Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Powerful Irony

Dearest Pepe,

This week you’ve been on my heart minute to minute as the anniversary of our final kiss has loomed large. Flashes of the last week we shared as husband and wife have been spontaneously popping into my head with surprising clarity. There is no rhyme or reason to these recollections, and the bittersweetness of memory has both plagued and comforted me as the anniversary of your death has arrived with its usual inevitability

There are still times when your physical absence takes my breath away. It's surreal, even nine years later, that your death was the tragedy that escalated the local conversation about how motorists and cyclists can safely share the road. The image we use for our Share the Road campaign is an athletic, confident man in the prime of his life riding his bicycle on a gorgeous autumn day. When I stumble unexpectedly upon the photo hanging in a store-front window or on a community bulletin board I’m shocked every time that the athletic, confident man is you. I know, I can hear you laughing at me because I created the damn poster! But boy does it still hurt to see you smiling at me from a foam board instead of across our dining room table.

As time marches on my imagined ability to know how you’d feel about any given topic has decreased.  I wasn’t allowed the privilege of knowing the you that would be turning fifty next year. How would life experience have changed you? What surprising opinions would you have developed as you aged? Which long-term plans would have played out as we imagined and which would have evolved into new dreams? And yet, these questions don’t haunt me as they once did, because surviving your death has taught me that no dream is guaranteed. While that reality may seem a deterrent to creating new dreams, the contrary is true. Understanding the shortness of life has helped me acknowledge the value of the now in a way that was never possible for me before your death.

While you were alive, my life was incessantly driven by long-term goals, and far-off ambitions. I loved the life we created together, but often imagined how much more fulfilled I would feel when XYZ was achieved, or when we were able to check-off the next goal on our ten-year plan.  My head was so full of plans for the future that I didn’t take enough time to revel in the joys of the present. My one regret regarding our time together is that I spent too much time goal-setting, and not enough time life-living. No dream is guaranteed, which makes today an incredible gift. Saying good-bye to you taught me the true value of this moment, the only one we are assured.

For many years I have feared that the passing of time would slowly steal even more of you from me. I wondered if being unable to recall the timbre of your voice would lead to losing the ability to conjure the feeling of safety I felt in your arms. When I fell in love with Michael, I worried how larger-than-life you would find a comfortable place in my new life. As our family has grown, and new members added who've never met you, I felt a nagging concern that you’d be lost from our family history. Thankfully, your final gift to me has walked me through every one of these fears. I can almost hear you whispering in my ear, “This moment is the one that counts babe, don’t waste the joy of now by worrying about the past or the future.”

This may sound strange, but somehow you seem less ‘gone’ to me now. Not a day goes by that you aren’t part of my thoughts or conversation. You are everywhere instead of nowhere. As the memories of our time together get woven into the narrative that is my life, they become more colorful, not less. The memory of you has become a warm embrace on which I can count day in and day out. Your tall tales are legend in our family, and the story of your death provides the explanation for how Michael came into our family. My heart is so full when I realize that the two of you are connected, each with your own unique and important place, in our family tree. Stories about you come to me in the strangest ways, and the impact you made on the people around you is more obvious as the years pass. The love you showed others is a gift that keeps on giving, and I am just one of the many beneficiaries of your amazing spirit.

The irony of the fact that your final gift to me, the reminder to live in the present, was first imparted when all I wanted to do was live in the past, is not lost on me. I’ve spent years longing for one more chance to live in the past with you. Then I spent more years worrying about what pain and disappointment the future might hold, afraid to dream and afraid to plan. Years of my life have been spent not recognizing that for every moment I wished to live in the past, or feared the pain the future might hold, I was wasting away the only moments that are guaranteed.

My love, I want you to know that your final gift to me has not been given in vain. Nine years after you left this earth, I have come to understand that living for today is the best way to honor the past, and also to pave the way for a beautiful future. Irony at its best.

You are loved. You are missed. You are one of the most beautiful parts of my life story.

