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Uncategorized

Safe at Home

Nyle Kardatzke

WSN: Widow-Man with Dr. Nyle Kardatzke

“Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

My wife’s presence in our home gave me companionship but also safety. Now that she’s gone, I have to think more about my safety.

“Safety in numbers” is a common adage that does not apply to you as it once did. Your wife was a safety net for you. She probably warned if you drove too fast or did not notice the traffic slowing ahead of you. Around the house, she may have been concerned about dangers that you dismissed casually, like climbing ladders or fixing electrical circuits. Even if you are younger, maybe under 70, hazards that were present while your wife was there are now more serious.

You are more vulnerable to home hazards right now than ever: you are in a state of grief, you are living alone for the first time in years, and you are older than you once were.

Parents and grandparents take care to “baby-proof” their homes for infants and small kids. They look out for choking hazards, cleaning chemicals, and open electrical outlets. Older people, too, can turn ordinary things into hazards: leaving stove burners on, climbing on chairs to change light bulbs, tripping on staircases or rugs, overloading electrical circuits, losing track of medicines taken, and forgetting to lock the house.

You may need to “widow-man proof” or “elder-proof” your home. Think about medicines, sharp objects, stairs, fire, floods, windstorms, blizzards, rodents, electrical failures, and burglars. Many things can go wrong at home.

Five months before my wife died, she abruptly had a home security system installed. We knew of no active threat to our home, but she felt better with an alarm system armed at night. After she died, I found the alarm system reassuring, and I set it every night for several months. The alarm was something my wife did to take care of me after she was gone.

A widow friend fell in her unheated garage a few years ago during cold weather. She might have died of hypothermia if she had not made a practice of keeping her cell phone with her at all times, even at home. She called for help and was rescued in a matter of minutes. When I go to my basement, I always have my cell phone with me, just in case.

Some of the best security measures are ancient and time-honored: family, neighbors, and friends. Keep in touch with your kids, friends, and neighbors. Let them know your habits well enough to ask questions if something changes. A widowed cousin of mine fell in her kitchen and lay helpless for twenty-six hours, unable to reach her home phone or cell phone. A neighbor “happened” to come to water her plants in the yard, thinking she was out of town, and that neighbor saved her life.

Think of your “lifeline” people who may save you from misery or death by their regular communications with you. Consider a Lifeline or Life Alert button to call for help in an emergency. Think about your surroundings, and then let yourself be at peace.

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Look for Dr. Kardatzke’s insights to appear in his column named after his book, WIDOW-MAN, every other Wednesday. You can write Dr. Kardatzke at thewidowman@gmail.com

Categories
Greif Memory Moving Forward Uncategorized

Holding onto the Memories

Chris Brandt

WSN: Day by Day by Chris Brandt

At first, I felt I wanted a small “shrine” of my late wife. It had only been a few days since she passed, and I wanted to have a visual element to view. I put a 5”x7” picture, her obituary, her last communion bottle, and her box of ashes on top of the fireplace mantle. These items were arranged well and looked nice in their prospective spots. For a few days, I felt comfort in looking at the items, and I found it memorialized her in a sense that made me feel a continued closeness.

As time passed, I started to feel less comfortable with the shrine. For reasons unknown, the shrine would make me feel sad. Not only would there be sadness, but at times, there would also be uneasiness. I never gave it much thought and assumed this was a part of a natural grief process. Later, I figured out that there was no such thing as a natural process. I learned that most of everyone’s approach to grief was unique to his or her situation. There was no schedule of grieving; there was no right way or wrong way. Lastly, I learned that it was okay to make changes and feel as comfortable as possible.

Once I came to terms with my feelings, I let myself grieve in the way that suited me. By doing this, I started to think of the memories when I looked at the items I had set up. I began to talk to the picture. To me, talking to my wife’s picture was okay to do, and it made things feel a little better. I started to feel more at ease and saw the items in a different light. Remembering the good and bad memories as part of a process that I needed then and still need to this day. The memories are there for the taking. Our wives were our loves and a big part of our lives. They will live on in our hearts through the memories we created together.

