Monday, November 29, 2010

If You Weren't Dead

Over the past five years any time that I have done something that I believe Phil would have either actively disliked (getting a tattoo) or probably didn't appreciate (leaving his ashes in a locked safe for three years) I have used this phrase, "Well then you shouldn't have died," to justify my behavior.

This phrase when looked at from another angle goes something like this..."If you hadn't died__________." And there have been any number of ways to fill in the blank. Here are a few from the first couple of years: If you hadn't died I wouldn't be ready to punch the poor, unsuspecting fence contractor in the face for asking me how long I plan to live in this house four months after you died. If you hadn't died I wouldn't be standing in the bathtub in my Ugg boots, your boxers, and a sweatshirt stomping my feet to try to convince whatever animal is under the house that he wandered into unfriendly territory and should leave one in the morning. If you hadn't died I wouldn't have to work twice as many hours at the same time as I became responsible for twice as many household duties. If you hadn't died I wouldn't be home alone with the dog when the kids go off to their dad's crying into Chinese food for one. If you hadn't died your shoes wouldn't need a new home, and I wouldn't be wearing both our wedding rings. If you hadn't died I wouldn't be the person who hushes a room every time she walks into it and then spends the rest of the evening wearing her best 'Really I am fine' mask.

As time has moved on the end of this sentence has been populated with different kinds of sentiments. If you hadn't died I wouldn't be known by our friends (and often my children) as the 'death lady'. If you hadn't died I wouldn't think at least once every day that life is short, and then have that thought impact the outcome of a decision. If you hadn't died I wouldn't have traveled the country by myself, unafraid and ready for adventure. If you hadn't died I would not have been forced to redirect my life at the age of 35, carving out a whole new future from a blank slate. If you hadn't died there are some amazing people who would not be a part of my life. If you hadn't died I would not have learned that not wanting to is not the same thing as being unable to do any number of things. If you hadn't died I would be living an entirely different life. If you hadn't died I would never have flown half way to Australia to meet a man I was introduced to on the Internet. If you hadn't died I would not be the woman I am today.

There has been some buzz around the widow world about whether a remarried widowed person dishonors their new spouse by continuing to discuss the ways their widowhood experience impacts their lives. And I mean our current life, the one that is happy and includes a new love and many, many new blessings. I can only speak for myself, but here is my could my past not influence my future? Especially a past which has created, due to the fact that Phil died, the person I am today. Phil's death still impacts by daily life. Not in the horrifically painful ways that used to form those early days, and now not so much because of his physical absence, but more because of what his absence has taught (and continues to teach) me. I was loved well. I enjoyed a partnership that fed my soul. I stretched and grew as a person; first as Phil's wife, and then as his widow. I didn't ask to know what I know, but the knowledge death imparted has changed me. In most ways for the better. I don't think of the differing ways I have filled in this loaded sentence to be a balance sheet. There is no way to measure out in even amounts what I lost and what I have gained. I didn't have a choice about my life circumstance. All I can do is make the most of what lies ahead, in honor of the potential that exists with each day that I draw breath.

So while the ruminations about life without Phil continue to mill about my brain, my ability to love Michael is firmly rooted in the love I once knew with Phil. Not in exchange, but in addition. If Phil wouldn't have died I would never have believed that life after widowhood could be so beautiful.


  1. I don't think people believe it's "dishonoring" really. They just can't wrap their minds around the duality. Unless you've been widowed and have remarried, how could you know what it's like.

    It's an odd state. One life/husband most often has nothing to do with the other, but at the same time one lead to the other. They are parallel tracks and the same road.

    I don't make comparisons. I don't wonder what life would have been. I don't call myself a "widow" anymore but rather say "I was widowed once". But isn't it just semantics really?

    There is no one right way to be widowed or to move on. The fact that I couldn't have imagined being married again, immigrating to another country, changing careers, or having grown children ten years ago is just an example of that John Lennon saying "Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans."

    The only thing that got me through widowhood - the waiting beforehand and the actual fact - was my faith in being happy again. I knew that there was an awesome life waiting ahead for me. And there was.

    It's a bit irksome when some think that moving on means I've forgotten. I have too many scars to forget but I know that it's hard to imagine being in a happier future when you're still so hurt and unhappy and frightened.

    The widow world is just like any subset group with it's "us" and "them". The farther out you get, the more you see that it's not really like that at all. There are just people at different stages of a progression that lead to the future - and the future is whatever we decide to make it.

  2. Both of these are very helpful to me given where I am. I am only 3 weeks out. I have been on the phone with AT&T for 96 minutes and counting just trying to figure out how to go from a family plan to an individual plan. I hate this. How does one go instantly from being a couple to being an's impossible. I was just telling my mom this morning that at the 3 week mark, I can breathe normally again for most of the day but I am empty and cannot even fathom being happy again. I try to fake it for the sake of my 9 and 5 year old boys so that they don't freak out. I am only 38 years old and the fact that I have to do this FOREVER is very frightening. But I do pray every moment that God brings back happines. I was really really happy, even when he was only 3 days from dying...we were still happy...and I want that back. I want the seven of you to know that I've spent hours reading your entries and I think God for each and every one of them. They are a great comfort to me. Keep posting and I'll keep reading. Thank you!

  3. Hey Michele,

    Your opening line here cracked me up and I'm always up for a good laugh where ever I can get it at this point. As the post above says keep writing and I'll keep reading. You guys are great!! And to whoever wrote the post above, I'm seven months out at this point and the man I lost was the most amazing guy and I LOVED my life with him. But I realize that life will go on whether I want it to or not and I'm committed to live it fully. Hang in there, we will make it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  4. This post is so true. I lost my husband about a year ago. And I have thought the same things you have. I am a different person in many ways. I think it is unfair that people think it is dishonoring your spouse if you marry or if you talk about your deceased spouse. I think that if the new spouse can not handle it, then you are with the wrong person. As you say it is what made you what you are today. I think ultimately wach person you love is for different things and in a different way. It is not like bing divorced, you can not go back and remarry that person- it is the same way that if you lose a child they will never be replaced by another, but you can love another child,