JoAnn Brozowski's Comments

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At 1:24pm on April 26, 2012, Janet - Todd's Mom said…
Hi JoAnn - The words you write describe exactly the way I feel.  I can't get over it!  Wish I had seen your email on April 16 instead of today, the 26th.  We've been so busy helping our daughter move from her apartment to my parents' house, at least for a year or two while we're deciding what to do, that I haven't checked here lately.  But today I was crying so hard, doubled over in pain as you say, that I thought I should come here for comfort.  Your words always help...just to know someone is actually feeling exactly like me.  It's so difficult going through my father's clothes to give them to charity.  And finding his Army tags from WWII and other things like that, which I'm saving, of course.  And the same for my mother's clothes, some of which she hadn't worn for years but doesn't want now.  Others were so worn out I had to throw them away. 

Easter weekend was difficult.  After Tracy and Todd were grown, we never made too much of it either.  But we'd visit my parents and maybe go out to eat.  Around 11am, I'd knock on Todd's door and ask him if he was up yet and getting ready to visit Nana & Grampa.  He'd ask why we were going and I'd remind him it was Easter (or whatever holiday it happened to be).  He'd sit bolt upright and say, mockingly, "Why wasn't I told?" with a little grin on his face and I'd say, "Consider yourself 'told'."   We had so much fun.  I loved the way he talked and miss him so much I can't stand the pain.  The Anime Boston Con was held On Easter weekend this year and his friend Andrea had been emailing to ask my opinion on which picture to use in the memorial to him for the special 10th-year Museum they were having.  In 2003, Todd answered Andrea's plea for help because she was organizing the very first Anime Boston Convention.  They were expecting 650-700 people but actually got several thousand!  She credited Todd and all the other volunteers for handling the crowd so well and making it such a success.  Even the fire department was impressed because they didn't think it was possible to have so many people there in a space not quite big enough and not have one bit of trouble.  Todd helped every year and called himself a "lifer", finding pleasure in  helping his friends at an event he loved.  My very last picture of him is with a group of friends after the convention was over on May 24, 2009.  Andrea arranged his memorial so it was the first thing people saw as they entered the museum room. This year they got 21,000 people!  As our daughter said, it is wonderful to know he is remembered by his friends and so very very sad at the same time.  I don't know what I'd do without them.  They all seem eager to get together with us too, for the link between us, Todd, is so strong.  They and we were the closest people to Todd for many many years.

I'm trying to think of one good thing that happened this week.  We visited John's brother and his wife Saturday night - that was fun except that my sister-in-law is getting forgetful and tells the same stories over and over.  But she's a kind, sweet person otherwise.  Our dog Ginger is a Siberian Husky and likes to stay outside all the time, but when we go out, we bring her inside to keep her safe.  Anyway, when we got home, there was a note on the door that our dog was running loose through the neighborhood and that the back screen was broken and to call the police station.  I was sick with worry but found Ginger in the back yard.  Apparently, I had forgotten to lock the slider door.  It's a very heavy door but she managed to push it open and break through the screen for a little neighborhood run.  The police told me they corralled her back into the yard, although she can get out if not tied to her 40-ft. tie-out, which they probably didn't see.  Apparently she was content to stay in the yard after her escape and fun run through the neighborhood.  Thankfully it's a very quiet development area where no one drives unless the

At 2:58pm on April 12, 2012, Janet - Todd's Mom said…

Hi JoAnn - Things are getting better as far as my mother is concerned.  She calls every night to ask me to pick her up "tomorrow".  I'll say "okay" and she asks what time.  After we confirm a time, she asks if I know where she is.  I tell her "yes", but she checks with one of the CNA's every time to confirm the address of where she is "staying".  It's sad.  At least she's not agitated anymore and seems to think she's just staying there for awhile.  She is enjoying the activities now and participates more often.

I've been thinking of going back to the medium we saw last year but I've been so sad and depressed that it's difficult to make myself do anything.  I've been buying some flowers because they make me feel a little better when I see them, but I don't have them planted yet. 

It must be difficult to try to work when you're so sad, and yet some people say it helps.  I walk dogs only occasionally now because I stopped taking new ones 4 years ago when we adopted Ginger.  She's a true alpha and is impossible if a new dog tries to get in "her" car.  It's funny that when she didn't belong to us, I could make her behave with new dogs by telling her she wouldn't be able to go out walking with us.  I'd stop the car and start to walk her back to her house.  She'd whine and cry to get back in the car so I'd put her in the front seat and tell her, "Look straight ahead!  Eyes forward.  If you so much as look at another dog the wrong way, you're going home!"    Unbelievably this worked, at least until we adopted her.  Then she seemed to think the car belonged to her and only her.  It was good timing as I was totally ready to slow down and take fewer dogs as I'd been doing this for many years and not getting any younger.  My husband was thrilled that I was taking fewer dogs because he was close to retirement and always imagined that we'd travel and spend more time together.  He actually retired only 4 months before we lost Todd and, at the time he retired, I was spending most of my days hiking with dogs and friends in the woods nearby.  At the time we lost Todd I had only 2 "regulars" (every day) and 7 that I'm here for when their owners need me.  After a few weeks I went back to walking my 2 everyday dogs because they made me feel better.  Dogs are so good at this.   Now one of those has moved and the other owner left her job to work at home so she needs me only occasionally.  I thought I'd like this but I find that I have so much time to think about how much I miss Todd that I'm in tears much of every day.  The experience you had of going into Tyler's room the day before Thanksgiving to try and fix your telephone modem and completely breaking down happened to me yesterday.  Although I try to go in Todd's room every day so it won't hurt so much, yesterday I really noticed and thought about all of the things he was working on, projects for work and gaming with his friends and reading computer magazines and science fiction books and so much more, new computer accessories he had bought that are still in bags unopened, etc.  I fell to the floor and cried and wailed and yelled "Why?" "Why why why"?  I can't live with this pain.  Yet I do.  The pain is so intense I think to myself, "why don't I have a heart attack and die?"  But I don't.

