Friday, December 11, 2009

The First Year

Monday, December 14, marks one year since Laura passed away. I know many of you are thinking of us all during this time, and perhaps wondering how we are doing. From my perspective, it is certainly difficult not to replay what was going on this time last year…

I try so hard to consciously live out what I wrote about Hope in October. For example, that Friday night (this week I have been thinking more of what was going on in a particular day of that last week in 2008 versus the date) was the last time she was alone with Heather (for which I am so grateful) and it was our last night together. Certainly it was the longest night of my life. I start to think about every hour of that night, being with her alone in the house, as the night progressed coming to grips with what was going to happen, talking to her not knowing if she could understand me, knowing that I was going to have to take her to the hospital, but at the same time not wanting to because I realized we would never be alone again.

It is painful to think about that now. So, at the same time, one year later, I am listening to the kids in the bath, happy as can be, laughing and playing together! We just got home from their ice skating lesson, we are about to go out to dinner with Laura's family, and life is so much more peaceful and promising now.

A year ago tomorrow, on Saturday, I think of all the things that we had to go through, my brother-in-law Johnny being at the hospital right after me first thing at 6:30 in the morning, of the support of my entire family, of what her parents and sister must have been thinking as they drove to the hospital, and of the pain that everyone felt… I remember feeling pity for the doctor that had to deliver the news to me and ask for the decision on what to do, I remember then telling the family the news of what was to happen and what we needed to do, of holding Laura's hand and whispering into her ear… "Honey, it's okay, you can go now, I love you and I'll see you soon", hearing the pain in people's voices and seeing it in their eyes as I told them, and the long and terrible night ahead prior to her passing on Sunday morning… these things and many more are burned into my memory and try relentlessly to surface.

But, I tell you that this weekend could easily be about focusing on all of those things and dredging up that pain… but it will not be. It will be about remembering Laura as we do every day, realizing that she is gone and there is nothing we can do about that fact, having faith that we will be with her and each other again, and focusing on all of the things that are happening now with those of us lucky enough to be here, and of the joy to come in life if we let it!

Everything that happens to us leaves a mark… it changes us as a person. We all have, or will, lose someone we love. When that happens, we can never be the same. In this past year, I have learned that it is okay and expected to grieve and that the pain of the loss will be dulled, but will not go away. At the same time I have learned to smile and take joy in listening to kids play in the bathtub!

I have been reflecting on the year and wondering if there was a moment I should share. I remember one moment vividly… it was at the end of the Missouri Boys State program this June. It was my first year as Director of the program, and historically the Director reads a list of those that have passed on and says a few words about them. For those of you who have been there, you know how emotional it can be… every year it is. All the one thousand Boys Staters, their families, and 150 plus staff members are in the college gymnasium… the lights go dark, and taps is played immediately after. Knowing this leading up to the program I didn't know if I could do it… but I knew I had to. It turned into a highly emotional moment for me, because Boys State has been a huge part of my life. Laura supported my involvement and knew how much I cared about it. She know it was part of doing something worthwhile with your life... which she was so clearly committed to. She was loved by my friends and brothers on the Boys State staff. I thought a lot about what I was going to (try to) say. As I was saying it, I felt as if I was alone, talking to her and thanking her for the years of support… it was an incredibly special moment for me. Here are my remarks (copied verbatim from my talking notes):


I know she does Rest In Peace. Let us remember to Live In Peace.

I know it is what she wants.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I've thought a lot about the topic of this posting recently... sorry it has taken me so long to commit it to writing.

The other night in a support group meeting at the Solace House (where the kids and I have been going for several months now... what a wonderful blessing), the counselor in my group asked the question... "Do you have hope? If so, how?"

Fortunately, I was the last one to have to answer the question... not because I couldn't answer, but because to me it is so much more than just saying "yes". I really wanted to communicate why it is possible (for me) to have hope, and also why it was always possible for Laura to have hope. So, I had some time to reflect on that while others answered the question. A few others in the room (each had lost a spouse) indicated that they really didn't have hope... that they were in such despair and shock that they didn't even know what hope was.

