My Beloved

My beloved,

How thin, or thick, is the veil

Between your world and mine?

Is there a world for you?

Or did you just disappear into nothingness?

Are there alternative worlds in which

You and I exist at a different time?

Still together, still living our lives,

Living and loving passionately,

Instead of me, living here, alone,

Feeling all that nothingness that it seems you disappeared into?

Are there worlds beyond the one where we were together?

Is there a world where we’ll be together again,

Or was what we had here, all that will be?

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1273

1,273 days.  

 

That’s how long I have been a widower, as of this very moment.  It’s an arbitrary number...over 1,000, not quite 1500. Not an even number, nor a prime number.  It doesn’t signify a specific milestone or even an approaching one. It’s just Tuesday, 1,273 days since Megan’s death.  

I’ve now been through 3 of her birthdays, 3 anniversaries, 4 Mothers’ days, and 4 Christmases.  Shelby is 4 grades ahead in her schooling, Megan’s brother is married, with two children, and I’m closer to 40 than 30.  I’ve met and fallen in love with a wonderful woman that is now just as much part of our family as Megan was, and as much a mother to Shelby.  There are at least 1,273 things that have happened since her death. I’ve mowed the lawn probably 80 times. I’ve went to work for 800 or so days.  The trash has been taken out on sunday 180 times, and we’ve bought at least 45 bags of dog food. I’ve hiked over 100 miles. Many of these things are significant as it relates to widowerhood, most of them not.

On second thought...they’re all significant.

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Mothers. It's Complicated.



Mothers.  It's complicated.

Being a mother.  Having a mother.  Not having a mother.

It's all complicated.

The truth is Mother's Day can be a lousy day a lot for some people for various and unique reasons.

Not everyone has a mother on earth.

Some have a mother who is alive, but absent from them.

Some are truant by choice; others are not present because of geography.

And, it must be acknowledged that not everyone is a mother.

Some are not mothers by choice; others are without children by fate.

Further, not every mother has her child here with her on earth...

And, not everyone has a mother who is emotionally available to them.

Not everyone has the mother they wanted.

And, some are not the mothers they want to be.

There is guilt.

There is love.

Mothers.  It's complicated.

 

Many of us are walking down broken roads we never expected to be on.  Days like Mother's Day can pronounce what we've lost, what we want, or what we never had.  Days like Mother's Day can enunciate what is missing in our lives.  I am fortunate.  I have children and I celebrated Mother's Day with them.  I know this is a luxury that not every mother has.  So, why did I still feel unsettled? 

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You Have Been my Best Surprise

This amazing little girl came into my life quite unplanned 3 years ago… when I hadn’t even expected to find love again, much less a child. Now I’m waking up on mother’s day morning, and I am the one being celebrated. This is still so surreal to me.

Of all of the hard or scary things in my life, this is one that I chose. I didn’t choose to lose Drew, or my parents. Or a lot of other hard or scary things in my life… But I did choose to be in this little girl’s life after she lost her own mother - and after her dad lost his beautiful fierce wife. And I now know that this choice was going to require all of me and then some… in a way I couldn’t have understood before diving in. This choice was going to change everything.

It has changed the way I view all of the mothers in my life… my mother who raised me until she died when I was 9, and all the surrogate moms that I have had since then who have stepped in to guide and love me. It’s changed my appreciation for each of those mothers in my world, and deepened my understanding of their choice to be in my life. It’s deepened my relationship to my sister, as a mother of three strapping boys, and just how incredible of a job she has done in raising them.

I think before this little surprise came into my world, I had a certain amount of resentment for everything related to motherhood - because my own mom was no longer here. I avoided Mother’s Day. I had a difficult time really being around moms and their children. I disliked kids mostly. I didn’t even want kids. I felt cheated out of my own childhood and wanting nothing to do with other children. I still do have some resentment to some degree really, and probably always will a little bit.

This little person has helped me with that resentment in ways she cannot fathom right now. Being able to give her my love in the absence of her mom also gives something back to the little girl in me.

I could have never imagined that my fiance’s death would lead me here… or that his leaving my life would bring healing to parts of my heart that I thought could never be healed. It turns out, they could be, but not by him. And not by my new partner… only by this little surprise, now 11, and growing taller by the day as she buries herself in the fantastical worlds of books and runs fabulous 5K’s.

Still though, it’s not easy...

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Losing a Friend

So the book I have been writing about my husband's death, and life in the aftermath, is finished. It is now in editing, and should be ready for publication for July 13th. One of the sections in the book is called "Words About Don", where I asked a handful of his close friends and family to write up a few words/couple of paragraphs or so, about a memory, or what Don meant to them, or anything they felt like saying about Don Shepherd. I have been receiving the last of these writing pieces over the past few weeks, to be added to my draft. Yesterday, I received one from Don's very best friend - his EMS partner on the ambulance for years out in Florida, and his Best Man at our wedding. This man and his wife drove 24 hours from Florida to New Jersey, on very short notice, to be there at Don's funeral and honor him. They were the kind of friends who felt like and thought of each other as brothers. 

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Pretty Lucky

I’ve heard that when you feel you are struggling with your writing it is because you are writing what you think you should write instead of what you truly feel. I can’t find the actual quote right now (it was much more eloquent than that) but that idea has been on my mind for a while. Since I saw it really. I’ve wanted to write and share about something but I’ve been nervous. Anxious for a whole bunch of reasons. Nervous that it’s too easy and good to be true. That it’ll soon disappear. Anxious because I’m less cautious than I use to be and although I like it I’m still getting used to myself. Nervous because with change comes emotions and more changes and I’m adjusting.