Thank you for choosing me,


Your Lolita

***Special thanks to Sarah for sharing her writing day with me so that I could post my annual letter to Phil on the anniversary of his death. Sarah will be back next week. Also, many thanks to all of you for allowing me to share my journey with you. And in case you are wondering, Phil's favorite alter-ego was Pepe and his favorite nickname for me was Lolita.***

Saturday, August 30, 2014

My own worst enemy

The better past of last Sunday was spent laying in bed crying... while the cat persisted in trying to comfort me

I feel like I’ve been in a rut for more than a month now, since Dan’s first anniversary.  I’ve had days here and there where I’ve been able to smile and actually mean it, but in general, the pain has been very deep and the ache for him, overwhelming.

The grief has been so relentless that it’s started messing with my head and making me question if I was doing something wrong.  If I’d gotten stuck in it some how. Was I doing enough to keep moving forward? 

I mean, I know this dance well by now, the three-steps-forward, two-steps-back tango.  I know I need to keep my expectations realistic and that this is a marathon, not a sprint.  I know that I can’t project manage my way out of this, yet in the dark of the night when the tears won’t slow and my heart feels like it’s going to stop beating from the sheer agony, I forget that this moment will pass and I’ll take steps forward again.

I just don’t understand why I’m this hard on myself.  Losing your spouse in such tragic circumstances, so young and early into our lives together, would have to be up there with the one of the most terrible experiences anyone could be forced to endure.  Yet I can’t seem to give myself permission to stumble. 

As the weeks pass and I continue to put this pressure and expectation on myself, it has started to mount into feelings of guilt and inadequacy.  I worry that I’m bringing everyone around me down and taking up so much of their energy with my constant state of fragile melancholy.

So this week I spent a lot of time contemplating how and why I’m so hard on myself.   I think that sometimes I have trouble understanding the difference between accepting that there are going to be bad days where I don’t want to face the world; and just wallowing in my sorrow to the point where it becomes an excuse not to try anymore.  I know I have to be gentle with myself – but where is that line between acceptable self-care; and just using my grief as a shield against anything unpleasant or moderately challenging.  Does that make sense?

Don't get me wrong, I know there's no set answer. This pondering is more rhetorical than actually looking for a response. When I think about my grief and whether I'm 'doing it right' - there is no fair bench mark to asses myself against. Because everyone's grief is different. 

I can't look at what seems to be working for a friend and try to apply it to my situation because we're not fighting the same battle. No one can actually tell me if I'm grieving appropriately because it's MY grief, I'm the only one who knows it and feels it, so I'm the only person who can truly answer that question. That's the crux of my conundrum ... I don't seem to trust myself to make that call!

On Thursday, the psychologist who runs a local suicide bereavement counselling program and support group that I became involved in a couple of months after Dan died, called me to check in.  I told her that I’m doing ok, but was struggling with this concept of ‘am I grieving appropriately’.

I confessed to her that some days I just don’t know what to do with myself.  I just sit in the loneliness and cry for hours and think ‘I’m so sick of this sadness, I don’t want this life for me.  I hate this pain.  Despite the fact that I’ve been carrying it around with me for 13 months, I still have such a long road ahead of me and it’s just not fair. 

She replied that of course I’m sick of it, of course it’s not fair.   My husband died and how else am I supposed to feel? It doesn’t mean that I’m broken or there’s something wrong with me.  I’m grieving and it’s horrible.  She pointed out that everyone around me is giving me more acceptance and understanding that I’m granting myself. 

She reminded me of the progress I’ve made since those first few months.  I don’t cry at work as much; I’ve travelled; I’ve taken up new hobbies and made new friends. 

She pointed out that while I have bad days, I also have good days.  And on those good days, while I might take steps to keep life simple, I don’t use Dan’s death as an excuse for a free pass. 

Being reminded of that really helped.   I actually think I’m going to print it off and stick it to my fridge.  Widowhood is such hard work.  So many life lessons all being shoved in my face at the same time, it’s exhausting and overwhelming trying to take it all in. 

Plus, my memory isn’t the best right now so I forget a lot of things… like the fact that it’s ok to be this dreadfully sad and that there will be more good days. 

