Friday, February 28, 2014

Happy Birthday, Husband. You Are Still Dead.

Something that I really do not like is that each time my dead husband's birthday rolls around, (and yes, I will always call him my dead husband, because that is what he is. He is dead. He is not "late" for anything. He is just no longer here) people all over the atmosphere say things such as:

"Happy Birthday, Don!", or "Happy Birthday in Heaven!", or "I bet he is having a party in Heaven!"

Yuck. Just yuck. First of all, it's not a "HAPPY" birthday. He isn't here with me anymore. So it isn't happy for him, it isn't happy for me, it isn't happy for anyone who loves him. There is really nothing happy, to me anyway, about having to breathe through and crawl through a birthday for a person who is not alive. A birthday - the day celebrating their very life - yet they are not here to do that. For me, it still stings each and every time it comes around. It hurts. And I have tried handling his birthday in different ways. The first one without him, someone gave me the advice of: Just do everything you would normally do together on that day, but do it yourself. If you normally go out together, take yourself out. Buy him presents, get him a cake, and talk to him. He is with you. Okay, I thought. I will give this a shot. It sounded corny as hell to me at the time, but I tried it anyway because I was so desperate to have something not feel horribly awful for 10 minutes. So I went to the store, bought the traditional 3 cards for him - one from me, and one from each of our kitties - and wrote in them and signed them. I bought all his favorite candy, and I left everything on his favorite recliner chair. Then I got in my car and drove to the nearby restaurant we would often go to on the Hudson River with the beautiful city skyline view, and I ate dinner with my husband. 

Except I wasn't with my husband. I was alone. In a public restaurant. On my husband's birthday. Now, I am an extremely independent person. I love going places alone. But there is a huge difference between going somewhere alone because you have the choice and you feel like it, and going someplace alone because today is your husband's birthday, and he is dead. After my depressing as hell dinner alone, I went home that night, saw the card and gifts I had left on the table sitting on his chair, and just cried. Then I cried some more, and then a lot more after that. When I was finished with the crying, I began crying, and then some more crying. It is amazing just how many times you can keep having the realization in your heart, that your husband is really, actually, truly gone.

I live in a world of extreme reality. This I know about myself. I cannot "pretend" like my husband is still here with me, and just act accordingly as if he is in the room. That may work for some people, and it may comfort them, but it sure as hell doesn't do anything for me, except make me cry endlessly looking at the sad cards written out to nobody, and having candy that I dont even like in my fridge, because it was his favorite. (Special Dark Bars. That is what he loved. He is literally the only person ever to exist who eats the Special Dark bars FIRST, in those bags of Hershey miniatures. I would eat the Krackel and Mr. Goodbar, because everyone knows those are the best ones, and that Special Dark Bars suck and are not good on any level. But he would eat the Special Dark bar, and boy, did he love those things.) 



This is also why I cringe at the "he is having a party in Heaven!" type remarks. Again, if that comforts you, great. But it does absolutely nothing for me, except make me think to myself: He isn't on some cloud partying it up and playing his guitar and eating dark chocolate cake. He is just gone. If anything, he is energy floating around in space somewhere, but I truly don't believe he is happily enjoying his birthday, or that he is even aware of his birthday, as a spirit or soul or energy particle. I am not religious, and so any kind of general Heaven remark never comforts me on any level. I do believe and feel and hope that when people die, their energy lives on, because energy never dies. But again, that thought does little to comfort me either, because energy can't sit here and laugh with me and open birthday gifts with me and age and grow older with me. So, a birthday really isn't much of a birthday when the person is dead.

Add to all of this, the fact that my husband's birthday is extremely unique and has much history behind it. Today, February 28th, is, to most of the world who knew him, my husband's birthday. But in the world of extreme reality that I live in, my reality, the absolute truth - today is not my husband's birthday at all. No, today is the day Don and I used to refer to as his "fake birthday." You see, my husband had 2 birthdays. Sort of. He was the product of an affair, and at the time, his mother did not want his father to know that he had a son, because his father had a family of his own. Also, Don's mother was batshit crazy. She was head nurse at a hospital, and she had access to birth records and files and things. So she somehow toyed around with Don's birth certificate, and changed the date on it so that her pregnancy and his birth would not match up with the time of the affair. So, my husband's actual birth date is November 6, but that is not what is written on all his paperwork or birth certificate. All of that says February 28th. And no, what I just described is not this week's latest plot on General Hospital. Like I said, I live in reality. And this story is the absolute truth, and it is my husband's life. Don and I always joked about how, because he was so awesome, he got to have two birthdays. He would say "I want two parties! And two cakes! And two presents!" Each year, on today's date, we would celebrate his birthday with friends and family, because most of them did not know about his real date of birth. Then, in November, we would always do the real celebration privately. Just us. That was always a really special day in our world. The world where we existed alone, just the two of us.

