Life Without Mike

The day after this posts, February 17th 2017, will be four years since my husband Mike died, suddenly, from a heart attack in his sleep at the age of 59. I've been watching that date approach for too long this year. Dreading it. Not just for the pain of the day, but because four years sounds so awfully long to have been without him. I am four years older, and he is four years away from me. And that damn clock never stops. I'm going to keep getting older, and he is going to keep getting farther and farther away from me in time, and I can't stop any of it.


To top if off I'm writing this on Valentine's day, which is another tough one. I hate that those dates will always and forever be three days apart. I cried hard today. Four years ago Mike surprised me with flowers, a card, a lovely box of chocolates from our local Big Island chocolatier, and a certain garden hose I had been wanting. Three days later he was dead. I never watered my garden again after that. It died too, and I didn't care.

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Another Valentine's Day

This particular blog will be short and sweet, and I know that all of you understand.  It’s night on Valentine’s Day and I’ve spent the past two days determinedly making Love bigger than grief, delivering joy in colorful bouquets of flowers.

I took on a job with a local florist, appropriately named Fairytale Florals, just for this day. I knew I couldn’t let myself languish with my thoughts for the day, so I found a way to bring Love to others. I drove up and down highways and roads in my pink car, waving to people who passed me by, talking to those accepting the delivery.

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As I pulled into the parking lot to meet Sarah, a bit of anxiety crept into my chest.  I wasn’t positive that we would be taken seriously, or that my feelings were valid in any way.  I felt like all of my past, and the stress that I had was absolutely my fault.  It was as if I alone was the root cause of any problems in my life, and thusly, I either have to fix them, or die a lonely old widower.  The fact that I was at this place after such a short amount of time proved to me that I’m broken and should be avoided.

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Wish You Were Here

Sarah.jpgToday was yet another overcast, rainy day here in northeast Ohio. Trying to come up with something fun to do in the dreary weather, Mike and I decided to take Shelby to the Great Lakes Science Center up in Cleveland. The first exhibit area was on space. In the center of the room, was an actual space module from 1973. Now, I love space. I’ve been fascinated with the entire concept of shooting people out into orbit my whole life. I’ve watched dozens of documentaries on black holes, and the search for planets with life. I know I’m no stranger to that. We’re all fascinated with this stuff, whether we are 5 or 105.

The outside of the module was all scraped up and scuffed. Paint was chipped and worn away all over. The bottom of the module was black from literally cooking as it re-entered the atmosphere coming back to earth. I meant it’s the real deal. Looking at all those tiny details, the reality hit me in a way it never has before. Seeing the hatch open, and the three small cot-like chairs the astronauts had been strapped into. I felt this incredibly deep awe. This immense pride for being part of a group of creatures that somehow built this contraption that did something which still seems so unimaginable in my mind. It’s all just so fantastical, to see tangible proof that it’s real for the first time ever was oddly emotional.

As I turned around, on the wall behind me was something equally emotional. One of John Glenn’s actual flight suits hung there behind a case. I stood there, yet again, in awe. It was clearly worn. Clearly, this thing right in front of me had been in SPACE. It was unreal. 

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I wish it were simple. 

It should be simple. 

Why can't it just be simple? 

The grieving part, the part where you are in emotional and sometimes physical pain 24/7 - that part is already hard enough. It's downright impossible most days.

So when you finally leave that part, and you come into this shift of something different, something else - something where you are still grieving and missing them like mad, but where it no longer overcomes you 24/7 - and you can sometimes actually envision maybe something resembling a LIFE in the months and years ahead - 

When you get to that place, FINALLY ---- 

Why can't it just be simple? 

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I just got home from a weekend in New York City and I am still vibrating from the energy.

When I was married to Mike, it was his energy that vibrated through my being. Now that he is gone, am I just substituting? Maybe. But...before I met him, I remember thriving on the energy of Los Angeles...before that, DC, Georgetown...being around a diverse crowd with seemingly endless possibilities...then came Mike. He became enough...he became everything. I willingly and happily gave up so much to be with him, to feel what life was like with him, and gained so much was the most exciting, enlightening, informing, fulfilling times I may ever experience. I am a different person for having known him, forever changed in so many ways.

