Thursday, April 30, 2009
I had sand all over my feet and the wind in my face. My eyes were closed as I stretched my arms out wide as I could and I balanced against the railing of the life guard tower. I held my palms up as if waiting... expecting David to take them, I almost felt as though he did. I took deep, careful breathes... I wanted David. I caught myself whispering, "Come get me... please... come get me." I meant those words with every cell in my body. Come get me. Rescue me. David. I let my mind dance around whatever memories volunteered themselves.
Once again, I remembered the night David and I watched a movie called, "The Village." In the movie, Ivy (a blind women), in time of distress, holds her hand out in front of her knowing that her love, Lucious, would come to take it. He'd rescue her. She knew he'd come and he knew she'd be waiting. Watching this, David turned to me and said, "I want to be that for you." I knew exactly what he meant. As I stood on the that tower and remembered his words, I couldn't help but smile. I felt warm and safe.
As I opened my eyes I was determined, once more, to continue this journey. There is an intense spiritual yearning between me and David that is strong enough to withstand the loneliness and ache of this world. Each morning as I wake up I hold out my hand for David to take it... for yet another day. Each day I survive I am more convinced then the previous that this life is still to be shared with David. I am more convinced of Love's strength and determination. David is holding my hand and running me through to the end. With nothing to hold him back...not this world, not his body nor time itself restrains David. So David's love, the life of his soul, is free to pour out. I believe David is active in my life... I believe his love pours out on me everyday... My love, my husband, will always be there to grab my hand with his.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
I'm in Bloomington Illinois today to watch Michele, my WSM (love that Taryn!), receive one of the 2009 Embrace Life Awards presented each year by State Farm Insurance. The program recognizes people who have suffered the loss of a loved one and tried to make it into something positive. Obviously, Michele fits the bill perfectly.
The recipients varied from young adults suffering the loss of parents, to young widows and widowers, to older widows, all of whom have managed to make margaritas out of the limes served to them by life. It was an amazing awards ceremony, and I met some truly inspiring people. What a great way to start out a week. You can read about Michele and the other recipients on the State Farm website.
Congratulations Michele. The work you do will benefit so many, and the way you do it inspires all you touch. Love you Tacalla, and so happy to be along for the ride.
Happy Tuesday everyone!
Monday, April 27, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
My reason to relay is to fight back in a way that I feel shows results. I feel less powerless knowing that I am doing something, anything to help, and each year I am thankful that I participated. The luminaria portion of the relay is my favorite part, and also one of the more difficult moments. The lights are turned off, the night is dark and quiet. One by one the lights in the luminaria bags are lit, and bag pipes play "Amazing Grace" into the softly illuminated darkness. Everyone walks the track in silence. In my head, I see flashed memories of Daniel, and my heart breaks a hundred times over. Around me in the silence, hundreds of people experience their own memories, and the air is tense with emotion. It is a wonderful, painful, awesome experience.
Thanks to the members of Team Dippel for doing it each year, and thanks to all who make donations to support our efforts. Team Dippel, doing everything we can to kick cancer's a$$ in memory of Daniel Dippel.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
What is a W.S.M.? A little acronym I came up with which stands for: Widow Soul Mate
After losing Michael I had the fear of never meeting anyone else who could or would understand the pain, love, and grief that I was feeling. Luckily with my line of work, I have met many amazing people who are the epitomy of survivors. In my travels through widowhood I have met a certain few which I truly care about, one who has come to be known as my WSM.
She is on the same plain as me, that is really one of the only ways to describe it. Although we have two different stories of love and tragedy, I cannot imagine this journey without her. She doesn't question my moody days and celebrates in my happy ones. All though we are opposite in many ways we learn from each other's stories and draw strength from another wen one feels as if they can't make it through the day.
I often feel closer to Michael when around her because she puts me in check in moments when I know Michael would, and she reminds me that he loves me when I feel disconnected. I do not know how or why are paths crossed but I know the load is a tad lighter because of it.
So here's to my WSM. Thank you for all that you do.
“This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, Love to complete your life.” - Unknown
Friday, April 24, 2009
Clients often ask me if I can recommend books - books that will help them understand their grief and help them feel less alone. There are many such books available.