It wasn’t until recently that tears stayed at bay as I looked upon the fireplace mantle. Now I do it and often find myself smiling. I made a conscious effort to recall the good memories first, and at times, those fond memories are the only ones I remember for a while. It wasn’t uncommon to make her laugh as often as I could. Those are the memories that I think of first. We all have happy memories of our spouses in our minds; try keeping them at the forefront of our minds. Who knows, you may find yourself smiling a little more often. Be strong, my brothers.

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You can reach Chris at brandt5@hotmail.com

Categories
Grief/Dispair Loneliness Uncategorized

I Miss Us

LArry Ahrens

It’s another Wednesday night in the summer. I’m just bored. Too hot to be outside here in the desert Southwest. I’m not hungry for dinner. TV isn’t interesting, and I’m pacing the floor.
I can pretty much assume that most of you still talk to your late wife. I do every day. So tonight, I went over to her photo and took out a little of my boredom on her. Not that I’m blaming her for my doldrums. Not at all. But I just verbally expressed to her that if she were here, I wouldn’t be bored. I don’t ever remember feeling the slightest bit lost or bored when we were together.
Then I blurted out in a raised voice, “I miss us!”
At once, it occurred to me that the phrase “I miss us” probably has a lot written and expressed about it. Sure enough, a quick
Google search takes me into a whole world of “I miss us” memes, affirmations, poems, and the like.
There’s also a heartfelt song by Kenny Loggins called “I Miss Us,” and I suggest you listen to it. Just have a few Kleenex at hand. I found one graphic that reads:
Someone asked me if I missed you.
I didn’t answer.
I just closed my eyes and walked away.
And I whisper: So much.
I wish I had written that. It’s so raw, deep, and emotional in just four simple lines.
Just saying the words “I miss us” out loud has already relieved my lonely evening. It feels good to declare it and express it. It feels good to see that many words have been devoted to what I’m feeling tonight. Suddenly I don’t feel as alone, which leads me to make this point; If you’re still talking with your wife – congratulations. You’re quite normal. Dare I say you’re quite perfect in the way you express your grief for her. Poets and songwriters can undoubtedly help us find the words that show what we’re going through. But the simple words “I miss us,” said by you and me, convey just as much meaning and purpose as anything else.
I feel much better now. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go talk with Susan and tell her that she inspired me again – just like she always did when she was here with me


Larry Ahrens is a radio (KDAZ 96.9 FM) and television (KCHF-TV) personality in Albuquerque, New Mexico where his show, “Coffee and Conversation” is broadcast-ed. Larry’s articles appears every other Thursday, right here, on WSN-MO. You can send private messages to him on Facebook.
To hear Kenny Loggins song, “I Miss Us,” go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSEuH281kZE

