Well…I wasn’t. And, my mom sure wasn’t. And, quite frankly no one else around us was either.

In the middle of the night of August 24th / August 25th I awoke from the sound of my mother screaming the word “DAN” louder than I’ve ever heard her scream. I ran downstairs to find my mother on the phone with 911 and attempting to provide CPR to my stepfather between the hours of 1:30 – 2:00 am. We ended up with at least 6 men in the bedroom – from firemen to police men to paramedics – all trying to save him!  Sadly, that was not to be the case. They transported him to the ER and a young doctor had to deliver the news to us. It was just shy of 3:00 am by now. My mother is not a person who cries easily (I am that person – I cry over everything). To see my mother crying is devastating to me.

Dan Lewis

This came upon suddenly and very unexpectedly, and to be honest I think we are still in disbelief! Today, September 16th would have been the day mom and Dan celebrated 31 years of marriage. The week of October 6th was going to be a trip to Savannah, GA to spend time together in between Dan teaching 2 classes at a safety conference. And, October 18th would have been his 57th birthday. YES – ONLY FIFTY-SEVEN!! (some might say mom is a cougar). Since August 25th our days have been filled with paperwork, planning his memorial service and more paperwork. In the worst time of your life they make it so hard for you to actually grieve – the paperwork necessary to work the Social Security and the Veterans Administration is astonishing.  I feel sorry for the people who are in true dire straights and have to deal with these systems.

We have been beyond lucky and blessed to be surrounded by AMAZING people! Despite that fact that I have many friends around here, I know that calling people at 2:00 in the morning is not the best thing and it is hard for people to just jump up and come to our aid. But, lucky for me and mom, my friend and co-worker at my full-time job did just that! When I called her hysterical and said “you have to come! you have to come!” She and her husband got in the car and headed to us immediately!  Mom took a ride in the fire truck to the hospital as I waited for Donna and her husband. (I never did ask mom what it was like in the inside of a fire truck…) Donna rode with me in my car and her husband followed us. I warned Donna that I would not stop if a policeman tried to pull me over for speeding.

We all got to the hospital and waited with mom in the family room…that feeling is one you just can’t explain to people. The waiting was awful.  When the doctor came in “we knew.” They tried everything, he said.  After they cleaned up the room they let us go in and say our goodbyes.  All I could do was cry and say “You are not supposed to leave us.” The despair was overwhelming. He is too young to be ripped from us like this!  Just too young!

The one thing that keeps us going is knowing that the last day we spent together with Dan was SO. MUCH. FUN! Last year mom and I talked Dan into getting his first ever pedicure and he was hooked! We had gotten pedicures in July before mom and Dan went to Maine to spend time with Scott, Nicole and CJ (brother, brother’s girlfriend and brother’s son) and so on that Sunday mom and I were going to get pedicures and I was going to get my nails done as well, and Dan said “my pedicure is still good” so I said “get a manicure” and he did! We enjoyed relaxing and having fun at the salon like we normally do. We then headed over to Ted’s Montana Grill for a yummy lunch, and then to Kohl’s because mom wanted a new blanket for their bed. We laughed so hard at Kohl’s because Dan kept picking out a quilt instead of a blanket.  Mom and I were laughing so hard… She picked out a blanket she liked and I had said “look there is a king” and yet she never heard me and leaned down to the very bottom shelf to find a king – when all along there was one right in front of her. More laughter…it’s a wonder we weren’t kicked out of Kohl’s. Then we poked around and I tried on some ugly high heeled shoes, and Dan picked out a new alarm clock for getting up in the morning for work and off we went. Laughing all the way!

When we got home Dan decided he wanted me to take some photos of him for Facebook and LinkedIn. Little did we know that my silly impromptu photo shoot would be the last photos we had of him.  We set up his projector screen outside and came out in his dress shirt tucked into his shorts, with a tie, and his socks and sneakers.  Again…mom and I laughed our heads off!  He was like “Who cares! You are only going to see me from the chest up!” Still – we found it so funny! I, of course, had to snap a picture of this crazy outfit. I only wish I had taken more than one because the sun made it hard to see. We did our photo shoot and then I quickly had him take 2 photos of me to possibly use one in the upcoming book I’ve been part of with The 20 Project, which I’ve posted about before.

We really had such a great day, and it’s hard to believe he’s gone. I mean, really, really gone! At first mom was reluctant to do a memorial service, but we decided to do a Celebration of Life and we are all very glad we did!  I tried to find people to help with putting together a slide show and music and at the very end it all came together with me creating a PowerPoint of photos and my friend Bryan from Blue Mark Studios putting together music from songs that mean a lot to mom and Dan (they are very non-traditional from the standpoint of a memorial service). Dan’s family (almost in it’s entirety) came, many people from Dan’s employer, people I work with, friends from our old church in Sugar Hill and many more! The outpouring of love was more than we could have imagined. Originally my brother, Scott, was not going to be able to come due to work and the ridiculous expense of a plane ticket for just a couple of days. I started, along with another girl, a Facebook group about 1.5 years ago. This group has grown into a wonderful place for us to help each other in so many ways – and that came to light very clearly when Dan passed away. The girls feverishly worked behind the scenes discussing what they could do for our family. They ended up collecting money to fly my brother from Maine to us in Georgia, roundtrip!  It was the best gift anyone could give us!




Mom and I are trying to figure out what our “new normal” is but it’s hard. You just have no idea what life is like after something like this happens out of no where. My stepmother thinks I should start a business helping people navigate through this stuff…I will admit – it’s hard not to consider that! I’m not sure how we’ve managed to get through the paperwork and everything else up to this point!

We have set up a small memorial area to honor Dan just outside the bedroom, and we are proud to display his accomplishments from years in the Navy and at Southwire where he spent the past 10 years. We found a lovely chest with a great quote on it to hold his ashes, and every time I see the display it makes me feel blessed to know that  I was lucky enough to share a portion of my life with him. I know my mother and everyone who knew him feels the same way!

Memorial Wall

I will write a post in the coming days/weeks about some things to think of when it comes to getting your documents in order and being prepared {if you ever really can be prepared for something like this} for the worst!

I want to thank everyone who has been so wonderful to us – sending cards, notes, text messages, calling, making sure we have food, and anything else you can imagine. My family and I appreciate everything!

This video is not a “perfect” as the PowerPoint I put together for memorial service, but the love is still there! (music transitions aren’t spot on, but you get the point).