Every now and then something seemingly ordinary happens in our widow lives that has so much more meaning. Something that other people would really not think anything of. I had one of these a few weeks ago, when the glass top on our stove cracked.
This was a stove that my new person, Mike, and his late-wife, Megan, had in their house for a decade. A stove that was at the center of a lifetime of meals and memories in their household. And there it was, one evening after making dinner, I noticed something… a huge crack that ran all the way across the top of the glass top surface. After hopeful research, we were both frustrated to learn that a cracked glass top is completely unsafe to keep using.
It wasn’t a particularly triggery or upsetting thing for Mike… he doesn’t tend to go hunting out the symbolic meaning of ordinary household appliances the way I do. This was merely a minor extra annoyance in our life for him. And let’s face it, having to drop everything on your day off to go unexpectedly hunting for a stove bargain was not exactly something exciting or pivotal. Except that for me, it kind of was...
I was very aware, it was a moment in time we were sharing something major. Something that both of us "should" have been doing with someone else who isn't here anymore. That together, here we were, in the midst of our "plan B" journey - with a new milestone of adult life.
I have always looked for Joy. I search for it everywhere I go. Seeking Joy is like a treasure hunt; except, in this case, I don't have a map. Honestly, I don't mind the lack of navigational tools because I have grown used to hurling myself into the unknown since he died. With practice, I have become accustom to feeling lost. Now, I am somewhat comfortable being without direction and guidance because I have lived this way for over 500 days.
When you become a widow everything familiar is suddenly lost. The rituals and routines of your old life no longer mark the way. As a widowed person you are forced to sail into uncharted waters. It is incredibly daunting. But, with time, you get used to it. And, you can even begin to flourish in the open water.
I am different because he died. I am 'better' in some significant ways because of the devastation that I am living through; but, the price I paid for this growth is too steep. No gain will ever be worth what I've lost. But, there is no changing it. Mike has died. Wishing it was different does nothing to help me and it does not undo his death. I have to stay the course and be grateful for the good things that I still have in my life.
In a very real way, Mike's death has brought me closest to my true self. His death is leading me to some place I need to go. For a long time I believed that I was drifting aimlessly. I assumed that I was lost, so I desperately searched for direction. I was tirelessly drafting plans in my mind because I thought I had to "fix" my life. I felt compelled to correct what had been wronged. But, now I know that all my efforts were needless.
There is a plan at work here; and, in order for this plan to be successful, I am not required to "fix" or do anything. In fact, the best thing that I can do is step aside. Before I realized all this, I was my biggest obstacle. I was getting in my own way. The truth is, I do not need to carefully map out my own journey. With this realization, I no longer feel the need to control the direction of my sails. I have stopped flailing in the water because I trust that something bigger than me is at work. I believe that my best interests are being served. I do not need to intervene because everything will work out as it is meant to. In short, I have faith. I know that I will be okay.
The reality is, I am exposed as I float out in the open water. Anything is possible. I might be a lot of things, but I am not lost. I am exactly where I am meant to be. I may feel that I am without direction. But, I am drifting directly towards my destination. Everything is as it should be - I can feel it. I am not required to do anything. I don't have to steer in the right direction. In fact, I have to do less, not more. When Mike was alive he used to say "stay where you're at, I'll come where you are". And, this is exactly what I need to do now.
If I am drifting in the open sea,
Then, Mike is the water I am floating on.
I am not drowning like I thought I was.
He's got me.
I am being supported by the water.
I am being lead to where I need to be.
All I need to do is "stay where (I'm) at, (because) he will come where I'm am." I wish I remembered what Mike told me early. This would have been a whole lot easier. Nonetheless, I figured it out. I remembered his promise; and, this has brought me a great deal of peace. And, it's nice because I haven't felt peaceful in a long, long time...
In a few weeks, Mike will be going on his first major backpacking trip since I have moved here. This is a big deal for me. Drew died while he was away on a trip. Mike is going to be alone in the woods, in potentially dangerous cold temperatures, with zero cell service, for several days. One of the reasons that he hasn’t been on any solo backpacking trips since I moved here in fact is because of his fear of triggering me. Of knowing what it will mean for me in that moment when he leaves for the trip and we are saying our goodbyes. It may just be a few days, not a few weeks, as Drew’s trip was supposed to be… but there is no way that the thoughts will not still cross my mind: What if you don’t come back.
I had those thoughts when Drew left too. His job was dangerous, and we always knew there was a chance he wouldn’t come home, or that the next time he stepped into a helicopter could be his last. But back then, I didn’t REALLY think about it. Because I hadn’t lived through it. Back then, it was more of a vague fear that didn’t really have a huge amount of weight to it. I believed he was coming back. I had faith. Until two weeks into his trip when that faith was destroyed. When his body was delivered back to us from the crash in Washington state, without his beautiful soul inside it. I cannot erase any of that. I cannot unknow what I now know, which is that death is always possible. Every single day.Read more
I have always loved Halloween. Drew and I both did. We were always sure to find the biggest and best haunted houses to go to each year. We spent weeks on our costumes, making everything by hand. We’d go out to parties in character and win costume contests, and enjoy the whole experience of it all. Since his death, each year, I think I have come to love and appreciate this holiday even more deeply.
The very first Halloween came just 4 months after his death. I was a wreck. Still in shock. Could barely function at all. And though there was no costume-making that year, I was determined not to miss one thing: haunted houses. So I planned to go with a girlfriend of mine, to a new one, near the town I had moved to after he died. Doing this somewhere new was extremely helpful. I don’t think I could have gone back to one of the haunted houses he and I had visited. So changing this up was crucial to carrying the tradition on.
When my friend and I entered through that dark and unknown first door… something really incredible happened. For the 20 minutes or so we were inside, I was not a widow. I was just a person running scared and laughing through a haunted house. That’s right, laughing! With my good friend by my side, and scares at every turn, I found myself laughing deep and full. I found myself feeling… alive. As we came bolting out the exit, we were both so full of electric energy, that euphoric adrenaline that all the sights and sounds and crazy lights and monsters gives you.