Two people, a man and a woman, sat down to have a drink with a group of mostly strangers. At the time, the two of them were strangers to each other. After a brief introduction, and some small talk, that group of strangers, and those two people, became friends.
The evening was spent talking, laughing, and sharing stories. Humorous anecdotes were being tossed around by all, and the table went from a slightly awkward social gathering to a night out with friends that seemingly all knew each other for years. Those two people however, seemed to connect more than most, and a stronger bond started to form.
The people at this table were all widows. Some were newly widowed, like the man was, and some had been widowed for decades. The woman had been widowed for a few years. That was the similarity that brought the table together that evening in Florida. It was a shared trauma amongst everyone.
The man and the woman, both widowed, struck up a deeper conversation, and got to know each other’s past, without ever pondering how much it would become their future.
The man had lost his wife to a long term illness. He had known for years that he would be widowed at a young age. For well over a decade, he had doted on his wife, making sure she was in as good of health as could be managed, while always keeping in the back of his mind that the other shoe would drop sooner or later. They had a daughter together, owned a home, and lived in Ohio. She died in a hospital bed, excruciatingly slow, with the man at her side.
The woman lost her fiance suddenly. They were at that point in their lives together where they were just getting started. The point where it always feels like the “apex” of the relationship, but it just keeps climbing higher. They had been together three years, hadn’t had any children yet, and lived in Texas. One night, a phone call came, and the apex of the relationship had been reached. She was across the country from her fiance.
These two people had dissimilar specific stories, but the initial bond that they shared was that they were both widowed. Both missed the persons they had lost, and always will. They sat and chatted the rest of the evening at the table, with all of the other widows, but for some reason, the two of them seemed more focused on each other than the rest.
Fast forward some months, and after endless phone and skype calls, texts throughout the days, and even visits to each other’s distant homes, those two people climbed into a moving truck and began driving from Texas to Ohio. They had fallen in love with each other, not despite the people they had lost, but rather, because of it. The two widowmakers are right there along with us, both on this metaphorical ride, and on this stormy, noisy, uncomfortable journey in a van loaded with two tons of stuff.
Sarah and I were brought together because Megan and Drew died. There is no way to sugar coat that statement. They may have went in vastly different ways, and at different stages in our relationships, but ultimately, the fact that they are gone is the reason we drove some 24 plus hours last weekend together. I still miss Megan intensely, just as Sarah misses Drew to the same level. Where it can be a little more complex however is that I love Sarah just as intensely as I love Megan. The two of them do not compete for space in my heart. They are working together to fill it. Only one of them is physically present in the world, but both of them exist in my heart.
It is scary to bring her here, so close to the space that Megan and I shared together, and know that it isn’t just another trip or visit. She now lives in Ohio, 20 minutes away, not 20 hours. Because of the distance we had between us, this move is much more significant. It’s a bigger commitment between the two of us. One where we are now at that same point, where every day feels like the apex of the relationship, but it just keeps getting better.
That is not a thought I take lightly. I had that same feeling with Megan, and sometimes, I have to ask myself if being in love with Sarah trivializes my love for Megan. Because we all deal with our losses differently, over different time periods and situations, there is no one “right” way to feel. There isn’t a magic formula. What I’ve come to realize is that my love for Megan is actually growing though. It no longer grows through shared experiences or long talks on the couch at night, but it grows through appreciation of her legacy.
Every day that Sarah and I’s relationship hits that apex is also a day that I have to appreciate Megan even more. If it weren’t for Megan, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to even meet Sarah. I would have had an entirely different outlook on life had I married someone else and become widowed. Megan instilled in me a perspective that says that life isn’t fair, but you can always make the best of a given situation and enjoy it while it lasts. That’s what living in the moment truly is. You can prepare for something to go wrong, but don’t ever fear it.
Love your children. Love your family and friends. Date, play, and have fun. Love someone new, no matter how much you miss and love the person you’ve lost. Don’t dwell on the past, because it can’t change, and don’t fear the future because you’re not there yet. Even if you struggle to get out of bed in the morning, there is always something you enjoy doing that can be done. Megan was the personification of this. Sarah allows ME to personify this.
And so, with Sarah now here, I am living Megan’s legacy on her behalf. I am choosing to miss Megan, but to love every day as it comes. I’m sure there will be relapses into dark days where I just want to stay in bed and grieve (one likely coming very soon), but I don’t fear them. I’ll embrace those days, because they mean that I loved and lived happily, and her loss is allowing me to love and live fully and honestly today.
Megan wasn’t much for long road trips, she would rather have flown. We drove places out of necessity. On this one though, I think she, along with Drew, enjoyed being on the ground with us instead of in the air, living and existing in the moment, knowing she was riding along on a road that she mapped out.