Tuesday, May 28, 2013

No Goodbye

Filling in for Amanda today...she will be back next week!


Phil and I were blissfully unaware while we shared our last kiss. The morning of his death was the last time we went out for an early morning coffee run. Our last phone conversation ended with Phil telling me that hearing my voice made his day. I laughed because I had just finished ranting about a problem I needed to solve, and he somehow found that pleasant. Days before his accident we took our last family photo. Weeks before that day in August we'd taken our last family vacation. Minutes before he left for his bike ride was the last time he told me that he loved me. None of these daily moments were recognized as final or even finite. Because we never said goodbye.


As a person who was widowed suddenly, I have mourned the fact that I had no chance to consciously burn my last moments with Phil into my brain. In the first months after he died, I obsessed over what I would have said to him, if I knew when he left the house that he would never come back. Our last words were so ordinary. Our last kiss a quick "see you later" peck. My last memories blurred, because I didn't know how significant they would become. I would eventually fill three journals with all the things I wanted him to know. But, still, I never said goodbye.

It took some time for me to begin to wonder what final words he would have said to me, given the chance. One day about eighteen months after he died, I was out on a run and frustrated because I couldn't FEEL him anymore. Tears were welling up as I talked to him (out loud, because why not?), and I could feel the sobs beginning to rise in my chest. I screamed at him, I stumbled; I bent in half and tried not to throw up then sat down on the dirt trail. You'd think all that drama would conjure him up, right? Nope, just me and the dirt. I sat for a while covered in sweat and tears, and wondered for the first time what he would have said to me on his way out the door...if he knew. 

I was stunned by how quickly the words came to me. Be good to yourself. Take care of the kids. Keep running. Don't forget where I hide the cash. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. I loved being married to you. Love everyone enough for me, too. Be happy. Don't let my death kill you.

These words have stayed with me through every step of my life without him. And he never said them. But he would have, I know for absolutely certain, that he would have.


31 comments:

  1. For those out there from a sudden death and didn't have time.
    There was time, but my wife was a very popular person, people coming and going, they just came without asking. Then she was very tired after, always thought be time. I was running ragged taking care of things. Getting her up in the morning, changing clothes, making meals, etc. She always thought she was going to beat the disease, so I never wanted to sturr up the subject. I'll have time I always thought. More and more people came. We had Christmas on Thanksgiving. I'll still have time. Getting through the day and people coming over, dressing her, feeding her, etc, was the day with her sleeping in between. She ran out of energy. Always thought be time until she couldn't hardly speak.
    I (we) talked, she understood but couldn't speak. She raised her hand and touched my face and we both knew how we felt about each other. The disease robbed her thinking and I untestood.
    The moment is what I have, even though her death wasn't sudden, always thought was time, now I look back what we had during that time , went to fast and sudden.
    Peace be with you..

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    1. Thank you for sharing this, you are so right we do always think we have time. Death is a shock no matter how it comes to us.

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  2. This post speaks deeper than most to me; because this is my story. I also experienced a sudden death of the love of my life. A peck on the head before I cruised out the door that morning; random texts through the day; a challenging day for me which we talked about on his ride home when he called to find out "M, I'll be home soon - I can't wait to hear all about it! Do you need me to stop for anything on my way home?" That would be our last conversation......the next time my phone rang with his special ring tone, it was the voice of the police officer using his ICE (in case of emergency) number in his phone which was to me. Brings my stomach to knots just writing that awful time and remembering it so vividly.
    I too, have been blessed to have words from him after his death; words that he speaks so deeply to my heart. Words of truth - words like you share - "stay the course, I love you forever Hottie, you and the kids can do this, don't let me dying kill you, love others, you have a heart full of love that someone needs." So special.
    But still, some days, most days, it's not enough. Not nearly And yet, I am moving forward with momentum these days - 27 months later - yes my strength comes from God but more so from the feeling of my guys hand on my back gently pushing me with love in a forward direction. "Go M, you got this, you can do it, you are doing it. I love you."

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    1. I love that last sentence. Yes, somehow we find a way to move in a forward direction.

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    1. Thanks for reading, and taking the time to comment.

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  4. Thanks, Michele, you always know just what to say. Brings me to tears, but the good kind now. I'll be seven years on Monday and it still stings, but I've got many more good memories than bad. I am so thankful to you and all the widows I've met in the last seven years and I literally thank God for all of you. -Liz

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    1. No matter how long ago our loss, I believe there are always moments when that pain stings. I am so glad your good memories outnumber your bad ones,and that you are able to count that fact as a blessing. Sending you love as you mark that seventh anniversary of your loss. <3

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  5. oh wow - did I need this post. I lost my partner very suddenly, and even tho the last words he said to me as we were leaving the apt for emergency hospital admittance were "Love you babe" as he hugged me and held me close - I was rather flippant and responded "Love you too babe, whatever it is we'll get you through it together"...and then we didn't...I didn't...1 day later he's in a coma...next day is disconnect from life support...and death 10 minutes later. But I truly believe that he would have said exactly as you were hearing from your companion. "You are the best thing that ever happend to me" - he did tell me several time how wonderful I was (I had/have trouble accepting praise)...and he always thanked me for the support I provided through some very difficult issues in his life. He would have said "Don't worry - be happy" (that is what I put on his marker).

