Thursday, June 16, 2016

Are There Birthdays In Heaven?

Dear Seth,

I have not written to you in a while. Honestly, I had a very difficult time coping for five weeks after I last wrote. It rained here a lot. I was tired and I could not bring myself to blog until this week. I have a lot of excuses. I need to stop making excuses. I have a lot of questions. I need to stop thinking questions in my head that cannot be answered. It is a waste of energy, I know that. But I do want to know, are there birthdays in heaven?

I went to Atlanta to visit Matt, Mandy and the kids eight weeks ago. Did you know they had their little boy? They named him Latham Seth, after you. He is adorable and you would just love him! It was so much fun to see them and to play with the kids. They offered to bring me to the places that you and I visited in 2008. I declined the offer though, it made me too sad.

I remember when you visited me in Atlanta when I was there for a clinical rotation in PT school. It was so much fun! That weekend was when I fell in love with you. That was the weekend that I knew I wanted to be married to you for the rest of my life. We did get married. I just never imagined that it would only be for the rest of your life, cut way too short.

Stone Mountain ~ 2008
 Atlanta Aquarium ~ 2008

Atlanta ~ 2016
(#SethStrong bracelet that Matt made when you got sick)

I had a lot of fun that weekend in Atlanta, and then I went home. This marked the beginning of three very difficult weeks for me. When I walked into our empty, quiet, house I burst into tears. I cried as hard as I did just before your funeral when they closed your coffin and I saw you in the flesh for the very last time. It was awful. The house was so silent. Did you know that silence is excruciatingly loud? It screams in your face that your life is forever different. Silence reminds you that the place you once felt so at home will never be the same. I miss the sound of your breathing. I miss the sound of you walking around in our house, letting me know that you were here. I miss the sound of your laugh or your voice when we talked every night while we ate dinner together. I miss the sound of us laying next to each other in bed even when we weren't saying anything at all. The silence is painfully loud.

Being a widow is one of the most draining hands that I have been dealt in my short life. People describe grief as a roller coaster. There are highs and there are lows. I do everything I can to remain distracted, to convince myself that I am happy. I invest my all into work, I make plans with friends for dinner, I exercise when I have time. And the truth is, I do have fun. Sometimes I have a lot of fun. But never the less, there is always a sense of sadness and pain lingering in my mind because I miss you so terribly much.

I've been to Pittsburgh again. There was a bowling fundraiser hosted by the Seemans. It was a lot of fun. Some of the proceeds went to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, in honor of their beloved grandfather. The rest of the funds went to your scholarship. It was very generous of them.  

Raffle Item Josh Won at the Bowling Fundraiser ~ 2016
I visited you every day that I was in Pittsburgh. When I was a kid I was afraid of cemeteries. Now I find peace at cemeteries. That is not normal for a 31 year old. Nothing is normal though. Nothing is what I had planned for myself at this juncture in my life. But that is the big lesson right? You cannot plan life, you just need to live it as though every day is your last. That much I know is true.

Jackson visiting his dad ~ 2016
Recently I went to a fundraiser hosted by one of my patients. The event raised money for a piece of equipment that has the potential to help a lot of people with spinal cord injury. At this event they showed a video about what this equipment means to the patients. In the video the patients shared stories of who they were before they sustained a spinal cord injury and how that all changed the instant that their independence was stripped from them. With the blink of an eye, life as they knew it would never be the same. My patient said something that really resonated with me. When speaking to the audience about his experience he said, "I've really had a good time." He followed this by laughing. Obviously he did not mean that he enjoyed sustaining a spinal cord injury. However, despite the terrible tragedy that he experienced, he managed to find good out of it. He has met people that he otherwise would not have met if not for his spinal cord injury. He has seen the goodness of people through their kindness as they reach out to his family to offer assistance. He has learned when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. These patients are grateful for their experiences, despite how horrific and life changing they were. Their experiences shaped them into the persons they are today. Without these life lessons they may not be the strong, confident, courageous men and women that they all truly are.

I have been thinking a lot about what my patient said. I will never find good from your death. I would rather give up all of the lessons that I have learned in order to have you back. But that will never happen and I just need to accept that. With that understanding I am left with two options. I can completely shut down (and I certainly do not judge other widows and widowers who go this route, I am not even sure it is a choice we have control over). Or I can wake up every morning and push forward trying to make the most of my day and life as it is. With the help of therapy, medication (on and off as you know I was never the most compliant patient), family, friends, co-workers, and my patients, I am working hard to make the most of my life. I am working hard to fulfill my promise to you that I would take care of myself. It is not easy, but I am working hard to accept the hand that I have been dealt whether I like it or not. Although we can agree that what happened to you is not fair for you or the people you left behind. I understand what my patient meant when he gave his speech. I cannot change my circumstances. Everyone has circumstances. But I can be grateful for all that I have gained as a result of my circumstances. If not for cancer we would be living happily with the children we had hoped to have together. If not for cancer I would still have my best friend by my side as I sleep at night. If not for cancer I would not be writing this blog. On the other hand, if not for cancer I would have never learned of courage as you exemplified every single day. If not for cancer you and I may not have had the strength in love and devotion to each other that so few people have in such a profound way as you and I did. If not for cancer I may have never learned to relax and appreciate life as much as you always did. If not for cancer...I understand what my patient meant. I may not like it, but there is no escaping it. I should be grateful for all that I have learned and the support system that I have. If not for cancer I may have never known how truly lucky I am. 

