Sunday, December 22, 2013


One year ago today (a Saturday) at 6:25 am, I received a phone call that shattered my heart, and my life.  I was told Tom had started hemorrhaging and would not survive.  I continued to talk to Dr. Rutland while getting dressed.  He wasn’t sure how long Tom would hang on and I wanted to be there with him.  I called my mom a moment after hanging up with the doctor.  Nothing is real until I tell my mom.  She said she knew when the phone rang that it was not going to be good news.  Pulling out of the driveway, I called Tom’s sisters.  I don’t even remember what I said to them – we all were distraught. 
I stayed with Tom in ICU all day.  We were able to talk briefly early on but then he just slept.  I made sure he was as comfortable as possible.  I was blessed to have two dear friends, Nancy and Becky who came to the hospital and waited with me until my family arrived.  My sweet minister also came up and prayed with us.  Other friends came to the hospital.  Some I saw, some I didn’t.
Tom stayed with us until 9 pm.  His sisters and I were with him when he passed away.  I was holding his hand.  I called my minister and he prayed with us again.  We got to stay with Tom another hour or so.  Tom’s good friend Dennis came by and also his cousin Andy. 
My parents had left the hospital about 8 pm to go home and take care of the dogs.  I will never forget seeing my dad when I got home.  He gave me a big hug and told me he was sorry. 
I’ve heard others say the days following are a blur.  I remember them pretty well.  The phone rang early Sunday morning – it was the funeral home.  They were calling to schedule an appointment to make the arrangements.  I remember thinking – wow, what’s the hurry – and it’s Sunday?!?  Anyway, we all got ready and my parents, Tom’s sisters and I headed to the funeral home.  I didn’t expect to see Tom again but we had that opportunity.  I’m glad I did and I wish I didn’t all at the same time.  From there we went to the church so I could show his sisters the Prayer Garden, where Tom’s ashes would be interred.  Cathy and Debbie headed home later that afternoon.  Mom, dad and I just sat around – what else do you do?
Monday was Christmas Eve.  I called the church office to arrange a meeting to secure our spots in the columbarium.  It was weird to me that the church was “open” on Christmas Eve, however, they had 5 Christmas Eve services scheduled that day so there were a number of people around.  It was my parents and me picking out our final resting places.  It was crazy to me.  We were too young to be doing this!  I don’t think I cried – I just went about it as a task that needed to be done.  We talked about when to hold the service – there is just no good time around the holidays.  I felt bad asking my minister to work and friends to sing.  I’m sure they did quite a bit of rearranging of their holidays to do that for us.
Honestly, Christmas came and went.  It didn’t really seem like Christmas.  My sister came up the day after Christmas and helped clean the house, coordinate food and all kinds of things.  Tom’s sisters came back and we picked some Bible readings and songs.  I wish there had been more time to think about the service but I just didn’t feel like it.
Losing Tom’s dad in October was another unexpected blow to the family.  I am thankful to Mary, Mike and her family who took such good care of him after her mom died.  It is comforting to me that Tom and his parents are together in Heaven.
Quite a few people have told me that “once you get through the year of firsts it will get better”.  I don’t know who came up with this – or if people just say it because they don’t know what else to say.  I can assure you that tomorrow it is not going to be “all better”.  Every day is a first day without Tom.  I am just learning to live with sadness.  There are joys too, though.  I have been to visit family and friends in Memphis, Phoenix, Chicago, Delavan, Carrollton, Conyers, and Louisville.  Our family has been and will continue to be my rock.  My co-workers have been a wonderful support team – Nancy, Becky, Laura, Bud, Matt, Kevin and Susan.  They listen to me talk, hug me when I cry and make me laugh.  I have dear friends, near and far, who have sent cards and messages throughout the year.  My neighbors still come over every day and let the pups out to play.  My Spiritual Leadership Team at church has been amazing.  This is a group of 7 folks that I really did not know in January and have come to love and respect in the past 12 months – Linda, Andy, Scott, Mike, Chris, Hal, and Jeff.  My minister, Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Wilson, is an incredible friend and counselor. 
My faith has certainly been tested – throughout Tom’s illness, death and every day since.  Thankfully my God is a big God, a forgiving God and a grace-filled God.
“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do and I do not forsake them.” – Isaiah 42:16
I cling to these comforting words and so many others from the Bible.  They are helping me build a new future of hope.
Thank you all so much for your thoughts and prayers for me and Tom’s family.

