Even though I have now lived through the month of August five times since Phil's death, I once again failed to notice the signs of the anniversary flu as August 31st approached this year. Maybe you recognize some of the symptoms?
slightly glum, but with no real cause
low grade sense of impending doom
decreased level of energy
increased level of anxiety about people I love dying
disinterest in food
dull headache that may last for a day or so
realization that grief triggers are suddenly around every corner
During the month of August my body knows what day it is even if my brain is blissfully unaware. Phil died on the first day of school in 2005, so back to school is awash in bittersweet memories for me. Each year as the kids head off for their first day of classes, my heart aches a little. Somehow during the month of the deathiversary I recall where we were at any given moment because I find myself accidentally standing in the very place that I am remembering. Coincidence? A subconscious desire to walk a path we once walked together? I don't know, but I am certain that there is a visceral memory bank stored in my body that activates somewhere in the middle of the eighth month of the year.
Since this is the first deathiversary that Michael was here in the US, I wondered how the anniversary day would go. I wasn't sure what I needed, we are in the middle of planning a wedding, I was in New York the week before, and the amount of time I have been out of my office of late meant that I HAD to work. First thing in the morning Michael said, "Honey, I am not sure how I fit into today, but please let me know what you need...space, time out of the house, me to go somewhere...whatever." I thought about this statement for a minute and then told him that all I needed was for him to be himself. Oh, and not to die, thank you very much.
After I said this I realized that Michael being Michael and Phil being Phil was just what I needed on that day. My need to spend the whole day in memory of what was lost has changed. I am held up and loved so well by my family, friends, and widowed community that I feel this outpouring of loving remembrance is enough. We went out to Mexican food together and toasted Phil, each of the kids shared a memory that made them laugh. And then we made plans for the next day, because life does go on.
I don't know how many times I will suffer from the anniversary flu, but I do know that I wouldn't walk down this memory lane filled with markers of my final days with Phil if our lives together weren't seeped in love. So even though my body rebels a bit as the days on the calendar pass, the visions I have of our time together speak of the joy of being married to Phil and that joyful, playful, solid, committed love is a permanent part of my personal history.