Monday, August 31, 2009
My journey as a widow began four years ago today. Four years seems like both an eternity, and an instant. Standing at the foot of his emergency room bed that day, watching his pulserate drop to zero, I saw the road ahead of me very clearly. Alone. That was the word that my brain screamed. Alone.
At first I didn't want to touch his things, for fear that my scent would overpower his. But as shock turned to despair, I reached out for him and found comfort in his sweatshirt, his t-shirts, his slippers.
For awhile I could hear his voice in my ears, but as time passed I could no longer hear the exact cadence of his voice. I became extremely grateful for the brief recording of our wedding.
In the early days everyone remembered the important milestones. But with the changing of many seasons the dates that used to fill me with sorrow sometimes pass unnoticed by anyone.
In August of 2005 the best I could do was put one foot in front of the other. In August of 2009 I have recovered the ability to dream.
I have forgotten how my stomach feels when I am desperate. I have forgotten which hamstring he tore in that race he insisted on running one June day. I have forgotten how it feels to have his hand on my hip. I have forgotten how I managed to get myself out of bed those first few months. I have forgotten what carrying a weight on my heart every minute of every day felt like. I have forgotten the bitterness that haunted me for years. I have forgotten the initial revulsion I felt for the word widow.
But I remember how to love Phil. I remember the joy with which he filled my days. I remember the comfortable feeling of being loved. I remember his silly antics, the way he charmed people, and the intensity with which he cared for his family. I remember the pride I felt in being married to Phillip Hernandez.
It has taken me four years to realize that what I remember is more important than what I forget. And that love is the only thing that never dies.
In Loving Memory of Phillip Hernandez
A Life Well Lived
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I miss familiarity. I miss being known. I miss lapsitting. I miss having a guaranteed birthday celebration. I miss the knowledge that if I break down on the road Phil is coming for me. I miss every day cell phone calls, transmitting news by just a look, and the daily irritations of sharing life with a partner.
I miss Phil's smile. I miss the fact that he always could be counted on for chopping duties in the kitchen. I miss his ability to get to the heart of a disagreement in thirty seconds flat. I miss him jumping out of bushes to scare me. I miss running with him. I miss laughing with him. I miss listening to him sing when he forgot other people were within earshot. I miss the way he complained about chick flicks. I miss his eagerness to experience new things. I miss his sense of adventure. I miss hearing his old rock station blarring out of the garage. I miss the neighborhood kids stopping by to get their bike tires pumped up. I miss weekend getaways, and family vacations.
I miss the basketball games he led in the driveway. I miss him collecting the gossip from the neighbors. I miss being able to tell him that the drain is backed up again. I miss discussing options with him. I miss his irreverent sense of humor. I miss grocery shopping with him pushing the cart. I miss listening to him complain about driving out to my parent's house AGAIN. I miss the way he talked to his mother. I miss watching him listen to the kid's stories with real interest. I miss watching him put together a plan for work. I miss standing by him while he chatted with a stranger about where they might know each other from since the person looks so familiar to him. I miss him bringing home spiders he thought the kids would like. I miss unexpected flowers. I miss his good night kiss.
All of this I have missed for 1459 days. Tomorrow will mark the fourth year of living life without Phil.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Enough of my jabberings though, I hope you enjoy it.
Friday, August 28, 2009
I have always felt like a flunky on the dance floor. At my college roommate’s wedding an elderly man (he was probably the age I am now) asked me to dance. I politely said that I did not know how to dance but he insisted that it was simple and all that I needed was to follow his lead. Ignoring my protests, he grabbed me, leaving me little choice. The next five minutes were horribly awkward and embarrassing. I clung to him for dear life as he shuffled me around the dance floor, flinging me left and then right, trying to get me to twirl. I resisted him mightily and I am sure he had no fun. Served him right.
So when I decided to make a concerted effort to cure my loneliness, dancing lessons seemed a reasonable answer. The way I figured it, dancing lessons would allow me to rest in man’s arms without actually being in a relationship, smell a few pheromones, and breathe in a little testosterone. And perhaps I might learn to dance, and maybe live a little, or whatever it was that I was supposed to be doing when I was really at home watching Fraiser reruns. I was tired of pretending that I had a life and was instead ready to have one.
My worst fears were realized when I walked in and saw that the class was filled with couples. They arrived together and they planned to dance together. Half of them were young, preparing for their wedding dance, and the other half were 50-somethings, preparing for their children’s wedding dance. I was pretty sure that they were not interested in tripping the light fantastic with some 48 year-old widow looking for her life.
Anyway, I would have cut my losses and run except that the teacher had already spotted me, and to leave would have been even more humiliating. Plus, I really did want to learn to dance.
For the next 8-10 weeks, the instructor was my partner, the Female instructor. Every Monday night I dragged my sorry feet to class, and every Monday night I danced with Helen. She called out instructions to the class, made sure they understood, and then took me in her arms, and off we went, dancing the Rumba, the Waltz or the Foxtrot.
