I went to a Christmas party the other night. A year ago, there is no way I could, or would have been able to socialize like that. And I was going alone, as my guy works evenings. So I know I have made vast strides this past year. This time around I found myself really looking forward to it. I felt happy to have been invited; it felt nice that someone had thought of me and asked me to join in, as invitations from people Mike and I met here together have really dwindled since he died, other than a few dear exceptions. This hostess is a beautiful person I met this past year who lost her husband about six years ago. Well, re-met, actually, since after a couple of conversations we realized she had taken Mike’s last class session before he died. That happens a lot around here, running into people who remember him. Which is nice.Read more
We all have certain days that we dread as they swing back around the calendar. The anniversary of the day he died. Our wedding anniversary. His birthday. Maybe another special day we shared. But the holidays are among the worst. Most of us all have memories of the good times we shared, and going through it all without them…well it just sucks big time.
This time of year in Hawaii, the Snow on the Mountain comes into bloom. It’s called that because it blooms in winter when there is usually snow on our mountains here in Hawaii. The one in the picture here we planted together several years ago - his daughter Jamie gave it to us as a tiny little stick of a thing, and it has really grown. Mike so admired it, and we always commented each year as it bloomed a little bigger and a little more vibrantly.
The last Christmas we spent together in 2012 was among the best. It was actually a quiet year, but Mike was very full of the holiday spirit. He couldn’t wait to help me pull out all the decorations and put up the little fake three we’d bought together for our first Christmas back in 1999. I remember we spent many evenings that December on the lanai looking in at our little tree through the window, enjoying a glass of wine and the temperate weather, looking out at the sunsets over the ocean. Little did I know it would be our last.Read more
“Sitting on the floor, I'd replay the past in my head. Funny, that's all I did, day after day after day for half a year, and I never tired of it. What I'd been through seemed so vast, with so many facets. Vast, but real, very real, which was why the experience persisted in towering before me, like a monument lit up at night. And the thing was, it was a monument to me.”
― Haruki Murakami
My friend and fellow widow Margaret finds the most apt and thoughtful quotes, and my words today are based on some of these. She posted the one above recently and I found myself thinking about it for days, because that’s what I did, almost exactly for six months. That first half a year I basically sat here and recreated my life with Mike. I tried to relive everything I could remember and berated myself for any moment I had forgotten. I worshiped the monument, the treasure of a life that was now gone. The heartache seemed endless, and vast.Read more
The first Thanksgiving Mike and I spent together in 1999, we went out for Indian food. We thought it would be a lark to be totally untraditional, and we did that together for a few years until we moved to Hawaii. Once we got here we started hosting the holiday ourselves with various groups of family and friends over the years. I have a lot of fond memories of it all. But in truth, Mike and I together were never super big on any of the holiday kaboozle. We could take it or leave it…and some years, we did leave it, preferring instead to take it easy. Those were good years too.
Honestly I can’t believe another year has gone by. Today is my second Thanksgiving without him. If not for the hoo-hah surrounding the holiday season, on TV, in stores, I probably could just very well ignore the whole thing. Last year, I did. Like an ostrich with its head in the sand, as much as I could avoid it, I did not mark either Thanksgiving or Christmas really at all. I couldn’t bear any sort of special meal or event with that empty chair staring at me.
I'm writing this on Tuesday. It would have been Mike's 61st birthday. My heart is breaking.
Honestly, I didn't expect it to hurt this much. Last year all I can remember is the day passing in numbness and disbelief. This year somehow I feel more alert to the pain, and it's been very hard. Over the past 21 months - 21 months yesterday, by the way - it's as if the panic and shock of his death have faded into a deeper, more guttural state of grief. A year ago it was still reverberating like a constant ringing in my ears; now, it has settled into a knot in my stomach, or maybe, a hole in my heart that I must learn to carry around with me.
So many people wished him Happy Birthday on his Facebook page along with many soulful wishes he was still with us. How much they missed him, how special a man he was, how he still holds a place in their heart. Some, that they even still feel his presence. That is nice. It made me feel happy to know he affected so many people while he was here...and so deeply sad that he is missing from us now. I know a lot of his friends, not to mention family, still mourn him very much indeed.Read more
Last Friday our local Kona Hospice hosted their annual Circle of Remembrance event at Hulihe'e Palace. I didn't go last year; I think it was all just too raw for me then, but this year I felt myself drawn there. I've been taking part in their grief counseling services for over a year now which is free for spouse and child loss. We are incredibly lucky to have that, especially knowing how many people have a hard time finding and affording good therapy. The program here is wonderful and the people are extraordinary. I can't say where I would be now without it.
Hulihe'e Palace was built in 1838 as a vacation home for Hawaiian royalty, and in 1927 the Daughters of Hawaii restored the building and converted it into a museum. When Mike and I first visited Kona in Christmas of 2000 we were both thrilled by the history and gorgeous scenery. As I checked in I couldn't help thinking of the tour we'd taken of the place together and how many times he and I had walked the sidewalks outside. My sense of nostalgia was palpable as I walked around to the lawn in back on the edge of the ocean.
My heart is raw. It breaks open easily. It doesn't take much. Another memory of the life I lost when Mike died. Another tragic story from another new member of our terrible club. Another heartbreak from a fellow widow having made the effort to find new love and life and been hurt. Another day of pain and sadness in a friend's ongoing attempt to move forward without a beloved partner. Another outcry from a wounded fellow traveler. Another experience of the unfair circumstances that befall any and each of us as survivors.
My heart is broken. I am broken. We are broken.Read more
We here on the Big Island - as others around the world now too - are watching in awe, horror and sadness as Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of the volcano, marches her molten walk through the community of Pahoa. It is indeed a big island; I live far, far away from that and am quite safe, but we who live here feel a kinship with our neighbors. We all hoped and prayed it would stop or change direction, as it can and has been known to do, since it started this past June.Read more
Recently I've had people say to me, when they learn I've been widowed, well, you know he'll always be with you. I know they say that with all the best intentions...and in a way, I agree, because yes, he will always be in my heart. But it's not as easy as that. Regardless of what my personal spiritual beliefs are, saying something like that can sound awfully close to someone wanting to gloss over the tragedy of the death of my husband and what it means for me in my own life. Easier to say that and hope the conversation will move away from the uncomfortable subject, right? Or am I being difficult here? What do they expect - that I'll say, oh, he will? Well that's great, I feel so much better now! Thanks for letting me know!
I do have my own beliefs about what happens to us when we die. And I have my own suspicions about how Mike occasionally makes his presence known...the wind. The birds.
Most recently, a grasshopper. I'm sure it's not the same grasshopper, because it's been happening for months, but at certain moments that will only ever be truly meaningful to me, there it is...on a doorknob, on a light switch, on my computer screen...so much so that I have taken to sighing, rolling my eyes in a playful way and saying hey, Mike. Thanks for being here. Miss you. Love you. Or something like that.Read more
I spend a lot of time these days thinking about what it was like to have Mike around. I find myself lost in this dreamland of days gone by - not really remembering anything in particular, not necessarily a specific memory of something we did together - I just find myself trying to grasp that mindspace where he still existed. What it felt like when he was in the house...what it felt like when he was still in my life. It happens randomly - I just sort of "come to" and realize I'd been staring into space, traveling back in time in my head. It's so close - and yet so far away.Read more