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”.

An Anniversary


Anniversary Card 2016

How long were you married?
Nine years.
Oh.
But we were together almost 17…
OH!

As if the length of time is a measurement of how much sympathy a person should garner. “She only knew him 1/5 of her life – one can hardly form attachments in such a short span. Oh, about 1/3 you say? How very sad. That explains the tears.”

Just a friendly reminder that when dealing with the bereaved, empathize if you can, sympathize if you’re not a sociopath and have an IQ over 30, but don’t ask how long the deceased was known. In fact, don’t ask about the relationship. Loss for a first cousin once removed may be just as sad as an aunt, a nephew, or a brother. I’ll also throw in, don’t ask how it happened, because you’re not a ghoul and this isn’t your wreck to rubber neck. You’ll know if you need to know.

This has been your latest installment of: How to Deal with Death

Today is my anniversary. My first anniversary without Jay.

Ten years ago today we were in Las Vegas – me in an overly feathered top, and Jay dressed like he walked off the set of Miami Vice. Hey, it was Vegas, baby! We’d dressed for the occasion. A few friends had joined us – Kendra, Jeff, Lynn (Ravenhex), Jen (Aunt Mahgs), Harry (Uncle Fel) and he who shall not be named out of fear of one of my guests. April had been headed that way, but the car gods were apparently angered. It was one of those beautiful and great days. A ridiculous day, as we started out at Quark’s being teased by a Klingon and were carried off to some Elvis chapel where apparently some of our other friends have been married (forget Bon Jovi – who cares? Meredith and Jerin where there once! I think Brandi and Ed were, too!).

Jay’s family weren’t told about the wedding where mine were. Jay had said he wanted to “elope”. I asked him about that decision at the time, and then later. It’s something I still don’t understand and can only offer that I think he liked the idea of “eloping” despite us having my friends there and despite my family also knowing.

Jay kept many things to himself, and he didn’t always explain himself. You just had to accept that it was a Jay thing.

Just a few thoughts I wanted to share on this day – my take away from being with Jay for nine or 17 years, depending on how you want to consider it…

Love isn’t always neat. It’s not a movie. It’s sometimes inconvenient and hard. Sometimes you have to fight for it. You have to take risks. Sometimes you have to yell when you’re being told your relationship isn’t ok in someone else’s eyes. Always keep in mind it’s not about them; it’s about the two of you. When you know it’s right, it’s something to fight for – to strive towards.

I met Jay at the worst time, but he was worth every risk I took, the sacrifices I made, and the lines in the sand I drew. He was worth every verbal scrap I got into. I knew he was the one. That he would love me absolutely despite a mountain of flaws, which he did.

Today I want to challenge you that when it comes to love take risks where you can. Remember, you only have one life. Live it deliberately. Worry less about the noise from others around you especially if they’re holding you back. You get to decide. If what you want is inconvenient for someone else, isn’t harming anyone, and they’re preventing you from moving forward, well too bad – screw them and screw that. Your life isn’t about them. Your happiness is not about them. Live for you. You only get this one life, this one shot. You are responsible for your happiness. Know and believe that you absolutely deserve to love and to be loved. Who cares what other people thing? What do you think?

Today I challenge you to love someone. Let them love you back.

Happy Anniversary to my best-friend, my love, and my favorite person. You were worth it.

(Disclaimer: Relationship risk advice excludes taking those risks with anyone who is related by blood, anyone whose spouse might have an uncontrolled anger issue and who also possesses firearms or is related to/belongs to a “club” with anyone like that (unless you can counter with court orders/law enforcement), anyone who dresses in a onesie whose last name ends (begins) in “Kim”, and anything involving animals. Basically, if you can be arrested for it, you shouldn’t do it. However, mirrors are ok. Go on and freely love yourself, you narcissistic little monkey!)

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!

On Christmas

On Christmas Day 2016 midnight passed without the traditional, “Happy Birthday! I love you!” declaration. I didn’t incoherently mumble back, “I love you more.” When I finally decided to drag myself out of bed, no one snored peacefully beside me while I was brimming in the delight of the day, and an overfilled stocking with all its promise didn’t wait on my chair (I like stockings best). I didn’t spend the month randomly announcing, “It’s my birthday!” to only be told, “nuh uh”. “Yuh huh! I get ALL the days! Happy Birthday to me!!!” “No!” “YES!” “No dancing!” “It’s my very special birthday dance to celebrate! Maybe there’s a song!””Look away, Sam!”

It was sad – not all the time, but most of it.  It was hard – not all the time, but most of it.

I wanted a margarita (maybe two) and some Tex Mex, which wasn’t going to happen.  Really? Only Chinese food places are open? No one is in town?  I went to the movies, another tradition.  It was enjoyable.

Then I sat alone in a house missing all the other Christmases when I could see his beautiful face.  I thought about how I still hope when I pull into the garage after work that he’ll magically fling open the door and help me bring in my stuff.  I still hope that maybe I’ll wake up, and this will have all been a horribly vivid, and unwelcome dream.  And then I buck up, put on a smile, and greet another day.