So now, in my world of extreme reality and truth, I get to crawl through his birthday each year, not one - but TWO times. And this year, this year I get to realize two times, that this is the year my husband would have turned 50 years old. He died at 46, and in just 4 months, he would have been 47. And if he were here, this November, I would most likely be throwing him some huge party with our family and my parents and all our friends for his 50th birthday. Instead, I am finishing and publishing my book about us, and having a huge book-release party on November 6 in NYC. I wish like hell that I had him to celebrate life with, instead of a book - but that is not my reality. So I take my reality, and do the best I can with it. But it still isn't him, and he still isn't here, and he he never will be again. The weird thing about death is that it's forever. It still floors me that my husband will be dead forever. It still feels like it can't be true. But it is true. And it always will be.

So, if it makes you feel better or comforts you somehow to wish my husband a happy birthday today, or in November, or both - then go ahead and do that. If that works for you, that is what you should do. For me, I will be quietly reflecting on the reality of what this day is, and what it isn't. And in between my crying sessions each time I realize all over again the forever-ness of his death, I will laugh. I will laugh because I know my husband, and I know what he would say to all the people wishing him a happy birthday. He would say with a laugh: "Happy Birthday? Seriously? What's so happy about it? I'm dead. It figures I would be dead on my own birthday. Twice. I don't get any cake when I'm dead. I can think of a lot better ways to spend my time than being dead and not eating yummy cake. This sucks."

29 comments:

  1. This is a great reminder that on days like this we would be better off asking the person who is grieving, "What would make the day easier for YOU to get through?" rather than imposing our own ideas of what that person "should" do. Tears mixed with laughter is a perfectly acceptable way to approach the day.

    My late husband's (real) birthday was this week too. I usually make his favorite cake which has "special dark" icing. This year I didn't do that. I didn't do anything but remember him and make up Haiko poems about him in the middle of the night while I was not sleeping. Unique, huh? But there are no wrong answers.

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  2. Kelley, what can I say? Other than thank you for sharing your thoughts about your husband's birthday, And then your comments about his "Other Real Birthday"! I was smiling through my tears. Last week was my husband's birthday as well. February 18. He passed away suddenly on May 10, 2012 at the age of 52. So I guess last week he would have been 54. Anyway, last year on his birthday I was sick in bed, crying all day and my mom & dad placed flowers on his grave. This year, my 16 year old daughter and I visited friends in California for a week, and it just happened to be during his birthday. So this year, my daughter, my friend Lynn and I were touring USC on February 18, and it felt good to at least try to move on with our life, while also remembering his. And then this morning I get an email from his " batshit crazy" sister telling me to "grow up". I want to congratulate you on your upcoming book and tell you that I look forward to your writings every Friday!

    Leslie in Little Rock

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    1. Leslie, our husbands had the same birthday! I've never known anyone else who has it. This actually makes me almost happy. I lost mine August 30, 2011. He was 63. He should have turned 66 last week. I didn't celebrate, but I didn't forget either. This was the first year since he died that I didn't break down completely for his birthday.

      Kate

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    2. Kate,

      Thank you for your reply. I'm sorry for your the loss of your husband but I also wanted to tell you how much I liked reading your comment that both our husbands share the same birthday. I find that it helps me to have something to look forward to during birthdays, holidays and anniversaries. I will be thinking of you this week.

      Leslie

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    3. Leslie, Thanks for your thoughts. I'm doing (mostly) ok this week. It's not as bad as it has been the last few years. I'm trying to get back into living instead of just being crushed by memory. I'm going to the Ozarks in may, and to Tn in June with some friends...and I have tickets to Travis Tritt next weekend. So, yeah, looking forward helps. Thinking of you.
      Kate

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    4. Kate, thanks for your response. Wow! It sound like you are from the South too! I live in Arkansas and my husband's boss has a beautiful home on the Lake of the Ozarks. We were supposed to go there during the summer of 2012 with our two daughters (then ages 19 & 15). He traveled a lot with his work and we were lucky to be able to travel with him at times. Have fun at the Travis Tritt concert next weekend. One of the first things my then 15 year old daughter did that summer after he passed away was go to the Lady Antebellum concert and ended up having a great time. I'll be thinking of you.

      Leslie in Little Rock

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    5. Leslie,
      We lived in Texas, near A&M, but now I live in Indiana (long, long story there). I've never yet been to Lake of the Ozarks, but I think it's on the itinerary. It's a motorcycle trip with some friends from the American Legion Riders, we'll be staying in Eureka Springs I'm really looking forward to it. Also we're supposed to go to Branson, so that's going to be new. :)
      Hope you have a good week.
      Kate

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  3. I've been asked if I celebrate Laura's birthday and Angel day. The answer is no. The day she died, Angel Day, is certainly no cause for celebration. For Laura's birthday I chose to remember her by holding a fundraiser for a non-profit carousel. Laura loved Carousels.

