Monday, June 4, 2012

One Year

From Here

One year ago today, I sat in a waiting room and stared blankly at a stranger as he told me my 38 year old husband was dead. Outside the hospital, the sun was shining and the sky was outrageously blue. I dimly thought that it shouldn't be a beautiful day. That it shouldn't be allowed.

After Dave died, I couldn't listen to music at all for days. There was no thinking involved in this, it was all gut-level stuff. I just couldn't bear to hear music. Previously, I couldn't make it through a day without hearing music. Actually, I am stunned to hear that there are people who don't really care about music (I've met some!). It is elemental to me, almost as important as food, water and shelter.

So, no music was a sign of the depths I'd fallen into. Eventually, though, I began to crave it again. For some reason I still don't understand, the only thing I could stand to listen to at first was Bon Iver. Anything and everything Bon Iver. I latched on to that music and didn't let go. All day long, it was Bon Iver. In the kitchen, bathroom, car, bedroom. I even listened to it through earplugs while I did yard work.

It sustained me like food. I could almost feel my strained and jangly neurons smoothing out as soon as the familiar notes began. This went on for weeks before I could listen to a broader range of music. I began to think of Bon Iver's music as a part of my recovery. Like medicine.

In September, almost 4 months after Dave's death, I saw Bon Iver live for the first time at an outdoor venue with one of my Superfriends who had survived the last four months right alongside me. It was the most emotional, spiritual musical experience of my life and I vowed within the first few minutes that I'd see Bon Iver live again in the near future.

When I discovered that they'd be performing at Red Rocks Amphitheatre just days before the one year anniversary of his death, I knew I'd be there, come hell or high water.

I optimistically bought two tickets, hoping superfriend or someone else would be able to come with me, but it was not to be. It must have been written in the stars that I'd go it alone.

Dave's death has allowed me to meet a me I never knew before. One who is scared but acts anyway. One who is stronger and more independent than I ever imagined.

This journey so far, has been a lesson in relying on myself, leaning on myself, believing in myself, and trusting myself to an extent I never experienced before.

So, it makes perfect sense that I'd go to that concert alone, even though I very much wished for a companion (ANY companion!).

Red Rocks Amphitheatre, just outside of Denver, CO, is the only acoustically perfect, naturally occurring amphitheater in the world. It looks like something from The Flinstones, or maybe a place where you wouldn't be surprised to see a dinosaur or two. It's perched at 6,450 feet above sea level and overlooks a panoramic view of Denver far below. It is like no other and stunningly beautiful.

The sky was just darkening as the first notes of the first song, Perth, began. The stars and the lights of Denver sparkled. The moon made its way over our heads to hover just above the soaring rust-colored rocks.

My eyes instantly filled with tears and I was sure my chest would burst. The altitude probably just added to the physical reaction I had to this music in this beautiful place. It felt like I my insides were carbonated.  I wanted to sit and close my eyes to better absorb every heavenly note, but I didn't want to miss one visual snapshot of the performance.

Time disappeared and before I was ready, it was over.

I had done it, I thought as I trekked back to my car. I had gone to a concert alone. I had made it one year. I had survived.

I also spent several days in Colorado alone and, while I missed having a companion to experience it all with me, the truth is I loved being alone, too. I loved not having to compromise or worry about someone else's needs.

There's a good chance Dave would never have come along with me, anyway as he didn't "get" my taste in music, nor did he have any desire to attend concerts. This somehow made the trip easier.

I'm finding that things that fit in better with my new life, rather than my old life, are easier to bear. There's too much pain wrapped up in the things we used to do together. Things we used to experience. Places we used to go. Stepping into this new life of mine, while bringing his memory along with me, feels better to me, than staying in that old life, waiting for him and the life I had with him to miraculously return to me.

It's funny, during the concert I didn't really feel Dave with me. It almost felt like he'd taken leave of the whole situation. I wonder now if he watched this unfold and thought "She's got this. I'm off to do my own thing for a while."

All I could think of was what a long way I've come, despite being heartbroken. I thought back in wonder, realizing that I often forget about my accomplishments and that they are many.

I'm a tough cookie and it's taken Dave's death for me to realize that, much less admit it.

