Thursday, 12/28/06

There is no rhyme or reason to when I feel like shit. Baxter waking up at 4:50 am this morning may have contributed... but I also think I had a dream last night about Mike's nurse, Carol.

Carol was his nurse in the NICU when things went from bad to worse around July 11th and 12th. He had his "successful" surgery on July 7th, and then he went into DIC on July 10th or so and was stepped up into the NICU. Carol was an amazing nurse. She was calm, super-knowledgeable, and so invested in Mike's case. Those two days were horrible. Hopefully the most horrible of my life. It was then that Mike's body blew up with fluid, his heart started beating erratically - pulse down below 60 and up to like 190 within seconds. He was doing this horrible gagging-thing. Dry heaving and having what looked like convulsions with his body - as though it was struggling to get air or something.

Late that afternoon, Mike had to have an emergency hemi-craniotomy (july 11th). I rushed back to the hospital to be there. When I entered through the double doors, Carol's face dropped.

"Shit! They JUST took him down to the OR. I tried to make them wait for you, but they couldn't wait anymore." She seemed flustered for a second and then grabbed my arm, "Run with me. Let's go." I followed her as we ran down a stairwell and through the back winding hallways of JHN. She really thought we could catch him so I could say, "i love you" before the surgery. We were at a full out sprint through the hallways. I kept yelling to her, "Carol, it's ok. It's ok if we don't make it. It's ok." She was relentless. I screamed to her, "Carol! It's OK! We've done this so many times. I'll be OK if we don't get there in time!"

When we got to the holding area outside the OR. Out of breath, she asked the one male nurse, "Mr Young!? Where's Mr. Young?"

"He's in the OR. They just rushed him in."

Carol whipped around towards me. "SHIT," she said exasperated. She slammed her binder down on the floor and hit the wall in front of her. When she turned around, tears in her eyes, she apologized. "I'm sorry. I thought we would get here in time. I tried. I did."

I said over and over again that it was ok, that we'd been through this so many times - that it was ok. If Mike didn't know I loved him by now... then... well... then that would just be nuts.

After that surgery, Mike started to code. That was when the female resident told me he might not make it. But he did make it. He was even responsive after that surgery, sqeezing my hand and looking in my eyes.

It was thursday, July 13th that I told him that if he needed to go, it was ok. That we'd all be ok. That he had fought so hard that he could continue to fight and we'd be there to support him ... but if he couldn't it was ok. At that moment, he was looking right in my eyes. I know he heard me. I could feel it. He had been responsive throughout that day. I would squeeze his hand three times as I said I love you, squeezing once with each word as we always did. He would squeeze back four times, a little harder on the fourth squeeze, denoting, "I love you, TOO." He was in there. Thursday was the last time he was really responsive at all. I have to imagine that my words at least told Mike that he could go in peace.

It's insane how quickly everything changed in that time period. After his surgery on Friday, July 7th, I had him back. It was almost as if Dr. Andrews gave me a gift of 3 hours with the old Mike - but once post-op swelling set in, the wheels were in motion for the end to come. In a fucked up way, I have come to think of that as a good thing. I mean, without that surgery, Mike might not have died that week, that month, or even that year, but he would have been living a life not worth living - as far as Mike's standards of life are concerned. So, that surgery gave us the old Mike back, it gave Mike a chance to truly hear and understand just how many people loved him, and then it ultimately brought him - and all of us - peace.

On that Friday night, Susan Murphy brought us cheesesteaks and soda - and cheese fries per Mike's request. Mike was able to identify everything on his tray. It was as if relieving the pressure posed by that cyst opened up his visual fields and allowed his memory to work again... if just for a short time. We "introduced" mike to the nurses who had taken care of him for weeks upon weeks. He met Cindy, from the cardiology team (who had seen Mike everyday). She told him how I had promised her one of his pecan pies. He laughed. Everyone was so happy. Tears of joy everywhere. After about 10 minutes of chatting, when Cindy went to leave, Mike called after her, "Nice to officially meet you, Cindy!" Watching his short term memory work was such a gift.

We joked and talked, I recounted the tales of the previous four months. He was astounded - and so apologetic. He left voicemail messages for friends, saying, "I'm back from the dead. Didn't know I was gone, but here I am." Including Dr. Andrews, who was almost giddy (as giddy as he gets). I laid on Mike chest and he ran his fingers through my hair, and kissed my forehead. I put on music, Sting's "Brand New Day," and told him how it really was a brand new day. That I had my smoosher back and he promised he wasn't going anywhere. That he wasn't going to die.

