Friends and family had warned me that when the one-year anniversary of Lisa’s death arrived, I might be a hot mess. One friend advised me to avoid scheduling anything of importance during the week approaching the date. I did the best I could with that, keeping my evenings free and committing only to Kyle’s first karate tournament. It was scheduled for November 3rd. Originally I had planned to skip even that, but I came around. I am alive, after all. No sense hurting Kyle, even subtly, with my absence.
After the tournament I drove out to the cemetery with a blanket, a beach chair, some Diet Coke and a snack, and my notebook. I left flowers at her grave and sat there for about an hour and a half, watching the Notre Dame vs. Pitt football game on my phone. It was sort of like watching it with her. Her particular resting place is situated in a sort of secluded section of the “memorial park,” so unless you count the dozens of buried people around, I was alone.
So I talked to Lisa. For the first time in the year since she’s been gone. I sat in my beach chair sipping my Diet Coke and talked to my dead friend as if she was sitting right next to me.
Like a crazy person.
But in a way, her sudden disappearance from my life has left me a tiny bit crazy. I operate and function like a normal person with the exception of several instances that I have documented here that seem admissible for the grieving. Just when I think I’m processing my grief in a healthy way, I find myself behaving badly toward the living. I can forgive myself those things…because I’m grieving. But then again, this is America. We only make so much time for people to get over it.
I told Lisa about the things she’s missing. Notre Dame’s first undefeated run since 1993. The election. Hurricane Sandy. The sale of her house. Our mutual friend’s long-awaited pregnancy. Her mother’s injured leg. (Which is better now.) I told her about how I have made her death something that happened to me, and that I know I have to release her. I pictured her face and what her reaction would be. That daydream included her tripping over something and laughing her barking laugh to break the tension.
Her gravestone remained silent. I told her I wished she would be a ghost and appear to me so at least we could have a conversation. Stranger things have happened to people, right? It might as well happen now. But nothing happened, unless you count the sudden perfect, cool breeze that broke up the bright heat of midday on the top of that hill. But I don’t.
After I exhausted myself of things I wanted to say, I simply sat. I wrote in my notebook, I read my book, I ate my snack. I poured a little bit of Diet Coke into the ground. It seemed fitting.
As I left I glanced one more time at the grave marker, and what struck me the hardest was what was missing. ”Wife. Mother.” Those are two titles Lisa would have loved to have. I’m so sad for her that her life was cut short before she could add them to her description. I’m so sad for her. This did happen to her, even if we are the ones left behind to deal with the Lisa-shaped hole in our lives.
This is a message from Lisa’s best-friend-for-life Vassie Leigh. They grew up together and remained best friends. Vassie Leigh asked me to share, and I hope you will help:
A year ago on November 3rd, my dear friend Dr. Lisa Kelly, suddenly lost her life to a pulmonary embolism. Lisa was a devoted daughter, sister, aunt, friend and godmother. She battled cancer twice and in an effort to rehabilitate, began participating in triathlons. She spent almost 20 years in the study of medicine and became a talented and well respected Neonatologist. Lisa worked at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles as an Attending Physician. She published numerous articles in her field and did research with Children’s Hospitals around the country to determine how and where best outcomes could be achieved in Neonatal Medicine. Lisa participated in numerous medical mission trips around the world treating patients and educating medical professionals in best practices.
For those of us who knew her, this loss is not just the loss of a friend or a relative or co-worker, but a huge loss for the medical community for which she served, the tiniest of children – premature babies.
At the time of her funeral, a fellowship program in her honor was announced by her department head, Dr. Seri, at CHLA. With the blessing of Lisa’s parents, Ray and Cindy Kelly, I would like to announce that the Dr. Lisa Kay Kelly Fellowship Training Program in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has formally been established. Lisa was wholeheartedly committed to research and education and a devoted mentor to the upcoming generation of medical leaders in the field of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine. This Fellowship will allow a young doctor following in Lisa’s footsteps to have the financial backing to go further in accomplishing the amazing work that she did.
The renowned Fellowship Training Program in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine at CHLA is among the largest neonatal training programs in the nation, educating 15 fellows at a time, many of whom present research at prestigious conferences throughout the year.
