There was a real chance that Maggie would have died that first night we were in the hospital back on January 6, 2007. Despite our dreams, our plans, our love and our forever-together commitment, I’d truly be alone. As she slept soundly in a cozy, drug-induced haze, I felt like it was me against all the evil in the world… and the evil was winning. I felt the most alone I had ever felt in my life. While I watched her chest slowly sink and rise with each laborious breath, my mind raced with terrible, terrible thoughts and I feared I was never going to speak to or kiss my sweet wife again. It was the longest, loneliest night of my life.
That low point was reset 850 days later on May 4, 2009 and has been reset even lower many times since then. Despite being surrounded by caring friends and a loving family, I’ve felt more alone than I ever felt possible. I walked alone on this path. The Highlander of widowhood, I was the only one.
I’ve spent my days since that day being embarrassed and ashamed, that I no longer fit with society. Because of no fault of mine, I was tossed out of the mainstream and into another world. Worse, few people knew how to talk to me. Even fewer knew how to relate. And no one – no one – understood.
Weekend before last I attended Widow Camp. I was terrified and, frankly, a little bit angry. I didn’t need to hang out with another bunch of bitter, hopeless old women bitching about being a widow, nor did I have the patience to listen to their pining for husbands long gone. And I sure didn’t deserve this widower/death/restarting crap.
I sat just outside the doors of the Friday evening social wondering what the hell I did to deserve this and how the hell I was going to get myself out of this inescapable situation. Then, an angel with a charming smile named Susan told me how the people at previous Widow Camps had affected her and that she was confident that I would never regret walking through those doors.
So through the doors I walked, with my heart pounding, my palms sweating and with a serious case of regret jack-hammering my confidence. But then I met AnneMarie… then Matt… then Chris, Brooke Tiffany, Nikki, Roy, Cassie and so many others. They looked just like many other strangers I’d met before. However, when I answered “830 days” they didn’t cringe. When I said “Her name was Maggie” they didn’t look at their shoes. The word “cancer” didn’t shut down the conversation. Instead, they shared their stories, comfortably, freely, openly. Amazingly, even my dead spouse's humor was met with equally appalling (and very welcome) humor. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. For the first time in more than two years, I was with people who didn’t question, critique, or condemn but instead collegialized. For the first time in 830 days, I was not alone.
I am not alone.