Sometimes Helen had the class rotate partners. This was not helpful. I was secretly convinced that she did this just to get me off her hands, and I could tell that the men were not thrilled to let go of their wives and dance with the other female students. We all pretended that we were fine with it however, smiling embarrassed smiles. But the experience was not pleasurable and I would have rather just stuck with Helen. She was a born leader, didn’t grumble when I stepped on her feet, and I didn’t mind her frequent commands, (shoulders down, head back!); at least she talked to me.
One night Helen announced that she had made some phone calls and a man, a single man, was to arrive any moment! I practically vibrated with excitement. A real man. What good fortune. Sure enough, in walked Thomas. Thomas was lovely and gracious and he knew how to dance. He was fun and funny and he had pheromones and testosterone. He even looked into my eyes every now and again. He was the perfect dance partner.
The next week Helen materialized yet another man, an embarrassment of riches. I began to look forward to Monday nights in a way that I had not looked forward to anything since before Mike died. I purchased real dance shoes, I wore flouncy skirts and I put on make-up. There were evenings when I changed my outfit three times before class. I felt feminine. I learned to move my hips in a manner that would have made my Dutch-New England mother faint, may she rest in peace. I smiled a lot. I was happy.
Dancing lessons were the beginning of my waking up.
I believe in dancing lessons.
Widows Breathe Coaching
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I remember when I was able to trust with everything in me. Trust God. Have faith. I knew I was blessed... Our lives were difficult, yes, but it was good. When the rug was pulled from under me I wasn't sure if I was going to ever reach that place again. The place where faith was second nature and trusting was never a question.
David and I used to describe that kind of trust like jumping off our mountain. We took in the scenery at the top of it and were always ready to give it all we got to jump off. We jumped when we joined the Army. We jumped when he deployed. And we jumped when he was stop-lossed. But I took the elevator straight down and off of that mountain when he was killed. I felt like a joke had been played on me my whole life. Or maybe I had no idea what trust and faith really was...
This month I've found myself back on our mountain... and I was asked to jump. I realize more and more that Love is the product of faith and trust... and trusting didn't mean I couldn't be scared out of my mind. I know what the bottom of my mountain looks like... so this month I've been appreciating being at the top of it again... looking out... preparing to jump... Loving the trust and trusting in love.
This morning was the first day of school for my boys. I went to work very early; then planned to get back in time to make them breakfast and make sure they were set for the day. As I was driving home from work, I started to feel it. The dull ache. The one that began on the first day of school four years ago.
That day was much like today. I went to work early, and got home to make breakfast as a send off for the kids on the big day. Only Phil had already started the pancakes by the time I arrived. I walked in the door to the smell of butter sizzling and batter turning into the "brown around the edges" pancakes for which Phil was famous in our house. I was greeted by him at the door for the last time, but I didn't know it.
Today feels frighteningly like that day. But I know how the story ends this time. As I cooked the breakfast, checked the backpacks, straightened the shirts, handed out lunch money, and finally gave the send-off hug and wish for a great day...I avoided the word fabulous. Because that is the word I said on that other day, the one that is haunting me now. I wished all my kids a fabulous day in a cheery, jaunty voice and ten hours later the world was no longer a place I recognized.
Four years later, I live in a new world. I love this world, too. But sometimes, on days like today, the pull of the old world is so strong that I can barely catch my breath.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Everywhere the water's getting rough
But if you break down
I don't know nothing except change will come
You're out there walking down a highway
But if you break down
So many things that I had before
When the last bird falls
When you break down
Patty Griffin, Impossible Dream - When It Don't Come Easy
Monday, August 24, 2009
I used to be afraid of cemeteries. Well, not exactly afraid, but I thought they were creepy. Walking around a place that held lots of dead bodies made me nervous. I would step gingerly around the headstones, being careful not to tread anywhere I thought a person might be laid to rest, and wondering how far out I needed to step to avoid the entire plot. Any sudden noise startled me, and I couldn't wait to get out of there. Then Phil died.
The self transformation that has occurred since becoming a widow never ceases to amaze me. In many ways I am the same old Michele, and in just as many ways I am nothing like the girl who used to bear my name. My current fascination with headstones speaks to this conversion.
Since Phil's death I have become transfixed by the words people choose to honor their deceased loved ones. While I was in Australia, Michael and I wandered a small town cemetery (pictured above) and witnessed the lives of those who were loved, lost, and laid to rest in a neatly kept, shady, flower covered grove. These names meant something to me. I knelt in front of the headstones to read what their families chose to engrave in stone in tribute. I found one marker that said only one word, "Mate." One grave looked like a queen sized bed...with a headboard and everything. I won't share with you the visions that danced in my head over that particular plot.
What struck me most, as I wandered aimlessly under the lovely trees, was the love that was evident in the air. I couldn't feel it before because I was too caught up in the fact that so many people were dead. Looking back now I wonder how I ever felt afraid when surrounded by such devotion. When I read the dates on headstones my heart aches for the ones left behind. I no longer mourn only for the person who died, and I am not fearful of what they may have experienced to arrive in their new resting place; instead I envision a family standing around a dirt plot trying to comprehend the fact that someone isn't coming home. I know that feeling all too well.