I don't know about you, but when I was a new widow I was unable to concentrate long enough to read much of anything so I needed books that were easy to read and they had to be enormously engaging. Because my brain was mush, (widow’s brain) my preference was for fiction rather than nonfiction. I also came from health care and understood grief from a clinical point of view. I did not need more of that. My favorite book was Good Grief by Lolly Winston.
I love it when I find a book that not only supports my experience of widowhood but also makes me laugh. I so needed to laugh. The main character Sophie shows us that grief and humor are not mutually exclusive. When she showed up at work in bunny slippers and completely sloshed, she made me feel better about all the times I wanted to hide under the covers, cry, and get really fat on Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Sophie gives herself great permission to grieve. And grieve she does. She demonstrates just how messy grief can be and she also helps us laugh at our human-ness.
Lolly Winston is not a widow, (I am pretty sure) but don't let that stop you. There is much truth here. For instance, Sophie talks about the "Unrequited-ness of grief", one of the aspects of widowhood about which I struggled. (As I cried, painfully missing Mike, I always had the feeling that my husband was either not crying back, or even worse, that he was having a ball! I knew that I should have been happy about the fact that he was happy. But the one-sided-ness of it felt enormously unfair and I was mad, mad that I was here suffering and he was there (?) doing God knows what.)
This book is not for everyone, and as usual, timing is everything. I was two years past losing Mike when this book hit my funny bone. So, if you are like me and the timing is right, it is likely that you will laugh and cry with this book.
Mie Elmhirst Widows Breathe
(That's me in the photo... Mike died before we had a digital camera!)
Thursday, April 23, 2009
(Picture taken at Six Flags California, April 2006, our 21st Birthdays.)
It is birthday weekend. David and I were born only two days apart, out of all the years I've known him we've only been able to spend 3 birthdays together... Our 16th, our 21st, and our 22nd birthdays...
Previously, I looked forward to new years to come, new challenges... another birthday... life. Right now, just thinking of turning another year older without him leaves me with a knot in my stomach. How is this possible? How is it that time can fearlessly move forward without the love of life and without my consent?
It's all too easy for me to obsess over "time." Is it my gift? Or curse? Must I embrace it? I wish I can run from it. I wish hiding under my comforter actually made time cease. I remember thinking, in my early days of widowhood, that I wouldn't make it to 23- widowed at 22. Here I am, at the mercy of time, turning 24 just as David should be. Somehow in the midst of all my denial and obsessing over the impossibility of time's persistence, another year went by. A whole year.
I can no longer say with confidence that I won't be here next year. Time does not "heal all my wounds" as ignorance describes, but time does begin to dull the intensity of the pain. Time allows for my thoughts to clear, for love to grow, and for strength to persevere. Time... I hate it... but it's proven what's most important to me- LOVE prevails. It's shown me what David saw all along... my strength.
I'll probably be here for our 25th birthdays... so...(DEEP BREATH) here's to another year... With LOVE, I know I can make it!
Happy Birthday, My love.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
So there you go ...... three random and totally unexpected changes ..... and I'm still OK. Not always, but more and more.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I had a medical procedure myself last week. My dad flew in from England to stay with me and help me with my son. Although I didn't expect to need much help, Dad offered to come anyway. I was taking a week off of work, and he thought it was a great opportunity for a visit. I agreed. Thank goodness he came, as I was far more incapacitated than I was expecting, and I needed his help much more than I would have thought.
My dad and Grayson took me in for my surgery, and because he was watching Grayson, my dad left me there with plans to pick me up afterwards. I went back for my procedure alone and waited for the surgeon to come. As I lay in the hospital bed, my thoughts turned to the countless hours I had spent in various hospitals with Daniel, how much he hated being there,and how much I hate being in hospitals now. I would sit by his side, read, talk to him, distract him, etc. Who was doing that for me? Where was my partner "in sickness"?