As we approach the November 3 anniversary of Lisa’s passing, many of us are reflecting on the unbelievable loss that we felt and shared a year ago. For myself, I lost my “sister” and friend of over 30 years. It felt like I lost a physical part of me. I think every day of her and how she touched my life. I did not want this anniversary to come and go without letting all of the people who loved her know that this loving gesture from her co-workers has indeed become a reality.
Please consider joining me to make a gift to The Dr. Lisa Kelly Fellowship in her loving memory. Your gift will help cover costs associated with research, traveling to conferences and other fellowship program expenses – alleviating some of the financial demands on these incredibly accomplished young doctors. I have been assured that this donation will go directly to the Dr. Lisa Kelly Fellowship and no other operating fund of the hospital.
Checks can be made payable to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (in the memo, please indicate “In Memory of Dr. Lisa Kelly) and sent to:
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Attn: Carly Stewart
4650 Sunset Boulevard, MS 29
Los Angeles, CA 90027
You can also make a donation by credit card on the Children’s Hospital website. Under “I would like my donation directed to:” please type “Dr. Lisa Kelly Fellowship Program” in the “Other” field. Please also indicate Lisa’s name in the “tribute” section.
Any further questions may be directed to Carly Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 323-361-1747.
I thank you for your consideration of this Fellowship Program in Lisa’s Memory. Feel free to share this information with anyone who knew Lisa. Please continue to pray for her family, her colleagues at CHLA and all of those who loved her so dearly.
In loving memory of my friend through life,
Last weekend I was invited by Disney to see a preview of Wreck-It Ralph and I went with both kids. It was shown in 3D so they looked hilarious in their glasses as they watched the film. Before the feature itself, there was a short animated film called Paperman which was simple and elegant and very lovely. I hope it’s shown at every viewing of Wreck-It Ralph so you can see it in your town. I will confess that I shed a tear, or two.
Wreck-It Ralph itself was a lot of fun for me to watch because I grew up in the 80′s and Ralph’s 30-year anniversary of being in a video game might as well have been my own celebration of a lifetime of digital good times. One Christmas, Santa (my parents) brought us an Atari 2600 game console. My brother and I spent every possible second after that playing Pitfall and River Raid and Missile Command and Asteroids and whatever other game cartridges we wound up with over time. We acquired “joystick thumb” and obsessed over the games. Before that we went to the arcade on special occasions or when my mother got sick of us and my father took us there to get us out of the house. Those were magical, magical days.
Nothing has changed. My own kids are obsessed with, at turns, the TV, the Wii, and their DS handheld games. It’s an obsession we have to manage, as parents, because the games can get pretty consuming. I prefer to use them as rewards or withhold them as punishments, but since I have a love of video games myself, I don’t mind playing with them if it’s a game I enjoy (current favorite is still LEGO Star Wars).
While I enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph (particularly Jane Lynch as the tough-as-nails military commander from a different game and the appearance of poor, gameless Q-Bert), the kids absolutely loved it. When Ralph leaves his game and enters a first-person shooter whose mission is to obliterate viral robot bugs, the movie gets really loud, and that’s when Brady climbed into my lap and had me cover his ears. He kept taking off his 3D glasses so that he “wouldn’t see” the scary parts.
But the scary parts weren’t too scary, and there was no gore and only cartoon violence. With Sarah Silverman as the supporting actress (voice of Vanellope Von Schweez) there is plenty of snark, but the humor never really gets too adult for my comfort. I would definitely recommend this movie as a family viewing experience if you have kids who are not too sensitive to loud noise, and bonus if you have a gamer in the crowd. Wreck-It Ralph opens November 2.
This could just be a little piece about grocery store fish.
Not everything I write has to be a well-crafted essay that has meaning attached to it, or emotion, or something big to say. Nor does it have to be a slice of life with two little boys, or a witty commentary on an element of pop culture. Or an informative feature about a product I use, or have used, or tried and will never use again.
The way my brain works lately, everything means something. We’re almost at the one-year anniversary of Lisa’s death, after all, and I am mentally dragging my feet through all that I do.
I’m okay right now at this very moment. But I can’t get the salmon out of my head. Or rather, “The Salmon of Regret,” which I named it on Monday night, and I can’t shake from my mind. Once I took a writing class at UCLA and the instructor often got hung up on certain lines or titles in our stories. When we crafted a particularly pleasing group of words, he would repeat them impulsively at odd points in the class. One woman’s story was about a wedding. During the planning, the mother-in-law suggested that one of the dinner entrees be salmon. ”It’s a good crossover fish,” she said. After the woman read her story aloud the teacher kept muttering “It’s a good crossover fish,” during the class and smiling to himself. That writer probably got an A on her story.