If only I could have that breakthrough and learn to trust myself. Like my counsellor said, if only I saw what others saw - and if only I gave myself the grace and compassion that was being shown to me by the people around me.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bored Together, Bored Alone

Okay. Once again, I FORGOT to write in here late last night, by the midnight pacific time deadline. Woke up this morning and did some errands and had my coffee and prepared my teaching syllabus for college courses that start next week, and then, BAM!!! Out of nowhere, again, I suddenly remembered that I'm a widow who writes for "Widow's Voice." Oops. Seriously, how many freakin' times am I going to forget to write in here? You would think at some point, it would just become part of my overall being, and I would simply remember. You would think writing "WV" in big letters on my desk calendar, listed underneath Thursday evenings, would be a big enough hint for me to remember. You would think that the fact that I spend several hours a DAY, everyday, writing my book, which is about losing my husband to sudden death, would spark my memory that I have to write in here. You would be all kinds of wrong. I still forget. And it's been 3 years since he died, so I kind of think that using "widow brain" as an excuse at this point is a bit lame. At some point, I need to just own up to the fact that I'm a huge scatterbrain.

So here we are at 1pm eastern time on Friday, and I'm just now writing my piece. Sorry!!! I will say that my brain IS on overload this week and this month, because I've been spending a good part of the summer writing this book about this loss, and trying like hell to have it done and self-published by the end of this year, and it's been way more emotional writing and re-telling and re-living all of these stories and memories, than I ever thought it would be. Last night I cried so hard while writing the piece about the day I knew I was in love with my husband (before he was my husband, obviously.) So I'm very tired, and I also need to take breaks from all this writing. Not just because my fingers hurt after typing for hours on end, but because my body needs to get up and move and walk and go outside and talk about something besides loss and pain and death. So here we are at Labor Day weekend, upcoming holiday, gorgeous weather in NYC-area, and I really need to take a mini-vacation from all this writing, at least for a couple of days. The problem is, as soon as I made the decision to do that, I very quickly realized that I have zero plans and absolutely nothing to do.

I feel like I have spent so much time alone lately, which is okay, because I dont mind doing things alone. But there has to be a balance. I also need friends. I need company. I need to talk with people or just sit with people or connect with people. What I would love to do this weekend is sit with some friends by a pool somewhere, and just chill out, have some drinks, and jump in and swim and wade the weekend away. The problem is, I really dont have anyone to do those things with, which is odd, because I do have a lot of friends. However, it seems to me, that whenever I am feeling lonely and bored and it's a weekend or a holiday or both, all of my friends are somehow busy doing their own thing. "Their own thing" usually means hanging out with their significant other, or their own families, in the case of my many friends with kids. I do have some widowed friends, but none that live close enough to me that we can go away somewhere for a weekend together, or none that I feel close enough with to want to do those things. A lot of my widowed friends also have kids, so our lives are just very different sometimes. Then I have widowed friends AND single friends, who like the "singles" lifestyle. Hanging out at bars on weekends, loud clubs, drinking, trying to find dates or hook-ups. That is just not my thing. So lots of times, what Im left with, is myself. I don't mind speding time with myself, but it's getting a bit old. There are a lot of days I feel so lonely and so bored, and just don't know what to do about it. Then I remember the days of sitting around and being bored with my husband. How glorious and ordinary and wonderful that was, to be bored WITH someone else. To hang out together and do nothing all day long, and not care. Now, on days like today, I feel restless and depressed and sad. I miss my buddy. My friend. My person to sit around and do nothing with.

This sucks.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

iPhone Blues





I lost my phone.

Normally that sort of thing doesn't faze me. Yeah it's a pain and an expense to deal with, but I'm not so attached to the smart phone world to mind living without it for a few days. I can lock it remotely (yes, if you have an iPhone I highly recommend the Find my iPhone app), my contacts are backed up, and I can borrow other phones in the meanwhile.