I'll admit I had a small pity party for myself, and it was before they gave me the sedative....so no excuse there! :) I just felt so alone and for a minute I wallowed in it. I only gave myself about a minute though before I began to make a list of those who were with me, whether they were there holding my hand or not: my son, who was so anxious to have me feel better and so willing to be my darling nurse-maid; my Dad, who travelled thousands of miles to help me; my mom, who was standing by the phone waiting to hear how it went; my wonderful friends and family, who sent well wishes and completely inappropriate jokes to ease my worry; my coworkers, who were checking in to make sure I would reappear and reoccupy my office. The list was a wonderfully full one, and it cheered me right up (okay, the sedative helped too!).
Although I no longer have a partner in sickness and in health to sit by my side and tell me it will be okay....my family and friends stand in quite well. Love to you all, and thanks for being such fantastic back-up. Some days I really need it, even when I don't know how to ask.
Happy Tuesday! - Michelle D.
Monday, April 20, 2009
On August 31, 2005 while riding up the street towards this trail head on his mountain bike, Phil was hit and killed by a large vehicle. I was called to the scene by a witness, and sat on the green grass of the sidewalk that I passed countless times on the way to my favorite place...watching as my unconscious husband was loaded onto an ambulance. He died less than an hour later.
About a month after Phil's death I was struck by the desire to get outside. After spending much of the first month after his death in semi-seclusion, I was desperate for some fresh air~and a break from the terrible sadness. My trail home was calling, and I longed to answer~but I would have to go down the road Phil died on to get to my destination.
It was possible to get to Long Canyon by taking the "long way," but I didn't want to give in to death. I couldn't control the fact that my husband was gone, but I didn't want to allow death to rob me of every joy. So, I determined to drive that path in order to find out if my trail still felt like home without Phil. As I drove down that road the first time my leg shook as I pressed the gas pedal. My brain flashed all the images of the last moments of Phil's life. Approaching the place in the road where Phil was hit, my heart started pounding and my breathing became shallow. I could almost feel my heart breaking. And then in a moment I was past the spot, and headed to the place that held so many wonderful memories.
Yes, going to Long Canyon hurt. Every tree, bush, hill, and rock screamed Phil's absence. But I didn't want to let death win, so I went back, over and over again. Eventually, the trail we loved helped me heal. Slowly those hills represented climbs I conquered alone. Some days I cried through the whole run; some days I was wrapped up in my daily life and thought of Phil in fleeting moments; some days I marveled at how far I have come since that fateful night. One thing hasn't changed, I never go to these hills without a smile for Phil~and I never feel alone there.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I confess... I am an American Idol fan. I know, I know, but I love the show. So, for those of you who don't watch, this year in the finals there is a young widower named Danny Goeke. As the season has progressed I have watched Danny with interest as he grows as an artist, and I can sometimes imagine that I see him processing his grief.
In the early episodes of AI, Danny wore his wedding band. One evening I noticed he didn't have his ring on. I wondered what the impetus had been for him to take it off...personal, professional, on someones advice, or because he needed to? As I have listened to him sing, watched his awed face as he discovers he will continue on the show for another week, I always watch for signs that he is thinking of his wife. They were young maybe this was a dream they shared? Perhaps she was his biggest supporter? Or maybe not, but because he has walked the widow road, I feel I know him somehow.
So when Danny came on this week's show to sing "Endless Love," by Lionel Richie I noticed right away that he was wearing his wedding band. And I also noticed that he looked into the heavens as he sang the final words of the song...my endless love. The performance gave me chills, and it reminded me of the power of the jewelry we wear as symbols of our love.
Today I share with you my wedding ring. I took it off four months after Phil's death because I found it so painful to look at my hand and be reminded that I was no longer a wife; my husband wasn't coming home. But as time passed I found myself taking out my ring and wearing it when I wanted to feel Phil close to me. And I still do. On the anniversary of his death I often wear my beautiful ring. Sometimes I wear it when I am afraid, other times when I want to honor our love, and still other times just because. For me, taking my wedding ring off wasn't a permanent decision. That ring is mine no matter where the person who gave it to me resides, and it will always represent the promise Phil and I made to each other.
Death did part us, but my ring~and our love~remains.