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  4. This is beautiful and I like how real and honest you are about how this day affects you. I can relate to the religious aspect of comments. I consider myself more realistic, but if telling me my husband is hiking, drag racing, or camping in heaven comforts you.... then great. It really does nothing for me. I'm deeply sorry for your loss, but your words help me put some thought into what I should do for my first birthday with out him this summer.

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  5. “ It still floors me that my husband will be dead forever. It still feels like it can't be true. But it is true. And it always will be.”
    Yup. I still struggle with that regularly. How can that possibly be true, right?!!!

    My Dave would be 50 this year as well, this coming December. He was a very young, and very fun 45 when he died.

    I haven’t really done any on his birthday since he died. (It’s a shitty time – 2 days before Christmas.) But the last few years I’ve posted a funny story about him on Facebook on his birthday. (His wall and mine.) And last year I asked people to share funny stories they might have about him as well in the comments. It was great to hear things about him that I didn’t already know!

    I don’t know what I’ll do for his 50th. (He LOVED living it up on his birthday. And I HATED the surprise birthday party he threw me once. Hahaha! I’d rather just spend some quality time with him.)

    I think I’ll take a page from Taryn’s book and try to Pay it Forward all day with random acts of kindness on his 50th. And encourage others to do so that day as well in memory of him - via social media.

    Thanks for sharing Kelley.

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  6. Valerie, I did the Pay it Forward on Valentine's Day. It felt really good...it was a positive. I fell apart 2 days later, but I will do it again and often. I am 21 months out and still wake up several times a night and my first thought is "Fred is dead". We all have to find our new path...try new things, they do not always work but it is a good way for me to deal with this reality. I am a wreck, but I refuse to give up....Fred always lovingly called me "pig headed". Looking forward to Tampa...all by myself...isn't that lyrics to a song...all by myself. Forward...as much as it sucks!

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  7. Hi Kelley, thanks for your tale about your husband's birthday. You're so right, you have to mark the day in your own way. I ordered flowers from a florists for my husband's birthday, and I was so annoyed at her (she was a snippy cow, and couldn't give me the flowers till the day itself, which meant me not placing them on his grave till early evening) Once I had them the annoyance was buzzing around me, I was so critical of the flowers, she had filled them with scarlet carnations and an orangey lily, rather than just the roses I had asked for, but after a wee while I realised this monstrous explosion of colour is just what he would have loved. I took them to his grave in the dark and spent a bit of time standing there talking to him - how can you wish someone a happy birthday when they're dead? Standing with him and talking to him was the best way I could see to mark his special day. Anyway the rabbits must have agreed with me - when I went back the next day they had munched all the carnations and lilies and left the roses standing proud. Unfortunately they had a go at the greenery too :) Maybe I should just place lettuces on his grave and be done with it. I does give me comfort though, knowing that he has the company of wildlife - he loved watching animals when he was alive.

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  8. Hmmm....all of us widows must have a "bat-crap" crazy in-law/out-law that crawls out of the woodwork eventually.

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    1. Oh my gosh! Thank You for this comment. My sister-in-law is currently in control of my 2 daughter's fund from their father and I am so tired of the harassing emails, threatening texts and mean phone calls from her.

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  9. I enjoyed reading this. But what crackpot gave you the advice to do everything the same on his birthday as if he were with you? That sounds absurd to me and not like someone who likes to live in "extreme reality". I think my husband is with me all the time (in my head) because I talk to him and hear in my head what he would have said back to me. That's not reality either, but I'm OK with it for now. I also detest hearing religious comments, but I realize people don't know what to say and they are just trying to make me and themselves feel a little better.

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  10. My birthday is Saturday and Michael's would have been on Sunday. I'm tired of my family wishing I were a different person than I am. Michael accepted me for who I am. He's been dead almost 4 1/2 years. I think of him every day. I don't feel support from family or friends and now I don't even want it. Lots of days I want to be with Michael. I will live my life out one day at a time.

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  11. Anon above, sounds like you have accepted who you are and where you are in your grief journey, but your family has not. I get no support from my family either, 4 1/2 yrs out too. They all "think" I should be somewhere farther along, but they have no idea what it's like. Get your support from where you can, come here often. We all know what it's about. Take care of you.

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  12. My husband left me 4 years ago, tomorrow is his birthday. I know he is in heaven in glory, while he left on hell on earth. In-laws, what is that in Sept. it will be 40 years. He will always be my husband I love him.