But...it was Mike's phone. I remember how excited he was to get a smart phone a few years before he died. He was so enthralled with the idea of live video chat; that he could laugh and talk in real time with his daughters, and baby grandson. He downloaded all kinds of apps and games and I'd often find him in deep concentration over a game of Angry Birds, or sitting listening to his iTunes or Pandora. He was mesmerized by the technology. He felt like it was only one step away from have a Dick Tracy watch, something he loved reading and dreaming about when he was a kid.

Me on the other hand couldn't be bothered. I couldn't care less about having a smart phone - in fact I stoutly refused to get one. I wanted to hold out as long as possible before entering that world. I was already resenting seeing people sitting together at a restaurant for example, not talking but each staring into their ridiculous little rectangles, their eyes glazed over, hypnotized by the virtual reality.

We used his phone after he died to call a lot of his friends, but I still didn't consider using it myself. My stepdaughters encouraged me to take it over but I couldn't imagine ever needing to use Facebook on a mobile device. I found the whole thing ridiculous. But eventually they convinced me. My stepdaughter Heather even put my line on her family plan to help out which was an amazing thing to do. I remember the day I went in to the phone store and they deleted his line, and put my number in. It felt horrible to lose it into the ether...just another part of him, gone forever. 

But, I did have his phone. It  was a little out of date and kind of slow compared to what I see other people have now, but I didn't care. It had all his pictures on it (yes, I backed those up too, but it's not the same), all his contacts in addition to mine, all his music, apps, backgrounds and sounds. So losing it is like losing another little piece of him. 

It's just a thing, yes...and yes I have cleared out many of his other belongings. But certain items do seem to have a stronger importance, or vibe, to them.

For example, after he died we all freaked out when we realized his favorite wrist guard which he used for his archery was missing. We couldn't find it anywhere. It hurt a lot - I cried about that wrist guard many times.  I feel very much the same about his phone. A dig in the depth of my gut; a twist in my spirit about a material object that represented so much about my husband, but has gone missing along with him, somehow.

Eventually I made peace with the idea that that wrist guard was just a thing, and I had others of his things and there was nothing I could do about it anyway. But one day, about a year after he died, I decided to move his mattress, and found the wrist guard had been somehow wedged underneath. I stood there, stunned, for about a minute, trying to figure out how this bit of leather we had all longed for had suddenly appeared unexpectedly. But there it was. 

Maybe, someone will call the "lost phone" app number I entered. But it's been a few days. Pretty unlikely. Probably, it's gone. I probably  won't get it back as miraculously as that wrist guard reappeared.

I don't find that living without my smart phone is any real challenge. The little beeping and chirping rectangle I'd carried with me so closely and religiously all this time is now gone, but I haven't gone into withdrawal. The sadness is only due to its energetic connection to my husband, who is also gone. And that, I will admit, hurts very deeply.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Changes and Things~

We all arrive at that time after our loved one dies where we look around and see what remains.  What remains of a person who filled our lives in one way or another or so completely that we look at their physical belongings and are struck with disbelief that this is it.  The sum of their existence.

My husband and I specialized in not being attached to external things.  In 2009 we sold our home in Jersey and most of our belongings.  A few special things we put in storage while we figured out what direction our lives would take us.  And then we decided to stay on the road, adventuring, and we donated more and more of what was in storage.

After Chuck died, I spent a day going through that storage unit.  I held his clothes against my heart, inhaling, striving to find some remaining scent of the man who impacted my life so hugely.  His scent was gone, of course, and, one by one, I placed his clothes in a bag for donation.  Piece by piece, memory by memory.  It wasn't easy, but with each article I thought well, if he were here, he'd want me to donate these rather than keep them in a storage unit.  So I took a deep breath and gave them away.

I kept a few things;  a couple shirts and pairs of pants I really loved seeing him wear.  Three of his ball caps.  His military uniforms, both dress Blues and BDU's.

Mostly, what remains of his clothes travel with me.  Those shirts and pants, the jacket from his BDU's (he looked so hot in those!).  His flag, his dog tags, his cremains.  His wallet.  The mustache comb he used almost absent-mindedly at times.