But at the same time, I want to share. It’s what is on my mind a lot and it’s hard to write about other things when it’s not really what I’m thinking about. I’ve mentioned here and there about it but not really fully shared.

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Love, In Time

Where, my Beloved, did you go,
That long-ago night when you left me?
Where did you go,
That darkest of nights forever ago,
But yesterday?
Watching as your chest quivered in and out,
Until it quite simply…didn’t.
And my heart that was your heart that was my heart again, and yours,
Shattered and splintered,
Even as it crystalized into nothingness and everything.
Even as my traitorous mind went blank, searching for memories of you and I and us.
Frozen in time.

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How-to: Mother's Day

As Mother’s Day approaches, I always tend to think of Megan a bit more.  Many everyday things become somehow intertwined with a memory or anecdote about her, simply because she was Shelby’s mother.  Even mowing the lawn brings thoughts about the fact that she had to close all of the windows in the house due to the smell of fresh cut grass making her cough.

Megan is never far from Shelby or I’s memory.  If I had a nickel for every time Shelby began a sentence with “Remember when mom...” I’d be a millionaire.  She hasn’t seemed to look any deeper into Megan’s death than humorous stories or zombie jokes though. I mean, she’s only 11.  Her mom has been gone for almost 4 years now, and her biggest concerns are getting to ride her bike and the newest novel in the book series she’s reading being released to stores.

It makes me wonder when the other shoe is going to drop.

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Let it Ride

I love how Mike was made.  He was a good man.  He was solid.  Kindhearted.  Bold in character, and strong in spirit.  He stood with confidence.  When he walked in a room the energy changed.  Mike commanded attention in a very unassuming way.  There was a certain authority in everything he did, yet there was a gentleness to him that you could see in his eyes.  He made fast friends everywhere he went.  I witnessed again and again as people were drawn to his warmth.  He had a smile that would light up a room; and, there was an easy, charismatic way about him that felt genuine and true. 

Mike was easy to love.  To know him, was to love him.   

Mike loved life and the people he shared his life with.  He was an easy conversation and many of his animated talks went long into the night.  Not only could he hold a table while speaking, Mike was earnestly interested in what others had to say.  He would lean in to every conversation he had.  I adored this about him.  Mike had engaging, heartfelt discussions with the waitress who served him his breakfast during the work week, and his butcher on 40th Avenue knew about all the guests coming to our dinner parties.  He regularly made a short story long with the neighbor; and, just the same, he quickly made friends with the guy on the roadside selling farm fresh corn.  I'm not sure what Mike said, but he came home and proudly announced, " Honey, we have a corn dealer and he'll  deliver straight to the house".  Yup, he boldly announced, in a matter of fact way, that we had our very own corn dealer.  To Mike this was not out of the ordinary.  And, to me, at the time, this was strangely not unexpected because anything was possible when Mike was alive.  Our life was crammed full of whimsy and joy.  And, trust me, Mike didn't stop at the corn dealer.  He effortlessly gathered people every place he went.   Another time, while we were camping,  Mike took out the trash and after a long while he came back to the trailer and told me that I had to come quick because he "just made new friends for us".  That was my Mike.  He came by it honestly,  and he quite literally found treasure when holding a bag full of garbage. 

He could engage anyone, anywhere and I loved watching him do so.  With Mike life was exciting and the opportunities were boundless.  For a long, long time, after he died, I felt the life I loved so much was over.  And, in many ways, it is.  But, life itself isn't over for me.  There are still opportunities for me - even without Mike.  Sure, this is not the life I imagined.  And, this is not the life I'd choose.  But, it's the one I've got.  What can I do but make the best of it.  Now, it is my turn to find treasure while holding onto the bag full of garbage that grief has served me. 

Once again, I must do as Mike did.  I have to find a way to create possibilities out of whatever life hands me.   Dang, I sure wish I knew what he said to the corn guy because I'm sure whatever words he strung together could serve me well as I carry on without him...

 

 

 

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Back to Fear-Facing

In the almost 6 years since my fiance has been gone, so much life has happened. An unbelievable amount really. It’s felt like warp speed living. In part that was due to how much higher my emotions have run since he died… but it’s also in part due to having had so much change happen and having faced so many fears in such a small time in my life.

In no other time in my life has every single aspect of it changed so dramatically. I didn't choose his death, but I chose a lot of other scary things... I left my career. I moved away. I began a new lifestyle and career direction that honestly had no direction to it all ("artist"). I found new love, or more accurately, new love found me. I became the partner of a widower and the mother-figure to his daughter. I moved across the country. It has been a never-ending journey of fear-facing for half a decade now.

The past few weeks I’ve been attending a women’s wellness class. We do yoga and journal and talk about feelings and well being and all that touchy-feely stuff. There was a time when I would have been too sarcastic to walk into a room of woman like this. I would have thought it was a joke - mostly because of my own insecurities to open up to people about my deepest pains.

In a way, Drew’s death shook that up for me. It got me talking about my pain more openly and facing this fear of being vulnerable with others. It helped me learn HOW to be more open with my pain, and how to share it with others… especially women. It humbled me, and it made me take my armor of sarcasm off and let people in. In some ways, it was the best gift he could give me, because this is something I’ve always struggled with.

So last week in class, we talked about the things that bring us fulfillment, the things that drain us, the ways that we take care of ourselves. One of the questions was about the bravest thing we’ve ever done. And I think to myself “Hell Yes. I’ve got this one. I’ve got bravery in spades.” Until she changed it up…

“What is the bravest thing you’ve done this week?”

What? Uh… huh?

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