I dread deathiversaries, "with my whole soul", as my daughter would say. This dread is instinctual, and has nothing to do with how happy I am in my current life. The creeping feeling of impending doom sneaks up on me at the same time every year, and at odd times when I am distracted by nostalgia or lost in a happy memory. Sometimes the feeling of dread appears as a great crashing wave, hitting me full force from behind and knocking me into the swirling sea of despair, shocked and unprepared. Other times I can hear the drumbeat of the death march from afar, and I have time to steel myself for what lies ahead.
I am amazed by the way my body takes over as the days before Phil's death day unfolds. Singing along to the radio in the car can be suddenly halted by a realization that I am living in the moment when we visited my parents for the last time. How does my body know this, when my mind is completely unaware? The simple act of walking through the front door is fraught with danger when the death march has begun, each time I step over the threshold I imagine a random moment when Phil did the same. Pancakes become tearjerkers, cyclists cause a lump in my throat, photos now stacked haphazardly around the house are dusted and petted, and the memory of the life I used to live whispers my name over and over again.
The craziest part about this death march is that I am happy. Life is good. There are still difficult grief moments, but I am more aware of the goodness in the world, and in my life, than I have ever been before. So why does the death march have this hypnotic power over me? Why do my feet dance to the beat of the drums before my mind is aware that they have begun to play? Why does knowing the outcome of the story not alter in anyway the dread I experience as the day approaches? I don't know.
What I have learned is that the death march is worse than the actual anniversary. I have realized that honoring my feelings, and allowing my body to move to the rhythm that I can neither anticipate nor control, does help. Allowing the people who love me (including my new husband) to walk a portion of the march with me keeps me from isolating myself in the sometimes overwhelming sorrow. One other thing I know from experience--all marches come to an end. When this one moves on, I find myself still standing and holding onto the memories of a love for which I am eternally grateful, and moving forward into a life I am blessed to call my own.