Since I get asked, usually with a pitying face, “How was your Christmas?”  There it is. That’s how my Christmas went. Oh wait, I meant to say, “it was fine, how was yours?” Do tell me about how losing another celebrity has devastated your world.  I’m THE person to talk to about that. It’s not that I don’t get it; I just don’t have patience for it right now.

I went on a rant (as I do) today about people not saying “thank you”.  It’s a pet peeve. I don’t get it.  How hard is it to say “thanks”? “Thank you for thinking of me.”  I always had to thank people growing up, and when my step-mom was added to the family, I learned to write actual “thank you” notes. In my family there’s the parable of the bad aunt – the one who received a guitar that her mother had scraped all of her money together to purchase.  It didn’t live up to this aunt’s expectations, apparently crying and door slamming ensued, and everyone involved was fairly unhappy. The lesson was, “do not be this aunt – say thank you even if it’s not something you wanted – be grateful someone thought of you – that someone may have tried really hard to please you.”  I did manage not to say, “I’m not a toy dispenser for ingrates” this go around, which I like to think of as “a win” in the rant department.  I just thought everyone needed a gentle reminder to be thankful.  Hey, if people can rant about their various relationships while screenshot-ing each painful text, then I can plop myself on social media and carry on about thankfulness.

But in doing so, I was reminded that I hadn’t properly said thanks for one of the best, and most touching gifts I received this year. Normally, I’m not the one to brag, because it seems rather tacky, “look what I got!!!” yet I’m going to make this one exception.

On Christmas Day 2016 at the traditional movie I received the following box:

Lunch Notes

250 envelopes containing quotes, questions to ponder, and notes from my friends and family. Notes for each work day of 2017 to put in my lunch and open each day. Each one has my name on it and a sticker sealing it in the back.  My good friend April coordinated this, and spent who knows how many countless hours putting it together. To say it’s amazing and touching is such an understatement; it blew me away.  I teared up once I understood what I was looking at. She didn’t tell me who all contributed, so I haven’t been able to thank you yet.  Until I know who all was involved, I hope you’ll accept this general note of appreciation in the meantime:

THANK YOU ALL! This was truly the most meaningful and beautiful of gifts. I am so very lucky to have you in my life.

I’ll share the first one (ok, so I may have cheated and not waited until the first of the year to open just one). It reads:

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” — Neil Gaiman

Thank you, April for thinking of something so magical, and for getting me away when my Paris trip fell through, leaving me a brief mess. Thank you to my beautiful friends and family.  I love you guys MORE!  I hope all of these wishes come true for me, and also for you.

A Babbling State of the Beth

I’m back, at least for a moment or two, and I’m going to write some general randomness, babble a bit, and there will probably be a tiny rant.  Hopefully in there will be a lot of love, because I do have that for a group of people who have been completely amazing.

Saturday we had a wake for Jay.  It was hands-down the best party I’ve been to in who knows how long.  If I could choose a recent moment to live in, it would be there in Darrell’s kitchen, talking to friends, laughing, drinking a margarita, or it would be on the couch announcing to my friend Jonathan that I was moments away from hugging everyone and declaring my absolute love for them.  In fact, there’s a ridiculous picture of me on that couch, and having never seen it, I feel it captures my goofiness and love.  (Let’s hope that pans out for me, and isn’t something I wince at.)

I’ve always had anthem songs. It’s just me.  Maybe it’s you, too, but in that moment I was returned to a song that is the most me when my world is right (and it’s usually more right than wrong), and it’s the me I haven’t been in a long while.

I managed to only have one moment where I started hyperventilating and tears trickled down my face, but I did it quietly in front of a group of people with a smile on my face and no one noticed. This may be a new skill  Although, I did have to fight down the urge to go for a long walk – not being able to escape folks in the front yard was the only thing that stopped me.  Damn you Johnny Cash.  The song wasn’t on, only an instrumental version, but I could sense him singing it and each word of the lyrics stung briefly.

Sunday was our anniversary.  Let me clarify a bit.  This wasn’t the anniversary of our marriage, but the anniversary of when we started dating 17 years ago.  While the nation mourns, I always remember that day as the one when we went to Magnolia Cafe, walked over to a park, and Jay told me he loved me for the first time.  On that day I made big, life-changing decisions – decisions that hurt some people unintentionally.  It was the day that kicked off what would be the happiest time of my life, and it was worth all of the anger I felt towards people for the years that followed (I’m just not cut from that “let it go” cloth – Elsa’s goofy little song would fall on my deaf ears. Girl, you let it go.  I got this.  I mean, just ask me about Jessica and the 3rd grade slumber party.  Mmm hmm. I’m not letting that go either) It was also worth the sadness of the last couple of months. That day kicked off a time when I learned the true meaning of friendship – that my closest friends would form a phalanx to shield me whenever I needed protection; they’re amazing.  It was the day I learned how wonderful love could be, and how strong (and in some cases weak) my friendships were.

It also kicked off our “Monthaversary” tradition, and not an 11th passed in the past 16+ years without the declaration of “Happy Monthaversary!!”  In turn, it makes every 11th that has followed varying degrees of painful with yesterday having the potential to wreck me.  My brother-in-law gets a big gigantic shout out here for heading that off by getting me outside, walking around, and then watching impossibly goofy movies.  He is amazing and a truly great and kind guy (yes, you are).