I don't want external reminders much, because they put my focus outside of me, where I can't find him.  I want to hold him close in my heart and feel him there.  Deep in my soul, in the marrow of my bones, and external stuff is a distraction for me, using energy I don't have.

You know what is hardest to rid myself of?  Things I had from our final time together.  Recently my tooth brush wore out.  I'd kept it unused for a while after he died but finally used it and now its worn out and I need to toss it.  And I'm having the damndest time doing that.  What I had when we were together, when our lives were filled with a future....those things require deep breathing through the pain and the desolation.  A shampoo bottle from our commonly used shampoo. Simple things that were of every day use and little noticed, until now.

I miss Chuck so very much.  I miss seeing him comb his mustache.  I miss seeing him striding towards me with a smile on his face.  I miss his wink at me from across the room.  I miss his arms around me as we slow-danced.  I miss his strong shoulders that supported me in hard times and good.  I miss his encouragement of me to live my best.  I miss his magic in my life.

Things?  No, they don't matter much, because they are ultimately temporary.  Instead I want to remember all the things about him that I miss, and hold them close and, in doing so, feel him so much and so deeply that he becomes me and I become him.  I want to feel him so strongly in my heart and soul that it will be as if he is still wrapping his arms around me.  Wrapping the loneliness from me.  Exorcising the grief and pain from me until I become nothing but the love he had for me and I, for him.

Sheer pure love.  I seek to become that and, in doing so, find again the very essence of what is stronger than death can ever be, what Chuck and I shared so vividly in life, fueling me in this life that I must create without his physical presence.

Just sheer love.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I hate to ask.... again

Saturday morning I woke up with a 103 temperature.

So as soon as a reasonable hour hit, I called my parents, asking if they could look after John for the day. 

On short notice.

Again.

Yet another thing I hate about widowhood.  That sometimes you need to call on assistance to the point where you KNOW it's impacting others. Maybe asking them to go that step beyond their general helpful-human being willingness to help.  Especially if your circle of available assistance is limited. 

Before I called, I spent a couple of hours considering if I could manage on my own.  Just push on through.  But I can't really leave a three and a half year old running amok in the house, while it turns out, I sleep for 3 hours.   If he was 10, I could possibly get away with it.  But definitely not this young.

I knew my step-mother had a chunk of work to do, and also know how hard it often is to get anything done when John's around.  My Dad had standing commitments, so wasn't going to be around for the afternoon.

I keep worrying that he'll grow up and tell me that he felt abandoned as he kept being shipped off to Papa and Nini's house.  I know he's feeling it at the moment as he keeps telling me he doesn't want to go to their place; that he wants mummy.   He's with them a couple of days/evenings a week for 'grandparent' care while I'm studying as it is.  Some weeks of the month he's there more with commitments I want to keep up with for my own sanity.

At least this was only a short-lived thing, by late afternoon with the help of paracetamol and sleep, my temp was down to a level I could manage the short-person and his energy.

Which meant dealing with this...


Monday, August 25, 2014

Peace?



I've been thinking about the loss of my mother a lot lately. She died in August, so no wonder. This time of year, her absence is particularly palpable.

She's been gone 33 years and I've never gotten over her death. I don't feel at peace about it. I feel a missing part, a vacuum where she should be. I rail at the universe for a life without her. I'm not okay with the fact that she had to leave me when I needed her most and when she most wanted to be here with me. In the last 33 years, I've adjusted to carrying around this loss. Mother's Days continue to hurt with an intensity that surprises me every year. But I've carried this with me for so long that I no longer know what it's like to not feel it. But no one should grow up without their mother.

It's been 3 years since Dave died so of course I'm in no way at peace with his death. I'm not over it. I can see that I never will be and I never will be at peace with his loss. I'm not okay with him being sick and scared and dying without my presence in the room. I'm not okay with our being ripped apart long before we should've been. I will just learn to continue to incorporate it into my new life and live side by side with it. I will continue to learn to live with a missing piece. A person I'm still linked to but cannot be with.