Your birthday has passed. Leading up to your birthday I was very anxious. The day before you passed you told me you would not live to see your 32nd birthday. I told you that was ridiculous. Of course you would live. You weren't that sick after all, right? To be honest, I was terrified that you were right, but I did not want you to know that. To be honest, even though we shared that fear, I did not expect your life to be taken the very next day. Although it had been 20 months, it still seemed too quick. It still seemed too unreal. That couldn't happen to my husband. I couldn't really become a widow, could I? You wouldn't really die before your 32nd birthday, would you? To be honest, I feared that you would.

For your birthday my friends decided that I should get away. With family and friends by my side we went to Nashville, TN. The main point of the weekend was to distract me from real life by spending time with those closest to me in a city that I love. The other point of the weekend was to celebrate you. Ten of my family and friends traveled from far and wide to honor you and celebrate our life together. We are so lucky for the people in our lives. I had so much fun in Nashville, especially when remembering the time you and I went there with Ginnie and Paul. I love you for loving our time together in Nashville. 

Jack's BBQ ~ 2011
Opryland Hotel ~ 2011
Girls "Birthday" Trip ~ 2016

#SethStrong Bracelet Nashville ~ 2016
On your actual Birthday I kept myself very busy. It was the only way I knew to get through one of the "firsts" that I had to experience without you. To be honest, I hate birthdays. My grandmother passed away on my birthday. Your grandmother's funeral was on your birthday. You were diagnosed with cancer on my birthday. Birthdays are overrated. None the less I made a decision that I would celebrate you as best as I could. The day started when I brought breakfast to your school and reviewed scholarship applications with the designated board. Following that I went to work and for lunch I ordered pizza for the department. That day, I wanted to show my appreciation to our co-workers for their love and care while you were sick and since you passed away. For dinner, your parents and I met Josh, Gina and Giuliana at Liberatores. Being at liberatores was strange and emotional for me. The very last time you and I went to dinner together was the Saturday night before you died. That night, we also went to Liberatores and sat at the table right behind where we were seated for your birthday dinner. I could "see" you sitting in your wheelchair at the table while we caught up with Matt and Mandy. I cannot believe that only five nights before you died we were out at dinner with friends. How could things change so fast? Did I do something wrong? We sang happy birthday to you and had ice cream cake for dessert, the very same cake that you had growing up. 

The most special part of your birthday celebration happened after dinner that night and again while I was in Cape Cod over memorial day weekend. On both occasions, with both sides of the family, we had a balloon release. It was Josh's idea to send balloons into the sky in order to honor you and celebrate your life. I loved the idea! I couldn't believe how emotional it was for me. I suppose it was the first moment I realized how real this was. I realized that you would never be 32. I will turn 32 in July. I will keep getting older and you will always stay 31. It doesn't seem fair. For the first time I realized that our nieces and nephews would keep getting older until eventually they are "older" than their Uncle Seth. I realized my responsibility in making sure that the kids remember and honor their Uncle Seth every year on your birthday. Realizing this was heartbreaking, but releasing the balloons was heartwarming. On your birthday, in Maryland and in Cape Cod, we had the first annual balloon release to celebrate you. We will do this every single May 24th. If nothing else the kids will remember hearing stories about their courageous and strong Uncle Seth. I hope this ceremony will become something they look forward to. They will celebrate Uncle Seth's balloon release and therefore they will always remember their uncle Seth. Therefore we will always celebrate your birthday. I hope that you celebrate too and watch the amazing view as the balloons soar into the sky. I hope that there are birthdays in heaven. 

I am tired now, so I will stop writing. But I want you to know that I love you so much. I want you to know that I hope you had a wonderful birthday in heaven. I want you to know that I will never stop celebrating you. I want you to know, I had a rough few weeks after I last wrote. But tonight, well tonight I am doing better. I am still heartbroken, but I am also in love. I am in love with your memory and right now I will use that to keep pushing forward. Right now I will go to bed and dream of you and your birthday in heaven. Right now I love you. Happy birthday.


"Don't give up. Don't ever give up." ~ Jimmy V.

"You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live." ~ Stuart Scott

Seth Jacob Budai Caring Bridge Page

#SethSrong In Florida ~ 2016
(Photo from Matt and Mandy on your Birthday)


  1. Beautifully written. I will share this with my widow friends, too. My husband died 4 weeks after being diagnosed with liver cancer and 3 weeks before our first wedding anniversary. Everyone felt he couldn't possibly die that quickly; of course he'd be with me for our first anniversary. But cancer is a cruel opponent and makes no compromises. Now I just have memories.

  2. I love reading your blog and I am always amazed at how strong a woman you are. I am sure Seth was eating cake with you. Xoxo

  3. Hi Meredith,

    I happen to have found your blog in one of the forums. i am a young widower also and everything you wrote in your blogs is exactly how i felt! especially being jealous of older widowers who were able to have an extra 30+ years with their husband. I also felt the same way about worrying that other people will go back to their norm while i was still mourning. that people will forget.

    Please keep blogging! your words really help me through my days!

  4. I found your blog linked to the Reddit Widow/Widowers site. I lost my beautiful wife to cancer a month ago and your blog posts echo alot of what I've been experiencing as well. We were in our early 40s, but like you Meredith, we were only married a short time, for us, just 2 years. Your blog is very powerful.. wishing you well from NYC.