Life goes on.

Patti's final resting place. She loved bears and cookies.

After five weeks, so much of our lives has returned to ‘normal’. Jack and I get up, go to work/school, worry about meetings and midterms, come home, hang out, eat dinner, watch TV, go to sleep.
A lot of things in our routines have changed. Patti handled every aspect of our domestic life. She walked the dogs, paid the bills, did the shopping, arranged dates with our friends, and a million other things I never knew needed doing, Sure, Jack and I helped out with a lot of that stuff, but she insisted on handling most of it. Now it all falls to me and Jack.
Oddly, doing chores isn’t a chore. On the contrary, it gives me a sense of order and control which I have been sorely lacking.
I like packing Jack’s Scooby Doo lunch box each night (it’s the same one I had when I was 13. Back then I was mocked for it but Jack’s turned it into a badge of coolness). I make sandwiched, pack snacks, write him lame little jokes notes.
I like walking the dogs and getting them back on schedule (I wondered how they would react to Patti’s absence. Would they miss their constant companion? She drove them around on her scooter everywhere, Joe at her feet, Tim in her basket. They were weird but are getting back to normal too. They have had some stomach problems and totally forgot their housebreaking for a while but they are getting better. I enjoy retraining them. Today we worked on sitting and shaking hands).
I like bonding with Jack though I have to beware that I don’t get too overbearing and overprotective. He is still a 15 year-old-boy and needs to stretch his wings. But, of course, because he is all I have left, I worry a bit excessively. He has a new phone so I can text and email and call him anytime. Sadly, I do.
I have been back at work for a couple of weeks. It’s been very busy and the routine distracts me. My tolerance for stress and bullshit is lower than it was. I still care but not necessarily in the same way I have for years.
Patti is still a part of my days. I think of her when I am at the butcher, picking ham. I think of her when I wake up in the middle of the night and want someone to discuss my dreams with. I see her down the block — only it’s not her. I bury my face in her overcoat in the closet and smell the last atoms that once touched her skin. Patti and I had a special vocabulary of our own, silly words I’ll never utter again except into my pillow. 
Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I make myself cry. Crying is like starting a car that’s been sitting in the garage all winter; turning over the engine keeps the feelings alive, keeps my soul lubricated, stops me from becoming a dessicated husk. Pandy will always be in me, always be in Jack, so our sadness has been ironed into us, a layer of who we are, but not a crack or a break in us.
I am changed most because my future is blank. The many plans and decisions we made over the past 24 years are gone. Instead, I have to form a new map, a new set of goals, a new vision of what I’ll be in the years ahead. I imagined that Patti and I would keep growing old together, leave the City one day, go somewhere warm and easy, drawn and paint side-by-side, visit Jack and our grandchildren, feel free in new ways, live a full creative life. Now, it’s just empty. Not bleak or barren but absolutely undefined. I could do anything. Jack and I could move anywhere, anytime. The security I have been saving for all these years seems irrelevant now. I have to provide for Jack till he graduates …. but then what? Who will I be? What will I want? I have no idea.
I have lived with disability for 14 years, always looking for curbcuts, accessible bathrooms, room to maneuver. In an instant, that consideration has vanished. There are restaurants we can go to we never considered before. We can travel without worrying if the hotel has  a roll-in shower. And, yet, I would do anything to have that limitation once again, give up any freedom to help Patti through the door or up the step.
Life goes on. The road bends. New obstacles and opportunities, ditches and valleys appear. I am taking them turn by turn, mile by mile, step by step. Head up when I can keep it up. Looking back now and then, but still moving forward.
My friend, d. price, called me from his surf shack in Hawaii and told me: “The universe picked you and decided to test you. It decided you were strong and had everything and so it would throw you a curve. First, Patti had her accident and it watched to see if you would crawl into a hole or would make the most of the experience. When it saw that you had become stronger and wiser, had discovered that everyday matters, the universe decided to test you again by taking Patti away altogether. Now it’s waiting to see what you will make of this, will you use it to learn, to share what you learn, to make the world a better place? The universe is just waiting to see.” I said, “Why can’t the universe just leave me the fuck alone?” He just laughed.

“Fortunately I am not the first person to tell you that you will never die. You simply lose your body. You will be the same except you won’t have to worry about rent or mortgages or fashionable clothes. … You will not have to worry about cellulite or cigarettes or cancer or AIDS or venereal disease. You will be free.” -Cookie Mueller

51 thoughts on “Life goes on.