As Mike died on July 18th, I put that same song on and hugged Kevin for what seemed like an hour. It, too, was a brand new day, but not the same kind of new that I thought we were facing on July 7th.

So, why revisit these events now? I don't know. I think the impending new year is serving as an impetus to move in a new direction. I'm already heading in that direction, but maybe I feel like I need to really grasp just how much this whole thing fucking sucked. I have an overwhelming urge this morning to fly back to philly today - to pack up all his clothes from his closet and his bureau. The one task I have been unable to do. I think I might do it as soon as I return. Maybe as a symbolic gesture looking to 2007.

As I write this, large flakes of fluffy snow are falling outside. It's beautiful. And Baxter's happy and healthy - and sassy as heck.

I don't know what to do with all this... but I feel better having gotten it out there.

love, danna


Christmas eve

In spite of the madness and sadness of this year, this Christmas eve was really wonderful. Lonia (Mike's mom) is here in NH with us, and it's so nice. She and my mom and dad get along fabulously. Baxter loves having all his mimi, poppi, and grandma here. Jae, Stephen and Kylee came this afternoon and we spent hours opening up insane amounts of gifts. Lonia and I just had a sweet conversation with Mike's sister, Dr. Diana.

When my family said grace at the table before our afternoon meal, my mom insisted that we all hold hands. I usually have to stifle some irreverent comment about the whole thing, but this year I didn't feel the urge. In fact, after grace, I was overcome with emotion - with a little sadness, but also with the warmth of what Mike has given to us all. He's given me such a feeling of strength. He's given us all this amazing new big family. He's given us the gift of his spirit - which prevents us all from getting mired down in the muck of it all. And, even in his absence, he continues to empower me. I used to get all whacky when I was with my family - like I was 12 all over again. Not anymore. I was a loving wife and I continue to be a mother, a scholar, and ... a grown up. It all feels somewhat unshakeable.

I've also spent the last week developing a great connection with the charming guy I went out to dinner with last Wednesday. But, I'm not going to write any details about that here. This blog is the forum where I share things about Michael, our journey, my grief, and my subsequent journey forward. It wouldn't be respectful if I were to detail everything about this growing connection here. It would also place my interactions with him in the context of my relationship with Mike - which wouldn't be fair. And - quite frankly, it just wouldn't feel right. But know that it's bringing me joy.

Merry Christmas and love to you all.


Craziest Dream 12/23

So, for some reason up here in New Hampshire I have crazy dreams. Last night's was so insane.

I dreamt that we had decided just enough time had passed to look into mike's murder. Yes, murder. In my dream he had been killed by a gunshot wound to the head.

I think I was thinking about the shooting out in Amish country (one of the injured girls was recently released from the hospital)...

Anyhow, we narrowed it down to a list of 10 men, but we needed to find out which one was a Quaker. Cause it was the Quaker who killed Mike. But, no one could figure out how to learn the religious affiliation of these men.

Then I had an idea!!! Match.com! Duh! Religous affiliation (I almost wrote affliction... seriously. That would've been funny... to me) is one of the items on match.com profiles.

So, we looked on match.com for male Quakers and there he was.

But...there was a hitch. The guy wasn't even in the area the whole time Mike was sick. Hmmm...

And then, in my dream, that night on the local news, we watched a story about a pitbull who was trained in how to operate a handgun. He had injured multiple people in the Philadelphia area with his mad crazy handgun tricks. And his owner??? The QUAKER. The very man we had found on match.com.


So, the whole dream was about finding and blaming Mike's murderer and in the end it was a dog. A freaking dog.

At the very end of the dream, I started to wake up a little and I was like, "A dog? You asshole, it was a brain tumor. Not a gunshot wound from a pitbull."


Winter Solstice

Photo: (c) William Hemmel

So, this is Hebron, NH, population 469. At the right is a summertime photo. Right now it's a little more bleak than that (see photo at top right taken this morning with my phone).

This is the little town where I spent every summer from age 4 until age 22. In fact, my dad likes to remind my that during the summer when I was 12, I didn't physically leave Hebron for 6 weeks. Not to go to the grocery store, not to go to a movie theater - nothing. Just biked around Hebron all day, to the beach, to my best friend Jenna's, to the town common ("downtown").