Love, Jeanne

Friday, March 22, 2013


Well, it's been 90 days since Tom passed away.  Sometimes I wonder if anyone remembers the date.  Everyone asks how I'm doing and on the outside, I'm doing fine.  On the inside, I'm mostly fine.  The weight of sadness and loss is extremely heavy.  I'm not sure you would believe some of the things that go through my mind sometimes.  Wonderful memories, bad memories, horrible memories . . . all in a flash and often in the same few seconds.  I believe my suffering and the suffering of others Tom's life touched is not nearly as bad as the suffering Tom endured.  It continues to be comforting that his suffering is over.  I wish I didn't think about it as often as I do.  However, I've recalled many great memories too and it's getting easier to grab a hold of those when I'm sad.  

I've tried to keep busy.  I've been to Georgia to shop for antiques with Tom's sisters and our nieces.  I went to Arizona to see Tom's aunt, uncle and cousins - shopping, hiking and a day at the spa.  The following weekend I went to Gatlinburg with my Spiritual Leadership Team and did some hiking in 5" of snow!  I went home to Memphis to do the family thing and spent a wonderful "bonus" evening with my girlfriends.  I haven't laughed that much in so long!  There are a few other trips in the works as well - it's nice to get out and about.  I wish Tom were here so I could tell him all about them but . . . he knows!

Of course, the puppies consume most of my time at home and I love having them to come home to.  There are many things still to do - right now I am preparing for the first garage sale (I think it will take more than one to "purge" all of our "stuff").  There are projects going on at the house - it is fun, most of the time.  The electric driveway gate is in and it is wonderful not having to get in and out of the car to open and close it!  Next up is a master bath renovation.  I was using the larger guest bath and closet(s) upstairs and our master bath and closet are just not cutting it for me!  I do like not having to run up and down the stairs all the time.  If I ever get another house, it will be one level!  Mom, you were right!

 I love just hanging out at home - there is so much to do there.  I go workout at the Y a few times a week.  Hopefully this cold weather will be out of here soon.  The Tuscany Trio is ready to start riding again.  No big biking trips planned this year - just some local stuff, but you never know!

My personal e-mail address is changing.  It is

Feel free to drop me a note!

Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I've been waiting for what I call a "butterfly moment" . . .

I read this story once about someone who lost a loved one.  The loved one had a thing for butterflies.  Once, during a particularly difficult time, a butterfly landed on the window ledge - kind of a sign that the loved one was still present.

I've been praying for something like that.  This Sunday, during the church service, our Senior Pastor's sermon was based on Isaiah 40:28-31.  This was one of Tom's favorite Bible verses and the one his sissters recommended we have printed in the memorial folders that were available at his service.  The sermon, titled "To Walk and Not Faint" had three points:
  • Ecstasy - from the verse "They shall mount up with wings like eagles."
  • Energy - from the verse "They shall run and not be weary."
  • Endurance - from the verse "They shall walk and not faint."
Two of the hymns Sunday were also a part of Tom's service ("Great Is Thy Faithfulness" and "On Eagle's Wings").  Tom had endurance throughout his 21 months of illness and suffering.  I find strength from his fight to have the endurance to continue on.  Maybe this was the butterfly moment for me. 

Needless to say I cried through the entire service, but it was also good.  Not long after I got home from church, I received a call from two church members who wanted to come by and bring me some flowers.  They take the large bouquet of altar flowers and divide it up into small arrangements and deliver them to those who have experienced loss or illness.  It was a day filled with wonderful memories and blessings - especially since I spent a good part of the weekend thinking about the fact that yesterday marked the one month anniversary of the day that Tom passed away.

It's been very comforting that so many people remembered too.  I received calls, e-mails, texts, and chats throughout the day.  THANK YOU!!!!

Alive Hospice offers a Grief Support Group that meets at church 4 times throughout the year.  I called last week to see if there were any openings in the group that started last Thursday night.  The coordinator said she could squeeze me in but after looking at the make-up of the group, thought it would be better if I waited until the March session.  She said most of the folks had lost parents and there were only two "widows" in the group.  I can tell you right now, I do not like that title at all! 

