*Normally I write on Fridays, and although this post will appear here on Friday, I am writing it Wednesday evening, and setting it to publish Friday. This way I dont have to worry about finding a computer to post the blog while at the Marriott and busy with other things.
Well, I’m back from vacation. It was really good. I knew it would be. I also knew there would be some tough moments and there were. For starters, on the plane as I sat in the first row with the only TV in the plane directly in front of me the movie “Coco” played. I had been warned by other widows that it was a good but heart wrenching movie that tricks you by seeming like a harmless kids’ cartoon. I hadn’t had a chance to watch it yet. Ideally, I would have watched it on my own in my house but here it was in front of me. So I thought, “let’s do this,” and plugged in my headphones. If you haven’t watched it, I do recommend it. Be prepared to be emotional though. It’s basically about the importance of remembering people who have died and how you give them a second life by remembering them. It included some “insight” into an after-life showing how you will die and disappear completely once no one living remembers you. If you aren’t a widow then I guess there could be a different storyline but this is what I saw. So yes, I sat in the first row of the plane and I cried and I didn’t really care. Maybe in a way starting my trip with this movie was needed for me to acknowledge the grief I carry and release it right from the start. It let me feel so I could then be free to enjoy. I stepped off the plane ready for vacation.
The islands were hot, sunny, and beautiful. I can now remember which ones I visited (St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados) and I enjoyed my time with my friend Heather. On the islands, we went on a catamaran, tried Snuba, went snorkeling (and saw the cutest turtles - eeeek), went to multiple beaches, met up with one of her family friends, explored some historical sites and explored local towns and shops. There was always lots to do on the ship as well in the evenings including a Whitney Houston tribute show. The singer acknowledged people who are grieving and have loved and lost someone too soon before singing, “I Will Always Love You” (exceptionally well, I might add). I cried (and again, didn’t care that I was crying). I appreciated it. Those little moments where I can acknowledge my grief seem to help me and provide the little release I need to keep moving forward. Heather was an amazing friend, as always, and was supportive of me when I needed it. It’s so nice to have good friends.
Almost 5 years.
5 years without you.
Don’t ask me how I’ve gone 5 years without you.
I don’t know.
Sheer grit and determination.
And a whole lot of the Love that you left behind for me.
The fact of the matter is, I’m a 37 year old widower. By most standards, it’s quite unique. I wasn’t married to someone in a high-risk career. Megan wasn’t in her seventies, hell, she barely made it into her thirties. Statistically, I’m much more likely to be divorced than widowed at my age.
The fact of the matter is, Cystic Fibrosis is a brutal disease. It’s filled with ups and downs that last a lifetime. Emergency room trips and months-long inpatient stays, immediately followed by “feeling good” and leading a normal life for awhile. One can never plan their lives out more than a few months in advance. You just don’t know what’s around the corner.
The fact of the matter is, I understood all of this very early on in Megan and I’s relationship. I knew she would have to be admitted to the hospital for, at a minimum, two weeks at a time, multiple times per year. I was completely aware that birthdays, holidays, vacations and other events would be a crap shoot from time to time, not knowing if she would be blowing out candles or coughing up blood.
It's his birthday this week. March 22nd. On this day, I will always "celebrate" Mike. There will never be a March 22nd that I don't spend with him. On his birthday I purposefully choose to remember the way he lived. I celebrate the life and love we shared together. This is how I try to honor him everyday - not just on his birthday. That being the case, I admit that I want to do something more on his special day, but I haven't completely decided what this might be.
In the grief world people do all different types of things to mark birthdays. The way we choose to celebrate our person are varied. The only thing constant is that the celebrations are fitting for those who died. I like that. Not one type of birthday celebration will do because the people we are honoring are separate, unique individuals. To honor their person, some people release balloons and the environmentalist scold them, others set off lanterns that are biodegradable - they don't receive any backlash. Some choose to cook their person's favorite meal. Some people gather friends and family together. Some go to the cemetery. Some have cake. Some people spend the day alone - in bed. There really is no correct way to mark a birthday for someone who died, or for someone who is living for that matter.
For me, on significant days, I find that I am less out of sorts if I have a plan of some kind. When special days occur on the calendar I prefer to plan something. If I don't organize something, then grief leads me places I don't want to go. Creating a shape for the day is what works best for me. You might be different. Grief has many commonalities, but each of our experiences is unique. So, I think that we should do whatever is best for us. We should do whatever soothes our Soul.
Because I love to write, it's not surprising that I will write Mike a birthday letter. I will go to the grave and tie a balloon to the shepherd's hook I have lovingly placed behind his headstone. To Mike, there will be a handwritten message on his birthday balloon. I will stand there, on his grave, wishing with all my heart that things were different. I will play him some of our favorite songs, and I will toast him with his favorite wine. And, then I will cry. Before I leave, I will read Mike his birthday letter. And, then, I will cry some more. My graveside visit is very precise and predictable because I have completed this ritual for all our significant dates. I know how it feels. I know what to expect. And, I find it comforting in some strange way. For me, it feels right to honor Mike in this way. My rituals are sacred and intimate for us.
