Felt Like Goodbye

It took me a very long time and a lot of patience, before I finally found the perfect grief-counselor for me. At the time, about 8 months after my husband's sudden death, I had already sifted through 4 counselors and therapists, one after another after another after another. Each one was either way too expensive, or they didnt "get me" at all, or they were too religious for me and told me that my husband collapsing and dying at age 46 was "God's will." You know what you can do with that? Fuck you. Okay, that makes no sense. But you get my point. I do not like being told that my husband having his life stolen and robbed from him, or that us having our present and our future ripped away - was part of some sort of pre-determined "plan." First of all, it's just rude to tell someone who is grieving - that it's okay because, well, he was meant to die at 46. Second of all, it's not true. It's complete bullshit. Or at least I think it is. If you believe in God's plan, well good for you, if that helps you. It doesn't help me at all, and I believe that people die because, well, people die. Humans die. It's just what happens. It's fucking awful and I will never get used to it - some humans get to live to be 93 years old, others must suffer through illnesses and bad health and pain, and others get hit by a truck at age 24. How on earth can any of that be a "plan?" Nope. That's just life. 

Anyway, Im getting off-track. One of the counselors said that Don's death was pretty much meant to be, and that my grieving him and being sad about it wasn't "allowing him to be at peace" in Heaven or whatever. Well again, fuck you. My husband is dead and I hate to break it to you, but Im gonna be upset about it, probably forever. Don't see a day where I will exit out of a room triumphantly, exclaiming happily: "Welp!!! All done!!! Not sad anymore!!!" That's not how it works. 

All of this is really just a long way to say that I had to go through a slew of really annoying or bad or just clueless therapists and counselors, before I found my person. The 4th or 5th counselor I saw, who was very good but way above what I could ever afford, (I couldn't afford anything more than zero), told me that she didnt think she could help me, but that she knew someone who would be perfect for me. 

Enter Caitlin. From the minute we started talking, I knew she was the one who would help me. She was the one I could sit in a room with and get angry and curse up a storm and cry and laugh like hell and get more pissed off at everyone and every thing, and that she would never judge me or make me go on meds or tell me to get over it - she would just give me a place to say whatever, and she would give her smart as hell perspective, or she would just listen. For almost 4 years, almost every single Monday afternoon, that woman listened to and took in my pain. And she never charged me a penny. 

Sometime last year, during my 5th year out from this loss, I began switching from seeing her weekly, to seeing her once a month. And then, once every couple months. And then, just when I needed her. We started doing (and still do) "emergency calls" - where I leave her a voicemail saying: "Something just happened, Im not doing well, can you please call me?' , and she would. Every. single. time. Also during this time, our relationship began to change. We went from client / counselor to colleagues / friends. She said to me one day out of the blue about 2 years ago: "You should be doing this. You should be helping people by talking to them, talking and listening them through it. You are perfect for this. It's time." So I slowly took steps to get into grief-coaching. Then, also a couple years ago, I asked her if she would write one of the two Forewords in my book. She was extremely honored, and said yes. In my book that I am writing, I feature a lot of our session dialogue in it, so I thought it would be perfect for her to talk some about our time together, and what it was like from her perspective. Over time, we have become more friendly, met each other for coffee or attended a play together, and she even attended my one-act show about the death of my husband. She also walked with me and stood with me at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 3 years ago on December 18th, where my husband proposed to me, back in 2005. She let me talk about him and tell his story to her, over and over and over again, for as long as I needed to. 

For awhile now, her schedule has been insanely busy, as was mine. But because I was moving out of NYC on December 21st, I absolutely needed to see her in person, so I could buy her a couple glasses of Pinot (her favorite), and tell her just how much she means to me. So on December 18th, the anniversary of the day that Don proposed to me, we met at this really nice little bar in midtown Manhattan. She drank her Pinot and I drank my Presecco, and we talked about our lives and our fears with this new administration coming in, and we talked about so many things. And then, at one point, when she looked like she was getting ready to get up and head out, I said: "No. You need to sit down and stay a few more minutes, because you cannot leave before I say this to you." She knew I was serious, and she sat back down. It felt like one of those big and important moments - one of those moments that is vital to someone like me, who lost their husband in a split second and who NEVER got a chance to tell him how much he changed my life and how absolutely amazing he was and how his love was and always will be the best thing that has ever happened to me. It felt big. 