So Danny, I totally get it. And she is really proud of you.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
It's just one of those days, where the sun can't shine enough to get me out of this funk. One of those days where my bed held me hostage, and I didn't mind. One of those days where I don't feel like doing much, and you know what...............
I'm totally ok with that!
I've learned that at first I dreaded these days, they were a reminder that not all is viewed through rose colored glasses. I'd try and fight against the current to get out of these funks.
I now know, that by giving myself freedom to embrace these days as they come, it's a whole lot easier to embrace the good days that follow!
So here's to the "blah" days. Without the bitter how would I never know the sweet.
“May the saddest day of your future be no worse than the happiest day of your past”
Friday, April 17, 2009
When Anneke was eight, a year after Mike died, I dropped her off at her Tae Kwon Do lesson and I was so relieved to have time alone that I forgot to pick her up. Forty-five minutes later as I unpacked the groceries she walked in the house having gotten a ride home from her instructor. She was incredulous and outraged. “You forgot me! You actually forgot me!” I was speechless. My daughter who forgives almost anything did not forgive this for a long time. A child who has been abandoned by her father does not take well to being forgotten by her mother. I had visions of the instructor reporting me to DSS.
Even worse, a year later I forgot her again. She was at summer camp. I remembered 45 minutes after closing time and burned rubber to get there. The fact that I almost got a speeding ticket did not make up for my forgetting. She is now 15 and still talks about being forgotten. I tell her that widowhood messes with a woman’s brain. That was my excuse for years and nine years later, it still comes in handy.
Widowhood does mess with ones brain.
That was also the year that I lost the telephone while it was in my hand. It rang and rang, and everywhere I looked I heard it loud and clear. The bathroom, the kitchen, under the couch…Only when I finally put it down did I realize that it had been in my hand.
It was like looking for my glasses when they were on my head. Once I had 2 pairs of glasses on the top of my head.
I have learned not to be amazed at what widowhood does to us.
But is surely messes with our brains.
Mie Elmhirst. Widows Breathe
Thursday, April 16, 2009
It's Thursday. As I lay in my bed pondering all the emotions I've traveled through this week... I can't help but smile and shake my head... Wow. Where the heck did I go this week?? And how did I get back?!
Have you ever traveled through the depths of the "valley" of grief and lost recognition of who you are? I think and say things that surprise even myself while I'm making my way through the dark. I speak of doubt and my thoughts are easily consumed by hopelessness. I become lazy as the remote control becomes my best ally, my social skills go down the tubes, and I see no end.
Convinced that the past 8 years have been nothing more then my imagination, I doubted David. I doubted his very existence. I doubted his love. I doubted us. Sinking deeper into my couch cushions, I began to ask myself: Did you ever really know him? Did he really love you? The possibility that I exaggerated the strength of our love... the connection of our souls... My valley got darker before I saw even a flicker of light. I can't even count how many times I've thrown in the towel while curled in my ball of pain. Still, I survive. Still... I'm here. Why??
I called David's mother... to make sure he was real- that I didn't make him up. And I began to sift through the emails... emails he wrote to me. I laughed out loud, smiled childishly, and cried my eyes out. This time, my tears were not tears of hopelessness, rather tears of comfort and hope. He is real. I remember now... He is real.
"...We were meant from the very beginning of time to love each other."
-David, from an email in August 2003-
I held on tight to his words...HIS words and began making my way out of my valley.
I decided that I have a mission- a purpose. I have NO idea what, but I'm trusting that the moment my "mission" is complete that I too will return to eternity... return to "the very beginning of time," where our souls were destined to be united. This is what pulled me from my darkness this week... This is my hope.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Happy Tuesday, see you next week. - Michelle (dippel)
Monday, April 13, 2009
In the normal course of life moms feed, bathe, clothe, soothe, encourage, celebrate, hold, hug, and protect their little ones through the bumps and bruises associated with living, learning and loving. But when death came knocking, I couldn't protect them.
