Saturday, I attended a family 'do'--a term used in England to denote a celebration, or important event. This was a 40th birthday party for one of Stan's nieces, held at a Greek restaurant, with over 60 people, most of them relatives of Stan's. Two of his sisters were there, as were two of his children. The room was filled with conversation and laughter, food and drink, love and joy. The only thing missing was him.
Because Stan had a large family, and a host of friends, we were often invited to these 'dos', when we were together--a friend's 50th birthday, a sister's 60th, a son or daughter's 40th, a grandchild's 16th--wedding anniversaries, retirement parties, Christmas parties, and, always, gatherings to ring in the new year. We usually arrived early and, more often than not, we stayed late. Stan insisted that we be there, at each of them, to join in celebration with the people he loved, to show them, with his presence, how much they meant to him.
I have attended several of these 'dos' since my husband's death, and I can't say they are getting any easier. I enjoy being with the people who knew and loved him, and I appreciate their warmth toward me and their welcoming me into their fold. But, for me, these gatherings are bittersweet. We mark the important dates of our lives, and the passage of time, and he is not here to share in them. I sit in the midst of the people he loved, and I ache for him to be by my side, celebrating, too. His absence is so glaringly obvious. There is a hole in the room that only he could fill.
Saturday, his children and his sisters and I brought Stan to the family do through sharing our memories of him. We spoke his name. We acknowledged his absence and mourned his passing. We talked about who he was as a child and how he was as a father. We made a place for him, there.
Perhaps, one day, I will be able to attend a social gathering without the constant reminder of his absence, but not now. It still feels so new. I carry him with me, wherever I go, and I can only be a part of these events if I can share my memories, express my sorrow, and thus make his presence known.
I don't mean to bring sadness to what should be a joyous celebration, but I can't attend it without him. To leave him outside the room and outside of the conversation feels disrespectful. I can't erase him from it. He belongs there, with me--with all of us. And I won't hide him away in the back of my head.
Monday, the day of this post, is my 58th birthday. I won't be celebrating, much. I will be working, all day, and I will be remembering him. I will remember my first birthday, with him, when he bought me a prayer rug and gave me a beautiful card. Or the second birthday I spent, with him, when we shared a nice meal at one of his favourite pubs. Or last year, our last one together, when we spent a quiet night on our own. It didn't matter, what we did. Only that we did it together.
And I will allow myself to be sad, to feel the loss, to notice the hole in the room that only he would be able to fill.
It is another big day, and someone's missing.
I'll light a candle to his memory.
I will speak his name.