Yesterday was a sad, horrible anniversary. The day Kim passed from a sudden ruptured brain aneurysm in 2008. It was a horrible, horrible, day just a few days after we had spent Christmas with her. One I’d love to forget and wipe from my memory. Unfortunately, just as thousands of other families deal with, it’s a memory I cannot forget.

The police tape, the medical vehicles, the tragic cries of a mother losing her only child…it’s a day no one should have to live through and one that haunts me on this “anniversary”. Yes, it’s a day I’d love to forget.

From the sadness and horror of that day, Kim’s family and friends have had to deal with the difficult task of moving on without her in their lives, just as thousands of other families do each year. We aren’t special in that respect, but Kim sure was. I prefer to remember her smile, her laugh, and her kindness. Not the horrific scenes of that day four years ago.

I know Kim wouldn’t want us to dwell on that day either and to move forward and create something positive out of a horrible event so that her friends and family can heal and provide the kind of help and kindness to others that Kim was so famous for.

Unfortunately, my family has been touched by brain aneurysms. I have two older first cousins who are survivors. I, myself, have survived a rupture and we’re monitoring another smaller aneurysm and possible issues with the 11 mm aneurysm that originally ruptured. Then, only 7 months ago, I lost my sister Dori to a massive rupture. Yes, they CAN be hereditary, but that isn’t always the case. It’s just horribly ironic that Kim (not a blood relative of mine) was also taken in such a fashion. I’ll never forget getting that news of the cause of death. Survivor’s guilt doesn’t even begin to describe it for me. Again…a day I’d love to forget.

After my ruptured brain aneurysm, no events, or groups to help support me were available in the state of Maine. My only solace and assistance came from online message boards where I have met some amazing people who have survived much worse than me but share many of the same issues I did and still do. I found great comfort in my online community. My friends didn’t rally around me at my bedside or offer to start a walk or group to support others. There was nothing…other than my saint of a husband. Most people don’t realize the burden his shoulders have carried since 2006. I’m a very lucky woman.

It wasn’t until we lost Kim to the same ailment that almost took my life, that a decision was made here in Maine to DO something about making people aware of what a brain aneurysm is, what it can do to you, how it can be treated, and how, as a community, we can help other families in the same kind of need I was in in 2006 and beyond.

Sadly, my sister Dori was very knowledgable about brain aneurysms and she traveled to Maine on several occasions to be with me and Dave during my procedures. How tragic it is then, that we weren’t even able to save her life. BUT, she knew there was a community in Maine that was trying to DO something to help survivors and families deal with such trauma. She dealt with that trauma herself and I KNOW the information and support we provided others was also of comfort to her and my family.

In 2009, Kim’s close friends and family organized the KAT-Walk for brain aneurysm awareness and to honor Kim’s sweet memory. As Kim did, it’s a way to give back and to support those effected by brain aneurysms. She was the first one looking up what a brain aneurysm was on the computer after I had my rupture and she was the first one to meet me in ICU when I arrived by ambulance that morning. I had very few visitors in the hospital or at home after my surgery, but Kim was one of those and she had the opportunity to meet Dori during that time as well.

I think Kim would be proud of the efforts her family and friends have made in the state of Maine to bring awareness and support to brain aneurysms. The number of families we continue to touch, not only in Maine, but throughout New England, is truly amazing and quite sad as well. There are tremendous survivor stories and tragic losses, but each year we’re becoming a loving and supporting community that gains strength from one another and finds a way to comfort those in need. I think that’s what Kim was all about – and God knows I needed the community this past September. I walked alone that day, but knew both Kim and Dori were beside me.

So, remembering the anniversary of Kim’s death isn’t something I enjoy doing. I’d rather forget that day and remember the date of her birth in March instead…because that’s when an angel was sent to touch the lives of all those around her, even if it was just for a short time. And she’s still touching lives in a very positive way.

Christmas Time

Today, I turned another year older. It was a good day. I got some wonderful gifts and enjoyed a lovely dinner out with friends, which I desparately needed. Not the dinner, but the fun with friends.

Since losing Dori at the end of May, I’ve basically been running on fumes. Well, that and food. I’ve gained so much weight. Maybe I thought if I comforted myself with comfort food, it would some how makes things feel better. I think the only void food has filled is my waistline, hips and thighs. It certainly hasn’t had any kind of “healing” per say, but it helped at that moment I guess.

Now that I’m finally getting some time off of work, it’s all hitting me. Everything reminds me of Dori. Just as it was that first Christmas after we lost Kim, there are so many memories and items that trigger those memories…the only difference is that I knew Dori all of my life, where I had only known Kim the last 10 years of her life. Still a long time to miss her horribly, but not nearly the number of memories I have with Dori.

Childhood memories of Christmas’s spend with Dori in our bedroom we shared growing up and of singing carols later in life to shared moments of joy and sadness within our own family over the years. We lost our father in 1994…my brother-in-law was killed two months before Christmas and a month before his daughter was to become a year old. All very bittersweet holidays, but we got through them.

Each Christmas card we receive this year is filled with the usual holiday greetings of peace and good health, then I’m thrown by a mention of Dori. It’s not that I’m trying to forget her, it’s just taking me by surprise in these cards and it brings up the sad reminder that she’s no longer with us and reminds me especially, that it was a damn brain aneurysm that caused it.

I won’t be able to watch A CHRISTMAS STORY this year. Too many memories of watching that and making references to it. Maybe next year. I won’t be watching LOVE ACTUALLY either. Amongst all the funny story lines in the moving, there is also one that is quite sad and I’m not sure I want to deal with it just now. Maybe next year. I’m not even sure about National Lampoon’s CHRISTMAS VACATION. Dori and I saw that in the movie theater when it first came out. We weren’t that old, but found ourselves extremely annoyed by all the rude teenagers in the sold-out theater. LOL

I AM listening to Christmas carols and enjoying that. I know Dori loved carols and it doesn’t make me sad, except to hear THE BELL THAT COULDN’T JINGLE because I know she loved that song and JESU is hard to listen to because she used to play that on the piano.

Dave and I are not going to NY for Christmas this year, like we did last year. The family Christmas I craved last year was wonderful and a memory I’ll always cherise because it was the last time I saw Dori in person. The gifts for family back in NY were packed and sent back home. I usually made all of those arrangements with Dori and we always shared a ton of emails back and forth on what to get everyone and sending lists back and forth. Not much list swapping going on this year and we’re all fine with that. It will be a simple, quiet Christmas this year. It just has to be.

As I was helping Dave find some gift bags, I ran across many of the gift bags we were given last year and saw many bags with Dori’s handwriting on them. Again…another sad, and unexpecteed reminder. I know the day will come when that sort of thing will make me smile rather than feel sad, but for this year, the sadness will prevail. It has to….we’re all still greiving. It’s a part of the damn process. Another loss…another brain aneurysm.

I keep waiting for a sign from Dori to snap out of it, stop eating crap, and take better care of myself, but she and I both know that it’s hard to lose a loved one and it’s harder for those left behind to adjust to life again. Perhaps the new year will yield better results for my health and there will be no more issues with my own brain aneurysms. I still have to live with those on a daily basis. Lately, I don’t want anything to do with aneurysms, or talking about them, but I know opening up about the strain, stress and ordeals with others is helpful. I’m not sure how helpful this blog entry will be for anyone ┬ábut I needed to get it out, so thank you for allowing me the space and bandwidth to do so.

My hope for anyone whose life has been effected by a brain aneurysm finds comfort, guidance, and strength for the New Year. I know I’ll be asking God for all of the above for my own family. God Bless and Merry Christmas.