Make Your Past

What do I think about on these Tuesday mornings, 3 ½ years after Megan died?  It’s a question that I generally ask myself on the way into work, in preparation for publishing some kind of anecdote, observation, or predicament here on Soaring Spirits, in the hopes that a person will read and experience a “me too” or “oh wow, I never thought of it that way”.  

I will go in circles in my head sometimes, trying to figure out if I can spin the daily reminders of Megan into something more meaningful.  We’ve got a daughter that looks very much like her mother. We live in the same home that Megan and I shared for 10 years. Hell, her ashes are in our dining room.  There is no escaping reminders of Megan.

I don’t know if it’s acclimatization, acceptance, or just plain old time, but none of it really triggers any strong emotions anymore.  Birthdays, anniversaries, and death dates, sure, those bring a heightened awareness of her being gone, but day-to-day routines are just that...routine.  Memories are still shared amongst those of us who knew her, but they don’t cause that awkward welling up most of the time. We’ve all moved forward with life in this third of a decade.  New spouses, new partners, new children, new jobs, and most of all, new memories.

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Smile

He loved my smile.

And, let me tell you, I smiled a lot because of him.

I loved my life - when he was in it. 

I wore my smile like a permanent accessory

because my life was beautiful.

Our joy permeated the air around us. 

Our laughter echoed off every one near us. 

Our words to one another were always heartfelt.

We looked at each other with a love that others could feel.

Our smiles were effortless.

Life was good,

And, this is an understatement. 

 

 

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Life with Mike was spontaneous and full of adventure.  When he was alive I couldn't wipe the smile from my face because the life we were building together was so breathtakingly beautiful.  We "had the world by the ass" as he would say.  Mike loved a good swear word and I know that's not everyone's cup of tea; but, we were coffee drinkers... it is what it is. 

Many of our joy filled conversations came complete with a few saucy swear words - thrown in for emphasis - because that's how he rolled.  He tended to speak colorfully because he literally couldn't contain his excitement.  Mike was so in love with life and everything around him that he just blurted things out.  The crazy things that would fly out of his mouth made my life.  He taught me how to live with wild abandon.  And, I'm better for it.

When he spoke, sometimes he could be a bit brash, but he got away with it because of his smooth delivery.  Once in a while the refined, cautious people would look at him sideways, or glance in my direction to confirm that their ears heard what he said.  I'd knowingly smile because everything he spoke was accurate, albeit somewhat uncouth.  Mike could always be counted on to state the unrefined truth.  He was bright.  He saw the world and the people in it exactly as they were.  And, Mike definitely wasn't uncomfortable calling out what he saw.  He taught me to speak the truth confidently.  And, again, I am better for it.

Mike was a talker and he knew how to say the most audacious things with a twinkle in his eyes.  He spoke with a simple honesty that was admirable and refreshing.  Essentially, he was impulsive; and, a big kid at heart.  Mike was animated and he had a larger than life personality.  He saw the world in a whimsical way.  It was a privilege for me to see life through his eyes.  With Mike, my life became bolder and more magical.  And, I am a better woman for sharing part of my life with him.

 

It was a wild ride wandering through life with him by my side.

Everyday,

from the moment my eyes opened,

I had a smile smeared across my face . 

Life was big and bold and fun with Mike. 

Together,

we were having the time of our lives. 

Smiling,

was as natural as breath. 

 

I miss living like this.  Our life was rich.  I have never lived with such enchantment in all my life.  I miss the rapture he gave me.  I miss the gush of excitement he brought to the ordinary.  I desperately miss how he made me laugh.  The depth of my laughter was different when I was with him.  I often wonder if I will ever laugh that way again.  I hope I do.  And, in truth, I know that I will because he won't have it any other way; and...

 

 

 

 

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Fearing More Loss

Death has been on my mind a lot the past week, and I don’t even know why. There haven’t been any major milestones or triggers. No birthdays of people who are dead. No death anniversaries. No real explanation, yet I’ve been unable to shake these shadowy figures in my mind. The haunting things I know will one day happen to more people I love. And to me. And it just plain sucks.

It could be something as small as not getting good sleep lately, or the muscle strain I’ve had in my neck for the past 3 weeks that won’t seem to subside… or even just the lingering winter weather that will not seem to go away here in Ohio.

