Earlier this week, I received some really devastating news. The little boy of a friend and coworker of mine was involved in a terrible accident on Sunday and, as a result, ended up on life support. On Monday evening, his parents made the difficult decision to pull the plug and he passed away cradled in their arms. He was just 3 months older than Mason.
I’ve been so shaken up since I heard, unable to imagine what this mother must be going through. I’ve been picturing her sitting next to his bedside, stroking his hair, grasping on to every possible ounce of hope, only to have to come to terms with the fact that his life would be cut way too short. Thinking of her as she begins this incredibly difficult grief journey has stirred up many memories of my first days post loss.
I’ll never forget that morning when my deepest fear was confirmed. I remember sitting in that cold hospital room next to Ralf, clenching his hand so tightly, wishing with every fiber of my being that he could squeeze back. Constantly whispering “I love you” in his ear, praying he could hear me somehow. I watched as his nurse so carefully and lovingly changed his IV bag, inserted yet another suppository to try to control his fever, placed cooling blankets on his chest and on his legs.
I finally decided to start talking to her, to ask questions. I inquired about the medications she was administering. It was then that I found out Ralf had been off of sedation for over 12 hours. He wasn’t being kept asleep anymore; he wasn’t in a medically induced coma.
He just wasn’t waking up.
I remember closing my eyes, taking a deep breath, and then walking out of the room to round up his parents and brothers to bring them up to speed. I sat at that conference table, looking at each of their pain ridden and shocked faces, my eyes clouded by my own tears.
“We need to start preparing ourselves. ”
The next 48 hours were a blur. Sometimes I still find myself recalling details that I’ve either suppressed or forgotten. I vaguely remember my conversations with the organ transplant team, making the decision to end life support, deciding where we wanted to hold the funeral mass, where he would be buried. All the family members, friends, coworkers, former students and teachers, and complete strangers who passed through that funeral home and attended the service and burial.
One memory that is so vividly emblazoned in my mind is that procession toward the altar of the church, following closely behind Ralf’s casket. The same aisle that I walked down just a little over three years prior, to meet my handsome groom waiting for me with a smile that could not only light up any room, but that illuminated my whole world.
I wish I could offer some form of comfort to my friend and fellow mommy as she endures what will quite possibly be the hardest time of her life. Yet I know, more than most people, that there is really nothing that can be said to ease her pain. My words, although heartfelt and sincere, all seem to fall flat.
Tomorrow is not promised. Not for anyone – no matter how old or young.
Two years and almost two months ago, my heart was shattered into a million pieces. I believed that it would never be whole again; that the pieces could never fit together the way they once did. I had accepted this to be my new reality for the rest of my days. Then, exactly two years ago today, a nurse placed a beautiful, healthy, dark-eyebrowed baby boy on my chest. From the moment I laid eyes on him, heard his voice, smelled his sweet baby smell, I was reawakened.
Not only did he mend the unmendable – he expanded my heart and filled it with more love than I ever imagined possible.
He saved my life.
Watching him grow, witnessing his personality develop, seeing the world through his innocence, is proving to be one of the greatest adventures of my lifetime. Everyday I am amazed by how incredibly smart he is and by how much he resembles his Daddy in Heaven – both in looks and in personality. His smile brightens even the gloomiest days, and the sound of his laughter brings me a joy that I simply cannot describe with words. He makes my heart smile on a daily basis. Even on days when it doesn’t want to, or times when the arrival of the “Terrible Twos” is very evident.
Happiest of birthdays to Mommy’s Little Man! You will never know the depth of my love for you.
Those of you who have followed my story from the beginning know that I unfortunately deleted the original blog site I had created (soaringthroughsorrow.wordpress.com). I made that decision on impulse when I was dealing with some difficult emotions, and I have greatly regretted it. At the beginning of 2017, I decided that I wanted to start writing again and was so disappointed to find out that there was apparently no way to reactivate my site, so I created this new one (alongthebrokenroad.com).
After explaining my story to a very kindhearted soul the other day, he was gracious enough to make an exception for me and…reactivate my old site! I was so thankful and appreciative!
Here’s the bummer, though. With my new site, I am using an upgraded plan that offers more features and the ability to have my “.com” so that the address is easier to find and remember for my readers. Unfortunately, I am unable to do that for soaringthroughsorrow because that domain name is unavailable. So, I’ve decided to stick with this new name.