Your words have made me feel better.  Just knowing that you understand exactly how I feel....I wish you didn't have to understand, but you do.  Both of us just going day to day, remembering all of the good times we had with our sons and living with broken hearts now that they aren't here with us.

Thank you for the prayers and love.  The same right back to you and give your dog a big hug for me.  Now that it has stopped raining, I'll take her for a walk.




At 8:32am on March 29, 2012, Janet - Todd's Mom said…

Hi JoAnn - Somehow I just saw your note for the first time last night.  I'm glad to hear that your mom has finally agreed that moving into an apartment closer to you and your sisters is the way to go.  As for your mother's surgery in the spring, are there any local elder service agencies you can call to help out?  My father was looking into it before he had the stroke, although my mother was giving him a hard time about it, of course.  Now she gives me all the grief.  She hates the assisted-living place where she lives.  She refuses to believe she cannot live alone, or at least go home and choose a caregiver herself.  She is so difficult to live with that I know that's a very bad idea.  Better to have more than one caregiver around to help care for her, and other residents to share social activities.  She has a great sense of humor (with others) and can be quite funny, making people laugh.

She can be quite hateful in her remarks to me.  Because this is not so different from the way she's always been, it doesn't hurt me so much as it just wears me down.  I was already struggling with all of the things you mentioned, having no energy or interest in anything anymore.  Since my father passed away on Feb. 18th, I just now realized that, since then, most of my life has revolved around doing things for my mother.  Since she hadn't bought any new clothes or shoes in years, her things were so worn out I've had to go shopping many times to try and replace them.  I don't like shopping, so this has been a real chore, especially since she doesn't like anything I buy.  It seems that I spend half my day on the phone with caregivers discussing the best options for her.  Now, suddenly, I'm wondering why I have to do this for a woman who was never that good to me.  She actually said, "After everything I did for you!" when I wouldn't take her home the other day.  I searched my memory, thought of my childhood and honestly could not think of a single thing she had done for me, at least not anything she didn't have to do as a mother.  She was verbally abusive to my father and me but, as a child, I didn't realize it, although I knew the mean things she said weren't true.

No wonder I've been feeling suicidal lately!  The only thing stopping me is that my husband is truly very good to me, and he would be totally devastated.  It would be so unfair to him, even if he does annoy me sometimes :)  It would also send my daughter a terrible message but, in truth, she does give us more pain than joy, although it's not her fault.  It's just a matter of personality.  Todd was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I enjoyed his company more than anyone else's.  Without trying, we'd never argue because we agreed on just about everything.  He was so bright, had so many interests and friends, especially for someone who was slightly autistic, that he truly amazed me every day!  I smile when I think of things he would say, then I cry and can't stop because I haven't heard his voice in almost 3 years. 

I suppose I'd better get up and get something done before the phone rings again.  Would you believe that someone called at 8:30 this morning because I made an inquiry into an assisted-living place I thought might be better for my mother?  On paper, it looks better, but we have an appointment at 2 to actually see this other place.  Why do I waste my time?

Hope you're feeling better than me today and, as always, wishing you peace and strength.



At 4:10pm on March 9, 2012, Janet - Todd's Mom said…

Hi JoAnn - Lately I've been so busy taking care of my parents (my father had a stroke on January 20th, went to the hospital then rehab, back to hospital (pneumonia) then back to rehab, became weaker and weaker until he passed away on Feb. 18th; my mother fell on Jan. 15th, went to the hospital, then rehab until this past Tuesday, March 6th).  When I think of what my mother has been through in such a short time, ending up in rehab, losing my father and now having to move from her home of 28 years that she built with my father, I feel so bad for her.  In her mind they were both still in their 60's, playing golf & enjoying an active retired life.

Over the past few weeks, John and I explored all kinds of options for my mother because, due to dementia & severe arthritis pain, she can't live alone.  We considered 24-hour care at her home, but because she can be so combative, we didn't think it would work very well.  Her home has bedrooms upstairs and a basement downstairs where she does laundry, and I know she wouldn't listen to anyone telling her that they would take care of doing the laundry, etc.

We finally found a wonderful assisted living community that includes a small "Life Management Neighborhood" for just 10 people and they had an opening!  Each person has their own studio apartment to decorate as they wish and there's a full schedule of activities to engage with life and to use their minds, tailored to each individual.  Of course I didn't expect my mother to like it right away -- as a matter of fact she became very angry, but in this place they are very used to the anger that goes with dementia, and they know how to handle it calmly, unlike the nursing home/rehab where she was.  That nursing home/rehab had a 5-star rating but I still saw things I did not like.  As expensive as assisted living care is, it's less expensive than home care and offers more opportunities for socialization and doing useful things every day.  They have mystery bus tours weekly, music, games, old movies, etc. and my mother can even help with folding laundry if she chooses! 

You would think all of this would take my mind away from missing Todd, but I only miss him more now than ever.  His sense of humor would have gotten me through this.  In my mind I hear his voice saying the funny things I imagine he would say about the whole situation.  He could make me laugh over anything!  

If one more person tells me how strong I am I'll scream.  Everything you said is so true.  Because we appear to function in the world, people think we're "doing well".  I'm always exhausted too, and I wonder how much longer I'll last.

John and I did go to the journaling group a few months ago.  It was held at the hospice where we had gone to our first support group (which unfortunately only lasted 8 weeks).  I had a terrible experience there.  The woman who actually led the group asked us, one by one, why we were there.  Because I was the only mother there who had lost a child, she was very interested in hearing about Todd and when I stopped, she'd ask another question, which was fine.  At the back of the room was a young woman who was "facilitating" the meeting, and apparently she had been trying to say they we had to move on to let everyone get a chance to talk.  The woman who ran the class ignored her, so finally the younger woman said out loud that we had to "move on".  I was so embarrassed and wanted to leave, but she kept explaining, in a very condescending way, that in a group like this, we have to give everyone a chance to speak. (as if I didn't know this...I've been going to groups since before she was born)!

