Of all the various anniversaries and holidays without Ez, his birthday is consistently the most difficult for me. Don’t get me wrong, the anniversary of his death is always a doozy – days if not weeks of traumatic memories that I compulsively relive. But I’ve gradually learned to live with those memories and to make my peace with them. And it’s not that birthdays mattered so much to Ez, because they really didn’t (though he always prepared a beautiful Greek feast for mine, and we threw a hell of a party for his last). Even Thanksgiving, which was his most favorite day, our most favorite day, has gotten a little less painful. But whereas other holidays and anniversaries bring memories and feelings that become distilled and more familiar with each passing year, his birthday brings up ambivalence and apparently unresolved feelings. I want to celebrate his life, but I still have so much rage over his death. I want to think about him and the time we had together, but instead I spend the day ruminating in his absence from my life and in my own grief.

A year ago, on Ez’s birthday, I was determined to channel this rage into recovery- to overcome my depression, finish my dissertation, rebuild important relationships from which I’ve withdrawn, maybe just maybe find a partner for this next phase of life. But just as soon as I put that sentiment out in the world and committed myself to get on with it, I got mononucleosis. And like chicken pox and other pesky viral infections, mono infections tend to be worse the older you get them, which my case confirmed with gusto. After several months of acute infection, my symptoms ever so gradually began to subside. But they’ve never gone away, and my immune system is in some kind of disarray. I have chronic fatigue and I’ve had one acute illness after another, with never more than a couple of weeks of feeling just OK. Needless to say, I haven’t gotten on with what I had hoped to over this past year.

I have, however, learned a few things. I’ve learned how extremely difficult it is to be sick for a long time- and mono is nothing compared what Ezra experienced or what so many people with chronic and terminal illness experience for months and years on end. With this tiny bit of insight into the particular flavor of misery that chronic illness entails, I wish I could go back and take better care of Ez and of myself. He knew he wasn’t long for this world, so he stopped thinking about the long game and lived as fast and hard as he could with the time he had- fair enough! I tried, stupidly, to keep pace. I went so hard, every day, trying my best to take care of him and to do anything and everything that needed doing. I was often frustrated with his manic drive to produce and perform, without realizing that I was driving myself right into the ground. And I kept on doing it well after he died, even after I getting mono and being put on bedrest. Working in overdrive on this or that project that suddenly seemed urgent and important until I completely exhausted myself and alienated everyone around me, which is more or less where I find myself now.

This never would have happened on Ez’s watch. Until he got very sick, he had a sixth sense for my stress level and was expert at heading off a threat, calming me down, helping me find my balance, even if he was in a manic frenzy. He used to do this thing where he’d put his hand on my chest and just wait until I settled. Or he’d say let it rest babe, and I would.

I think I’m finally beginning to see that self-destruction through taking care of someone else, or this or that thing, has been my primary way of coping – with stress, pain, uncertainty, loss – and that it’s not sustainable. Learning this about myself has been incredibly slow and difficult.

I’m still not feeling well and I’m still learning how to take care of myself, but going into this next year, I want to try, again, to get on with it. I want to channel my rage into recovery- to overcome my depression, finish my dissertation, rebuild important relationships from which I’ve withdrawn, and maybe just maybe find a partner for this next phase of life. And for help with this next leg of the long game, I now have Dory the wonder-dog, who in four months has reminded me how to love, play, and show up every day. We’ll see you out there.

Photo by Todd Miller

40 Replies to “45”

  1. Oh Hillary … I am SO happy to read your words … whenever you write, i hang on every one of them, gripped in emotions and tears. I knew EZ before he was with you, and watched your relationship, love and deep respect blossom through his flickr stream. I can’t tell you how often i think of you and Ezra, but especially you now, struggling to find a new way in his absence.

    I am SO thrilled to hear of the addition of Dory … EZ would be so very proud.

    Big, big hugs from Canada.

  2. you can and you will, Hilary! wishing the best for you in this next phase!! Please let me know if you’d like herb recommendations! thanks for sharing!

  3. Hey girl—nice to hear your voice again. I often think of Ezra, Putney and you—that wonderful (and terrible) fever dream of a place and time in space. Now almost fourteen years into my own relationship with terminal cancer, I am once again facing progression. And you are right—this chronic shit doesn’t get easier—it only gets harder. I am glad you are seeing ways of healing your own trauma (cancer has a way of spreading that around) and that you also understand it takes time. Enjoy this next phase and lean toward you.


  4. Hey Hillary. I was awaiting this post, wondering how you were doing. I feel similarly with the random fatigue I can’t seem to get over (maybe a symptom of my own depression.. or CP). I emailed Ez only a few times, and once he told me this when I was struggling with things, “Sometimes you just need to beat it (the universe) at its own game. Embrace the absurd humor of it all.”