My new self has discovered that hope and death can co-exist, that death is not the end of love, and that the burial of a beloved person is only the first step in grieving their loss. My old self really had no idea. Some days I miss that naivety, but most days I am grateful for the new eyes that see so much more than the old ones could ever imagine.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
There have been many times since Phil's death that words have escaped me. When asked how I was in the early days my answer was often a dumbfounded stare. What words could be used to describe the pain that was ripping through my body at that moment? A client of mine once asked, "Do you just miss him like crazy?" I was so relieved to be asked a question that required nothing more than an emphatic yes. As my friends and family plied me with love and compassion, I searched for the words to thank them. Which word, in what language, could adequately convey the gratitude that swelled in my heart with each act of kindness received? So often I found myself uttering the phrase...there are no words.
As time marches on, I continue to find myself in situations where I struggle to find the right sequence of letters to capture a moment. While holding my crying daughter as she tells me how much she misses Phil, I search for words that will soothe her and at the same time acknowledge the enormity of our loss. Many times I sit in front of a blank computer screen wondering how to comfort a new widow who has reached out to me, especially knowing that she has not yet experienced the most difficult part of this gut wrenching journey. At a meeting a few months ago I was told that I should not be comparing my experience as a widow to the widowhood journey of women in India because their loss is truly tragic. Hmmm. There were definitely no words.
It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If taking a photo of a person's heart were possible I wonder what mine would have looked like on August 31, 2005. Perhaps being able to show a photo of the devastation that began on that day would have saved me the search for words that has haunted me since. Another benefit of this kind of photography would be having the ability to evaluate the healing process; we could watch scars form, know where the deepest gashes were located, marvel at the new form this organ was taking as healing happens bit by bit. Would a piece of paper with an actual image be proof positive that hearts really do break? If we could show someone the extent of our loss would people stop expecting us to be finished grieving on a certain date?
Without the concrete proof that a photo would provide, we are left with the ellusive, but extremely powerful, gift of words for detailing our journey through shock, devastation, discovery, courage, hope, and redemption. Somehow I think that even the thousand words a photo might provide would not be an adequate descriptor of the widowhood experience. If we looked at a picture of our before and after hearts, I suspect there would be no words to describe the amazing transformation.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
As time( and all it offers/explains/doesn't explain) went on, more songs would show them self or speak to me in what I was feeling at the moment. Coldplay's "Fix Me", Sigur Ros' "Hoppipola", and Devotchka's "How it Ends" have all laced my journey of my own unique widowhood.
Some give me a feeling of invincibility in facing my tribulations, while others were great to listen too when I needed a match to light my tear "fire". All have helped me, given me comfort, spoke what I could not and more.
Like any work of art, each song is open to it's own interpretation for those listening to it. The meanings and healing these lyrics and sounds have given me is priceless.
Here is the latest song that definitely defines where I am. The lyrics speak of my undying love and journey (Like WSM mentioned earlier this week) that I am taking with him....now and always.
Friday, August 21, 2009
"Mom", she said, getting that tone in her voice that I think a sixteen year old should not have with her mother but that I let go because I wanted to know what was coming… "Mom I have 3 words for you." So I bit. "What three words?"
"Suck it up."
Don't you hate it when they're right? The thing about kids like ours, kids who have made it through enormous loss, is that they ultimately develop a certain confidence that other kids just don't have. An understanding that the world is the way it is and don't bother complaining. Anneke was simply saying there are bigger things to think about and just accept the gift of financial aid and move on to the next, thank you very much.
And one more thing. Feeling slightly put in my place, and rightfully so, I realized one more thing. It is an incredible joy to hear the lessons we have struggled to teach come out of their mouths and remind us of our own values. 'Suck it up' is not one of the lessons I stressed, but acceptance is. And in her 16 year-old way, she taught me that lesson again today.It is what it is. Gratitude for the gift of a fabulous education and for the gift of financial aid.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
I had no clue what to blog about today. I've been processing many things the past few weeks... but no idea how to begin expressing any of it in words. This quote was read to me this morning... (thanks, WSM!) and I believe it helped me sum up my findings:
“All of life is a journey. Which paths we take, what we look back on, and what we look forward to is up to us. We determine our destination, what kind of road we will take to get there, and how happy we are when we get there.” -Unknown Author
When I married David I knew I had started the journey of my life. A journey in which each step taken would only deepen our love for each other and the life we had in front of us. But I was not prepared for the roads our journey included. It took people all of one day after I received the news about my husband to ask, "What are you gonna do now?? What's next?" Next?! I wanted to rip their eyes! ...But I asked myself the same question... and I remember the exact moment I answered it.
I was siting on the floor beside my bed... frozen. Someone had asked for a pair of socks, which were under the bed... I went to grab one when I froze in a train of thought and lost all awareness of my surroundings. I was completely engulfed. And all I could think of was what I was about to do.
