My Favorite Song


Music was always playing in both our homes. 

And, now there are certain songs that bring me back to a better place in time. 

A time, when Mike was alive

A time, when I was in love with a man who stood before my eyes. 

Our familiar songs take me back to a place in time where he exists.

A time, when he breathed life and love into me. 

A time, not so long ago, when he existed in the same dimension as me.

Somewhere, in another place,

He still holds his memories of me,

And, when he hears his favorite songs, he comes and quietly puts his arms around me.

And, he dances with me in the backyard, under the light of the moon and the stars.

Now, I just wish I could feel him the way I used to...

 

Even after 581 days, the lyrics and melodies of our songs take me right back his comfortable, little kitchen.  I close my eyes and I can live those sweet moments between us over, and over again.  I have memorized how, with authority, he pushed back his chair from the kitchen table.  How he stood with confidence, firmly planted.  How he patiently waited as he held out his hand to me.  That moment is suspended somewhere in time.  And, how I so desperately wish I could reach out and take his hand in mine again, for one last dance.

I know exactly how my hand felt falling into his.  I can still feel his strong hand holding mine.  I know the way his wide fingers gently lace through mine.  I know the touch of him, and I always will... 

And, even now, I know the way Mike pulled me into him.  I know the exact way it felt as he took me in his arms and moved me toward him.  I know how my body blended into his as he held me to his chest.  Often, when he pulled me to him, he would bend down and press his forehead to mine; then, he'd stand tall and look into my eyes.  After a moment, he'd whisper to me "Stace, you make me so happy.  I love you - so - much".  My ears know the precise inflection of his voice as he pronounced each of these words to me.  I know this moment because I've lived it again and again in my mind for the last year and seven months.

With love in his heart, Mike lead me around the well worn wooden floor of his modest kitchen.  And, while the music softly played, we danced.  Magically, we became the only two people in the world.  Today, I can still ‘feel’ Mike dancing with me like it’s happening right this moment.  My hand in his.  My head resting gently on his chest - as all of me falls into him. 

What I wouldn’t do to feel him again.  What I wouldn’t do to feel his arms around me one last time.  Sometimes, I miss him so  desperately that I hold my hands out in front of me and I ask him to dance with me.  Dammit, what I wouldn't give to feel his hand press softly into the small of my back.  I would love one last dance with the man I love.  

Certain songs take me back to a time when he casually sat on the porch by my side.  If that back porch could talk;  oh the stories it’d tell.  Our short, sweet love story unfolded right there.  There was no one but us.  It felt as though the world stopped.  And, it was only us under the light of the moon. 

I remember how we talked many a night away with a passion that is usually reserved for teenagers.  And, sometimes, if I close my eyes, I can still feel that same cool summer breeze blow against me. And, in this breeze, I feel Mike beside me. 

In the ordinariness of those nights, I fell in love with him.  It wasn't the fancy dinners or the beautiful places he took me that won my heart.  Nope, it was him.  It was the easy to please farm kid who I fell in love with.  It was his company on those balmy summer nights that stole my heart.  It was his warm, heartfelt smile that shone in the twilight hour, it was the kindness in his voice that rang out in the darkness.  It was his authentic laugh that reeled me in.  It was all him.  It was how he kept company with me, leaning into every word I spoke.  To my Mike, there was no one else; and, there was nowhere else he'd rather be. He was content. And, he was madly in love with me.   I was loved with every piece of his heart and Soul.  And, dammit I miss his love.  I miss being loved so completely and purely.  It was a beautiful life, and a beautiful love...

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Waiting in the Wings

This past week was the 6th anniversary of his death. I wrote last week about this, and what would have been our 9th anniversary together the week before. I will always hate that these two dates are a week apart. It’ll always piss me off to have to have my anniversary of celebrating our love so closely linked to when he died. But it is what it is I guess...

The week of our anniversary proved to be a lot harder this year that I’d expected. Harder than the anniversary of his death, which turned out to be pretty okay really. But our anniversary, nope, a lot of tears and just an overall sadness and wanting to withdraw for days. Still, it’s easier than it used to be. I will never forget the excruciating sadness and anxiety those first few years. The horrible hollow feeling when I first realized that no one else cares about your anniversary but the two of you… and thusly no one else remembers it or honors it. So you are alone then more than on any other day.