But here is the great news! The person I spoke to was able to transfer all of my previous followers, both through WordPress and through email, to this new site!
If my words are reaching you for the first time in a very long time, I want you to know how genuinely happy I am to be able to share my journey with you once more – as I continue to soar through sorrow along this broken road called life. I hope you will continue to follow and find inspiration here.
I’ve got lots of thoughts to share and big plans for this year – so stay tuned!
My little man’s second birthday is less than a week away and, needless to say, I almost can’t believe it. Before you have children, you hear experienced moms and dads preach about how quickly time flies, but I don’t think this concept is fully grasped until you actually become a parent yourself. As his birthday approaches, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the type of parent I am and the kind of mother I hope to become.
Any good mother worries constantly about her children. Here’s the good news: if you’re incessantly concerned about being a good parent and doing right by your kids, that’s a pretty good indication that you are in fact already doing both. I worry about providing for Mason, making sure he has access to a good education, teaching him right from wrong, raising him with a strong moral compass that will lead him to one day stand up for what he believes in. These are things all good parents hope to do for their children.
They say the best way to lead is by example. I believe this to be especially true when you are raising children. Lately I’ve been asking myself if I’m providing the best possible examples for my son. When it comes to showing him to keep going no matter what life throws at him, to work hard, to appreciate and be there for the ones who matter most, to speak his mind – I do know I’m doing the best I can. (Maybe a little too well with teaching him to speak his mind because OH MY GOD does this almost-two-year-old know how to make his wishes known!) But what about teaching him to follow his dreams? To take risks in order to achieve something which seems unreachable? To take a leap of faith? To just go out and DO it? Without fear of failure or rejection or humiliation. This is where I sometimes feel I’m failing.
Anyone who knows me personally would probably describe me as responsible – I’ve always been what people call an “old soul”. I did everything the “right” way and in the “right” order – good grades in school, completed my bachelor’s degree in three years, graduated with my master’s degree when I was 23 years old, got married at 25 and then pregnant three years later. And then? My timeline went out the window the day I lost my husband and father to my unborn child. You’d think this would have made me realize that there is no “right way” and that life is too short to avoid doing things out of fear- and in many ways it has. But then there are those things that I continue to make excuses for, those dreams I find endless reasons not to pursue.
I want Mason to look back on his childhood one day and remember having a mom who gave it all she had. I want to do more than just TELL him that he can do or be anything he wants. I want to SHOW him that if you put in the commitment, the passion, the hard work – good things will come. And if it doesn’t turn out the way he hopes, that he will have peace in his heart because he tried with all his might. That’s the kind of mom I want to be.
So, no more excuses. No more self doubt. I’m going to start doing a better job of listening to that voice inside my heart. The one that gives me all these thoughts that I convince myself no one will be interested in reading. The one that reminds me how much I love to sing and share my voice, but that I silence because I’m sure nobody wants to hear me. Time to stop. Not everyone will want to read, not everyone will want to listen – but somebody will. And that’s enough.
I’m committing to taking baby steps toward making my dreams come true.
I won’t know unless I try, right? And neither will you.
With the anniversary of Ralf’s passing just three days away, I felt it would be appropriate to share this again. Words that I wrote from my heart, and that became a tribute to my Forever Hero.
Life goes on. I continue to heal and grow while love takes on new forms. My heart continues to expand and I am abundantly blessed, even after tragedy and loss. Still, I will carry the memory of our love on my skin and in the deepest corners of my heart and soul – all the days of my life.
Those of you that have been following my story from the beginning, when Ralf was in the hospital and I started posting on Facebook, have already read the words below. If you attended his funeral mass, you heard them read so eloquently by my father-in-law before he gave his beautiful eulogy. What you don’t know, however, because I didn’t mention it at the time, is that the “meat” of this post – which you will notice in bold now- was actually written several months before Ralf’s passing. I took them from an email that I wrote to him after we’d had a really stupid fight over something so insignificant – something that couples unfortunately do at times. I realized that I was being ridiculous for being upset with him, and so I wrote my feelings down. When I made the Facebook post, I just added some introductory/concluding remarks and changed all the you’s to he’s.
I am SO happy that I can say Ralf read these words, that he knew how I loved him. I believe he still does and always will. Even on the days when I feel like the grief hits me all over again like a ton of bricks, that brings me so much comfort and peace.