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    1. I hope you continue to carry his words with you, and that you always, always remember how much you have been loved.

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  6. Oh my gosh, for what's its worth this made me cry, and then when you said you were stunned at how quickly the words came to you, I immediately thought "That's him, that's Phil! He was saying those things to her right then and there, on that dirt trail." Its so hard to be without their physical presence, to not touch them, or hear their voice, but I do think he spoke to you that day. I'd like to think they speak to us all the time; its not enough, but it would at least be something.

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    1. Thank you for those words. I felt he was speaking to me in that moment for sure...and I really was stunned by how quickly those words popped into my head. Amazing how much knowledge we hold inside ourselves, we just have to remember to look for the words sometimes.

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  7. Wow! Thank you, Michele. It put me to thinking and now writing down what my beloved would have told me. I lost my love all of a sudden also and I've wondered what he would of said to me if he would have known he was going to be gone so suddenly. I I believe his words would be "Canela(cinnamon) continue to grow in your faith, trust in God, be strong in Him and never give up hope. I know you can do this because I know you and have seen you grow and mature through out almost 18 years. Move forward and continue to raise the kids the way you have been. I Love You and am proud of you."

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  8. Thanks Michele. You put into workds how I feel. My husband died suddenly too. I imagine my husband saying good job babe. I talk to him everyone day.

    Maria O.

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  9. Wow Michele, so strange that I never thought about this. My husband died suddenly too. He was a stroke victim. He said good night, headed for bed and died several hours later in my arms.

    I am sure he would have said in this particular order: take care of the kids, tell them everyday that I love them and you love them, be good to yourself, find a good man and take care of my friends and family. As I think this through, it actually brings me a combination of sadness but comfort!

    Thanks for the tears today both comforting and somber!!!!

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  10. I can't seem to get past the take care of yourself...I really don't want to anymore. How do you do it? What makes you want to go on? I see the beauty in nature all around me, i try to be active in my community, but so want to still share it all with him, no one else. It still floors me every day when I go out and come home, and I know he will never be returning. All I see is emptiness.

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    1. Take the positive knowing we cannot change the past only what is ahead. I as with many others come home where our spouse had lived, very different, but does get better with time. Trust God..
      Peace be with you..

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    2. Anon, the desire to take care of myself came slowly and bit by bit. First I took care of myself because I had kids to care for, then sometimes because I had family who loved me, other times I felt I had to because Phil wanted me to...and eventually I learned to take care of myself because I mattered. Not only to others, but to myself.

      Be gentle with yourself. Grief is such hard work, and the steps forward can be very slow. There will always be an empty spot in your life where he lived, because people aren't replaceable. But if you just keep showing up for life, and doing the best you can to fill your life, your time, and your heart with things that matter to you...there will be a day when you don't see only emptiness. Hang on, and please keep coming back here.

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  11. This resonates so much with me, my husband was also killed in a cycling accident and I still feel so much grief at what we couldn't say to each other (at nearly 2 years out).
    I don't know why, but I have a hard time even contemplating what he would say to me, then and now. It hurts so much. I hope that one day I feel as sure as you do about his possible words.

    Great post!

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    1. Hi Steph,

      My heart always aches in a special way when I "meet" another cycling widow. It took me some time to be able to think of what he'd want to say to me, but I found the thought so powerful. We each have our own unique ways of moving through this, so please do trust whatever positive ways of coping seem to work for you.

      Also, I wonder if you'd be interested in Soaring Spirits dedicating a mile of our Share the Road Ride to the memory of your husband? You can find details about the ride here: http://www.sslf.org/events/share-the-road-ride/

      We create a personal sign for each person for whom a mile is dedicated. If you are interested, please email me at micheleh at sslf dot org, and I will be happy to provide details.

      And, thanks for reading!

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  12. Wow Michelle, you have such a lovely way with words. You inspire me as much today as you did five years ago when I came to a seminar that you did at the Simi Valley senior center. It was you that made me realize that everything I was thinking was perfectly normal after losing my husband so suddenly. I was only about six weeks out at the time and I wasn't sure what was normal any more but your speech confirmed that I wasn't crazy, just a very grief stricken widow. Thank you for everything you do for us.

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  13. Wow..while Dana wasn't sudden... his decline was.
    There's all kinds of smartass things I know he would say...because that's what our relationship was. The things I needed to tell him, I did. What he needed to tell me he told to a dear friend a few days before he died.
    One thing I hear from him, loud and clear is "Whatever happens, things will be ok, because YOU will be ok" He'd been telling me that for years so I believe him.
    Not easy... but ok.
    I just hit a year 5-29 and am wondering what I am gonna do when I grow up...
    I look forward to meeting you at Camp, Michele.
    Peace, Sue

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  14. Great post! I wonder this myself. My husband didn't die suddenly but like Sue, his decline from cancer was. He was given the old "There's-nothing-more-we-can-do" speech on June 5, 2012, then he breathed his last on June 28, 2012 in the early morning. I miss him so much but I'm blessed enough to have tons of VHS videotapes with his voice on it. We were going to convert all of those to DVD, even bought a player to do it many years ago, but we never got around to it.