I suppose the one thing that has been a trigger was an email from my aunt - giving me some old lab results about cancers my aunt and grandmother had. It's information I needed for sure, but still hard to swallow. They both survived their breast cancer, unlike my mom. Still though, it makes it very likely that either my sister or I, or both of us, will one day be told we have cancer too. It’s quite possibly the most terrifying thing imaginable to me... facing this particular disease showing up in some way in my life again...

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Opposing Teams

I became a NY Yankee fan in the 1990s, when I went to NYC for college. It was the Joe Torre era, and baseball in NY was exciting. Going to multiple games at Yankee Stadium with college friends, it was tough not to fall in love with it. When I started dating Don, my late husband, he wasn’t really into baseball. He said it was boring, and asked me how I could watch an entire game without falling asleep. I told him if he understood the strategy, it’s the furthest thing from boring.

When he moved to NY to start our life together, he understood. He became a huge Yankees fan too, bigger than I could have ever imagined. He was hooked. He would watch pre-game show, post-game show, and everything in between. When we watched a game together on TV, he would talk nonstop, analyzing the pitcher or hitters next move. It is a thinking man’s game, and my husband was a thinker. This was his sport. WE went to lots of Yankees games together. In NYC, in Florida during spring training - we had a blast, and so many memories. My love for the Yankees is my own, but it’s also very much connected to my relationship with Don. It was one of "our things" that we truly enjoyed together - a great Yankees game.

When he died, it took a long time for me to go back to my Yankees. At first, I watched an inning at a time. Or maybe two innings. Then I’d have to shut it off. It was too lonely without his commentary and back and forth conversation. After a while, I went back to Yankee Stadium. I went with good friends. We felt his spirit there, we felt him close. It was comforting.

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Bad Things Happening to Other People

Bad things use to be the things that happened to other people. I watched from a distance and thought that it is so unfortunate and poor them. I felt bad for them but I didn’t feel them. I had a sense of pity but I wasn’t empathetic. I wasn’t trying to be cold and I didn’t even think I was doing anything wrong. I just had a distance. It wasn’t happening to me. Other people had serious problems but they weren’t mine. I couldn’t relate.


Fast forward to today and I’m the opposite. I feel everything. I can’t stop myself from feeling. I remember a child crying for their mother the first week of kindergarten last year and instead of wishing they’d stop and enjoy all the fun that was in-front of them I felt a bit of their pain. I didn’t ask them to stop; I just acknowledged that I know that they miss their parents. That is a small example but it was my wake-up to the fact that I couldn’t separate myself from others’ pain anymore. It seemed to become a bit of my own even though I know I am not doing anything or relieving them in any way.



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The Last Dance

Shelby is nearing the end of her 5th grade year.  In just a few more months, she will be off to middle school.  All I have known of her for most of her life is that she is an elementary school student. Through the sickness, health, additional sickness, and death of her mother, she has never skipped a beat, still bringing home 3.0 or higher averages on every single report card.  Her thirst for learning is ever-present, and instead of telling her to put the video games down and do her chores, we have to rip her away from books. She is a very “easy” kid to parent, really.

But there are moments that occur in Shelby and I’s relationship that I know she does not fully grasp the levity of yet.  Moments that we share completely, yet that mean much more to me, as her young, inquisitive mind hasn’t asked the questions yet.  She is still innocent. Even with the loss of Megan, she hasn’t become skeptical or fallen into the sometimes detrimental mindfulness that causes many of we adults to “spiral”.  

So with that, Shelby and I’s last dance at the last father-daughter dance in her last year of elementary school was nothing more than a fun 3 minutes with her old man before moving on to her friends.  To me, it was a huge milestone.

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Joy Seeker

I have always looked for Joy.  I search for it everywhere I go.  Seeking Joy is like a treasure hunt; except, in this case, I don't have a map.  Honestly, I don't mind the lack of navigational tools because I have grown used to hurling myself into the unknown since he died.  With practice, I have become accustom to feeling lost.  Now, I am somewhat comfortable being without direction and guidance because I have lived this way for over 500 days. 

When you become a widow everything familiar is suddenly lost. The rituals and routines of your old life no longer mark the way.  As a widowed person you are forced to sail into uncharted waters.  It is incredibly daunting.  But, with time, you get used to it.  And, you can even begin to flourish in the open water. 

I am different because he died.  I am 'better' in some significant ways because of the devastation that I am living through; but, the price I paid for this growth is too steep.  No gain will ever be worth what I've lost.  But, there is no changing it.  Mike has died.  Wishing it was different does nothing to help me and it does not undo his death.  I have to stay the course and be grateful for the good things that I still have in my life. 

