The Children


JudyOnce more I am going to talk to you as a mother. You may not like what I am going to say but I hope you will mull it over and think about it.

               I go back to the last time my children saw their Father, Christmas Day, 1982.

               Denver had suffered a major blizzard starting the night before Christmas Eve and continuing through Christmas Eve Day.  Denver was shut down and the roads were nearly impassable. But a friend of ours who was a doctor on staff at St Luke’s Hospital where Richie was hospitalized was on call that day and offered to take us with him when he went in to make rounds.

               My brother in law, Larry, had come in to town from Pittsburg just as the first few flakes from the storm were starting to fall. We made the decision the next morning while the roads were still somewhat passable that he would go to the hospital and stay with Richie and I would stay at home with the girls. It wasn’t a decision my heart wanted to make, but for the girls sake it was the only sensible decision I could make.  I couldn’t imagine not being there for them on Christmas morning if the roads became completely impassable as they were predicting. That would be something they would remember the rest of their lives, especially if Richie didn’t make it.

               My mom was there, but I think it was all too much for her and overnight she had become old. She wasn’t coping well and to leave the girls with her if I couldn’t get back would not have been good. I was very thankful that Larry was now with us and could help me carry the load for a few days.

               What was normally a twenty minute drive took us two hours. We weren’t able to spend much time with Richie. Don finished his rounds rather quickly and it was time to go. The ride home was long, quiet and somber. The girls’ eyes had seen what my eyes had seen, Richie wasn’t doing well.

               Later at home I asked the girls to set the table for dinner and squabbling erupted. Mother turned to them and very sharply reprimanded them, “Stop it, your mother has enough on her mind.”

               In turn I responded, “Mom, this affects them as much as it affects me. They are scared, I am scared, we are all scared.

               The point of my story is this. Adults all too often brush the feelings of children aside as my mother did that day by trying, without realizing, to put my feelings above theirs.

               While it is hard right now for you to think about, you may very well someday find a second love.

               For your children though, they have lost the only real father or mother that they will ever have! That parent who loved them unconditionally, who thought they are the most wonderful, beautiful children ever created… that parent who would walk to the ends of the earth to help his or her child achieve their dreams.         

               For them to grow into happy well adjusted adults they need you now!! And believe me I understand all too well.  I know it is asking a super human effort. But over the years I have witnessed people who were so engrossed in their own grief that the children were afraid to approach them: Afraid that they would upset them. Young kids don’t want to make Mommy or Daddy cry, and it becomes all too easy to shut them out.

                They understand their vulnerability.  Their biggest fear is losing you. You can’t tell them that nothing is going to happen to you, because they have just had a harsh lesson on how fragile life can be. Believe me after Richie died I can’t tell you how many calls I got from my youngest daughters’ school that she was in the nurses office with a tummy ache. She was the voice in some ways of all three of us.

               Rather than making a big deal about it, the nurse would send her over to the school secretary, who was a sweetheart; she would take her onto her lap, give her a cookie or piece of candy and then let her call me. After she talked to me and was assured I was fine… back to class she would go. But that did go on for at least a year, not every day, but often, and even after that for years when she was at a friends’ house playing she would call me, Just checking” she would say.

               In turn I checked in with both of them and kept them abreast of my plans and where I was going. The silver lining on that one that I didn’t anticipate at the time… it made the teenage years so much easier, as they were so used to calling me and letting me know where they were I never had to ask.

               The best thing you can do for them right now is keep their routine and their activities as normal as possible. Don’t let them quit because you don’t feel up to taking them to practice, your example teaches them. Keep your house filled with kids.

               Keep God in your life both for you and them. Despite the fact that we live in an information age, there are just some things we don’t have the answers to. God is your bridge over these troubled waters.

                Let them know it is ok to cry, and it is ok for you to cry. Take turns crying or cry together, however it falls out.

               Talk about the parent they just lost. Remind them when they do well on a school project, win a competition, or hit a home run how proud Daddy would be of them.

               But let your talk be natural, try not to turn that person into something they weren’t. Richie always did the dishes for me when he was home. One night early on I was standing at the sink doing the dishes, I mentioned that “I hate doing the dishes.”