No matter what happens to me now, I continue to miss out on life without my mother. And I continue to miss out on life with Dave, even though I'm living a beautiful, full life without him now, too.

I have driven by the house Dave and I lived in together exactly 2 times. This last time was just a few weeks ago. I looked at that place that was home for us for over a decade and had the strangest sensation. It was this hallucination that I was somehow in two parallel universes at the same time. I was in this life, without Dave in it, and I was also back in that old life. It's very much like the feeling I get when I see a mother and daughter together, especially a grown daughter. I feel as though I'm in my life, watching what cannot be while somewhere, somehow, my mother and I are together again, me as a grown woman and her in her 60s.

Two lives. The one that could've been and the one that is. This life without them should be really lived in order to make up for their loss.

I don't believe their loss should completely define me or that it will restrict me from living fully now, but I will not agree with someone who claims I should be at peace with it.

Both losses have shaped me and will continue to. And that is okay. Why wouldn't they? They are my intimate companions whether I like it or not. I can and will continue to work on integrating them, but I won't be at peace with them.

I don't think I have to in order to heal and live.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Spirit

"Spirit" © Sarah Treanor 2014 
Living with the loss of partner, or any great loss, is one of the most challenging things we will ever face in life. It sends us on a journey through the fire – into a darkness the likes of which we have never experienced before. It brings us to our knees and breaks us. Severely. I certainly remember this feeling well. Before my fiancĂ© died, I knew I could handle anything that life threw at me. Only I didn’t really know that at all…
On the day he died, and the dark days thereafter, I came to find out what it really means to be able to handle anything life throws at you. To lose a soul mate – particularly in a sudden way – takes you to a place more painful and terrifying than I ever knew could exist. It breaks you right down to your bones. I know… I don't have to explain that to any of you. You have all, unfortunately, been there too.
I feared for my life – in a very real sense, for probably the whole first year. I feared for my life because I feared the death of my spirit. I was so badly broken that I honestly did not know if my spirit could ever recover. I was afraid that I would become dark and lose my sense of childlike wonder and hopefulness about the world. That this brokenness would overtake me and I would not be able to come out of the fire with my eyes ablaze anymore.
YET… I can still recall in the midst of it all – in those first hours and days and weeks – something inside me WAS ablaze. Something inside me was saying that this world can throw anything it wants to in my face and I will not stop believing that this life is beautiful. Or in the words of Mr. Tom Petty… “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, and I won’t back down”. (one of my go-songs right after he died, and still today).
I didn’t really know it at the time, but am quite certain now… that this was my spirit. This is the kind of stuff that amazes me about the human spirit. How broken we can be and yet still somehow, inexplicably, that soul part of us stands up for our broken human self. It doesn’t mean we feel any less broken. Or powerless. Or scared. But what I do know is that listening to my spirit was – and still is – something that gave me the ounce of strength I needed each day to get up and keep on trying to figure out what to do with all of this.
Looking back over things two years later is incredible at times. Because it feels like no time has passed at all – and often I still feel like I’m back at square one with my grief. But other days, like today, something lends me some perspective. And on days like this I can actually begin to feel like, yeah, I’ve crawled out of the fire… out of the worst of the darkness. This week's image from my "Still, Life" self portrait series is about just that. I’ve been battered and bruised and burned and scarred by this long journey, and I will be battered and bruised and burned and scarred much more before my time here is done… but I have not been brokenMy eyes are still curious, my heart is still hopeful, and my spirit still burns bright… perhaps, even brighter than before. 
"Still, Life" is a weekly self portrait/written series I am doing for the entire year of 2014 - all about my journey of living with loss. To see more of this project you can check out my blog at 12moc.com

