the most important part
of the journey
is just deciding to go.”
I read this quote the other day in a book and I liked it. I tend to spend too much time overthinking things and not enough time just doing them. So this was refreshing to read. But it also got me thinking about widowhood, and decisions. And how much of the difficulty about loss in general is the lack of control we have. The fact that there are usually so many decisions that we either did not get to make, or never wanted to have to make. It really has a whole lot of different meanings depending on where you’re coming from.
Most of all, though, this quote makes me think back to on the different journeys that I am glad I did decide to go on. Of how glad I am I decided to date that cocky, goofy pilot. Even though I knew his work was dangerous and he could someday die doing it - which of course he did. Even though I’d been in an abusive relationship before him, and I was scared to get close to anyone again. Even though it all felt terribly scary, and I tried to run away from it, eventually I just decided to go on that journey with him. And once I decided, everything else was the most incredible ride. He changed my whole view of men, and of love, and of myself in the best of ways. And even though he did die, the changes he made in my life did not. That decision changed who I was forever - so he has never left me.
I am glad I decided to leave the city we lived in together, and leave my career, and leave all my friends behind. Even though that was hard too… I just knew, after he was gone, I couldn’t be there without him. I knew I had to decide to just go. And take some new chances. And yet again, once I made the decision, things fell into place to help it happen. His family supported me through it all, and I made new friendships and grew as a person in ways I never would have had I not decided to go.
And then I met Mike, 4 years ago this week actually. I knew within that very first meeting that if I decided to keep knowing this man, he was going to change my entire life all over again - just like Drew had. It was scary for sure, because I didn’t really feel ready for so much change. But I decided to go, and things unfolded. And here we are four years later… miraculously carving out a new life in the aftermath of losing both our partners. On a journey of firsts together, trying to figure out what it means to be in love again and also love the ones we’ve lost. And deciding each day what that means for us, and what we want to create this new love to be.
All of the best parts of my life have always been the results of those moments I decided to just go. And sure, they have also led to an unfathomable amount of pain sometimes… but isn’t that life? We aren’t owed easy. We aren’t owed a perfectly happy, painless life. We aren’t owed anything at all really. I realize that’s not everyone’s favorite thing to hear, but it’s true. It's not the whole story though...Read more
Anniversaries are, in general, a prompt for looking back. They’re an annual reminder to be reminded of the past. While oftentimes, an anniversary is also a milestone, it still remains that, simply put, an anniversary measures the passage of time.
They don’t really MEAN anything to widows. Our person is neither more, nor less dead on their death anniversary than they are on any other day, but damned if we aren’t reminded of the fact that they ARE dead a whole hell of a lot more.
Interestingly, other dates tend to morph into this reminder as well. Shelby’s upcoming birthday? I’m always reminded of the fact Megan isn’t there to see her reach twelve years old. Halloween? Megan loved halloween...she would enjoy being here. The anniversary of the date I was discharged? Oh wow, now I remember how I met Megan a few months after that.
That’s the thing, it’s like I can’t have an anniversary or holiday anymore without feeling the pressing need to remember Megan and either A) remember how she was on that day, or B) point out the fact that she’s not there.
But today’s anniversary? It’s different.Read more
It’s been a little over a month now since Mike proposed. I’ve had a few hard triggers. Trying to think about planning a wedding has been tough at first. The last time I was going to marry someone, he died before we ever got to the big day. He died before we ever even got into the true planning. So needless to say, that part of me that remembers is very aware. I’ve had a few moments of just bursting into heavy, deep sobs because sometimes it feels like reliving the past and it gets very scary to imagine it all disappearing again.
I’ve worried this whole process would be too much to handle, and too emotional to deal with, and that I wouldn’t even be able to manage the idea of planning a wedding ever. But aside from those moments where the fears get big and scary, most of the time, I’ve felt a new awareness of time and a new appreciation for each day.
