Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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Collaboration with a Purpose: Losing My Husband Changed Everything

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Folks, I’m one of ten bloggers talking about various forms of loss today in Collaboration with a Purpose.

Blogger Tajwarr Fatma (of https://lifeaswehaveneverknownit.wordpress.com) came up with this idea (do visit her blog, OK?), and our joint purpose is to try to help others by letting them know they aren’t alone. We all have to deal with significant losses at some point, and the thought was that ten different bloggers might have ten different takes on the subject.

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The theme is loss. How did you overcome it? How did you deal with it?

My topic is how I continue to deal with the catastrophic loss of my late husband Michael. He died in 2004, but without his influence on my life, and without the love he shared with me, I doubt I’d still be trying to make it as an author.

Why?

Michael was the most positive person I’ve ever been around, and he made me believe that I could do anything I put my mind to…I just had to keep after it, and keep trying, and not stop until the wall fell down, that’s all.

So, one day, I had the best and most supportive husband on the planet, someone who understood me and appreciated me and was into me, a wonderful and giving and caring man who also wrote and edited and was creative.

And the next, well, he had four massive heart attacks in one day over the course of ten hours. He couldn’t survive that, and he died.

His loss was devastating.

Even now, after so many years, I don’t have the words to express just how incalculable the loss of my husband actually was. Michael was my rock, my soul mate, and often my co-writer, and when he was with me, I felt whole. Loved. Understood. Appreciated for myself. And valued, not because I was a writer or a musician or anything, but because I was and am myself.

Michael even understood my health issues, and helped me work through them, so I could get more done with less wasted energy and effort.

When he died, all of that went away.

Or did it?

See, how I deal with Michael’s loss every day is to think about how much I love him.

Still. Always. Forever.

I love that man, and I feel his love for me, and it helps me go on.

No, he’s not here to make me dinners, or give me a backrub, or complain about politics (we both loved to do this), or come up with new stories, or edit anything I’ve got going, or help share the load with regards to paying work.

But his influence continues. I keep trying. I remember. I know how he felt about me. And it makes a difference.

In this life, I’ve met only a handful of people who truly have understood me, but none have understood me as well as Michael. He was my best friend, my everything…and all I can do to keep going is to tell myself that someday, in the positive afterlife (whatever shape or form that takes), I’ll see him again. And when I do, I want him to recognize me, and to know that I’m still the same person.

See, I can either celebrate his life, and do the best I can, or I can turn my face to the wall. I don’t see any benefit to turning my face to the wall, so I keep trying.

But yeah, some days, I do look at that wall, and say, “Hmm. Maybe today, I will stop trying.” Then I shake myself into sense, think, “Nah,” and go on and do what I was going to do anyway.

That’s what I learned from Michael. Accept that you feel lousy. Know why you feel terrible, even. But do what you were going to do anyway.

If it takes a little longer because of health issues or whatnot, so what? Keep going, keep trying, and do the best you can.

So, if you’re dealing with a significant loss like the loss of your husband, or a treasured friend, or someone you cared about deeply, try to be good to yourself. Realize there will be good days and bad days.

And most importantly, don’t listen to other people if they tell you that you’ve grieved long enough. It’s not up to them; it’s up to you what you do. If you need to grieve until you feel like you can take a step forward, you need to listen to yourself and do what you feel is right.

Just do your best. That’s all you can do.

But know that you aren’t alone. There are others on the same path as you, even if not at the same time, even if not in the exact same way.

As Buddha said (an apocryphal story, granted), there’s no one who’s not known loss. Every single person has known it, in one way or another.

May we use that knowledge to make us wiser, more compassionate, and more caring, eh?

Now, go take a look at the other bloggers’ takes on the same subject, will you?

SADAF SIDDIQUI
https://heartattachsite.wordpress.com
ADDISON D’MARKO
http://addisondmarko.com
AJIBOLA SUNDAY
https://ajibolasunday.wordpress.com
IPUNA BLACK
http://Ipunablack.com
ALTEA ADDISON
https://addisoniswriting.wordpress.com
JOTHISH JOSEPH
https://Jothishjoseph.wordpress.com
JANE LOVE
http://harmoniousjoy.com/
NICOLLE
https://storiesofahsi.wordpress.com

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 19, 2017 at 10:00 am

More Thoughts on Love

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Folks, one of my friends asked me something just now that I thought I should respond to, so here goes.