The night Phil died, I rode in the back seat of a car with my three kids crying in my arms. They asked question, after question...why did that man hit him, Mom? Where was Phil's bike? Wasn't he wearing a helmet? I thought you said he probably broke some bones. Why did he die? I remember these moments like you recall a dream, vivid and yet out of focus and somehow backwards. However, one feeling from that night is crystal clear...the terrifying sensation of being completely helpless. For the first time in their young lives there was not one thing I could do to take away my children's pain. Being powerless to alter the course my children were about to travel, I became certain that all I could offer them was a hand to hold as we walked the road that lay before us. And so we grieved, together. Some days were ugly. Some days I yelled more than I should have. Some days we cried, others we laughed. They went back to school, I sat on the couch and stared into space. They did homework, I tried to pay attention. Dinner was sometimes from a box, and other times from the drive through. We went to the beach, we slept in when we felt like it, and we said Phil's name often. We kept some of our previous family traditions, and we created some new ones. We slowly built a new life one day at a time.
What my kids taught me in the wake of our tragedy was that just because they are young does not mean they are weak. They taught me that time together is the foundation for the memories that hold us up in times of loss. Their laughter reminded me that being happy was necessary, too. Their love was unconditional...so I didn't have to be perfect. They showed everyone around them that step-parents are real parents, too. They memorialized Phil in writing, painting, music, and dedications of important events; always striving to make him proud. My kids taught me that I could lean on them, the whole world didn't have to rest on my shoulders alone.
My three teenage angels taught me to be a better mother, and to see the world as it can be if we believe all those things we teach them...love much, laugh often, live well.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
So today, at my own personal risk, I am going to wish those of you who celebrate this day a Happy Easter. Yes, you heard me right, Happy Easter.
I brave the horrid looks you would throw my way if you could see me to wish you a happy day because you deserve one. It took me a long time to come to that realization. Grief, sadness, loneliness, desperation...those were all easy emotions to embrace. In fact, I reveled in them. Happiness was not only banned from my heart, it was taboo, disloyal, impossible. Any hint of fun was tarnished by the idea that if I was feeling good I must be recovering from the experience of losing Phil, and in my mind any step towards the dreaded "stage of acceptance" was a tettering step on the slippery slope of forgetting the man I loved. So I avoided pleasant things, tortured myself with sharp memories often, and cried into my journal every night. All this misery I piled on top of the obvious and unavoidable fact that Phil was dead.
But love and gratitude snuck in and saved me. As time passed I came to see that I was still a very, very lucky girl. My husband was dead, but I have a beyond fabulous family. My husband wasn't coming home, but I have three amazing children. Phil would not be celebrating Easter with us, but my mom was still making homemade bread. The rest of my siblings leave holidays with their spouse by their side, but though I leave the party a single mom...I return to a home I love and get to keep. And the best surprise of all, when I allowed a little happiness into my life the brightness of the love I shared with Phil was not dimmed by my dark despair, instead I was reminded of the depth and constancy of a love that is mine forever. Not only did I not forget him, I loved him even more.
So, on this day of family fun, Easter egg hunts, giggling children, too much chocolate, and bittersweet moments associated with the empty spot at the family table...I wish you happiness. Don't be afraid, you won't forget.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Dreams take on a whole new meaning after the loss of your soul mate. They are a realm you travel to each night, with their population and surroundings always a mystery. Sometimes I have dreams in which I see my love; that smile, that face, that counterpart of my being. There have been times I've been able to speak with him and other times in which I feel as if he cannot see me. There are times in which I am conscious of the fact that he is not alive and times when I feel that I've been thrown into a time machine taking me to a time when he was still here.
After encountering theses night encounters I may wake up with a smile on my face and a drive like no other to take on the world, then there are the times in which I wake up in tears or just with the need to stay curled up in the enveloping warmth of my comforter. I've come to terms that these dreams may not all have a special meaning or happy ending. There are no dream dictionaries that can decipher their hidden message or let me know which ones may actually be Michael visiting me, or just my imagination feeding into my never ending want to be near him.
I still will wake each morning and face this new chapter that I never thought I'd be the author of. I still will be go to bed each evening not knowing what will come, but unafraid to shut my eyes..... and I will still see you in my dreams.
