Big Love

My smile has been gone for a long time. 

I wore it effortlessly when Mike was alive. 

But, now, my smile feels like an accessory I wear only on special occasions. 

I know that it won't be like this forever because I love life too much

to never smile again. 

But, for right now, my heart feels empty,

And, I see a deficiency of joy in my eyes.

Yet, some moments, I smile in spite of myself,

Even so, my smile feels awkward and it is always fleeting. 

I know Mike wants me to smile again. 

And, damn it, I need to smile again, for me...   

 

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BIG LOVE 

Mike would stop what he was doing every single time I walked in the room.  Every. single. time.  He would look at me and his eyes glistened with tears of adoration.  Next, he would softly smile, as he treasured me with his gaze. Then, he'd say "Hey, Beautiful" in a tone he reserved only for me.  He'd reach out to me and pull me into him.  Mike would look so intently at me while he held me, in the middle-of-an-ordinary-moment.  It was magic, and even that's an understatement.  These 'intimate' moments between us were genuine and intense.  Mike would lay his eyes on me in a room full of people; and, honestly, it was like he made love to me right then and there. The way he looked at me had that kind of passion.  

Common everyday routines like washing dishes, grocery shopping, sitting on the back porch, making the bed and even brushing our teeth became extraordinary events.  Our life was ridiculously wonderful.  It was a crazy, pure, deep love that we shared.  And, every so often, I would stop myself in one of these "ordinary" moments because I felt the power of his love.  It was tangible in the air.  Together, we were everything love is supposed to be.  And, now, like you, I'm here, in this moment, wanting everything I had back.  I want him back and I want him to bring the love we shared back to life.

I knew we were lucky when Mike was alive; but, I didn't know how truly blessed we were.  I didn't fully savor the life and love I had because I thought there was more ahead.  I naively thought I'd be brushing my teeth with Mike by my side for at least the next twenty years...  I thought our story was just beginning.   I did not wholly appreciate how big our love was because I thought it would last forever. 

Now, let me tell you part of the best love story.  Not one that I read about or heard, but one that I lived...

Life with Mike was big and bold and I loved it all, every-last-thing.  In this blog, I am inviting you to come to know the love I am grieving.  I want you to understand how typical things played out like scenes from a fairy tale in our house.  Maybe you will recognize yourself in our life.  I hope you do because the world would be a better place if more of us had a love like this...

 

Sunday Morning Love

I remember Sunday mornings so clearly.  Mike would always get up first.  He'd have the music playing in the kitchen and he'd check his emails while he waited for the coffee to brew.  When it was ready, he'd proudly bring me coffee in bed.  It was his ritual.  He would hand me my cup and stand patiently beside our bed as I took my first sip.  Even then, it wasn't lost on me how much he wanted to please me.  I felt spoiled by his love. 

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Well, if I could go back and re-live those regular moments we shared together

I would press every memory between the pages of what would become my favorite book. 

But, I know that is not how life is meant to be lived. 

We are supposed to be present in the moment. 

We are not meant to be curating the moment for the future. 

 

Not only did Mike make great coffee, he was a proud police officer for forty-one years.  He had a high ranking position in his department and he was well respected in the police world.  Yet,  to me, once he took off his uniform, he was just an easy to please Farm Kid at heart.  It was this version of him that stood at our bedside, eagerly waiting for me to praise his coffee making skills.  The situation humbled me every time.  I felt undeserving of the fuss he made over me.   And, since he's died, I often wish he could bring me coffee in bed one last time.  I'd stay in that moment forever - if I could.

Sometimes, in the morning, as I open my eyes,  I still imagine Mike standing at our bedside -intently waiting for me to take the coffee cup from his outstretched hand.  He 'stood at attention' for me every time he brought me my drink.  His simple gesture was an act of love.  Each time he carried out his ritual, Mike would anxiously ask me  "How's it taste, Honey?"  And, he'd beam with happiness when I told him it was "perfect".  And, now, looking back, I want Mike to know that everything was perfect, not just the coffee...