In that very moment I knew I'd survive. I had to. For David. Not an ounce in me wanted to, but I knew I would. In that moment I chose my path. The words "the road less traveled" kept popping in my head. I didn't know how to do it, or if it had been done before, or what it would even look like... I knew I was going to sound crazy BUT I just had to do it... I would continue this journey, right beside David.
Looking back... I realize I didn't understand the magnitude of all that I was asking of myself. It was all so fresh and raw. But I wasn't blind for long. Now having a better understanding of the burdens my path can acquire, my choice hasn't changed. Still, I have the same tug in my heart. The pull towards life and hope... the pull towards David and a pull for exploring the unfamiliar path of a journey continued with someone who's left this world. Our journey. At first, I thought of this new life as a curse. Strength- as a curse. Survival- a cruel joke. But when I set my mind to see the beauty in our journey, I'm always in....... AWE. In awe of what is behind us and especially in awe of what's in front of us!
Sometimes... Dare I say, on a really good day, I'm excited for what's next! At some point, and I don't remember when exactly... I stopped loathing the future and can even make a plan for a few months in advance! Don't get me wrong- the thought of 10 years still has the ability to make my stomach turn but it doesn't make me angry anymore... I think it's because I can better grasp that all these paths will end at David. He is my inevitable. My goal. My eternity.
Like the quote, He is my destination.
I just have to keep looking at the beauty along the road. The road less traveled.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The second list, written in a more serious state of mind had a bit more substance. We were more ready to seriously consider the possibility of a new relationship. We were a bit more clear in our intent. I think if I had to pick a few of the more important criteria, they would be self-confidence (a man with the confidence to love someone who will always love someone else too...that's something), an amazing sense of humor (I have an odd sense of humor and require someone to get me - be warned all ye who venture this way ;), and honesty (this one requires no explanation). It seems simple enough, doesn't it? I don't feel like my standards are impossibly high. And yet....not a suitor who has proved himself worthy. Yes, there have been one or two who might have scored well enough in the initial stages, but any who have shown the ability to stand the test of time? Not yet. Good? Yes, for a while. But, in the final evaluation, not quite good enough.
That's okay, really. I can wait. Patience is NOT one of my virtues, as my close friends will confirm. I am, however, willing to be patient for this. I may never meet Mr. Right. I did meet him once, and it was beautiful. I can wait a long time for beautiful. Knowing what it looks like, I am optimistic that I will recognize it if I see it. In the meantime, if my impatience rears it's ugly head, the honesty of Michele and the contents of the list will keep me in check.
Happy Tuesday! - Michelle D.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Over the years Michelle and I have often discussed the need to know what we are looking for in a new partner. To help us stay on track, and avoid settling for less than, we have complied a very thorough set of criteria for our next man. Some of the specific requirements are ridiculous. In fact, after reading the first list we came up with we determined that we were embarrassed by our shallowness and that we must start the list again. Yes, I am talking about an actual list. It exists, we store this master list in our computers, and we refer to it whenever one or the other of us is in the process of weighing the pros and cons of a new relationship--we've even printed it out more than once. Just to be clear, not every man we meet is subjected to the rating process and this quality check does not happen immediately. Only when we begin to get serious does the question, "Is it time to get out the list?" surface.
There are a few requirements regarding the list. First, the friend that is not in the relationship does the rating based on what she has witnessed over the course of the relationship, I know, harsh. Second, complete honesty is a must, no beating around the bush or fibbing to save feelings. Third, we must be together when discussing the checklist, this process cannot be done alone! Fourth, sometimes retesting is required! Fifth, the final score is non-negotiable. We inevitably end up in hysterics after carefully weighing the pros and cons of the current suitor. Yes, we really do evaluate men. Sorry we feel it must be done. And we do attempt to be openminded, honest.
Perhaps you have already read between the lines and realized that this rating process is really a widow gut check. Michelle and I do our best to keep ourselves, and each other, honest about the times we might be willing to settle for less just to have someone with whom to share our daily lives. We remind each other to believe in the possibility of finding deep and meaningful love again, and also that sometimes we might be settling for a place holder instead of continuing to look for the real deal. But death has taught us that life is short, and having loved deeply has taught us that waiting for the right one is a worthwhile endeavor. I wish I could tell you that rediscovering love is easy, but like most worthy ventures finding a new and different love often takes both patience and effort. A good list, and an even better friend, can be helpful, too!
Sunday, August 16, 2009
A warm hello to my fellow widows,
Many of us widows are juggling lots of balls. I know I am. Just when I believe that I have gotten into a good routine…bam…something can come along to throw me off track or be a cause of frustration. It can be a new change of sort either at work or at home. Now, for example, summer is ending, school is beginning and there are new work responsibilities and challenges occurring. As we all know, change is always present, therefore we must change with it. It is not always easy, but there are some things we can do along the way that might help.
When my husband Rory first died, I was overwhelmed and in deep grief. It was a devastating change and one that took a long time to meet and adapt to. I had no idea at first what to do or even who I was when I felt that half of me had died too. But like all of us widows, I began the journey of walking through the grief and into this new phase of life.
