Tomorrow is our first
And, I call it our Wedding Anniversary even though Mike died before we said
I married him in a thousand different ways before he even asked me to be his wife.
In our hearts we were husband and wife;
And, now given the circumstance, people tell me that's what matters.
Still, I wish I stood before Mike in a white dress.
I wish my eyes met his as he lifted my veil.
I wish we were pronounced Husband and Wife.
But, that is not what happened.
And, well, this evening,
the night before our first wedding anniversary, certainty isn’t how I pictured it.
Sometimes I can not believe any of this is truly real.
As I type this, I can feel it, tonight is not going to be easy...
These anniversary dates are beyond difficult.
I miss him to the depths of me.
But, missing Mike doesn’t change his deadness.
The intensity of my “missingness” doesn’t bring him back to life.
So, I will just accept, that tonight is harder than the other nights.
I will remember my husband.
I will wish the future was how we imagined it would be,
Then, I will cry because it is so very different than we expected.
And, then, I will cry some more.
And, after, I will dry my tears,
And, I will listen to our favorite songs on repeat,
While I will celebrate our Love for one another.
I am anxious because as the stars come out later tonight,
I know that I will miss my husband
- to the depths of me.
He is supposed to be here celebrating our first wedding anniversary.
But, he's not here.
At least not physically...
So, I will sit alone in my backyard,
And, I will imagine what our life would be like if he didn’t die.
Because, now, all I can do now is imagine...
If Mike was alive,
I know we’d be going away tonight to celebrate our Anniversary.
With our suitcases packed,
And, our hearts even fuller,
We’d head out into the world.
Hand in hand.
We’d be filled with gratitude for the life we share this past year as newlyweds.
Wherever we were,
I know that we’d stay up too late talking about all our hopes and dreams.
Mike and I were really best friends.
It felt like we were having a lifelong sleepover with one another.
It was almost too good to be true.
(Then it was.)
Sometimes we’d look at each other and smile
because we couldn’t believe how much fun we were having.
It was fun in the simplest sense.
We'd sit in bed and eat twizzlers and watch tv.
And, other times we’d have a hot tub under the light of the moon.
Then, we’d turn the music on a little too loud and crowd each other
by the stove at midnight as we drank wine and made grilled cheese sandwiches
on his favorite cheap white bread.
It was a sweet, crazy love.
And, I miss it.
At the time, we both knew there was something beyond magical between us.
But, we couldn’t quite name it.
I still can’t.
Tonight, in honour of all that we were together,
I will drink red wine and I will wish he was here with me
- like I do every single day.
But, tonight, I will wish he was here a little harder than usual.
Our Love was a beautiful love to witness while Mike was here on Earth.
And, it remains a strong love - even now.
Ours is a big love. A love that reaches across dimensions.
Over the river and through the woods, Tin’s Aunt had come down to see him before he passed and to help his mother handle a mother’s worst nightmare losing a child. She watched him grow, watched him thrive and now held him as he faded away. I can’t imagine and it seems unholy although if Jesus’ mother had to go through it than who am I to judge the workings of the Universe. Either way, it hurt to be losing him and it hurt to watch her lose him.
Aunt Caryl. I had heard wonderful things and Tin was so excited she would finally come down and meet me. We had been together for 4 years and I looked forward to meeting her. After a long day at work, I picked up my mother at my apartment and we went to meet the visiting family. Tin had a procedure that day. I still feel guilty that I had to work and I couldn’t go with him. When we got to the house I said hello and then checked on Tin and his new medical directions. While reading, Caryl stated that she was in town and that she was with him all day today and that she was handling his medications now. I was torn. Up until now I had made sure his medications were correct. Her tone implied that I lost my rank because she was family and I had to work. On the other hand I felt relieved that I could spend time with him and let someone else deal with the chemistry. Seeing that she wanted to come in and take over, I let it go. Shortly after she felt Tin needed pain meds without him asking. I thought that was strange and I said he tended to not like them because he felt too tired. She scoffed at me and started pulling pills that were not the pills he was supposed to get. I got up and stepped in reading his new doctor’s orders and pointed out that his new medical directions had adjusted and stopped some of the meds she was getting. Her response in front of everyone was that I asked ridiculous questions and that she was there now to handle it. In one statement she dismissed everything I had done as well as the importance of our relationship. I was just the partner. She had no idea she had opened a door I boarded tightly shut. I unleashed 10 months of anger pointing out that she did not get to sweep in for the final hour and claim heroism. She put her hand in my face and told me to go home. My mother started crying and said she couldn’t stay and so we left.Read more