               My older daughter said, “Yea, Daddy always did them for you.”

               There was silence for a moment and then she added, “Of course he always hid the dirty pots and pans in the oven to soak.”

               “Hmmm…That was his trick wasn’t it?” We looked at each other and started to laugh.

               Conversations like that keep them alive.

               You are in this together, stick together. The rewards down the road will be well worth it, and quite wonderful.

               We understand backward, but we live forward.


               Judy McCabe



JudyI am a book worm. I always have been since the day I learned to read.  I have a habit though that seems to upset people when I mention that I read a few pages and then turn to the last page of the book.  I want to know how it ends. Others always say, you shouldn’t do that. They feign surprise and lecture me. I do it anyway. Sometimes I even skip ahead in the chapter when the suspense is too great, or I just want to know what happened.  I am willing to bet that many of the people who get upset with me about it are just as guilty but would never admit it.

               So I am going to skip ahead because I know what I have been writing is heavy, sad and somewhat depressing if you are a fairly new widow. You really don’t want to hear it; what you really want to hear is that life will go on and you will be happy someday. I know that is how I felt.

               A little background here on my story. Football coaches in general are not the most patient people on the face of the earth. Just think of the coaches you have seen on the sidelines during a game. Their personality doesn’t change much when they leave the field.  They are dedicated to the task at hand whatever that task might be. And they are intense!

               Every year in the month of June we would pack up the kids and the car and drive from Denver, Colorado to Buffalo, New York, about a three day drive, because with the children we had to stop early. They needed to swim and run off steam after several hours in the car.  Richie always reminded me we could fly, but remember my fear of flying… so, God love him, off we went in the car. About a mile or so after we got under way I would start to worry that I had forgotten to put out my last cigarette .  I would use any excuse I could think of to get him to turn that car around and go back without telling him the real reason. Of course he knew,  but since I didn’t own up to the real reason he just fumed. The task at hand would be for him to get us to Buffalo and he didn’t like delays!  I would pay dearly as he drove eighty miles an hour for the first hour to make up for the five or ten minutes I had cost him.

               About a year and a half after Richie died I decided to drive the girls from Denver to South Padre Island off the coast of Texas.  We packed the car, waved good bye to the neighbors and were on our way. We got a mile or so down the road when my youngest remembered she had forgotten Ookums, her favorite stuffed animal. Of course I turned the car around and we went back for him or her, whatever Ookums was.

               We waved goodbye to everyone again and were underway when she then decided she wanted Strawberry Shortcake and the smelly dolls she was into at the moment.  I turned the car around and back we went, picked up her dolls and waved good bye to the neighbors…again.

               Once more, we had only gone a short distance when we got stopped at a red light. As my habit is, I rested my elbow on the steering wheel and reached up to play with my earrings when, “ Oh My God I forgot my earrings!”

               My older daughter gave me a hard stare and I could see smoke coming out of her ears. “You are not going to go back for them are you?”

               I sat there waiting for the light to turn: I hadn’t asked for this, I didn’t want it, but there it was.  Richie would never have gone back twice, much less three times but Richie wasn’t driving the car… I was! I could go back as many times as I wanted. I could almost hear him laughing and shaking his head from his place. I started to laugh, the first real laugh from down deep in twenty one months. I flipped on the blinker to turn right and head back, “Yep that is exactly what I am going to do, I am not driving to Texas without my earrings!”

               When I flipped on that blinker I felt a release: a release that said to me you go forward and you do it your way. In that moment I realized I didn’t have to wrap my memories in tissue paper and place them in a drawer. Richie would be a part of us always in our hearts and minds.

               I tend to think that other people think if you remember too much you are living in the past and that is just not true. Think of it this way. If you have ever moved away from a good, dear friend, or they have moved away, you still think of them: things still remind you of them, you still treasure them and luckily you can pick up the phone and call them. But that doesn’t stop you from continuing on with your life and making new friends.  Do not worry about what other people think; sometimes  the most miserable people  are the most critical.

