Why “Love, Tennis, and Cancer”?

When Jason was battling Glioblastoma I faithfully kept up his Caring Bridge site. Although I had never written much of anything in the past, I found that many people enjoyed my writing style…loved being able to keep up with our journey…learn more about us through my posts…and that the writing was therapeutic for me. Now I hope that with this blog I can continue to reflect on the past…mourn in the present…and maybe find some hope for the future.

Love was the building block upon which Jason and I built our whole entire lives around. We loved each other and our children with everything we had. I’m not sure yet what my life looks like without the love of my life in it. It is hard to look forward to a future of loneliness. I am grateful that he left me with three beautiful children to live for.

Tennis has been a big part of our lives from the very beginning. It is what brought Jason to UW-Eau Claire where we met. Jason played tennis for many, many years and we made numerous fantastic friends through tennis. Many of our trips and great memories are tennis-related. Our children have all been involved in tennis…playing and coaching. I work at a local fitness club in the Tennis Center and have a great support system there.

Cancer is a word that you never, ever want to hear in relation to someone you love. Glioblastoma in particular is not something I would wish upon my worst enemy. It is a brutal disease….stealing away bits and pieces of its victim little by little, day by day. For 15 months cancer consumed our whole entire lives…and now our lives are irreparable changed because of it.

Hello 2023

Nine days in to 2023 already and this is my first blog post. My first day of 2023 started out really well with Fregien Family Christmas. It was a really good day…even though there were a lot of teary moments for me. I love being around Jason’s family because they accept me when I am sad and give me a lot of hugs. Nobody tries to “fix” me…or even cheer me up necessarily…and I love that. I know there are a lot of widows who don’t have the great relationship with their in-laws that I have and I am so grateful for mine.

Here’s a pic of Levi and Svea with by one of my brother-in-law’s dogs for cuteness.

And then I got a cold and still am not feeling 100%. I was able to take some time off work…but there was also a huge snowstorm (12″+ of snow) and I had to get Anna off on her big band trip…so it still felt like a really busy, tiring week.

I did do a lot of reflecting and writing. I decided that there are two words that I want to carry with me this year. The first is “Intention”. The past two years my life has felt out of my control…like I didn’t have any control over what was happening to me. Well, it’s time to start taking my power over my own life back and making intentional choices. The second is “Fulfillment”. I need to discover what things I can do to help my life feel like it is worth living again…not just for my kids…but for me…because it doesn’t feel like it is right now. And that feeling really sucks.

And of course, I wrote a couple poems.

Letting Go

In his last days
I whispered in his ear
You can leave this suffering
Your time is over here

I know he didn’t want to
And I wanted to hold tight
But I had to let him go
Let him end his fight

And since that August morning
When he took his last breath
I’ve let go of so many things
I wonder what is left

Growing old and wrinkly
Traveling to exotic places
Watching our kids grow up
Smiling into our grandkids faces

Letting go of that bright future
Of him and I together
Now ahead is dark and nebulous
I’m afloat without my tether

Where before I was a wife
Now a widow I am called
How to let go of an identity
When forever is what I vowed

And all of this letting go
It makes me so angry inside
But I have to let that go too
It doesn’t fix the hurt–I’ve tried

Letting go is not forgetting
Don’t make that mistake
Our love and all our memories
Are way too precious to forsake

Letting go is not easy
Some days I miserably fail
But it’s the only way I’ll survive
Until we meet across the veil


And sometimes loneliness
Sucks the air out of the room
And I feel like I’m being
In the impossibility of
One more second
Without you

And I yearn to share
One more breath with you
Look into your eyes once more
But reality is harsh
And time goes on

New Years Eve 2022

I used to love the week in between Christmas and New Years. Jason always had off from work…and the years when I had jobs outside the home I would try to take off as much as I could. It was fantastic. We looking forward to it every year. We never really did anything huge. Sometimes we would spend part of the time at my parents’ house. The week culminated with Fregien Family Christmas on New Years Day at Jason’s parents’ house in Red Wing.

This year…ugh…it was hands down the worst week for me of the whole year. It was the busiest it has ever been in my five years at Life Time. Lots of families off for the week…just like we used to be…looking for something to do together. That combined with coworkers taking off and I barely had moments to breathe most days. And of course it’s end of the month…end of session for junior classes…start of new session next week. Just a bad work week. And I was dealing with getting Seth’s car fixed…four new tires now…and Levi played in a tennis tournament 30 minutes away. Thank goodness I had help getting him there because I just couldn’t. I made it to as many matches as I could, but of course still feel Mom guilt for not being there for them all.

