Saturday, January 6, 2018

One year can make a world of difference

It is amazing the difference a year can make! Christmas break 2016 I did not want to be on a break. It was a time of grief, darkness, mourning, and loss. I would have much rather been at work which was my refuge from the catastrophic storm of life. I even spent a night sleeping and freezing in the cemetery! A year later, of course, I still desperately miss Sharry but along with that this time there is light, excitement and joy.


I had the therapeutic experience of sharing our story on a podcast in 2016. Strangers is a podcast with the expressed mission of connecting people and growing empathy for its listeners which is very much in line with my life goals. You can listen here to the podcast from a year ago where I was able to share mine and Sharry’s love story and the tragedy that tore us apart.

They reached out to me one year later to do a follow-up story on where I was at. This time in addition to me they interviewed Katie and my mom. There is a clear distinction in the tone. It is more hopeful, positive and full of love and light. Both podcasts continue the Buhanan-Decker family mantra of Lovesharred and are available on podcast apps as under the podcast Strangers.

Now for holiday updates via pictures!



JJ developed quite a fear for "real" Santas hohoho



Then on December 26th Katie and I traveled to the birthplace of western civilization...Greece. We had a fabulous time and thank you to Grandma Decker for watching a cute but demanding baby JJ for a whole week! 












We amazingly were promoted to business class free of charge for our 13 hour flight back...never flown so good! We both attest it to angel Sharry pulling some strings. (o:



Friday, November 10, 2017

LoveSharred, Love Expands

I miss Sharry. She is my lost love and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. I have learned over the past 17 months to find her in the world around me and remain deeply connected in one way or another. I feel her presence in the desert, the night sky and nature. Music, her songs and those of others, have on many occasions brought me to tears of loss, gratitude and love. JJ of course is a living gift from her where I will continually find connection to his angel mama as I see pieces of her in his face, personality and being.


I know that as my life continues these gifts of connection to Sharry may diminish in their frequency but never in their entirety and that makes my heart both ache with loss but also shine brightly with hope and gratitude. I am forever grateful beyond words to have had 12 amazing years with such an amazing person (I try to focus less and less on the bitter side of that coin, being robbed of decades). I was lucky to be in a relationship of such depth, love, friendship and connection and know that that will continue forever.


Yet I am thrilled to share that I now know love, true love, expands. I long thought and planned on being forever a monk dad who never would even consider dating or looking for someone new in my life. It would be unfair to Shar, to the new person and to me. However life, sometimes fortunately, does not always go the way we planned.


I have met a new amazing person who has not only helped me stop crying myself to sleep at night but brought authentic joy, love and hope to my life. Her name is Katie and she is a miracle in my life. We met, at work, when neither of was seeking out any kind of romantic relationship. She had no hope for small town Utah guys and I had my “monk dad waiting until death plan” in full force. When I met her for the first time I felt a slight tremor hit my soul. To be totally honest I have felt this with a handful of people since Sharry has passed and they are always people that have had a positive impact in my life in one way or another, so that was my thought that this person was going to somehow bring light and goodness to the BD3. And she has, just in a greater way than I ever could have imagined.


Over a short time mine and Katie’s supportive co-worker relationship grew into a friendship and then from that into something scary...I started developing deeper feelings for her. Katie was (and is) an incredible person; beautiful, funny, adventurous, supportive, strong, compassionate and smart. We share similar values and goals. She is a feminist who loves animals, cares about the environment, puts family first, enjoys good music and two of her favorite shows are Gilmore Girls and Always Sunny in Philadelphia (a weird combo and two of my faves as well)! Honestly, this totally scared me and freaked me the hell out. This was not the plan. I was supposed to figure out the single parent thing and meet up with Sharry in a few decades.


I talked this out with Sharry...a lot. As you might expect, it is somewhat difficult to have a clear conversation with someone who is no longer physically here so my heart and mind have had a lot of back and forth. I will share a couple of experiences though that I found somewhat profound and insightful. One of our chats came at night in the cemetery (as they often do) and when I got into my car I had my phone on shuffle with over 400+ songs and two songs came on that seemed like a sign to me. The second of which especially hit me hard, “Long live the queen” by Frank Turner. The song is one about losing a loved one and in the chorus the dying woman repeats “You’ll live to dance another day, just now you’ll have to dance for the two of us, so stop looking so damn depressed - sing with all your heart, the queen is dead.” It’s somewhat cliche among widows, but too often when “one person dies two lives are lost” and this song really drove that point home.


