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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Quality Time

The way the math works is that Shelby was born eleven and a half years ago.  Megan died when she was seven, and Sarah came into our lives when Shelby was eight.  That means that Sarah has had approximately half the time, at this point, that Megan had with Shelby.  A third of Shelby’s life has been with Sarah.

Somehow, Sarah and I got into a conversation about this a few days ago, and it really got me thinking.  Though Megan had double the time so far, it doesn’t necessarily mean she got the “better” years.

Sure, Sarah did not get to witness Shelby’s first steps.  She wasn’t there for her first words, or her first day of school.  Shelby learned to read without ever having known Sarah existed. Trips to Myrtle Beach, Maine, and the Great Smokies are all Memories that Megan and Shelby shared, and that Shelby still reminisces about.  

Sarah never changed her diaper, or made a bottle for her, or fed her disgusting strained peas in a high chair.  She wasn’t around when Peanut had her first school presentation, or got to walk in a parade.

Ultimately, she didn’t give birth to Shelby.

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Weak at the Knees

How do I bring the girl he fell in love with back to life?

I miss her.

I am working on rebuilding myself.

And, the new version of me is different.

I am changed not by choice, but by design.

 

 

 

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Not all of me survived his death.  But, the core of who I am and who he loved still remains.  So, here I am using the bones of my old self as the foundation on which to recreate myself and my life.  And, it is fair to say, like with any remodel, the new me will be better equipped and improved. 

 

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The New Stove

Every now and then something seemingly ordinary happens in our widow lives that has so much more meaning. Something that other people would really not think anything of. I had one of these a few weeks ago, when the glass top on our stove cracked.

This was a stove that my new person, Mike, and his late-wife, Megan, had in their house for a decade. A stove that was at the center of a lifetime of meals and memories in their household. And there it was, one evening after making dinner, I noticed something… a huge crack that ran all the way across the top of the glass top surface. After hopeful research, we were both frustrated to learn that a cracked glass top is completely unsafe to keep using.

It wasn’t a particularly triggery or upsetting thing for Mike… he doesn’t tend to go hunting out the symbolic meaning of ordinary household appliances the way I do. This was merely a minor extra annoyance in our life for him. And let’s face it, having to drop everything on your day off to go unexpectedly  hunting for a stove bargain was not exactly something exciting or pivotal. Except that for me, it kind of was...

I was very aware, it was a moment in time we were sharing something major. Something that both of us "should" have been doing with someone else who isn't here anymore. That together, here we were, in the midst of our "plan B" journey - with a new milestone of adult life.

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I Cannot Be That Person

It is Thursday evening, and in the morning, around 7:30am, my boyfriend of almost one year, will be having surgery. It's not life-threatening surgery or anything, (hernia operation) but my "sudden death widow anxiety brain" is screaming at me otherwise. I have been thinking about all of the things that could go wrong, thinking about sudden death, thinking about all of it. He will probably and most likely be fine and okay and life will go on. But I am a widow of sudden death, and so my knowing that someone can be taken from you in an instant, when you least expect it, is impossible to un-know. 

On top of that, I have the story of my own sudden death loss, but also all the many widowed friends I have met over the years, and all THEIR stories of minor surgeries gone wrong, freak accidents, doctors making mistakes, on and on and on. I will be driving him to the hospital in the morning, staying there by his side , waiting in the waiting room while he has the procedure, and getting him back home whenever they release him. He also gave me the numbers for all his family members and people close to him, for me to text and call and let them all know the updates. I am the "point person", and I will do it gladly, because I love him, and he is my person. 

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Truth in a Weedwacker

Truth 1: I had never used a power tool to cut the grass at my house (up until this week).

Truth 2: I worked 2 (or was it 3 summers?) as a city worker cutting the grass using only power tools.  

Truth 3: I own some kind of fancy weedwacker that has hung in my garage for over 2 years now.

When I read the above statements I think they sound ridiculous together. It really makes no sense. I have a perfectly fine tool and am more than capable of using it but I let it just stay there untouched. But those are the facts and that’s how it has been. I guess I’ve let it be difficult.

When Mike and I lived together he cut the grass. I occasionally used our push mower but rarely since it was his domain. It was never that I couldn’t do it. I think it was more a play on how we felt like we were “playing house” in our happy little world. He decided to take it on I think in a mimic of a traditional old school male role. About a week or two before he died he bought this fancy weedwacker thing. He showed it to me with pride explaining the features. We joked about us being real adults and “making it” since we now owned this thing. He said, “okay, I’m going out to cut the ol’ grass honey” in this joking voice (he never really called me honey) and out he laughed.

2 days before he died he cut the grass. He left heaps of all the wet green grass on the weedwacker as he hung it up in the garage. Shortly after he died, the weedwacker taunted me. The grass on it was still green and the work was still fresh but he was gone. It just didn’t make sense. I couldn’t process it. He was just there. The grass on the weedwacker proved it.

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