And maybe I’m just feeling whiney and sorry for myself, but damn…it’s really hard not to look back and remember how much I used to love this week…and then compare it to the week I just had…and not want to sit down and sob. How did I go from being part of one of those “families spending time together” to now…where I feel like I helped other families get their time together, but had no time of my own? It’s so hard not to think “If Jason were here…” and how much different this week would have looked and felt. I might have still worked just as much, but he would have been there for all the other “stuff” and we would have rocked the “busy” together.

So…last day of 2022 today. Tomorrow the kids and I will go to Fregien Family Christmas…the first one since pre-covid…first one without Jason…first one that Jason’s brother is hosting instead of his parents. So many changes.

Christmas 2022

Jason and I loved Christmas. We loved melding our families’ traditions together and developing our own…working together to make the season magical for our kids. We enjoyed finding the perfect gifts for family and friends. He especially loved buying for the kids. He was the one on his computer on Black Friday and Cyber Monday looking for the best deals. He would always take the kids out shopping to find something for me…and he would always ask for slippers from the kids….always the same style. He knew that I hate wrapping gifts, so he would do it…sometimes getting Anna to help him. He would put everything in boxes and she would do the wrapping. One year they decided not to put any names on the presents, just numbers. It drove the boys crazy not knowing which gifts were theirs. One year he surprised me and came home from work early just so he could wrap all the gifts.

Usually by Christmas Eve morning I would be feeling stressed with all the things on my “To Do” list. We always fondue on Christmas Eve which means a fair amount of cutting various foods in bite-sized pieces. And we do brunch on Christmas Day…some of that needs to be prepped the day before as well. And I like to have a clean house Christmas Eve. It’s hard to relax in a mess. He could always see me starting to get wound up…and I can hear him saying “Babe, what’s on the list?”…and he would just start helping me cross things off. Inevitably I would have forgotten something at the grocery store…I would say “forget it. Not going to the store today” but he would hop in the car and fight the crazy to get the forgotten item. And always interspersed with all of that…so much love and affection for me…a hug…a swat on the butt…a kiss on my neck. To say that I “miss” that is not nearly strong enough.

And then interspersed in the joyful noise of Christmas…unwrapping gifts, games, laughter…looking across a room and catching his eye…enjoying the joy and happiness of our kids together. Then those magical, quiet moments after the kids had gone to bed…or before they got up in the morning…just him and I. Remembering those moments…more than anything…is what has taken me apart several times today. Just to share one more quiet moment with him…just to look in his eyes one more time…

But now Christmas is different. On the surface we do a lot of the same things…fondue and gifts Christmas Eve…brunch Christmas morning. Instead of Jason helping me with my list yesterday, it was the kids. Levi and I worked on wrapping gifts. I celebrated when I found a bag of giftbags Jason had stashed downstairs. He also helped cut up all the stuff for fondue. And all three of them helped prep brunch. We made it. We did it.


Christmas morning
All is quiet
A mug of coffee
Dogs snuggling next to me
Their bodies like furry heaters
Outside the world is blanketed
In Snow
White and fluffy
The sun is peeking over the horizon
Treetops interlaced with pinks and oranges
Kids will soon stumble out of bed
Christmas hubbub
Now I breathe in the silence
Trying to find peace in my heart
But my heart is in pieces
And the tears roll down my cheeks


Last week I went to the Empty Chair Service at River Valley Church. I went last year as well and honestly don’t remember much of it except for crying a lot and lighting candles. This year there was still some crying and I did light a candle, but I was also able to take a lot more in and listen more…not only to the pastor, but to my own heart. One of the things that I have been thinking about is hope…

What is Hope?
The whisper of a promise
The spark that becomes an ember
The nudge that moves you forward 

Fighting tooth and nail against
The torrent holding you back
Keeping you paralyzed 
The night becomes darker
A bitter cold seeps into your bones
Your future unfathomable

But in that dark, cold stillness
When it seems like there is nothing left
Your senses take over 
     A whisper 
          A warmth 
               A tug

And that is Hope

Poetry with Levi

Levi had an assignment this week to write a poem about a picture of him with another person. He chose this picture of him with his Dad. I helped him write the poem…so hard to not just sit and cry, but I did okay. I’m glad that he wanted to use this particular picture because it is such a great memory of our last time up at Ruttgers. Jason was holding my pole while I was putting a worm on for Anna and all of a sudden he had a fish on. If Levi wouldn’t have been there to help him reel it in I think I would have lost my pole to the lake.

