Maggie and I loved to travel and we made a great travel team. One of our favorite activities was hangin’ with the locals in local restaurants and pubs. I was the shy one. She, however, met no one but friends. One evening, somewhere in Greece, Spain, Italy, Mexico, New Orleans or somewhere else, we were chatting it up with one of the locals. “What do you think about all the tourists?” I asked.
He thought for a second and then, no doubt influenced by beer-flavored truth serum, answered “People come here to have a good time. They leave their homes and jobs to experience a different world - our world. They pretend, just for a little bit, that this place is their home. They eat, drink, dance and celebrate how great it is to be here and pretend that they understand our lives. Eventually, the hangover kicks in and their plane takes off. Back they go to their real life. I’m thrilled that they are able to visit and see what our life is like. I’m happy that they want to come, too. But one thing they don’t really seem to understand is that they are just visitors here. They can leave. We stay. This IS our home. Yeah, they come here to escape but I LIVE here.”
“I live here.” What a perfect description of Wednesday, May 4, 2011.
May 4th was the second anniversary of Maggie’s Angel Day. On that day, people posted on my Facebook page thoughtful comments. People posted on my blog more of the same. Some people even sent me cards and text messages, all sweet and supportive. But what they don’t realize is that to me, May 4th is just another day. Of course I miss my baby but that’s no different than it was on May 3rd. Sure, I’m sad. But heck, I was just as sad May 2nd and May 1st - no less and no more. May 4th was just another day that I missed my baby something fierce. Yes, I suppose it’s good in some ways that on May 4th so many people were thinking of and missing Maggie. But they don’t really seem to understand. While they are just visitors, this is my life. I live here. To me, May 4th was just another day.
Whereas on May 4th, people think back to parties, dinners and happy hours Maggie attended, I go to sleep in an empty bed every night. Whereas people think back on how much fun it was to talk to her on the phone, I miss the other half of my brain. Dinner parties with Maggie were loads of fun; I eat dinner alone almost every night. Happy hours, dinners, parties, dancing – all great weekend memories people share, the absence of which is noted but not life-changing. But every Saturday and Sunday morning when I wake up in a big empty bed, the reality is all too… ever present. I live here. This is my home.
May 4th will always be a day for people to remember to be sad that Maggie isn’t here anymore. I suppose in some ways I look forward to when May 4th will be a reminder for me to remember her (although it’s hard to fathom such a thing right now.) Perhaps May 4th will become more significant as my daily emotional noise lessens. As the little reminders, the firsts, the lasts, and the landmines fade from daily to rarely, maybe one day I’ll forget to remember. Then May 4th will remind me, you know, in case I forgot.
(Oh, man. Please give me the strength to forgive myself the day I forget to remember. And someone please remind me why it’s ok that I forgot.)
The hardest thing for me on Maggie’s Angel Day was watching other people be sad. It just hurts to watch people suffer. I once told my (and Maggie’s) friend Martha about watching an older man grieve over Maggie’s death. It curled the edges of my heart watching him, his face wracked with hard emotions while trying to contain and control the wild forces that were tearing him apart. It hurt me badly to witness such pain and know there was little I could do to extinguish that fire. Martha responded “Now you better understand how we’ve all felt watching you over the last few years.” Humbling.
Yes, Maggie’s Angel Day was quite a day. But for me, it was a day of watching people reflect and hurt. My increased suffering was because I hurt watching so many other people be sad, not because my sorrow for the loss of my sweet wife was any more intense. I wanted to hold them and comfort them all. I couldn’t. But, thankfully, they were just visiting and, after the very long, very difficult day came to a close, they all went back to their homes and families and friends.
I live here. Here, Wednesday was just another day.