I've been back home, in Brisbane, Australia, for a couple of days now. As it seems to go with most vacations, it's so good to go away and then it's so good to get home. Getting off the plane after the 13-hour flight from LA and walking in to the arms of my wonderful parents, who came to town to collect me from the airport, was a good feeling. I had a wonderful time, both in New York exploring a new city, and at Camp Widow. But I felt ready to get back to my bubble.
It was emotional to come home. I was very tired and jet-lagged, I had missed my family, my friends, my house and was happy to be reunited with them. I had missed my routine and the little world I've built for myself since Dan died. But returning home, I missed my widowed friends and the safe little world that exists when I'm around them. I felt lifted by the people I met at Camp Widow, the wonderful spirit of the weekend, the bravery of the men and women I met.
You'd think that a conference for widowed people would be a pretty miserable event, but it's actually so uplifting and fun. Everyone is full of camaraderie, there is constant laughter and hugs and celebration of love. To meet people who have been through the darkest of times and can still find light in their lives is indescribable. My widows are some of my favourite people in the world.
So I have felt like I'm in a strange place... floating between wanting to run back to widow-land and wanting to re-enter my real life.
And then, smack bang in the middle of all of that, we have Valentine's day today. Bleugh. What a crappy day this is for us. I have been lucky enough to have avoided most of the commercials and hype because I've been travelling, and THANK GOD it fell on a Saturday this year, so we were spared the parade of flower deliveries throughout the work place. But still, here it is.
When I woke this morning, on Valentines day (in Australia, we're 18 hours ahead of Los Angeles, so I write this on Saturday afternoon to be published in the USA by midnight Friday), I immediately started missing Dan. I pulled out our old cards and read the beautiful messages we had written each other. We were not yet married, on our last Valentine's day together, so they were all full of hope and excitement about how we couldn't wait to be husband and wife that coming June (he died six weeks after our wedding), and how we were so blessed to have each other.
Of course the tears fell. I couldn't lay around in bed and cry for too long though, because I had booked a hair appointment for 8am and had errands to run.
As I went about my day, I kept thinking about Dan, and this stupid day, and what I was missing out on because he wasn't here. And I realised something. Yes I was missing my husband today... but do you know what? I realised, I wasn't missing his love. Because it was still all around me.
It hadn't gone away. The words he wrote in his cards still held the same meaning today, as they did two years ago. I was still the most important thing in his life. The gratefulness that he felt at coming home to me every night was still real. I was his eternal love story. We are Forever Valentines.
It's hard to explain and didn't even make a lot of sense in my own head, but I actually felt like I could feel a warmth around me, almost like a full body hug that enveloped my whole being. I was still carrying his love with me today, even though he's been gone 18 months.
The gifts that he brought to my life are still here and will be with me forever. The person I am today is because he loved me.
Maybe this realisation was partly because of the inspiring messages I received at Camp Widow. Actually, I think this had a LOT to do with it. But I also feel like maybe I am growing. Maybe I am moving through my grief, so that in this moment I was able to see past the pain and the agony at being separated from him and see some of the joy that is still here, because of the time we got together.
It's an incredible feeling when you can see this growth in yourself. It's a bit scary, and I almost still don't fully believe it is possible. But it's nice. It's a relief. And I know Dan would be proud of me. Because I'm proud of myself.