               Yes, I did remarry. Was it a good marriage? Not really, but for reasons that had nothing what so ever to do with Richie. The girls grew up beautifully.(I will get back to that next time.) They are happy well adjusted adults. Once we were over the worst of it, actually beginning with our trip to Texas, we had a great time together. Sometimes when we were doing something that we knew Richie would have gotten upset over, of one of them would say, “What would Daddy say if he knew?” My response was always, “We just wouldn’t tell him. Daddy didn’t need to know everything that was going on. ” And then we would kill ourselves laughing.


We understand backwards but we live forward








The last few weeks I have gotten side tracked by inserting the stories of our trip to Pittsburg, and while out of sequence, our first Christmas without my husband. It seemed appropriate. No matter what time of the year you lose someone everyone has to go through their first Christmas Holiday, and it is not easy. I hope you all got through it, it will get easier as time goes by, I promise.

               Now we are well into January and the start of the New Year and the New Year always makes us think of new beginnings.

               Looking back at it now, from the perspective of time, I understand that the actual time of Richie’s death was the new beginning even though I didn’t know it or want to face it. It was as if we were ship wrecked in an powerful storm. After the funeral was over and people went back to their lives, my daughters and I were alone on a life raft in the middle of unknown waters. The wind, thunder and lightning had stopped: the sea was calm now but we had no idea of where we were or where we were going. The currants were carrying us. True, other ships and boats in the form of caring people would pass us as we drifted and try and rescue us, but in the end we had to make it to shore ourselves.  Even then if you can imagine our legs were weak and we were disoriented. We had to at some point regain our strength and figure out for ourselves where we were and where we were going. It is all part of the journey of grief and it doesn’t happen overnight. And by the way those very special caring people who tried to rescue us would end up being dear friends as the years passed and the journey of our lives continued. We couldn’t have made it without them.

               I have mentioned a couple of time the numbness that I felt. In those early weeks often times I wondered when people would say such things as, “Oh I know how you feel. Or your heart must be broken, how are you feeling. If someone had punched me in the head I couldn’t have been more devoid of feeling except where my children were concerned.

               I have read from grief counselors that physical pain will trump emotional pain, and that people who are going through the grief process are often accident prone because the physical pain from their accidents makes the emotional pain go away for a little while. Hmmmm…It is a good theory, but…

               Richie died January Fourth and in early February I was invited to a luncheon with a group of ladies. As I got ready I pressed the blouse that I was going to wear with an iron and then put on my makeup and got dressed.

               Later at lunch as we sat at the table the sleeve of my blouse crept up and my eye caught a red blister on the inside of my wrist, you know the real tender spot where you can see your veins. Everyone at the table gasped. The blister was the size of a fifty cent piece and about a quarter of an inch high. I had burned myself as I ironed my blouse and yet I had felt nothing. Even the rubbing of the cuff of my blouse didn’t bother me.  That is how numb I was.

               I believe that God provides an anesthesia after a severe loss. How else do we get through what our hearts and minds cannot accept? We have to let it wear off gradually and resist the people who want to push us along. Remember, some are going to criticize because they think you are getting over it too quickly, and others are going to criticize because they think you are wallowing in and going too slowly. Ignore them. This is your journey.

               I mentioned our trip to San Diego in my Pittsburg blog and how quickly my fear of flying kicked in when our plane lifted off the runway. While I clung to my seat all the way into San Diego, I was aware that I was feeling something again, even if it was terror!

               Later that evening after we had settled into our hotel and walked the beach for a little while, we went into a restaurant for dinner. In the past when we had gone out for dinner as a family Richie usually dropped us off while he parked the car and I was the one who ordered the table for four. That night in San Diego when the hostess asked how many in our party I choked out three and then for the first time I lost it. I had a meltdown right in there in the lobby of the restaurant and couldn’t stop crying. Obviously I was feeling again.

               The numbness is good for awhile, but enduring the pain when it comes is good too. Feeling is the most basic element of being alive. As we move though the season of the new beginning, remember January, the beginning of the New Year is the darkest and coldest month of the year.

We understand backwards but we live forward.