Just last week, I told Mike, “I’ve gotten to be engaged to you for a whole month now! That’s more than I ever got to before!” And it’s true. Just as with each anniversary year we have hit (4 YEARS next week, wow!)… there is a feeling of thankfulness that we’ve somehow gotten this far. Part of me is still expecting it all to fall apart at any moment like it did when Drew died. But instead of being so afraid of that, I just feel excited for every small piece. Excited to ask one of my best friends to make our wedding cake. Excited to ask another of our closest friends to be the one to marry us. And honored, so honored, that I get the privilege to have had one whole month of planning such a special day, so far. Even if all went wrong and it didn't happen, I still got this part. I still got to spend all this wonderful time dreaming of the day - which is something that was taken from me the last time I was going to marry my person.Read more
The year was 2005, and it was a cold day in February.
I looked out the window of my New Jersey apartment, which sat on the Hudson River. NYC looked back at me.
I put the coffee pot on, and started making the meatballs and sauce. My Nana Mary's lasagna recipe, with bow tie pasta and meatballs and ribs on the side.
I had made it for Don the first time we met in person, about 3 years after we began talking in that music chat trivia room.
He had flown all the way from Florida to Jersey, to meet me, to stay with me for a few days, to fall in love.
I took him into my apartment on that day, and we sat at my kitchen table and shared our first meal together.
That was the first time he said to me: "My Boo makes the bestest food ever! I could get used to this!"
So, here I was , a few years later, making it again, in anticipation of his arrival.
Except this time, I would not have to say goodbye at the end of a few days.
This time, he was staying.
Don Shepherd was moving in with me on that day.
He had his whole life inside that Penske truck that was attached to his 1997 Grand Prix car -
soon he would be pulling up onto my street, and emptying out everything he owned out of that truck and into my small apartment.
Soon, my small apartment would become "our" small apartment.
His cat Isabelle that sat in his lap while he drove, would become "our" cat.
Soon, we would begin our life together.
It was Superbowl Sunday,
and the start of a brand new life.
I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to be feeling, now moving towards year 5 since Megan’s death. Shelby is a preteen (and it certainly shows), and moves ever so closer to wanting to spend time with her friends versus us. Her brother is married with a growing family of his own, with two sons that Megan never got to meet. One of our best friends was just approved to be listed for a lung transplant of her own, and herself has a son that’s a toddler.
I’m engaged, for crying out loud.
So, so much has changed in these 5 years, and it’s not just my weight. While life stagnated for awhile, just after her death, it began evolving quickly thereafter. That crushing, defeated feeling of the world coming to an end started to fade a bit. What seemed like rash decisions or actions in those months following her departure have morphed into memories that I can hang my hat on.
They’re memories that, carefully analyzed, draw a clear path to where I am today.
They also add confusion to grief.Read more
It’s an instruction that Sarah has given to me as I walk out the door to work more times than I can count. Sometimes, it’s fairly innocuous. Other times, it’s said with a fervent, if not pleading “PLEASE don’t die today”; usually after waking up from a particularly emotional dream.
It’s not a “tic” or meaningless, repetitive saying. She means it. She is constantly and consciously aware that at any moment, I could be gone. Any of us could, for any reason. Is saying it going to change fate? No, but it does indeed absolve her from responsibility in the event the worst occurs...like a pre-emptive “I told you so”.
Interestingly, I don’t say it nearly as much. I do say the far less instructive “Drive safe” often, but it is rarely “Don’t Die”. I think there are a few observations I’d like to make.Read more
It has been almost a month since I last posted on here. Sometimes, life can get in the way of all of our commitments to others. Between the holidays, the busiest time of year at my work, travel, and budgets, sharing my weekly thoughts and anecdotes about life after becoming widowed took a significant back-burner.
But the primary reason I hadn’t shared is that my mind, in fact, my very being, was consumed by something that I couldn’t write about at the time.