Categories
Finding Purpose Giving Support Healing Moving Forward Uncategorized

All Dressed Up and Nobody to Love

Terrell Whitener
If you have followed my writings over the years, you may know that I am a glass half full type of person. Long ago, I learned to own what yours to earn and move forward with life. The year 2020 has been unlike any other I have experienced in my 63 years on this earth. I probably have spent more time reflecting on my life more profoundly than any previous year. There is perhaps no other aspect that I have reflected on more than taking a deep dive into the current “state of my own private union.” Let me explain that statement. As a person who works from home, still follows strict social distancing protocols, and lives alone, 2020 could have created many challenges. First, I am pleased to be employed. A little over a year, I was “unretired” by a great opportunity that came my way. Returning to the workforce gave me a nice balance of intellectual challenges and social interactions with others. Returning to work also made the time that I spent solitarily at home far less than without the opportunity of going to the office. Then came COVID. Just when I had a new rhythm to my life, I am thrust back into solitary confinement. I am very thankful that over the years, I have made my home a place that is appointed with most of the amenities I need to entertain myself. While I miss seeing family and dining at restaurants, I am not having as tough of time adjusting as many people I know are having. I have taken a deeper dive into listening to more music, turning off the TV, participating in zoom chats and meetings, and have even indulged in ordering my groceries online. But as human nature goes, I often wonder what it would be like to have someone to share this more intimate of times. I am, however, very happy to report that I have not jumped into a relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship. I am so very happy for those of you that have found love again. I will continue to live vicariously through you until my lightning bolt falls out of the sky! While standing by in wonder, I have also grown to appreciate the relationship I am forging with myself. I have engaged in a deeper level of self-care, more generous than I have provided for in years. I have contributed to a soon-to-be-released book, and I have spent more time dealing with my health. I have discovered I spend too much time on social media, but I have learned to live without attending baseball games. Any travel plans have been placed on hold, but I have resolved to check travel off my bucket list as soon as I can safely do so. I attend church services online, and I have created a very primitive home gym. I cannot help but wonder what it would have been like sharing this time with my Robyn. It would have been tough on her, as she was a very social person, and while she loved me, she did not like me underfoot excessively. It would have been a challenge, to be sure. While the title of this article is All Dressed Up and Nobody to Love, it may have started with thoughts tinged with a bit of melancholy; it has been transformed into a story of empowerment and discovery. I have realized in this process, that despite the obvious love that I have for family and friends, I have discovered a new love, myself. Meanwhile, while fate takes its time in revealing itself, I am going to continue to concentrate on growing with my new love, me! As always, I welcome your feedback. I also continue to be grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you all. Until next time. __________________________________________ Terrell Whitener is an author, motivational speaker, and coach. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Terrell is the author of The First 365, Learning to Live After Loss. Terrell can be reached at my newly redesigned thedebriefgroup365.com; there you will find all my social media contacts or through the Widow Support Network.
Categories
Maintaining a Home Moving Forward Uncategorized

A Clean House

A Clean House

Suzanne used to tell me that she enjoyed cleaning the house. She would say, “I don’t mind cleaning the house if you will… (insert chore here).”

Over this past weekend, I celebrated the first anniversary of moving into my own house. I moved in four days after the first death anniversary, so it was a pretty eventful time.

At that time, I also owned a rental property here in my town that housed a family of people I knew. The family included my regular house cleaner, her husband, and their two sons.

They used to come to clean my house twice a month. It was great for me because I didn’t have to do much. And the house was regularly clean, tidy, fresh, and relaxing.

Then, after CoVID hit, they had to stop coming. Now, they no longer live in my rental house, and they can no longer do the cleaning here. My regular cleaner has been ill. She had cancer a number of years ago, and although I do not know the whole of the story, I believe it has returned.

Since March, I have been responsible for cleaning my own home. It’s the first time that I have indeed been in charge of cleaning the whole of a house. And, in all honesty, I cannot for the life of me figure out what Suzanne saw in it. It’s a major pain!

So, today I have a new cleaner coming. It is a milestone for me since I have not had anyone who I haven’t known come to the property to clean. It will be something new and different.

Back when Suzanne was ill, I tried to get a cleaner to come to the house, so it would be clean and tidy when she came back from chemo and other doctor’s appointments. Right now, I would be overjoyed to have that opportunity again. I would love for someone to come and clean the house so that Suzanne didn’t have to even if it meant she had to find another chore to choose for her to perform.

But like the house itself, and my new life in it, this will never happen. I am in the first home that I have ever owned without her. And it’s the first where I have my own cleaner and keep the house as I want it, not like Suzanne would have had it (it’s far too messy too much of the time for her liking). But still, I wonder if she would have liked to keep cleaning this house had she and I moved here together.

Would she still want to clean the house if she knew we could afford to have someone come and do it for us instead? Would she prefer to have done it herself, or would she have let someone else do it?

I know her. She would have cleaned before the cleaner came. Suzanne would never let anyone into the house if it were a mess, not even the cleaners. And guess what? I spent last night cleaning and tidying tonight in anticipation of the cleaner coming this morning. Just like Suzanne would have done.

Jeff Ziegler insights appear every two weeks, here on WSN-MO.  You can write to him at Jeff.ziegler@ymail.com. Cell: 1-415-623-8772. Email: jeff.ziegler@ymail.com  LinkedIn Profile URL: http://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffziegler

Categories
Grief/Dispair Healing Uncategorized

Love, Roses and Marilyn Monroe

LArry Ahrens

One of my wife’s favorite books near the end of her life was “Joe and Marilyn” by C. David Heymann. Susan was fascinated by the tumultuous love story between Marilyn Monroe and baseball star Joe DiMaggio. We would often sit out on our patio sipping wine while Susan read several sections of the book to me.

Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were only married for nine months. Joe was very obsessive about her and was by all accounts a very jealous man. The story goes that when Marilyn was filming the movie “The Seven Year Itch,” he was opposed to her shooting that iconic scene where her white dress billowed up over her head while she stood on the subway grate.

Yet through it, all Joe became the one steady influence in her very crazy life. Soon after the divorce, when she got sick once, he was the one next to her at the hospital. They had gotten close again towards the end of her life, and he was the stableman by her side. He wanted to marry her again, but she died an untimely death.

But the one thing my wife Susan loved was the true romantic story behind roses and Marilyn’s life and death. Marilyn was found dead in her house, and there was no family to call their own but him. Joe flew from New York to LA, identified her body, and had a small, private funeral for her. He even designed the headstone. He was inconsolable at the funeral.

Joe was never going to see her again, but he fulfilled a promise. Many years ago, Marilyn had told him that she wanted roses sent to her every week. Joe did so when he honored that promise. From Marilyn’s death in 1962 until he died in 1999, he would send fresh roses to her grave a few times a week. She had said, “Six fresh long-stemmed red roses, three times a week … forever.”

To which my wife said, “Go ahead and send me roses now while I’m alive!” Then she would break into a huge smile, and we would laugh and have more wine.

Through the remaining two years of her life, I did bring her roses many times. I just brought six red roses to her grave yesterday.

For Joe, Marilyn was the love of his life, and till his dying breath, he kept her preserved in his heart. People can only hope that they find a love like that at least once in their life. I am so lucky that I found that kind of love as well.

Joe and Marilyn. Larry and Susan. Our love transcends life and death.

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Larry articles can be found every other Thursday here on WSN-MO. You can send private messages him on Facebook.

Categories
Grief/Dispair Mental/Emotional Health Moving Forward Uncategorized

It is okay to be happy

Chris Brandt

Have you ever felt guilty or maybe even startled at a smile on your face? If you have, there is no reason to feel any shame. Let me explain. As my wife and I battled her disease, there where many times that I felt guilty about being able to do things she could not. I will not go into detail, but the guilt I felt was intense, and it was painful. I thought that once she passed, the guilt would pass with her. I was wrong. A few weeks after she passed, I was having a conversation with a friend from high school. He and I have always been the kind of friends that could pick up where we left off even after not talking for months. He has always had a happy perspective on life. Well, after talking for a few minutes, something happened, and it was startling. I smiled and laughed! I caught myself. I will never forget that moment because it was a significant event in my new life. I asked myself, “What are you doing?”

I wanted to share my smile and laugh story for a couple of reasons. It took much thought and self-reflection to conclude that it was okay to smile and laugh. Besides, the guilt I felt needed to be addressed. Please understand, when a widower is freshly dealing with their loss, these feelings are a major concern and not digested and proceeded the same way they are after a few months after the loss. At that time, I felt guilt, and for me, I think I know why. I felt that it was far too soon to smile and laugh.

One thing is for sure during or journey of grief, and I feel all of us brothers will agree, there is not a set time frame for any of this process. It is okay that some things take longer for others, and other things happen quicker for others. It is a wonderful and blessed reality that we are unique and deal with certain things better than others. The reason for this being a good thing is because we are band together and can use our unique abilities to help those that are in need in those areas. Nonetheless, one thing is for sure, if you find yourself smiling or laughing, don’t feel guilty, cherish that moment. There is no guilt in happiness.

-Chris Brandt

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Please welcome Chris to our outstanding team of columnist. Chris lost his wife Christine on 1/13/20. He can be reached at brandt5@hotmail.com.

Categories
Grief/Dispair Uncategorized

A Widow’s Perspective: Grief Talk

Cynthia

The Phantom Spouse-myth or reality? It has been said, “Losing a spouse is like losing a limb.”; let’s explore the validity of this statement. Drawing from my personal experience, the similarities are uncanny. Both situations leave you without something or someone vital to your survival; that is unequivocal.