Judy McCabe                                 




I have been rather quiet since I came back from my daughter’s home in South Dakota where I spent a wonderful Thanksgiving. To be honest I have been putting off writing this particular blog because I knew I would have to address the holidays, and frankly even all these years later, and even after all the wonderful Christmas’s we have had since, I don’t like to think about that first Christmas without Richie. But I do remember it well.

            The Holidays are one of those things you have to get through, they are there in front of you and you can’t escape them. I remember desiring very much that I make Christmas as nice as possible for the girls. I was going through the motions, shopping, trimming the tree etc. I was aware there wasn’t much on the girls Christmas list. We all just wanted the one thing that we knew we couldn’t have, but they were being brave too.

          Mom was coming and I was hoping that she would be on board and help us keep our spirits up.

          She arrived the day before Christmas Eve a bitterly cold day. Everything went well; she helped lift the mood for the girls a little bit.

          That night in the wee hours of the morning I was startled awake by what sounded like all the toilets in the house flushing at once. The girls were in my bed sleeping with me, and were sound asleep. Jumping out of bed I quickly checked my mom’s room and she was asleep also. I followed the noise downstairs, and when I hit the kitchen and turned on the lights water was pouring out of the ceiling and down my patio door.

          Long story short it was so cold my water pipe broke and I had to call the fire department to come out and turn off the water as I didn’t have a clue where the main water valve was or how to do it.

          After they left I sat down on the stairs and cried. I had been trying so hard and now I had a mess on my hands. We had to chop the ice off the door in the morning to let the dogs out and I called the plumber.

          He came out, of course charging me the holiday rate, cut a big gaping hole in my ceiling and fixed the pipe, but getting someone out to fix the ugly hole on short notice, much less Christmas Eve was impossible.

          Every time I Looked up at that hole it unnerved me! It was too painful to look at; I had to do something about it! First I found a couple of big pieces of the kids tag board and some masking tape. That was better, but it wasn’t enough, I wasn’t through. Searching through the paint cans in the basement I found the can of paint that matched the ceiling and painted over the tag board. I stood back and looked at my work, of course it was just a band aid, but it would do until I could get it fixed. Not unlike my own heart that I was keeping a band aid over until it healed enough that I could look at the wound.

          Later that evening we attended Midnight Mass: Driving over to the church I began to experience the same feeling of awe and peace that I always feel every Christmas Eve when darkness falls. The feeling that if I were dropped out of nowhere onto the earth on Christmas Eve I would know something special was happening.

          The warm, fragrant church was beautifully decorated, evergreens, red poinsettias’, twinkle lights, all in anticipation of the humble Bethlehem Babe who would arrive that night in triumph for all of us. His gift to us was and always has been hope.

          When the organ and trumpets started to swell to the strains of “Oh Come all ye Faithful, Joyful and Triumphant I felt my faith! I knew in that moment that someday, not right away, but someday my faith would triumph over the darkness of the pain.

          We have all watched and mourned with Newtown, Connecticut this past weekend, none of us can fathom the horror of this tragedy. Remembering that it is more blessed to give than receive please put your own troubles aside and pray for them.  

            During the Memorial for Viki Soto, the young teacher who died shielding her children, I was surprised to hear one of my very favorite songs, a very old song for such a young girl, but I think one of the most beautiful ever written. It is from the Broadway musical Carousel. I pass it on to you this Christmas season.

                              When you walk through a storm
                              Keep your chin up high
                              And don’t be afraid of the dark.
                              At the end of the storm
                              Is a golden sky
                              And the sweet silver song of a lark.

                              Walk on through the wind,
                              Walk on through the rain,
                              Tho’ your dreams be tossed and blown.

                              Walk on, walk on
                              With hope in your heart
                              And you’ll never walk alone,
                              You’ll never walk alone.

          During this Christmas season I wish for you “The peace of God that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ.” Philippians 4:7

Judy McCabe


Pennsylvania Hall of Fame


                We just returned from an almost magical weekend in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. My husband who you hear so much about was from Pittsburgh, and was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.  It was a weekend of family, friends and football all bound together by our love for the man to be inducted. Of course there was the underlying melancholy of wishing he was there physically to enjoy his honor, but we all felt his spiritual presence as we shared and passed around stories about him, sometimes killing ourselves laughing at the memories we all have of him.