Needless to say, we never returned.  When the office called to find out why we hadn't come back, I told them about my experience.  It was duly noted.  Come to find out, this young woman is a "bereavement counselor" from another hospice community, who had been called in to facilitate the meeting.  I told them that the meeting was going along just fine because the older woman who was actually doing the class was experienced in doing this class. I also told them that I couldn't imagine this younger woman making anyone feel better after suffering the loss of a loved one.  The younger woman was a corporate type - an unfortunate choice.  After the class ended, the older woman came over to hear more from us about Todd, and was trying her best to repair the damage the younger woman caused, but I just couldn't go back.

Like you, I usually get more out of this group than any other.  The idea of having cards printed that say, "A Random Act of Kindness in Loving Memory of ............... is such a wonderful idea and it came from this group!  Just one of many such ideas from the group to help make us feel a little better. 

Hope you are as well as can be expected,



At 8:24pm on February 27, 2012, Barbara Rieger said…

Hi JoAnn,

Thank you for responding so quickly.

I was once asked to dinner for Christmas time last year by an ex-SIL after I had her son who is my godchild to Thanksgiving with his girlfriend and my mother. I'm not sure now if Thanksgiving was 2010 or 2011. I'm usually good with dates but so much garbage has been going on in my life. That is another issue in my life.

Yes, you're my heart would really like to have his friends over with a little party to celebrate their birthdays. I also thought of balloons to say "Happy Birthday Joe!"

This past Sept. I attended a shower for a girl who was in Joe's homeroom class. I felt good when she had said that Joe could have asked her to the prom. I urged him to go to the prom and he took a cute little girl who had gone out previously with a friend of his. I had not attended my senior prom only my junior prom but at the time my boyfriend was in the Marines. I have come across a photo on his wall with 5 couples who all sat at the table. The young men had their hands on top of their dates shoulder. I never saw this photo before. I copied it and have the black and white printed paper in a frame. 

Darlene is such a lovely young woman and told me that she had wanted to include me in things. Joe was good friends with her and then boyfriend Ron. He would never disappoint them when Ron had a gig playing with his band any place. Even that Joe lived with and cared for his then 94 year old grandmother, attended DeVry in NYC. How he managed to get his master's degree in accounting and finance I'll never know. Especially with the way my mother was with him.

I gave a nice sized Lenox flower vase and was so proud that a photo was taken and placed on face-book. Then I was surprised to receive an invitation to the wedding. I didn't think I'd attend if I did receive one. But Darlene was so loving and nice toward me and made me feel and know how much she and Ron love my Joe. It made me feel good. I haven't attended a wedding in awhile but usually gave an envelope with a check. However, I found it really interesting to search the bridal registry at one of my favorite stores;Bed, Bath and Beyond. I didn't see anything that I really would want for myself and nothing held any significance. However, when I went on the Macy's site I ordered a Kitchen Aid 14 cup drip coffee maker. Joe was a big coffee drinker and anyone who knew him was aware of that. Also, a Kitchen Aid big special arched frying pan with a cover. When I ran into Darlene at the mall where she was doing a demonstration she gave me a taste of something she made. Afterwards, when she was finished she told me she received the one and was surprised to receive a second gift. I had sent a message along with the order and she responded. With as busy as she was I never received a formal thank you. I save the one from the shower.

I'll tell you more about the wedding and the significance of the computer and a little story. But at another time. I need to answer a couple of responses from posts here.  Ahh that's if I can find them again.

With Love,


Have an upbeat day!

At 10:40am on February 27, 2012, Barbara Rieger said…

Dear Jo Ann,

It doesn't matter what anyone thinks about anything concerning what a person does or doesn't do. The reason I say this is because one time from somewhere I recall reading something that has given me comfort and it is: "It's none of my business what anyone thinks of me."

The only time I went was to bid my son farewell other than that I have never gone to my son Joe's place. He lives right next to my dad. My dad loved him probably more than anyone else in the world. I know a couple of his last two best friends have gone for his birthday last year.

I had been entertaining thoughts of having a barbecue for his friends from HS that I had met when they came to bid Joe farewell. Because they are all turning 45 this year and a few that aren't. However, it can turn into a huge event with their families and for many reasons I'm not up to. My heart really wants me to have big birthday cake because I know some of them lost their mother's. Joe had such nice friends from HS. I know they are busy but Joe was thought of highly by them. They respected him for all that he knew and shared with them. One guy said "everyone should have a guy like Joe in their life." From what I've read on his face-book wall and was told by some and know how they grieved for him I know that my son was even more than I knew.

I'm proud of him and I know you feel the same about your son.

Thanks for befriending me.

With Love,


Have an upbeat day!

At 8:32am on February 23, 2012, Janet - Todd's Mom said…

Hi JoAnn - I just spent an hour composing a note to you and then did something stupid, causing me to lose everything I just typed.  ugh........................

I'll write later.  Now I have to go get ready to go out. 

At 9:50am on February 17, 2012, Janet - Todd's Mom said…

Hi JoAnn - I can really relate to how you feel about not wanting to watch your friends' photo shoot and "Family Photos" link.  If people could only understand how much their invitations to ask us to share in the special joys of their family happiness only exacerbate the pain we are in, maybe they wouldn't keep asking.  Last year a woman whose family I met because of walking their dog for many years sent an invitation to her daughter's baby shower.  It's true that I watched her daughter grow up from a young teenager to a young woman who has graduated from college and married, but when I read that she is having a baby boy, I just started crying at the thought of watching her opening gifts for her baby boy.  My baby boy is gone and I want him back!  This woman thought that by being part of a brand-new life, I would somehow feel better.  She's a wonderful person but just doesn't understand.  I'm happy for her daughter and her whole family, but I cannot join in and be happy with them.