Northern Memory

Sitting on the dock with my Dad
He's holding my Mom's pole
Fish On!

Excitement like a kid on Christmas morning
A splash of slippers
The fish fights angrily
Slippery like an eel

I can still feel the sun on my face
And the aroma of fish and worms
I wish I could go back to
Sitting on the dock with my Dad.


Last night I had drinks with a really good friend of ours. He is divorced and we talk about all sorts of things when we hang out. Last night we started talking about making dinner. I was sharing with him that I have always been the one to make dinner. I never really liked it…I don’t really like cooking…but it was one of the things that I have always done for our family…especially during those years when I was home with the kids during the day and Jason was at work. Now it is just a chore. I make dinner by myself. The kids come up and eat for five minutes…if I’m lucky…and then bounce their separate ways and leave me to do the dishes by myself. I know I could get them to help me…get them to sit with me more…yada yada…but it just all feels forced. Like it’s a time when we all feel the absence of Jason so keenly and we just want to get it f’ing over with.

I think that conversation must have been stewing in my head last night because I bounced out of bed this morning and jotted this down…


I used to like dinnertime.

Making dinner
Waiting for you to come home
For your car
Garage door up
Car door slam
The yip of happy dogs.

You open the doors
Your eyes search for me
Settle the dogs down
Make your way to my side
Wrap your arms around my body
Kiss my lips
Home at last

I used to like dinnertime.

Refill the wine
Call the kids to the table
Stories of the day
Secret looks across the table
Proud of these humans
Our family

Dinner’s over
Kids go their ways
Sharing tasks
As we clean the kitchen
A dance

I used to like dinnertime

What If?

And what if there is no light
Without you?
What if you were the light
And now darkness
Is all that’s left?

And what if there is no happiness
Without you?
What if you were the joy
And overwhelming despair
Is all that’s left?

And what if I am never complete
Without you?
What if you were the best parts
And this hollow shell
Is all that’s left?

And what if I never feel peace again
Without you?
What if you were my calm
And chaos
Is all that’s left?

And what if I can’t be strong
Without you?
What if you gave me confidence
And weakness
Is all that’s left?

And what if I am lost
Without you?
What if you were my compass
And confusion
Is all that’s left?

And what if I have to survive
Without you?
What if you made life worth living
And loneliness
Is all that’s left?

What if?


I’m going through a very, very rough patch. You might be thinking “what else is new?” I’ll tell you right now usually when I’m feeling at my lowest points I don’t post…but I stopped at the liquor store on the way home from work today and am sufficiently “wined” up to speak my mind tonight…maybe a little too much…we’ll see.

Yesterday was 16 months since Jason died…and that was the number one thing on my mind all weekend long. Why do dates have so much power? Why do they mean so much? I don’t know…but damn they do. Friday night I literally dragged myself to our friend Ian’s birthday party. Holy awkward social situation…didn’t know anyone…too many couples. I made it a couple hours and then came home and cried myself to sleep. In the past, Ian parties would be a fun time…great conversation…just the right amount of liquor…and then a really good post party situation.

Saturday morning I had a really good time hanging out with Jason’s sister…and then she left and my mood plummeted. I spent the whole day dozing on and off on the couch….trying to talk myself into going grocery shopping. I’ve been sleeping like garbage at night and every time I sit down my eyes just want to close. Sunday I had breakfast with my friend Vicki and then the boys and I spent the afternoon with my sister Elizabeth. I had a good time at both of those things…and yet I came home last night and just cried.

I’m feeling a lot like I am just not enough. Losing Jason has broken a lot of things inside of me. I don’t know how to feel happy enough for things that I should feel happy about…like the upcoming birth of my niece. Of course, I am happy for my sister…but her happiness and excitement reminds me of how happy and excited Jason and I were expecting the birth of Anna…and then the grief overwhelms me. I don’t know how to trust friendships or relationships with other people. I’m afraid to have expectations because I’ve been let down so many times.