               There are two parts to the story I am sharing with you today in the hope they will be of help to you.

               The first part was the plane ride over to Pittsburgh. Under the circumstances I couldn’t help but remember my first plane ride after Richie died.

               After having a very frightening first flight I have always had a fear of flying, and not just a fear, but back when a flat out terror! I would start sweating as soon as the reservations were made.

                Richie died in January and by spring break we wanted to get away and I needed an ocean fix so I made reservations for San Diego where we would stay right on the ocean.

               Still in that numb, foggy state, not caring about much of anything besides my girls I went through the motions of packing, checking in at the airport and even boarding the plane without much emotion, until the plane stated to taxi down the runway and picking up speed we lifted off. Like a bullet, the terror shot through me! For two hours I clung to my seat and prayed. By the time the plane touched down in San Diego the fog had lifted and the numbness was gone. I knew I cared very much about life. Of course we still had to fly back to Denver, and even after that we didn’t stay home, but I did drag my girls around on Amtrak for years.

               The second part is validating what I am hoping to pass on to you. I was lucky, if you can call it that. The fact that my husband was both a coach and a motivator gave me some tools to work with as we came to grips with and started our new life without him. But several years ago I tried my hand at real estate. Standing around the office one day we were talking and something came up that reminded me of Richie and I shared a story. One of the other gals, a rather glitzy, hardnosed realtor asked me if we had had a good marriage. I answered, “Yes, we did.”

                Her reply stunned me. “Yea, and I’ll bet it gets better every year.”           

               I worry sometimes that reading my thoughts you will think the same thing. But listening to the various athletes’ who were inducted alongside of my husband share their stories at the induction ceremony, every one of them had the same recurring theme: routine, sticking to it, perseverance: goals. The gentleman who spoke for Richie was an old friend of his who played with Richie at Pitt. They were good friends as long as Richie was still living in Pittsburgh. But my life with Richie took off after he had moved away so I didn’t know Bill well. He and Richie talked on the phone a lot, and I had met him once or twice, but I hadn’t talked with him since Richie died. The girls and I were floored as we listened to this man we barely knew tell Richie’s story that we knew so well. (I will share that down the line) He ended by saying Richie’s Roman Catholic faith was the core of his being and he had a simple philosophy that he drilled into his players. “Stick together and don’t quit.” The same thing he preached to us, before his illness and during. It was so ingrained in us we didn’t even have to think we just did.

               Goals and success are personal things. Don’t judge your success by others. For me bringing the girls out of the wreckage and helping them to become happy well adjusted young women was my goal, and truthfully, God heaven help anyone who got in my way. But the fact of the matter is I succeeded why beyond what I had imagined.

               Once again I invite your comments and please visit, as a place to connect to other young widows.

We understand backwards but we live forward We understand backwards but we live forward




Even now as I look back to January Nineteen Eighty three, I can remember that even though we were living under the sunny clear blue skies of Colorado, the world was dark and cold to me. Arapahoe Road, a road that I had driven a million times back and forth to the ice arena was dark and slippery as it had never been before. I think it symbolized my state of mind

The day after the funeral I couldn’t wait for everyone who had traveled out to Denver to start leaving. I just wanted to be alone with my girls.

               I found very quickly that life doesn’t stop. It keeps going whether you want it to or not.

               The girls lives resumed on Monday morning. I had to make sure they were fed and dressed and off to school. Their activities resumed also. The lawyer wanted to come and visit with me about Richie’s will. Bills that had been neglected had to be paid.

               There were hundreds of thank you notes to write. I started into them, but after about fifty or so I gave up. I couldn’t bear to keep mentioning Richie in the past tense. “Richie would have been so pleased.” Or “Richie thought so much of you.” No I didn’t want to think about the fact that he was gone and every note I wrote was so painful and driving it home.  (Today when someone passes, I always volunteer to help with the thank you notes as I feel guilty about it to this day.) There were so many other things I had to take care of that I just stopped writing them.

