Monday, May 20, 2013

Shining Beacons


This summer will be the third summer since Dave died.

The part of my brain where I store the memories of that day in June, 2011 is as tender as it always has been, and occasionally, I dip into it to see if it still hurts as much to think of it. Not because I want to torture myself, but because it is what a brain does. Or at least my brain.

The other day I had to read an account of Dave's last day on earth written by a stranger. It hurt, it hurt, it hurt. I felt waves of nausea and cold and hot all at once as I read, feeling the story carry me unwillingly to the conclusion. The conclusion that I still can't quite believe is fact. The final words ended with "...he was pronounced dead on June 4, 2011." Upon reading them, a wail escaped my lips before I could realize what was happening. The intense wave of despair only lasted a few moments, but the feeling is the same as always - a mixture of shock, fear, dread and disbelief.

He died. His heart stopped.
People die. They die when they're old and they die when they're young.

We don't do a great job in this society of understanding it. We ignore the truth until it arrives in our life. It's an "icky" topic. It makes people bummed out and it makes them shut down.
But those of us who've been around as a spouse left this earth, have seen it close up and will never be the same.

It changes us elementally. Our brains are wired differently, our hearts battered and tired. It makes us understand finally that we are all really really going to die.  It makes life look different.

Seeing life through the filter of It Can Happen to Me changes everything.

Hanging out with the lucky people who haven't experienced it is always an interesting experience. It's a little like watching the old me, not expecting grief to arrive in my life, excited about the future without picturing what was coming my way.

I can never again be that person. That's as permanent as Dave's absence.

I'm grieving the loss of both of us.

I miss both of us.

Part of what helps me the most is to attempt to not be so attached to that outcome. That future is not to be. Wishing it back is natural but not helpful for me to get mired in day after day.

That future ended on June 4, 2011 and a new future began. This future is murkier but as I know now that old future was as clear and as a known as could be and still evaporated like a mirage.

I don't have the future. I only used to think I did.
I only have today. And maybe that's a lesson that I should be more proud of. Not everyone gets that insight. It's not something I'd wish on anyone else, but it's something hard-won and gives me depth and wisdom, even though I mostly feel neither deep nor wise.

That last paragraph is an attempt to feel better and maybe make you feel better too, so I almost deleted it but then I realized that that's what I've been doing since Dave died. I've been trying to make myself feel better. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it's better than not trying to find a silver lining.

My silver linings have kept me from falling forever into a pit of despair.

They don't change the future or the past, but they can make the present more bearable. That's something else about this new life that I've noticed. Making the present more bearable is now a big deal. Tiny beautiful moments, simple pleasures and seemingly insignificant kindnesses are now shining beacons.

Often they were all I had and I'm grateful for them. 


  1. Cassie, what you wrote is how I feel. Wow. The struggle continues each day, and time moves on. I can't look to far back or forward, otherwise I lose my focus of what I really should do. 5 months ago today my wife passed away, I still can't believe she's gone, all the good things she done in our small city, and all the things we still had planned to do. Thanks for writing the artical.
    Peace be with you..

  2. I've been following all of the posts here for almost a year. I am approaching the one year anniversary of my husband's death, which falls on June 10th.

    I have never commented, but I just had to today. Thank you so much for being so open with your journey. Your words have lifted me and given me hope when I felt as if there was none. You have a way of writing and expressing what I feel and believe. Out of all of the posts here, I forward your posts to my closest family members/friends the most because you often say what I am feeling and experiencing, but can't find the words to express.

    I just finished the book, The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. Just wanted to say that your writing here has only reinforced what I learned from Tolle. All we really have is the present moment, and you are right about us widows/widowers understanding that more than most.

    Like you, I am trying to remember and celebrate the "silver linings" of my life. Sometimes, I feel guilty about taking on this thinking because I loved/love my husband very much and I hate that I have to recognize the "silver linings" in my life when he is not here with us. However, with time and therapy, I'm finding that I do not feel guilty for long because this thinking IS helping me survive & heal. It is helping me rebuild a new life for me and my children without my husband and their father.

    Thank you so much Cassie. I so appreciate you. Have a peaceful day.

    1. Thank you so much for commenting and sharing your thoughts. It means so much to me. More than I can say, really. I appreciate YOU.

  3. 4th summer w/o him. In my "other life" we so looked forward to leaving winter behind and bursting into spring and summer with all the outside activity. Now that every aspect of my world has changed, I so identify with the loons calling on the lake, searching for their mate with their mournful call. I do try to live in the moment, but every moment is still w/o him, still full of what was and what was supposed to be. It's taking much longer than I ever anticipated to find my way forward, some days I still just don't care to be.

    Just knowing all of you are trying keeps me going too. Thank you. By the way Cassie, you ARE both deep and wise.

    1. Cathy, thank you. Really. Sounds like you're pretty deep and wise yourself.

  4. The death, sudden or otherwise of a mate changes us forever. I am 61 years old and I can perfectly relate to your story. My husband and I have been separated five years now. My life is moving forward. Differently than I expected. Thank you for telling your story. Muriel

  5. Profound and True!