Friday, April 10, 2009
I saw him. Seven months after he died, I saw him. I was standing outside the Coffee Obsession, and I swear to God, I saw him. It was Mike. He was about three blocks away and talking to a lady. I couldn’t see who she was, but it looked like he was giving her directions as he pointed down the street.
I stood frozen. I knew it wasn’t him. It couldn’t be him. He was gone and I had cried for seven months.
But there he was. It was Mike. It seemed like they talked forever. I was sure he was smiling.
I wanted to get a closer look.
Don’t go, I told myself. Don’t go. You know it can’t be him. If you go, it will mean you have stepped over the line, that you really are crazy.
I waited, desperate to talk to him, terrified that it might be him and terrified that it wasn't him. And then, I saw him turn and walk in the opposite direction.
I took off.
I ran three blocks, dodging sightseers and shoppers, saying “please excuse me” and “I’m sorry” over and over. I knew it couldn’t be Mike, but still I ran after him.
When I was close, I stopped.
My husband had been 6’2”, 185 pounds. He was bald from chemo and 52 years old when he died. He was handsome.
This man was old. He had gray hair and he was skinny. Almost wizened. He was 5’6”-ish and he looked nothing like my Mike. Nothing at all.
I starred, incredulous and gasping for air. How could this be? How could I have mistaken this man for my husband?
I looked at the people around me.
Did they see me? Did they see what I had just done ? Did they see me run down Main Street chasing my dead husband?
But, no one noticed. They were busy.
Thankful they didn't see but also wishing that they had, that I wasn't so alone, I slowly walked back to my coffee shop, again amazed at what grief can do.
The above happened over 8 years ago. I am re-telling the story because
1. I can finally laugh at myself. (And I do!)
2. I know that I am not the only woman to whom this has happened. (OK, maybe you were smart enough not to run after him...)
3. Because sometimes it is good to look back and see how far you have come. (A long, long way!!!)
Mie Elmhirst Widows Breathe
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Have you ever had to lie to protect yourself? To protect what's left of you?
I thought I was ready to go back to work 3 months after David was killed. I have no particular logic as to why I thought it was time to mingle with the "others" but I assumed if I just refused eye contact I'd be OK.
In my line of work, you see the same people maybe once a month or once every few months, so there's plenty of small talk... "How's the family" "What are you up to" .... When I got to work, I realized no one knew. No one knew what I had just gone through only 3 short months ago, what I still go through every day. They had no idea nor did I think they cared that my soul mate was killed in Iraq.
I kept to myself. Sticking to the plan: NO EYE CONTACT. I had my cell phone in my hand at all times and the moment I felt a conversation heading my direction I used it. But, of course, this plan didn't work all day. An elderly gentleman began a polite conversation with me... He noticed my wedding ring and began the routine:
"Wow. You look so young... Are you really married?" (Blah Blah Blah)
"Yes, I am"
I knew it was coming... the dreaded questions... about David.
"What does you husband do?"
"He's in the military. Army."
"Oh! Where is stationed?"
...... I took a huge deep breath... this was it...
"He was killed in Iraq 3 months ago."
It surprised me how flat the words came out of my mouth. I said them fast, as if ripping a band aid off. But it didn't help, right at that moment I wanted to run away. Run home. Allow my bed to swallow me whole!
He began, "Well, your heart should be healed by now... You're so young... When do you think you'll start dating again?"
Oh, this poor unsuspecting man never saw me coming. I finished this conversation and I finished it well... giving him no chance to interrupt me, I told him exactly what I was thinking. When I walked away from the man (now 5 inches shorter) I felt like collapsing. I was exhausted! It took so much out of me, more than I thought remained, to fight... to defend my love. I realised I couldn't do this all day long.
So when the next innocent person began the routine conversation... "Are you married? What does your husband do? Where is he?".... I'd answer,
"He's in Iraq."
This seemed to go over better then telling the truth. So this is what I did instead. I lied. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't in denial about David... I knew very well that he was gone... not in Iraq. But I couldn't stand the comments, the casualness... the dismissal. I had to protect myself. There were those rare people I entrusted with the truth but I always chose who to tell my story to, our story, very carefully.