Don’t ever assume the people you love know how you feel about them. TELL them. SHOW them. Love them out loud. Even if they do already know, it’s nice to be reminded.
As I sit here, trying to cope as best I can, I struggle to find the words to express what I am feeling. Everyone tells me how “strong” and “amazing” I am being, but the truth is the only thing that is keeping me going is Ralf’s baby, whose heart is beating inside of me. I am only trying to do what I know Ralf would have done for me.
From the moment I found out that we were having a boy, I kept telling Ralf I had this funny feeling our baby was going to be a little carbon copy of him. I believe that more than ever now. I know so many people have been witness to the genuineness and pure love that was Ralf, but no one will ever understand the level of intimacy he and I shared on all levels. I will not sit here and tell you he was perfect, because perfect does not exist. But I can tell you without a doubt in my mind or an ounce of hesitation that he WAS the ideal man that every woman dreams of finding one day. A man that put his woman’s needs ahead of his own. A man that treated his woman with the utmost respect. Who listened to her and did whatever he could to make her feel understood, even when she sounded crazy to the rest of the world. A man that found beauty and humor in all of his woman’s little quirks and imperfections and did his best to make her feel like the most attractive creature alive (even on days when she felt anything but). A man that owned up to his mistakes and apologized from the bottom of his heart. A man that made his woman feel loved, and appreciated, and cherished every day. Even on the not-so-great days. He was the kind of man that most women never find.
Although I feel he was taken from me too soon, I feel honored and privileged to have been able to share my life with him and call myself his wife. A love like ours is one that comes along rarely, and why God chose me, I will never fully understand. But I am so grateful. Don’t take pity or feel sad for me. I was the lucky one. He was the love of my life and my heart will always be his.
I love you, Ralf. Know that your son will be raised with so much love and support. I will make sure everyday that he knows who his daddy was and what an amazing and loved man he was. I have no doubt that you will be there in spirit every step of the way. Rest easy, in peace and without any pain.
Not sure why, but today I remembered something that happened shortly after Ralf passed away, once Mason had already been born. I was at the nail salon with my brother’s girlfriend and we were having a pretty deep discussion about religion and spirituality. Several minutes into the conversation, my nail technician uninvitedly chimed in and said, “You girls are way too young to be talking about such serious things. You should be worried about going out and having fun.” I casually responded with, “Actually, I’ve been through a lot.” He then gave me a patronizing look and asked, “Oh yeah? What’s a lot?” I guess he was expecting me to say something trivial or insignificant. I did my best to suppress my raging postpartum hormones and said, “My husband died when I was 7 months pregnant.” That poor man did not know what to do with himself. The expression on his face made it quite clear how much he wished the earth could swallow him whole in that moment. He apologized and avoided eye contact for the remainder of that manicure.
We are all guilty of this and more often than not, we don’t even realize we are doing it. I think as human beings we are inquisitive by nature, and unfortunately this sometimes causes us to be quick to judge or assume. It’s not something that is necessarily done maliciously or even consciously. We need to remind ourselves that we never know what someone might be going through. You may think you have an idea and be completely wrong. It’s a lot easier to ask yourself, “What the hell is her problem?” when a stranger doesn’t return your smile or when a quiet coworker keeps to himself and doesn’t mingle with everyone in the office. But that’s just it – you have no idea what he or she might be dealing with. By the same token, we shouldn’t assume that those who always appear to be happy or that seem to have a picture-perfect life are not actually fighting a silent battle. We ALL have our demons.
We need to be less critical of each other. To offer more empathy and less judgment. To understand that we all walk different paths and that even when those paths seem very similar, that we are all individuals who react to situations differently. To stop assuming we know what another person is thinking or feeling or suffering, or to think we know what’s best for them. To offer a listening ear and shoulder to cry on rather than a condescending lecture or unsolicited pep talk. More listening, more love, more understanding. Especially in this world we currently find ourselves in.
Thank goodness for old friends and the power of social media! A fellow Lourdes Academy graduate of the class of 2005 (and now, fellow speech-language pathologist) helped me recover almost all of of my missing posts from my previous site (soaringthroughsorrow) – Annette, you rock!