               Somehow I knew I had to put some distance between the event and coming to terms with it.  From the beginning of Richie’s illness I had been going on my instincts and I continued to follow them.  During his hospitalization both the doctors and nurses kept taking me off in a corner, pushing me to come to terms with what was happening. I didn’t appreciate it. Now at least I could do it my way without lectures.

               I had already learned that how I thought I might have felt before when it happened to someone else was not how I now felt since it had happened to me.

               The fact of the matter was that once the fog had enveloped me at the funeral I didn’t feel much of anything. I was numb, and I didn’t want to be reminded all the time of what had happened. I rebelled when people asked how we were doing in a certain tone of voice. I hated the pity in their eyes.

               While I hadn’t been aware of it I was much more used to being envied than pitied, and I couldn’t take it. I didn’t want to talk about Richie’s dying, and there was no way on God’s green earth I wanted people to feel sorry for us.

               The essence of what I had learned over the last seventeen years in pro football, my whole adult life to that point, was perseverance.  You don’t quit, you keep on going. I could hear my husband talking to reporters after a game; his attitude was always the same: the wins didn’t take him too high, and the losses didn’t take him to low. “Don’t bother me about it, the only thing that matters is next week.” The game is all about the future.

               Somehow in my foggy state I knew I had learned my lessons well and we would persevere, we would keep going and that would be both our tribute and memorial to Richie, and in turn his legacy to us. I wouldn’t quit, and I wouldn’t let my girls quit. But for the moment I needed some time to heal before I could come to terms with it and that was my prerogative.

               We understand backwards, but we live forward.

Judy McCabe




Keep Reality In Your Memories


The other night I was at Perkins having dinner with my older daughter and my two granddaughters.  After dinner we were going to an all school party at the school my older granddaughter attends.

               During our conversation my daughter mentioned that her husband who was at a hockey game that night,  had managed for the three years that my granddaughter has been attending this school to avoid both the all school parties and the school carnivals. It is also important to mention that just two weeks earlier he had surprised his girls with a trip to Disney World.

               Looking across the table at my daughter I laughed, and asked her, “And just how many school carnivals do you think your dad went to?” Putting my thumb and index finger together I formed a zero.

               “Well Daddy was different.”

               “Oh really!”

               Laughing she said, “Saint Richie again,” the nickname that her husband has pinned on her dad.

               It reminded me of a time within the year after Richie died when the PTO at the girls’ school, which I was actively involved in, was planning a Sock Hop for the parents. When I was a teenager Sock Hops were something that I really excelled at and I was feeling the pain because Richie was gone and wasn’t there to take me.

               My younger daughter who was not quite eight years old came in and found me curled up on the sofa crying, and concerned asked me why I was crying at that moment.

               When I told her, her response was matter of fact and to the point. “I don’t know why you are crying he wouldn’t have gone anyhow.”

               Out of the mouths of babes! I sat up straight, she was one hundred percent right! How easily I was slipping into painting the perfect husband in my memory. He was wonderful, but not perfect. No one is!

               While Richie was never a dad who got down on the floor and played Barbie’s with his daughters, he never missed one of the girls’ ballet recitals, coral recitals or skating competitions but getting him to go to social events, both at the school or in the neighborhood was darn near impossible.  If there was a block party going on he was known to park his car one street over and cut through the yards and come in through the back door to duck them. He would usually negotiate some settlement with me like dinner at a very nice restaurant, or the theater, but my daughter was right no way would we have gone to that Sock Hop!

               From the perspective of time again, my point here is to remember to keep reality in your memories, not to disparage your loved one, on the contrary, down the road when the heavy pain you are now feeling passes, and it will, it is their idiosyncrasies’ that will bring a smile to your lips and make you laugh when you are sitting at a dinner table as we were the other night and you take a walk down memory lane. As always I welcome your comments and for additional help visit



In One Ear Out The Other


Once again as a mom with the perspective of time I want to share with you a story of something that happened just a couple weeks after Richie died. I am sure some of you will identify with it in one form or another.