Here’s where I meander over to my ranty bit.  Feel free to hop off at this stop.

What happened with Jay was absolutely horrible; it’s the nature of death. Unfortunately, something I’ve learned from this experience is that people do not understand you if you’re not in a downward spiral.  So, I’m going to be blunt.

  1. Some facts – I get out of the house.  I started work a week later.  I went back to the gym
  2. I don’t need meds.  I don’t have the desire to hole up in a dark corner. Thank you for suggesting that, but I don’t need to not feel.  Maybe that’s you.  Feel free to get meds if so.
  3. Death is sad. It’s ok to be sad.  I don’t choose to wallow in this feeling although I might tear up on occasion. You see I lost my best friend who also happened to be my husband. I lost someone I talked to daily.  I lost someone who thought I was ok despite a list of flaws.
  4. Don’t tell me it’s not my fault.  I know that. See, I learned a long time ago that I can’t actually control other people.  It’s nice of you to say.  It’s annoying when it gets re-emphasized over and over again when I’m not actually claiming responsibility.
  5. Don’t tell me I need to see a therapist or go to group therapy, because you feel like that’s what all people who suffered a loss must need.  No, I don’t – at least not right now.  Sweeping into my life during a tragedy when you don’t know me well doesn’t qualify you to judge my mental state.  There are exactly five people I’d listen to on this subject.  If you just paused and wondered “Is that me?” It’s not. Two of them are my family (blood or otherwise), two of them live together, and the last is a surprise – well, probably not to them.  The day they put together an intervention is the day I’ll go, but right now they’re telling me I’m fine, and well… remember that phalanx?  Don’t push it. They’re fierce.  Also, they’re about to get punchy if they hear me say one more time, “yeah, she told me she didn’t think I had anyone to talk to, made the sad face, and got upset I wasn’t in therapy”.
  6. I was raised by a social worker and a big portion of our family friends were social workers.  Plus, I’m lucky in that I naturally come with a pretty large tool kit for coping.  Don’t assume I have no tools to work through grief.
  7. Do not ever tell me someone is not Jay.  I am keenly aware of this, and I need exactly zero reminders. Also a fun couple of facts –  therapists are not Jay.  You are not Jay.  So, if the point is to to suggest I’m trying to find a replacement, I can’t. No one can replace anyone else. Each friendship I have is unique. If the point is to suggest you or a therapist would be a better choice, well we’ll have to agree to disagree. My not sharing with you doesn’t mean I’m not talking to someone, I am.  It doesn’t mean I don’t love or value your friendship, I do, but the fact of the matter is that different friends have different abilities.  My phalanx was chosen for their unique skills. Thankfully the world is a big enough place that all types of friends are welcome, but don’t keep shoving your resume in my face when you can’t lift a shield, and don’t be jealous of those that can.  They’re a highly specialized and elite group.  They have their own standard they fly. (Well, they will now. Hey guys, can we work on that? You know who I’m asking. Maybe get the kids on it? They’re crazy creative. Maybe think of some theme music?) There can be a huge difference between empathizing and sympathizing.  Thank you for thinking of me.  Don’t push it.
  8. Don’t tell me that Jay’s choice had to be a relief or that he got to “leave the bullshit” behind. I am that bullshit. His family is that bullshit. Sam is that bullshit. Mind your face and the words that just dribbled out, and realize that the times I’ve needed to be in therapy have never been for sadness, but for anger. Also, there’s a short distance between me counting from 1-10 and breathing.  Hope I chose to count to 100.

The non-ranty bit (a list):

  1. There are not enough numbers to enumerate all the great things individuals have done or said.  You’re all part of my incredible tool kit that get me through each day. Your thoughts and kind words have been helpful.  Thank you for thinking of me.

Now I suppose I should wrap this up.  Did I mention this is babble? It’s kind of hard to put a neat bow on babble.  Maybe pretend I said something here that ties it all together, and I’ll pretend I had a lot of margaritas, am giving you a big hug, and saying I love you guys.  I LOVE YOU GUYS!

To My Bestfriend on Our Anniversary

It’s our anniversary and since I control this blog, I think it’s only right that I dedicate a song on this day to Jay, my best friend, husband and favorite person – the guy that loves me despite my insanity – the guy that laughs at my bad jokes and endures my corny dedications.  (The guy who is doubtlessly groaning as he sees this song appear yet again in his honor.)  My one regret is that I couldn’t grab up a DJ and dedicate this while at a roller skating rink or over the airwaves through the local pop station just to make it a little more cheesy.  (He loves me for my cheesiness, I’m sure.  That’s what I tell myself.)

Happy Anniversary, Jay!  I love you very much!  Home is whenever I’m with you.

Sass: Part 2

Me: “That’s right, I mocked you on my blog!!!”

Jay in high-pitched, what I assume to be his Beth voice: “OH NOOOOOOOO! I didn’t write A Farewell to Arms on my first try!!” And then he cackled.  CACKLED!!!

I am abused!