Thursday, September 25, 2014

Rebirth on my Birthday

It is 12:40 a.m. east coast time, on Friday, September 26th, and I am writing this blog piece from the Marriott hotel in downtown Toronto, Canada. I am here for Camp Widow, getting set to give my comedy presentation for the 5th time in a row. Sitting in the lobby where the Wi-fi is free on my laptop, exhausted after an almost 12 hour train ride from NYC into Toronto, followed by a lovely dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory with some of my widowed friends. And then, of course, in classic Kelley fashion - I was just about to snuggle up under my covers in the comfy Marriott bed, when I suddenly out of nowhere remembered: "SHIT!!! I HAVE TO WRITE THE BLOG!!!" So, down the elevator I went, to the Wi-fi hot spot area in the lobby, and here I sit, with no real idea what to say.

Did I mention that today is my birthday? Yup. I am now 43 years old. I was widowed at 39, just 3 months before my 40th birthday. Never in a million years would I have imagined on that 40th birthday, that I would be sitting here, in Canada, my first time ever, writing this blog. When I turned 40 without Don, it felt like I was being stabbed and beaten up. I had no desire to celebrate, and the very idea of being happy about having more life granted to me when my wonderful husband didn't get that choice ever again, made me feel sick to my stomach. It's been a long 3 years, and I have come a long way. Along with the gorgeous crisp fall air that has always been my favorite, I feel a return to excitement again. I am excited about this birthday. I am happy to be in Toronto, making people laugh through their pain and helping them to heal while also helping myself. I am anxious for things to come and people to meet. The thought of more new friends excites me, and the idea of still not knowing where my life will end up terrifies and wakes me up all at once.

When I turned 40, I felt like I had died. Now, at 43, I feel like I am somehow born again. Or, at the very least, slowly on the road to there. My husband is always on my mind and in my heart. That will never change. I miss him severely. Sometimes the pain is still so heavy, and sometimes I still feel like the intensity of that pain is too much to handle. But other times, the volume on that pain is turned down, and I am able to turn up the joy and the laughter and the newness and freshness of life. I wish I could explain to you, or to me, how I got here, to this place of more tranquility and calm. I don't quite know, but I know I cannot give you directions. You have to find it yourself. I know it was a lot of hard work, and I know I am nowhere near finished with that hard work. This is not a finish line by any means. No. It is a milestone. It is the day that my life was rebirthed to me, because I worked hard through the awful grief to make it so. And dammit, it's about time I gave myself some credit for that.

This is not the life I wanted, but it is the life I built and created, from the ashes and the pain and the death. I may never be a mother, but I have created life. My life. Somebody give me some goddamn cake already. It's time to blow out the candles and work my dreams into existence.


  1. Happy Birthday Kelley! You may never begin to fathom how many lives you have touched on your journey to your rebirth but I will give you a hint that it is WAY more than 43!! Now go blow out some candles and make a huge wish for your rebirthday!

  2. Kelley my wife passed just before my 70 th birthday. I really looked forward celebrating that with her. The days are long, and ahead look so distant, but looking back time has moved on almost to fast. Yes I have come a long way, but a long way to go. The emptiness of decisions only made by me of what or not to do, is not satisfying, but life goes on with what you have.

    God Bless

  3. Hello, Happy Birthday!! A very Blessed day to u.. Enjoy yr journey to camp widow..

  4. Happy Birthday Kelly. I am so glad you pushed through all the aweful hard and painful work and got to a better place. I have reached that place too, and while the grief is still here, life seems possible and I have hope for the future again, instead of dreading each moment of each day.

  5. Once again Kelley your writing resonates with me. I carry on my journey building a life out of the ruins of what was. We should give ourselves some credit for our achievements. Enjoy camp.

  6. I love you so much… this post made me so happy and so proud of you. And so so so glad that we have gotten to watch each other's journeys unfolding these past two years. You were right in your comment to my last post on here, we are SO in the same place right now. I'm so glad i have someone who understands.

    You are such an incredible person and probably out of ALL of my friends, you are the one who inspires me the most. I mean that. I love what you said about creating life… that almost made me cry. You are so right, we haven't had kids, but we HAVE created life. Thank you for that - and for everything you are and do each day.

    Now get out there and have an amazing birthday!!!!!

  7. Happy Birthday!
    Yes, each day is a gift. And being able to give back while grieving is not easy.
    Not easy at all.
    But you are doing it with flair!
    Thank you and kudos.

  8. Leslie in Little RockSeptember 26, 2014 at 10:36 AM


    Happy Happy Birthday! As my usual routine on Friday morning, I read your blog post first thing and wanted to comment then but couldn't at the time. So now, a few hours later, I read it again and was pleased to see many sweet notes, comments and Birthday Wishes! Next month I will turn 53, ten days after what would have been our 28th Wedding Anniversary. My husband passed away suddenly on May 10, 2012 and I'm still dealing with issues relating to his death. But, thanks to you and the other writers on this site, I finally am starting to look forward, and not always worrying about the past. I hope you have a wonderful day!

  9. Kelly, your last two paragraphs are profound!! For those of us who have gotten to this part of the journey, you are so right, there are no directions, we somehow just arrive there. Thank you so much! Now enjoy your birthday and damn it, someone give this girl some cake, she deserves it!

  10. Happy Birthday Kelley, You have come so far. I loved reading your post today and seeing how far you have come. I wish that I could have wished you a happy birthday in person. I happen to live in Toronto and was hoping to attend Camp Widow this year. However it coincides with the Jewish New Year and so the timing was not right for me. I hope to make it to the next Camp Widow.

    1. Happy Birthday Kelley. Your words have meant so much. You offer healing and understanding where they are so needed. I hope you are having a great time. @ Ruthie Happy Jewish New Year. Hope you have an easy fast on Yom Kippur.

  11. Happy birthday Kelly!!
    My birthday is on sunday - I will be 28 years old and it will only be me and my 8 months old celebrating.
    My love, his father ended his life early june, I miss him terribly.
    I know every day is a gift and we have so much ahead of us -I will try to cherish every moment and give him an extra kiss every night.
    If anyone wants to follow our journey:

    Thank you&enjoy your day

  12. Because you can never have it said enough: Happy Birthday, Kelley Lynn! Enjoy Toronto. My dear husband and I visited there in May, 1970, and had one of our most memorable trips ever. Love and Hugs, Carol M.

  13. Happy birthday Kelley! I hope to make it to Camp Widow West one of these years and I'm sure experience will be everything everyone says it is. My husband wanted to throw me a surprise 40th birthday party but I got too antsy and planned my own celebration. I was hoping to cure the control freak in me and let him plan a spectacular 50th birthday party for me but my life changed forever when he died a month after my 45th birthday. His birthday was four days after mine so we spent our last birthdays together in the hospital. My 46th birthday was my first one in 22 years without him and it was Mother's Day as well so I forced myself to celebrate. This year (and probably every year from now on), I didn't really celebrate much. I'm still here and I know I need to move forward and live my life but it's difficult without him.
    Have a great time in Toronto and get yourself a slice of whatever cake you like and may your candles burn as bright as the sun. Peace and blessings!


  14. Hope you enjoyed some cake and are still celebrating. Yep, this is not the life we wanted, but it's the one we got. You're learning to take charge and go forward, wherever that may be. Thanks for sharing the tears and laughter with us. Had hoped to be there in Toronto, but selling my house has taken priority (I got an offer!).

  15. Happy belated birthday.

    Maria O.