 My older daughter was a figure skater; she skated six days a week.  Anyone who has a figure skater or hockey player in the family is familiar the smell of an ice arena, sweaty feet and popcorn! Really rather disgusting, but at this particular moment I was enjoying it  and the soothing normalcy of being back in our routine as during the two months Richie was sick others were taking her and picking her up for me.

               A woman who lived in my neighborhood and whose name I was familiar with but had never met, or had a conversation with, came over to me and offered her condolences. After I murmured a thank you she crisscrossed her hands across her chest and with shimmering eyes went on to say that she had a friend who was a widow and she would love for me to meet her as she was a shining example of a widow!

               As I pulled away from the woman I won’t tell you what words went through my fine little Christian mind! My husband was dead, I didn’t want to be a widow, and what on earth was a shining example? Should I go home and look up my new status in Emily Post? Lord what was she thinking? Did she have any idea that she was dumping her expectations on me? Was she really trying to be kind? I didn’t know her so I had no way of knowing. But believe me it hit its mark, all these years later I still remember it and how I felt.

                I totally understand that people don’t know what to say, truthfully I don’t either. But I do understand timing. Anyone who has gone through this knows that grief comes in waves. One minute you are fine and five minutes later it can hit you.  Personally I am always afraid of intruding on someone’s up time and dragging the moment down for them.

               If I don’t know them well I feel it is better to say nothing. If I feel compelled for some reason to express my condolences I send a card.  I think we all appreciate a card….that is why Hallmark makes them; but the person who comes up to you with an armload of advise is just something, especially as young widows, we all have to endure. The only good thing I promise you is that “this too shall pass.” I wish someone had been there to tell me let it go in one ear and out the other.

               “We understand backwards, but live forward.”

               Judy McCabe



We all know childhood is the root of who we are as adults and ideally it should be a wonderful time of growth and making memories; I know mine was in spite of the fact that my parents were divorced.  I look back and remember my cozy safe home with my mother, Sunday school, summer camp in the Allegany Mountains, trips to the seashore of New England. With my dad I remember fishing, whether it was deep-sea fishing or cruising down the Niagara River in his boat or just dropping a line in on the end of his dock. Christmas wasn’t a bad deal either as I got to celebrate it twice.   

               Of course there were little hurts: the miserable little game of Musical Chairs at little girls birthday parties, getting kicked off my fifth grade softball team after being named co-captain because my gym teacher, the first teacher ever to acknowledge my left-handedness, insisted that I bat with my left hand,  which I couldn’t do to save my life. I could hit the ball with my right hand out of the park, but she insisted: or having to compete with my older, near perfect sister. Nothing of great consequence and I had been shooting for the same thing with my girls.

               Now, sitting in the back seat of the limousine between my beautiful two young daughters, my racing heart ached as I tried to prepare them. I wished so much I could spare them. I was all too aware that in just a few minutes when we would arrive at the funeral home for the viewing and Rosary, inside their child bodies they would become little adults.

               They would be dealing with the essence of life. They would experience something, and begin to think about things that none of their friends would be thinking about, and a good many adults have never thought about. I didn’t want their fathers’ death to be the event that crippled them for life.  I wondered how I would guide my children through the next few years so that as they grew up their roots would be strong and they would be a part of all the wonderful things that life has to offer, embracing the joy of life just as their father and I had.

               It was going to be up to me to make that happen, and at that moment I would have liked to say to the driver, “turn the car around take us anywhere but where we are going.”

               As it turned out the girls and I had only a few moments alone with Richie. The place was already filled with people when we got there. My older daughter was rather stoic, and my little one cried a bit, but before long they were off with their cousins. When I looked around for them I was happy to see they were behaving as kids are supposed to.

               As the evening progressed one of Richie’s friends hugged me and said, “You didn’t put a tie on Richie, he hated ties.” I hugged him back for noticing. It was true Richie had always pulled off his tie as fast as we walked out of an event that he had to wear one.  I had chosen an open collar shirt and V-neck sweater for him to be buried in. I couldn’t bear the thought of his having to be in a tie forever.  I loved Fran for noticing.