Fairly recently I was laying in bed and once again talking aloud to Shar about Katie. I told her how I was grateful to have her in my life but I wanted to be sure Sharry was ok with this. I then had the idea, maybe inspiration, pop into my head that “she (katie) is one of the only people who you would love who would also encourage an ongoing relationship with Sharry.”  And that is totally true. Not only is Katie amazing and well above average in all the typical ways one might find a dating partner attractive but she is truly extraordinary with how she handles my relationship with Sharry, my grief and JJ. The baby boy loves her. Already I think she has passed me up on his hierarchy of favorites.




I know people might be curious how it is to love two people, hell I would have not understood it not long ago. It is complicated and magical. Love is expansive. My love for Sharry has not diminished in the least which one might think leaves little room for somebody else but that is not the case. I LOVE Katie. She is amazing and if we continue on our current awesome trajectory I hope to share the rest of my life with her. I cannot imagine a better partner to face the joys, sorrows, wonders, adventures, trials, frustrations and magic of life with. JJ will be lucky to have two amazing moms, one angel mama watching and protecting from above and one here with him on earth loving, teaching and guiding.





I know that there are many out there who have not yet found that deep amazing love and my heart aches for them and I pray that they will find it. I know that I was extremely blessed to have 12 years with an earthbound angel and now fortune smiles again to have found Katie a literal godsend of goodness, healing, friendship and love. Sharry named this blog using a combination of our names with specific meaning, LoveSharred, I’m sure neither of us would have ever guessed how true that has become. Lovesharred has grown from Sharry, Lola (the cat) and I to include JJ and now Katie. I plan to continue this blog with the same mission that Sharry once had. I will share our love and adventures; adventures in parenting, loss, giving, love, memories, travel, communing with angels, art, family, grief and all about finding magic and beauty on this journey through life.


JJ and Lola both love Katie's attention

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Our Book, My Angel Mama

Sharry and I shared a goal of writing a children’s book together, in fact, you can see that mentioned twice on her bucket list. I was going to write the book and Sharry, the talented artist, was to do the illustrations. I can now say that we have checked one more item off her list and you can find the product of this goal on Amazon, My Angel Mama. Sharry’s name is listed as an author of this book and she very much helped write it. I am very proud of this book and know that Sharry would approve. It is the labor of a broken heart and powerful connections that come from love and loss.



The primary audience is JJ, I want more than anything for our baby boy to grow up knowing all about his Mama. Already he loves this book, although truth be told not quite as much as his Thomas the train books but that is one high bar to reach! He kissed one of the pictures of Sharry and my heart melted. This is my exact hope, that JJ will have one more way to stay connected to his angel mama. Beyond JJ I pray this book can touch and inspire others with the universal themes of love found in family, the preciousness of life, dealing with loss/suffering, and savoring those we are so fortunate to hold dear.


I must also express my love and extreme gratitude to the amazing illustrator of this book, Sarah Barley. Sarah is a very talented artist (as I’m sure you can see for yourself), incredibly intuitive and I consider myself fortunate to call her friend. This book would not have happened without her. She put much creative energy and countless hours into a project, that for her, was a selfless act of charity and compassion.


Sarah first reached out to me, as so many others have, to offer her condolences with kind words of compassion and support. Then later, unexpectedly, she sent me one of my very favorite Christmas gifts which I blogged about last December. It was a set of cards entitled “We Brave Women” featuring important women from history and on the very top of the deck was a custom made card of Sharry! Needless to say, I had a very emotional and positive response. Then a bit later I felt inspired to ask Sarah about helping with our book. Here is a journal entry I made from 11/27


“While rocking JJ idea popped into my head to ask Sarah Barley if she would do the art in our children’s book. She had been thinking of writing a book that same day!
Her response:
Funny timing, I was thinking about a children's book yesterday too. (it's on my bucket list as well)

Yes I'm super interested.  Do you want input on the art? Or would it be left to me?

If we decide to do it, I'm going to pray throughout the process to try to connect to Sharry. Wouldn't that be amazing if she was a part of the creation?”


And from mine and Sharry’s goal to Sarah’s intuitive act of compassion the book is complete. I sincerely believe like Shar was in fact “part of the creation,” to use Sarah’s words, and hope that if you get a chance to check it out you will feel her influence through my words and Sarah’s art.. I miss my love and best friend now and forever but am grateful for opportunities like this to share her love and legacy.