The entry below was written on April 8, 2015. As I was reading it, I couldn’t help but crack a smile. I realized how far I’ve come and how much life has changed since I wrote this. Life has and continues to go on. Some days are better than others, but all in all, I have been greatly blessed. I continue to move forward just as Ralf would have wanted me to, carrying him in my heart every step of the way. And, I can just imagine Ralf grinning and giving me a big ole “I told you so” – you’ll know what I mean when you get to the third paragraph. I truly believe that he (and another angel I hope to tell you more about later) played a part in making those words come true. I hope you enjoy reading this again as much as I did.
Life Goes On
These last two days have been really rough for me. Aside from still trying to figure out all the finances (I was spoiled by Ralf who took care of all of that – he was, after all, a math and numbers guy), calling insurance companies, and trying to get this house ready for Mason’s arrival (I’ve had many helpers that I cannot thank enough), yesterday was my first regular day back at work. I had a lot of anxiety the night before because it felt like reality was setting in even more deeply. I know that I have two choices in this situation – I can either succumb to depression and close myself off from the world while feeling sorry for myself for the rest of my life, or I can do my best to move forward one breath at a time, one minute at a time. I know Ralf would have wanted me to do the latter. Don’t get me wrong, I have my share of emotional break downs and this morning’s was a doozy. But after my sobbing sessions, I wash my face, center myself as much as humanly possible, and start to attack the next item on my never-ending to-do list.
Those that know me personally know that my family is no stranger to loss. Ralf is the biggest loss that I have ever and most likely will ever experience in my lifetime, but he was not the first. When I was five years old I had a little brother (he was three, almost four years old) who passed away. He suffered from a congenital heart disease and many other health issues during his short life on this earth. Along the way, I’ve also lost my grandfather and my uncle. (Ironically, my uncle passed away unexpectedly in his sleep just a few weeks before Ralf, and Ralf was there to help my Dad load his body into the van that would take him to the crematorium. Never could any of us have imagined that Ralf was dying, too.) Through all those goodbyes of loved ones, I learned a very difficult yet valuable lesson from my parents: LIFE GOES ON. Whether you are ready or not. That doesn’t mean the pain subsides, you just learn to live with it.
Ralf and I had conversations about “What would happen if…” many times, and death was one topic we had discussed. He would jokingly say that he would die first, before Charlie (our dog) and me because he couldn’t stand to live without us. I don’t think he could have imagined that Charlie would actually outlive him. Anyway, there is one instance that sticks out in my memory. Ralf and I both agreed that we would want the other to move on, find happiness, and eventually find love again. But I remember saying to him that any other man that came into my life would have to accept the fact that he would never be everything that Ralf was for me. His response was, “You don’t know that. You could meet a great guy and really hit it off.” Among his countless traits that I admired and loved so much, that was the biggest – he was so humble. He had no idea how special he was.
Actually, now that we are on the subject of humility, I’m reminded of something that happened while Ralf was hospitalized. One of the times that the neurosurgeon came to speak with us, Ralf apologized to him. He was embarrassed that so many people had reached out to the doctor, whether through connections to Ralf’s dad who is also a physician, Ralf’s uncle who works at UM Hospital, or through Ralf’s previous supervisor and colleagues (he had a per diem job at UM). Ralf told him, “Regardless of what you may have heard, I am not special and I don’t expect special treatment.” Every time one of the nurses would go into the room to check on him or give him his meds, Ralf would ask the nurse if there was anything that he could do for them. He also comforted his visitors more than he was comforted himself. That was just the kind of guy he was.
So, the lesson I take from him is that I am not special either. My pain and suffering is unique in the sense that no two situations, losses, or relationships are alike – that much is true. However, I’m not the first young pregnant widow to ever walk the face of this planet. In the moments when I feel completely broken and small, when the burden is to much, when the weight on my shoulders is just to heavy, I promise Ralf that I will remind myself of this. I will do my best to be like him. I will remind myself that I can survive through the pain and the heartache, that I have both Ralf and God beside me to hold me up, and that I am blessed to have experienced true and selfless love at least once in my lifetime. While I am still struggling to find my purpose, and figuring out how to deal with everything currently on my plate, my life will inevitably go on.
