Today is a beginning of sorts. For the past few years, Mike and I have written for Soaring Spirits on separate days and will be moving to sharing Sundays now. For anyone who doesn’t know our story, we are both widowed and now engaged to one another. We met in Tampa at Camp Widow in 2015 and have been dating since. The idea to share a day seemed like a good one… a way for us to share both the similarities and differences in our losses as well as what our experience has been like in finding love again - both the good and the hard stuff. Some weeks we will be writing together, and other weeks we will write individual posts. I think this has the potential to teach us more about each other, as well as sharing the things we’re learning along the way
With that said, this first shared post is from a suggestion of another widowed friend. She is newly dating and expressed to me that she wondered if being engaged was harder for Mike or for me. I thought this was a great question. I’ll share my feelings, and Mike’s will follow mine...
I can definitely say the proposal was a lot harder on me. Not only did I never get the chance to marry Drew, but what a lot of people don’t know is that he actually never formally proposed to me. He was planning to do so when he returned from his work trip in another month, but he never came home from that trip. There has always been this gaping hole in my heart for the fact that I never even got to hear the words.
Mike proposed to me last Christmas Eve while we were in Texas visiting Drew’s family for Christmas - and they were all in on it, I later found out. It was incredibly surreal that of all the people he chose to surround us with for this moment in our lives, it was Drew’s family. It didn’t replace the fact that I never got to hear Drew ask, but it did heal some piece of that pain. It created a new memory with us and Drew’s family that was just as beautiful as how things might have unfolded had Drew never died. I think that’s the part that felt so healing - that this proposal from this man to this woman now - was absolutely and completely just as beautiful as what the other one would have been. There was something so comforting about that.
That night, I was a complete wreck. Though beautiful and joyful, there was a deep sadness that broke open in me. I cried almost all night, and he held me the whole time. I felt awful that our engagement night was so full of grief and pain. So full of sadness for things that will never be. But sometimes there just isn’t any way around that with grief. Sometimes you just have to let the pain be there.
I will say the worst of it was that night. And for a few weeks there was a bittersweet feeling, but I have otherwise had a deep joy and appreciation for each day that we have been engaged. In fact, I tend to feel like it has made me appreciate this year of engagement more because not a day goes by that I don’t think about the fact that I am fortunate to have this time with Mike, and that it could all be gone tomorrow. I don’t let it get to me, instead, I use that idea to keep me in the moment and feeling grateful for today.
So while certain aspects of this whole engagement thing have been seriously hard on me, I tend to think being widowed has also made this experience even deeper for me.
Proposing, and subsequently, being engaged certainly wasn’t and isn’t a difficult thing for me. I mean, I’m a realist...if being married to Sarah wasn’t going to make me happy, I wouldn’t have proposed in the first place.
That said, of course I wanted to know what others thought. It’s why I asked my own parents, Drew’s parents, Sarah’s siblings, Megan’s parents, Sarah’s closest friends, and of course, Shelby. I spoke with all of them long before I even began making a ring or choosing a place and time to “pop the question”. That is one of the luxuries of being the person making the proposal...I had months to process and prepare for it, whereas Sarah had to take it all in at once.
But ultimately, I’ve been married before. I met someone, dated her for quite some time, knew I wanted to marry her, proposed, planned a wedding, married, had a child, and spent 9 years as a husband. I also watched her die. It’s that last part, her death, that brought me here.
I would have never met Sarah in the first place if Megan hadn’t died. I wouldn’t have dated her, proposed, or even be writing here if Megan hadn’t died. The fact of the matter is, I was happily married to a woman I love...and will always love...and she died.
But that’s precisely why proposing and being engaged isn’t a “trigger” or difficult thing for me. I wholeheartedly feel like I learned from my marriage to Megan. I learned what it truly is to love someone. To know you want to spend the rest of your life with someone. To know that you want them to be the mother of your child, regardless of if they gave birth to them or not.
To know that your first person would approve of your second person.
That has been the way I instinctively interpret Sarah and I’s engagement. It’s not something that dishonors or devalues Megan’s space in my heart. In fact, it is honoring her wish, clearly stated to me, to “find someone”. To take care of Shelby, and to make good decisions. You see, because Megan was “sick from day one,'' we had quite literally a decade of time to talk about MY future.
Honestly, if there has been anything difficult to process since I proposed, it’s been Sarah’s feelings, and even those shouldn’t be classified as “difficult”, but rather “interesting”. With the proposal, she and I reached a milestone that she and Drew never got to experience. From this point forward, literally every milestone together in life is something she was unable to reach with her first person.
I’m very sensitive to that. I am also very sensitive to Drew’s parents. They too have never had a child propose or be proposed to...not yet at least. They took Sarah in as a surrogate daughter when Drew died, and in my heart, they were and are parents to her to this day. I dare say that, outside of Shelby, they were the most important people to “ask permission of”.
I guess my point is, precisely BECAUSE I’m widowed, and thus, honored the vows I took way back in 2005, I KNOW that Sarah is the woman I want to state those vows to again.