I was asked if I believed I could find love again. My answer is yes, I do think so.

At first, I thought it was completely impossible. Love is a once in a lifetime thing, and it’s so rare, its delicacy has to be savored while you have it.

But I’ve had twelve years to think, since my late husband Michael died. And here’s the conclusions I’ve come to…

First, I think every person, every soul, has something to offer that’s unique and distinct and different. So it’s possible to see that, and appreciate that, and try to see if a true connection can be made down the line.

Second, while no one else can be Michael, it’s possible that someone else can be so uniquely himself, so very special and wonderful in his own right, that I’d have to stand up and take notice.

I don’t want to shut down opportunities before they present themselves, mind. But these two thoughts are still quite new. I am trying to figure out what I can bring to the table with anyone else, while still continuing on as myself — the woman who loved Michael B. Caffrey to distraction, and who will always love him.

I hope that down the line, someone special will see what I can give. And what I can receive. And what is possible…maybe is more than I initially thought.

Honestly, I have no idea what will happen next. But I do know this: Michael would kick my butt from here to Kingdom Come if I didn’t try to live my life, enjoy whatever I can wring from it, and do whatever I can to become the best person I can.

So he’d not want me to shut myself off, as I have done. Which is why I’m trying to stay open to possibility, and to choice…even though it’s not easy for me.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 11, 2016 at 11:55 am

About my Husband Michael, the Writer…

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Folks, this is the worst day on the calendar, for me. My husband Michael died on this day, twelve years ago.

Some days, it feels like yesterday. Some days, it feels like forever.

I’ve written a great deal about my husband, about why I feel the need to continue his work as well as my own, about why I feel the need to try to keep his memory alive…about why he still matters to me. And why he will always matter, to me.

Today, I want to talk more about my husband the writer. Because that matters, too.

I wish Michael had broken out, as an author, before he died. He’d have gotten such a kick out of that. We did sell one story — “Bright as Diamonds” in the BEDLAM’S EDGE anthology — before he died, and we told no one. We figured, let people find out when the book was available for pre-order…we even knew what we were going to say.

I remember when we wrote that story together. I can still remember him peering over my shoulder as I wrote the first draft. Then, he’d sit at the computer and work on it in the next draft…we’d converse for the third draft, and I’d write and fix. The fourth draft, he’d sit there, and read it aloud, and he’d write and fix.

In between all that, there were conversations with our editor, Rosemary Edghill, and we made changes accordingly.

I really wish Michael had lived longer, so we could’ve written more stories together.

“But Barb,” you protest. “There are half a dozen stories out there — or have been — with Michael’s name on them. Didn’t he write any of them before he died?”

Yes, and no. You’re right that there have been at least half a dozen stories with his name on them. But every single one of those sales except for the one in BEDLAM’S EDGE came posthumously.

Anyway, back to the subject — my husband, and his writing.

Michael, especially as a writer, was a subtle man. The stories that came out of him were mostly quiet ones, such as Joey Maverick’s adventures, or Columba’s wish to leave her own kingdom and venture out with Cat, also known as the Duc d’Sanchestre.

Michael believed in romance as an element of storytelling, and exercised that element with finesse and style.

Michael spent hours on setting up his story universes. He wanted to know everything about them, in order not to make a mistake.

Then again, if he did make a mistake, he’d say, “Oh, well,” and go back to the drawing board. He didn’t believe in beating himself up. His view was that you should save your energy, fix the problem, and go right on as you were. (More of us should be like this. Including me.)

Perhaps most importantly of all, Michael had a great sense of humor, and could laugh at nearly anything, given the chance. He used all sorts of devices, including puns, witty remarks, and situational humor to exercise his inborn literary gifts — though if I had put it this way when he was alive, he’d have told me I was putting him too high on a pedestal and to knock it off already.