However, I am an overachiever and I outgrow routine quickly; so, this year, I want to do more to mark his birthday. I feel it is necessary. Mike's life was bigger than my ritual of reading him a birthday letter and toasting him with a glass of Malbec. His love for me was deeper than just me, his widow, standing at his graveside offering a balloon to the man she loves. (For those of you who did these exact things please know that your gestures were perfect as they are. Nothing more is needed to honor your loved one's birthday. It's just me. This year, I know that I need to change things up.)
I honor Mike every day - in both big and small ways. Daily, I credit him with the profound impact he has on my life. I think we all do this as widows and widowers. I believe that we naturally "celebrate" our person, in their absence, every day of the year. Yet, for me, my Soul is calling me to do something more on for Mike on his birthday this year, I just haven't figured out what...
I was talking with a friend the other day about new love after being widowed and it got me reflecting on the idea. I ended up describing to her how my fiance and my now boyfriend are like two different colors of love. I really liked this idea the more I thought about it…
There is no color in the spectrum that is better or worse, more or less, than any other. And loving another after loss is just the same. I’ve now been with Mike for a little over 3 years… roughly the same amount of time I had with Drew before he died. Having had about the same amount of time to grow with each of these men, I can say for certain they each have their own distinct color. By that I mean the feeling of them has a color to me. Their personalities and demeanor, while having many similarities, are still quite different.Read more
I don’t wanna spend my nights with you anymore.
I can’t sleep when I sleep with you.
But you won’t leave this bed,
It should’ve been someone else instead
Laying next to me
In ignorant bliss and love that never once strayed from the awestruck wonder of its infancy
I hate my anxiety.
I hate that my husband died,
while I was asleep,
and he had just left for work.
I hate that a ringing phone,
in the early morning hours,
will forever make me panicky,
and give me that feeling,
of knives sitting in my throat.
I hate that he just disappeared,
from my life.
He wasn't sick.
He wasn't ever sick.
just like that,
he was gone.
I hate that I was sleeping,
while my husband was collapsing,
on a floor,
inside a store,
I have gone through the necessary therapy,
processing through these emotions,
letting them shift to somewhere different,
and it has helped,
I will always, always
feel a sense of helplessness,
and unbelievable terror,
when its morning-time,
and I haven't heard from my love.Read more
When I started this journey as a young widow I felt extremely alone. I didn’t know anyone anywhere near my age that had been through anything close to what I was experiencing. I didn’t know if what I was feeling was normal or insane. I kept a lot to myself. I started researching books and reading about others’ experiences. That was so very helpful but I still needed more. I wanted people currently experiencing the balance of death and life. I eventually found people online (e.g., Instagram, Facebook groups) and I can’t explain to you the difference it made connecting with people. Many times it really wasn’t connecting; it was reading other people’s posts and not having the courage, words, or energy to respond. It still helped me though. To know that other people right here and right now were experiencing something similar to what I was experiencing made me feel less crazy and less alone.
Eventually, just over a year ago I decided that I wanted to contribute to this community. I felt like I was in a space that I could start to give back, even just a little bit, to maybe help even just one person. I started my personal blog not knowing where it would go. I wasn’t afraid of failure but I was afraid of opening up and letting others see and respond to my thoughts and feelings that I protected so closely inside of me. Maybe you wouldn’t know it from my writing but I’m actually a very private person. I’ve always kept a lot to myself; so guarded that sometimes I think I was so good at it that I was able to hide my feelings and thoughts from myself as well. My mind started to protect myself from myself. Moving from that mindset to share my thoughts with others was scary. Still, I knew I wanted to do it and I wanted to find the courage to be be in touch with my thoughts and share them. I had gained so much from others who shared their innermost thinking and I wanted to do the same.Read more
As 5 years without you, edges its' way ever nearer to me, and as my heart and soul hear the shuffle of time coming closer, creeping past, zooming closer, flying past..
As these ten thousand years have passed, since his death, as each nanosecond passes in the here and now, I remember how he loved me, how I loved him.
I remember his calm spirit and his groan-worthy jokes. I remember his dedication to the military and how glad he was to retire, having done his time. His quiet rebellions that grew from holding his own counsel and just going about business in the way he knew he needed to do. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, he told me many times, and that thought carried him through his military service. I remember how he not only read the Big Book of AA but read what it all meant, and the history of it; he gave context to AA and the 12 Steps and Tradition, and living a life of sobriety. Chuck lived his sobriety as honestly as he could, every day. Not perfectly, but as well as he could, and he earned the respect of many because of it.
His promise wasn’t given lightly, and I could count on his promises being kept. His promises were his word, given as a gentleman of old times would give his word. It was his honor, and he held true to it, whether that promise was made to me or one of our kids or a friend or anyone else.