The only new life that makes me feel happy, and this might be hard to understand, is Todd's friends' babies.  I think because these young people are "geeks", now grown-up and proud geeks, they formed a small (about 15), close group, starting with Todd's best friend Eric, about 20 years ago, celebrating birthdays, holidays and other special events together over the years.   When they were younger, they always gamed here, in our family room, and I was amazed at the quality of these kids.  As they grew older and married and had children, I didn't see them as often because the get-togethers were at their own houses.  But when Todd entered the hospital on June 2, 2009, they began arriving so quickly I couldn't believe it!  And they stayed, coming directly from work, taking time off from work, getting their parents to babysit, and we got to know them even more, sitting in the waiting room for hours on end and visiting Todd in the ICU, two people at a time.  They were there until 10 PM on Sunday night, June 7th.  We lost Todd just 3 hours later at 1:06 AM June 8th, (the same exact time that he was born).  John, Tracy and I were still there with Todd, of course.  For this reason I feel a very special bond to his close friends, almost as though they are my own children, and their children are our grandchildren.  John feels the same way.  They have told us that they feel this way about us.  Sometimes I think they have saved my life.

Still and all, how I live with this pain is inconceivable to me.  People my own age say, "You're strong" and I want to say, "Why?  Because I haven't killed myself yet?  I do have a husband and daughter to think about".  But I just shake my head "No" and tell them I'm not strong and try to explain that I didn't expect to be here on earth almost 3 years later, but the pain hasn't killed me for some reason, at least not yet.  You are one of the only people in the whole world I know truly understands.  

Now I must get ready for a meeting at the Rehab concerning both my parents.  My heart is breaking because they are telling me that, at the age of 96, the stroke my father had has weakened him considerably and now they want to talk about hospice care for him.  I guess it was unrealistic of me to think that physical/occupational/speech therapy would help bring him back, at least to being able to get around in a wheel chair.  His right side is paralyzed and he can barely speak.  John said to me, "I wouldn't want to live like that, would you?  I know your father doesn't want to live that way".  He's right, but I still feel sick inside.

I'm glad to hear that your mother is beginning to listen to you.  My mother still doesn't, but that's because she doesn't know reality any more.  She really believes she's still 60 and can do everything she did then.  But it helps that she listens to other people at times, while she's in Rehab.  Losing my father will be too much for her, so I think her mind will deny it, just as it has denied that we lost Todd.  It is too much for her, so her mind doesn't accept it, and for that I am grateful.

Looks like a lovely day.  Hope you can get out and enjoy it for a bit.

Love and hugs,


At 9:19am on February 13, 2012, Janet - Todd's Mom said…

Hi JoAnn - I can't believe how much your feelings and experiences are SO much like mine!  When you mentioned your dog's purpose is to love you and help fill the void in your life, I thought of the book my good friend, Ann, (the one I met through joining the Help Find Daisy Team) loaned to me.  It's called "A Dog's Purpose" and she told me it has helped her in dealing with the loss of Daisy, a dog she adopted 10 years ago while grieving the death of her fiancee.  I've only read a few chapters.  It's quite interesting and sometimes funny, written from the viewpoint of the dog, and teaches much about the way dogs think.  She said it gets much better as you keep reading.  John downloaded it for me on my Kindle Fire, something I bought for myself so that I'd always have something to read while waiting for people, appointments, etc.  Todd always had a book with him, no matter where he was going.  His friends told me that at parties where people were drinking, he was likely to be found sitting in a quiet corner reading, because he didn't like the taste of alcohol but he loved the company of his friends.  Luckily for him, most parties involved gaming, not drinking, but he still carried his book.  To think that the doctor who was head of Pediatric Neurology at Mass General in 1979 actually told us, when he diagnosed Todd, at age 8, with dyslexia and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder without the usual hyperactivity, that he would never read "for pleasure"!  Todd remembered and chuckled over it.

The dizzy spells you mentioned are similar to what has been happening to me.  Almost 3 weeks ago I began feeling very nauseated when standing or walking.  At first I thought it was food poisoning but as it went on for days & days I began to think it was a stomach virus.  People say I should go see my doctor but, as you say, I don't really care.  I just think it's related to the stress of having lost Todd, combined with the stress of suddenly having to see my parents being unable to care for themselves.  If it's something worse, so be it.

My parents have been SO independent that we never realized how difficult things had become for them.  We have yet another meeting this morning at the rehab center where both my parents are now.  This one involves my wanting to hire a private nurses' aide for both because, as wonderful as the place is, someone can't always be with my father.  Many times he needs or wants something but has difficulty in making himself understood.  There is a wonderful woman who takes care of my mother's roommate, privately, and she also has been looking after my mother, talking with her to alleviate her fears, helping her pick out her clothes and get dressed in the mornings, etc.  Since my parents have always saved their money, not traveling or living expansively, they have money in savings, besides owning their house.  I think the money should be used to get them the best care money can buy.  The people I've met who go into the field of working with the elderly have such patience and love for them!   The agency I'm working with also works with the rehab center and has an excellent reputation.  Also, John and I are only 2 miles away, so we can be there often.

Yesterday my scream wasn't silent.  John accidentally knocked the tea kettle off the counter and broke a small piece of the cap that covers the spout.  Todd had bought the tea kettle for me a few years ago.  When I look at it, dark charcoal...his favorite color and also the color of his Prius :), I think of him.  When I see one in a brighter color I like it, but would never replace the one Todd bought for me.  When I heard the crash and saw what happened, I screamed and screamed uncontrollably.  "Todd bought that for me!!!", I screamed.  After screaming and crying for at least 20 minutes, I drove to the cemetery to bring something special I had bought for Todd's tree for Valentine's Day.  It was so cold and windy, but I managed to get it on the tree, then went back to my car and just cried and cried for a long long time.  When I got home, John had gone to the hardware store to buy the glue/cement and had fixed the tea kettle.  In all of the years we've been married, I've never seen him fix anything that fast!  