After an amputation, an amputee continues to feel pain/sensations in the missing limb; it appears this pain comes from the spinal cord and brain. During an MRI or PET scan, portions of the brain that had been neurologically connected to the nerves of the amputated limb show activity when the person feels phantom pain.

After an amputation, areas of the spinal cord and brain lose input from the missing limb and adjust to this detachment in unpredictable ways. The result can trigger the body’s most basic message that something is not right: pain. Studies also show that after an amputation, the brain may remap that part of the body’s sensory circuitry to another part of the body. In other words, because the amputated area is no longer able to receive sensory information, the information is referred elsewhere—from a missing hand to a still-present cheek, for example. (Mayo Clinic)

After losing my spouse, I continued to sense his presence. I expected him to walk into a room, to be sitting next to me, and sharing moments we would normally spend together. I expected him to show up when I needed help. I expected him to answer the phone when I called. I expected him to call me daily at 3 p.m. as he had done for years. I expected him to be next to me on the treadmill at the gym. For a long time, my heart hurt while my head tried to process the idea that he was gone. Eventually, my head came to terms with that fact. I stopped expecting him to be there or seeing him in familiar places. But, my heart knew something was not right; that hurt. Trying to function with a gnawing awareness of a void in my life – that was painful. 

My heart is having difficulty coming to terms with what my head already knows – he is gone forever. The phantom spouse is real; slowly, his image fades. Someday, when my heart and head reconcile with each other – that image will be gone. But, I have to learn to walk again – using everything I have to compensate for what I have lost, knowing that each step will hurt like crazy, but acknowledging the only way out is through the pain. So reach for your “crutch” – whatever it may be, and WALK AGAIN.

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Cynthia Mascarenhas was widowed on February 4, 2018, when she lost her husband of 29 years, Franz Mascarenhas, to a sudden heart attack. Following the passing of Franz, Cynthia founded Walk With A Widow, a non-profit organization whose primary focus if healing the hearts of widows by giving love and hope to widows around the world. As one would expect, much of the material crafted for widows can also be of help to widowers.

Professionally, Cynthia is a registered nurse and an independent legal nurse consultant. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Orlando Chapter of Legal Nurse Consultants. Cynthia has served on various committees for the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants.

Cynthia’s insightful articles will appear periodically here on WSN-MO. You can contact Cynthia at her website, www.walkwithawidow.com

Categories
Finding Purpose Giving Support Healing Learning new skills Maintaining a Home Moving Forward Uncategorized

“A rose by any other name”

Jim Winner

Joyce was always my biggest cheerleader. Many years ago, she encouraged me to become a Master Gardener. The process was a great experience and I learned a lot. Joyce loved our garden. She was proud of my work, and I delighted in creating a beautiful space for us. In the past several weeks, I’ve spent countless hours in that special place. The work of cleaning, weeding, planting and pruning has been good therapy. I enjoy my time in the garden.

At the end of March, I gave my roses a hard pruning. I removed the dead or weak branches and left 5 or 6 of the strongest canes on each plant. I mixed in some new amended soil around the base of the roses, added some feed and nutrients and began the waiting process. As I look at the roses today, I see plants that are healthy. They’re growing, reaching upwards, and if I do say so myself…are looking pretty good.

Like my roses, we all got a hard pruning when our wives passed away. We didn’t ask for it, but a big part of our life no longer existed. We found that part of our life was removed from us. The longer we were together the more of us got pruned away. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? A part of us dies with our spouses, but a large part of us is left to renew, recover, regrow and restore.

After a pruning, no rose grows back to be the same plant it was. Canes and new branches grow in different directions. The shapes and sizes are different. The plant may produce more or less flowers depending on many environmental factors. Pests or disease may thwart and impede the health of the plant. With the right care and attention (and a little bit of luck) roses can come back after hard pruning to once again be healthy, vibrant, and full of life. So, can we.

Compare our journeys to these roses. We have endured a difficult and dark winter season. We have had to suffer through our own hard and undoubtedly severe pruning. Here is the good news. We survived. New growth can and does begin to emerge. Hopefully, the deep roots we have shared will keep us strong and hold us steady. Our loved ones, while no longer with us, will always be a part of who we are. They will always help to shape us. Perhaps our feeding and nourishment comes from this group of men. Certainly, our friends, our families, our faith and many other sources of support and resources are available to us. Keep yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually fed. Stay positive. Keep the pests and diseases away. With time, we can all grow again. We won’t be the same men we were. Personally, I hope to become a better man.

