Music was always playing in both our homes.
And, now there are certain songs that bring me back to a better place in time.
A time, when Mike was alive.
A time, when I was in love with a man who stood before my eyes.
Our familiar songs take me back to a place in time where he exists.
A time, when he breathed life and love into me.
A time, not so long ago, when he existed in the same dimension as me.
Somewhere, in another place,
He still holds his memories of me,
And, when he hears his favorite songs, he comes and quietly puts his arms around me.
And, he dances with me in the backyard, under the light of the moon and the stars.
Now, I just wish I could feel him the way I used to...
Even after 581 days, the lyrics and melodies of our songs take me right back his comfortable, little kitchen. I close my eyes and I can live those sweet moments between us over, and over again. I have memorized how, with authority, he pushed back his chair from the kitchen table. How he stood with confidence, firmly planted. How he patiently waited as he held out his hand to me. That moment is suspended somewhere in time. And, how I so desperately wish I could reach out and take his hand in mine again, for one last dance.
I know exactly how my hand felt falling into his. I can still feel his strong hand holding mine. I know the way his wide fingers gently lace through mine. I know the touch of him, and I always will...
And, even now, I know the way Mike pulled me into him. I know the exact way it felt as he took me in his arms and moved me toward him. I know how my body blended into his as he held me to his chest. Often, when he pulled me to him, he would bend down and press his forehead to mine; then, he'd stand tall and look into my eyes. After a moment, he'd whisper to me "Stace, you make me so happy. I love you - so - much". My ears know the precise inflection of his voice as he pronounced each of these words to me. I know this moment because I've lived it again and again in my mind for the last year and seven months.
With love in his heart, Mike lead me around the well worn wooden floor of his modest kitchen. And, while the music softly played, we danced. Magically, we became the only two people in the world. Today, I can still ‘feel’ Mike dancing with me like it’s happening right this moment. My hand in his. My head resting gently on his chest - as all of me falls into him.
What I wouldn’t do to feel him again. What I wouldn’t do to feel his arms around me one last time. Sometimes, I miss him so desperately that I hold my hands out in front of me and I ask him to dance with me. Dammit, what I wouldn't give to feel his hand press softly into the small of my back. I would love one last dance with the man I love.
Certain songs take me back to a time when he casually sat on the porch by my side. If that back porch could talk; oh the stories it’d tell. Our short, sweet love story unfolded right there. There was no one but us. It felt as though the world stopped. And, it was only us under the light of the moon.
I remember how we talked many a night away with a passion that is usually reserved for teenagers. And, sometimes, if I close my eyes, I can still feel that same cool summer breeze blow against me. And, in this breeze, I feel Mike beside me.
In the ordinariness of those nights, I fell in love with him. It wasn't the fancy dinners or the beautiful places he took me that won my heart. Nope, it was him. It was the easy to please farm kid who I fell in love with. It was his company on those balmy summer nights that stole my heart. It was his warm, heartfelt smile that shone in the twilight hour, it was the kindness in his voice that rang out in the darkness. It was his authentic laugh that reeled me in. It was all him. It was how he kept company with me, leaning into every word I spoke. To my Mike, there was no one else; and, there was nowhere else he'd rather be. He was content. And, he was madly in love with me. I was loved with every piece of his heart and Soul. And, dammit I miss his love. I miss being loved so completely and purely. It was a beautiful life, and a beautiful love...
My son graduated on Friday. It was a good day.
His graduation is not about grief. But, just like everything in my life, his graduation got me thinking about Mike. And, I feel incredibly guilty because not everything has to do with Mike. Except that it does - for me.
I purposefully avoided social media this weekend because I didn't want to see photos of happy families celebrating their children. My family feels incomplete now; and, I didn't want to observe what I no longer have. It is beyond difficult to live on the outskirts of my old life. I constantly ache for what I've lost. And, especially during family events and celebrations, I desperately want what I no longer have.
What I've lost was loudly pronounced at my son's graduation. And, I know that some others who gathered also felt their own sense of incompleteness and discontentment. But, at the time, this was little comfort to me.
