Tag Archives: death

My First Christmas Without Gretchen

My First Christmas without Gretchen

My wife and I had been married for 40 years when she passed away from breast cancer earlier in 2011.  We have two sons, Erik (31) and Mark (29).  Gretchen made the Christmas holiday season very special for us.  When the boys were young, she would decorate our home, which brought out the Christmas Spirit in all of us.  At the same time, I would put up lights outside our home in an effort to try to match the warmth she put into the decorations inside.

The effort she put into making this a special holiday for us was appreciated by us but probably not as much as we should have now that Gretchen is no longer with us.  She had a special recipe for Christmas cut out cookies that she would make for us.  We would help her ice them and add some Christmas colored sugar sprinkles.  Decorating our Christmas tree was a family affair, although Gretchen put forth most of the effort to make this a focal point of our family room.

The Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers were there because of her.  When the boys were young it was always ahigh pointof Christmas morning when they opened their presents from Santa and us.  By retrospectively looking at this time in our lives, we realize what a special mother and wife Gretchen was.

The 2011 Christmas season is the first we have experienced without Gretchen.  How will this holiday season ever be the same?  The answer is that it never will be.  However, we have to realize that she would want us to enjoy Christmas.  At the same time this will give us the opportunity to remember how important a part of our lives she was for us.

This year I decorated my home, with the help of some close friends, as a memorial to Gretchen.  I knew she would want it that way.  It is difficult to see all these beautiful decorations without thinking of her. But this is part of the grieving and healing process.  Memories are made to be relived.  But they should not cause us to stop how we live our lives.  Again, she would have wanted us to continue to grow and enjoy the days ahead of us.

Gretchen, we love you very much.  We know you are in a better place where cancer does not exist and you are filled with joy forever.  One day, the four of us will be together again so we can share Christmas once again.


Things You May Not Have Know About Breast Cancer

Do you have a loved one who experienced a loss because of breast cancer?  Before I relate my story, let me first share some facts with you about the #1 source of cancer in women.

These facts are assembled by the National Breast Cancer Coalition, which is a powerful voice, speaking for women and men across the country, demanding victory in the war against breast cancer. In 2003 it was named one of the twenty most influential groups in health policy based on a survey of congressional staff – the only grassroots group and the only breast cancer organization to make that list.

Its mission is to eradicate breast cancer, the most common form of cancer among women in theUnited States, by focusing the administration, U.S. Congress, research institutions and consumer advocates on breast cancer.  According to the National Breast Cancer Coalition, below are some of the myths and truths about breast cancer.


  1. Monthly breast self-exams save lives
  2. Mammograms can only help and not harm you
  3. MRIis better than mammography because if finds more cancer
  4. Mammograms prevent breast cancer
  5. Most women with breast cancer have a family history of the disease
  6. Men don’t get breast cancer
  7. Everyone’s breast cancer is the same
  8. Removing the entire breast is better than just cutting the cancer out and getting radiation
  9. There are drugs that can prevent breast cancer
  10. Once diagnosed with breast cancer, it is very important to make treatment decisions immediately
  11. Second opinions are only for treatment options
  12. With new treatments we can now cure breast cancer
  13. All breast cancer research is good because it moves us toward prevention and a cure


  1. When breast cancer shows up on a mammogram, it many have been in your body for 6-10 years
  2. Breast cancer mortality rates are declining
  3. We don’t know how to prevent breast cancer
  4. Risk of breast cancer increases with age; 50% of breast cancer occurs among women aged 62 and older
  5. Most people think they have a higher risk of breast cancer than they actually do
  6. Hormone replacement therapy increases your risk of breast cancer
  7. You should question your doctors

My wife and I have had first hand experience with breast cancer.  Because of this my wife, Gretchen, passed away abruptly at the age of 63 after we had been married for 40 years.  At the time of her death we had two sons, who were 31 and 29 years old then.

The impact of Gretchen’s passing was an immediate emersion into the grief process.  I can tell you that this was a very painful time in my life.  I could have given in to the grief I was experiencing and let it control my life for a long…….long time.  But my personal makeup led me to attack the grief process and to find support and counseling so I could address my pain in as short a time as possible so I could return to a fulfilling and joyful life.

I plan to give you a picture of my life together with Gretchen and our two sons, some high and low points in our lives, the onslaught of the grief process and how I was able to regain a happy and meaningful life.

Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself:

 I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today.

 I can choose which it shall be.

Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet.

I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.
— Groucho Marx