Friday, September 27, 2013

Turn It Down

Today is my birthday.
Sort of.
This blog will post on Friday, and so by the time you read this, it will no longer be my birthday.
But right now, this minute, Thursday, September 26th, at almost midnight, it is the end of my birthday.

This year, I am 42.
This is the 3rd birthday without my husband.
My first birthday without him was so awful, I don't like to think about it much. It was only a couple months after his sudden death, and I was  39 years old, and turning 40. I had teased him constantly that he had better make a huge deal over my 40th birthday, and that he had better have something "epic" planned - some sort of incredible surprise. Well, "SURPRISE!!! I'm dead!"

Not exactly what I had in mind.

I vaguely remember, in the weeks after his death, finding some notes he had taken in his notebook and online, about possible places to take me for a special, intimate birthday weekend. He had looked up Cape May, Vermont, some beaches out in the Hamptons. Instead, my good friends planned a trip to Woodstock, where we rented a big beautiful house, drank wine, played board games, and laughed our asses off together. It was wonderful. And I barely recall being there. The days and weeks and months after my husband's death all seem pretend to me, like pieces and fragments of an impossible puzzle, that I simply don't have the energy to solve.

I also remember going to mom and dad's place in Massachusetts that first year, where my brother and his wife and two kids came over, and we made my favorite meal and had cake and presents, just like it was any normal, ordinary year. My mom has this tradition where, if it's your 40th birthday, or any milestone birthday, you get 40 presents to unwrap. Somewhere around bite 7 of mom's red cake, and taking the tape off gift #11, my heart said "No." My soul and my face started crying, I got up from the table and ran into the bathroom, where I locked myself for a good 15 minutes, just sobbing away my pain. I felt so guilty. How could I celebrate life when my husband doesn't get to live one? How can I open presents and eat cake and blow out candles when he never gets to see another year, another age - ever again? When I finally emerged from the bathroom, my then 3 year old nephew Brian took the next gift out of my hands and said sweetly: "I will open them for you, Auntie. You are sad."

My second birthday without him was uneventful and blah. Probably had dinner with friends, and at some point, went to mom and dad's again to celebrate there too. Last year though, we did things a bit differently, tried a new tradition. My brother brought over fresh lobsters, my dad grilled steaks, and we got farm fresh corn on the cob. I still missed my husband like crazy every single second, but doing something that we had not done as a family with him really seemed to help. I didnt have to sit there and think about remembering when we did this with Don, because we didn't. We never had steak and lobster with Don, so steak and lobster was much less painful. And after my sobbing incident the year before, mom and dad toned things down some, and gave me a nice gift card. No presents to open. No ribbon to untie. No calling attention to the big fat elephant in the room named death.



So today is my birthday, even though it is already tomorrow.
And things have changed a lot.
And yet, they haven't.
Last night I went to a Yankee game with my dear friend Lori. I felt my husband surround me in one of our favorite places to go together, like a friend I couldn't see. He was hiding inside the cool, crisp air. Traveling with every crack of the bat. Leaning himself into me, so I could rest my head against his chest. The Yankees lost, but there was a magic inside that stadium last night. Something that can't be explained. Something that felt alive.

And as I walked home from the subway after the night was done, my eyes and my soul started to cry, right there in the middle of the street. This has happened often after his death, after nights out with good friends, when I once again find myself alone at the conclusion of the day. But while I cried and walked, I began talking to my beautiful, dear, very dead husband. I told him out loud how sad I felt that he wasn't at that game too, that he can't give me birthday flowers and candy and cards from each of our kitties. And I found that by talking to him out loud, I am talking the pain away, and bringing in the love.

It didn't stop the ache, because the ache never stops. Not ever. But sometimes - on a perfect autumn night, on the eve of your birthday, when you're walking home after an evening of wonderful baseball - the volume on that constant ache can get turned down for awhile, and you can feel and hear and breathe all of the life around you.

Sometimes.

And in that life, lives the life of your husband, and the life that you shared. In that life, breathes the possibility that things won't always be so traumatic and exhausting. In that life, there is hope. For the Yankees. For birthdays. For holidays. And for me.

