As we near Shelby’s 11th Christmas, what will be our third without Megan around, I’ve got my head down. I’m powering through this week at work, excited more for the 4 day break from the monotony than any festivities. Every activity, preparation, and event seems more like a “have to” than a “get to”. Wrapping gifts, baking cookies, school Christmas recitals, stringing lights along the house, shoveling snow, and trimming a tree are all perceived as just “one more thing I need to take care of”, rather than “another thing I GET to do”.
I’m stressed. Work is extra busy. There are countless projects at home that we have to take care of before this weekend. I’m sick of looking at blinky lights, knowing that I have to pack them all back up within a few weeks. All of the beautiful snow we had last week has now melted into a sloppy wet mess. The house feels cluttered and somehow smaller than it already is. Bills still need paid. God I hate this time of year.
On February 5th, 2015, I wandered into a Hotel in Tampa, Florida, not quite sure if I was supposed to be there. I had lost Megan less than three months prior, and I hadn’t honestly accepted the fact that I was now a Widower. In the year leading up to it, I had spent more time sitting next to my dying wife than anything else.
Like many of us, I was searching for answers to hypothetical questions. “Who am I now?” and “What am I supposed to do?” served only as constant reminders that, well, “I don’t know” was the only answer.
Almost three years later, and the questions, and the answers, are still the same. What has changed, and what I’ve learned in that time is that we will never know the answer, but we are always inching closer to it.
I take thee, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, until death do us part.
If he only knew what those vows mean.
He does though. He always will.
“The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step” - Lao Tzu
It’s true. It the most literal sense, one cannot achieve a goal, or complete a journey, without taking a step towards the goal. No matter how trivial a task may seem, this quote is meant to bring perspective that even the most inconsequential of actions is needed to complete a journey...a single step.
Where this quote leaves much to be desired, however, is the scope of the journey. Not every side journey is “1000 miles”. Some goals are, figuratively, only feet away. Others may seem so distant that a single step would be insignificant. Regardless, the second step, and the third and forth and so on could not occur without that first step.
As I write this, Sarah is cruising at 30,000 feet over Indiana. She’s en-route to Chicago, then Phoenix to spend 6 days with Drew’s mother at a conference. We woke up early this morning to get her to the airport, then for me to get Shelby to school and myself on to work.
For the next week, I’m back to basics. I’m effectively a “single father” in the sense that it’s my sole responsibility to make sure Shelby is taken care of, the clothes are washed, the lawn is mowed, and the bills are paid. Sarah has been here for almost 2 years now, and as time has progressed, her and I have become more and more of a team.
I won’t lie, having Sarah making sure that I knew when Shelby’s after-school activities were, or making sure that we had some food pulled out of the freezer for the next few days is nice in more ways than one. It’s funny, really. We have become so “in-tune” that she doesn’t trust me to be able to take care of myself and Shelby for a few days on my own.
I was planning, this morning, to write about the total solar eclipse that Sarah, Shelby and I witnessed just a week ago. As we sat on the banks of the Oconoluftee River in North Carolina, at the foot of the Smoky Mountains and watched the sun disappear, I was speechless, awed, and felt transcendent.
That was the plan, at least. We had a family vacation to those mountains, topped off by the eclipse, and I was sure it would still be at the forefront of my mind when I sat down to write.
But it’s not. The memories and pure joy at what I witnessed are still present, certainly, but a little rain storm has consumed my heart and thoughts since last week.
I’m going to (try to) keep this short, simple, and to-the-point. Megan’s birthday was yesterday...the third since her death. She would have been 36, which, for someone born in the early 80’s with Cystic Fibrosis, is twice the normal life expectancy.
The first thing I thought of when I opened my eyes in the morning yesterday was Megan’s birthday. It was the last thing that went through my head as I closed them in the evening. Her birthday cycled through my head off-and-on all day, just as it had been doing for the past few weeks.
It is what it is. It’s white noise.
Did you know "post-traumatic growth" is actually a thing? A friend mentioned the concept to me recently and I made note of it, thinking it was a clever concept invented by us grief sufferers, but when I typed it in a search online, a bunch of very real psychological studies came up.
Mike used to say, repeating an oft-used phrase, that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. After he died I rebelled against this well-meaning wisdom he often delivered with a smirk, preferring instead, in those early days, to be dead myself, as you might understand, thinking in no way could I ever want to be any stronger, the grief being so dire.
I think grief is an even trickier thing as time goes on. It becomes more infused with your new life and sometimes it’s hard to even know when struggles are related to your grief or to other things. I’ll be honest, I think I’m still holding on to some resentment that this other life I wanted to have will never happen. Even if 99% of me wants everything I have in this new life. Even if I had to choose between these two lives, I truly could not, there will always be that part of me that just wants to know how the other story was going to play out.
I know Mike has this feeling too. We both wish that we could see how those stories would have played out with our first person. Lately, I’ve started to wonder if maybe I’m feeling more resentment over that unfinished story than I knew.
I think it’s part of the root of my struggle to adjust since moving to Ohio. I will never get to know what my wedding with Drew would have been like. Or if we would have had children. Or where we would have moved to for his flying jobs. I think moving and beginning a life somewhere so new and different with Mike has unknowingly made me even resent that I never got to move with Drew and do all of this.Read more
Lately, it seems as if any and every project I have going on is halfway there, with no completion in sight. There’s the half-finished garden path Sarah and I are installing, a fence we are putting in around the vegetable area, still half-built, a half-stained deck, a “mostly” painted bedroom, and one of three cars has been cleaned and waxed for spring. At work, it’s much the same. It is constantly busy, but nothing is completed other than minor computer problems that I fix on a day to day basis.
I’ve taken a few weekend trips to the woods over the past few months, and half of those were cut short because, well, I just came home. My big personal project, filming and producing videos with the intent of sharing useful knowledge and experience to those who would like to take their own trips to the woods has stalled, totally.
I need to complete something. Anything, really, that’s bigger than a five minute task. Ultimately, my life has been a series of constant projects that get “almost there”, but not quite. Including my marriage to Megan.