A dear friend of mine marked the third anniversary of her husband’s sudden death yesterday. This morning when she shared how the day had been, I was delighted and relieved to hear that she was able to find some joy amongst her sadness.
She had decided to gather together with her husband’s friends for a dinner to celebrate his life. They’d shared tears, laughter, stories (some she had never heard before) and many, many toasts in his honour.
In her words, “If someone had told me three years ago I would be out drinking and having a great time tonight I would never had believed them. It's amazing what time can do. Yes I miss and love him, I appreciate the time we had. I have cried today and tonight, but the grief is not so raw. Such sadness at what I am missing with him gone. It was great to talk about Paul. I even got some new stories about him from some of his old army mates. I'm still learning about him, and loving it.”
I’m sure you can see why my heart was filled with love to hear this. What a wonderful way to mark a sad day.
Her words about still learning about him really resonated with me. My Dan has been gone for 26 months now. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning and reach over to his side of the bed, I find myself pausing and realising that some of the finer details in the memory of what it felt like to hold him are becoming more and more difficult to recall.
That sense of him slipping away can send me in to a panic. How can it be possible to lose him more than I already have? But, as my friend pointed out, I then realised that in some ways, I’m actually still discovering him.
My ongoing relationship with my husband’s family and friends often gives me undiscovered nuggets of treasure in the form of a memory or anecdote, and in their stories I almost get to experience a new part of him.
Earlier this week I was looking for something in our office and came across a collection of his old travel photos from his younger years, long before we’d crossed paths. Dan had a very dear friend who he’d met when living and working in Banff, Canada, and they’d gone on to have many adventures over their long friendship together. She actually flew out here to Australia for our wedding, where I got to meet her myself in person, and sadly, then returned six weeks later for Dan’s funeral.
Through this wonderful woman, I’ve discovered parts of my husband that I didn’t get a chance to know when he was still here. And this is such a priceless gift when time with your person is something that is no longer possible. When I found these photos of them laughing and smiling during silly adventures, I sent them to her and told her how grateful I was that he’d such a beautiful friendship with her.
She replied that it was because of their close friendship that she could be a testament to how ‘one-of-a-kind’ my relationship with Dan was. She said, “If you ever forget or doubt...I can always remind you. Seeing Dan in love for the first time was just the best.” Short of hearing my husband tell me that he loves me, I can’t imagine any sweeter words.
Even though I wasn’t there for the many moments I missed in his life, his family and friends allow me to learn more about Dan by sharing their own experience and I’m so grateful for that.