Thinking of you and Tyler always,




At 7:53am on February 8, 2012, Janet - Todd's Mom said…

Hi JoAnn - Yesterday afternoon I brought my mother (who is in rehab) to visit my father (who is in the hospital across the street due to pneumonia).  I thought it would help my mother to calm down, since she asks where he is hundreds of times a day.  Also, I knew my father was missing her.  My father was happy to see her, and she was happy to fuss over him, asking him if he needed anything, etc.  But to listen to her say again and again that no one told her anything about my father being in the hospital and ask who had her house & car keys over and over again, and in general being very disagreeable towards us, was mentally exhausting.  She asked where she had been all this time and when I told her she was in rehab, she just about told me I was crazy.  She doesn't talk when she's angry and confused, she yells.  Her forgetfulness has turned into full-blown dementia.  Did I mention that she's always been a little bit paranoid, even when it comes to me?  When we got back to rehab, she started screaming, wanting to know why I wasn't taking her home.  It was horrible.  She kept yelling, "Take me home, please" again and again.  It was heartbreaking.  At one point she got up out of the wheelchair and fell in an attempt to escape.  She is a very strong little woman, about 5 feet tall and 110 lbs.  She's like a linebacker when she wants to do something other than what I've asked her to do, like sit down!  I suppose I should have let her walk with the walker once we got inside, but she gets tired and I wanted her to have a chair so she wouldn't fall.

And yes, I've wondered thousands of times why my parents have lived so long (96 and 91) and why Todd's life was cut short, in his prime.  A few weeks ago my father hurt my feelings and made me angry by something he said (not unusual) and, when I hung up the phone,  I expressed this same exact thought out loud to John.  He said, "I know.  It seems so wrong".  In Todd's whole life he never hurt my feelings.  That's quite an accomplishment because I've been told that I'm "overly sensitive".  He was a sensitive, kind person.  His friends always tell me this when we talk about him.  When I think of this I cry many times every single day.

I like Sheri Migdol thought about "everything changes" and that death is only a position in time.  John has expressed the same thought to me.  He saw a special on Nova about this very subject, and it made him feel a little better about Todd.  I get scared I won't be able to find Todd when I get to the place where he is, but John said, "Don't worry.  He'll find you".

  1. When I read about your dog being "missing" for more than an hour, my heart sank!  Then, when I read that he was peering at you from the top of the stairs when you got home, I laughed out loud. :)  I had just had a similar experience with Ginger, though not as prolonged.  John had decided that Ginger was okay out in the back yard while we were at the rehab center & hospital with my parents, because it's close by and he knew we'd be home within an hour or so.  Ginger hates coming inside, except when it's hot outside.  When we got home, I looked out my window to check on her and didn't see her!  My heart started pounding!  I ran outside, calling her and getting no response.  Then I found her sleeping right next to the house under a shrub, looking at me like, "Is something wrong?  I'm not getting up unless you're taking me for a walk".  I swear to God that dog talks with her eyes.  In case you're wondering, she's not hard of hearing.  If I talk about her while in the house, looking through a closed window, she'll look up at me and the look on her face says, "Why are you talking about me?  Are we going for a walk?"  John had taken her for a walk earlier but she's always ready for another.
  2. Today I have to return a phone call to my mother's case manager at rehab, as she's due to leave there in about a week.  I'll have to arrange for 24-hour care for my mother at her house, as that's where she'll be the most comfortable.  Part of her worsening memory is due to stress, I now realize.  At her house everything was the same and never changed.  My mother hates change.  She'll rant and rave, but it's the only option - she can't live alone.  And her personality is so difficult to deal with that it would be impossible for anyone in the family to take care of her.  It was difficult for my father and, now that he has had a stroke, it would be impossible for him. 
  3. I don't know why these numbers keep appearing on this email and I can't seem to make them go away right now.
  4. Love,
  5. Janet 
At 10:24am on February 7, 2012, Janet - Todd's Mom said…

Hi JoAnn - It was so good to hear from you.  Things with my parents just seem to keep snowballing into other things and leaves my head spinning.  The stomach virus lingers; it will be two weeks tomorrow, but I'm beginning to think it's psychological at this point.  You're smart to have gotten your mother to add your name to her bank account because it took us days just to get that accomplished through my parents' attorney.  All we wanted to do is pay their bills for them, real estate taxes, etc,. 

I read with tears in my eyes about how you spent Tyler's second-year angel anniversary.  When I worked in the office, being alone there for hours on end was enough to make me depressed, even if I had arrived feeling happy.  And this was way before losing Todd, so I didn't have anything going on to make me feel sad.  So I could really relate to how you felt when you thought to yourself, "what could possibly be so important that I would subject myself to sitting here?"  And then going home and hugging the picture of the three of you together and crying and screaming and crying.  I can't tell you how many times I've hugged a picture of Todd, or his jacket, or laptop, or anything of his and cried and screamed and cried until I was too exhausted to cry anymore.  I scream inside my head, "I WANT HIM BACK.  BRING HIM BACK TO ME NOW".  I don't know who I'm screaming at and what does it matter?  My life isn't worth living anymore, but I struggle every day to put one foot in front of the other, like you.  Just going through the motions, pretending it matters.  

I'm so glad you have your sisters to spend time with shopping, having lunch, visiting Tyler's tree at the church.  I have a special friend to do things like that with and a day like that always helps.  I met her because in July of 2010, I saw a poster for a missing dog in my neighborhood and called to see if there was anything I could do to help.  I needed to do something I felt was worthwhile, in Todd's memory.  As you know, Todd loved animals too.  The woman was so nice and we hit it off immediately.  The search for Daisy went viral, with newspapers doing stories, TV news stations doing interviews with her (Ann), and others on the Daisy Team, billboard space being donated on a Labor Day weekend with Daisy's picture and phone numbers.  Daisy has a Facebook page even though Ann is computer illiterate because others care so much. 