I think they call that progress.



Pictured: me and Don, Yankee Stadium, 2009. 

21 comments:

  1. I too find that after a great day or night with friends, when I hope that not grief magic with last for a while that I crash really hard. I thought it might be guilt over having fun without him, or returning to my aloneness, but I think it just pushes the button that makes me feel how much fun we had together and and amplifies what it means for him to be gone. In the beginning it was almost more than I could take, but at 3 years I am able to be grateful that I can still have those times and have those friends and that I had what I had with him - of course, there's lots of sobbing involved too.

    And, I talk to him all the time. Mostly I think he hears.

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  2. Ahh, birthdays. Laura was really into birthdays, whether it was hers or someone elses. She loved to plan surprise parties and make everyone wear silly hats.

    I really wasn't that into birthdays, but had fun planning what we would do for hers. My first birthday after her death wasn't bad, but hers was. Now I celebrate her birthday by having a fund raiser for a Carousel that runs as a non profit. Laura loved carousels and all the smiles and laughter they generated. Now her birthday's aren't as bad because I'm doing something I know she would love.

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  3. Happy birthday! Perfect timing, mine is next Friday. First birthday without and 10 months out. I am a huge bday person, which conflicts with all the grief. I have created my own bday environment this year by throwing my own birthday season party. Invited all my favorite peeps and greatest supporters, several who also have birthdays this time of year. Something different, great friends/family and lots of good distraction! Thanks for sharing! Hugs!

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  4. Kelley, thank you so much for this entry today and sharing your thoughts and feelings about your birthday. I really appreciate it. My husband passed away suddenly on May 10, 2012 at age 52 from a Pulmonary Embolism. I was so overwhelmed with all the paperwork that I spent the summer in a foggy, numb haze, trying to take care of business items, death certificates and filling out forms. With October fast approaching, I have our wedding anniversary and my birthday 10 days apart along with Halloween (one of our favorite holidays). Last year our two daughters (then ages 15 & 19) and I were able to take a trip to California at that time to visit friends, see some shows and go to Disneyland. It was so nice to have something to look forward to, have dear friends and our daughters to share memories with, and then have pictures to look at after the trip. This year is different. I feel like I have nothing to look forward to, other than another reminder that he is not here to celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary and my birthday. But thanks to your post I'm going to start thinking of something I can do with my family and friends that will be fun and also a way to remember my husband. And I wish you a belated Happy Birthday along with hope for the coming year.

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    1. Thanks so much for the kind words. My wedding anniversary is also in October. the 27th. This year, it "would have been" our 7 yr anniversary. It breaks my heart. In lots of ways, the wedding anniversaries are harder for me than any other day, even the death day itself. I just find myself so heartbroken on the wedding anniversary, and Im usually overcome with sadness. Im so glad you will find a new way to be with your family and honor and remember your husband. It really does help. xoxo ...

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  5. I'm so sorry I missed saying Happy Birthday to you yesterday, but this is wonderful to read. Keeping Don close to you, and sharing his life with those who never had the privilege of meeting him can only be a good thing.

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  6. Dear Kelley Lynn, Thank you for having the courage to write this and share with others. It resonates with me - those annual events that bring home the memory of a beloved husband and the years that are passing without him.

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  7. Loved it. Thank you for sharing so immediately and directly of yourself girl... I haven't had the energy to even attempt to write about seeing the wreckage or my first funeral since his, much less my birthday. I write in my journal some 20 pages, but writing publicly for me is different. I'm a perfectionist and it takes a lot of energy for me to get it right before I will share it. So I always admire your sharing so immediately, the emotion is so beautiful in your words. Thank you!

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  8. Kelley, this is beautifully written, as always. You have brought tears to my eyes thinking of how these feelings live inside of me as well but a huge smile to my heart too to see your progress...that is a true birthday blessing.

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  9. Yes, you difinitely are progressing. So wonderful to see how many poeple you are helping getting through their challenges as you are helping yoursef. So proud of you.

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  10. Thank you, Kelley. You have a wonderful way of stating what many of us are feeling!!

