and I try to be careful about how much I place on them.

Being a solo parent to six children means that I am stretched pretty thin. I am busy and exhausted, and I have a lot on my shoulders as well. It seems that most of my energy goes into just helping all of us survive. There isn’t time for much more sometimes, and I worry that I am not enough. I know I’m not.

A lot of times the kids have to help pick up the slack. I truly hope that this increased responsibility is only going to help them in the end. That is my goal. My kids are quite incredible. They are learning how to manage a household in a way I didn’t learn until I was an adult. I love and appreciate them so much, and I’m grateful for the ways they lighten my heavy load as the woman of the house.

The Viewing and Funeral

Today, I was thinking about the funeral and viewing, and wanted to write a post about them.  It’s something I wrote about, and this post is a combination of my journal entries and my perspective now.

I was concerned about the kids seeing Greg’s body. I wasn’t sure how to prepare them. When my mother-in-law and I dressed Greg, I took some pictures, thinking it might be better for the kids to see the pictures before they saw him in real life. In the end, I didn’t show them the pictures. The pictures made him look….well, dead. He looked better in person, though he didn’t look like himself.

I felt like it was important to let the kids to see Greg, and I never considered not allowing it. In the end, I think that was the right choice for my family, even though the kids would all have nightmares of zombies and of Greg coming back alive for months after the viewing/funeral. It provided some closure, and I think that was good, especially for my younger kids who didn’t understand death as well as the older ones.

When we got to the viewing, Kayla rushed in to see Greg’s body. I told her to slow down. I was concerned she didn’t know what she was walking into. I was also concerned about Mali and her anxiety. I knew this would be hard. It was noticeably hard for all of the kids to see their dad in a casket. It isn’t something a kid should have to experience. They all had different reactions. Kayla was the least standoffish, and she wanted to be close. The boys all stood back some, and some of them were afraid at first. Mali wouldn’t go close to the casket for a couple hours, and my mom had to go back to the house to get her a weighted blanket. She cried and sat in the corner of the room, as far away as she could get. By the end of the viewing, she would get close enough to see, but wouldn’t come clear up to the casket until the funeral the next day.

The viewing lasted from 6-9. I found myself regretting making it three hours. We had a steady flow of people. It was exhausting. I kept comparing it to our wedding reception in my mind, which was a bit torturous. All of the people we loved came to see us, but it was not for a happy reason.

It’s interesting because it felt like I was comforting those who came through. They hadn’t seen the body yet, so they had emotions come up, and they were also feeling for me. I was able to keep my composure the whole time. I have always wondered how people could do that, but now I understand that I had had the chance to see the body and process things more than they had. 

The kids did okay. The ward had put a movie on in the primary room and had snacks. That was nice, and it kept them busy. It was too heavy for them to be in the room with the body. Only Kayla stayed in the line. She stayed for most of the time. Reece came and asked me if he could walk home at one point. I said no, and he grudgingly stayed. I was relieved when it was over, as were all of the kids. 

The funeral was the next day. We woke up early so we could be ready to be at the church for the viewing. This viewing was only an hour long, and the time went by quickly. The kids were more comfortable, and it was nice to have so much family in the room with us. 

Closing the casket is always my least favorite part of any funeral. It feels so final. My mother-in-law said to me, “Get a good look now because you won’t get to later.” I am glad that I was okay with that thought because any pictures we have show the real Greg who was full of life. The body we were seeing wasn’t really Greg. He just didn’t look very good or like himself.

It was heartbreaking to watch my kids. They were noticeably upset, and no child should have to close the casket on their father when they are so young. It was a very emotional time, and it took some time for everyone to say goodbye. Then the funeral director helped me put Greg’s cap on and told me to give him one final kiss. The casket was closed. 

The chapel was packed. They didn’t open the overflow doors because they already had the gym ready for the luncheon. There were so many people there to support us. We really do have so much love and support. 

The funeral was beautiful, and I know Greg would have loved it.  Our friends and family gave some great talks that highlighted the good things about Greg. Greg had written the program for his funeral, and he had asked that his high school friends sing, “I Know That my Redeemer Lives.” It was beautiful and touching to see 11 of his friends get up to sing. It took my breath away to see so many of them. Some men in our ward also sang Be Still My Soul, and it was also beautiful.

August sat on my lap for most of the funeral. He cried loudly through every song. It was heartbreaking, and it made me realize that he comprehended what was happening. When I think back on the funeral now, that is my strongest memory. 

The kids all wrote some memories about their dad, and Kayla and Mali read them. It was touching, and they were very brave. Mali even got up twice because Reece didn’t want to get up.

After the dedication of the grave and the luncheon, we all breathed a sigh of relief. The services were beautiful, and now we could spend some time processing everything that had happened.