Here is a sneak peek of a couple of the pages from the book. To see the rest you’ll have to buy a copy 😇 and if you love it like I hope you will, please share with a friend!






Saturday, September 23, 2017

Forgetting Her Voice

Last night I was going through old files on my computer trying to organize and cleanup a little and I stumbled upon a couple of videos of Sharry. These are videos from the days before Sharry was torn from this world and JJ came into it, videos that I have not watched for quite a few months. I watched and was shocked. I am already starting to forget exactly how my beloved Sharry’s voice sounds. I listen to her songs often enough that I am well aware of her singing voice in my mind but did not realize I am losing track of her speaking voice.

Here is the video that hit me so hard. I love the simplicity of it as we are just hanging out in our kitchen with our cat and Shar’s big ol belly compliments of JJ. I think the video is important to share so that the world can hear and remember, at least for a time, what she sounds like.

I hate that this is happening to me and to her. My mortal, quite imperfect brain is losing parts of the person who was my everything for almost 12 years...and this is only after 15 months! I legitimately grow incredibly queasy to think about how much detail and memories will fade in 15 years. Sharry deserves so much more than that.

I, of course, will never willingly give up a single minute memory but regrettably many more are likely to fade. Fortunately, she has JJ in her corner. I am confident thanks to our baby boy her memory will be more vibrant than it would have without him. I cannot wait to tell him all about his Mom, her personality, her funny quirks, her adventures, funny stories, her pictures, videos and her voice. Between Shar’s writings and legacy, my memories and JJ’s desire to know his angel mama we will keep her memory alive as much as any humans possibly can.


JJ watching the trains (aka SLC trax) go by with his cousin. He is obsessed with Thomas the train lately!

One of his amazing babysitters has a pet bunny. JJ loves cute little animals.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Candles

August 11 2017 would have been Sharry’s 31st birthday, 421 days after she left her body and brought her baby into this world. She is excruciatingly missed every day and particularly this day as we celebrate her life and love. Sharry always loved celebrating birthdays. As a little girl she always was very careful to remind her family what special day was coming just around the corner and how excited she was for it. Sharry’s mom recently passed on some childhood writings to me and one of the most adorable instances of Shar’s birthday focus was a nice note to her mom. “Mom I just want to write you a thank you note to tell you how much I love you and thank you for all you do, and don’t forget my birthday is only two weeks away.” On her last birthday she blogged about turning 29 and spoke of her love for adventure, family and friends.
Pictures from Shar birthdays in years past





Thirty one candles should be lit that will remain dark.
Lao Tzu, the Taoist teacher, is believed to have said, “The flame that burns twice as bright burns twice as long.” Nowhere is this more true than with Sharry. She lived full of passion and love for the world and living things around her. She was idealistic, good and innocent enough to believe that she could make a difference and have an extraordinary life full of experiences, love and adventure. She fulfilled that dream and has left behind a legacy in mine and JJ’s hearts and souls as well as many others she has touched.


One of mine and Shar’s favorite meditations was to light a candle and sit and watch it in the dark for ten minutes doing our best to bring our whole attention and presence into the dancing tiny flame. It has a very peaceful and sobering power.
Sharry’s almost 30 years teach us that we all burn like a flame atop a candle. Life is beautiful. Life is light in a dark universe. Life is comfort and warmth. But life is also incredibly fragile and none can truly know how long our wick may last or predict when an unforeseen breeze may blow.


In memory of Sharry’s 31st birthday...
light a candle and bask in it’s light
Tell a loved one how much you cherish them
Forgive a slight and let love prevail
Donate time or money to a cause
(Shar loved animals, the earth and education)


via GIPHY

Friday, July 21, 2017

All my trials

God does not give trials.
Sometimes we have the misconception that a divine being is sitting up in the clouds handing out afflictions based on people’s needs or misdeeds. And of course we never receive anything greater than we can cope with. I call BS on that idea. My idea of a loving God is not one who inflicts such horrendous pain and suffering upon his kids like some kind of disgusting medicine. Can you imagine doing that to your own kids!? “Hey JJ I love you to pieces but I know what’s best for you and here’s what the doctor ordered...heartbreaking agony!”