Anyway, that was just a little bit about my husband the writer. I wish he were still here on this plane of existence, writing up a storm, telling me just how Joey Maverick and Belinda Simpson managed to get together, and what, exactly, was missing in “Columba and the Crossing” that I now have to figure out…but I’m glad I got the chance to be with him, and try to complete his work as well as I can.

Because Michael mattered. And his stories matter, too.

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 21, 2016 at 4:52 am

Anniversary Thoughts — and Book Recs (from me)

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Folks, it’s my fourteenth wedding anniversary today, as I write this. (Actually, it’s nearly over, as it’s after eleven p.m. as I type this out.) And while I’m happy to remember my late husband Michael, and the happiest day of my life — our wedding day — spending my anniversary alone, again, is not the world’s most pleasant thing.

Grief is a very strange thing, you see. It’s a personal journey of sorts; how well can you cope with the pain? How well can you go on with your life, and all its vicissitudes, and yet do your best to honor your loved ones…honor your memories?

Every person’s grief-journey is different. Mine has been long, protracted, and difficult, but along the way I’ve met many wonderful people and reaffirmed long-standing friendships. I talk about Michael with my friends, and about how much I miss him, and about how much he did to help me as a writer and editor…and also about how much he enjoyed listening to me play my instruments (usually I played my clarinet, sometimes the alto sax), or discussing the music I was writing, or really anything at all.

Michael enjoyed so many things, you see. He was a strong, vibrant presence, even though he, of course, did not see himself that way.

I’m glad to have met him, married him, and been together with him until he passed — way too soon — in 2004. I will honor our wedding day every day of my life, but most especially on our anniversary.

That said, I also wanted to talk a little about writing today. Michael was a writer, and he loved to write. He also loved reading my stories, and talking with me about works in progress; I like to think that he’d be ecstatic that ELFY is out in two parts, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, because Michael thought Bruno’s journey from discarded orphan to worthy hero was well worth reading. (Plus, it’s funny, and Michael, like me, was always partial to that.)

My publisher has priced AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE at ninety-nine cents, so it’s quite affordable. And if you enjoy that, you can go grab A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE for only $2.99 — the two together are less than the price of most fast-food hamburger meals, and are far more satisfying (with far fewer empty calories, too).

That being said, I also wanted to point out that several other stories are available right now, including several that Michael had a great deal of input in (actually writing two of them). All are ninety-nine cents to buy, but are free to read with Kindle Unlimited. (I still plan to get up versions for other sites, but that hasn’t happened yet.)

TO SURVIVE THE MAELSTROM is a novella featuring Peter Welmsley, one of the few survivors of the Battle of Hunin. How can he continue to live while his best friend, much less his fiancée as well, are dead? And what does an empathic were-mouse have to do with Peter, anyway?

Note that the Marketing for Romance Writers Group on Goodreads featured TO SURVIVE THE MAELSTROM as its book of the week for June 21, 2016…thank you so much for that!

Also, considering I’m talking about my husband this evening, the main impetus for me to write this story was a 2,000 word story fragment Michael left behind. I wanted to figure out the rest of the story…so I did. (And I do hope you will enjoy it.)

Next is Michael’s fantasy-romance novella COLUMBA AND THE CAT. This story features Princess Columba of Illnowa; she does not want to be a princess, as she’s suited to be a musician-sorceress instead. She’s been looking around for a familiar animal — someone to help her with her mage-studies — and happens across a small cat with unusual markings while out riding. She rescues the cat, and then magical things start to happen…including dreams of a near-perfect suitor (not young, not overly handsome, but smart and funny and interesting). But the cat is a shapeshifter…when, oh when, will Columba figure that out?

And, finally, there are the two stories of spaceman and adventurer Joey Maverick, written by Michael (with the second story being finished and expanded by me), A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT and ON WESTMOUNT STATION.

I hope you will give these books and stories a try, as it’s the only present I want for this, my fourteenth anniversary. (And thank you.)