So she sat back down, and I spun my body around on my bar stool to face her directly, and I took her hands in mine, and I looked her straight in the eye, and while crying through every single word (3 glasses of wine makes me verrry emotional), I told her these words: "I love you. You just can't leave here without knowing how much I love you. And without me saying THANK YOU. I dont know where I would be today without you. I dont know what I would have done if you hadnt of taken me in, at NO charge, and sat with me inside my hell. Nobody else would do it. You were the only one. I know that you were a gift from Don, one of many that he has sent my way. I just know it. You are so special. Not everybody is like you. People dont have the kind of empathy and the kind of intelligence you have. I was so lost, for so long, and you made damn sure that I wouldnt stay that way forever. You never left me abandoned. Thank you so, so much. I owe you my life today. " She was crying too, and through her tears, she told me that she loved me too, and that I owe her nothing, except living a life filled with love. Then, as she was laughing, but serious, she said: "I have never been more proud of anyone. You are my masterpiece." We both found that overly-dramatic, and therefore hilarious, and we laughed our way into the NYC freezing cold streets. There were lots of hugs, loads of tears, and endless supplies of thank you's. We would be in touch, of course, and continue talking via phone, but since I was moving away in just 3 days, it would be who knows how long until I would see her again. It felt significant. It felt heavy. It felt like Goodbye. 

A few days ago, I received an email from her. It said: "Dear Kelley, I just wanted to keep you in the loop about what has been going on with me. On December 21st, I was walking home to my apartment, and I was hit by a taxi-cab. I have a fractured pelvis, major spinal injuries, head injuries, and undetermined other issues. My head feels like an axe went through it. My husband will be helping with my care, and I will be in recovery and out of work for at least 8 weeks. Take care, love." 

So, she didn't die. She isn't dead. 

But she could have been. 

She could have been. 

And because I am the widow of sudden death, that happened out of absolutely nowhere, something inside me told me to TELL HER what she means to me on that night. Because if she had died that next day, she would have died knowing that is how I feel, and she would have died knowing how much her life's work mattered, and how much her heart affected someone else's life in the very best of ways. And so now, every single day of my life since my husband died, but especially this past year or so - I make damn sure that I ALWAYS say what is in my heart, at the moment I feel it, when I feel it. I no longer worry about how the other person might receive it, or if it might be too much for them right now, or if it might scare them away. I would rather that they know how I feel - that they know what they mean to me and how much I love them and their soul and their existence in my life - then to walk around this earth for one more second, without them knowing it. 

I might die, they might die. That is how I see it. And it's not in a morbid or depressing way - it's just the truth. Humans die. We never know when, we don't know why. But they die. So you better make damn sure that if there's someone out there, who you really care about intensely, or who does something for you in your life or just makes you feel good or makes you feel like something in this world makes sense - make damn sure that they KNOW that you feel that way. Because if they die, they will have died with the knowing that someone loves them deeply, and that they are deeply loved. And if YOU should be the one who dies, well then, you died loving that person. I never got to say these things to my husband. I never got to say one damn thing. I have to hope beyond hope, that he somehow knew. But still, every single day, I regret that I didnt get to sit him down, look him straight in the eye, and make him look at me as I told him: "You changed my life. Your love was everything, and it will be everything forever. I will live for you. I will live FOR you. Because your life will end sooner than mine, and you won't have that option. I love you, baby. My beautiful, sweet husband. I love you." 

Say the words you long to say. 

When it feels like goodbye, assume that it may be. 

Say it all. 

Say everything. 

Love out loud. 

Always. 

I wish like hell that I did the first time. 

I won't let that happen again. 

I love you, Boo. 

And Im going to make sure,

that the person I feel love for now,

always knows it.

Even if its a big risk, to say it. 

The bigger risk,

is that you stay silent,

and so they never know. 

And now they are gone. 

Or you are. 

 

Love feels best, when shared forward. 

Trust me on that.


Showing 8 reactions

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  • commented 2017-01-18 18:30:41 -0800
    Wow just now seeing all these other comments. Thank you everyone so much. DIANE, your story made me cry. Those are some gigantic triggers right there. WOW ….

    Thank you Indie for your kind words. I love to write, and its really the best way for me to just get it OUT. Yes, very glad Caitlin has her husband to help her through this. SHe is an incredible woman with the biggest of hearts.

    stephanie, I know how so many of us never have that chance. I never did with my husband, and that stays with me always. It affects me everyday, and affects how I live.

    SARAH!!!! Yes life is soooo much more beautiful when we share love AND the hard stuff with someone, and when we dont isolate. We know this, and yet its so easy to fall back into the isolation place. I think as long as theres some back and forth , its also needed sometimes to just isolate. But we defintely need humans. We need each other, and we need that safe place to share our love. Love you, girl xoxo (mommy)

    oh michelle your comment hit me right in the heart. Dont be too hard on yourself, okay? It takes a long time to figure all this out, and youve been through a trauma with how he died and what you saw. Took me a long time to not kick myself every DAY for being home and asleep when my husband was collapsing and dying. I still catch myself blaming myself sometimes. I force myself to stop. You will be okay. It takes so much time.
  • commented 2017-01-17 04:25:31 -0800
    Kelly holy hell I can’t even type right now after reading this. There are no words.