  1. One of my favorite TV shows was Northern Exposure and I watch it now on dvd. One of the characters, a crusty old lady name Ruth Anne who ran the general store always had poignant things to say. The last time I watched she reminded me "life can turn on a dime but somehow we muddle through it."

    So, Danny, you're not alone when you muddle along….

    Take heart.

    ~Sharon

  2. Thank you for sharing this with us. You’ve articulated the grieving process in such a comprehensive way that I’m saving it for the next time I need it….it’s a great testimonial and reminds me that I am not alone in this process. And that you aren’t, either.

  3. dearest Danny. Beautifully expressed and written. "so our sadness has been ironed into us, a layer of who we are" is profound. My heart goes out to you and Jack. I was just thinking about you this morning, wondering how you were doing, when I saw the post on facebook. You will and are clearly surviving, and there's no doubt that it will suck for a while, and often. I'm so glad you're writing about your feelings and sharing. (I know that's one thing you and I have in common, we express.) I see a another book in your future. this one about grief and recreating one's life. Save a chapter for me, dear man. xo

  4. Going through a big loss myself, I wrote a poem. I hope it touches you, for I have been keeping you and Jack in my meditations.

    FIRST POEM OF MARCH

    How hard it is to get away
    from loaned places- a corner
    of a heart,
    a sliver of a smile.

    However carefully I keep
    my mind serene,
    the small easy attachments
    curtail my heavy steps-
    the sprinkling of sweet rain,
    the silver of moonlight.

    Shreds of my sorrow hang
    from the clothesline,
    from the trees,
    fluttering in the wind
    like prayer flags
    in the mountains.

    Christina Trevino.

  5. Thank you for introducing thousands of us to your beautiful Patti through EDM and your books; we would never have known of her uncommon grace without you. Thank you also for continuing to inspire through your words. Peace and love to you and Jack Tea, your families and your friends.

  6. Oh your words are so sadly poignant – soul searching, the meaning of life, the inevitability of death, the faith in the unknown. Loss to the extreme, and yet there is Jack, there is today, and yes a tomorrow – life does go on, even when We are no longer here, Lessons learned, doors closed others opened, Dan P is very wise – time will tell where you are led – there will be more joy and life – change is inevitable – and you are a wise man, still very blessed – thank you for sharing and reminding us every day matters -
    And I love the cookie jar ;-)

  7. Oh Danny. There is love and air and breath, silence, wonder, healing, movement, trial, error, everything all at once. This life hurts sometimes but we get through, we work our way through. We morph. I am so sorry, I have no idea what I would do without my David. Love Jack fierce. Love those dogs. Love you and accept how it feels to be you. And keep drawing. Everything.

  8. Thank you for sharing your grief in such an articulate manner. You describe so well the process of living with loss….I’m saving it for inspiration for the next time I need it…..I pray for peace for you and Jack, acceptance and release.

  9. Danny,
    Maybe a trip to Hawaii is in the cards? Why not take some time to see those distant friends and beaches?
    When I think of you and Patti I think of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
    Rock–you enjoyed the rock stars and you were each others rock.
    Paper–so much to share in drawings, and letters and stamps –all on paper…and the Wallpaper story that featured you both.
    Scissors–the master editors–to share so elegantly with a cut out and re-creation.
    Love to you and your continuing adventures..
    UB

  10. What a perfect place to have Patti still in your lives. She provided the cozy comforts, the warmth and the sweetness at the end of your day. It is hard to think of you and Jack without her, but she is with you in Jack and in your memories every day. All of us are sending you love to lift you both so that you may not feel so alone. Share your stories with her, continue to tell her you love her. Make yourself cry when you have to, and then grab the dogs, Jack and your friends to ride with you on the new road your lives have taken. Really, that jar IS perfect. Andy

  11. Sometimes, it can be difficult but life surely does go on after loss and it’s how we choose to continue on our life path that really counts. Well wishes continue for you and Jack ~

    Btw, cute cookie jar!

  12. Your thoughts, your words are so deeply moving, Danny. I share your tears but in you there is such a great strength, a great dignity, a mission to be accomplished that comes through even in the lowest of times. I do believe your Patti will always be with you and Jack.

