Jay Anthony Utz: 2/25/1976 – 7/9/2016

There wasn’t an official obituary announcing to the world the loss of my husband. Of all the things we had to deal with that day, and for the days that followed, this was one we pushed to the side. If you planned well, or worked with any funeral service, someone will likely handle this detail. We did not. We were reeling.

I learned that in trying to settle Jay’s affairs that there are companies who really would like one to prove a death has occurred by means of an obituary. I suppose a medical examiner’s report or a death certificate doesn’t carry the weight that an obituary posted in the newspaper does.

So, I give you this – for all the people who need one…

Jay Anthony Utz

Jay Anthony Utz of Pflugerville, TX passed away on Saturday, July 9, 2016.

A memorial was held at 10am on Wednesday, July 13, 2016 at Restoration Covenant Church in Round Rock with Jay’s aunt, the Rev. Marsha Emery officiating.

Jay was born in San Antonio, Texas to Lois and Samuel Utz on February 25, 1976. He married Beth Doughty on May 21, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Jay is survived by his wife, Beth Doughty; his sister and brothers Enid Celeste Kowalik, Joel Samuel Utz, and Dale Eldon Utz; his parents, Lois Margaret and Samuel Franklin Utz; and his nephews and niece, Everett, Zachary and Katy Kowalik.

Beth’s aunt, Philis Goodwin read the following on Beth’s behalf:

Today we say goodbye to a husband, a son, a brother, an uncle, and a friend who left us all too soon with so many words left unsaid, so many adventures left to do, so many wry/sardonic laughs left un-chortled, and so much love left unexpressed. For me I’m saying goodbye to my best friend, my confidante, my co-conspirator, my teacher, my hero, my voice of reason, and the only adult in the house.  And today and for all the days to come, I’m also saying goodbye to my very favorite person in this world.  The best person I know.

Monday was our 202nd Monthiversary which celebrates the day we started dating – it’s a ridiculous holiday unless you’re us. It also happens to be my very favorite.  This was the day I’d try my level best to wish him a Happy Monthiversary first.  I never really told him we were in competition, but still he almost always managed to win.  

And this is also one of the thousands of things I’ll miss.

Jay was the person who stayed with me each night until I fell asleep.  Then he’d be there when I’d wake in the middle of the night to ask important questions like: What’s the difference between alternating and direct current? Tell me about stationary objects in motion.  And he’d patiently answer until I was satisfied I completely understood and I’d wander off to fall back asleep. I suspect he shook his head when my back was turned, but I have no proof.

On the plane Saturday I realized I didn’t completely understand how planes generated lift, so I made a mental note to discover this information on our ride home.

There wasn’t a ride home – not with Jay, not on this Saturday when my best friend felt he had to leave.

Someone suggested I might be angry, and if I’m angry about anything it’s at this faceless disease called depression.  I’m angry that it took away the best person I know.  I’m angry it made him feel worthless and that it blinded him to being able to realize how amazing he truly was.  I’m angry that he tried and didn’t get the help he needed to fight it.  I’m angry it made him see so much bad about himself when all I could ever see was good and kind and beautiful, and he was absolutely beautiful. It robbed me of laughs, of the one person who understood me, of a thousand inside jokes, and a thousand more kisses.  It took away our ridiculous Monthiversaries, and it took away my favorite person.

I love you, Jay. You said I deserved better, but there will never be better than you.  You are the love of my life, and I miss you so much.

Jay’s brother Dale also spoke and shared personal stories that helped further bring to life a person whom we will all miss dearly – with whom we’ll never get to share another laugh, nor enjoy another character like “Laguardia”.

How Do You Do It?

When someone passes away, amidst all the love, a lot of questions come out.  I thought about ranking them in the degrees by which they annoy me, but that seemed a tad harsh.  People are curious, you can’t fault them for that (well, you could), and for the most part they’re not trying to be annoying (although sometimes I wonder), but by golly they’re curious.  Some of that curiosity comes from knowing we’ll all be impacted by death throughout our lives, and there’s this hope that the person can shed some little pearl of wisdom that maybe we can use if we’re in a similar situation. Some of the questions come from having never been in a particularly unique situation, and they feel like they’ve pulled up to the world’s best car wreck, and screw the rest of traffic, they’re going to take their nice long look.

Let me start by addressing a few of those questions/statements by offering some advice when it comes to someone who has died by suicide.  (Now followers of my Facebook feed may feel this subject looks somewhat familiar.  I like to think of my feed as a micro-blog (because that’s a thing, right?) at times, and my followers as a focus group.  Err… I think of them as good friends, that’s what I meant. Good friends.)

