My friend and fellow widow Karin here in Kona was talking about her husband’s death day last month…the conversation went on before I really realized how that term flew by so clearly and succinctly without us having to explain what that meant, though I hadn’t used it before. Death day. That day, we all know; that day, we all remember, that day, we can never forget.
Mike’s death day was yesterday, February 17. It has now been three years.
I can hardly believe it. But, maybe I can, in a way. A lot has happened. And I am glad of it. I can look back on these three years and see a lot of heartache and grief, but I can also see a continuation of my own life being lived. I have created new memories…the framework of a life built carefully and often with great difficulty around the gaping hole he left behind.
I can bring up memories of times I’ve shared with friends and family in these past three years…things that don’t revolve around Mike…I can talk about experiences and adventures that don’t include him…which makes me sad to the bone but also, grateful that I have somehow, miraculously, found a leg up into the strange new normal. When Margaret was here visiting earlier this month we talked about how far we’d come…her three years death day will be in May. And we’ve both come a very, very long way indeed, in our work, our daily routines, our new relationships and friendships…we’ve come a long way in our understanding of our grief and how it works and how we learn to live with it. It’s never easy…but it becomes more familiar.
So February has always been a hard month, knowing Mike’s death day was coming. But we knew this time, a new life was on her way. We all talked about how it would bring some light into what had been a very dark and heavy month for us.
This past Friday, I was pulling in to the house after running errands with the musician and had been saying to him, I wonder how it’s going with my stepdaughter…they sent her home last Wednesday after her labor failed to progress and we’ve all been on pins and needles waiting for the news…the words were literally just out of my mouth when a text came in from my son-in-law: it’s a girl!!
Her first child, a boy, Mike did meet; we have some wonderful pictures of them together for his first birthday and wow are we so glad of those. Her second child was on her way - we had just found out it was to be the sought-after girl - when he died. When she was born, happy as I was for the new beautiful life and safe delivery, I cried big alligator tears, sobbed until I thought my eyes would melt out of my sockets, knowing he would never meet this little girl he was so excited about.
I have not yet cried a tear this time. I am simply overjoyed at this new little addition to the family arrived in health and happiness for all, and know wherever he is, Mike is similarly enchanted. This time, I find myself humming about the house, texting other family and friends, thrilled about the new little granddaughter in the world…and then, within an hour of the news, there is a knock at the door…I am served with foreclosure documents on my house.
Instead of reacting with emotion I take it in stride. Instead of seeing it as evil trying to squash my joy, I choose to take it as a sign that all is happening at the right time and someone is watching. Because despite all the attempts to negotiate with the bank I knew this would eventually happen. The only question was when. Because there is absolutely no one with any authority or power to actually do anything about my case in the lower rungs of those 20-something script-reading people who are supposed to be managing my account…and seem to be switching every couple months anyway…not to mention I’ve done this with multiple times with three different banks since Mike died since they keep selling the loan.
I called my attorney - thank god I have a wonderful, strong, informed and compassionate woman like her in my corner - and she advised me about how to apply for a mediation with the courts and find a counselor to handle the paperwork and anyway, it’s the next step here for me to try and not lose the house.
Meanwhile the musician is very worried for me…for us, for my dogs…we both agree that losing the house is secondary to simply having a place that will house two dogs, one of which is a pit bull…a darling, sweet, old dog with hip problems and probably not long to live but a pit nonetheless with whom the musician has a passionate love affair let me tell you, and doesn’t deserve to be denied a home at this stage of her life.
The rental market is tight here. But he immediately went online and reassured me that if we had to he thinks we could find something with the dogs. So there is that. I keep my fingers crossed it could be possible. But meanwhile I am going to continue fighting the good fight…it means lots more paperwork and phone calls and emails and scanning documents and court dates…but I can’t just let it go without a fight.
But if it does go, I’m going to be ok with it. I think. Anyway that is my goal. To be able to get through the tangle of memories this place holds if it comes to that with minimal sobbing and heartbreak. And if it does, to try and think of my future in a different way, a sort of freedom from homeownership, freedom in my life to write the next chapter. So on the 16th this week, the last day of his life, I found myself driving down to our little courthouse in Kealakekua to file my request. I will never forget the timing of that. I talked to Mike the whole way, remembering that wonderful day we had together three years before, knowing if he were here he would be cheerleading us along to whatever will happen now, softly scolding me from worry.
On the 17th, I spent the evening with friends, a little wine, and the musician. I think that’s a good way to remember the day…it was something my friend Karin said she tries to do on her husband’s death day…12 years counting. And I know, she is right about that.
So…this past week, while new life sleeps sweetly in the loving arms of my beautiful stepdaughter, I face loss and change in another form…on Valentine’s Day, I ate the rest of the freezer-burned candy he bought me three days before he died as I looked out on the setting sun over the ocean from my lanai…wherever I end up, Mike, I am so grateful I got to live in this house as long as I have, so glad you were here with me for as long as you were, ever so more grateful for the family you left behind for me along with the wisdom to understand what is really important in this life.