My new partner, Mike, has brought a lot of joy back to these hard days though. The first year I dated him, we were long-distance, but happened to be visiting each other when my anniversary with Drew fell. Mike took me out for a nice dinner that night, to a fancy restaurant. We got all dressed up and enjoyed a beautiful romantic evening. It was so surreal to be out with another man on that particular night for the first time ever… and even more surreal that it wasn’t upsetting or awkward at all. It felt beautiful. It felt like I’d found this new person who wasn’t afraid to celebrate both our love and the love I had before. He got that it was a part of me. It surprised me, no doubt, how easy it could be to actually have these two worlds in some way meshing into one new life...

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Navigating My New Normal

It’s been 7 shorts weeks since I lost my Partner of 4 yrs. – Clayton, or as my family calls him “Tin”.  Right now I am sitting, ironically, at the Atlanta airport on a layover to go home to Boston for my cousin’s wedding. Tin and I met in Atlanta and left the city to move to the beach, get married and make a life. Everyone has been saying “Great! You get to see your family!” “You need a break!” “Have a great vacation!” They are right that I do need a break, but as I type these words I am deeply terrified. This visit will be a hurricane of emotional tests and trials.

Last year I lost my father at the end of this very month. I haven’t been home since. Shortly after, Tin was diagnosed with terminal liver failure. My mother was the only family member who could come down when Tin passed so I am about to walk into a tidal wave of in-person condolences that normally happen much sooner for others. Not having seen anyone else, the weak scars of seven weeks healing will undoubtedly be torn open. I feel like Dante beginning his journey through the Inferno. This plane is a ride on the boat crossing the river of the damned. I see the other side and along the banks are demons whispering dreaded questions that people ask to show support only to be used by my demons as worded weapons. Dante’s Inferno is my favorite book. I guess knowing that Dante eventually leaves Inferno provides me with a bit of hope that someday I too may reach Paradiso.

I had to consciously choose to go up three days before the wedding so I could get the “I’m so very sorrys” over before the wedding but there will be people I won’t get to see before hand.  I’m preparing myself for the words “How are you?” “Are you angry, because it’s ok to be angry?” “Have you moved on?” The only answer I have:

I am utterly heartbroken and there is no other way to explain it.

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All the Responsibilities

The last little bit has been very busy for me. I have report cards due at school tomorrow and I’ve been sick (again). I’m finally getting over it but I’ve fallen behind in the things I need to do. So I’m writing this at 10:00 pm at night, just after finishing report cards, which is not like me but I haven’t had any other time. Not to mention that there’s still everything around my house that needs to get done and it’s just sitting there waiting for me. It’s times like these (among many other times) that I feel alone.

I guess it really has to do with living alone. I alone am the only one responsible for managing my house, cooking, cleaning, Tango (my dog) and taking care of me (extra credit to the widows doing it also taking care of young kids). Gone are the days of, “I am swamped at work, would you be able to figure out dinner tonight?” or “I’m not feeling well, can you take Tango out today?” If I don’t do it then it doesn’t get done. It’s a lot to do and it’s overwhelming at times. David and my family help me when they can but it’s not the same ownership or shared responsibility as sharing the house.  I know I could ask for more help but I know everyone is busy with their own lives and I really don’t want to bother anyone with silly little things. Plus, it’s not like I’m the first person ever to live on her own. I just had the advantage (or disadvantage?) of knowing how it could be different and shared and so now it’s hard not to think of that.

I do sometimes pretend to ask Mike to do things for me when I feel like this but really, that’s my crazy, tired widow coming out. Like knowing there will be no response, I’ll say,  “hey Mike, do you think you could take a turn watering the plants today?” or “I cleaned the washrooms, could you vacuum the floor?” And then I half laugh to myself because what else is there to do when you’re overwhelmed and tired talking to yourself/dead husband about stupid, unimportant chores? It just solidifies that if I don’t do it then it doesn’t get done.

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Your Death, My Amnesia

You exist in my world in all the ways you existed when you breathed the air that I breathed.

And none of them.

Your image is finally strong again in my mind and heart.

I didn’t remember it for almost 5 years.

I didn’t feel you.

I didn’t see you.

You disappeared from me that night you took your last breath.

The night I took my last breath, in so many ways.

It was as if I had sudden amnesia.

Memories….gone.

You…gone.

What had it felt like to be held by you?

Kissed by you?

To have you hold my hand?

Had you been real those 24 years?

Or were you a figment of my imagination?