Don’t ask how it happened especially of the immediate family. Ever. If the person chooses to share that information, that’s one thing, but what has happened is deeply personal, and fairly traumatic. Each retelling can open up some really large wounds, because it’s not a “story”, it’s a life.  It’s lives.  You don’t have a right to know.  Yes, I get it’s a wonderfully dramatic story, and you can’t help but to slow down and try to drink in the drama, but do that from as far away from me as you can possibly get.

Don’t run around asking if any of the immediate family (or me) is suicidal.  Yes, something bad happened, and you may be worried, but your worry seems more like gossip when you flitter from person to person planting that little seed.

And whatever you do, don’t go up to any family member (for example: me, again) and make this request: “Please don’t kill yourself.” There are no words that can ever properly convey how wrong I find that statement.  I could start with “you clearly don’t know me,” but that just lightly begins to air kiss how deeply angry I am at your words.  If you are genuinely worried, you’ll figure out a better way to approach that conversation.  As it stood, I nearly said “well damn, there goes my Wednesday plan. I guess I’ll just watch TV now. Fingers crossed wrestling is on tonight!”

Then there’s this other question I’ve had thrown my way that while I find annoying isn’t meant so. It’s mostly annoying because I’m asked it a lot, which means someone who reads this blog (maybe a few) is (are)  going to say, “oh hell, I didn’t meant to step in it with Beth.”  You didn’t.  But since you asked, I’ll answer.

How do you do it? How do you get up in the morning?

I can’t give you a silver bullet answer – something you can apply to your own lives.  I can tell you some key things about me and my situation.  The biggest thing that gets me up and moving is I was literally just born this way. I’m a “happy” person.  In fact, I’m a borderline (and sometimes not so borderline) airhead.  I’m goofy. I’m silly. I’m the kid who at five was told by other five year olds I needed to grow up. (To this day we feel sorry for any five year old that feels they need to grow up.) When it comes to a happiness ceiling, mine is really high.  I’m a whole lot like one of my aunts who when we get together, we just giggle.  Now that said, that doesn’t mean I (or my aunt) can’t be brought down or that I don’t get angry.  I actually have quite a temper, but my fuse is exceptionally long.  You just don’t want to be around when the fuse is gone. Jay would point out, when I did finally blow, that I was spending a lot of energy being really mad about a person or thing, and the object of my anger couldn’t see how angry I was – that I was wasting a lot of energy.  I can blow up like the best and most uncomfortable fireworks display.  Thankfully something shiny will usually appear, and I’m chasing it down again.  Unfortunately, that shiny thing may not appear for a day or two, but it will always appear.

Another key thing is that no one left me alone, not even when it was really all I wanted. I longed to go shut the door to my bedroom after Jay passed away.  I didn’t want to do the things that needed to get done.  Dad had me make a list, and on a normal day the list was something I could have accomplished in a few hours. On that second day after Jay left, I had only managed to do two things, and the process was absolutely the most  mentally exhausting thing I had done.  Dad then helped me make the plan for the next day and the next slowly showing me how to walk in the world again.  During all of this, I didn’t want to interact with anyone, and yet they kept appearing at my house forcing me to be here.  When you combine that with another inherent trait I have – wanting everyone else to be ok, you have a situation where I felt forced to come out and to try and make everyone else feel better. I would tell stories about Jay, and while I wasn’t fully present, it kept me present enough.

I remember when Mom passed away unexpectedly, I tried to cheer-up the hospital chaplain by telling him stories despite desperately wanting him to leave the room so it would just be the two of us.  I once fell down a staircase trying to get a bag of glass bottles to a recycling station, and when  the glass and I landed at the bottom I saw a little boy looking on in horror, and so I did what I do – I talked to him, laughed about being clumsy, got everything together, and then fell apart behind closed doors. Part of who I am is a less polished version of my grandmother. A woman who when presented with any group of people would go immediately into hostess mode.  This is what I do.

To this day, some six months later, I am still not left alone over the weekends.  I have activities through the middle of March and beyond. They’re rarely anything I’ve planned, but are things people have brought me into.

So, in short: How do I get up every day? I can get up because that’s who I am. I don’t know another way (and as one friend “gently” put it: “…because you’re not a pathetic piece of shit,” (no intended offense to those who can’t), and because I have an amazing support group in my family and friends. They don’t let me make any other choice … and I try to remain open to new situations; I try to still live and experience new things/new and interesting people. I don’t have a silver bullet.  I only have me. And the truth is I’m not always sunshine and lollipops. I still get sad, and when I do I get a tissue, and I start over again.

To my friends and family (and new/amazing acquaintances), and of course the Phalanx: Thank you for continuing to help me walk through this world. I love you more than you’ll know (because I’m apparently keeping that a secret? Who says “more than you’ll know”? Why is that a saying?) Bah, you’ll know how much, because I say I love you in awkward ways that make you feel uncomfortable, so suck it up.