An impending proposal.Read more
We’re a week into the new year, and I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and reflect. Holiday travel definitely takes a lot out of you and we’re only just beginning to get settled back in at home. The thing that I am reflecting on right now as I write to you is mostly, my gratitude, and the big event I wrote about last week - Mike proposing to me.
A lot of people don’t know that Drew never officially proposed to me. He was planning to as soon as he returned from the work trip he was on - only he never returned. But he had sort-of asked in a roundabout way before that… because I was the queen of avoiding large milestones like these. Basically, he wanted reassurance that if he did ask me soon, I would be happy about it and not feel pushed or pressured. In the conversation, I started to overthink and freak out about the idea of it, as I do with most milestones, and then I stopped myself and I told him “Whenever you ask me, I will say yes”. So that’s as far as we actually got. A few weeks later, he was gone, without warning.
I’m sure most understand how painful it is to have not gotten to the proposal, or the wedding, or the first year, or the fifth year, or your first house, or children, or grandchildren… to not have gotten to some milestone. Or a lot of milestones.
This has been my story for the past 6 ½ years. A story I unknowingly settled into. Even though I referred to Drew as my fiance after his death, truly, no one had ever proposed to me. No one had ever said those words to me. And these years since his death, I have been a woman who has never been asked. I think a very old part of my damaged self worth liked to feed off of that sometimes. Like I didn’t deserve it. It’s not rational, and it doesn’t make sense, and I know it isn’t true, but it’s still there… somewhere in the dark corners of my heart, this whispering thought that I don’t deserve to be asked that question.
Only now, that story has been changed by someone new...Read more
It has been 7 and a half years since my beautiful husband Don Shepherd's sudden death.
About 18 months ago, I found new and wonderful and beautiful love.
Somewhere in the first few months of the relationship with my new love, the topic of "Don's things" came up. I think I was the one who brought it up. We were in my bedroom talking, or kissing, or something. I forget. But in that moment, I looked over to my nightstand next to my bed, and noticed, as if for the first time or through my lover's eyes, the shrine that it was to Don. Our wedding picture was there. The American flag folded up and in it's frame from the Air Force funeral. The framed certificate from the Sharing Network for being a tissue/organ donor. And his rally monkey stuffed animal that was his lucky charm. I asked Nick very honestly: "Does it bother you that I have so many of Don's things all over my bedroom? Is it weird for you? I feel like it must be weird. " He paused for a minute, and then said just as honestly: "He was your husband. And he died. I think it's normal, and I don't ever want to be someone who would ask you to subtract anything about him from your life. I don't believe in subtracting . Just adding. " Then we talked about how we both looked forward to the day when we have started to build our own memories and private jokes and "things" that could be added to my life's collection.
I remember loving his response that day. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and it was comforting. It also made me fall in love with him just a little bit more.Read more
It seems I made it to adulthood with a rather enormous stack of self limiting beliefs to shuffle through. For a lot of years, I wasn’t even aware of it. I was so used to these beliefs that, in my mind, they were just truths. I always had all my ducks in a nice, neat row… and they were all well-fed and had an ample security system around them at all times to ensure safety. There wasn't any big risk taking going on, nothing much unexpected. Drew was more of a “leap and build your wings on the way down” sort of person.
In the years when I met and dated him, I started to become more aware of my negative beliefs, and started to challenge some of them. He was always a big supporter of me pushing past my own perceived limits. He got me to go skydiving, something I never imagined I’d ever do. And fly a plane. And submit my first photographs to an exhibit. He was the first person I truly felt took me under their wing and attempted to nudge me gently upward and forward.
When he died, I didn’t want that to die along with him. It was a part of myself that I had been with him that I didn’t want to lose. I think, it gave me something that I could choose to keep during a time when so much was taken away without my having a say.
So I kept doing things to push my limits. It was harder without him there, but also, his death made me more determined… more fearless.Read more