Years ago Ann's son gave her an old laptop but he yelled at her so much about "not breaking it" that she was scared to use it.  He's the CFO of a wildly successful company, having been there since the very beginning, about 15 years ago.  He's extremely wealthy and lives one town over, but never visits or helps her in any way.  Even when she begged him to help her fill out forms for a new furnace through a state-funded program called MassHeat, which provides low-income people ($1200 a month) a no-interest loan with very low monthly payments.  Her 52-year old furnace is so old it has stopped working completely and the repair man, after many visits to fix it, advised her to apply to MassHeat for a new one.  Her son told her it was a "scam" and left her house.  If he is the CFO of his company (and I know he is because I looked up his company online), he knows it's not a "scam", but I believe he is against such programs for the poor.  The day after her son angrily through the forms on her kitchen table and left, Ann's house was 56 degrees!  A friend of mine had a portable heater that was brand new and gave it to me for Ann.  A neighbor of hers loaned her an additional heater.  And all she says about her son is that he is so busy with his job and family, she can understand.  

He's the same age that Todd would be and, this is terrible to say but I truly feel this way, "why does a horrible son like that go on living and a wonderful son like Todd die?"  John and I do everything we can to help her because she's so sweet.  She's also a fun person to hang out with, having us over for dinner, including our dog Ginger, who plays with her dog Hank, when she's in the mood.  Ann loves Ginger because her personality is so much like Daisy's, more independent than most dogs, getting in trouble then looking at you like, "who me?", doing what SHE wants to do when she can get away with it.  Ann hasn't given up on finding Daisy.  Hank was a gift from the woman who was called in to help track Daisy with her Golden Retriever Salsa.  The woman had 4 Golden Retrievers but Hank wasn't interested in tracking, even after years of training, so she had him trained as a Service Dog.  He used to stay home with her husband when she went out tracking, but her husband left her after 37 years of marriage, saying he "just doesn't want to be married any more".  It hurt to leave Hank w/Ann but at the same time, she knows he's happy and she is able to drive up from Maryland to visit him often.




At 2:02pm on January 27, 2012, Janet - Todd's Mom said…

Hi JoAnn - So much has happened in the past week I can't believe it.  Last Friday we took my father to his orthopedic doctor for his scheduled app't.  While waiting in the waiting room, my father appeared to have a TIA (mild stroke or a warning sign of an oncoming stroke).  John and I took him immediately to the ER where we waited hours to be seen.  Because my father told the nurse he thought he was fine now, the doctor who finally came in wouldn't give him any tests, i.e. cat scan.  This so-called doctor laughingly said that my father had the right to "refuse treatment" and wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise.  My father was only trying to not burden us by taking any longer at the hospital.  If you knew my father, he couldn't protest  "vehemently", the word they used.  He is a quiet man.  We were ushered out.   On Sunday my father suffered two falls, the second one causing his arm to bleed tremendously as his skin is so thin it was actually torn.  Back to the ER, thankfully with a better doctor this time, who sent him to Mass General because they couldn't do an ultrasound, due to the fact that my father wears a pacemaker.  At Mass General he was diagnosed as having had a stroke, losing the feeling on his right side (the same one he had difficulty with at the orthopedist's office on Friday.  When we saw him at MG, I would say the stroke was mild.  He was transferred to the same rehab facility where my mother is, but John said he looked extremely weak.  The reason I can't visit him is that I have a stomach virus that is horrendous.  Me, who never ever gets sick!  The Case Manager said it was bound to happen, with all the stress I've been under, not to mention that it is apparently "going around".   Of course I told her about Todd, having died because a doctor wouldn't listen to him and now this, with my father!

Before I got sick, we had to go to my parents' attorney's office for the "power of attorney", which my father had put in his will but had to be verified by his doctor that he can't sign checks, etc., then to the bank, then back to the atty's office.  We just want to transfer the money he asked us to from his savings to his checking account to pay his bills.  Thankfully, it's a small town and the manager at the bank is being very helpful because he knows my parents.  Apparently what I have is very contagious.  Now John is sick too!  I haven't left the house since Tuesday.

Right now I'm so weak I'll have to stop for now, but I wanted to touch base and say hello.

I think about you and Tyler every day.



At 10:37am on January 20, 2012, Janet - Todd's Mom said…

Hi JoAnn - I love the words by Sheri Pearl; they are comforting.  Todd's friends wished him many birthday wishes on his FB page.  I especially love the ones that mention that they're looking forward to meeting up with him again on the other side and how they hope he has the server set up and running, etc. 

I was able to access the pictures of Tyler and your family.  You all look so happy together.  Such fine young men, Tyler and Todd.  I just don't understand this world at all anymore. 

Meanwhile, my parents are getting more frail every day at 90 and 96.  My father finally had to call 911 for my mother, over her very loud objections, and now she's in rehab.  No broken bones or anything else wrong that they can find, but she's had so much pain in her legs that has caused her tofall many times.  She's stubborn and all she wants to do is go home, and pretend she's as young and strong as she used to be.  They say she's at extreme risk of falling and want her to stay for physical therapy.  Thankfully, now that Elder Services is involved, she will get care and help at home, finally.  Now that she's not there to object, my father is having a stair lift installed, so he can get up and down the stairs safely.  I'm hoping my mother will cooperate and use it, instead of crawling up and down the stairs.  We're also having other safety features installed, while she's not there to voice her extremely loud objections.  She wants everything to stay exactly the same, whether or not it's working for them.  Sorry to be so negative; it's the way my parents have always been. 

In the middle of all of this, my neighbor called the MSPCA to tell them that my Siberian Husky is out 24/7 with no shelter.  He's 33, has never worked, lives at home with his parents and obviously has problems.  Our dog goes out with my husband at least 2 hours every day to do errands and go for walks.  I walk her in the morning in the woods near our home, and she also walks with the other dogs I walk.  She goes visiting with me to friends' homes where she's loved and gets to play with their dogs.  She can come inside whenever she wants, but loves the cold weather.  As soon as I spoke with the Law Enforcement Officer at MSPCA, she understood perfectly and said there was no problem.  But it made me so sick inside to think he would call the authorities.  We donate money to the MSPCA every month in Todd's memory.  Their poor dog is never walked and barks in the yard all day long because of boredom.  They don't take her out in the car because they say she gets "carsick".  When she barks, they yell, "SHUT UP"! They're such ignorant people.

