There are surreal little things lately about my life lately. About getting together for coffee with girlfriends recently, who are eager to see the new engagement ring and hear all about Mike’s proposal. Surreal because part of me still thinks something will go wrong before we ever get to a wedding. Part of me is wary of that… how could I not be. And surreal because even though I am in a whole other chapter of my life with someone new, I don’t feel like the other chapter is “behind” me or “gone”. I don’t feel any less close to that life and to the person I was with then. I don’t feel Drew’s absence the way I feared I would years ago when his death was so fresh.
It will be 7 years this summer since Drew died. Which is also surreal. I still remember the enormous knot of fear in my stomach in the first year… about ever, ever reaching 5 years, or 8 years, or 10 years, or 20 years of him being gone. I think somewhere around years 3 and 4 though, something started to happen. A shift where I realized I don’t have to ever be scared of losing him. I left Texas, and the life he and I knew together. And I faced the fear of losing my connection to him in an even bigger way by doing so. I chose to love someone new, and start a life with that person too, facing that fear even more.
I realize now, that every single new milestone that causes a fear of losing more pieces of him, or of the life we shared together, is one that I must push through. Because every time I have done so, I have come out the other side realizing that I still feel just as connected to him, to our life, and to who I was. Every time I have dared to venture into more living and loving, I have felt his presence with me… most especially in quiet moments to myself where I will simply, suddenly, feel him near and feel him assuring me that all is well. Or in unexplainable signs that pop up when I least expect it.
I don’t know why I expected or feared I would lose more of him… I don’t know why so many of us do, except for the knowing of how much we have already lost of them. Or the lack of any real preparation on the part of our modern day culture for what it means to keep living when people we love have died. I do know this though, the people we love change us, and shape us. And so they are always present simply in who we are. We need do nothing more than breathe, laugh, cry, smile… to already be connected to them.
I can still remember the first time someone told me, at a widow support group, that I never, ever have to stop loving him. And that even though the body dies, I will never, ever lose the love or connection between us. It is still there and always will be there. What I didn’t really understand back then, was that because this love continues to live in me, and because I’ve chosen to bring it with me, all the new experiences of life for decades to come will not be something that makes our love or our life feel farther away or less. Instead, because that love remains, and because I allow it to be a part of my new life, every single new experience in my life becomes a part of my relationship to him. Instead of every new chapter and new experience and new memory made erasing or lessening the past, these things add to our stories with them.
In my eyes, his story didn’t end when he died. My life is the continuation of his story and in that way, his story is still being written.