No, I’m not saying any of us are as pretty as a rose…and like a rose, I am sure we can all be a bit prickly and thorny from time to time. It is my hope and prayer that you will join me in believing that even the hardest unwanted pruning can create meaningful and healthy new growth for all of us. 

May we all bloom, dear Brothers.

Categories
Uncategorized

Falling Backwards

Falling Backwards

Over the last week, I have been hit by several large waves of grief. It has been a long time since I have felt like this.

First, I want to talk about triggers and what I think kicked it off for me, so I’m starting with a bit of a rant here.

Maybe the trigger was the fact that many places are starting to reopen after sheltering in place for COVID-19, and I fear we are about to revert to the type of “normal” we were experiencing prior to the pandemic. If so, then to me, this means we have missed an opportunity. Moreover, the bigger trigger to me is the lack of soul in this country. While there have been so many beautiful stories of people and communities coming together to care for each other, others have shown such contempt and selfishness (and totally inappropriate) behavior despite how much love and care has been shown by many others.

Right now, I feel like the backlash movement (that has started in many parts of the country) is indicative of the way too many Americans feel. It terrifies me that it has only arisen in this country—no other civilized country has experienced armed mobs on their city and state building steps demanding they reopen for the sake of the economy. And our leadership has failed to quell the backlash and these mobs are putting people at risk for the sake of the economy.

In my overactive, grief stricken, triggered mind, I hold our leaders accountable because each and every member of congress and executive has sworn an oath to protect and uphold the Constitution—which specifically states, “WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in order to create more perfect union” and not, “We the economy of the United States…”.

Maybe I was triggered after I watched “After Life” with Ricky Gervais. If you haven’t seen it, I would recommend watching (it’s on Netflix). It will undoubtedly help you to understand the mind of a widower like me (although he does do and say things to people that I would never imagine myself doing or saying).

Or, maybe it was watching the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge (from home) version of the Foo Fighter’s “Times Like These” that was released last week. It is one of my all-time favorite songs, and this rendition brought me (and many others) to tears.

Maybe it was just good old-fashioned grief. I was missing Suzanne and I wanted her back. These thoughts and that sense of longing happens a great deal more than I usually acknowledge.

Whatever was the trigger, it made me start to experience this life in a way I have not done in a long time. It has made me say things to myself I would not have imagined saying a few months ago, it has made me feel things I no longer want to feel, and it has compelled me to do things I have not contemplated in a long time.

How did I feel? Frustrated, angry, fearful, longing, missing, empty, sad, abandoned, confused, depressed, devastated, disillusioned, distant and so many other things all at once…

It was almost embarrassing. Over these last few months, I have been far more energetic and fulfilled than I have been in a long time. This bout of grief felt like I was falling backwards.

I was frightened. It was hard for me to feel the feelings, and I was doing my best to avoid the pain. I did not want to be in that space. I no longer want that level of heartache and heartbreak. It’s almost unbearable pain.

So, I lay on the floor of my office last week and I cried. I shouted. I cursed. I told myself it was okay that I am not okay, but the feelings of guilt and the feelings of anger will not change my circumstances.

While much of the time, I am and remain hopeful about my life and about us as a society, the triggers that drove me to feel the way I did last weekend were simply signals to me that things are not always going to work the way I hope. That there will be times when I will know bitterness and disappointment. I will feel like I let myself down (and others).

But the key thing is, I know I can do better and even if it’s a matter of taking a tiny baby step forward and seeing the positivity and being grateful for the tiniest of successes, then that is a start. Will I always be able to overcome these bouts of grief? To quote Brian Wilson, “God Only Knows. And God only knows what I will be without” Suzanne.

(Suzanne Ziegler is pictured below) _________________________________________

Jeff Ziegler can be seen every two weeks here on WSN-MO.  You can write Jeff at jeff.ziegler@ymail.com