This week I found myself in a position to continue my lie or tell them the truth. I hadn't seen this group of people in about a year and last thing I told them was David "was in Iraq." I decided, whoever asked would get an honest answer. They asked. I casually briefed them on the past 15 months of my life. They nodded. Giving a "wow" every now and then. And it was over. Nothing special. No tears, no hugs, no "you poor thing..." I didn't feel particularly ecstatic about their emotionless reaction but... now they knew.
I began this journey scrambling for "support." I was unable to speak the truth, because at the end of the day I was left alone with my thoughts... with their piercing words... with my pain. Now... I can look to the east and west and see... another widow's journey... I could look in front of me and see those ahead in their walk... I could look in back of me, to see those entering the doors I've opened. This among other things gives me strength to tell undeserving ears the truth. Our story is mine to tell, and I reserve the right to withhold it if needed... but I'm less scared at this point to share it with those who can not relate.
The truth is: My gorgeous husband sacrificed his life to protect me and his men... He served this country. Our story? Ask me. I'm proud to share it.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
Sunday, April 5, 2009
To celebrate this year, Grayson and I loaded up on Friday and headed to the Texas coast. Daniel loved the ocean and would try to escape to Rockport whenever he could. We have really wonderful old friends who live there and they are always game to celebrate with us, whatever the occasion. My father-in-law and his wife joined us for dinner last night, and we ended up sitting around the table telling old stories on each other and on Daniel in particular. There were some really great ones, and a few tears of laughter shared in response. It is always a comfort to me to be surrounded by friends and family who can remember and smile. We didn't used to be able to do that, it was too painful for everyone. Now, as time passes like a speeding bullet, we find it easier and easier to remember and celebrate the joy he brought us and laugh out loud at the crazy things he did while he was here.
My husband, though with us for a shorter time than any of us planned, lived a fantastic life and was a wonderful man. As I reflect on his birthday and on the millions of happy memories of us I have recorded in my brain, I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to share his life. What a gift he was to me!
Happy Birthday Daniel. I hope you are playing Heaven's Augusta tomorrow and drinking a Jack and Coke.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
How is everyone? Today it is 90 degrees out, sunny and perfect. Today was also a day of further realization. I always connected memories of Michael with photos, places, physical things, etc.. I never had connected him with a hot sunny day in San Marcos, TX. I woke up and knew today would be a day where we would go swimming in his favorite river. A river where he grew up as a kid, a river we went tubing down, a river with memories that could fill a small book. The river where I spread his ashes, a wish he requested and one that is now written in my will for my resting place. Even though he’s probably in the Atlantic ocean by now :D
I remember how he would dive into this falls that I always thought would suck me under. He’d beg me to jump in and I always would. I’d sit on a tiny rock and he’d swim up to me all cold and wet and give me a kiss. Sometimes I’d lay in the sun and he’d jump on me all soaking. On this sun blazing day, I miss you Michael…but I love you even more because I can sit here and share the memories you left me, memories I will forever cherish.
So widows…..share your favorite memory, share that day that is tinged with sadness but filled with recollections of better days. It is one thing to wake up and feel as if it will never get better, but even better when you share it and embed it that deeper in your heart.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Dear Wonderful Widow.
What did it feel like the first time someone reassured you that you would find love again, that you would find another man, and that it was just a mater of time?
The first person who mentioned the possibility of a new love to me, well, I wanted to break her legs. Ok, maybe this is a little extreme, but it was only a few months after Mike died and to me the mere suggestion reflected a world of misunderstanding of what it had been for me to lose my husband.
I felt unacknowledged and dismissed; as if my marriage was just any marriage and that my pain was less that life altering. It was as if she was saying, he was just a man, your husband, and there are many more like him.
I know the suggestion was well meaning. She did not want to see me in such pain, and I don’t blame her.
What I wanted to say at the time but couldn’t, was that the pain I was in, was mine, all mine. It was what I had left, and I was not going to give it up without a fight and I was not going to toss it out for a man. Any man.
No, there could never be another Mike Elmhirst. Not because he was better than any other man or anyone else’s husband – just because he was Mike. And it was Mike that I missed, not just a husband, and not just being married.