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  13. It is so comforting to hear other widows speak so freely about their husbands who passed away. My Husband was killed almost 6 years ago on his motorcycle. It still just lingers in my head and I always wonder when I will be able to fully cope with the fact that I will never see him again. His birthday would be this Friday and I am going to dinner with his mother and the rest of our family. I know it must be so hard on her so I do what I can to help. He was only 26 years old and we had a 5 year old daughter.
    It made me laugh so hard when you commented on what he would say if he could comment on others wishing him a happy birthday cause Dustin would have done the same thing! He would have laughed his cocky laugh and poked fun at all of us for being so sappy lol. I have moved on as much as possible but there are always the memories that can create happiness and pain all at the same time. It makes it so hard not being able to speak with anybody else who truly knows how I feel. It is different from losing a parent, sibling, or even a child. You chose this person to spend your life with and then they are taken right out of it. Blows my mind sometimes..
    My heart goes out to all of you who know my pain.

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  14. It's been over 20 years and here I am, cruising the web trying to figure out what to do for his birthday next Saturday. In the past, I've paid it forward, gone to his favorite places and quit trying to include family after the "it's time to get over him" intervention. I think I'll just wait and see what feels right. My best wishes to all of you!

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  15. Today would have been my late husband's 50th birthday. He was 45 when he passed away.

    I love that I stumbled upon this at this moment.

    It always helps to be reminded that I'm not the only one who goes through the myriad of emotions that I do.

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  16. tomorrow would have been Gary's 76th birthday. When he was alive we would have a party, some times a surprise party. He is not here anymore, so there is no party

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  17. Friday is my birthday. My husband died in an accident on my birthday 5 years ago. I was with him for 19 years- we were grade school sweethearts. He was only 31. Our daughter was 20 months old at the time and I was 6 months pregnant. I have struggled. I did recognize very early that I wanted my kids to see that if something bad happens, you don't give up. I strive to live strong and happy. BUT we all know it is always on our minds. I decided to change my birthday to July 10th. For the last 4 years I have done just that because if someone would say "happy" birthday- on the real day I was afraid I would throat punch them. I also could not imagine smiling on that day. Now 5 years later I have decided to face the depression and fear. For many reasons: having 2 birthdays meant I really thought about the agony on both days, my kids are older and when I have had to give my real DOB in front of them they are confused, my fiancé supports my decisions but is against my birthday being in July because his is within a week of mine in October and wants to celebrate ours together and thinks that if I face the day it will get easier each year after. Thoughts?? Comments?? Also the in-laws are bat sh** crazy, too. I only have my mother who I take care of and I thought they were my family, too. Their love was conditional and I have been treated like it was a divorce. It is embarrassing.

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  18. My husband passed away lasy may 31st of this year. ( 2015) As much as I would like to grieve, I am back to work after two weeks. I have so much faith in Jesus Christ yet sometimes, I can't help myself to ask him "why". My husband, a former gym instructor, ( does not use any kind of steroids, does not drink nor smoke, suddenly died of an undetected congenital atriovenous malformation) Just like that. He went home after a basketball game and then after a couple of minutes collapsed on the floor and had a grand mal seizure. Just like that. Yes, I am depressed. Indeed, I am lonely and yes I missed him a lot. But I know in God's time we wil be reunited in heaven. To all the widows outhere, BELIEVE in JESUS CHRIST, as he promised there would be world with no pain, no more sorrow, no more mourning. That is the only thing that keeps me hanging on. I love you my husband. Happy Father's Day Daddy. I love you so much,

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    1. PLEASE NOTE: We've moved our blog platform to our parent organization's (Soaring Spirits) website. You will find all the writers you love, as well as an archive of over 2,300 posts written by our team of widowed men and women, here:

      http://www.soaringspirits.org/blog

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  19. I came across this as today would have been my husband's 36th birthday. Thank you for sharing your thoughts its really an eye opener. I lost my husband suddenly in 2014, he was only 33.

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  20. PLEASE NOTE: We've moved our blog platform to our parent organization's (Soaring Spirits) website. You will find all the writers you love, as well as an archive of over 2,300 posts written by our team of widowed men and women, here:

    http://www.soaringspirits.org/blog

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  21. I lost my husband last month, Feb 1st. His birthday and our wedding anniversary is this month. He was 46 and it would have been our 28th anniversary. I can resonate with this so much. He is gone gone forever and the pain goes so deep. I too lost him suddenly unexpectedly and I witnessed it.

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    1. I'm so sorry for your so recent loss. You might find our online community helpful: www.widowedvillage.org

      And please note that our Widow's Voice blogs have moved to our parent organization's (Soaring Spirits) website. www.soaringspirits.org/blog

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