Otherwise, the pups and I are doing OK.  My neighbors are taking good care of Finley and Fritzi during the week.  I wore them out this weekend while the weather was nice.  Someone asked me this week if I thought they missed Tom - I'm sure they do.  Here is a picture of them sitting in Tom's chair:

We've got plans for several visits to family and friends in the near future so we're looking forward to that. 

I know your prayers continue to carry us through this difficult time.  Cathy, Debbie, Tom's dad and I communicate regularly along with aunts/uncles/cousins/nieces.  Of course my parents and sisters are also a huge part of my support team as we are all grieving.  A special thanks to my co-workers - who see me the most and are always ready to offer a tissue and hug, and our friends - I stay in touch with as many of "Tom's friends" as I do "mine". 

God bless you all!


Monday, January 7, 2013

A tough call

I'm sitting here, watching the National Championship Game between Alabama and Notre Dame, trying to decide which team Tom would be cheering for.  First of all, he wouldn't be cheering - he watches silently while I "comment" on touchdowns and bad plays.   He would usually pull for the SEC team, but growing up a good Catholic boy with lots of relatives that are Notre Dame fans, he might pull for them too!  He would want to be watching a good game.  So far, it's a little lopsided!

It was good to get back to Church and Sunday School yesterday.  I wasn't sure how it would feel to walk in again but it was comforting.  I did not cry at all except when we said the Lord's Prayer.  Tom and I said that together for the last time Friday night before I left the hospital.

I was caught off-guard today.  I was looking for a file on my computer and noticed that it was dated 12/21/12 - the day before Tom died.  I just hung my head and cried - knowing that on that day, I had no idea what was going to happen - still hoping and praying and promising Tom that he was going to get to UAB.  Tom's illness taught me to be much stronger than I could have ever imagined but that just took my breath away.  I really don't want that to happen at work or any public place.

Opening the mail has been emotional too - each day I receive several sympathy cards and notes that are just so thoughful and comforting.  It is hard to explain but I can't believe they are addressed to me.

Debbie and Meagan are coming to visit this weekend.  I am really looking forward to it.  I also have a trip planned to visit family in Arizona.  I know I've mentioned it before (probably in the last post) but I will say it again and again . . . I always told Tom if he ever left me, I was keeping the family.  They are keeping me too - I am so blessed and thankful!! 

Otherwise, the puppies and I are doing alright.  I am just beginning to handle the "business" stuff, it is not too fun.  I am learning that you need to get on it but it is really hard when the pain is so fresh. 

Thanks to you all for keeping Cathy, Debbie, Tom's dad & family, and me in your prayers.  I ask that you remember our extended family of aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, and in-laws who are mourning as well.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Day One

So it's back to the "real world". I went back to work today - it was really good to be with my work family again. I certainly miss the Burnet/Ernst & Gyetvay families though. I know this is my "new normal" but I don't like it. I miss Tom so much, even if it meant spending all those hours at the hospital. I wish I could share with you all the wonderful cards, calls, texts, chats, Facebook posts, emails (gotta love technology), and especially the hugs. They have made impossible days possible.

I am surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers and incredible neighbors too. The freezer contains several helpings of comfort food. Many others have offered to help in so many ways; I hope they mean it, I will be calling!!

The puppies and I are are going to be alright. We will adjust slowly.

Tom was more or less alert when I got to the hospital on Saturday and we were able to say "I love you" to each other. I refused to say good-bye. I just told him to watch over us and I know he is.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Arrangements for Tom

Friday, December 28, 2012

Brentwood United Methodist Church
309 Franklin Rd.
Brentwood, TN 37027

Visitation: 10:00 am
Service: 11:00 am

Memorials may be sent to the American Cancer Society or Brentwood United Methodist Church

Brentwood Roesch Patton Funeral Home has charge.

Hotels nearby:

Hampton Inn and Suites 615.771.7225
7141 South Springs Dr.
Franklin, TN
Free WiFi, Free Breakfast

Drury Plaza Hotel 615.771.6778

Marriott Cool Springs 615.261.6100

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tom is in Heaven

Tom passed away peacefully at 9 tonight. Once arrangements are made I will share them here.

Thank you for your prayers and love.