 

On Sundays, I would cook a bacon and egg breakfast.  It was sort of a standard in our house.  It became a tradition that we always had roma tomatos and avocado in our bacon sandwiches - it was our thing.  I think it's magical how something so ordinary has become a treasured memory.  Now, I love preparing this simple sandwich because it takes me back to a time and place where Mike still exists.  In my heart,  Mike and Sunday morning bacon sandwiches are synonymous.  

When Mike was alive, sometimes I stopped myself when I was cooking because something felt almost holy in the kitchen.  There was love everywhere.  I could feel it in the air I was breathing.  I could see it shining in his eyes.  And, I felt his love to the depths of my Soul.  Our love was magical.  Mike would anoint me with his eyes as I carried out the simple act of making our food.  His eyes shone with reverence as he observed me going about the simple task of flipping eggs and unloading the dishwasher.  And, I'm telling you this-is-the-absolute-truth.  We were madly in love.

Mike and I lived the kind of love that is written about in novels.  We loved one another with heart and Soul.  His devotion to me was felt by everyone who was around us.  Mike somehow made loving me like being at church.  Everyone in the room felt moved because they knew that were witnessing something sacred.  Once upon a time, I was loved the way every woman dreams of being loved.  Our love was everything I ever wanted love to be.  And, I will miss him and his love for the rest of my life.   

 

Our love story is over. 

But, my LIFE story isn't and neither is yours.

 

I realize that his death is permanent - I purposefully typed  'our love story is over'  in B-O-L-D letters.  It was by design.  Maybe I need to read it in bold to believe it.  Honestly, a part of me still can not fully comprehend that Mike has died.  When I go to his grave I make my fingers trace the letters of his name on his headstone because my mind can not really believe he's gone.  I need the roughly etched letters to rub against my hand because it serves as a tangible truth - Mike really died.  When I touch the letters of his name I try to program into my mind that this is real.  Clearly, I am consumed by missing Mike.  He is absent from my future and I feel the lack of his presence everywhere in my life. 

 

However, no matter how hard it is to accept, I believe that my LIFE story is not over. 

Somehow, I will finish living the story of my life. 

I believe that I still have choices in this mess. 

We can choose life and living. 

We can still choose joy. 

The obvious gut wrenching sadness and loneliness

that accompanies widowhood should not be what defines us. 

 

I acknowledge how hard it is to choose joy in the depths of grief.  Some moments it does not even seem possible.  But, I cling to hope because I am still here, and I need to live, not just exist.  I plan to persist for me and for my children.  Today, as my blog publishes, Mike has been dead for exactly fourteen months.  This is a fairly significant chunk of time.  Yet, to me it seems like only yesterday that he was alive, sharing his life with me.  In my mind, I imagine us as newlyweds, living our charmed life.  I pretend that we are drinking wine around the kitchen table as we plan our next big adventure as a family.  But, now, that life only exists in my imagination.  That life is over, forever.   

 

For me, his death pronounces the ever changing nature of life.  Change is the one thing that is certain in life. 

I know from experience that life can change overnight.  I realize that all we have is this moment.  But, still, I  stubbornly resist embracing the moment because this isn't how I pictured my life.  This isn't the moment I planned... I had a big love and I want it back. 

 

Now, I'm here - alone. 

Missing his love. 

I struggle because I am not sure how to be in love with a man who is no longer physically here. 

How do I continue living my life - in the present moment -

while loving him, 

when he only physically exists in the past? 

 

The concept of  "loving in separation" is not something I prepared for because, in my mind, we had the rest of our lives ahead of us.  So, without any forethought, I arrived in widowhood completely unsorted.  Initially, everything was raw and rough.  I was untrained as a widow so I made homespun, amateur attempts at surviving.  Over the last fourteen months my ability to live with grief has become more polished and I have to do less improvising throughout the day.  In fact, living with grief has become somewhat normal to me.  But, that said, I am still not proficient in this changed life.  Most of the time I feel like I am participating in a makeshift existence that was not thoroughly planned out.  I did not rehearse for this; and, honestly, it shows. 

