Dear Barry


Dearest Barry,

Remember when we were engaged and I always wrote you letters while I was working every night at Subway? You’d get 10 page letters sometimes. I always wrote longer ones than you did haha. I still have all of those saved up in my hope chest for the kids to read and keep one day. Four years ago today you died, and I wanted to write you a letter again.

In the last year, I’ve married a wonderful man, gone to California (including Disneyland!), flew to Kansas twice…once without the kids, went on a lovely honeymoon to New York City, and moved to Kansas. I became a US CITIZEN!!! I also swam in rivers, saw a show on Broadway, hiked on Mt Rainier, went to Yellowstone and saw Old Faithful, took a ton of pictures of Mt Rushmore (secretly very excited to be there because I was FINALLY a US Citizen), moved out of the house I thought I’d never leave, said goodbye to friends, left Olympia, and made a few new wonderful friends.  It’s been a whirlwind of a year honey, and sometimes I wish I could pick up the phone to call you and tell you everything.

The kids have remarked before that it doesn’t seem like you’re dead, and sometimes it really doesn’t at all.  Because you were gone so often, I just had to pick up a phone and call you to hear your voice.  Shortly after you died, I was at a Starbucks in Lacey, and some woman ahead of me had done something really dumb or dressed silly, and I remember picking up my phone to call you.  But I couldn’t.  The painful reality of not being able to call you hit me really hard that day.

If I could call you today, I’d tell you how much I loved you, and how much I miss you every day.  I’d also tell you how easy it is to forget about you, even when I don’t mean to, because I am so entrenched in another life now, that our life together doesn’t even seem like it was real.  If I could call you today, I would tell you that I had to let Maegen take Hades to Vancouver with her because we aren’t allowed to have more than three pets on base, and that everyone misses him a ton…including Zeusy.  I’d tell you that I’m in Choir!!! That I joined a choir on post and I sing really well with a bunch of other Army Spouses.  Oh yeah, I’d tell you I married another Army man 🙂 You’d scoff because I went for a higher rank than you ever were haha.  I’d tell you that I resented you for a long time for giving up so easily, and leaving the military right before the twins were born, but that it makes no sense to be upset about it now because we did come through it ok 🙂  But you know I have always had a weakness for a man in uniform, why do you think I married you 14 years ago?

If I could call you today, I’d tell you all about Andrew, my new husband, and how I laugh all the time about how I imagine your reaction would be about me marrying a guy that’s half Chinese. I’d tell you how wonderful of a dad he is to the kids, and how he said he was taking the torch from you and carrying on what you first started.  I’d tell you that he loves us very much and is a wonderful provider, and that eventually when we have time, he is going to adopt those four children of ours.  If I could call you today, I would tell you I never in my wildest dreams imagined I could love another man as much as I loved you, but just because I do love him, does not take away your place in my heart.  I’d tell you how amazed I am that the heart has the capacity to love so much, without any limits.

If I could call you today, I would tell you all about our four children.  I would tell you that our oldest daughter is hell on wheels at 12.5, and is too pretty for her own good.  I would tell you that she complains all the time about being so short, but teases her “little” brother about her being the oldest (TWO MINUTES!!).  Id’ tell you she is the typical girl of her age, obsessed with One Direction and a total girly girl, just like I always thought she’d be.  I’d tell you that she is on her third year of playing the flute. I would tell you that just like I predicted, she still has the hardest time out of all the kids with you being dead, and that she talks about you the most.  If I could call you today, I would tell you that our son is taller than me, and is 6′ tall at 12 years old, and wears a bigger shoe than you ever did (sz 14!!).  I would tell you that he is obsessed with basketball, and really shows no interest in girls yet (hallelujah!!), and got his brains from you.  He is getting straight A’s in every class. I would tell you that he is in advanced band just like his twin sister, and plays the trumpet like a champ.  I would tell you that he still has problems not being the “man of the house” anymore, and still holds steadfast to you being Dad, and that it makes him feel weird to call Andrew dad.

If I could call you today, I would tell you about our middle child, who at almost 11 years old is 5’6″ and a head taller than all her friends. I would tell you all about her obsession with wolves, and how she is still best friends with Anna after all these years, and that she is a total book-worm like her mother.  I would tell you that she has taken after me, and played the trombone.  She is on her second year now!  I would tell you that she is still our sensitive little girl, and as big as she is, we still have to remember that she is in fact, still only 10 years old.  I would tell you how much of a wonderful artist she is, and how I know she got that from you, because she draws so well, and I can only draw stick people.  If I could call you today, I would tell you all about our baby, who at 7.5 years old, is also one of the tallest kids in her class.  I would tell you all about her love of My Little Pony, and how she watches it on the Roku obsessively.  I would tell you about her nickname, Buck Tooth Billy, which I gave her because she started sucking her thumb again after you died.  I’d tell you she has finally stopped, but now she needs braces.  Oy.  I would tell you that I am still having a hard time with her growing up, and that she will always be my baby girl.  I’d tell you how much it makes me sad that Andrew is the only dad she will ever truly know, and how she calls him daddy, and you daddy too. And I would tell you that she is one of the best readers in her class, knows all of her sight words, and tries to be a daredevil on her bike.