  13. Danny,
    As SARK puts it, you are an amazing "human bean". My heart goes out to you as you struggle to find what your life will be without Patti. Your stories, your writing, your art, and all that you share is a precious gift that I, and so many others are extremely grateful for. I don't know you personally. I have a once removed connection to you, sort of . . . I know Roz of Minneapolis, and she often talks about your work as she gets her visual journal collective students to sketch in their journals.
    Anyway, I send you healing and love as you continue on this journey of life.
    Gratefully yours,
    Briana

  14. Patti is around you, saying, "draw your way through, onward"–for Jack and the future grandchildren and for all of us out here hurting in our own stories.

    Life is terrible and wonderful simultaneously. That's what makes us crazy, and makes us keep looking around the next corner.

  15. Danny, your loss has touched us all. I feel like we are all connected by this tiny thread and we all feel like we have actually known her too. Through your sketches and books. You have so perfectly expressed what so many of us have felt or fear we will feel in the future. I will hug my Jennifer a bit tighter today, 10 years into her disablility. I will try to not feel tired and put out as I deal with the difficulties of the day in the disability. I will keep this post, tucked away, for those days when I need it. You are in our prayers.

  16. Dearest Danny, I dont write enough hear, I leave that to only special things and todays one of them. I'm 62 now lost my last parent just six years and do not have any other family members now its just me
    I have moved on but theres always an emptyness there as you walk your path of life. Your feelings now are good for you for you have a handle on those feelings instead of not letting yourself have any feelings at all .Take care my dear friend,and just wanted to let you know that what your feeling is just a part of loving someone and its okay to carry them with you because of this love.
    Linda

  17. Dear Danny,
    Your words have touched me deeply. First, thank you, for having been so open all this time. You have no idea how profound your courage in life and in art (one and the same, as you have always taught) has touched me. First from one tiny book with giant wisdom, Everyday Matters followed by Creative License which I'm reading now…and reading your blog.
    I'm amazed at how much strength one human being possesses and then chooses to share.
    I've said it before and I want to say it again: I wish the best for you and Jack during this most trying time. I know what you mean when you said “Why can’t the universe just leave me the fuck alone?” and like d.price it made me laugh, too.
    Sometimes, it's all a human being can do…
    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Danny Gregory.
    Chiqui

  18. I came here this morning and read your sad news. I am so sorry. Today is the “born day” of my son who died 12 years ago. He would have been 28 today. I remember thinking when he died that I could not believe that traffic was still moving. This is such a loving tribute to the woman who added life to your days and I will pass on the best advice I got back then…cry until you quit, grieve any way you need to and tell anyone who tells you different to go to hell! And while I believe that every occurrence builds character, when do you get to have enough character? soft touches, well spoken words, and space when you both need it is what I wish for you today and the days to come. smooches from the Land of Enchantment

  19. I’m devastated by your news. Via your books, you three have become a part of my life. Bless you Danny & Jack; you are in my thoughts constantly. And Patti, wherever you are; thank you!

  20. “Huil maar niet
    ik ben niet echt dood, moet je weten,
    het is maar een lichaam dat ik achterliet
    Dood ben ik pas als jij me bent vergeten”
    (Bram Vermeulen)
    “Don’t cry
    I’m not really dead, you know,
    it’s just a body I left behind.
    Dead I will be only, when you will have forgotten me”

    Barbara Luel (Brussels, Belgium)

  21. How beautifully you phrased all of these thoughts. I just love that Patti's remains are in the cookie jar–somehow, from things you've told us about her, I think she'd be so smiling to know that.

    You sound like a really good, thoughtful, loving dad, and Jack has a wonderful role model to learn from in terms of life's adversities and how to respond to them with dignity and grace. It really is so true that it's not the things that happen to us in this life, but how we handle the things that happen to us in this life that speaks volumes about who we are as people.

    Jack is one lucky young man to have had you and Patti to help shape his world. Poignant, honest post.