And then when I think about it…it’s because the only person in this world who was always on my side…always rooting for me…always prioritized me in his life…worried about me…looked out for me…made sure I got home when I was tipsy…put a damn snowbrush in my car every year…took care of me when I was sick…made me coffee…bought me wine on his way home from work when I had a bad day…brought in the mail when he got home everyday…paid the bills…pulled me aside and kissed me senseless when I was in a bad mood…listened to me…let me use the chapstick he always kept in his pocket…warmed my cold hands up on his belly…called me on my shenanigans when I was overreacting about something…kept me grounded…told me he loved me every single damn day even when he couldn’t remember ANYTHING “I can’t remember if I told you today…but I love you”….I can go on and on. Even when we “fought” it was never really fighting. Most likely we would be in bed…disagreeing about something…sometimes we wouldn’t even actually resolve it before we would just get tired and start to doze…and I would slip the tips of my fingers into his back waistband and he would shift against me so we were cuddling…and I just knew that whatever we were fighting about was inconsequential and we were good.

I don’t know how to go from that…from being loved like that…and loving like that…to whatever this hell is. Did that love make me weak? Unable to stand on my own two feet and navigate life on my own? Maybe…I don’t know…but it was worth it. And if I have to keep putting up fences and burning bridges to protect myself now…I guess that’s what I’m gonna do…because I don’t have him to protect me now…and no one else is going to do it

The Universe

We revolved around each other.
Our own little universe.
And now he is gone
Out of control.

As I spin faster and faster
My screams
Are sucked into
Of pain
Unheard by anyone.

I try to throw out lifelines
But this broken me
Is never enough
Is guaranteed
Over and over again.

And I spin and I spin
With no tether
No gravity
I’ll float
And find my peace again. 

Poetry and Dermot

Never Enough

I wasn’t done with you yet
We didn’t have enough time

But what would have been enough
For your heart and mine?

Enough sunrises
Walks in the snow

Enough rough times
Through every low

Enough time with our
Sharing a proud glance

Enough nights on the town
Every small romance

Enough evenings at home
A glass of wine

Enough vacations together
Time to unwind

I cherish every memory
But our time was cut short

And how do I keep going
With a shattered heart?

Because somehow it must be enough
There is no going back

No bargaining with death
No editing the final act

Acceptance feels impossible
An unfathomable necessity

Time stretches on too long now
Loneliness and sadness for eternity

Thanksgiving 2022

We made it. We planned to stay home this year and just hang out with each other. I’m glad that was our plan from the get-go because Levi has been very sick since Monday evening. I’m pretty sure it’s influenza…fever…headache…sore throat…congestion. It’s really, really hard for me to keep my mind in the present when I’m taking care of my kids when they are sick…or even my dogs. The distribution of meds…keeping track of dosage and time…worrying while I’m at work…being up in the night feeling helpless to do anything to make him feel better. My mind starts thinking it feels all too familiar and pretty soon my anxiety is through the roof. Thankfully, Levi was feeling a little better today. Fever still there, but lower….headache mostly gone…sore throat still there…congestion there…but I feel like he’s turned the corner.

This morning we played a bunch of new games. I think our favorite was one called Ransom Notes. We were all laughing so hard. It’s a good game for the ages my kids are in right now. Some funny innuendo and adult-ish humor without being crude and over the top. We also enjoying Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza…fun for all ages….similar to Egyptian Rat Slap. Poetry for Neanderthals was also a lot of fun…get your team to guess the word on the card but you can only describe it using one syllable words.

After we played games we struggled a little bit. I think we all were realizing we had a whole lot of day to fill up still…and we were all missing Jason. We all kind of puttered with our own quiet things for awhile and then came back together in the evening and watched a movie.

I think we did okay. It’s really hard to navigate the Holidays…wanting to do things traditionally…but then having them feel wrong because Jason isn’t here…and just wanting to do things differently…which feels wrong because it’s different….and just not doing anything at all…which is so very tempting. And the four of us all feel completely different ways about certain things. And I spend so energy trying to navigate what the kids need… Today I had to constantly remind myself that I am not responsible for “making it a good day”.

Anna came home on Tuesday. It has been great having her home. She turned 21 a few weeks ago and has been exploring different beverages since she’s been home. Man does it feel weird to drink with my kid. Kinda fun though. She really wants to put the Christmas tree up…so we’ll do that before she goes back to school.

I hope you all had a good day with those that you love. So many of my family and friends are facing a difficult Holiday season this year with losses of loved ones and stressful times in other ways. Please remember that it is possible to be grateful and grieve at the same time. Gratitude and sadness can both live in the human psyche at the same time. I feel overwhelming gratitude for the 25 years Jason and I spent together…our children…our families…our friends; yet, in the same exact moment I very deeply grieve the present and future in this world without him.

2020—Our Last Thanksgiving together