Chapter 1 – NO SIMPLE HIGHWAY:A widow’s journey to seek justice for her husband’s death

Grief never ends: This is my journey from the tragic sudden death of my husband Mike, to healing after loss and eventually finding peace and love again.

Chapter 1

The night my husband died

            “How do you use the panoramic feature on this new phone?” my friend Meg asks me as we admire the setting sun.

            “Oh, I just took one last week. Let me show you,” I offer as I kick off my blue Sperry flip flops and walk over to the sand. Meg is my attractive next-door neighbor, a single mom who looks stylish in ripped jeans or librarian type glasses.

My husband, Mike is busy chatting with the new member of our Long Island, New York beach community under the pavilion where fans help keep the gnats away. Mike is his charming self and asking our new friend about the winters she spends in Key West living in an RV. We have talked about someday retiring to Florida so it’s more than just idle curiosity. Since she has recently moved to our neighborhood, the conversation has changed to organic methods of eliminating late summer crab grass. When I first met Mike, he had owned a landscaping business while attending business classes at the community college.  He now practices law but is full of information on the benefits of using boiling water or vinegar solutions instead of fertilizers to protect polluting run off into the bay.

            “Be right back,” I tell Mike as I walk with Meg down to the water’s edge. The vibrant colors in the sky are definitely frame-worthy! To the right, a full moon is rising over the harbor, to the left an orange and pink late-summer sunset. Together we figure out how to hold the phone camera steady and sweep 180 degrees to get both the sun and moon in the same frame. Stunning!

            When I return to my dusk-veiled circle of friends, Mike has left. I guess he has either gone to use our HBCA clubhouse restroom or just headed back to the house. The gnats are beginning to outnumber us by the shore, so I invite the few neighbors still on the beach up to our second-floor front deck to hang out. I pack up the chairs, towels, and cooler and walk across the parking lot to my house.  I’ll light citronella candles to keep the mosquitoes away and maybe order a pizza. I’m starting to feel hungry.

            As Meg and I cross the parking lot, we see a police car speeding down to the beach clubhouse followed by an ambulance. Lights are swirling and soon the local fire department chief pulls up.

            “What happened?” Meg asks one of the volunteer firemen as she shifts the heavy beach bag on her shoulder.

            “Cardiac arrest,” he tells us. Oh no, I think. How awful for someone to have a heart attack during this kid’s birthday party. We had seen all the excited teenagers getting dropped off earlier and heard the music as we sat under the pavilion on the beach. What a scary scene for the partygoers I imagine as I approach my front door. It’s a good thing they just installed that new AED device in the building for emergencies like this.

            Our beach cottage was built in the 1920’s and has hosted a lot of families over the years. It is a narrow three-story structure which you enter by the side door and walk up a flight of stairs to the main living area. At the top of the stairs to the right is a den and sliding doors to a small back yard. To the left, is our dated kitchen with beige cabinets whose hinges continually break and a light blue Formica countertop. The best part of our house is the front deck that we enjoy daily as we look out on the peaceful harbor and nearby beach. I walk through the kitchen and turn on the lights to the front deck where I’m expecting guests. As I’m lighting the scented candles on the bar height dining table, Carol who lives next door calls over from her deck, “Kristin, what’s going on?” Our homes are very close together and it sometimes feels like we live in a college dorm, just with separate little houses.

            “A firemen told us that someone had a heart attack,” I tell her. “Are you guys coming over?”

            “Sure, we’ll be right there,” she says.

When she and her husband Dennis have joined me, we watch a second ambulance arrive at the clubhouse. More lights are flashing, and people are coming into the cul-de-sac at the end of the street to see what is going on.

            “IT LOOKS LIKE YOUR HUSBAND!” my erratic neighbor Frank yells up to me from the street.

            No one ever takes anything Frank says seriously, but it occurs to me that I haven’t seen Mike since I was on the beach. I quickly leave the deck and run inside. He must be in the den watching TV in his favorite green chair, I think, but he isn’t there, so I skip steps up to our third-floor bedroom where my bed is still made. By the time I go back downstairs to the front deck, the first ambulance is leaving, and the DJ has started playing music again for the partiers.

            “Get in our car,” Dennis and Carol urge me and off we race to the hospital. Carol reaches into the back seat to hold my hand as Dennis drives. She reassures me that it may not be Mike and I squeeze her fingers.