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  11. oh those last two paragraphs. Thank you. Thank you.

    My birthday is Monday. My love drowned 3 months before his 40th birthday, 2.5 months before my 39th.

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    1. Megan, I read your post and it resonated with me. My love drowned as well, on Friday the 13th of 2012. I find myself with so many questions about how this could possibly happen and not being there and what if he needed me in those final moments and I wasn't there. Wondering if he suffered any praying that he didn't. I understand what you are going through and my heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with you.

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  12. My Birthday was last Friday. I can say it truly sucked!.. My wife died 20 months ago....

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  13. Bonnie Loves Joe 4everSeptember 27, 2013 at 7:46 PM

    I lost my High school sweetheart, This Year...8/4/13...we celebrated our 29th Anniversary on July 21st...we didn't do anything special...we were planning something really Special for our 30th..MY Husband was 49..I am 49...I haven't STOPPED crying...since that AWFUL day...My Husband was working on Our Car (UNDER IT)....& My 5 year old grandson & I seen It Fall on him & heard his last words, seen the LIFE LEAVE HIS BODY...OMG! what a NIGHT MARE...I don't know where or How to go on from here...He was my SOUL MATE, The LOVE OF MY LIFE!...Holiday's are coming up, & My Husband went all out for Christmas & MY Birthday's..I can Not even Imagine how I'm going to get through these holiday's...he loved taking the grand kids trick or treating taking his grandson fishing..we had a river lot and LOVED CAMPING (this is where the HORRIBLE accident happened & not a soul around to help me, normally there were people camping all the time...not this day)...I haven't went out of my house hardly at all Since August...My Husband was my EVERYTHING...we were together 32 years & joined at the HIP..we have two Beautiful Daughter's & two Beautiful Grandson's..Everyone tell's me, you have to go forward for your children...OMG...It's SO HARD! Hope to one Day Smile again...(When I walk through that Heavenly gate and he's waiting on me) is when I will smile again from the heart and mean it!

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  14. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays in general are all tough. We usually spend them with the ones we love, and now that our main love is gone, we have to make new plans, even if those plans only involve ourselves. No, the ache doesn't ever go away. I like your progress, Kelley, bit by bit. I, too, often talk to my departed husband, while tears flow. It helps to verbalize it just as it helps to write about it, putting it out there and not keeping it tucked inside, where only I mull it over and over. Next big event for me is my daughters wedding...have no idea how I'm gonna get thru that one. At least I have a few months to figure it out.

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    1. My son got married 9 months after my husband died. Never thought any of us would make it through. The day went OK, we had a memorial table in his honor and even though there were tears there was so much joy! I know my husband was there and SO proud of all of us! I know how tough it is and thought I could never survive without him. It's been 14 months and I am still here adjusting to my new "normal" . You will make it, 1 DAY AT A TIME!! I know it's a cliche' but it really is true. Hugs to you!

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  15. Happy belated birthday, Kelley. My husband passed away Dec 15, 2012 of sudden cardiac arrest at age 33. His bday was this past Thurs, same as yours. My bday us tomorrow, Sun, Sept 29. We've known each other since we were 8 yrs old and our bdays are exactly 3days apart. I have no desire to have a bday w/o him. I don't know how I'm going to get thru my bday.But, I have to find the strength to celebrate our son's 11th bday tomorrow. We were both born on Sept 29. People are already telling me"Happy Birthday"....and I wish they wouldn't. Maybe I'm looking at this all wrong, but this is the "firsts" of everything, followed by our wedding anniversary in Nov and the death date in Dec. I don't know how to do any of this, but reading your post about birthdays has helped me...Thank You.

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    1. Anon, I dont think there is any "wrong" way to look at things, especially your own birthday. You are in the first year, and you feel whatever you feel. Later on, you will feel something else. And then something else. Thats the thing with grief - it changes constantly, so just go with whatever you are feeling right now and know that you wont feel that way forever. Sometimes just knowing that is the only thing that gets me through. None of us know how to do this - but guess what? WE ARE DOING IT. Somehow. xoxooxo .......

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