I Live for Love

Most weeks, when I write my Wednesday contribution, I have little to no idea of what I might write. What I need to write.

I think, as I start, okay, I’m going to write about this, and I open the document and my fingers still over the keyboard because, nope, that’s not what I need to write about.

I allow my mind to go blank.

I turn on what I call my writing music.

My muse, so to speak.

It’s music that Chuck and I used to listen to. Or music that I’ve discovered since his death, that fills my heart in some way that has no words.

Tears fall. Frequently.

Or I think that I have nothing to say this week. Nothing to offer you.

What is there to say after 5 years of widowhood, right?

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Now What?

With hindsight, I know that there is no way I could have better prepared for what has been required of me since Mike died.  Widowhood is something you have to live to fully understand.  There is no way to adequately explain this life in words.  It is  something that has to be experienced first hand to be comprehended. 

This being the case, there is a strong kinship among those in the widowed community because our hearts speak the same language.  We speak in fairly simple, yet carefully chosen words.  The dialect of this 'language' can not be learned or interpreted -  because it is not understood unless you are one of us.  The aching inside us, the emptiness within us, and the sadness in our eyes is spoken in Grief's mother tongue.  Widowed people do not need an interpreter.  In fact, we often have the exact same tone in our voices .  We can easily recognize what is said by others who are fluent in grief.  And, maybe, more importantly, we hear what is not spoken by those who have lost the one they love.  In short, we understand one another without words because there really are no words to adequately explain widowhood and how gutting it is.  

Grief itself has many shared characteristics no matter who you are.  The feelings of grief do not discriminate by gender, race or socio-economics.  I believe that the emotions of grief are somewhat universal.  Yet, our own grief is unique to each of us.    It's ours.  No one person feels the exact same way about losing their person. 

We widowed people understand one another without words or explanation because we have lived through those lonely nights that we thought would swallow us whole.  We have nearly crawled out of our skin yearning for the touch of our person.  We have gasped for breathe because of the permanence of our situation.  Their absence is forever - for the rest of our lives - and this changes everything about our future.  Hence, we have been brought to our knees.  We have laid on the cold, hard floor sobbing and wishing this was not our reality.  We each know exactly how these things feel because we have done these things many, many times since they died.  Thankfully, grief is fluid.  The rawness of grief changes with time; but surviving the initial months of grief is something that is etched into your Soul.  Outliving the person you love is something that changes you forever...

 

As time goes on, my grief has softened around the edges; and, for the most part, I appear to be "okay" - except that I'm not.  And, recently, I have accepted that this is the way life is for me right now.  And, I am okay - that I'm not okay. 

 

I think that this is part of grief - to just accept that you are changed and working towards a future that you can't yet imagine.  In grief, one must just breathe and have faith that things will work out - eventually.  I now know that there is nothing I can do to "heal" myself - other than just live.  I have to live the best way I can, and I must learn to forgive myself when I exist poorly some moments.  Ironically, whether I like it or not, Mike's death is teaching me about living.  (It is what it is.)

Recently,  I find that I am continuously lost in my own thoughts.  I spend hours imagining the future that we wanted to live together.  I spend far too much time wishing things were different.  And, I also spend a lot of time convincing myself that this is actually real. 

 

He is dead.  He is dead.  He is really dead. 

And, nothing can change it. 

I say these words to myself again and again,

Because, one year and seven months later,

Mike's death is still surreal to me. 

Maybe it always will be...

 

I can not believe how drastically different my life is without him.  All day long I ask myself  "NOW WHAT?" ...   What the hell am I supposed to do without him?  I don't have the answer.  I have more questions than answers and I think that's okay for right now.  It has to be.

 

 

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An Unexpected Return Home

Well I made it. I made it through the first wedding since Tin passed only two months ago and it was followed by the next day being the first Father’s Day without my father. There were times I couldn’t hold back the tears and times I couldn’t catch my breath. I felt like a stranded fish. How ironic to be a crying stranded fish that needs salt water to breathe but the water is blurring you vision instead of spilling over your gills. I made it through the night with the fun songs, the heartbreaking songs that meant joy to all the others in the room, the condolences from family that haven’t seen me since Tin passed and catching myself rubbing my own palm and realizing I was just hoping to feel Tin take my hand. It’s not just losing the person it’s losing all the plans you had with that person and watching other people be rewarded with what you have lost.

The plane ride home was going well until I fell asleep. Dreams of the plane crashing, my apartment being robbed while I was gone and “Oh my God is my dog safe?”. What would I do if Roan was gone? I need to get home and the panic sets in. I move forward and jolted awake startling the guy in the seat next to me realizing I was locked 10,000 ft. from the answers to cure my panic. Of course everything was fine and Roan was tail wag crazy but as I returned home so did the stomachaches and dark clouds I had been carrying before my trip. It was an unexpected return home to realize how lonely and depressed I was. Skip it and go to bed. Work in the morning.

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And What Are the Chances of That?

Another school related story today. So much seems to come up at work. One more week and I’m on holidays though so this might be the last one for now!

Our last unit in Math is on probability. The expectation for the grade ones is that they need to understand and identify scenarios that are certain, impossible, likely, and unlikely. Do you see where I’m going with this? Right from the start my mind is preoccupied with the likelihood of being widowed at 27. Unlikely. Yet it happened. Not impossible. But when I think of the word unlikely I don’t frame it in terms of things that might happen. I frame it in terms of things that probably won’t happen. And when I think of things that probably won’t happen then I pretty much stop thinking of them because, well, it probably won’t happen. That makes sense to me and apparently many others as well since when you look up “unlikely” in the (google) dictionary the synonyms that come up are: implausible, unrealistic, inconceivable, far-fetched and the list goes on. Unlikely events are simply dismissed because it is thought that they won’t happen.  However, that also doesn’t sit well in my brain now. Because then where does that leave my thinking when something that is highly unlikely to happen, so unlikely that you don’t think of it, actually happens? Again, I know that the actual outcome can be different than predicting the probability but still, that’s not how I thought of it.

What I do think and feel is cheated. I feel like “unlikely” was actually supposed to mean close to impossible which it certainly does not. It never did mean that in the first place. It was just made up that way in my mind. It feels like unlikely meant almost impossible for me but maybe slightly more likely for someone else that I don’t know somewhere off in a distant place. It also does not mean that. It means exactly as it is presented - not likely to happen but it still could. I had just cut out the last part that it could happen.

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The New Crew

Tomorrow, Wednesday, is officially the beginning of “Drewfest” 2018.  It’s an annual summer get-together of Drew’s friends, usually taking place somewhere in Texas, with the specific goal of having a fun weekend together as if he was still around, yet remembering he’s not.  It’s a great endeavor, and one that in and of itself should be celebrated.

This year, the party comes to Ohio.  Sarah’s best friend will be arriving from L.A. in the afternoon, with 5 others arriving from Texas on Thursday.  9 people. In an 1100 square foot home. 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, and 2 dogs. It will be a far cry from Drew’s parents’ ranch, and will be interesting for sure.

Regardless, Sarah and I are beyond excited to have everyone come to our home, so far from where Drew had ever even travelled.  We’ve spent months preparing. Home improvements, cleaning, craft projects, decorating our little deck with a “pirate” theme, and even cobbling together a “new” deck out of pallets and bits we had lying around.  At this point, there is still so much more to do before tomorrow, and we’ve been going flat out.

And I realize I haven’t even thought much about Megan lately.

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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 to 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.  It felt as though the world stopped and there was no one but 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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