    A little story: ever since I lost my son Jonathan, I had been searching for a new church. I found one last May and have been going a lot. Every Wed nite there is a 7pm service by candlelight, it has been helping me to cope with my loss. Last week I was the greeter for the service and spoke with a lovely woman who had 2 of her children with her. Her name is Katie Malone. A brief encounter but I remembered it – her baby was so adorable. The next morning (Jan 12th) I woke up to the news that Katie’s home had burned to the ground and claimed the lives of 6 of her children. 6 children – two of them I had met the night before. My son Jonathan died in a fire in his apartment – so this news had me shaking and in a puddle of tears. Her beautiful home is right around the corner from me. You could smell the smoke from my house. Talk about a trigger. All I could think about was meeting them on Wednesday night – that beautiful baby, gone. Every chance given to us to make a small difference in someone’s life should not be taken for granted.

    I will be praying for your friend – she sounds like such a wonderful person. I honestly can’t wait to read your book :):)
  • commented 2017-01-16 21:16:29 -0800
    Good gawd almighty Kelly Lynn……..you are a magnificent writing beast……..you do know you have moved mountains with your words right?

    Weird that this just happened to you because just last Friday night my sister and brother in law were due for a dinner engagement and hadn’t shown up and after an hour I was called. They weren’t answering their phones. The weather was treacherous. You can guess where my imagination went. I have always told her how important she has been to me in my journey of grief but this time after hearing how many people were worried and me, I was a basket case calling police hospitals etc. I think she has become more aware of what might have been and the people who were affected. Yes, they had gone to the movies and turned their phones off. And the next morning when I actually saw her there was a different kind of hug.
    When I lost my husband and came to his rescue it was too late. Too late to be there for the last breath in a morning of getting ready for the first oncology appt. I will never forgive myself for not being with him when he took his last breath. I just cant erase it, try as I might. Although I am sure he did it so he wouldnt have to put me through more months of anguish. Just wish he could have done it during the hours I laid with him while I knew his time was short.
    I’m glad your friend Caitlin has the support of her husband right now because her injuries are severe and compromising. It is going to be a very long road. The meaning of your parting words to her the day you left NY will sustain her and your energy will be be entwined with her through her recovery. May the red thread of your connection give you both strength.
  • commented 2017-01-16 18:18:50 -0800
    Oh God, Kelley. What a thing to happen…I am so glad you had found her, and had that chance to tell her what you did…so many of us never get that chance, and thank God she is alive. Such big changes for all of us, never-ending f-ing changes. I think about you in your move this year. Sending love and hugs.
  • commented 2017-01-15 08:04:40 -0800
    This so so beautiful. You’ve got me tearing up. I’m SO glad Caitlin is going to be okay, my GOD! What a close call… I’ll be sending good vibes that she makes a speedy recovery, i’m sure she is in so much pain.

    Somewhere in the midst of “re-entering” life as I have come to call it, I feel like i’ve let some of the lessons his death taught me slip from me. I hate that. Moving really did me in, and made me wall off my heart from people a lot for a while. But, those lessons have not entirely left me… they NEVER will. I know that because whenever I feel myself walling off I know something is up now. I know it’s a sign that i need to do the opposite of walling off, and show my heart to people. I know now how much more beautiful life is when we share the hard stuff together. I haven’t given myself the support I’ve needed this past year. As I look back that is clear. This year, the tone is already starting to change. I am deciding to reach out more, and be more vocal and more honest, and it is already helping me feel more grounded.

    Thanks for a wonderful reminder to be honest, be present, and never take any day for granted. Love you!
  • commented 2017-01-14 21:45:15 -0800
    Thank you for sharing, Kelley. My husband passed away at 42 years old, somewhat unexpectedly on December 1st. He suffered 12 years of 24/7 debilitating headaches from a brain injury only to have more brain injuries occur from a near fatal car accident on 2/27/13. I am “fortunate” enough to know that he likely wouldn’t be living a long life because of his constant pain which equals CONSTANT depression and suicidal thoughts. I am furrunate enough to know he did not take his own life, yet was found laying dead on the floor next to my side of the bed. I work from home and was sitting across the hall, working, as he took his last breath, not even knowing it. I wanted so much to be able to hold his hand and tell him exactly how much I loved him as he took his last breath. I thought that was the least I owed him and feel robbed if that moment. You have given me a reminder that I need to tell everyone I love them, all the time. I was late in the grieving process as I didn’t start my constant flow of tears until this week. I’ve had so many people reach out and offer a helping hand, or ear. I’ve been turning down every call, text and Facebook message because of how I’m feeling. I shouldn’t be doing that. What if someone I love passes away while I’m busy moping on the couch? So I thank you for your message and I wish you all the happiness in the world.

    Michelle
  • commented 2017-01-14 05:42:26 -0800
    Love you too Judy! And Caitlin BETTER be okay, but if she isnt, I am SOOOOO happy that I said what I said to her on December 18th.
  • commented 2017-01-13 17:43:49 -0800
    Tears down my face reading this. Hoping that Caitlin will be ok. But as you said it would of been alot worse. Yes, saying I love you – I say it often – maybe too often.
    I love you Kelley – for sharing this and just for being you.