Much of what I will describe I learned by witnessing Laura's incredible determination. Some of which we built together (consciously and unconsciously) in the four years she battled her breast cancer. And, some of this framework I have developed for myself in a determination to cope since we lost her.

In my opinion, to have "hope" is to be able to look forward in life and reasonably believe that life is worth living and fulfilling. For all of us, it is certainly easy to feel this way when things are going well, but perhaps most important to feel this way when things are at their worst. That is when it is easiest to lose hope. I believe hope is a mindset and a framework for dealing with life that must be understood, developed, and forged in times of happiness so that it will be there for us in times of challenge.

As I sat there waiting to answer the question, particularly as I listened to those few that did not believe they could have hope, I realized that I had never been at that level... never had I been truly in despair. Even in the hospital with Laura during those final days and hours, even watching her go, even on that painful drive from the hospital trying to figure out how to tell Morgan and Jack that Mommy was gone, even during those early weeks -- nights alone, up at two or three in the morning thinking about all that had been lost, and even now during the moments that I ache for the fact that she is not here... I have NEVER felt that life wasn't worth it. I have never felt hopelessness. I never felt that I/we wouldn't be happy. Some suggest, and have suggested, that I was just trying to be strong, but truly it is genuine.

Why?... I wondered as I sat there.

Suddenly (and luckily about 10 seconds before it was my turn to speak!) I realized there were three things that had helped shaped my hope, and that always would... quite simply they are: (1) realizing there are many things that are completely OUT of my control and they must be accepted, (2) knowing that there are many things that are IN my control that must be acted upon, and (3) having a genuine belief that life WILL offer many wonderful and happy moments.... moments worthy of being hopeful and living through the sad and challenging times.

Though we never put these labels on it specifically, I witnessed Laura exhibit this outlook... and in turn I developed these traits in myself. It was certainly a struggle at times for both of us to accept her disease and the possibility that she might die. But, somehow over time we simply accepted that was part of the deal, life was not fair, and we could not change what happened. We could only do the things that were in our control. There were physical things... getting the best medical treatment, etc. But the most important thing that was in our control was how we would deal with it emotionally. We were resolved (driven by Laura) to be positive and live a normal life... and we did. In those four years, we became closer in our marriage, and our kids had a normal happy life during some very formative years. The alternative - living with anger and hopelessness - was simply not acceptable.

Having hope is so important. I now know first hand that bad things will happen. But, I also now take comfort in the fact that my hope and genuine happiness is not dependent on bad things never happening... that would truly be false hope.

If anyone is reading this, particularly those of you that are going through breast cancer or any other of life's inevitable challenges, please understand that this hasn't been easy... for me having hope doesn't mean I am always happy. It means that while it is okay and expected to be sad at times, I am resolved not to live sadly.

For Laura, it was the same. She was sad at times... but as I wrote in this blog the night she died, never for long!

One more thing... only recently were we able to place Laura's marker at her gravesite. For those of you that would like to visit her grave, it is located in Mount Moriah Cemetary just south of I-435 on Holmes Road in Kansas City. The gravesite is located towards the back (east) of the cemetary, just south of the lake and next to a stone bridge. The kids and I find it a peaceful place to visit... and the kids like the lake! There is a vase attached to the in-ground marker. Please contact me ( if you would like specific directions.

I want to share with you what is inscribed on her marker. The message is driven by her hope. She used to say to Morgan... "You are my heart" and to Jack "You are my smile". I wanted to incorporate this into the inscription so each of them would have a personal message and an everlasting reminder that they are truly a product of their Mommy. The inscription reads:

Laura Walsh Plunkett
May 10, 1972 – December 14, 2008

A Wonderful and Truly Beautiful
Daughter, Sister, Friend, Wife, and Mommy

We will always love you and miss you dearly,
but it comforts us to know that
your heart lives on in Morgan,
your smile lives on in Jack,
and your incredible hope and spirit lives on in us all.