I am keenly aware that life has unfolded differently than planned for many people, not just me. I am not unique in this; and, I know that I am in good company. I acknowledge and I understand that many of the people who sat in proximity to me were also grieving all sorts of different things. I wasn't the only person feeling out of sorts at this joyous occasion. I could sense many heavy hearts hidden behind smiles.
In the crowd, there were a lot of blended families. Many men and women came to the convocation ceremony because they are in love with the mother or father of a child that isn't biologically their own. And, many of these people love that child, like their own. As I sat in my seat, I wished Mike was there with me, taking his position like the other step-parents were. He should have been there celebrating and loving a child that wasn't his. But, well, he's not like the other step-parents. Mike is dead.
He can't occupy the seat next to me anymore.
But, I know he can still love my sons.
And, that has to be enough. In fact, it's more than enough.
Love is enough.
The convocation ceremony was about the students and their achievements; but really, more importantly, it was an event about LOVE. Family gathered together to celebrate children that are loved by them and who love them. Love was present all around me. It was tangible. And, because the person I am in love with died, I sat alone. I know this is blunt; but, there isn't a way to pretty it up. I am not writing in a tone of pity. The words are not meant to be overly dramatic or sad. This was a family event; and, again, Mike was not there. And, at all future events and milestones, he will be absent as well. I wish it was different. But, nothing can change it. It is what it is.
Never in a million years did I think this would be my life. Sure, I know that I am not the only divorced person who attended the graduation of their child - on their own. And, I also know that I am not the only widowed person who attended their child's graduation - alone. I am however someone who understands these people. I know, like me, they didn't imagine their life like this. I know they didn't expect to be sitting alone celebrating their children's milestones.
There is naturally a strong kinship among those of us who occupy single seats
because we understand what others can not understand.
This said, I am truly happy for the "normal" families who sat together to love on their child; but I guess, if I am being completely honest, I am sad for me and my son. We don't fit neatly into that life anymore. I am divorced. And, I am widowed. And, our family isn't picture perfect. This was obvious and very palpable at my son's graduation.
My son's father and I are happily divorced.
He attended our son's graduation by himself too.
We didn't sit together, but we joined together to celebrate our son.
And, this is a really big thing that deserves acknowledgement.
I am grateful that love is stronger than endings ~ in death, and in divorce too.
How do I bring the girl he fell in love with back to life?
I miss her.
I am working on rebuilding myself.
And, the new version of me is different.
I am changed not by choice, but by design.
Not all of me survived his death. But, the core of who I am and who he loved still remains. So, here I am using the bones of my old self as the foundation on which to recreate myself and my life. And, it is fair to say, like with any remodel, the new me will be better equipped and improved.
On May 25, 2016, he asked me to marry him.
Then, he died before our wedding day.
I have sat here re-reading those two sentences again and again and again. I just can't seem to process the words the letters are forming. My mind can not make sense of what I am reading. My heart can not accept the words on the page. I do not know if this will ever feel anything but surreal.
Never in a million years did I think this would be the story of my life. It is fair to say Mike and I were just getting to the good part in our love story. We were leading up to the chapter where we were going to live happily ever after. There was no way for us to predict that our story was going to come to a tragic end. Looking back, there wasn't any foreshadowing. Everything was coming up roses for us. Our life together was magical. And, even as I was living it, I remember stopping myself - in the middle an ordinary moment - because I could not believe how beautifully everything was falling into place. Maybe it really was too good to be true.
Life was good.
Our life together was better than anything we dreamed of.
And, that's an understatement.
Then, one night Mike went to sleep and the next morning he never woke up.
And, just like that,
Our story was over.
There were no goodbyes.
And, there will not be happily ever after for us.
At least not here...
It's been 2 years and 3 days since he proposed to me on a warm night in Mexico. I can feel everything about that moment when Mike asked me to be his wife. It feels like just last night; and, it also feels like a lifetime ago too.