Widows Do the Darndest things

Source

This week I found myself participating in some very strange widow behavior, searching google earth for images of my husband when he was still alive. It started last week when I was using the program to check an address and noticed there is a sliding time line in Google Earth where you can go back weeks/months/years and see satellite images from previous versions. I was playing around with it and saw that one of the date options was the 24th of July, 2013. The day my husband died.
I immediately entered in the street address where he died and looked to see if there were any police cars, ambulances, etc, but he died at 11am and the sat image was taken around 10:15am. I can't describe the feeling in my stomach, I felt sick but frantic, like I needed to find him. Not sure why, I know I couldn't go back in time but I couldn't switch it off. So I then spent about 45 minutes looking for him in different places and times, at locations where we would often visit.
Until, I found a trace of him. His car parked out side my sister and brother-in-laws house. There were a lot of cars, so I'm assuming we there for some kind of party (but I/we did/do spend an awful lot of time there anyway).
I got so excited, like I'd found him and won some kind of challenge or competition. However as that wore off I just  sat there, kind of in shock. Yes it's his car and that satellite image shows a moment in time where my life was normal and innocent and happy, but it doesn't bring him back. He's still gone forever.

Wondering if had crossed the delicate boundary into ‘unhealthy behaviour land’, I turned to the only people who might understand, my widow friends. As usual, their responses were reassuring and comforting – a pretty solid 50/50 mix between ‘yep, I’ve done this too, you’re not losing your mind’ or ‘What a great idea, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it!’. 

There are so many layers to this widow thing.  After doing it for a year, I thought I had discovered them all.  Yet here I am, again surprised by some of the thoughts that flood my mind or the things I do to try and feel close to Dan and to create new memories with him.

I think that's what it's about for me.  On the day he died, I lost the chance to create new experiences with him.  I feel lucky to have shared some beautiful memories together and will cherish these and hold them dear for the rest of my life.  But 20 months is not enough.  I want and need more of him.  

I create these new memories by pouring through photos of the travels he did around the world in his 20's.  Looking at them much more closely than I ever had before.  I didn't know him then and wasn't there with him, but I find myself looking for a deeper understanding of who he was and what he did during his 34 years of life.

I also pour through the box of his childhood memories in our spare bedroom.  The diary he wrote as a young boy for a school assignment,  photos of his school formal, the messages his friends scrawled across his school uniform on their last day, where he was 'school captain' and had the world at his feet.  

I just want so much more of him.  I miss him so much.  


Friday, August 22, 2014

Time Piece

I never forget that I'm a widow. I never forget that my husband is dead forever. I never forget my reality.
But ...

There are times. Moments. Feelings.
There is being with my family, staying at my parent's house, like this weekend, and getting lost inside of something that is beyond my widowhood - something that sees far past my life without my husband.

There is eating "lazy lobster" and steaks on the grill and mom's famous Red Cake, and having my brother prepare my lobster for me with the drawn butter the way I like, and taking away all the green guts and gross parts, so I don't have to look at it.

There is doing an Ice Bucket Challenge Video with my 5 year old nephew, who is insanely excited to be able to dump ice-cold water on Auntie Kelley's head, for all the world to see. There is sitting around the dining room table with an my parents and an old family friend, who is now elderly and alone and depressed, and sincerely trying to talk with her and maybe give her an ounce or two of hope.

There is making another 5 year old boy, the grandson of another family friend, laugh so hard that he makes his grandmother call us from the car 25 minutes after they have left, so he can talk to me on speaker phone and have me "say more funny things."

There is even the strange feeling of having an entire conversation with family friends, about how I raised $20,000 in a crowd-fund-sharing campaign, so that I can self-publish and promote and market my book about the death of my husband - and yet be able to talk about it in a way where I don't even feel like I'm talking about the death of my husband.