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A Friend I Never Knew

As luck would have it, today is Tuesday, my day to post my rambling here on Soaring Spirits.  It is also the 6th anniversary of Drew’s crash, and the 4th trip around the sun since I began getting to know him.  Through stories told by Sarah, his parents, and his friends, I’ve made a friend...a sort of widow pen-pal, in a way.

It’s odd, really, how often Sarah says things like “Drew really picked you”, often in a sarcastic tone when I’m being a deliberate goof.  We have as many similarities as we do differences. His friends are my friends, and I enjoy hanging out with all of them. In fact, they are all coming to Ohio to visit next week...6 of them in a tiny 2 bedroom, 1 bath house with the three of us.  That will be fun for 4 days.

I truly feel as if Drew was a friend of mine.  I don’t have quite the stinging sense of loss that his friends and family had, obviously.  Just the same, there is a huge desire to have known him personally and in the flesh.

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Single Seat

 

My son graduated on Friday.  It was a good day. 

His graduation is not about grief.  But, just like everything in my life, his graduation got me thinking about Mike.  And, I feel incredibly guilty because not everything has to do with Mike.  Except that it does - for me.

I purposefully avoided social media this weekend because I didn't want to see photos of happy families celebrating their children.  My family feels incomplete now; and, I didn't want to observe what I no longer have.  It is beyond difficult to live on the outskirts of my old life.  I constantly ache for what I've lost.  And, especially during family events and celebrations, I desperately want what I no longer have. 

What I've lost was loudly pronounced at my son's graduation.  And, I know that some others who gathered also felt their own sense of incompleteness and discontentment.  But, at the time, this was little comfort to me. 

I am keenly aware that life has unfolded differently than planned for many people, not just me.  I am not unique in this; and, I know that I am in good company.  I acknowledge and I understand that many of the people who sat in proximity to me were also grieving all sorts of different things.  I wasn't the only person feeling out of sorts at this joyous occasion.  I could sense many heavy hearts hidden behind smiles. 

In the crowd, there were a lot of blended families.  Many men and women came to the convocation ceremony because they are in love with the mother or father of a child that isn't biologically their own.  And, many of these people love that child, like their own.  As I sat in my seat, I wished Mike was there with me, taking his position like the other step-parents were.  He should have been there celebrating and loving a child that wasn't his.  But, well, he's not like the other step-parents.  Mike is dead. 

 

 He can't occupy the seat next to me anymore. 

But, I know he can still love my sons. 

And, that has to be enough.  In fact, it's more than enough.

Love is enough.

  

The convocation ceremony was about the students and their achievements; but really, more importantly, it was an event about LOVE.  Family gathered together to celebrate children that are loved by them and who love them.  Love was present all around me.  It was tangible.  And, because the person I am in love with died, I sat alone.  I know this is blunt; but, there isn't a way to pretty it up.  I am not writing in a tone of pity.  The words are not meant to be overly dramatic or sad.   This was a family event; and, again, Mike was not there.  And, at all future events and milestones, he will be absent as well.  I wish it was different.  But, nothing can change it.  It is what it is. 

Never in a million years did I think this would be my life.  Sure, I know that I am not the only divorced person who attended the graduation of their child - on their own.  And, I also know that I am not the only widowed person who attended their child's graduation - alone.   I am however someone who understands these people.  I know, like me, they didn't imagine their life like this.  I know they didn't expect to be sitting alone celebrating their children's milestones. 

 

There is naturally a strong kinship among those of us who occupy single seats

because we understand what others can not understand. 

 

 

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This said, I am truly happy for the "normal" families who sat together to love on their child; but I guess, if I am being completely honest, I am sad for me and my son.  We don't fit neatly into that life anymore.  I am divorced.  And, I am widowed.  And, our family isn't picture perfect.   This was obvious and very palpable at my son's graduation.

 

 

My son's father and I are happily divorced. 

He attended our son's graduation by himself too. 

We didn't sit together, but we joined together to celebrate our son. 

And, this is a really big thing that deserves acknowledgement.   

I am grateful that love is stronger than endings ~ in death, and in divorce too. 

 

 

 

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Twice as Long and Loving On

Yesterday would have been my 9th anniversary with my fiance. Instead, we got 3 years. Instead, it was my 6th anniversary without him, and a reminder that I've now been without him for twice as long as I was with him. I didn't even think about those numbers leading up to this week… it wasn't until the day hit that I realized it was twice as long. And it punched me in the gut.