I sure hope not!
JJ's first southwest trip
Sharry in 2013


Here’s what I have learned from a year of suffering and from others much wiser than myself.
God does not give us trials. Life can be magical, joyous and full of light but it can also be miserable and full of absolute difficulty and suffering. And there is no rhyme or reason to it except that sooner or later we all will face be knocked down by some inevitable pain, trial or heartbreak.

I believe God can help us find support, strength and meaning from life’s very unfortunate storms. In a year where I have missed my beloved Shar more than I ever imagined possible and have shed innumerable tears I have been incredibly supported. Family, friends and strangers have been God’s hands and voice in my life as they have reached out with compassion and love. I am amazed that I have survived this year with strength I didn’t know I had. There were many nights where I longed to be dead and with Shar whether that be in a paradisiacal afterlife or simply in the dirt. Those nights now come further and further apart. I have found much meaning in my new life in diverse forms. JJ, our baby boy, gives me a reason to live and live well. My suffering has been a seed for great compassion to grow in my heart which I can use in my job as a counselor and generally as a human being toward all living things. Sharry’s life and legacy also bring extraordinary meaning to my life as I want to be more like her, cross off her bucket list and live life to the fullest (x2) for both of us.

Here is a poem that has touched me deeply about finding meaning from sorrow
Kindness by NAOMI SHIHAB NYE

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

In closing who do you think JJ looks more like...at one year?


Thursday, June 15, 2017

One year

JJ turns one year old this Friday. On 6/15/16 of last year, Sharry and I were anxiously and excitedly waiting for our new baby and our duo to become a trio. Life seemed so full of promise, hope, and excitement as we attempted to coax out baby boy by walking around the block of our newly purchased first home. I sincerely felt on top of the world. The next morning on 6/16/16 came the cataclysm and in an instant our world was torn asunder. My Sharry, my best friend and twin soul of 11.5 years was lost from this Earth as she gave her life for her beautiful baby boy.

It has been one hell of a year. A year of absolute heartbreak and complicated grief. A year of learning to live in a new dismal normal where the absolute worst case scenarios can and do happen. A year of intensely struggling as a single parent. A year for faith trials full of doubt and despair.

Yet it has also been a year of tremendous learning and growth. Here are a handful of lessons learned this year:
  • I have learned that life is incredibly fragile and we must absolutely consciously and explicitly cherish and love those closest to us
  • Life is both extraordinarily magical and utterly miserable
  • There is pain, suffering and heartache everywhere. When you go through a severe trial people begin to open up and share their own storms creating a network of love and compassion
  • Compassion is my new very favorite word in the English dictionary (com=with, passion=suffer) and it is now one of my life’s missions to live and teach compassion along with its needed sibling, empathy
  • Searching for truth and life after life are definitely worthwhile yet slippery pursuits
  • People, very much including complete strangers, can be so good, generous and compassionate in the face of suffering
  • I love Deckers and Buhanans more than ever. Our families have been the critical life raft upon which JJ and I have clung and survived despite the torrential storms
  • Babies are extremely exhausting and so damn cute. JJ is both my anchor to this life, my literal piece of Sharry and the number one source of stress and exhaustion.
  • I no longer judge parenting. If they are not abusive and doing their best then my hat goes off to them.
  • Humans are resilient. If someone like me can survive the very worst of nonviolent tragedies than so can you. In Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Option B she writes about losing her husband at a young age and describes resilience as a muscle that we can strengthen. I agree.
  • Love is expansive and not limited. After losing Sharry I thought my broken heart would never be able to truly love deeply again. That has not been the case but quite the opposite. My love for Sharry has not been diminished in the least and my capacity for love has expanded. I love JJ more than I thought possible. My love for my students, family and friends has only deepened. As Mother Teresa and other wise teachers have taught, suffering carves out our heart to love more deeply.
  • I can, I must choose to believe in hope and joy

JJ and I will strive to continue the legacy that Sharry lived and espoused, to cherish experiences and relationships above all else. I choose to live a full life with love and adventure and in her place JJ and I will need to work twice as hard to fill the void her light and life leaves in the world.

And I offer my heartfelt gratitude to you reader whether you be a family member, friend, acquaintance or complete stranger for your love, generosity, prayers, good vibes, compassion...everything over the last year. I believe Shar is grateful to you as well.

Here are some adorable one year birthday pictures (taken by my talented sister) of the cute little JJ and I know if his angel mama has any choice in the matter she will be with him on this day of celebration and loss. Also you can play a JJ by the month quiz game and/or offer him birthday wishes, embedded below or link here.