  22. Danny…Isn’t it amazing how, by going through horrific times, you learn the process, and you know the steps you have to take to get to the other side? You also understand more than most, even if you HATE it, that those times bring a richness and insight that others can’t begin to grasp. What you and Patti and Jack have done to inspire the world is of greatness. I cannot imagine what gifts will come from your unbearable loss. Thank you for sharing whatever that may be. In the meantime, just breathe and take care of you and Jack.
    Good thoughts always,
    Lisa
    p.s. after an absence from sketching due to a small stoke that left me blind in one eye, I started again, on the day you lost Patti

  23. I have begun to follow your blog, because I have become inspired by your work and it’s rawness. This is the first blog I have ever followed. And I’m just catching up to speed, and this is the first full post from your blog I’ve read, but I have followed your art for a bit longer.

    I can’t imagine what it feels like to lose someone like you have. I don’t know you personally, and you don’t know me. And I don’t know your friend D. Price, and I don’t mean to disrespect their views on the universe. But I wanted to present a different idea than something greater than us peering down, throwing circumstances at us, then kicking back and spectating for sport. I have no doubt your friend’s comments were well-intentioned, and perhaps they’re correct. But what if the universe had nothing to do with this, because for some odd reason really bad things happen to good people. But the “universe” cared nonetheless, and something greater than any of us grieves with you, and wants you to know this life is temporary, but certain things are not held by death. And while we’re trapped in this place of limited understanding, on the other side are eternal days of your talks with Patti , and she’s healthy and strong, and the trials of this life only proved to be ways to carry more love into those moments.

  24. Hi Jack, I just found out about your web site from Ken O’Connell. His course on sketchbook creation was truly transformative. My new habit of drawing a bit everyday in my own book is simpler than I had hoped. I am so sorry to hear about your recent loss. I don’t know how any of us can go one when the unbelievable happens, but we do. Often times I get up in the morning just because the person who passed would have wanted me to. However, the roller coaster ride of emotions are exhausting so do get lots of rest. Thanks for your wonderful web site, it is filled with inspiration and good tips. Your fan, sandra moreano

  25. Danny; thank-you for sharing the raw emotions of life without Patti. All of us here have been deeply touched by you and your family’s lives and our lives are changed too. Many of us cry along with you sharing in the grief of lost ones and lives changed forever. The ‘universe’ is a tough place to hang out in, but that is our life – yet with the artists of the world this place is a little better, a little kinder and a whole lot easier to live in. Danny, live out each day as best you can, know that there is that world-wide community of people carrying and caring for you, Jack, Joe and Tim. Every day does matter.
    I wish you peace.

  26. Only found out today and cried as I read this. So sorry for your and Jack’s loss. I’m glad to know you’ve been able to start drawing again and it’s so good that the support of faithful friends and family has helped to empty the void and buoy your spirits.
    And, as the grief continues, I hope that the many wonderful memories of your dear Patti will bring much comfort to you all.

    Thanks for sharing the picture of the bear cookie jar. It’s terrific.

    It may not feel like it at times, but she is with you. What a beautiful, talented, courageous and fun spirit was she! How loving and how loved!

  27. Was just sharing your site with someone yesterday, and about how you inspired me. Not having visited for a while, I just came across this.
    Praying for you and Jack. <3

  28. I’m going to start shopping for the “right” cookie jar or tea pot. Your photo made me smile.
    And your narration of ups and downs, alone and with Jack and the dogs is one of the wisest, most honest and most helpful (brief) grief guides I’ve ever read. (And I’ve read a bunch.)
    PS: I don’t think the universe “tests” us. What happens happens. It’s what we do next that matters.

  29. I’m a big fan of your work and your remarkable book An Illustrated Life. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your partner, Patty. Sending you and your son Jack healing energy and warm wishes…

  30. I haven’t been here for quite a while. I just stopped back by today, and want to tell you I am so sorry for the loss of your dear Patti. You are an inspiration to me and many others. You and Jack are in my thoughts and prayers.

  31. Danny,
    Sending love and comfort to you and Jack from here in Brooklyn. Hope you can feel all the good vibes being sent your way from all over. You and your work are important to a lotta people.
    Much love,
    Dana

  32. Every so often I come to the site to see how you are both doing and if there is any news from you. I know you don’t know me but just hope you are OK. I believe there are many concerned people like me. With heartfelt good wishes from Pam

  33. Danny. Miss your wisdom, wit and truthfulness. You have been tested, but also gifted. The bonds you shared, the love you had, was richer and more special than most get to experience. I remember those days after the accident vividly. Watching you two pull out of that was still one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve witnessed. Say those words, not just into your pillow.