Along the way, I’ve learned and been reminded of the importance of extreme self care. Today, as I was stressed about a few things and venting, I was reminded about how I often share with others the importance of self care, consistently and especially in times of stress. (and being widows we’ve encountered our share of that!) I was then informed I had not been doing such a good job of walking my talk and taking time for me and self-care. Ouch!! I appreciated the feedback as it was true. I know when I am not taking the best care of me and “over doing it”, the life/work stresses can absolutely take a toll and I can become unfocused and overwhelmed.
So, back to widow extreme self-care. Here are a few "time tips" to help us exhibit some self-care. Also, I invite you to add your self-care strategies to the comments section so all widows reading this blog can learn from each other what works well. So, here are some "time tips" for extreme self-care.
1. Plan: Fifteen minutes a day planning will save forty-five minutes later. (The action of planning was helpful even during the darkest days after losing my husband as it helped me focus!)
2. If you really want to do something, schedule it in. Arrange for a babysitter (if you need one) so you can go to the gym, have a night with friends, set aside thirty minutes to do some journaling, read a book, get a pedicure, clean out a closet etc.)
3. Create Systems: Have places where you always put things. (I am always striving to be a “filer, not a piler”). It does save time and it helps us stay organized. Without systems we can create clutter, chaos and additional stress. (As we know, there is so much important financial/medical etc. paperwork that needs to be organized)
4. Delegate or Ask For Help: Even if you think you cannot. Ask a friend or family member to pick up the kids, or go to the market, anything you can possiby think of.
This whole week I have been guilty of not taking extreme or much of any self-care for that matter. I’ll tell you a little secret. I took 15 minutes to plan the rest of my week. Guess what I scheduled in my calendar for tomorrow?…yes, some self-care! A pedicure/manicure is scheduled in. WooHoo! I feel better already!
What are some of your best widow self-care tips. Would love to read them !
Coaching For Widows
Saturday, August 15, 2009
I love how it makes a person feel. I love the glow that quietly shows itself in the scrunch of your eyes or smile on one's mouth. I love the feeling of invincibility that it instills in those who are in its grasp. And more than anything, I love when it is 100 percent, Grade A, TRUE LOVE. The kind that has no doubts or questions, the kind that makes you believe in all that life truly is and has to offer.
After Michael made his early exit, there were times I looked at those whose spouses were still alive and wonder, "Why them and not me?","What made them deserve this and not us?". Luckily this bitterness was quite temporary.
My grief had blinded me from all the beauty and moments of rare love that are cemented in eternity that we shared.
When Michael was still alive, strangers would approach us and remark on how in love we looked or how they hoped to find what we shared. Those are moments I will never forget, moments in which somehow our love passed the plains of our own hearts to be seen or felt by others....a love with no bounds.
I still share that love with him, now more then ever, but unluckily we live in a society of vision...a society that seeks visual truth. Not all society knows that a love as deep as ours and a love that proves that it is stronger then death can be seen. But that will not deter me from going up to strangers and letting them know that they make a beautiful couple, or honk when a car reads "Honk, we just got married!"
I celebrate the love and happiness of those whose loves are still here. I celebrate it for those who celebrated the love Michael and I shared when he was still here. I celebrate it for the love I still have with him. I celebrate it as others realize that not all love can be seen with the naked eye. And most of all...I celebrate for the reason that it reinforces, even more, the strength and endurance of the love I have been blessed enough to receive.
Friday, August 14, 2009
I have learned, when Anneke travels, to relax a bit. I only seem to get anxious and hyper the day she returns. While she is gone, I am resigned to the fact that she is there, and I am here and I might as well just chill. Since I have no choice.
But the morning of the day she is to come home, I am high strung and anxious, and a pain to be around I am sure. On the way to the airport I wanted to do something really bad with my hand to a fellow driver who did something really bad to me when I cut him off by mistake. Really, I didn’t see him. Didn’t he know I was on the way to the airport to pick up my baby? Anyhow, I didn’t do the bad thing with my hand and all was well.
So, this is all to say that I have been separated from my partner for almost 3 weeks and next week he will be home. Already I can feel that little motor of excitement rev up inside. I am counting down. How lame. Today is day seven. Fifty-five years old and I am counting down.
Now if you have been following the Friday Blog, you will remember that last week was about our first fight.
I have not been in a relationship worth fighting for in almost nine years. The fact that I finally realized that this one is worth fighting for makes me both excited to see him and run for the hills.
I assume that everyone else in the world just falls into relationship, like it is nothing. Like it is not scary, not in any way tumultuous, and that it doesn’t make them want a guarantee that it won’t hurt. Ever.
Now I know this can’t be, a guarantee. And my friends scoff when I suggest that I want one. They think that I am strong and all that baloney, because I survived and survived well.
But I know the truth. That new relationships ask us to once again to be vulnerable. And the bottom line is that I am chickenhearted.
So, we who have been through the loss of a partner, we get to take new relationship at a pace that works for us. And if that means slower than molasses, well I guess that is what it means.
Widows Breathe Coaching
Thursday, August 13, 2009
David is my best friend. And I say is because he's still the one person that knows every thing about me- good and bad. He's still the one person I want to call when things go wrong, the one person I want to get advice from when I have decisions to make, and the one person I want a hug from when my heart is heavy.
