I’m writing you this morning from the bed of a roadside motel in West Virginia. The walls inside are all wood, the entire place looking like a big log cabin. It’s cozy feeling, with ruffled curtains, checkered blue and white bedspreads and warm corner lamps. I’ve woken up in a good mood, which I am infinitely grateful for, and hoping I can keep around.
Mike, Shelby and I woke up around 2:30am, after I barely got any sleep. I dragged myself into the truck and proceeded to try and sleep during the 5 hour drive here… which was minimal. This is usual for Mike. He likes to drive through the night. I have never experienced this, and can say that it’s far from my favorite way to begin a vacation. I fought tired eyes most of the day yesterday, as well as trying to keep in good spirits. I failed quite a lot.
I have to admit, even as we got into the mountains, no part of me was feeling too excited. All I could think of is everything that wasn’t right… no sleep, it’s too early for there to be leaves on the trees yet so everything is brown. It turned out to be almost 80 out in the afternoon, far warmer than predicted and I had only brought clothes for cooler weather.
Back home, in Texas, it’s green and lush already out. Spring has fully arrived. Here, the trees are just barely beginning to bud out leaves this week. Everything is still brown. The comparison could not be more different. The changing seasons is proving to be one of the hardest new losses of moving so far from the place I’ve called home.Read more
Megan’s priority in life was Shelby. The fact that it is so unlikely that a Cystic Fibrosis sufferer can even have a child naturally made Shelby that much more valuable to both of us. Her “peanut”, as we call her, completed Megan.
During her hospitalization, Megan and I had to have “the talk”. We knew the odds of her coming home, and we were smart enough to talk over her wishes should she not be around. Sure enough, her most important wish was for Shelby to be happy, healthy, and smart. We had also talked of me moving forward, and that she wouldn’t want me to be alone. Putting two and two together, I read this as her wishing me to be with someone that was good for Shelby.
Little did I know (and surely wasn’t looking for) that a few months after her passing, a few women would sit down beside me at Camp Widow. One of those women would move her life 1400 miles to be with me. It’s been a year since Sarah sat down at that table in the hotel bar and grille. There hasn’t been a single day we have not talked in some form since then.
"Surely now he's the one giving light to the stars"
As I sit here this morning, with a cup of coffee and the sounds of a familiar person milling around the house, I’m reflecting on some big things. This is a pretty significant weekend. A year ago, I arrived from Texas at a hotel in Tampa without any idea that I would meet a guy from Ohio that would change the course of things. Only 8 months after that weekend, I moved my entire life to Ohio to be near him and his daughter and give new love a chance. It’s completely surreal that it has already been a year since that day we met, at Camp Widow.
Ever since Drew died, I have always believed that I would meet someone new… someone who would be as wonderful as he was. I also believed it would be a long while before that would happen. Before I was ready. Sometime in that first year, I gave myself the timeline of 2 ½-3 years before I would even try dating. Somehow, this timeframe just felt right for me, personally. I felt it was enough time to honor my grief and also to honor Drew in such a way that I wouldn’t have to feel guilty or answer to anyone else for moving forward with someone new. Mike came along just under the 3 year mark, interestingly enough.
Even when I'm not alone at the end of the day, I'm still lonely for Mike. His space can just never be filled.
I wrote that line weeks ago but couldn’t finish anything with it. I think because it seemed like a complete thought; that one sentence summed it up for me in so many ways. But since I’ve been back from my holiday travels and looking at another new year, I’ve been overwhelmed by the idea that it might be time to begin to shift more into my here and now. Maybe it was because during the time with my family, Mike’s missing presence was so looming. He was just there but not, you know? My family had known him and remembered him with me. We talked about him and toasted him and told stories and it was wonderful, and important, to be able to share that.
I enjoy road trips. Given the time, I would happily drive across the country and back just because I can. This past weekend, Shelby, Sarah, and I drove 7 hours or so from Ohio to upstate New York to visit Sarah’s sister and her family. Being an odd person, a 400 mile drive through fairly boring terrain excited me in and of itself.
We talked the entire drive. Shelby was in the back seat reading, napping, and occasionally piping up with one of her “Shelbyisms” or a random fact that she learned in school. I had a playlist of all different types of music playing, and had the cruise control set just so. There was no traffic or weather, and the roads were smooth.
Somewhere between Erie and Buffalo, my playlist brought up “Let her Go” by Passenger. It is a beautiful song, and ultimately, one of my favorites, but it is also a HUGE trigger song. My finger almost immediately moved towards the skip button, but I caught myself. We had just been talking about Sarah’s forthcoming post (found here), so we were both already in a little deeper thoughts, and I decided to let it play.