The town's General Store (which is still in operation) is over 200 years old (middle right) and the kids from town used to go to the one-room school house until a few years ago. The old school building is now our town hall (lower right).

Many of gravestones that you see behind the church in the aerial photo (top left) are from the 1600s. Whenever I walk through there I think, "What the f were people doing way up here way back then?" No idea.

This is where I will be spending Christmas. My parents have a beautiful house on 5.5 acres atop a hill that faces due west. Every night is a stunning sunset. I haven't been here since Baxter was 6 months old (July 4th, 2005). Even though I usually get all nostalgic and melancholy up here, surprisingly, this visit I'm not really feeling that way. Baxter's keeping us all busy and I've spent the last two days at the local university library finishing up the dissertation. Lonia (Mike's mom) will be joining us from the 23-26th. It will be fantastic to all be together.

Finally, as the end of the year is upon us and people are thinking about charitable donations, I wanted to remind people of several tax deductible donation opportunities:

The Mike Young Fund
Jefferson Foundation
925 Chestnut St. Suite. 110
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(towards various projects at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital where Mike spent over 14 weeks since November, 2005)

The American Brain Tumor Association
To donate online, click HERE
OR call (800) 886-2282 or download their printable donation form and send the completed form with your
check to: ABTA, 2720 River Road, Des Plaines, IL 60018.

Michael was also a generous supporter of many non-profit organizations. Unfortunately, our financial situation this year precludes us from donating to them. Perhaps you would consider one of these organizations. You could make a donation in memory if Mike Young.

American Civil Liberties Union
Doctors Without Borders
World Education
WHYY National Public Radio Philadelphia


Sat. 12/16 Bax turns 2

It's 9 pm on December 16, 2006. Exactly 2 years ago (at 8:52 pm) Mike and I welcomed Baxter Newland Young into the world.

Bax has had a fun-filled 2 days of celebrations: Friday at daycare, Friday night at home with friends and family, and this afternoon Bax ate cake and opened all his gifts with Michelle, Scott, Taylor and Jamie (see photos).


Tonight, after bathtime, I was putting Bax in his pajamas and he looked up at the black and white wedding photo of Mike and me that he has up on his bureau.

Pointing to the photo, he said, what I thought I heard to be, "Mike."

and again... pointing at the photo... "Mama... Mike."

"What are you saying?" I asked him.

"Mike," he said again, and then, "Michael."

"Who is Mike, Baxter?"

"Daddy's Mike."


"Daddy's Mike," he said, looking up at the photo.

"How did you know that?" I asked, almost expecting him to be able to actually tell me how he got this little piece of info. Instead, he started singing a tune and dancing in circles.

After we read a book, we said our "goodnights" to everyone we love. "You want to say Goodnight to Daddy?"

"Goodnight, Daddy. Goodnight Mike."

Then, when I put him in his crib (where there's a picture of Daddy in his little photo book), he picked up the picture to kiss daddy like he does every night, but for the first time said, "Goodnight, Daddy Mike. I love you Daddy Mike."

I have no idea where this came from. It might not seem that weird just reading it here, but... trust me. It's weird. I asked Baxter, "What's mommy's name?"


"Is my name Danna?"

"No. Mommy."

"Who's Danna?"

"Mimi?" he asked (Mimi is my mother).

"No, silly. I'm Danna."

"No. You're mommy."

"Ok. "


"But, Baxter. What is Daddy's name?"

"Michael." clear as freaking day.


On a totally different note, I'm very proud of how cute our house is with all the Christmas decorations up. Whenever we pull into the driveway around 5:20, Bax says, "Yay! Home! Baxter's Christmas lights!".

ok.... 1. 2. 3. Truce.

Some reflections over the past few days' postings.

1) As some have suggested, it is possible that the mad-capitalizer really just meant, "Danna, honey, give yourself sometime. You might not find love right away. It's very soon." If that is the intended meaning, then perhaps the all caps with exclamation points just threw me off (like fists in the air.)

2) Some of my dear friends do happen to be very proud liberals, and can make the mistake of using "conservative Republican" as an insult meaning "mean mean person." When we use that term, we mean Republicans like Strom Thurmond "Yay Segregation!" - or perhaps Santorum (lesbianism = beastiality) Republican. So, to anyone who was insulted by those comments, on behalf of 185cranios, I apologize. Republicans are people, too. And, in fact, in the NH open (you vote Dem or Rep) primary in 2000, I voted for McCain - mainly to avoid the horrifying possibility that W would be president - but still ... I, Dannagal Young, self-proclaimed uber-liberal, voted Republican. So, CSM, play nice.