In a very real way, Mike's death has brought me closest to my true self.  His death is leading me to some place I need to go.  For a long time I believed that I was drifting aimlessly.  I assumed that I was lost, so I desperately searched for direction.  I was tirelessly drafting plans in my mind because I thought I had to "fix" my life.  I felt compelled to correct what had been wronged.  But, now I know that all my efforts were needless. 

There is a plan at work here; and, in order for this plan to be successful, I am not required to "fix" or do anything.  In fact, the best thing that I can do is step aside.  Before I realized all this, I was my biggest obstacle.  I was getting in my own way.  The truth is, I do not need to carefully map out my own journey.  With this realization, I no longer feel the need to control the direction of my sails.  I have stopped flailing in the water because I trust that something bigger than me is at work.  I believe that my best interests are being served.  I do not need to intervene because everything will work out as it is meant to.  In short, I have faith.  I know that I will be okay.   

The reality is, I am exposed as I float out in the open water.  Anything is possible.  I might be a lot of things, but I am not lost.  I am exactly where I am meant to be.  I may feel that I am without direction.  But, I am drifting directly towards my destination.  Everything is as it should be - I can feel it.  I am not required to do anything.  I don't have to steer in the right direction.  In fact, I have to do less, not more.  When Mike was alive he used to say "stay where you're at, I'll come where you are".  And, this is exactly what I need to do now. 

 

If I am drifting in the open sea,

Then, Mike is the water I am floating on. 

I am not drowning like I thought I was. 

He's got me.

I am being supported by the water. 

I am being lead to where I need to be. 

 

 

All I need to do is "stay where (I'm) at,  (because) he will come where I'm am."  I wish I remembered what Mike told me early.  This would have been a whole lot easier.  Nonetheless, I figured it out.  I remembered his promise; and, this has brought me a great deal of peace.  And, it's nice because I haven't felt peaceful in a long, long time...   

 

 

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Sleepless Nights

I don’t have them very often, but last night was a pretty sleepless night. My mind was going. I couldn’t seem to quiet it. Usually I can put on a podcast and be out in ten minutes… but every now and then I find myself listening to an entire podcast, and then another, barely managing to doze off at all...

Even though nowadays, my sleep is pretty much back to how it was before he died, sleepless nights still feel fragile. I guess they bring back the memory… the weight of the sadness through the nights. It reminds me of sleepless nights for an entire year after he died, when I didn’t sleep for more than 3 or 4 hours a night, ever. It reminds me of the heavy dread when I would manage to sleep and then wake, around 3 or 4am, and realize all over again that he was dead and it was in fact not just a bad dream.

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Detachment

I’ve never been so detached as I am currently.

 

Since Linzi’s left, the landscape of the dating world and my approach to it has endured a complete facelift.

 

I’m not sure quite yet if that’s a good or bad thing.

 

Right now, I’m only thinking of myself.

 

Casual sex has never been a concept to me. It is now.

 

I’ve always been the monogamous hopeless romantic who pursued a woman with the entirety of my soul and being, upholding the utmost of chivalry and gentlemanly mannerisms.

 

That version of me is missing. I’m not sure if I miss it...although it concerns if it should never return again.

 

Where is the me of yesteryear? Did he die with Linzi? Perhaps.

 

A new man has come forth, an odd mixture of the husband Linzi knew and an unrecognizable concoction of a man she never knew.

 

Whether or not the outcome of his actions will prove to be for better or for worse...only time will tell.

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My Husband Died and All I Got Was This Lousy Book

In July of 2011, my husband died, and I died too. Well, that version of me died.

About an hour after his death, after I had made the phone calls to immediate family and a few close friends – from a random bathroom inside the ER part of the hospital, sitting on the toilet after having just thrown up from shock – I sent my first Facebook status update about my husband being dead. I wrote it in words, so that everyone would know. I wrote about it in a brutally honest way. My post said “I don’t know what to do next.“

From there, Facebook posts became something of a comfort to me. My only way to reach out to lots of people all at once, and say how horrible this all was. I didn’t have a widowed community back then. I didn’t know what the hell that even was. I was 39 years old, and my world was gone.

Sometime around early 2012, my Facebook posts became a blog (ripthelifeiknew.com). People started saying I should write a book about the brutal realities of grief, the dark humors of it, and about my story in the aftermath. So at some point that year, I started writing and slowly shaping my book. I wanted to give him a legacy. I wanted to help people who are going through this. I wanted to share all the things that I learned the hard way while grieving – all the things nobody told me.

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