    I’m so happy you got Dory. know it’s not a way out, but I think for me (maybe this coming year) as well as you, a puppy is a way through. I feel like puppies also help us make friends 🙂

  5. I think Dory the Wonder Dog is super cute! I hope you make strides by way of your goals, this year seems right 🙂


  6. I too was looking forward to your post, hoping we would hear from you. Oh Hillary, just try to be kind to yourself. I find that very hard to do but knowing that has clarified things. Delighted with the optimistic move of opening your heart to Dory; that is a step in a wonderful direction. Take care and we are here, cheering for you and sending big love.

  7. Thank you for keeping us updated Hillary. I followed Ezra’s journey, and as someone who lost both her mother and grandfather at 16 I know that grief is a jagged journey. I wish you love, light and continued strength and courage. with you in struggle. Maya

  8. Beautiful photo of your gorgeous first 😉 new partner Dory-what a wonderful heart opener to begin your new year ahead. May your health continue to improve as you find your way. Remember– though you are always enough, it never hurts to ask for help, pursue that which eludes us, question and be curious for all that you wish and need. Be kind to yourself, we all believe in you, support you, wish you all the best ahead, send big love and we know you will get there-whatever, wherever there is. There are no rules, just guidelines, do as you feel. I know it isn’t always easy but please be, do, live and thrive, love. Xo

  9. Thank you so much for sharing what’s in your heart. Your pup is adorable. I’m so hopeful that your health bounces back. Mono is no joke. :-/

  10. I was just thinking about u and wondering how u were doing…I lost my second daughter to breast cancer in May…she died in my arms..I was her caretaker for over two years…I lost my oldest daughter to colon cancer in 2010 after a two and a half fight to live…I HATE cancer….making new traditions without loved ones is extremely hard on the little kids…get well soon…I too have Epstein Barr..it is a real struggle…

  11. I don’t know if the reference to the character Dory in “Finding Nemo” was intentional or not, but either way, it seems apt that her most famous line could be the best reminder that your new pup can give you every day…

    “Just keep swimming… just keep swimming… just keep swimming…”

  12. Hillary,

    I hang on your words and read them so slowly so they last longer. I know that sounds so weird, but it reminds me of Ezra and it’s always good to hear from you. I have learned that we don’t get to decide how long we grieve, how long we suffer and how long it takes our hearts to mend. We can try to put a time-frame on it, but your heart will heal when it’s ready, no matter what you tell it. This year, focus FIRST on getting WELL, physically. You can’t do much mentally when your body is run down. And focus on loving that sweet little Dory and enjoying what she brings to your life. Ez is being patient with you, as are all of us. So be patient with yourself so you can get healthy again. Once you feel good, attack all the rest with gusto.

    Much love from the mountains of Colorado…


  13. Hill, always good to hear from you and hope you read the comments left here. In less than a month Flickr will start deleting photos from free accounts. A good portion of Ezra’s account may soon be lost and that includes the images here on this blog. Please try and save this blog intact. It has meant a lot to me over the years.

  14. For some reason I remembered “Fast Boy” and the life he shared on the internet today, and decided to look up his old websites. And I also wondered what the person “Hill”, I saw in so many of his photos was up to now. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen people close to me go through grief, and know that it is something that never really ends. But when I started looking around today, I didn’t expect to find any news from or about anyone involved in his life, who I never knew personally. So i was really surprised to come across this entry.

    So, as a random person from the Internet, I wanted to offer some of my time and thoughts today, after reading. I can’t fully understand what it is to lose someone in the way you lost Ezra, or the grief that has resulted. But one thing I have found in my life so far, as a very young, inexperienced person, is that my level of strength, and sense of myself, has come largely from how close to my own aloneness I have allowed myself to become. It sounds to me that you feel you are alone, that there is still a hole you are trying to fill. This may remain for so so long, and never be filled by someone or something else. As you said it has been a very painful process of understanding your own distraction around this grief. I just wanted to offer this: I think you may find wholeness by finding it within. Some kind of acceptance, or some kind of softening that allows that hole to be filled. Grief is an emotional wound that leaves a remainder. But there is dark and light in everything, and the mixture of the two results in beauty. The transformative idea you were talking about is the basis of any art. The transformation of horrendous acts and events into beauty. If you look around, life is constantly renewing. And I take hope in that, and how light appears brighter when contrasted with dark.

    All the love

    – Hudson

  15. Hillary, so nice to hear your voice again! My wife and I think of you, Ezra and Putney often. We hope this is the year you achieve your goals and we see Dory as a harbinger of great positivity. Please keep up the annual posting and know there are many people out here who really care about you and your life. Love from us both.

  16. Sorry to hear about your dealings with mono, but I’m grateful for the perspective you’re able to provide.

    As someone upthread mentioned, you and Ez really have such similar writing styles, I don’t know if you started out so similar, or if you rubbed off on one another, but it’s a credit to depth of your love either way.