This week I really needed my best friend. I had things to do, decisions to make, flights to book, bills to pay, cars to fix... you know the drill. But all I reaaaaallly wanted was my other half; to hear David say that it all didn't matter. I wanted him to say he'll be home with a movie and a quart of ice cream and I wanted to see him smile. Sometimes I get so consumed by wanting that I can't feel his love.
Today, in the midst of all my wanting I forced myself to see all that I have of David and what I could look forward to. I have memories. I have letters. I have his love. I have God. David always said, "Its simple. Faith, Hope and Love." So today... I want hope. To get through... I have faith in the hope his love will bring.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
My little guy fell in love with the city and can't wait to go back. I was a little worried that the activities I had planned would be too boring for a nine year old. Not to worry!! We managed to strike an excellent balance of activities that made the trip good for both of us. We had a blast together: swimming, walking for hours, creole cooking class, shopping for him, shopping for me, a movie, lots of fantastic food, jazz music, street tap dancing, people watching, art galleries. Grayson figured out to his dismay that almost every gallery had a half naked woman displayed in some fashion or another. He was appalled at first, and then amused. He began pointing out the "art" to me and giggling as nine year old boys tend to do. My explanation of art fell on deaf ears. Oh well, he'll understand eventually...and still giggle as most men seem likely to do. :)
We made a lot of memories in our 2 and half days in New Orleans. I think it's about time I started adding some layers to the memories I've made there over the years. Time to pass on the love of that city to the next generation. I thought it might be more difficult. I did have some sad moments, as I passed places that reminded me of my times there with Daniel. But, the bulk of the trip was fun and happy. I'm so grateful that Grayson loved it as much as I did. Now it's on to the next trip....I wonder where we should go next? If Grayson has his way it will be somewhere with lots of roller coasters! Now that will be an adventure for sure!
Happy Tuesday - Michelle D.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Phil was Mr. Adventure. He loved all things fast, dangerous, exhilarating, physically challenging, and just plain fun. My kids loved his willingness to try anything...though that risk taking spirit severely tested my patience on more than one occasion! I will confess to holding my breath as I watch the scene you see pictured here. My imagination was working overtime though I watched Phil check the depth of the water, heard him give her directions on how to jump, what to avoid, and what to expect upon entering the water. Of course he followed all this good sense with the admonition..."Whatever you do, don't land on a rock." She jumped, didn't land on a rock, and immediately climbed out to repeat the experience.
When we lost Phil, we also lost the laughter and adventure that was a part of our daily lives with him. The house became quieter, our vacation trips lacked most risk taking activities, we no longer went to Mexico to light fireworks on the beach (hey, you could accidentally blow your eye out!), and sometimes my kids lamented this loss out loud. When they did I immediately felt that I was failing them. I felt pressured to be fun. Ugh. I also felt that having just me wasn't good enough. What I didn't realize at the time was that we were grieving. I know, a real revelation. But I underestimated the fact that grief sucks much of the fun out of daily life. Just existing was hard enough, how could I muster the energy to be fun, too? When did I get a break from having to be everything to everyone and smile while juggling all the balls that were thrown at me when I lost my husband?
The answer ended up being when I was ready to just be myself. I am fun (really I am, ask the widows ;), and though I don't do things like Phil did them, we still manage to laugh, frolic, and enjoy the sunshine of our summer days. Some of what we do now Phil would hate! We sleep in past 8:00AM...a sin in his book. We drive long distances just because we want to...he would have thought this a waste of time and gas. We see a midnight showing of a movie now and then...he would have fallen asleep for sure. Somehow we have found a way to reshape our family unit. No one wanted to, but we faced the challenge of rebuilding our lives in the same way he faced Lake Mead four years ago...by being willing to jump.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
I know you are expecting me to talk about some kind of emotional journey right now. But this time I mean the band Journey. Eighties sensation; soundtrack to many of the moments of my youth; authors of some of the best love songs ever...THAT Journey!
My son Johnny turned 17 on August 5Th. Life has been so crazy lately (widow conference anyone??) that I realized about one week before his birthday that I didn't have one clue about what to do to celebrate the big day. For me, choosing birthday gifts, planning parties or life milestone celebrations is a very lonely process as a single mother of three. Whether I have a great idea that I am bursting to tell a partner or I am clueless and need someone to brainstorm with about ways to honor the day, I often find myself irritated with Phil for being dead when the time to make a plan for one of the kids arrives!
So the boys and I were driving along in the car about a week before Johnny's birthday when an advertisement for tickets to see Journey played on the radio. Johnny says, "Man, seeing Journey would be so cool." I laughed out loud and said that though seeing Journey would be very cool, the concert was the next day and it would take us almost three hours to get there! He reluctantly agreed, and then we each settled into our own thoughts. As I continued driving I thought about the fact that I still didn't know what to do for John's birthday. Then I imagined how awesome telling my son that we were on our way to the Journey concert would be...and finally I thought, why not? What was stopping me from driving three hours to see a concert? Did we have any plans that couldn't be changed? Tickets must still be available if the ads were still running, right? For the first time I felt liberated by the fact that I didn't have to convince anyone but myself that this was a great idea. When we got home I went straight to my computer and bought the tickets.