The Salmon of Regret.
When weekends are hectic I run out of gas easily and I talk myself out of grocery shopping on Sunday, which is the ideal day for me to do it. If I don’t go on Sunday, the week just gets weird. We run out of lunch-fixings too soon. I get all flustered about what’s for dinner. I dread going back to the store, even as I know it must be done.
But last weekend I spent Saturday night at the Hotel Wilshire with my dear friend and travel blogger Melanie Wynne Waldman. I came home in the afternoon on Sunday, exhausted after so much eating and relaxing. I snuggled with the kids, and the hours just went on and I could not bring myself to do anything.
And so it was that I found myself on a Monday night, late, after Stewart came home from his late evening at work, in the aisles at our local Ralph’s, a place that likes to torture me by playing 80′s pop music and wistful love songs as I shop. I was already a bit off, being there on a Monday, but at least in our town most people are home by that time of night, and it was relatively empty. I could shop in Debbie-Gibson-laced peace.
I have been using E Meals’ Clean Eating Plan for the last month or so. Perhaps you’ve seen my annoying Super Mom photos of lovely home-cooked meals on Instagram, where every snapshot shows a faux-perfect life.
This week’s menu challenged me with a dish that called for a 2 lb. salmon steak, fresh figs, and chopped pistachios. This Ralph’s does not stock fresh figs. The pistachios were $9.15 for a small can. And the salmon – well, I’m not really a seafood lover, so I’m not accustomed to buying fish. It was odd-looking and also very expensive. I’m stubborn in my grocery pursuits, however, and loathe to go to a different store later in the week, so I rationalized the salmon down to under a pound and told myself I would halve the recipe and pop into Trader Joe’s for the figs another time (Trader Joe’s is acceptable because then I get to reward myself with my favorite wines).
I put a small salmon steak in the cart. It was the least bad-looking of the pre-wrapped salmon steaks at the fish counter, unmanned at this hour. I moped through the rest of my food-gathering excursion, distracted by Billy Ocean on the speakers and a growing sense of unease. That less-than-one-pound salmon steak was going to cost me over $7.00. It probably wouldn’t even taste good. Was I really going to pick up the fresh figs and find cheaper pistachios elsewhere?
The salmon haunted me. I kept looking at its fake pink flesh as I tossed other items in the cart. Cream cheese salmon. Eggs salmon. Milk salmon. Red wine SALMON.
And here’s where I will tell you why this is meaningful, why I can’t shake the story until I write it here. I’m not even going to find a clever segue or literary device to make it seamless.
At the end of September I gave notice to my main client, CBS Local Los Angeles, and quit my job. I basically gave 36 days notice because of my contract and wanting to tie things up in a neat little bow on October 31. That is today, and now that my last day is here, I don’t exactly regret it, but I’m suddenly nervous about all the free time I’ll have without that job. I won’t get cool invitations to do fun amazing things and report about them. I won’t get to work with my group of writers, 32 and counting, who have helped me make funky little ideas into stories that make me very proud.
Since I gave notice I have had only a few moments when I wondered if it is the right move – for my family, for our budget, and for me. I’m fairly confident that the answer is yes, but I’ll know for sure only when I venture out from behind that steady gig to spend less time obsessed with work and more time on my life. I certainly (hopefully) won’t need to spend Monday nights at Ralph’s, wondering if the salmon will poison us all.
When I finally got through my list and reached the cashier. I mustered up my courage and looked him in the eye.
“Harry,” I said.
“Well, hello!” Harry was surprised because I’ve never addressed him by his first name.
“I’ve never asked you for anything, Harry. Tonight I’m asking you to send back this salmon. I’ve regretted it since the moment I put it in my cart.”
I handed him the blue styrofoam plastic wrapped package. The pinkish meat was soft in my hand.
“Well.” Harry looked at me, and then down at the salmon in my hand, and took the package. This was normally not such a profound transaction.
“If you have any second thoughts about the salmon at all, by all means, it must go,” he said, and he flung it behind him without a glance. It landed gracefully on the conveyor belt in the next register, which was closed. And then he started ringing up the rest of my items.
The next night I made vegetarian burritos for dinner.
Salmon photo by katzenfinchPin It