  34. Danny…I understand EXACTLY what you are going through right now. I am today, four weeks beyond the moment I came home to find that my wife had taken her own life. Your words captured so clearly the things that I am walking through day by day. I was married for nearly 30 years (on June 7)…I have two grown daughters, 21 and 26. I am an artist by trade and by passion…my wife had begun to discover her creative side in these last years and was an incredible photographer. She had been struggling with multiple chronic conditions, and horrible pain for about 15 years. At last, she could carry it no more…

    Know that your work has touched me life. I had also begun doing sketches while in doctors offices…without even knowing you were documenting your journey, and publishing your work. My Mother lost my Dad a year ago, and I found your book, “An Illustrated Life”. I gave it to her for her birthday in February, just to try to help her revive her own creative spark. Since then, we’ve sketched together, and she has a group of her friends interested in the sketch-journal “life” now.

    I have some of my recent sketches on my blog, the weekend my wife sent me out of town, so that she might end her physical life. But she still lives and loves…in another place. You can visit, if you wish: http://www.ludstuff.blogspot.com

    Thank you, Danny, for your honesty. It helps some of us heal, to know that there are others who struggle…and yet daily choose to fill life with joyful things.

  35. Hi Danny: Today was the first time I learned of you through an interview with Jane on the Running with Scissors website. I am sorry to learn of Patti’s passing. Life is joy and sorrow mixed together which you know more about than me.
    I am off to look at your group here and am excited to have “found” out about you and your books, etc.
    Thinking of you and your family,
    Candylei

  36. Everyday Matters was my daily visit to the web for years not only because I love drawing (and you show the way to take the most of it) but I also enjoyed all your stories about your family and the courage of all you three to live a normal and amazing life. When you decided to spend more time drawing than on your website I really missed my daily meeting with you and I gave up typing your name in google. I don´t know why I have typed again your name today and it´s been very sad to know about your wife…(I´m really sorry about that)… but I have seen in your words how you go on searching for strength in every little detail of our ordinary life. They are not just words. It´s truth. You really show that everyday matters.

  37. Danny, I’m so sorry for your loss. I just happened on your wesbite after a long hiatus. I knew you were taking a break from blogging, so I didn’t bother to check it out. Then I come back to sad news. I’m so sorry! My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  38. You are one heck of a human! Inspiring soooo many people and sharing your life! You are just Awsome! Continued success in all that you do.
    If something happens you can do something about be happy.
    If something happens you can do nothing about be happy.
    Dalai Lama said somthing like that on TV, he’s probably right?

  39. Danny,

    This too shall pass. I can relate…I’ve been there…
    Just remember that self-awareness is the key to healing and love outlives us all.
    Patti is forever with you.
    Keep drawing & living.

    A big hug, Bianca

  40. Danny And Jack,

    Oh I have been out of touch since you stopped blogging awhile ago. Then someone linked to your site on their blog and was delighted to see you posting again. Then I discover that you are now without Patti. Oh I feel so much for the both of you. I know its been several months now and you are learning how to live again. I was so privileged to know her through your blog. Thank you for sharing so much of your life. My heart and soul go out to you in this new period of your life. I wish I could do more.

    With Love,

    Kate

  41. I had no idea that Patti had passed away. I wish I knew what happened, but I can tell you Danny, I understand those feelings so well. I lost my mother a year and half ago, and everything that she did for my father, I do for him now, plus I have a job. My mom was my best friend, and I really miss her a lot. Those feelings of just wanting to cry, and not really wanting to change anything that Mom and touched, arranged, etc.. is still there. I still have the clothes that my mom was wearing when we took her to the emergency room that night, and her shoes. I have left everything in the linen closet just the way she had it. Everything is still folded the way mom folded them the day she put them away. I know how hard it is to deal with those feelings of intolerance when you are back at work. I still have a hard time with it. Stay as strong as you can because life does go on.

  42. I’m incredibly sorry for your loss Danny and Jack. I first discovered you through your articles on The Morning News documenting Patti’s pregnancy and they were a source of comfort and inspiration while my own partner was pregnant with our daughter. this in turn led me to Everyday Matters and I drew as a way of recording my hopes and fears for my own child. When my sister Laura died suddenly this time last year and I turned to journaling again as a way to stay sane in the darkest time of my life. I hope the strength of character that Patti had will be a great source of comfort in the depths of your grief.

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