            We rush into the Huntington hospital emergency room and give the woman at reception the name of our beach community, Huntington Beach Community Association or HBCA, where the ambulance came from. A nurse directs us to a room. I stand outside in the hall, afraid to go in. What am I going to see? Maybe it’s not Mike. My legs feel weak. I ask Dennis to go in first, while Carol holds me up and we watch Dennis disappear into the room.

            Ambulance workers rush in and out of the emergency room. I recognize a doctor. I taught his son kindergarten 14 years ago.

            “Jack, what happened?” I ask in a faltering voice.

            He stops mid-stride. The look of shock in his eyes as he recognizes me. “We couldn’t get his heart started,” he stammers, then he walks away.

            Dennis walks out of the room and slowly nods to Carol and me. We all walk in together, the two of them supporting my elbows. I see my husband laying on the table. Mike is still barefoot and wearing the Old Navy swim shorts I gave him for his birthday. I recognize the light blue Salty Dog t-shirt we got on our last trip to visit my sister in Florida, and it is his face with the scruffy gray, been-vacationing-for-two-weeks-beard.

As I walk closer, I’m relieved to see that his eyes are open. I think, he must be OK. But as I touch his arm and feel that reassuring bicep muscle that always makes me feel safe, his skin is eerily cold. His eyes are open, but he isn’t there. Why is he not moving? My knees are shaking. My teeth begin to chatter. My heartbeat pounds in my ears. Where did the big bump on his head come from and why is there blood on his knees? This cannot be happening, I yell, “WAKE UP!”


I am approaching the 7th anniversary of my husband’s death and need to share our story. Working through stages of grief and seeking justice takes time and effort. This book is for anyone who has been through the trauma of loss and is searching for peace and hope.

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“A must-read story of hope”

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“it’s a riveting story”

“..a chilling tale of police corruption”

“one of the most honest, heartfelt stories I have read…”

“Captivating true story”

“so good on so many levels”

“Kristin’s ability to bring the reader into her world, during the darkest of days will leave all who read this inspired.”

Available on Amazon
memoir of life after loss.

WRONGFUL Death Settlement. Is Karma real?

Wrongful death lawsuit settlement for the widow

The wrongful death lawsuit is over.

It has been determined, by lawyers, a judge and insurance adjusters, that in agreement with the medical examiner who determined his death to be a homocide, the two men who caused my husband’s death are indeed responsible.

A settlement was made. All parties agreed.

After 3 years, the ordeal is over.

The trips to courthouses are over.

The phone calls with the lawyer and private investigators are over.

The depositions and nasty questions are over.

The signing of legal forms and faxing of important papers is over.

The proof of lost income and outstanding bills is over.

The personal days off from work are over.

The interviews with news media are over.

The participation from witnesses is over.

The analysis of the medical treatment and procedures is over.

The scrutiny over the autopsy is over.

The unpleasant arguing with sides is over.

The negotiations and mediations are over.

The letters written to politicians and leaders of our justice system are over.

The petition signing campaign is over.

The tears in retelling to others what happened that night are over.

The waiting is over.

I thought I would feel better when it was all over, but I don’t really feel better.

Sure, they had to pay.  But surely not enough.

Why aren’t they in jail?

Why hasn’t their life been turned upside down?

Why do their kids still have a father?

Why aren’t their wives widows?

I know life isn’t fair.

I know I can not change the past.

I know I put in a good effort to hold them responsible.

I know, that no matter what happened, my husband was never going to come back.

I know there would never have been a happy ending to this chapter.

Knowing that it’s over, my head feels a sense of relief.

Knowing that it’s over, my heart can’t stop hurting.

Now, I need to leave the rest to the Universe.

I hope Karma is real.

The night my husband died

is karma real wrongful death suit


WIDOW TO WIDOW – Advice on dating and moving forward from my mom

WIDOW to widow advice on moving forward with dating, our children and how to heal after the death of a spouse.

“I don’t want to have a dead husband,” I screamed to my mom as we sat at the dining room table addressing the 250th thank you card.  It was 3 weeks after he died.  It was time to thank all the people who had made an effort to express their condolences.

I was fortunate.  Friends, family, colleagues and neighbors came out of the woodwork and had taken over that first week.  I was of course in shock or denial.  This was ridiculous.  There is no way this should have happened I kept thinking that any minute now Mike would come back.

Writing these cards was simply a formality and a way to bond with my mom.

I didn’t want to write any more cards.  I started to cry and scream.  She hugged me and cried too.  Why couldn’t she just tell me that it would be O.K?