My life goes on, and it didn't begin or end with Dave's death. I will never understand why he was taken from me. I would trade it all in to have him back, but I can't, and this means that I take what I do have and run with it. I keep experiencing life and all its beauty. I keep working on loving myself and healing. I keep moving and living.

I wouldn't have met this new woman occupying my body if Dave hadn't died. What a strange and terrible way to find out what was inside of me all long.


  1. an inadvertent little blessing for me in your post - my love had gone hiking in the rockies the week before he drowned, and attended a concert at red rock. Reading your post brought his voice to me, telling me about his trip, and describing the concert venue. Thank you cassie.

    1. Wow. That's incredible and gives me chills.

  2. Cassie,
    you made it through year one...I am sorry you had to meet the new woman in you, but it sounds like she is a strong one, and will survive whatever comes her way.

    I, too, lost my want of music, only to find it again. My venue is reggae, which we both loved, as we sailed many times in "da islands". Today, 2+ years later, I still play that music over and over, it keeps this new me going.
    It takes me back, but also takes me forward, where to I'm not sure, but I'm going there. Keep on moving.

  3. Blessings to you Cassie as you trample through your first anniversary. Yes, you are stronger and more independent and a survivor! You should be proud of the path you have traveled thus far.

    I can so relate to your last is strange to find out what lies beneath us when death exposes those characteristics we never knew existed.

    Have a blessed and good day!

  4. Cassie,

    Sending you warm & positive thoughts on this day.
    Your strength, resolve & resiliency inspires me.
    It was so very cool to meet you last week & thank you so very much for the information that I sent along to my brother.

    I hope you continue to move through the healing process & may all your heartfelt intentions come true.

    1. So cool to meet you, too. I am so grateful there was something I could do for someone else on this journey who hadn't yet plugged into this community. Its strength pulls me along like no other.

  5. Beautiful. Well done you tough cookie! The new "me" is the most beautiful part of widowdom - like the universe's door prize. Congrats to you and your bad ass self for going to a concert alone because YOU wanted to, even though it was scary.

    1. Wow. The universe's door prize. Love that.

  6. your final thought is amazing and so eloquent, really captures what we all feel i think. at least I do! thank you!

  7. This year one of "our" favorite bands is coming to the local county fair, on my birthday. I have debated with myself whether to go or not. I know I will have to go alone & I know I can't really afford it. Your post made me realize what a small thing it would be for me to travel 30 miles to experience something he would want me to treat myself to on my first birthday without him. I'm only 6 months into this awful journey but I hope to find that strong woman in myself that have you have obviously discovered in yourself. Thanks for being an inspiration to us all!

    1. Yes, he would want you to treat yourself. I'm convinced that all they want for us is to be happy. There are no more practical concerns for them, like money or distance. Just live and be happy. That's what they want for us.
      He'll be with you when you go, anyway, enjoying it right along with you.

  8. Cassie, my thoughts are with you on this difficult day & sending hugs. Wow, I thought I was the only one that for some strange reason when my Mike passed I immediately couldn't listen to music, this lasted months. Adding to that mix that Christmas Holiday music was playing two months later on the radios. I didn't know why or could I explain it either at the time. Months later I slowly started to listen again, but almost like getting only your toes wet entering a pool -LOL - I then realized - we had music playing all the time, everywhere,and it was something that brought us "joy". I realized that unconsciously I was in such pain, I couldn't even allow this little bit of joy/music into my life. Once again, glad to hear I'm not the "only" one traveling this journey and having these experiences that no one else understood. May your memories of what was happy carry you through today.

  9. Cassie, this was so eloquently written.
    My husband has been gone 17 months now. For about the first 8 months, I could not listen to music of any kind. Then I slowly started listening to my 70's music. It took a few more months before I started playing the country music that we used to love to dance to. For a while, I could only listen to a few songs (crying the whole way through them). Finally, I could listen for longer periods of time with less tears. Now I listen to it all the time and only cry for the special songs. I guess it's all part of our journey. A step at a time.
    I'm so glad to hear that you went to the concert alone, even if that wasn't your first choice. People think I'm isolating myself if I go somewhere alone. But sometimes I NEED to go it alone. I was always pretty strong and independent, but now I'm even more so. I have awesome friends that I can count on for just about anything. But sometimes, I just want to count on me.