Last week was a whirlwind of party planning, traveling, and meeting new people who have been touched by the work of Soaring Spirits...and this blog. I attended three of the four holiday events (sorry Austin, I so wanted to be there!) planned by some amazing women, and supported by fantastic sponsors from all walks of life
I traveled up and down escalators wearing my Widows Rock! t-shirt, scurried to beg for ink pens when we discovered that we'd forgotten them, missed a flight due to some crazy regulations, arived in time for party number three but needed to change clothes (and curl my hair) in a restaurant bathroom in Seattle, arrived in New York at 9:00PM to discover that the ride I thought would be waiting for me was unavailable, juggled miscellaneous Death Sucks merchandise from one flight to another, and once again was repeatedly blown away by the power of community.
Watching the interactions between widowed people always astounds me. At every event I attended there was at least one person who discovered a different connotation to the word widow. And the change occurred as they spoke to another person to whom that label also applied. Being together took the widowhood loneliness away, if only for a few hours. Talking to someone who didn't want to fix the problem (anyone own a magic revival wand?), allowed for honest conversation about how much we miss the person we grieve. Honest conversation led to both personal revelations, and also to much needed laughter.
As I flew home at the end of my trip, I was struck by the realization that my own concept of the word widow has radically changed over the past four years. I don't know exactly when the word widow no longer horrified me. I remember so clearly not wanting to be called a widow in the aftermath of Phil's death. For weeks? months? a year? I could only associate the word widow with death. Each time the word was applied to me I felt as if I'd been hit in the stomach. "This is Phil Hernandez's widow," was a sentence that caused me to feel nauseous and angry all at once. When I looked in the mirror I didn't see a widow. I didn't LOOK like a widow!
I have learned some things about widows since I became one. I know that widows are warriors, assigned to a war they didn't want to fight. I know that widows have a clear inner voice, even when it is buried in uncertainty. I know that widows reach out to each other in the most amazingly generous ways, and often discover that giving and healing go hand in hand. I know that widows need to be allowed to be real people, no matter how devastating the damage death has inflicted becomes. I know that widows may look great on the outside, and be bleeding from the inside out every single minute of the day. I know that widows have been taught the most important life lessons by living their worst nightmares. I know that widows are stronger than anyone can comprehend. Above all, I now know that widows need each other.
The day the word widow lost its power over me must have been the day I realized that Widows Rock.