Telling my son that we were indeed going to see Journey was a moment I will never forget. At the concert, we sang along with the band side-by-side...at the top of our lungs...on a gorgeous summer night...in an amazing outdoor stadium. The band was fantastic (the boys said the new singer was "epic"), I got to take my boys to their first real concert, we celebrated Johnny's birthday in a way that will likely become a part of the soundtrack of his youth...and I didn't feel alone, or confused, or sad. Instead I felt very proud of myself for seizing the moment, and deeply grateful for the privilege of being a mother to such an amazing kid. Happy Birthday Sweetheart.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Now while many would say how fantastic that may be after sailing roughly through the squalls of widowhood, the calm waters actually make me uneasy. The irony in this realization can't stop me from snickering and letting out a laugh.
For the past 2+ years I have set sail on this voyage.....A voyage I was hoping at times would sink beneath the waves to never continue. A voyage that has made me fall to my knees with the realization of beauty that was still possible through the darkest of clouds. A voyage I had become used to navigating through the toughest of storms. But the the one thing I hadn't mastered in my many days at sea, were the days in which continual clear skies and glass water would make my acquaintance.
With these recent reflections, I've realized that I have become accustomed to just holding on by the skin of my teeth. I have become quite the companion to the hurricanes in life (that like to show up when I least expect it), that when I see the clear forecast I am almost at a loss for words or actions.
In many ways I cherish this new "setting", even though I know not any one is truly ever "set", for in so many ways I see the facets of this journey showing through this diamond in the rough of a life I now have.
"How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one's culture but within oneself? If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light."
Friday, August 7, 2009
Anyhow, it finally happened. Our first fight. On the boat. Our first honest-to-goodness fight. After it was over, and we had both listened, (at least I think I listened), I said to him "Wasn't that great? We had our first fight!"
He looked at me like I was from Neptune, rolled his eyes, shook his head a little and squeezed my hand. He loves me.
My man has no idea what a real, fair, argument means to me, an argument where we don't injure each other, an argument during which we get mad, state our case, talk and listen. As far as I am concerned, it is OK that he doesn't know. But I know.
This is how it went. He was wrong and I was right. (Of course!)
OK, OK maybe that doesn't tell the whole story.
We were on the boat and…. for those of who whose husband had a boat, I am sure you already know the story… a man and his boat, and all…
Before we even went on this trip he promised "what ever goes wrong on the boat, I promise right now it is not your fault. No matter what I say when it happens." Hmmmm.
So you know already he has a certain amount of self-awareness. And he understands that on his boat he is a changed man.
Anyhow something did happen, (the boat didn't start) and he got mad…and then, we had our fight. I swear you don't really know a man until his boat breaks down in the middle of the Pacific. (OK, maybe it was not the middle of the Pacific, maybe it was 30 minutes from shore, but for this landlubber it might as well have been half way to Japan.)
Now deep down, I am a make-love-not-war kind of person. I will do anything to keep the peace. Or at least that used to be me. I didn't fight when I was married because Mike was trying to stay alive and to argue with him felt like hitting a man when he was down.
This time, however, he is not sick and I am willing. Willing to really get to know someone, even the not-so-fun stuff and I am willing to be seen. Really seen.
So, sometimes, I wish I had done it differently in my marriage...I wish that I had dug in with Mike and fought just a little. I wish that I had been willing to risk more for the sake of intimacy. But I also understand why I didn't.
I was at Quaker Meeting about six months ago and an elder spoke about her belief that our loved ones continue to mature after they die just like we do here on earth. I would like to think that this is true and that as I grow in understanding and compassion for Mike and I, and our marriage, so does he. I feel, somehow, that this might be true.
It has been almost 9 years and strange as it sounds even to me, I feel even closer to Mike now than I did right after he died, like he might be loving me and cheering me on as I learn the lessons I missed with him.
Gratefully, Mie Elmhirst
Widows Breathe Coaching
Thursday, August 6, 2009
After David died the quantity of my friends were seriously reduced. Most feared approaching me, most didn't know what to say when they did... Some pretended like his death never happened. It was a filtering process. At first, the filtering process surprised me. I didn't want to lose friends... especially those who knew David... but it was inevitable.
What I didn't know was that I would gain many more.
For the past week I've been with 2 special friends. We've gone shopping, went out to dinner, stayed up till all hours of the night and watched reality shows... We're all very different in many ways and alike in some. One likes the outdoors and country things... the other likes antiques and plaid... and I like the city and contemporary. All three of us come from very different back grounds... military, college, and missions. We all married the loves of our lives... all military wives. And all military widows. We met through the American Widow Project. We call ourselves... The 3 Amigos!
I never pictured myself in Florida with 2 other military widows but I'm so glad that I am. These women have given me so much... courage, support, and inspiration. I think we all know how important another widow is to our growth as a widow but I just had to say it one more time... I'm so grateful for the widows in my life.