So, for the 457,000th time in my life, I have recently added exercise to my "trying to get healthier " life routine. i joined the YMCA, and I have been taking classes, mostly in the pool. Water Zumba, water aerobics, water weights, things like this. It is actually a pretty damn good workout, and at the end of the hour-long class, I am totally wiped out. As an overweight person who originally gained a lot of weight as the result of coping/not coping with trauma, I have been up and down this "getting healthy" routine several times. Normally, I have some level of success, and then ultimately, I don't stick with it, and it all falls apart. At some point, I end up falling back into old habits, and making poor choices with food, and then getting lazy about exercising. When my husband died suddenly, 7 years ago now, I found myself eating sporadically, thoughtlessly, and terribly. Loads of sugar. Anything with carbs. Chocolate. Cakes and cookies. Fast-food. Just all the bad things. It helped to numb me, and it tasted amazing. I did it out of boredom, loneliness, and fear. Fear of getting back up and living a life again, instead of simply existing. If I kept eating and living in a non-healthy way, it gave me all kinds of excuses to not better myself and to not care. There were many years after Don died, that I simply didn't care.Read more
The other week I saw this meme on Instagram about dying and not wanting the person you’re with to be happy afterwards and about how they should get in the casket and die too. It was framed in a “funny” way and meant to be a joke but I didn’t find it funny at all. I felt defensive, like it was an attack on me and other widows who have fought so hard to find happiness again. I felt like I was being judged and that made me mad. Then I thought: That’s stupid to care about what others think and I don’t care. People who haven’t experienced that type of loss yet are very blissfully ignorant and very immature. People who liked that and tagged their partners (including people I follow and “friends”) are pretty much idiots and have no idea what it’s like. I almost pity them to have that outlook on life and the happiness of the person they apparently love should something happen to them. Which reality check: either you or your partner will end up in this position at some point unless you (very unlikely) have some kind of joint Notebook death.
The thought of others finding it funny made me think though. Was there a time I would have found this to be funny? I certainly couldn’t relate to the humour now but would I have before? Would Mike have related to it? Would I have been one of those people who “liked” it or tagged their partner? Was there truth in it? So much in such a silly, stupid meme.Read more
Perhaps one of the most helpful things I’ve learned in a little over 5 years of widowhood is this…
I don’t have to be anything different, feel anything different, aspire to anything different…before going and doing whatever it is that I feel I must do to live this life without Chuck.
I don’t have to have hope. I don’t even know what that looks or feels like.
I don’t have to have faith. Seriously, I have no clue what faith is, especially as related to religion. Which I shed many years ago in any case, with no interest in returning to.
I don’t have to have confidence. Mostly, since Chuck died, the road I’m on diverges and changes at any given moment. I’m living a life completely removed from the life he and I lived, even as we spent our last 4 years living full time on the road. I started out on my own not having a clue, and, though I believe I present a fully confident face to the world, each day is another day of figuring it all out. Even if I have some of the technical stuff figured out, about living in a trailer, the emotional components leave me, often, wandering in circles.
I don’t need to feel any of these to do what I’m doing.
Then what do I need? What does get me through each day and each night?
I get that question a LOT.
It’s quite simple, at least to me.
I met Megan when I was only twenty-two years old. I was fresh off of my active duty tour as a Marine, having been in the communications specialty for the past four years. My “job” was, effectively, IT, just as it is now.
I was ready to “settle down” already. I had met a good woman, I was back home, with four years experience in my career field and only a car payment as debt. While I hadn’t (and still haven’t) ever stepped foot onto a college campus (well, as a student at least), in the data communications field, experience is worth more than any diploma.
I was set. All I had to do is land a lower level job, pay my dues and work my way up in the field. It would be an easy path to a successful, stable career. Megan and I were married less than three years after meeting, bought a house, and continued on, with Shelby arriving a few years later.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say I felt “stuck” by the time Shelby was born. I couldn’t even switch jobs, let alone career paths, because we couldn’t go more than a week without health insurance. We had built up some additional car payments, mortgages, and bills, and a newborn isn’t exactly cheap, even with help from family.
The feeling continues.Read more
I miss you to the depths of me.
When I say to the depths of me,
I mean I yearn for you,
With all that I am
-in my human form.
And, then further.
The aching for you lives,
Both, inside and outside of me.
I feel all the missingness,
Loosely, messily, precariously
Contained inside of me.
Ricocheting off the corners of my mind.
But, the real missingness,
is bigger than the thoughts of you living inside my head.
I miss you from within my heart.
And, I am not talking about a heart drawn with red, waxy crayon.