I'm also dealing with my daughter's depression and anxiety since losing her only sibling, and the fact that she's in an online relationship with someone who is less than honorable.  We've checked into his background and it's not good.  We had to tell her what we learned because she was saying they were "engaged" and I'm sure he's asked her for money more than once.  Why do these creeps go on living?  It's so unjust.  Thankfully our daughter broke off the "engagement", but they still talk on the phone and text every day.

Todd was the antidote to all the sadness in my life.  I'm having a real difficult time without him.  My husband has been extremely helpful with my parents, so that helps.

Didn't mean to depress you with all of this but sometimes I just have to share it with someone other than my husband.  He feels bad enough already but lately is stronger than me, which is a good thing.

Wishing you a kind and peaceful day,



At 1:20pm on January 12, 2012, Janet - Todd's Mom said…

Hi JoAnn - So good to hear from you, as always.  On Christmas Day I was thinking how lucky you were to be getting away from it all, not realizing that there would be many happy families on the plane.  That's something that always makes me sad, how they're just starting out if their children are young and have a whole happy life to look forward to.  I feel like my life is over now, at least any joy or hope for the future.  I just don't care or look forward to anything anymore.  What you said about not going to the doctor for your cough really resonated with me.  I'm over thinking I'd do anything to harm myself, but I don't go to the doctor for check-ups anymore because she wants me to go for all the other routine tests, i.e. mammogram, gynecological exam, bone density, etc.  Since we lost Todd I haven't had so much as a sniffle and think it's so unfair that he got pneumonia and died from it, while I go on in good health.  I know what you mean about looking at Tyler's graduation picture and seeing how beautiful and full of life he was and finding it hard to believe he's gone.  This morning I was dusting things in Todd's room because today is his birthday and wanted to do something for him, but everything in his room just reminded me of how full of life he was, how many things he was working on and how he had so many plans for the future. I couldn't finish because I was crying too hard.  I can't believe Todd is gone either, and it surprises me that I still feel this way after all this time.  And yet it seems like yesterday when we'd be talking and laughing and I'd marvel at his vocabulary and sense of humor, and his ability to see the irony in so many situations.  I loved his being able to see humor in the absurdities of life.  Even when he was trying to be cynical he'd make me laugh.  When Avatar was released, I was so sad because I remembered how he and his friends would be the first one to see it, and if anyone couldn't make it the first time, they'd go back and see it again.  At first I didn't want to see, so John and Tracy went.  But John kept telling me how good it was and that Todd would want me to see it, so we  went a few months later.  It was wonderful and magical and I did cry thinking how much Todd would have loved it.  Yet John will say, "How do we know that he can't see it?  Really, we don't know that for a fact".  I feel Todd's presence a lot, especially in this house, and John does too. I can't accept that he's gone, he is just somewhere else right now.  His friends on Facebook have written similar things to him today, that they'll all meet again someday.  I hope so much this is true, and that when we do, we'll meet you and Tyler too.  We were going to the cemetery later to bring Todd's birthday card and other things, but it's pouring out!  Last year on his birthday we had a blizzard and were snowed in!   It's okay because we live close by and go there several times a week, either John or me or both of us together, just to make sure everything's still there and not blown away.  We also had a tree planted for him there close to his regular memorial stone.  It has a pretty granite stone that says "In Loving Memory of Todd M. MacDonald".  I've hung some pretty things on the tree, like very soft wind chimes (not metal ones), a butterfly, a silver snowflake, etc., special little things I pick up here and there.

Thinking of you and Tyler today,




At 11:14am on December 28, 2011, Janet - Todd's Mom said…

Hi JoAnn - Don't worry about the multiple posts.  The same thing just happened to me as I was trying to send a reply to someone.  Nothing happened so I tried again.  And again.  Now I realize it might post multiple times.

I hope you are enjoying FL.  A change of scenery is a good thing, especially sunny weather.  Like you, I feel as though increasing my medication wouldn't help.  There is nothing that will take away my pain except for having my son back, which I realize isn't going to happen here on  earth.  All I have is my hope of seeing him in some other time and place, when my time comes to leave this earth.  I hope that time is sooner rather than later, but then I feel guilty for wanting to leave my husband, daughter and parents.  I just wish Todd could be here with us now.  I dreamed that he was back here with us a few nights ago.  The joy was short-lived, maybe one second, before I realized I was dreaming.

My husband and I are planning to attend a Journaling for Grief class at the hospice center where we attended our first support group.  It's not that we don't know how to journal, of course.  It's more to meet others who are grieving for their children, like us, and want to talk about them. 

I'd love to see the pics you have of Tyler and you together.  I just found another of Todd and me at Disney World back in 1987, when he was a lanky 16-year old.  I can see even back then how much fun I had with him, how much I depended on him for the joy in my life.  My daughter can be moody, my husband can be too serious, but Todd and I always just enjoyed life together, not worrying unnecessarily about things such as, "but what if this"? or "what about that"?  I think you understand what I'm saying because you and Tyler had the same kind of relationship.  I will try to scan and post more photos.  It's my way of keeping Todd with me.

I know how you felt when you went into Tyler's room to get something and just fell apart.  It's happened to me so many times, not just in his room.  In the grocery store I just have to see a package of frozen perogies, one of his favorite foods, or whole wheat pastas, because he was trying to eat healthy, and I have to fight back sobbing/screaming tears.  I've had to leave grocery stores and go back to my car because I was crying so hard.  I don't know if I'll ever feel normal again.  Yes, I feel like I'm screaming on the inside most of the time and no one can hear  or help me.  My husband tells me that Todd wouldn't want me to feel so much despair, that if he (Todd) tries to send me a message it often can't get through the wall of pain I carry.  John learned this from someone at the National Compassionate Friends conference we attended in 2010.  My husband just posted this on FB.  "Mars Mission is on its way with Todd's and my name on a microchip inside the Rover. We finally get to go into space together!"  It has a nice graphic that goes with it...I'll send it to you because I know Tyler's name is on that same microchip.  The Mars Rover left a few weeks ago, I think, can't remember the exact date but John follows news of it online.  Todd loved science fiction just like John.  Many years ago John read, "Stranger in a Strange Land" and suggested it to Todd a few years ago.  Todd loved it too.  John loved the fact that Todd enjoyed the old science fiction classics from when he was a young man, not just the newer books. 