    There aren’t any words good enough to convey my sympathy and ongoing condolences, but I’m thankful to have a little blog from you at the end of each year, since your family gained a permanent place in my heart through Ezra’s entries 🙂

  17. I thought of Ezra today. We were the exact same age. We bonded online over bikes and his beautiful photos. Flickr as a platform is going away. That was where I first interacted with him. I had to download all of my content. I hope someone can do that with all of Ezras photos.

    I think it’s going to be very hard not to be able to go back and see ezra on flickr with putney and the gang.

    Take care.

  18. Thank you Hillary for sharing, letting it out. You have my love & healing thoughts daily. The movement of life, the movement of Dory will Grande jète you through! Many Blessings to the bright eyed, redhead that showed up in my office, ready to take on the world, oh so many years ago.

  19. I only know you and Ezra through this blog, but if I may be so bold to offer a reflection, Hillary, as someone who has also had mono as an adult, and a dissertation to finish…

    you say you were driving yourself into the ground, until you were completely exhausted… and in the next breath say that you want to get on with things, and list a compendium of to-dos that sound as if you expect of yourself that they should have already been done, that you’re already behind the ball and playing catch-up before you even start. I know this feeling – causing myself so much distress just because I’m setting an expectation that I haven’t already met and making myself inferior in the setting.

    It took me, literally, years to feel 100% recovered again. I was much better within several months, and mostly better within a year, and almost better within two years, but the gap between almost better and Better took another several years to come, and I delayed it myself by pushing too hard.

    So please consider being gentle, and kind, and patient with yourself.
    Best wishes and kind thoughts.

  20. hillary,
    so glad to read your words here. although you do not know me, i often think of you, and wish you wellness and a growing sense of hope. ezra had a forever kind of effect on all of us who read his words here. please be patient and tender with yourself, and know that there are leagues of us out here sending the best wishes.
    with love,

  21. Hillary, I just wanted to apologize, sincerely, I’d written a comment between Lutin and Dina’s which you hadn’t approved. I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, but I talked about how I’ve also had mono as an adult and how long my recovery was because I pushed too hard too soon, and I tried to say I was worried that you were pushing yourself with wanting to finish your dissertation, move on, et cetera, but I didn’t mean to presume or throw “shoulds” at you when I have no right — as a stranger even!

    I, like many others, grew to care for Ezra through reading over the years, and for you also, and I meant what I wrote in a spirit of caring, of someone who has had mono and written a disseration and suffered more than was necessary, and please forgive me, I didn’t mean to hurt or intrude or offend. I wish you all the best.

  22. Hi Hillary,

    I grew up in South Newfane, right next to Putney, and I learned about Ezra’s journey through mutual friends. He had that rare spirit that’s actually not so rare in Vermonters—ingenuity mixed with a real nature connection and music thrown in (because what is life without music? Or good food for that matter?). Boy you went through a lot. I went through hell with my mom getting ill right after Ezra died and then my mom died and I felt like the events were somehow connected. It’s not easy getting back on track. Grief has shaped me and transformed me and aged me, too. But you are still young and life is long and I wish you joy and peace and healing. ❤️

  23. So sorry for your loss Hillary. I don’t know how to help with your pain and words fail me, but I fervently wish for you all those things that you wish for yourself. Go get them; we’ll all be ready with a high-five. Much love from Toronto.

  24. Was thinking of you both today and found this blog again. Please know that grief has no timeline. I promise it will get better. The profound loss will always be there, but in time the grief will lessen. Take care & best wishes.

  25. Thanx for the deep life you’re sharing. It’s treasure.
    Wé’re many to keep fighting. You’re not alone.

  26. So strange–it’s December 18, 2019, and out of nowhere, I’ve just had the urge to come read some of Ezra’s words again. Now I see why. 46.
    Dear Hillary, I’m one of hundreds of strangers hoping for your healing, and hoping that 2019 has shed some grace on you. All the best.

  27. This time of year always reminds me, your annual posts, the legacy, and memory that remains, the creative talents spanning so many outlets, have been thinking/remembering the food videos esp lately… an indelible legacy, immortality in our hearts and our souls.

  28. Dear Hillary, I just want you to know that I think of you and Ezra often. My husband died this year and I know how it feels to be heartbroken. I send you all my love and best wishes.

  29. I just woke up and was frantic to pull up this blog and see your annual post to find out how you’re doing. I hope you are well. ♥️

  30. Hello Hillary,
    We often think of Ezra and you. My wife got a picture of you taken by Ezra a few years back. Many years ago and a few months before Ezra got diagnosed with cancer I started following him on Flickr. On occasion I still go and look at it, getting lost in his photos.
    We hope your heart is appeased, time makes physical scars almost invisible and those of the soul manageable.
    We send you love.
    F and N.

  31. Thought of you and Ezra today, so as I always do, I found this here and read through the comments. I pray you are out there and doing well. ♥️

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