I was needing a therapeutic writing session today but couldn’t decide on a topic. So many thoughts on my mind and heart and I just couldn’t choose one. I started going through content from my original blogsite (soaringthroughsorrow) for some ideas. Since I deleted it, I’ve had a few people reach out to me requesting specific posts I had written – posts that resonated with them and that they actually remembered by title. I thought it might be a good idea to share some of those on my new site so that anyone who has been wanting to read them again could have access. While going through what I thought was all the material from my previous site, I realized that three of my favorite pieces were not there – a letter to Ralf about Mason’s birth, a letter to Mason about Ralf, and a post where I wrote about my views on God. I don’t have a clue how that happened. This discovery made me so sad and angry. Angry at myself for being impulsive and not making sure I saved everything correctly before deleting the site, especially those letters that I wanted Mason to read one day. I was so upset and on the verge of tears. Suddenly, I knew exactly what I needed to write about today.
Some days I feel empowered. I feel like I can accomplish anything and I feel proud of the woman I am after everything that I have endured. Other days, though, I feel like a failure. I feel like I am failing as a mom because I don’t spend enough time with Mason since I work full time. I beat myself up about the laundry pile being too high, the refrigerator not being fully stocked because I haven’t had time to make it to the grocery store, the sink being full of dirty dishes, the bed not being made in the morning…the list goes on. (Today, it was not saving important files to my hard drive.) On those days, I let the negativity take over and allow myself to stress the insignificant, when I know better. I forget that I am only human and that I am doing the best that I can.
It doesn’t matter if the bed isn’t made every morning – it matters that I make sure to kiss Vinnie goodbye before we both leave for work. It doesn’t matter that the hamper or the sink are overflowing – it matters that I take the time in the evening to lay down with Mason and read books to him and enjoy his snuggles. Laundry and dishes can wait. Even after losing Ralf as suddenly and unexpectedly as I did, after learning first hand that tomorrow is not promised, I still occasionally forget, as we all unfortunately do. My bathroom and toilet need scrubbing, but instead I am taking Mason to the playground to enjoy this beautiful morning. Years from now I won’t remember that the bathroom was dirty.
Stop being so hard on yourself. If you’re a mommy working full time because it’s currently the only choice you have – you are not failing. You are doing what you need to do for your family. Make the time that you do have with your children extra special – it’s about quality, not quantity. If you’re upset with yourself over a mistake you made, whether big or small, learn from it and then let it go. Forgive yourself. You can’t change the past, but you can try to do better in the future. I’ve learned from this mistake – I will be saving all my posts individually onto my hard drive! I have lots more to write about but the swings and slides are waiting for us…
When Ralf was alive, I had a recurring dream for the longest time. I would dream that I couldn’t find him. That he would disappear and wouldn’t answer any of my calls or texts, and when I would reach out to friends or family to try to figure out where he was, they would look at me like I was crazy or didn’t know who I was talking about. I always woke up from those dreams so disturbed, wondering what my subconscious was working through. I remember I used to tell Ralf about the dreams and ask him what he thought they meant. In his typical joking way he would say something like, “Yeah, I know what it means. It means you’re crazy.” I can’t help but wonder now if those dreams were some kind of premonition of what was to come. I can think of several other instances that make me think I somehow knew, deep down inside, that I would lose him.
We were in the dining room of our old house folding laundry. I can’t recall exactly how we got into the conversation, but we were talking about how getting pregnant was scary because the thought of having a sick child was terrifying. We talked about what my parents had been through – having to bury two of their children- and how we couldn’t even begin to imagine what that must have been like. Then I remember saying something like, “You know, your parents have been so blessed. They raised five boys who were completely healthy.” I remember having this weird feeling in the pit of my stomach after those words left my mouth and thinking, “I hope I didn’t just jinx it by saying that” – and of course feeling silly for even thinking I could have that kind of power.
In the Fall of 2014, I was diagnosed with Mycosis Fungoides, a type of non-Hodgkin’s cutaneous lymphoma. When my dermatologist first gave me the news and told me she was referring me to an oncologist, we were totally freaking out. We had to wait for two weeks for that appointment at the University of Miami Comprehensive Cancer Center, where we were informed that what I had was in the early stages, very limited, and very unlikely to progress into anything more than the white scaly patches I had on my thigh. I remember feeling relieved, but not completely. The news that I was going to be okay, that we could proceed with our plan to start a family, didn’t bring me as much peace as it should have. I felt like there was still something not quite right. I even remember the word “foreshadowing” crossing my mind. Why on Earth would I even think that?