He is gone now. He is not here to talk about the day, the politics, the friends, the family, the hardships, the joys. He is not here to calm me down, he is not here to tickle my brain, he is not here to laugh with, to enjoy serenity with, to check out the latest thing with, to hug. He is not here to fix my back, or watch the next best sci-fi film with. He is not here to explore the realms of the spirit and the hereafter the way we did together, that will stay with me forever...he is now on the other side, and I can only wait for my time to join him in that most exciting dimension. (And yes I can wait, because I know I have much to do here first.)

I can't ask him whether what I am doing now is right, or good. Well, I can...but, the answer comes in a much different way. I can only imagine what he would have said. I might hear him in my spirit, but not in my ear. I can't look at him and see his lips moving.

He will never again grasp my hand, sweep my off my feet and hold me close. Until, maybe, when we meet again on the next plane.

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Owning up to What’s True. No Excuses.

How often does it strike right through you that you maybe, just possibly, will not survive this?

This being the loneliness, the grief, the sadness, the confusion, the not knowing, the uncertainty, the anxiety, the desolation of living without your person?

At times it hits me that I have now lived 1387 days +21 hours without Chuck. That’s 45 and a half months.  4 years and 9 months, going into 10.

Realizing the sheer amount of time still has the power to horrify me.

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Words as Weapons

scars.jpgIt’s no secret lately that I share my outlooks, experiences, and emotions with ruthless integrity, perhaps bordering upon over-sharing that information.  Private anecdotes become public, once a week, as I write here.  The quiet grumbles or “bad moods” that friends and family may see me in become soap-box seminars when it is in digital form on the internet.  They morph into baring my very soul for all to see on a blog, when in person, the only indication of stress or deep thought may be the distinct lack of my underlying sillyness.   

Suppose that it is the anonymity then, that brings forth this behavior.  Barring Sarah, no one hears or sees my “grief” emotions via an attentive look in the eye or a cupped ear.  It is only through your screen, dear reader, that I share my life and its many complexities.  A simple electronic series of ones and zeros that organize themselves into something that a grieving person may need to read, even if it is only a “me too” thought or a “wow, at least I’m not THAT bad” comparison.

My writing here, initially, was simply allowing a bleeding wound to flow freely.  Allowing it to flow into the deepest corners of the room and drip onto anyone nearby.  I let the pain out by screaming it to the world.  As time has progressed, the bleeding has slowed...the wound of Megan’s actual death is all but closed.   Writing has become more of an examination of old scars.

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The Secret Tears

truck3.jpgHere's to the tears we save for our dark bedrooms at night alone. The hours we spend a day remembering our old lives. 

Here's to the bravery it takes to fake a smile everyday. Long after everyone has forgot our stories we cannot forget. The scars are too deep. The wounds never heal. 

It becomes overwhelming at times to be that person that is surviving and continuing on with life. That superhero that everyone thinks you are. I had a very hard day today for reasons that aren't really clear to me. I just felt lost and alone. At times I feel as if I am living a fake life, a fake person. I fake the smiles and laughs and pretend to be ok. And sometimes I am ok. But sometimes I am just not. 

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Being that both Mike and I are both writers here, we do try to talk about our relationship as two widowed people, to share how this whole “chapter 2” thing can work. There are plenty of times this is awesome to write about - when we have things to share that show you how beautiful loving again can be. How beautiful it can be when two people honor their dead loved ones, welcoming them with open arms into this new, loving space. Times when we can share how incredible it is to be on a new journey of love, and feeling like your other person is getting to come along with you for the ride. So many times I have truly felt Drew’s joy in my own heart during moments with Mike. So many times have I felt like when I am laughing, Drew is too. They’re a part of it all. And we should never expect any less of our new person than to want them to be a part of it all. Mike even wears some of Drew’s old dress shirts now. And I use Megan’s old backpacking gear when we go out for trips. They’re always with us.

But there’s another side to that too. What if things weren’t all roses and rainbows when your person died? What if your last words were words of anger? What if there was a lot of unresolved stuff going on that you never got to address? What if, like Mike and Megan’s story, you were only just beginning to resolve things? What if your widowed story, or even your story outside of being widowed, comes with some muck?

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