A significant amount of time has passed since his proposal; and, I am still not sure what to do with all our hopes and dreams that never came to be. I struggle to live in the moment because I am continuously daydreaming about a fictional life that we never got to live. I constantly wish we were living together under one roof as husband and wife. It's fair to say that I spend a lot of time wishing for things that are no longer possible. And, all this wishful thinking detracts me from living the life before me now.
We were so excited about spending the rest of our lives together- as a family - and I still want to live this life we were planning. I know how irrational this is, and sometimes I feel like I'm crazy for still fantasizing about this pretend life. Although my mind understands that he is gone from this dimension, my heart yearns for him to come back so that we can live happily ever after like he promised me we would.
In truth, I still very much want to be his wife. And, I think a part of me always will. And, this complicates things for me because it is very difficult to fully participate in life when you want to be a dead man's wife. Because of my illogical desires I am forced to exist in limbo. I feel like I live here, and also in a parallel Universe. And, it is exhausting living like this.
The reality is, Mike did spend the rest of his life with me.
So, why isn't this enough.
Why can't I just be happy with this and be content to live a future different than the one I imagined...
After one year, six months, and six days,
Almost every thought still begins with you.
I am unable to live completely in the moment,
And, I struggle to be present,
In my mind,
I am endlessly travelling to a better place in time,
Again and again.
I return to this place,
Where you existed once upon a time.
Time. It goes on...
When his heart stopped, the hands of time were unaffected. I thought I felt time stand still when I saw his lifeless body; but, time itself callously marched on when he died. Time did not stop. Not even for a moment - in spite of my circumstance. The world just carried on without Mike. But, my world was left in ruin when the life I knew ended. However, from the wreckage, something bigger than me, dragged me out from the rubble created by my shattered Soul. I was rescued because my heart is still beating. My life didn't end when Mike's did. Life is for the living; and, now, I'm left to figure out how to do just that...
Almost immediately after his death, life demanded things of me. On a surface level, I was forced to participate in life because children need raising. Work needs to be completed. Bills need to be paid. Dishes need doing. Laundry needs folding. Lawns need mowing. Things need to be said. I need to show up. There are people to meet and obligations to attend to. Life has not stopped because Mike no longer exists here in this dimension. Time has gone on and I've carried along with it.
Life demands participation - even after your person dies. Life is unavoidable. And, in truth, this is a good thing. At this point, there is no part of me that intentionally wishes to escape living. I think this is why my heart feels so heavy. I want to breathe life in again. I absolutely want to feel alive again; but, re-entering life is much more difficult than I imagined it would be.
Mothers. It's complicated.
Being a mother. Having a mother. Not having a mother.
It's all complicated.
The truth is Mother's Day can be a lousy day a lot for some people for various and unique reasons.
Not everyone has a mother on earth.
Some have a mother who is alive, but absent from them.
Some are truant by choice; others are not present because of geography.
And, it must be acknowledged that not everyone is a mother.
Some are not mothers by choice; others are without children by fate.
Further, not every mother has her child here with her on earth...
And, not everyone has a mother who is emotionally available to them.
Not everyone has the mother they wanted.
And, some are not the mothers they want to be.
There is guilt.
There is love.
Mothers. It's complicated.
Many of us are walking down broken roads we never expected to be on. Days like Mother's Day can pronounce what we've lost, what we want, or what we never had. Days like Mother's Day can enunciate what is missing in our lives. I am fortunate. I have children and I celebrated Mother's Day with them. I know this is a luxury that not every mother has. So, why did I still feel unsettled?Read more
I love how Mike was made. He was a good man. He was solid. Kindhearted. Bold in character, and strong in spirit. He stood with confidence. When he walked in a room the energy changed. Mike commanded attention in a very unassuming way. There was a certain authority in everything he did, yet there was a gentleness to him that you could see in his eyes. He made fast friends everywhere he went. I witnessed again and again as people were drawn to his warmth. He had a smile that would light up a room; and, there was an easy, charismatic way about him that felt genuine and true.
Mike was easy to love. To know him, was to love him.