Thank you, Amigos, I had an awesome week.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
And that's how I take my days ..... one at a time.
Today I drove with Daughter #3 to Austin (after a very full, very tiring day) to help her move into and get settled in her new apartment.
This is something that I should have done with Jim .... but ..... you know the end of that story.
Anyway, there were far less waves today than I had expected. We talked a lot in the car .... and we talked very openly and honestly about friends, expectations, the end of friendships, masks, etc.
I love this young woman more than I am able to express.
There may have been a few tears, but not many.
I think we were both feeling stronger in the presence of each other.
We "get it".
We got here tonight and unloaded the car and then promptly drove out to find the nearest grocery store to buy some wine.
We really "get it".
And then we came home, popped in a chick flick ("High Society", which if you haven't ever seen .... please don't tell me), drank our wine and unpacked boxes.
It's been a good night.
A night of firsts but also a night of new memories for us.
So yes, the waves will still be coming ..... of that I have no doubt.
But I am relieved to see the days with new memories come, too, in place of the waves.
In fact, I am thrilled to see new memories in place of the waves.
I want to be happy.
I want to find joy.
Very, very much.
This is Jim with D#2, D#3 and D#1 ..... when #2 & #3 were only a couple of months old:
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
This trip will be the first time I’ve taken Grayson to New Orleans. He’s heard so much about it, I think he feels like he’s been there before, but it will be the first. We have big plans: a riverboat ride, trolley ride, the aquarium, fancy dinner at Broussard’s (a personal favorite), café au lait and beignets at the Café du Monde, walking through the Quarter, mass at St. Louis Cathedral, rooftop swimming pool at our hotel, so many great things. He knows we went there for our honeymoon, and he knows it will be our anniversary. I’m looking forward to sharing some of those great memories with him, and he’s just looking forward to it with the joyfulness of a 9 year old boy: how many more days until we go Mom? Cutie pie, I feel the same way.
Happy Tuesday! Michelle D.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
The useful thing about closets is you can shut the door to cover up any messiness that might be found inside. I suppose that is why we also hide some feelings in places with doors that snap securely shut. No need to look at those fears we tuck behind shuttered doors or to share them with the world or to force ourselves to examine them too closely. At least that is how my emotional closet works. I have shoved a bunch of stuff in there over the last four years. Trouble is whenever I need a sweater (aka some emotional stamina) I have to peek inside and try to stick my arm between the doors without allowing any of the hidden items to find their way into the sunshine of my room.
One thing I stored way back behind the formal dresses, and the ridiculous high heels that kill my feet but look perfect with my dress, is my need to be in a loving partnership again. And there it is, out in the open. The need that took me almost two years to look in the face, almost three years to admit publicly, and close to four years to stop worrying about how having another man in my life would reflect on my love for Phil. So let's free a few more of the stowaways from my emotional closet...Am I betraying Phil by loving someone else? Does finding a new man give the world the false impression that I am, God forbid, "over it?" Will I ever stop feeling like the other shoe is going to drop, as in this new guy is going to die, too? How do I handle the fact that I was happy in my marriage and never wanted to see it end...but here I am husbandless? Why do some people think that grief ends when a new relationship begins? Will my widow community understand that loving someone else does not make me less of a widow? Because as much as I hated that word the first time I had to own it, I have come to realize that being Phil's widow is the only way I can still be his wife. And how in the world do I explain THAT to another man?!
Last week I told another widow that I have a boyfriend, a serious boyfriend actually. And I was shocked by her reply.....What a relief, finally, someone to talk to about this!!! While reading her response I realized that my fear of publicly owning my new life has kept me from serving you the best way I can. In my effort to meet each of you where you are (and these places are so widely varied) I have discovered that I have only told a portion of my story. I happily share my widow self, my mother self, my sister/daughter/friend self...but unless asked specifically about my current relationship status, I have not shared my whole self. I am a widow, I will love Phil forever, I have learned to accept that life will not be what he and I planned, and I have found a man who understands that my past, my loss, and especially my grief, have made me the woman I am today...and he loves the woman I have become in the aftermath of the death of a man who changed my life. If these words hurt or horrify you...please remember that true love is the only thing that never dies. I hold onto that knowledge with both hands as I learn to love again.
So there you have it, and you can meet "him" tomorrow.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts. ~K.T. Jong
I hit the road mid afternoon and planned on 11 hours and then an overnight stop to conclude the other 7. I danced, listened to audiobooks, talked to myself, contemplated things and before I knew it I had arrived at my first destination.
Tired, I decided to hit the sack but found myself continuing down the road. At this point, self entertainment runs dry and you are left with nothing byt the bare bones of your being. At fist hesitant to face this being, I found myself enjoying this self- adventure. I laughed, cried, spoke to Michael and by 18 hours, smiling at all that I had done.
I had not only driven 18 hours, I had one intense session of self exploration....and I could not be any happier. As my feet touched ground I felt more in love with Michael, more in love with the person I was, and truly in love with the person I have become.