Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Dance of the Deathiversary

This post dedicated to my best friend. Our feet have so often marched to the same drum, and though we both would have abandoned the dance given the chance, I couldn't ask for a better partner in the dance of hope and life. Love to you as the sixth anniversary of Daniel's death approaches. No doubt he would be proud (and unsurprised) by the amazing way in which you continue to embrace life.

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.


  1. Love this and love you, absolutely walking the death march....Tuesday was the day they told us had three months to 2 years....Today we were planning a bbq with the family for Saturday...who knew it would be the last one? Such a crazy ride in the last 8 years, and so glad you were there for the majority of it. Looking forward to honoring the day with you. XO

  2. Thank you for putting into words, the actions and feelings we all get into as the deathiversary approaches. For me also, the days leading up to the anniversary are always worse than the day itself.

  3. Thank you for this.
    My husband died one year ago November 2nd.
    My birthday (Monday) began his decline.
    I feel the weight of that everyday, remembering what I was doing, what I was seeing. Trying to keep him alive every single day.
    I hold on.

  4. As always Michele, your words wash over me and I sigh at their wisdom and empathy for others. Today is 2 years from when my husband was diagnosed with leukemia after his stubbed big toe did not heal and my death march continues for the next 18 days when he died. This year my amazing body reaction was to develop blood under both of my big toenails after taking a very long hike. I couldn't believe my eyes...I guess I had one wound for Tim and one for me. The mind/body connection is incredibly strong. Here's to all of our journeys of healing and honoring those we deeply loved and continue to love.

  5. A timely post, as I hit 2 years 2 days ago. It is a dreaded day. But when I think of the blood, pain and tears it took to survive these last two years, it gives me hope. Time truly is the only healer. As time passes and we get to the point when we can look back at last year and realize how far we've come, it brings hope for next year. You've made it a very long way, to get through the initial pain, keep moving, heal and remarry....fabulous. Your story brings hope and the assurance that there is life and healing. Thanks!

  6. Yes - I second the comment that your story, sad as it is, brings assurance that there is life and healing ...