Two people, a man and a woman, sat down to have a drink with a group of mostly strangers. At the time, the two of them were strangers to each other. After a brief introduction, and some small talk, that group of strangers, and those two people, became friends.
The evening was spent talking, laughing, and sharing stories. Humorous anecdotes were being tossed around by all, and the table went from a slightly awkward social gathering to a night out with friends that seemingly all knew each other for years. Those two people however, seemed to connect more than most, and a stronger bond started to form.
The people at this table were all widows. Some were newly widowed, like the man was, and some had been widowed for decades. The woman had been widowed for a few years. That was the similarity that brought the table together that evening in Florida. It was a shared trauma amongst everyone.
The man and the woman, both widowed, struck up a deeper conversation, and got to know each other’s past, without ever pondering how much it would become their future.
I’m going to get straight to the point. Tomorrow, I am boarding a plane, flying to Texas, packing Sarah’s possessions, and driving her back north to Ohio. I am incredibly excited, anxious, and happy about this.
But, I’m a widower. I have a beautiful 8 year old daughter who has lost her mother. I miss my wife, and I want nothing more than for both Megan AND Sarah to be here. Shelby is the same. She asks multiple times a day “how many more hours until Sarah gets here?”, and in the very next breath, talks about a fun memory with Megan.
I haven't balanced that out yet. As I write this, I am sitting ten feet from Megan’s ashes. I am surrounded by pictures of her, us, and her family. I know she’s gone, but it’s still weird to think that I’d love her to be watching Sarah and I turning the page to a new chapter. I can only imagine her joy when she sees how Shelby’s face lights up when the three of us are doing something.
It's been a long week. Most of my stuff has sat in storage since Drew died three years ago. And before that, probably half those boxes hadn't been opened in years. With the move to Ohio in just a few weeks, it's time to finally tackle this.
I decided that I didn't want to take any extra baggage (literally) with me on this new venture, and that means I'm opening up every last box. I'm pulling out a million different little pieces of myself from long ago... and deciding which pieces I want to keep and which I want to leave behind.
It's been emotional. To dig through my past and remember who I used to be. A lot has happened to me that isn't just the grief over my fiance. Death, alcoholism, family dystunction, abuse...I haven't had the worst life by far, but it hasn't been easy.
Revisiting the boxes reminded me of how I spent the first 25 years of my life in survival mode. There was never stability, or healthy relationships, or a feeling of safety in my world. There was never room to put down the armor and just relax into life. Not until I met Drew...Read more
If you have followed Sarah and I’s writing over these months, you know that we’ve now met each other’s families. She traveled to Ohio a few weeks ago, for the first time, and upon arriving, we made sure to arrange time to specifically visit both my parents and Megan’s parents.
Terri, Megan’s mother, has sadly had to watch two of her children go because of Cystic Fibrosis. I cannot begin to imagine what that must be like. Yes, I’ve lost Megan, and I watched her younger brother Jason pass away, but they were not my children. She had known, raised, and loved both of them for their entire lives, and then they were gone.
Bringing Sarah to meet Terri was something then that caused me some anxiety. Not because I was worried that her and Sarah would not get along, or that they wouldn’t immediately begin talking, but because even if I haven’t experienced it myself, i know that Terri is still and will always be mourning Megan’s death. It would only be natural for her to see Sarah as a “replacement” that her son-in-law is bringing into the family, like some sort of distraction.
I'm back in Texas this week, after having visited Mike for two weeks. My last day there, we drove up to Niagara Falls to meet up with my sister and her family. It was her first time meeting him and his daughter Shelby, and it was wonderful to see how well he fit in. Again, just like with my friends, he fit into the picture eerily as well as Drew. Only it didn't feel like he was replacing him at all, but more like honoring his space. My sister adored Shelby. Since she raised three boys, she's pretty excited about the prospect of a new little girl in our world. It was all so seamless.
This was Shelby's first time to see Niagara Falls, as Mike and Megan never made it up with her for a visit. It was so much fun to be a part of that experience, of one of her firsts. In such a short time, she has stolen my heart (which she seems to do with everyone) and I can literally sit around for hours and just watch her experiencing the world and being her goofy self. I am always seeing myself in her too. I am daily reminded of the little girl I was, who also lost her mom around the same age and had a similar spunk and charisma. With every joy and every sorrow she has, I see some bit of me. I also see a different girl, who is already living a very different version of this story than I did...Read more