As widows, we must be seen. We need our circumstances acknowledged. We need people to say something like, “You and your husband created something between the two of you that cannot be duplicated.” This is why our fellow widows are so helpful. They know this about us and about our marriages, our husbands and our children. It is why we write so much about our husbands…to be seen.
Yes, we might find a new relationship, and in fact many of us have. I have. When I say it isn’t the same as what I had with Mike, I mean that it is different. Not better and not worse, it is just different. It can’t be the same because he is not Mike and I am not the Mie I used to be. I have grown and changed. The experience of widowhood requires that we change.
Occasionally, on my website, I talk about dating again, for widows who are ready to explore new relationships. And invariably I get emails from new widows who are hurt at the suggestion. I understand this. It hurt me too, when I was a brand new widow.
But we are a community that is as diverse as any population. Some of us date within the first year of widowhood and some of us choose not to date at all. There is room for all of us in our community of widows.
New relationships happen for a widow when there is finally space in her heart to again give and receive. As hard as it is for a new widow to imagine, most in our community eventually get to the point where they enjoy the gift of a loving relationship again. But it takes time and work. A lot of time and a whole lot of work.
Warmly, Mie Elmhirst
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Confession: I am not fun when hungry. When my hunger sets in I get a headache, become weak, and I'm grumpy! I can't hide my hunger well, and David knew this better than anyone. The moment I became difficult he'd ask, "Have you eaten today?" "No." His action? Drop everything and get my wife some food! David always prevented my "hunger monster" from showing it's face. Thinking of this makes me smile, because I know no one takes better care of me than he does.
This week, I found myself... you guessed it... hungry! I had an hour before my appointment, I had just spent the last 20 minutes searching for parking and my headache started to kick in. My choices? Get food and take it back to my car (I've done this many times) or eat in the restaurant... alone. It was almost 15 months ago when the first thought of being the "lonely-looking lady, eating alone" entered my mind. I refused the thought then, but now? I was actually considering it! I've conquered grocery store shopping and cooking a meal for one... but eating out? Ugh. I could feel the lump in my throat swell, my headache grow, and my energy lessen. I have to eat. "Today's the day," I challenged myself.
While placing my order I began to create my plan of action- sit outside in the patio because there are less tables. Less tables meant less people. Less people meant less eyes which, of course, meant less staring. Finally, my food came and it was official... I began my first meal alone in public. All of a sudden, all eyes were on me! The spotlight was focused on me! And everyone waited for my next move ...or so I assumed.
What's better? To act as if you eat out alone all the time and it's no big thing ooor act as if at any moment your company is about to join you? I don't know. I'm pretty sure I did both. I pulled myself together and looked around. No one was watching. No one cared. I was sitting at a table for two and they didn't even blink an eye. Calmly, I began to eat my meal. "Why did you leave me here," I said to David. I tried to take each bite with purpose, hoping I would appear less insecure. I picked up my phone... checked my email... looked at my twitter account. Before I knew it... it was like my dad had let go of the bike before I had the chance to realized I was riding it on my own. I was doing it! Eating. Alone. I took a deep breath, "You're almost done."
(My phone rang) My eyes got big with excitement, "Woo-who! I'm being rescued!!...No. Nicole, don't answer. No cheating. You must do this alone."
(Voicemail) "Listening to the voicemail isn't cheating..." I convinced myself as I brought the phone to my ear.
"Nooo!" It was a new widow... one I had been worried about. Never having heard the voice of another widow before, I knew calling me was a challenge for her in itself. And I just let it ring! Before her voicemail could finish playing my phone died. "Crap!" I stuffed what I could in my mouth, left the rest behind and began a quick pace back to the car. I had to plug in my phone and at least tell her I'm out of battery before my appointment begins in 9 minutes!
As I hustled my way to the car, it hit me... As I faced my apprehension, a widow clear across the country was also overcoming hers. She made her first call to another widow. And I knew in that moment what David would say as he'd give me his patient smile, "Oh, My Love... but you are not alone." I closed my eyes briefly as if to inhale it all in... I am not alone.