Another time we were in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner. I was pregnant and we had recently found out that we were having a boy. I was telling Ralf that I had a really funny feeling the baby would be just like him, as I handed him the ice bucket to put in the cabinet above the refrigerator that I couldn’t reach. I said something clever like, “Yeah, God’s going to give me a little you to drive me crazy when you’re not around and to put dishes away for me when I can’t reach.” I vaguely remember we had a moment right after that where we made eye contact and both silently acknowledged the awkwardness of those words – “when you’re not around.” Of course, I meant when he was on shift at the station.
About three weeks before Ralf got sick, we got into an argument. He was at work and he asked me to organize some paperwork to prepare for our upcoming appointment to complete our tax return with our accountant. As I was gathering all the necessary documents, I came across a paystub, where I read that his father was listed as his primary beneficiary, his mother as secondary. At that point, we had been married for three years. I was so upset that he hadn’t yet changed it. I confronted him about it, and he said he had not changed it because it was “such a mission” and he had to make a trip down town, etc. I remember telling him what a pain in the neck it was for me to change my name after we got married – on my social security card, my credit cards, my student loans, my professional licensure and certification. I called him irresponsible and he was offended. I specifically remember him saying to me, “I’m sorry that you think my parents are so conniving that they wouldn’t give the money over to you if I were to die.” I told him he knew me better than that and that was obviously not what I was trying to say. I then told him I meant that if something were to happen to him, not having me listed as the beneficiary would make it that much more difficult for me to get the funds that I would need to provide for our children. He promised he would change it as soon as Mason was born. We made up, apologized to each other, and admitted we were both stressed and anxious. Unfortunately, I had no idea just how accurate my words would turn out to be.
My uncle and godfather, Tio Lui, died less than three weeks before Ralf. Ralf wasn’t working that day. I remember getting the call from my mother in the morning. I hung up the phone and just started sobbing. Ralf woke up when he heard me crying and pulled me in close to comfort me. I called my boss to tell her I wouldn’t be able to make it to work and we went to pick up breakfast for my parents. Then we headed to the apartment where my uncle had been living with my grandmother. Ralf helped to transfer my uncle’s body into the van that would transport him to the morgue. Afterwards, we went to spend the day at my parents’ house. I remember we were sitting at the kitchen counter, I was resting my head on his shoulder, and my mom was standing across from us. She was telling us about her experience visiting her estranged father just a couple weeks prior. She traveled to New Jersey to make peace with him before he died, but arrived just minutes after he passed. Ralf told her she did what she could and that she couldn’t beat herself up over it. My dad’s uncle was also very ill at the time. Someone commented, “They say it usually happens in three’s.” In that moment, I had that same uneasy feeling in my stomach. I thought, “Oh God, I hope it’s not me or Ralf.” We had no idea Ralf was even sick at that point – what would cause me to have a thought like that?
One of Ralf’s favorite movies was Ladder 49 with Joaquin Pheonix. As a matter of fact, we saw that movie together in theaters when we first started dating in high school, and I think that was the beginning of his fascination with a career in the fire service. I always had a hard time watching the ending of that movie – the part with the funeral. I didn’t know why it hit me so hard, but it did. Shortly after Ralf’s passing, I was cleaning out his truck and found the soundtrack for the movie among his CDs. In that moment, I remembered the funeral scene, and how much he liked the song that played. I decided to search for it on YouTube. When I watched it, I felt like I was watching footage of Ralf’s funeral. They were so similar. Of course, many tears resulted from that realization.
I’m not an extremely religious person, but I am very spiritual. I believe in signs. I believe some people have the ability to see that which others cannot. I guess I will never know for sure whether these examples are merely coincidences or something greater. I can say, though, that “knowing”, whether consciously or subconsciously, that I would lose Ralf could still have never prepared me for it.
Since Ralf’s death, I have a new recurring dream. I walk into the house and he is laying down on the couch and greets me just the same way he always did. As if nothing has happened, nothing has changed. I sit down next to him and explain everything – that he got sick, that he died – and he is completely shocked by all of it. I’m still trying to figure out what this dream means – maybe just my subconscious trying to make sense of it all.
I have other dreams, too. Some are negative, but the good ones – those are the ones I choose to hang on to. The other night I dreamed that I saw Ralf, I ran into his arms but then pulled away while holding his face between my hands to get a better look at him. I asked him, “Is this real, is this really you? Or am I just dreaming?” He smiled that Kodak smile and said, “It’s real. I’m here.”