I never forget that my husband will be dead forever. It sits inside of my every inhale, releasing it's truth with each laboring breath. But sometimes, there is life. And sometimes, lately more often than not, life makes it's way inside of the inhale - pulling and tugging and begging for some attention. All of the people and all of the friends and all of the wondrous, ordinary, entertaining, beautiful pieces of time - ban together to smash my sadness and my grief and my loss on the ground and turn it into an irrelevant speck, even if it's only temporary. It is like a mini-vacation from my grief, sort of. Sometimes it only lasts a few minutes, or a few hours, or a day. But those few minutes or hours are enough time for me to be able to see into a future which will hold more of these vacations, more often. It is a weird feeling, and one that is impossible to adequately describe. The entire time that I am enjoying myself at whatever I am doing, I am also very aware that I am a widow and that my husband is dead. But it isn't what I'm thinking about. It isn't where the focus is. It isn't where the radar goes. And a year or two ago, I could have never said that. Back then, there were never these lapses in time where the widow thing went to the back of my brain or heart. It just didn't happen. And now it does. And really, that makes my tomorrows seem just a tiny bit less frightening.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Momentary Lapse



I said to my stepdaughter yesterday after another conversation about some of the fallout in our lives since her Dad died, wow, we've learned so much about grief. It's not something we asked for, but now we understand things like what to say and what not to say to people in mourning. And we can relate to other people who are experiencing loss, with all those details of a reality without our loved ones.

She was telling me how for many months after he died she would reach for the phone to call him, then after a beat remember he was gone. I think we all have had those moments. A lot of us probably have that shock every morning for a long time. That beat it takes for us to wake up to the new, terrible reality that they are gone. But she said that it had been awhile since she reached for the phone like that. It seemed sad to her, somehow, that her brain had maybe processed the reality of his death on another level and stopped making that mistake. I get that. Because it has been a long time since I woke up with that morning jolt too. And there is a grim finality to that realization.

I find it interesting, now writing here at Widow's Voice, how sometimes our posts deal with similar material. Our experiences are individual and personal - and yet, there is a certain commonality.
A week or two ago both Sarah and Cassie wrote about songs, the lyrics, and how the timing and experience of hearing certain ones at certain times makes us think of our husbands, and our loss, in certain ways. Their stories are each very different - and yet, there is that commonality of song lyrics being the source. I have quite a few stories similar to theirs that have happened since Mike died. Incredibly specific timing of specific songs that made me think - there has to be something to it. I know there is. And yet, if I tried to explain it to someone who hasn't lost someone close to them like we have, most of them might not really get it. I might get a nod and a sad smile but after I turned away I imagine they might shake their head or roll their eyes like, poor thing, she is a little nuts after Mike died, isn't she?

Another source of this commonality is the subject of dreams. Last night I dreamed of Mike and woke up knowing I was going to write about it, even though I'd been working on a very different post for this week. Imagine my surprise - but not really, I guess - to see that Cassie had written about dreams today too (I am writing this on Monday even though I post on Thursdays). Her post was about her frustration and sadness in not dreaming about Dave. And I see in the comments, others have the same frustration.

I have, on the other hand, dreamed of Mike quite a few times since he died. So have his daughters. A couple of our dreams were so incredibly powerful that perhaps no one outside our family circle might even believe us. But those happened quite soon after he died, and haven't happened again since. We feel very fortunate that we had those dreams, because not everyone does.

But I've also had maybe about a dozen nightmares about him since he died. Those dreams are terrible. I'd rather not dream of him at all instead, to be honest with you.

Last night though was yet another difficult, stressful dream about him. In this one, I knew he was out there somewhere, but I couldn't call him. In my mind I could see his old phone number, and I had my phone and was trying and trying to dial it but I just couldn't. The numbers on my phone were all moving around, turning upside down, sliding across the screen so I couldn't touch them. It was agony. I couldn't connect. I couldn't call him. I couldn't talk to him. And the dream seemed to go on and on like that, it wouldn't end.

When I finally woke up I thought, oh thank goodness it was just a dream, I can talk to him now. I actually sat up and looked around for him and then - wait a beat - remembered he was dead.

Yes - it is shockingly painful when that moment of truth settles in once again. But this time, today, I also felt strangely grateful for that momentary lapse I hadn't had in months. I laid back in bed, relishing the familiar feeling of my old reality. I had had a real, pure moment when I actually and truly believed he was still alive. It was perhaps one last glimpse into a world where he still existed. 

Thanks to the workings of an overworked, confused brain, just for a moment, just for a beat...it felt like I had my Michael back.

I miss him.