Today is Sarah’s birthday. Not Megan’s, not Drew’s. It’s not Mother or Father’s day, or an anniversary. It’s a day where the focus is squarely on her, and not shared with those who are no longer here. Or, at least it’s not supposed to be.
The rub of it is that I’m a widower. Sarah’s a widow. Damn near every experience we have brings thoughts of Megan and/ or Drew in some way. It could be a significant, life-changing experience like becoming engaged, or some minor thing that I do on a random Tuesday that reminds Sarah of something similar that Drew did. Sarah even mentioning wanting to change the color of a wall for the 400th time always reminds me of Megan doing the same thing.
So, in a roundabout way, I tend to think of Megan quite a bit on Sarah’s birthday, and I’m sure she thinks of Drew on mine. They are both just as much a part of us as they were in life, albeit not actively participating and interacting, for obvious reasons.
It’s exactly the way it should be.
Today, I will think of Megan’s birthday. The breakfasts I made, the gifts Shelby and I gave her. The places we went and the cake she had. I’ll remember the visits to/ from parents and friends, the multiple phone calls she was on, and Shelby trying to squeak out the “happy birthday” song with about as much tone and rhythm as a cat that’s had its tail stepped on.
Megan’s birthdays, in life, were always fun and memorable.
So are Sarah’s.
Perhaps being a widower has its morbid advantages. I can celebrate my fiancee’s birthday AND remember my dead wife, and the two subjects never seem to really compete. I’ve spent so much time in the widowed state that ninety percent of thoughts of Megan are almost background noise, like a fan running in a room where you’re reading a good book. I only notice it when it turns off.
Sarah is that good book. I’m wholeheartedly, actively, focused on her. The background noise is there, my senses feel it, but my brain chooses to largely ignore it on most days.
Any “significant” day though tends to bring about a distraction. There’s differing levels, of course. Megan’s birthday is somehow a day where I think about Megan a bit. Mother’s day is another. Sarah’s birthday or she and I’s anniversary are minor prompts as well to remember Megan, largely because Sarah and I would have never even knew each other existed had Megan and Drew not died.
None of these thoughts are competing with each other. My love for Megan and my love for Sarah are two totally separate instances, with neither being more or less important than the other. There is no threat or comparison to be made. That’s where the aforementioned “morbid advantage” comes to play.
I know that on my birthday, Sarah thinks about Drew. I know that on Drew’s birthday, she thinks of him even more. I know that it will always be involuntary to do so...there are no prompts or conscious actions needed to remember him with a bit more focus than usual. Even today, her own birthday, I know she will be remembering years past with him.
It doesn’t bother me. I don’t feel threatened, or less loved or less important because Drew once existed in her life.
Because I’m a widower, I know how this works myself.
It allows me to experience the exact same feelings. It frees me to celebrate Sarah’s birthday in any way I so choose, without ever feeling as if I wasn’t doing it “as good” as Drew would have.
“Different” doesn't mean “better” or “worse”. Just as doing things “right” doesn’t mean “the same as before”.
Had my situation been different, this may be something that I still would not have learned. Instead, it was something I knew from day one. I knew never to feel small in Sarah’s heart if she was having a day where she thought of Drew frequently, because she was and has never been small in mine, even on Megan’s birthday.
Being a widower allows me to feel lucky, appreciative, and honestly, a bit smug about the fact that I get to close this post out by going and starting breakfast and icing a cake to present to my widowed fiancee’ on her birthday, knowing full well that she both loves it and grieves it at the same time. Knowing that I’m not doing “any better than Drew would have done”, but at the same time, factually doing better by being alive.
It’s a morbid advantage.