Mike loved life and the people he shared his life with. He was an easy conversation and many of his animated talks went long into the night. Not only could he hold a table while speaking, Mike was earnestly interested in what others had to say. He would lean in to every conversation he had. I adored this about him. Mike had engaging, heartfelt discussions with the waitress who served him his breakfast during the work week, and his butcher on 40th Avenue knew about all the guests coming to our dinner parties. He regularly made a short story long with the neighbor; and, just the same, he quickly made friends with the guy on the roadside selling farm fresh corn. I'm not sure what Mike said, but he came home and proudly announced, " Honey, we have a corn dealer and he'll deliver straight to the house". Yup, he boldly announced, in a matter of fact way, that we had our very own corn dealer. To Mike this was not out of the ordinary. And, to me, at the time, this was strangely not unexpected because anything was possible when Mike was alive. Our life was crammed full of whimsy and joy. And, trust me, Mike didn't stop at the corn dealer. He effortlessly gathered people every place he went. Another time, while we were camping, Mike took out the trash and after a long while he came back to the trailer and told me that I had to come quick because he "just made new friends for us". That was my Mike. He came by it honestly, and he quite literally found treasure when holding a bag full of garbage.
He could engage anyone, anywhere and I loved watching him do so. With Mike life was exciting and the opportunities were boundless. For a long, long time, after he died, I felt the life I loved so much was over. And, in many ways, it is. But, life itself isn't over for me. There are still opportunities for me - even without Mike. Sure, this is not the life I imagined. And, this is not the life I'd choose. But, it's the one I've got. What can I do but make the best of it. Now, it is my turn to find treasure while holding onto the bag full of garbage that grief has served me.
Once again, I must do as Mike did. I have to find a way to create possibilities out of whatever life hands me. Dang, I sure wish I knew what he said to the corn guy because I'm sure whatever words he strung together could serve me well as I carry on without him...
Over the last 532 days, I have taken a fair bit of time to think about my future. After much thought and consideration, I have concluded that my life will be magical again - eventually. I know that my life will be everything I ever dreamed it could be. Life will be beautiful - again. Maybe even more lovely than I've ever imagined... And, the truth is, so will yours if you want it to be.
A year ago, if someone told me that my life would fall into place again I would have hoped what they were telling me was right. The problem is that hope does not provide a sense of contentment because hope can only take you so far. It is just a starting point. There is a big difference between hoping and knowing. Now, inside my heart, I know, without a doubt, that I will be okay. In truth, I know that I will be better than okay. And, let me be completely realistic, this peace of mind has been well earned. I have spent the better part of seventeen-and-a-half months working hard to come to this place. The sense of peace I am feeling hasn't come easy, but it is well deserved.
I have come to believe that everything in my life is going according to plan. A plan that is much bigger than me or Mike. I do not know exactly what the plan is; but, I know that I am being lead in the right direction. Recently, my mindset has become different and I am better for the change. I am more content since I've acknowledged that the plan itself is none of my business. Sure, it's my life and I am obviously interested in the outcome; but, I mean it, what happens to me is really not for me to worry about. I am much more at peace now that I have loosened the reigns; and, I am confident that my future is in better hands than mine.
Since I have removed myself from the responsibility of leading me in the right direction, I no longer feel that it is necessary to plan every little detail about my life. I am so grateful that I am no longer endlessly strategizing and envisioning elaborate scenarios in my mind. Existing with this mindset was completely exhausting and unnecessary. It's ironic, now, I do less; and, this has made all the difference. Less is really more.
I know that whatever will be, will be - in spite of what I do, or do not do. It seems so simple, but for the longest time this concept was beyond me. After Mike died I thought I had to "fix" my life and my broken self. Now, I understand that my life is going to be exactly as it is intended to be and the best thing I can do is move aside and let things unfold. I know this might sounds lofty, or naive, or over simplistic. I assure you, I am not trying to sugarcoat my thoughts. I am just sharing what I've come to know. I really believe that by relinquishing the control I was desperately clinging to I am now heading in the right direction, in spite of myself.