So it must. And so it does.

Peace and hope to you all,

Friday, July 31, 2009

10 Years Today

Laura and I were married July 31, 1999, ten years ago today. I know that today will be difficult at times for me, and I do feel a particular sadness and real void with her absence. I don't spend much time thinking about "what could have been", but tonight I am thinking about ten years ago, about the special trip we were planning to take for this anniversary, and about how we would have felt looking back on ten years and looking forward to many more. It will seem sad and strange to just have a regular day.

Our wedding and the events that surrounded it were so special. We were very happy, and everyone seemed to have a great time and was happy for us. It was a wonderful time of life, and the memories are so fresh for me even today. It literally feels like yesterday.

The night before our wedding, after the rehearsal dinner, we gathered in the house of my good friend, Randy Gray. My friends began to offer me advice, one-by-one. The only one that I remember was from my friend, and Boys State hero, Jim Whitfield. Jim had recently lost his wife of many decades, and I remember the look on his face and the pain he felt when he simply said.... "just cherish her".

I always did cherish her, and still do. I just never thought we would have so little time.

I hope we will all remind ourselves to cherish the ones we love and to find joy in the moments we share; not just the big events, but the everyday lives we live together.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

May 10th

Today, May 10th, was both Mother's Day and Laura's 37th birthday. Leading up to today, I didn't really know what to expect. I know those of you that knew about the two occasions were concerned about us. The only thing I cared about was making it a normal day for the kids, and not a sad one.

Morgan and Jack decided they wanted to make balloons and send them up to Mommy. They had so much fun doing it, and there was not a sad moment. They wrote messages on each balloon... Jack told me what to write and Morgan wrote her own messages. Both kids just had a great day, a very normal day... not a sad moment for either of them. Morgan had a soccer game this afternoon, her entire team wore pink ribbons in Laura's honor, and her friend Rachel brought her a pink rose.

I must admit, though, it was very difficult for me at times. It was the most emotional day since Laura passed away. It just wasn't right that she couldn't be here. She loved days like this so much... and this would have been her day. I remember her being like a little girl every time she got presents on her birthday, Christmas, etc. I just ached not being able to share this day with her.

This morning, Morgan and I were talking about Laura, as we do every day. Only this time, I broke down and started crying. I was really disappointed in myself because Morgan had been happily talking about her Mommy and I didn't want to upset her. However, she didn't get upset at all. She just hugged me, kept smiling, looked directly in my eyes and insisted "Now Daddy, remember, you have to always think about the happy times with Mommy... you just have to". I couldn't believe it. She is 8. I wondered where she got her wisdom, strength, and compassion. Then I realized the obvious answer....

From Laura.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sorry It Has Been So Long!

Hello all - I know that a few of you have looked to the blog to see how we have been doing, and I am sorry it has been so long since the last posting. I want you to know that Morgan, Jack, and I are all doing well. We sure do miss Laura, though.

Having the kids around is absolutely the best medicine. An old fried of mine sent me a note and reminded me that kids can "find such joy in things we see as mundane or common" -- so true! Morgan and Jack were taking a bath together tonight and they were just having a ball, laughing and playing a make believe "family" game with all their little plastic ducks. It was such a joy for me just to listen to them as I was folding laundry. Both kids are happy and seem to be adjusting to a new life without Laura physically with us, but we talk about her and remember her on a daily basis. She really is present.

As for me, I constantly think about Laura. There are moments that I struggle mightily with the fact that Laura isn't here and I can't be with her. There are moments that I miss her so profoundly that I try to somehow put it out of my mind. But, those are only moments. Generally, my thoughts are of the wonderful things we experienced and reflections of everyday moments that we shared. I hope that she would be proud of the way that I am trying to really live life and create a happy, safe, and nurturing home for our precious kids.