If I could call you today, I would tell you how often I wonder what you would think of our children at the ages they are now.  I would ask you how it feels to see them so big now, because when you died, they were still babies, and that the last four years have been instrumental in making them who they are now, and that they have grown physically and mentally by leaps and bounds.  I would tell you, they are NOT the same children you knew. I would tell you I often wonder what our life would be like if you hadn’t died, and we had moved to Pennsylvania.  Would our kids still be playing instruments? Would the boy be in basketball like he is here?

If I could call you today, I would tell you about last February.  I would tell you that an ex friend was in St Peter’s hospital, and I went to visit her, and that it took me 10 minutes to find a parking spot at the hospital.  I would tell you that when I knew I had to go visit her, I didn’t even think twice about where I was going, but went on auto pilot not even knowing. I’d tell you that as soon as soon as those sliding doors opened in front of me, the smell of the hospital came wafting over me like a tidal wave and that I started crying right away as everything came flooding back to me.  I’d tell you that I instinctively pushed the #10 button on the elevator to go up to the floor where you were, and that as soon as the doors opened and the 10th floor was in my line of sight, I stepped out and looked at the room where you died.  I would tell you that I immediately started crying and couldn’t breathe, and how I wanted to go in that room so damn bad. Maybe I was hoping I would fell your presence or something.  I would tell you that I walked up to the desk, and the nurse that was with me when you died was there, and that she remembered me, and that I cried and cried and cried.  And then I would tell you that I had to leave because it was too much for me, and that it took me a few weeks to get over the emotions of that visit.  I wanted to go one last time before we moved for closure, and I would tell you I hadn’t been in that hospital since right after you died when I went to pick up some forms from the hospital.

Barry, if I could call you today, I would tell you that I miss you, and I love you, and that our lives aren’t the same without you.  But, I would tell you that I am very happy, and that we laugh all the time, that we are loved and well taken care of.  I would tell you that it gets easier and easier as the days and years pass, but that my heart will always, always, have a spot for you.

If I could call you today, I would tell you that every time I see 11:11 on the clock, I think of you.

“Life is the one great indulgence; Death the one great abstinence”


Dear Barry…

Dearest Barry,

Seems like it’s that time again, time for your letter that I write you every year.  Like always, I start this letter a couple of weeks before your death anniversary as it allows me time to work on my feelings and process things yet again, rather than forcing myself to do it all in one day.  Good thing I am wearing waterproof mascara today!

I can’t believe it has been three years.  I think you started getting sick right about this time in 2009 (late September), and I remember how worried I was.  You just weren’t getting better, and I confessed my fears to you about you dying.  I was so scared.  I remember how you told me “don’t worry, if I feel like I’m going to die, I’ll go to the hospital”.  And you did.  And you never came home.  I’ve had so much time to reflect on our marriage, and after you died, I remembered how I always had this feeling that I wouldn’t get forever with you. You always said you would die young, and I didn’t want to believe it, but deep down I knew, but hoping it would never come true.

I miss you.  I will always miss you, and I will always love you.  Did you know we still talk about you every single day? Not a day goes by that you don’t enter our thoughts or pop up in conversation.  I make sure to do that for the kids, as it’s important that you are kept alive in them.  I still cry for you, though not as often.  I think the third year has been the easiest for me.  The first I was in a total fog and just putting one foot in front of the other.  The second was the absolute hardest for me, so far.  The fog had lifted, and I was left with two broken hearts…one from you, and one from a jackass that took advantage of me.  Everything was so real last year, final…it had all sunk in.  Then this year…while it has been the easiest of the three, it has not been without its trials as well.  Our family has definitely been on a roller coaster, and I am still trying to make heads or tails of it all.

I met a man a year ago on eHarmony.  I didn’t want to join, but several friends pushed me towards it, and I reluctantly joined.  Less than a month after I joined, he and I went on our first date on October 15th, and then this past August, he proposed! Oh Barry, you have sent me such a gift in Andrew.  How lucky am I to find two men who have loved me with every fiber of their being?  He loves the kids, and he is so respectful of your memory, and he also talks about you with them as well.  He is a wonderful man, and has pushed me and pushed me out of my shell, just like you wanted.  Guess what I accomplished this year? I hiked mountains!  Yes, ME!  I look back to the person I was three years ago, and the concept of even thinking about that was foreign to me, but I did it!