Continue reading “WIDOW TO WIDOW – Advice on dating and moving forward from my mom”

The night my husband died

The night my husband died changed my life. Life after the death of a spouse. Life keeps going for the people left behind. Sudden tragic death and complicated grief.

We stood watching on my front deck as the second ambulance arrived across the street. My erratic neighbor shouted up to me, “IT LOOKS LIKE YOUR HUSBAND!”

No one ever believes anything he says but then I realized I had not seen Mike since he left the beach about 45 minutes ago. We had been having a lovely conversation with an older woman who thought we were a Friday evening senior citizen group. He was charming and engaged her with questions about the winters that she spends in Key West in an RV. I had left them to help my friend take a panoramic photo of the awe inspiring simultaneous sunset and full moon rise.

When I returned back to my dusk ladened circle of friends, Mike had left. The rest of us packed up the chairs, towels and coolers and headed back to my second floor front deck before the gnats got too hungry on the beach.

While this neighbor may not be that reliable, I quickly left the deck and ran to find Mike.  He must be in the den watching T.V. in his favorite green chair. When he wasn’t there I skipped steps up to our bedroom where my bed was eerily still made. It wasn’t unusual for him to make an “Irish exit” and head off to bed without telling anyone, but there was no sign of him.

By the time I got back to the deck the first ambulance was leaving and the DJ had started playing music again for the people at the party across the street. Doug and Karen, my next door neighbors who were still on my deck, told me to get in their car. Off we sped to the hospital.

Karen held my hand and attempted to reassure me as I squeezed her fingers. We rushed into the ER and gave reception the name of our beach community house where the ambulance had come from. They directed us to a room and I told Doug to go in first while Karen and I held onto each other.

I recognized the doctor who had been in the ambulance. I had taught his son kindergarten 15 years ago. I asked “what happened?” He stopped, shocked to recognize me. He replied, “we couldn’t get his heart started”. Then he walked away.

Doug came out of the room and nodded to us. We all walked in together, the 2 of them supporting me. I saw my husband laying on the table. He was still barefoot and in his bathing suit. He had his faded blue t-shirt on and it was definitely his face with the scruffy gray, been vacationing for 2 weeks, bearded look. As I walked closer I was relieved to see that his eyes were open. I thought he must be OK. But as I touched his arm, and felt that reassuring bicep muscle that always made me feel safe, I noticed his eyes were open, but he wasn’t really there.

Why was he not moving? Why was there a big bump on his head and bloody scrapes on his knees? This could not be happening, I yelled, “WAKE UP!”

Late that evening, after I had left the hospital and my family had gathered around me, I was confused to hear more details of that evening.  The police had met us at the hospital and told us they would be coming by my house later.  An investigation had begun outside the party house by the beach.  Witnesses were being questioned. It was going to be a long night.

Once home I made the most difficult phone call of my life.  My 18 year old son was away at college – far away in another state. He had only been there for one week.

When I called, his phone had died so I went to voice mail.  I called the dorm.  I asked the R.A. to have him call me as soon as he got home.  When he called back I told him that his father had died.  It was cardiac arrest.

We just had not understood why his heart had stopped, until the next day.

Video evidence later would show that 2 men attacked my husband at this party.  He had gone over to use the bathroom at the beach community house. Apparently he walked through the party area where food was being served and these men had pushed him out.  An altercation ensued and the 2 men were taped sitting on my husband.

 

When he stopped moving, they had left him, lying on the ground next to a group of 16 year olds eating dinner.  No one helped him.  Twenty minutes later 911 was called and responded to the party.  Although efforts were made, the EMTs could not get his heart started. His time of death was recorded in the hospital.

Rumors arose that the 2 men who attacked my husband were connected somehow with the local police.  No arrests were made.  The next day it was as if nothing had happened.

Mike’s brother and I pursued a wrongful death lawsuit against the 2 men. The civil suit took almost 3 years.  I had to relive that night over and over again. In the end I was awarded some money.  Having 2 sons in college and now running my household on only one income was challenging.  I am glad that we went through the process.  We won.  But it was difficult.

Five years later I still suffer from unexpected grief triggers, especially when it comes to reports of police brutality and corruption.

You can runaway for a while, but it still hits you like a knockout punch at times.  Grief may never go away.  We just can’t live in it.

Sometimes we just need to remember the ones we’ve lost.

the night my husband died
The night my husband died changed my life. Life after the death of a spouse. Life keeps going for the people left behind. Sudden tragic death and complicated grief.

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