Arguably, there is no way for anyone to prepare for the death of the person you love.  I know that you can't formulate a well prepared response to this life changing event.  Still, any "Cliff Notes" you've uncovered along the way are more than appreciated. And, I'm completely serious. Tell what you've come to know about widowed life. #lovinginseparation

There are many ways to try to slay grief.  However, we can't imitate how others go about it - we need to 'do grief our own way'.  We have to find what works for us.  What soothes our Soul in grief is as personal as our fingerprint.  And, we must thoughtfully design our own method of actively grieving. 

For me, anyone who lives with emptiness in their heart and still has hope intrigues me.  I'm fascinated by stories of perseverance, new adventures and flourishing that are told by other widowed people.  I am drawn to people who think outside the box and I am a sucker for people who are inspired by life and love.  So, if you are one of these people, I'd love to connect so I can hear your story as told by you... 

Love stories give us joy, and Life stories can give us hope.  I look forward to reading your stories if you choose to share in the comment section.

 

Love got us here, and Love will get us out,

 

Staci

#tellyourlovestory, #tellyourlifestory, #lovinginseparation,#thinkoutsidethebox   


Showing 6 reactions

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  • Staci Sulin
    commented 2018-02-04 11:10:32 -0800
    Suzanne, Some moments it is hard to breathe without them. Last night I was lost and it just didn’t seem like my heart could break any more. I was on my knees crying, but this morning the coffee is poured and I feel less nauseated about Mike being dead. Grief just comes blazing in sometimes and we have to go where it takes us… To answer your question, I think the point of continuing is because Life is too beautiful to just let it pass us by. I find gratitude helps to ease the heartbreak. I started a new mantra in my head and it has helped me feel more peaceful when the grief is heavy. I hope you feel some ease.
  • Suzanne Hanna
    commented 2018-02-03 08:23:29 -0800
    “Now, I’m here – alone.

    Missing his love.

    I struggle because I am not sure how to be in love with a man who is no longer physically here.

    How do I continue living my life – in the present moment -

    while loving him,

    when he only physically exists in the past? "

    YES. My man loved me beyond reason…what is the point of even breathing without him?
  • Staci Sulin
    commented 2018-01-18 18:20:42 -0800
    Stephanie,
    Thank you for taking the time to share your comment.
    “When Mike was alive” – I don’t think either of us can escape this phrase. Those words echo around in my mind everyday.
    And, although it is difficult to constantly ruminate about Mike, I also worry that one day I won’t think of him as often. Widowing, ugh, it is tedious and complicated that’s for certain.
  • Stephanie Vendrell
    commented 2018-01-17 23:08:08 -0800
    Beautifully written…I feel the intensity of your grief, and the love you shared. I had my Mike to so…those words ‘when Mike was alive’….also want to follow me around forever. Thank you for sharing this.
  • Staci Sulin
    commented 2018-01-16 22:57:37 -0800
    Terri,

    Grief really does leave you breathless and brings you to your knees. I agree.

    I am happy to read that you found an “unexpected gift in the form of love”. I think so many different feelings and emotions are “normal” in widowhood. Maybe others can comment with more expertise about feeling “guilty for loving again”. ( I can’t speak from experience because I haven’t loved again since Mike died… But, some of my amazing widowed friends who have says it’s ‘complicated’, but they also believe it’s worth it! #LOVE
  • Terri Wichman
    commented 2018-01-15 19:51:09 -0800
    I too was lost in my grief. It all happened so fast and it left me breathless and rutterless. What does a future of aloneness look like? Friends and family try to comfort and support you but after a time it seems burdensome to impose. Their lives have progressed a day at a time and mine was stuck on the same day, the day I became that word…. widow. Then after 3+ years I was knocked past that day by an unexpected gift in the form of love. The grief exists, but is now tempered with a new love that fills my heart. I sometimes feel guilty for loving again. I hope that is “normal”. Then again, I gave up on “normal” 3+ yrs ago.