               As people passed through the receiving line there was one woman who was smirking at me as she approached she said, “You don’t remember me?” True I didn’t have the faintest idea who she was, but she seemed to want me to guess as she gave me no clue. While I was trying to place her, I was thinking this is weird, a guessing game at my husband’s wake? She turned out to be the first of many who would leave me scratching my head as we were making the journey back to some kind of normal. Sometimes you just have to wonder!

               As the evening came to an end with only immediate family left I wandered back in to say good-bye to Richie. This would be the last time I would ever see him or be alone with him ever, I loved him so much… Once more I wondered as tears streamed down my face, how was I ever going to do it, my shoulders just didn’t feel strong enough.

               My older daughter walked in and took my hand and pretty soon my little one did too. At that point my head was still very clear. The fog didn’t roll across my brain until the next day at the funeral. At that moment I realized that I wasn’t in this alone. The three of us were in it together and we would get through it together. I was flying blind, I had no idea how we were going to go forward, but the playing field was level, neither did they. This was new for all three of us. My desire that my girls grow into happy, well-adjusted adults would be both our tribute and memorial to this man who all three of us loved. Somehow we would do it together.

               There is a wonderful site for young widows that you might find helpful if you haven’t found it already.


We understand backwards, but we live forward

Judy McCabe



  The last time I wrote to you I talked about the stages of grief but I need to back up a bit to the beginning, the day Richie died.  It is important.

               My husband passed away in the middle of the night and by the next afternoon our home had started to fill up with people. A friend came in. Looking at me she said, “I’ll bet you haven’t had any sleep.”  I realized this was true I had actually been up since six o’clock the previous morning. I had stayed at the hospital until it was over and by now it was five o’clock in the evening of the next day.

               I let her lead me upstairs and settle me onto my bed, but I was wired. As soon as she left, shutting the bedroom door behind her I jumped up and flipped on the TV. As it happened the Five O’clock News was just starting and Richie’s passing was the lead story. I stood there watching clips of him healthy and alive, laughing as he talked to the reporter. It was all too hard to believe. When it was over I turned it off and walked over to my bedroom window.      

               The Christmas candle in the window was the only light in my room and as I looked out over our peaceful snow covered neighborhood with Christmas lights shining from all the homes I marveled at how everything looked the same and yet everything was now so different.

               I wondered how I would go on, and thought of all the nevers: never to hear his key in the door, never to hear his laughter, never to be sheltered in the safety of his arms. My faith had always been strong and deep and a passage from 1Thessalonians came to mind: “Give thanks in all things for this is Gods will for you in Jesus Christ.” I wondered what on earth there was to give thanks for now. That I would never see my precious husband again, that our children would grow up without a father, that he had had to suffer so at the end? How dear Lord would I go on? But then I began to think.

               I was thankful that he had been born in the first place and that God had given him to me as a husband. I was thankful for our love and the wonderful marriage that we shared. I was thankful that there was no left over baggage to deal with. I was thankful for the two beautiful daughters he had left me. I was thankful that I would not have to put a for sale sign on my front door. I was thankful I would be able to continue to be able to be home with my girls as they grew up. My own mother had been way ahead of the times while I was growing up and had forged a career. I had hated coming home from school to an empty house. I was always envious of my friends whose moms had cake or cookies waiting for them when they got home.  Others might take a different path, but for me but for me that was huge

               Often times people say, “If I knew then what I know now”, but at that moment I knew I wouldn’t go back and make my decisions any differently even if I had known it would end way to early.

               I walked over and sat down on the edge of my bed and I heard a voice, Richie’s, “You enjoy those girls, they will be grown up before you know it.” Since Richie had married late he had already watched his nieces and nephews grow up and understood how fast it goes. He had always reminded me of that fact.

               Was it my imagination or was it real? I won’t know till I get there.

               Richie the coach always said, “It is all in your attitude.”

               I sat there unknowingly making a choice, a blueprint was forming in my mind. I wouldn’t feel sorry for myself, or let anyone feel sorry for my girls. I wouldn’t be angry with God for taking Richie, I would need God more than ever and I would give thanks for all that had been and all that was left. I didn’t really realize it at the time, but at that moment I set our course for going forward.

                                                              We understand backwards but live forward.

Judy McCabe