I think about Laura's parents and sister all the time, and pray for peace for them. I know that this is all very difficult, and I know for a fact how much she loved them and how important they were to her. I am grateful that I will always be a part of their family.

It becomes more clear to me every day what a blessing it was to all of us to have had Laura in our lives. Although it would be easy to do so, we should try not to mythologize her. She was a real person, with everyday faults and moments of weakness just like all of us. But, there were so many incredible things about her. She was so wonderful, and so genuinely interested in doing the right thing. She loved her family so deeply. She was just an incredible person. Her example will always be a lesson to me... and to Momo and Jack.

We have done a number of things over the past few months since the holidays. The kids and I went to Arkansas and to a Razorbacks basketball game with my uncle Marshall and we just got back from several days visiting my brother in San Francisco. Jack had his 5th birthday. Morgan is starting soccer (I am the coach), both kids are still going strong in Taekwondo (they get their new belts on Friday), and I plan for a new session of Boys State (my first session as Director). We have established new routines at home, I am keeping up with laundry and meals, slowly getting the house straightened up, but the kids probably still get to sleep too late. Most importantly, the business of living life goes on!

Our family and friends have been so great. Everyone has pitched in to help, or offered to help. Many of you have offered to help in some way, and I have not been able to take you up on it... it is appreciated nevertheless.

That is all for now... I will try to post more regularly. But feel free to send me a note anytime at or on Facebook. I appreciate it.

Peace to you all,

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Thank You Everyone!

I am so touched by the outpouring of support from everyone. It will take me some time to thank each of you personally, but until then please know that your words, prayers, presence, and love are deeply felt and profoundly appreciated. There were so many of you that I did not get to really talk to, or just spoke with you briefly, and I look forward to connecting with you soon.

I was dreading tonight. It was the first night I have been alone in the house, as the kids are with Laura's parents (Nana and Peepaw!). But, it has been a peaceful evening of wrapping Christmas presents and just relaxing. I really miss Laura and I find myself constantly reminded of her and times we spent together. But, I think the past several days of honoring and remembering Laura and bearing witness to the incredible number of people she affected has helped me a great deal.

The kids are just doing great. Today, we slept in, then piled into bed and watched cartoons and movies for awhile... and wrestled. They miss their Mommy, but they really are happy. I just love being with them.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas week!
- Michael

My contact information is as follows:
12475 Slater Ln., Overland Park, KS, 66213

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Memorial Arrangements

Friends --

The link on the title of this post will take you to Laura's obituary in the Kansas City Star. In summary, the visitation is from 6:30-8:30 on Thursday and the funeral service is at 11:00 on Friday. Both will be held at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. See for the address and other information.

I am really looking forward to seeing those of you that can make it later this week. For those of you that cannot, I will see you soon! Regardless of your physical presence, your love and support is deeply felt. I have received many emails, phone calls, and postings on this blog. I am sorry I cannot respond to every one, but I want to when the time comes soon. I have listened to or read every one of them... they are a source of joy and comfort!

For those of you that may be traveling to Kansas City and may be interested in air travel assistance, our funeral director gave me this: call 800-224-4177, use reference #2770. This may provide you with bereavement fare at a reduced rate. I am sorry I didn't have the opportunity to post this sooner. But, if you have already made plans, I would suggest checking anyway to see if discounts are available.

We had a good day! Laura is constantly in my thoughts and everything reminds me of her, and as every hour goes by I feel even more blessed to be her husband and to have made this journey with her. As I told her friend Tina today -- if I could do it again, even with knowing the pain of her loss would come.... I would! I would not trade a moment. She changed me as a person, and I will focus my life on our incredible kids just as we both have with her watching over all of us.

Now, I am going to bed to cuddle with Momo, she is sleeping soundly. I am betting Jack will be in our room when he wakes up in the middle of the night as usual, so I will leave a little space for him too!

I hope peace is with all of you.... goodnight.