I am speaking of my Heart space.
Where my love for you lives.
I miss you from my being’s
Because, I love you with my Soul.
And, now, I miss you with my Soul.
It’s amazing how simple things can etch a memory deep into your heart. Music, sights, sounds and smells. Food and cooking has always brought back memories of family holidays and campfire stories. Tin loved food. That’s basically the understatement of the year. He would take anything we had in the kitchen and in an hour there would be a beautiful meal on the table and every pot and pan in the sink. Tin was also an avid gardener so it’s only natural that he loved fresh herbs.
When we first met, I went over to his apartment and sat on the balcony. It was like a rainforest in the middle of Atlanta. Palms growing as tall as the ceiling would let them and flowers in every corner. A thunderstorm was approaching and we sat and talked watching the beautiful sky change and fill the air with electric excitement. The rain began to fall. A breeze accompanied the drops and sprayed them into the rainforest. I remember distinctly starting to get the summer rain smell as I listened to Clayton and the rain share their stories. I took in a deep breath and was captivated by a new note in the song of the storm. The breeze and the rain had rustled past a small bush nearby and brought to me an amazing aromatic blend of summer rain and Thai basil. It became a favorite of ours and we often spoke of that day whenever we cooked with Thai basil. That day we were etched.
When Clayton became sick last October, he could no longer garden. He could no longer do much of anything except to cook and eat. His hunger drive and specific food desires at random times grew stronger by the day. He began to show anger if he couldn’t have what he wanted when he wanted it. To some it appeared childish but to us we knew that food was the last thing Tin had control over as he moved towards his final meals. To give him back some of his gardening, for Christmas I bought him an indoor gardening kit with Thai Basil seeds. I had him open it last as the big surprise. He was excited and wanted some time to read everything and get his garden growing. Deep down it was my way to show him that he still had the ability to hold life.Read more
So it's been 7 years since my beautiful husband left for work one morning, and never came home. Seven years since his shocking and sudden death. Seven years of living this life in the "after" of painful and life-changing loss. It's a long time, and it isn't. It's forever, and it's also ten seconds. In all of this time living with the death of my husband, I do get asked one question quite frequently. People often ask me if I feel guilty for being happy. Do I feel guilt when I experience joy or joyful moments? Do I feel guilty for falling in love again?
The answer is no.
Guilt has certainly been a big part of my grieving and healing process. I felt guilty on my first two birthdays after Don died, because he would never get to see another year or enjoy another birthday or another year older. I felt guilty on New Year's Eve for years, and I refused to do the countdown to midnight, because it felt like a countdown to more time without him on earth, and another year that he won't ever get to be part of. I felt guilty for being asleep in our bed, while my husband was collapsing on a hard floor in a Petsmart, and going into cardiac arrest. These are the types of things I felt guilt about, and the types of things I worked on for years with my grief counselor, and came to better terms with.
I have never felt guilty for feeling joy. I have never felt guilty for falling in love again. I have never felt guilty for laughing so hard my sides hurt, or for feeling euphoric about something incredibly awesome or awe-inspiring. Maybe it's because I know for a fact that the most important thing to my husband, was my joy and happiness, so I know that me being happy would give him incredible peace. Maybe it's because I so fiercely want to LIVE, because my husband does not have that choice, so I look for and cling to moments of euphoria wherever I can find them. Maybe it's because it took me FIVE years and a hell of a lot of processing and therapy, to get to a place where I was even able to find love again, so why spend one second feeling guilty about it? I don't know what the reason is, but I have never felt guilt for feelings of joy or love.
What I HAVE felt is this:Read more
This past weekend my friend from British Columbia flew to Ontario to come to visit me. I haven’t seen her in a year since we last did a road trip together. I’ve written about her before on my own personal blog about her being The Friend I Never Wanted. She is an amazing and inspiring person. She’s a young widow too and an incredible support. We have been navigating life after loss with very similar timelines across the country.
We talk on a regular basis but it’s different actually being together. We know we’re both moving forward, and we talk about our lives now, but it just feels so much more obvious when we’re together. Our visits are like a timeline of progress in grief, to me anyways. Much has stayed the same but there’s also been change. For example, when I was asking what food she wanted as I grocery shopped for her visit she commented that she doesn’t think she had food in her house the first time I visited. At that time we were both in the first year of loss. We then tried to remember what we even did during that first visit. It all seemed like a blur. We talked about our trip together the last time we met up, just over a year out from the death of our husbands, and how we struggled to come up with a plan between the two of us. We had joked that between the two of us we had a total of 1 working brain and we hoped that would be enough to manage everything.Read more