3) I love you all for caring so much. I'll be ok. Mike is excited for me to move forward. I know that. And that brings me comfort. Plus, on Wednesay I had a wonderful date with a charming guy who I'm seeing again next week. And that is just... nice. Distracting (during the holidays - Mike's favorite freaking time of the year)... and nice.

4) Feel free to post warm and fuzzy friendly messages to me, one another, and mankind now.



To the subtle person who posted the following comment after Saturday morning's post:


A of all, on-line etiquette suggests that writing an imperative statement in all capital letters is impolite.

B of all, if you feel strongly, stand by your words and sign your name.

C of all, I've been "without" a mentally functioning husband for nine months - almost ten. He's been dead for five months. Unless you yourself are a young widow/widower, perhaps you ought to refrain from judgment. If it's too soon, I'll know, I'll stop, and I'll try again another day.

D of all, I'm just trying to live my life, be happy, and feel alive and excited. It's either match.com or... I don't know.... heroin? Hmmm-hmmm... match.com not looking so bad anymore, huh?


Saturday, Dec 9, 2006 - 8:40 am

I realize it’s only 8:30 am, but already today is not a good day. I’m in it. Hard.

Some might say I brought it on myself. Maybe I’m trying to move forward too soon or to distract myself from things in a way that isn’t exactly healthy. But, who knows?

The deal is this. Last weekend I put my profile on match.com. I figure that the best way to get through the holidays is by having fun things (e.g. dates) to look forward to. After weeding through a lot of crap, I found several interesting, intelligent men to email. I sent them brief emails suggesting they read my profile (thoroughly) and if interested, they ought to get back to me. In my profile, I don’t hide my situation. I’m a widow and I have a 2 year old son who I love. There you have it. Translation: men with no balls need not apply.

My first get together was yesterday. Great guy. Great conversation, laughs etc over lunch. Totally my kind of person – if not to date then to hang out with. Creative, funny, outgoing. So, after 3 hours of this lunch, I tell him honestly that I’d love to see him again. He proceeds to say, “Ok, here’s my situation.” Hmm. His situation turns out to be that things have heated up with another person he met through the site. Since we emailed to plan our lunch date (Wed), things progressed with this other person and he wouldn’t feel comfortable juggling multiple people. Totally honest. Totally understandable. Obviously, you’re thinking, “so why did he go out on a lunch date with you?” I’m not exactly sure. We have a lot of friends and circles of people in common, so maybe just to have another connection here in Philly (he’s new to the area).

I think we left it as follows: maybe we can go do something fun together sometime, just as friends. In the event that things don’t work out with his other person, maybe I’ll hear from him in some other capacity.

But --- I couldn’t help but think of that “he’s just not that into you.” Saying.

Then it hit me: I haven’t really seriously thought about whether or not I’m ready to be “rejected” as it were. I have thought a lot about whether or not I am ready to be out there, to spend time with someone new and find someone else interesting and attractive and worth my time and attention. Not so much about the “what if I’m rejected” part. Ok ok, maybe I wasn’t rejected. He’s an honest guy who doesn’t want to get serious with more than one woman at a time.

It still left me feeling like… “Right. And why the fuck am out here again? Why do I have to be doing this? Oh right – cause my husband’s dead. Fucking great. “

Suck. I hate this. I do. But, I really want to move forward to chapter 2. And, unfortunately, chapter 2 is not about to come knocking on my door, “Here I am. Your chapter 2.” No. I need to get out there. Grab my ass (as we say in comedysportz) and just do it. So, last night, before I went to bed, I followed up with another person I’ve been emailing with through the site. Law student/dem campaign consultant. I suggested we meet. And, I have a coffee date with another sweet guy next week. Am I tempted to cancel and stay in? Sure. But I’ve spent my life trying to do things that make me a little uncomfortable in the hopes of getting out of a safe place… to some more desirable place in the long run. If I stopped doing that, Mike would be disappointed. He loved that I had all these fears of doing new things, yet always made myself do them anyway.

Thanks for listening. When I started writing, I was in a “I miss Mike. Where is Mike? Why did he have to die and leave Bax and me here alone?” – place. But, I’m a little better now. Rather than sad, I’m feeling a little feisty –