In the past, when I was trying to steer my life, I was holding the wheel so tight that I wasn't enjoying the drive. I was missing the point. Now, I have stopped trying to control my destiny. I am no longer interfering in the direction of my life because I have faith that I am being lead towards the future I am intended to live. And, now, I am finally able to relax a bit. But, I am an overachiever so relaxing hasn't lasted as long as I hoped...Read more
As the months pass, I am becoming increasingly reserved. I used to be a very social person; but, now, I am not overly interested in interacting with the people around me. I am not compelled to engage in superficial conversations because it distracts me from my own thoughts. My identity was intimately entwined with Mike; therefore, when I buried him, a piece of me was essentially buried alive. Seventeen months ago, I lost myself. And, now, I am grasping to redefine my self identity.
In order to do this, I need to withdraw and delve into myself. Now, I am quiet because I am constantly participating in an internal dialogue. As I attempt to re-establish my identity I am endlessly searching my Soul to discover who I am. Countless thoughts swirl around inside my head as I work to redefine myself and rebuild my life. I am completely exhausted from all this thinking. And, most of the time, I feel unsettled in both my mind and in my heart.
Recently, I have eased up on the continuous planning and over-thinking. I have reduced the amount of time I spend arranging ideas in my head because I realize that the best thing I can do is step aside and let the plan unfold. I am more relaxed because I am certain everything will work out exactly as it should - regardless of what I do or don't do. Endlessly shifting thoughts and ideas around in my head will not serve me well in the wake of Mike's death. Finally, I understand that I need to do less strategizing and worrying. I simply need to have faith and enjoy my life as I am re-routed toward a future that is different than I had planned. Thankfully, I am no longer lacking faith. But, now, my latest conundrum is that I am lacking passion...
He loved my smile.
And, let me tell you, I smiled a lot because of him.
I loved my life - when he was in it.
I wore my smile like a permanent accessory
because my life was beautiful.
Our joy permeated the air around us.
Our laughter echoed off every one near us.
Our words to one another were always heartfelt.
We looked at each other with a love that others could feel.
Our smiles were effortless.
Life was good,
And, this is an understatement.
Life with Mike was spontaneous and full of adventure. When he was alive I couldn't wipe the smile from my face because the life we were building together was so breathtakingly beautiful. We "had the world by the ass" as he would say. Mike loved a good swear word and I know that's not everyone's cup of tea; but, we were coffee drinkers... it is what it is.
Many of our joy filled conversations came complete with a few saucy swear words - thrown in for emphasis - because that's how he rolled. He tended to speak colorfully because he literally couldn't contain his excitement. Mike was so in love with life and everything around him that he just blurted things out. The crazy things that would fly out of his mouth made my life. He taught me how to live with wild abandon. And, I'm better for it.
When he spoke, sometimes he could be a bit brash, but he got away with it because of his smooth delivery. Once in a while the refined, cautious people would look at him sideways, or glance in my direction to confirm that their ears heard what he said. I'd knowingly smile because everything he spoke was accurate, albeit somewhat uncouth. Mike could always be counted on to state the unrefined truth. He was bright. He saw the world and the people in it exactly as they were. And, Mike definitely wasn't uncomfortable calling out what he saw. He taught me to speak the truth confidently. And, again, I am better for it.
Mike was a talker and he knew how to say the most audacious things with a twinkle in his eyes. He spoke with a simple honesty that was admirable and refreshing. Essentially, he was impulsive; and, a big kid at heart. Mike was animated and he had a larger than life personality. He saw the world in a whimsical way. It was a privilege for me to see life through his eyes. With Mike, my life became bolder and more magical. And, I am a better woman for sharing part of my life with him.
It was a wild ride wandering through life with him by my side.
from the moment my eyes opened,
I had a smile smeared across my face .
Life was big and bold and fun with Mike.
we were having the time of our lives.
was as natural as breath.
I miss living like this. Our life was rich. I have never lived with such enchantment in all my life. I miss the rapture he gave me. I miss the gush of excitement he brought to the ordinary. I desperately miss how he made me laugh. The depth of my laughter was different when I was with him. I often wonder if I will ever laugh that way again. I hope I do. And, in truth, I know that I will because he won't have it any other way; and...