I've spent days fighting a kind of numb sadness. So much so that this is actually the first time I didn't share anything on Facebook or anywhere else about our anniversary. I just quietly let it be here and let it pass. I just didn't feel like having everyone on all of social media commenting. It's odd, but instead of wanting to make certain everyone else remembered him and this day, I just didn't care, because I remember it and that's what matters. In a way, it felt nice to allow it to be private. I just didn't feel like having to say some grand statement. It is what it is. He’s gone and it sucks, again, just like this week sucks every years… and I'm sad, and I don't feel like including the whole of social media in that right now.

His death anniversary is in less than a week too, so I'm sure I will share something next week, but this week… this week is for me.

Somehow hitting 6 years of death isn't the number that bothers me. It's the other… knowing we would have been together for nine whole years by now. We would have been reaching closer to that exciting new chapter of having been together for a decade. Something that so many other people in their mid thirties can say they've achieved - including my new partner - but I cannot.

It really sucks to have had to reset that clock. And it's hard not to be sad and a bit numb this week, as my heart longs to joyfully tell someone “Happy Nine Years!!! Look how far we've come!” Only he isn't here to tell it to. And we've now had six years of a life we didn't get to live.

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Getting Out of My Own Way

I have always thought of myself as an adventurous person. I have never enjoyed sitting still and I enjoy trying new things and exploring. I love being outdoors in nature and a little bit of adrenaline. That being said, I would like to emphasize that I wrote that I like just a little bit of adrenaline. Not too much at any point. I like being in control.

After Mike died I realized I never really had all the control I thought I had. I had to go the flow. I had no control over the most important part of my life and I didn’t have the motivation or reason to try to gain it in other parts either.

I also understood the cliché that life is short. I realized that my life could be over at any point and I questioned if I was really experiencing it the way I wanted. I constantly asked myself: Would I be satisfied with myself and what I’ve done if my life ended today? My answer was often ‘no.’ I found that in many areas I was so cautious that I wasn’t really experiencing what I wanted to experience. I was so afraid of failing, or being embarrassed, or hurting myself that I held myself back and didn’t allow myself to fully enjoy the experiences I wanted. I was living but not to my full potential. I didn’t want to do that anymore. I figured that I would rather have a life lived to the fullest then have a long cautious life full of nothing. What’s the point of being alive until you’re old if you never really lived? It seemed all of a sudden like such an obvious waste.

So I started to make an effort to get out of my own way. I accepted my nerves and anxiousness and pushed myself out of my comfort zone to do the things I wanted to do. I told myself that I am capable and I can do it.  Some things were baby steps and some things were diving right in. For example, I have snowboarded for years but would constantly stop myself to slow down even though I had the skills to go faster. I pushed harder and challenged myself in all the things I enjoyed. It was exhilarating. I realized I was previously stuck in a middle ground of doing things but not fully doing them for years. It wasn’t until I started pushing and challenging myself a bit that I realized how amazing it all was and what I had been missing. I’m glad I took the risks.

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These Shades of Pink

Chuck wants me to tell you he wouldn’t leave you without a road map. He wants you to be aware of the markers he’s left for you, both physical and metaphysical.

Whatever you’re doing, keep on doing it. You’re on the right track.

Did you know that you’re surrounded by so many angels that I can’t even count them? You’re protected.

These are just some of the words I’ve heard from people along my Odyssey of Love, who have sought me out, on the roadside, in stores, in meetings. People who don’t know me, who have no idea of my story. 

They have sought me out to bring me messages from Chuck and about my Odyssey.

I’ve also heard from people, earlier on, who said completely different things to me.  I’m 5 years into this widowhood now, and these things were primarily said to me in my 3rd year. Seemingly, there is a limited amount of empathy to be given and after a certain point, one must be…I’m not sure what.

Are you depressed? You might be depressed. Maybe you need medication.

Don’t you want to be happy? It’s a choice, you know. You have to choose to be happy. Don’t you want to feel joy again?

Why do you call yourself a widow? You’re more than that, you know.

So, here’s what I know, 5 years in.

Chuck did leave me a road map. And there have been markers all along the way of my Odyssey of Love.  They have shown up to me as Love. From people I meet along the road, the workamping jobs I’ve found, and the words that he spoke in his years on this earth that I live by; suit up and show up and let the day unfold.

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