    I would've loved to come to the Camp but since that's the one year anniversary of his passing, we do a rosary and family gathering on that day. Maybe I'll be able to join a Camp in another location or next year but until then, I'll read posts and blogs to help me through the pain and emptiness I feel. Peace and blessings be with you all.

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  15. Michele, just read this now after writing my own weekly post for in here. Its 2am in the morning and now Im sobbing over my keyboard after reading your beautiful post. Thanks a lot! lol. As you know, my husband also died suddenly, and for me, this whole "last moments" thing has really been something I have struggled with. Not only did we not say goodbye, we didnt say anything at all. We went to bed the night before, and I still dont remember ANYTHING about that evening, because , as you said in your own post, it was "so ordinary." I think he fell asleep, or I did. Nobody said goodnight. And then I woke up, and he was already gone at work, and gone from this earth. I woke up and he was dead. And I dont remember our last words, or days, or anything. Its almost as if he just disappeared from my life, like a bad magic trick. I still struggle with this and talk to my counselor about it all the time. I want to have a last moment, and it hurts me that I cant even recall anything about our last few days together. I need to somehow, someday, make myself okay with this. I just dont know how.

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  16. Michelle, I just finished reading your post and boy, do I ever understand. It has been almost a year for me and although I do not here his voice inside of me, I think my instincts are driven by him. I say it is intuition but maybe it has been him all along. Thank you for sharing and it has given me something to think about. All this time I thought something was wrong with me but now I am starting to think he has been guiding me all this time

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  17. Michelle, you have obviously hit a chord. Many of us were hit with the sudden death of our loved one. Thank you for your words and the encouragement you share with those that post. Carry on, don't let the words written on your heart go unsaid, they carry healing for so many.

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  18. Michele-thank you from the bottom of my heart for this post. I lost my fiance` very suddenly as well. It was almost 28 months ago and our last good bye way the too familiar, "I love you and I'll see you tomorrow"....now I feel as if I'll be waiting for tomorrow for the rest of my life. I somehow manage to make it through each day, although to anyone who would ask I would honestly say, I have no idea how. I try to make a difference in ways that would make my Tom proud and I try to live and love for both of us. I truly believe that you heard directly from your husband on that dirt path and believe that we all do so when we are in need and/or quiet our minds enough. Always blessings, never losses. We will be reunited one day.

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  19. Heather StonemanJune 7, 2017 at 10:48 AM

    Thank you for resharing this post Michele.
    I find great wisdom in your words, and comfort reaffirming that I'm not alone on this crazy widowhood journey.

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  20. Thanks for reposting this today on Soaring Spirits Facebook. You wrote this original post in the month right before my husband died. Way back "then", I was blissfully unaware of Soaring Spirits, the pain of widowhood, or the sting of regrets due to my husband's sudden death with no chance to say final words. My hubby died riding his bike as well. The knock on the door by the police officers and seeing his bike (but not him) strapped to the front of the police car---that moment was a moment that became seared into my waking and sleeping brain. It took a long time to figure out what he would have said to me. I couldn't hear him, or see him, or feel him as other widows have mentioned. But he spoke through my daughter to me. She spoke eloquently at the candlelight vigil. She said her dad once told her (when he was probably frustrated by one of her "teenage moods"), "You know C? Every morning when you wake up, you get to choose your shoes. You can also choose your mood,just like you choose your shoes." Now those are the words I know he would have spoken to me if we could have said final words to me: "When you wake up in the morning, you can choose your mood, just like you choose your shoes." When I wake up and feel like I can't go on or I can't handle life's stressed alone, I put on my "shoes" and my "mood". Sometimes I am in a hiking boot mood, sometimes comfy slippers, sometimes flip flops, maybe even sturdy rubber boots (especially on those sobbing days), but every once in awhile I put on the fancy shoes and a fancy mood and go out there and live and love. That is what he would want me to do. Thank you for writing this post from a place of grief and pain before I also knew that place of grief and pain. Thank you for sharing it again today. Thank you for helping us choose our "shoes" and being our support stockings when we need them most Michele. (YOU ARE WAY SEXIER THAN SUPPORT HOSE HOWEVER, JUST THOUGHT I WOULD ADD THAT! HAHA)

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    1. Carolyn, thank you so much for your message and for sharing your story with me. I am sorry that we have this bike death in common, but am glad we both have messages from our guys encouraging us to move through and to keep living. I love the shoe analogy you use here, and I don't mind being support hose! Also, we do a Share the Road Ride in honor of Phil and other cyclists who have died on the road. If you'd like us to honor your husband, we'd love to do so. You can contact me at michele@soaringspirits.org for details. I was just talking to my niece who has to get up for vacation at 4:00am and was sure she was going to be grumpy. I told her a friend recently told me that you can choose your mood like you choose your shoes...she loved it and I feel sure my sister will love it tomorrow morning as well! So, our hubby's words are making a difference again today!

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