We’re getting married next year, and Andrew suggested we have a chair reserved for you at the front where the kids will be sitting.  And a picture of you as well ❤ He wants you to know that we will always remember you, and how this family started.  Our son will be walking me down the aisle, giving me away.  Speaking of the kids…you would be so proud of them.  They are growing and changing every day.  V & M will be 12 in a few short months…remember the day we found out we were having twins? “Ya, I zink I zee two in there” with Dr Westerburg? I was only 19 years old and you were 20! we were babies ourselves, and now our babies will be teenagers in just over a year.  The boy is already almost as tall as me! Less than an inch  to go now 🙂 He looks just like you, and I love that. I can see your face through him as he grows up.  He got a much coveted spot on a basketball team and starts in November! He’s 5’8″ now!  The girls….V is such a little lady.  She inherited the short gene from your mother and we always tease her about it.  But the pipes on that girl! Oh can she sing!  I’ve put her in voice lessons and her coach is looking for a spot for her in one of his bands.  She is going to give us trouble when she is older, I can see it now…and all the boys will love her. Oy.

E…E is still her same self that she was three years ago.  She hates the thought of growing up, scoffs at the thought that she has to wear a bra soon, is still a tomboy, and her hair is a wild untamed mess of thick unruly curls.  She has a gentle heart though, and is such a sweetheart who still loves giving hugs all the time. All she wants for her birthday again is Art Supplies!  I can’t believe our little indian papoose will be 10 in less than two weeks! She is having her first sleepover party this year and is so excited for it! A is in first grade now…our little baby is almost 7 years old!  She takes after her oldest sister, and is a total girly girl.  She is reading like a champ, taught herself how to tie her own shoes!, and loves birds.  She’s still as quirky as ever though, and has a toy lizard that she named….Bacon. I can’t believe that our children are growing up so fast, they will be out of the house in a blink of an eye.

I cried writing this to you, as I always do.  I promise to always hold you close to my heart, to always remember you and make sure you are remembered.  I will always talk about you with the kids, and anyone else who will listen.  You will live on forever because you will always be loved.  Thank you for watching out for us, and sending Andrew our way.  As hard as my life has been the last few years, I feel blessed to have, and have had, the love that surrounds me.  Thank you for giving me four wonderful children, who at times make me want to run away forever and forget I am a mother, but also allow me to see you through them every single day.

Love forever and always,



13 Years Ago…

Hard to believe it was so long ago.

13 years ago, my first husband Barry proposed to me.


Look at how young we look! We were only 19 then, young and in love.  Actually, I was barely 19, as I had only turned 19 six weeks before.  We were married four months later in Wiesbaden Germany on December 29, 1999.

Here’s a post I wrote on my old blog last year:

12 Years Ago

Twelve years ago today, a very nervous, and much skinnier Joanna, waited in front of The Empress hotel in Victoria, BC, for a young man she had known for 9 months and never seen a picture of.

Twelve years ago, Barry and I met in person for the very first time after talking for nine months via phone, email, and yahoo messenger.  I fell in love with him before I even met him, and vice versa.   I knew that even if he was a total toad, I couldn’t ever say no to him, I wanted to marry him that bad.

Twelve years ago today, at 6PM, Barry proposed to me.  He proposed the day we met in person.  And we were married four months later. 

I can’t believe it has been 12 years since August 28th, 1999.  It seems like a lifetime ago.  I’ve always wanted to go back to the place where we were engaged, but haven’t been able to do so.  Partly due to the fact that it’s in Canada, and a pain in the ass to get to Victoria with four kids, but also…because I’m a little scared.  I will go back one day, but I don’t know when yet.

I have a picture of Barry and I from the day we got engaged, and I wish I had a way to scan it for you all.  My scanner is acting up and I can’t figure out how to work it.

I still can’t believe it has been 12 years ago that we met and got engaged.  I miss him so much.  I wish I could hear him tell me how proud he is of me right now, how much he loves me, how awesome I am doing.  But all I can do is hear him in my head.  At least I have that right?  I can hear him talking to him…and while I can’t hear his voice very well right now, I know exactly what he’d be saying to me.

I love you Barry.

Thankfully I was able to have my scanner fixed, and include the picture for you.  It was such a lifetime ago.  Look how much we have loved, lived, and grieved in the last 13 years.  I was about to embark upon a journey of being an Army wife then, and now everything has come full circle again.