I'm wishing you peace and tranquility also, and feeling a little bit better now after talking with you.  Hope the feeling lasts and is transmitted somehow to you too.



At 9:16am on December 20, 2011, Janet - Todd's Mom said…


Your comments about Christmas mirror my feelings exactly.  It only gets worse for me each day.  This year I put a single solar powered light (looks like a flickering candle) in Todd's bedroom window.  The neighbors probably think I'm crazy ... a candle in his window to light his way home.  Really don't care what my neighbors think, although they're good people.  The woman across the street is only 58 and lost her husband only a few months after we lost Todd in June '09.  She and her 22-yr. old son bought a real tree this year.  We talked and she said she thought it was worse to lose a child than a husband, even though they had a good marriage.  He was ill with cancer for almost a year and had prepared everything for her, financially and emotionally, as much as possible.  Her mother, who lives with them, still tears up at the memory of another daughter who she lost 23 years ago.  I understand but hope I don't live another 23 years to suffer this way.

Christmas Eve we're supposed to be going to John's brother's house, where I'll be reminded by his WHOLE family how much I am missing.  Our WHOLE family can't be there.  They'll laugh with joy over John's youngest brother's granddaughter, and talk of the expected baby, who is coming soon.  Christmas Eve 2009 was so happy for all of them that I had to slip quietly out the door and leave, after telling John I couldn't stay any longer.  Luckily I had taken my own car.  I drove to the cemetery to check on Todd's solar garden lights and just cried and cried.  Last year only part of his family was able to be there, so it wasn't as bad.  This year John and my daughter are looking forward to it, but not me.  I'd love to jump in the car and drive to Florida, but right now there are too many things going on here.  

John suffers more now too.  He's very young for his age and always thought we'd be doing a lot of traveling at this point in our lives, but we lost Todd only 4 months after he retired.  He's tried to keep busy with courses on everything from cooking to carpentry and even a part-time job working on the 2010 census, which he enjoyed, but like me, has lost the drive to enjoy life. 

My email address, which Todd set up for me when he set up Picasa for my much loved photos, is   As you said, only a few more weeks of going through the motions.  Today I have so much to do because I haven't felt like doing anything at all, plus I have been helping a friend who had cataract surgery last week.  She can't drive for awhile and it seems that her three grown well-to-do children don't really care all that much.  It hurts to think of them being so uncaring, when Todd was such a caring son and friend.





At 10:47am on December 13, 2011, Janet - Todd's Mom said…

Hi JoAnn - I love the picture of Tyler!  He is so handsome!  Sometimes I spend a long time looking at my photos of Todd, here on my laptop, sometimes crying but other times feeling he is really here with me as long as I'm looking at him. 

How was Thanksgiving with your two sisters?  Life is too short to waste time arguing, but sometimes it's inevitable, I suppose.  We went out to eat on Thanksgiving with our daughter Tracy.  Since The Continental is probably one of the few restaurants that is open and do a big holiday business, it was very crowded, even with reservations.  But once we were seated, it was worth the wait.  The staff is wonderful.  The waitresses are so friendly and down-to-earth, mostly older women who treat you like family guests, serving up food that tastes homemade in large enough quantities that most people end up taking much of it home.  It's still hard to eat out without Todd.  The first time we did soon after we lost him in 2009, Tracy automatically told the hostess "a booth for 4 please".  Then, she said to me in a whisper, "I forgot" with tears in her eyes.  We had 4 place settings and I told her, "it's okay, we want one for Todd".  But of course the waitress took it away when she realized we were only 3. We visited my parents and I brought dessert so my mother would only have to make coffee.  They don't like to eat out, otherwise we would have brought them with us to the restaurant.  They're starting to get frail at ages 96 and 90 but still want to be independent, living in their own home.

At this point I can either spend most of a day crying and thinking, "why am I still living?", and the next day thinking "maybe I will make it".  Yesterday was one of those days.  John and I went to the cemetery to bring Todd a cute reindeer planter painted white with pretty pine greens and festive decorations in it.  The little reindeer looks so proud that he can carry it all!  They had finally put Todd's tree memorial stone in front of his tree at the cemetery, so the whole area looks very pretty, as the tree is near his regular memorial stone.  John added mulch around the tree and I'm going to put a few very special Christmas ornaments on it, though they'll have to be ones that won't destroy me if the wind takes hold of them and they fly away.  After that I had to walk two friends' dogs and my own, and later drive a friend to a doctor's app't since her cataracts make driving dangerous.  Thankfully she's scheduled to have the first eye corrected tomorrow. 

What they stay about keeping busy must be true, but I also need time alone just to grieve and cry.  I miss him so much, all the fun we had together, his wonderful gentle, positive spirit. You and the other parents on this site keep me going, one day at a time.



At 12:29pm on December 7, 2011, Theresa Sweaney said…

Just curious about a post below, the one from Dawn about Healing Hearts.  What is Healing Hearts?  Is it a support group in your area?

At 12:27pm on December 7, 2011, Theresa Sweaney said…

I just noticed the new picture of your son that you posted.  What a handsome man Tyler was.

At 9:20am on December 7, 2011, Brandon's Mom - Dawn said…

It's good to know that I am not the only one feeling that way.  I love this picture of Brandon it was from our last family trip - a cruise to the Carribean...We had so much fun and oh the emotions that picture brings up.  Yes, I am going to the meeting tonight.  I think I need it.  Hope your Thanksgiving was a peaceful one. Tyler is a handsome man and I do see some of you in him! 

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