Divorce Can Be Beneficial

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For the past several days, I’ve been pondering one question given to me by a new friend — someone I’ve known for less than a week. That said, this person is remarkably perceptive, and she asked me this penetrating question:

“Can divorce, contrary to popular opinion, actually be beneficial?”

Here is my answer:

“Why, yes. Yes it can.”

“But Barb,” I can almost hear you protest. “Divorce is painful. Why would I ever want to go through that, and why do you say it can be beneficial?”

My answers:

“Yes, divorce is painful. But if you and your spouse do not understand each other, have grown apart, or worst of all, he’s brought another child into this world outside of your marriage (which my second unlamented ex-husband did), you need to be gone. It’s not good for you to stay. And if you have children, your children will see all your pain, all your anger, all your dysfunction, and start to model it for themselves in their own relationships…something you truly don’t want.”

In other words, divorce in some ways is like a rebirth. It’s hard. It is not for the timid, no. But it allows you to restart your life, reassess who you are and where you’re going, and get yourself back on track if nothing else.

(Again, if you have kids, be sure to be civil to one another. For example, I understood that my parents were divorcing; I would not have understood them bad-mouthing each other. Thankfully, I do not remember either of them doing that, which in retrospect was a huge blessing.)

Mind, in case you’re sitting there thinking, “Your divorce must’ve been the easiest on record,” my answer is, “Um…no.”

My divorce was brutal. I remember eating baby food, because nothing else would stay down. I saw my soon-to-be-ex-husband parading around town with the woman who became his second wife, and I could do nothing but swallow helpless rage. (It took me some time to realize that I was enraged, mind, because at first I was so saddened by all of this, and wondered how it could have ever come to pass.) I played in a group with my soon-to-be-ex-husband and his new girlfriend, the woman who became his second wife, and it sometimes was agonizing…yet I refused to give up the comfort of music, as I knew I needed it to help me somehow get past the pain.

I did not enjoy going through the divorce process at all. But eventually there was light at the end of the tunnel…and it wasn’t an oncoming train.

In other words, I found Michael (or, as he would no doubt want to have it, he found me). And finding him, being with him, being married to him, was worth every other pain in my life, past and present. He understood me, he was creative and funny and helped me be my best self, and I did my best to give him all the support, encouragement, laughter and love that I could, too.

Because that is what love is.

So, if you are divorcing right now, try to avoid giving in to despair. Divorce gives you the opportunity to find someone who is truly right for the you-who-is right now, rather than continuing to fight the same old battles in the same old ways.

In other words, do not see yourself as a failure if you must proceed with a divorce.

Instead, see yourself as a survivor. Someone who will do what’s necessary, so you can have the chance to meet the person who truly is right for you down the road…just as I met Michael.

——————

**Edited to add: I am not ashamed to say I was twice-divorced before I finally found Michael, my late husband. I just didn’t want to bog down the narrative, which I would’ve, so I didn’t discuss my second ex hardly at all. Seems appropriate. (I know who mattered to me in this life, and my ex-husbands did not, except as shining examples of what not to do.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 18, 2016 at 1:26 pm

A Sunday Thought…and a Thought

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Folks, when I woke up earlier today, I thought hard about life. About what my place in the world is (nay, bigger than that — the entire universe!), and whether or not what I’m doing is my best course of action.

Then I snorted, sat up, and started laughing in near-hysteria.

I’m a writer. An editor. A musician. A scholar of arcane disciplines, and a student of history. Also a daughter, a friend, a colleague…

And, of course, the widow of Michael B. Caffrey.

This last is my most precious joy, not because of the widow part — far, far from it! — but because Michael was the most amazing person I have ever had the privilege to behold. He was funny, smart, self-educated, gifted at many things, and a person of remarkable wit and consequence. Michael mattered so very much; what had formed him, what had shaped him, into the man I feel in my heart was firmly destined to be my husband and other half of my soul interested me greatly.

Because we didn’t have that much time together, there are some things I will never know from his perspective. (I have picked up on some additional things since his untimely passing from his sister, his nieces, a few of his friends, and his ex-wife, who was possibly his very best friend in all the world besides myself.) But one thing I do know…Michael was special, and important, and being with him was worth every last bit of pain I’ve suffered since his untimely passing.