You’re welcome!

He Kindly Stopped for Me

I am descended from a long line of martyrs.  Now, you might be thinking the lion snack, pyre kindle, rock dodger sort, but you’d be mistaken.  See, I’ve long suspected my family actually survived through the centuries by being fabulous finger pointers.  “Oh, you’re looking for a witch?  Have you spoken with Goody Johnson?  No reason.  I’m just saying there may be naked devil frolicking.  Hey, since her property is right next to mine and she doesn’t look like a pond floater to me, if you catch my drift, I was thinking you know maybe we could just add that to our lands.  Hey, did I mention the frolicking and the warts? I think there was cavorting!”  In fact, all of my friends know that if they ever need someone to bury the body, they should definitely not include me due to my finger-pointing genetics.  Even If I wanted to keep their secret, my DNA would kick in and the next thing you know I’d be at the local sheriff’s office spilling my guts.  No, we’re more the sort of martyrs with our ever-lengthening faces who believe we were meant to suffer.  It can make the holidays a real hoot.  And while I’m not always like this, I have some glorious moments.

A recent example: I was driving home one night and I suppose the radio wasn’t entertaining enough and the traffic wasn’t particularly challenging, so that allowed for some quality me time. Time to really over think things – to rework reality.  I started picking on myself and it went something like this: “you know, none of your friends parents like you – true story”.  I made a list in my head of all of my friends and their parents – a list that would make what I was saying completely true.  I crawled out on that mental ledge and followed with “you’re kind of unlikeable, there’s probably something wrong with you.”  Now let me say this was up there with the time I called April and declared, “I only have three friends” to which April calmly took a breath and asked about several other people that I hadn’t counted – people I really liked and she was able to negotiate through my very German, “no, that’s an acquaintance”- the “du” vs. “Sie” roadblocks I threw in her way until I came down off of that ledge.  I’m kind of famous for these glorious moments, I’m not so proud to say.  So, as I drove and thought of every parent that disliked me including in-laws, I became smaller and sadder.  This was my narrative I chose to tell myself that evening for no better reason than I was bored.

And then the small part of me that hates to be beaten up rallied. “Julie’s mom doesn’t feel that way. Ern’s parents don’t feel that way. In fact, if you think about it, more of them like you than don’t and the ones who don’t, you’ve always had a “right back atcha’” attitude anyway, so let’s admit we’re being silly.”  I perked back up and recounted the ways that Julie’s mom had shown me over the years that she did still think about me and she did believe I was an ok person.  I used that knowledge to feel ok again.  To feel likeable.  To feel like I wasn’t some friend toad who when introduced to parents was seen as some loathsome and repulsive parasite latched to their beloved kid. (Did I mention I’m very skilled at making myself suffer?)  Those were the people who mattered to me – those incredible, amazing people who I admire and they like me.  I’m ok.

Reminding myself of the real truth, the real story, allowed me to not only feel better about myself, but about the people around me.  And the real story is that Ernie’s parents always ask about me when Ern comes into town.  Julie’s mom follows my blog and was one of the top people to respond to my Facebook posts – something that goes well beyond what my own family does and it’s something that means a lot to me.  And all of that helps me feel connected to my past.

Last week Julie told me that her mom had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Julie, who is a doctor, explained what that meant for the coming year and then asked if I would write a reminiscence – something her mom could read because she likes my writing.  I had a small meltdown, and then I sat down at 3:30 am the following morning and wrote a small bit that will never do this amazing lady justice or properly express how much she means to me or how incredible I think she is.

Of all the phases in my life – school, graduation, college, marriages, friend’s children being born, this is the one I like absolutely the least.  I want to stomp my feet hard enough or hold my breath long enough so that Death pauses, furrows a brow and says, “you know you’ll just pass out, but I suppose this once because of your moxie and that particular shade of blue on your face, I’ll cry uncle then come back in about 15 years, deal?”  (I basically want Death to be the character from Terry Pratchett’s novels. Relatable with a great fondness for cats.)

Like my aunt and my mom, she’s one of those people I have always assumed would always be there.  That decades from now I would still be hearing stories of her wanderings or hearing her boasting about and celebrating her incredible children and grandchildren. That I would be admiring her beautiful nature photos or the latest art piece she had created.  That wherever the wind stirred the tall grass and gently encouraged the wind chimes into performing a fairy’s chorus that I could smile in the knowledge she was somewhere out there – Monte and Polly at her side.

And quite selfishly, on the 6th anniversary of my mother’s death,  I admit that among the reasons I’m sad is that there will be one less person in this world that thinks I’m ok.