Much less the pain I endured before I ever met him, as I’d been previously — and quite unhappily — married before I had the privilege to meet him.

I mention all of that because it’s important to me. Important enough that I’m willing to put it out there, for all to see, in a format that will last as long as the Internet does…and perhaps longer.

But perhaps that seems obvious to you. If you’ve been here before, you know this about me by now; I have suffered, but I have learned, and I have been deeply loved. These things cannot help but mark a person. And in this case, I hope they have made me a better person.

That said, I can’t help but reflect on how life, all in all, marks us. We are all the sum total of our experiences. If we are wise, and learn from our mistakes — and celebrate our joys, no matter how brief and evanescent they may be — we may become our best selves, and worthy of the highest love our species can bestow.

This Sunday, I want you to consider your own highest gifts and blessings. From where did they spring? What are you doing with them, now, and what will you do with them in the future?

Now, as for the additional thought…this was my original post on the subject at Facebook, a few short minutes ago (if you want to read my public posts at Facebook, go here):

One of my best friends just pointed out that everything in life, good and bad, is a learning experience. As a writer, I tend to observe much, even when I don’t seem to be taking it in…the hope is that it gives my stories more weight, as I can’t help but do it anyway.

That said, as I’m in the month of June — my wedding anniversary rapidly approaches, the 14th (and 12th without my beloved husband by my side), I marvel at the changes life has brought. Some have been horrible. Some have been remarkably good.

But to get to Michael, to be with him, to hear him laugh and to create works with him was my most precious joy. I’d not change any of that for the world.

Thus are today’s Sunday thoughts.

Any questions?

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 12, 2016 at 6:26 am

Thoughts about N.N. Light’s Review of “Columba and the Cat”

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Folks, I’d meant to write this yesterday, but time got away from me. So, here are my further thoughts regarding N.N. Light’s wonderful review of my late husband Michael B. Caffrey’s story, “Columba and the Cat.”

Columba and the Cat coverFirst, it’s great to get a positive review like that. Michael had a lot of talent as a writer, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve tried so hard to keep his work alive. To know that someone else loves his writing as much as I do is extremely gratifying.

Second, for someone to appreciate it and understand it at the level N.N. Light did it makes me believe that finishing Michael’s work — in Columba’s universe, and in the Atlantean Union with Joey Maverick and Peter Welmsley (among others) — is not only doable, it will be appreciated and understood.

Third, it reminds me of something Michael often told me. “The work will be appreciated, in the end,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “Even if no one else knows it but us and the universe, it will be appreciated.”

I always thought he said that because of Michael’s Buddhist leanings. But maybe that wasn’t it…or at least, maybe that wasn’t it precisely. (And Michael always was precise, y’know.)

Look. I don’t write the same way Michael did. He used to write all his stories out longhand, then type them into a computer file. Only then would he edit, revise, and keep going.

Whereas my process is much more fluid than that, and usually involves thinking about something for a great deal of time, and then — and only then — going back and fleshing out the initial idea.

But we got to the same place, in the end. And we were able to understand each other, to the point that I can finish his stories despite his style being markedly different than my own…even if the way I do it isn’t quite the same way as he would, maybe the stories will still make sense, and still do what Michael wanted them to do.

That’s why I’m working on the outline of THE QUEST FOR COLUMBA, which is the Columba story as told by Cat, otherwise known as the Duc d’Sanchestre (and a shapeshifter). This is Cat’s story, told my way, and through my voice…but it’s also Columba’s story, as seen by Cat. And in a way, it’s quite fitting, as Michael wrote the Columba stories for me.

Now, I’ll write Cat’s story for him.

I can’t be certain that the stories I’ll tell in his universes are the same ones he’d have come up with, given time. I can tell you that I knew Michael better than anyone, and it makes me feel better to keep working on stories in his universes…more like part of him did not die, and that might yet, if given time, be discovered and appreciated.

That said, I’m very glad that N.N. Light enjoyed “Columba and the Cat” so much. It gives me hope…and really, isn’t that what life is all about?