I was in line, waiting to check out at one of my favorite shops this summer, when a woman I haven’t seen for awhile asked me what was new.
I don’t know her all that well, just enough to make conversation slightly above surface level when we bump into each other a couple times a year, so I told her things were about the same. And then, thinking she might not know, I added: “Do you know that my husband died?”
She got that sympathetic and kind look on her face that blesses me every time I receive it, and she said: “Yes – but a long time ago, right?”
To her, I suppose it was, a long time ago, I mean.
In my world, it was just yesterday. It was a whisper, a breath, a moment’s turn away. In fact, it was in the early hours of October 29, 2016, a year ago this month.
I don’t know what I’m going to do to honor the day, the time we had together or the last time I said goodbye. I suspect I’ll steal away, find a quiet sanctuary of space and emotion, or maybe I’ll toast his memory to others who remember him as I do. As I write this on a beautiful day in September – writing deadlines being what they are, always ahead of the actual publication – I honestly don’t know what my mood will be.
But I do know this. I am ready for some of the sadness to lift, some of the emotional fatigue to leave from the years of mourning while he was alive and in his first year of death. I am willing to live my life, whatever that means, wherever it takes me. As I write this, it makes me uncomfortable, even nervous. The words sound so self-absorbed. There is so much loss in this world, so much sorrow. I do not mean to imply that I am the only one who is working my way through things. We all are, one way or another. I hear it from – and see it in – people every day.
The good news, and I know this to be true, is there is an equal amount of joy to be found, if only we are willing to receive it.
Not so long ago, I told a friend that this will be my last column writing about my husband’s death. Not that I’ll never talk about him or his very long years living with and in spite of dementia and Parkinson’s disease, but it is time to write about other topics – things that have been overshadowed by the changes this year.
“I think your friends would like that for you,” she said, or words to that effect, and I know the people who love and care for me want to see me re-emerge, to step out of the unrelenting shadow of grief.
I’d hoped to be more eloquent on the subject by now, but I am not. Simply said, everyone has to do it his or her own way. There is no direct route, no right or wrong method, no magic answer to finding the other side of loss. I have seen women wear the mantle of widowhood; it is their identity. And women who look in the mirror and tell themselves it is time to move on, and they get on with it. And women who re-invent themselves, take up new hobbies, find new circles of interest or re-discover old ones set aside.
I get it. In each situation, I understand why. In my case, I’ll just say my goal is to get beyond good intentions and stop thinking about things. Enough said, you all know what I mean. Everyone’s been there. The thing is, this has been the most perfect year to think and reflect and observe and take note.
I have been surprised at people’s reaction to this new life. I come from an era when it didn’t matter whether one was single or in a relationship; we all socialized together.
It’s caught me off guard to be left out when others couple up or disappear in what have been tough times. At the same time, I’ve been humbled by my friends’ loyalty and care and extraordinary effort to be there for me, and I will be there for them when it’s their turn, their time, because eventually, it will be.
I promise – pinky finger clasped, cross my heart promise – because I will never be able to put into words what every kindness, every card, every call, every cup of coffee or tea, every conversation has meant.
When my husband and I started dating, he said: “Your friends are really important to you, aren’t they?” I was a little startled at his surprise that my circle went beyond blood relatives, and I can remember answering, “Of course. I don’t know what I’d do without them.”
Little did I know…
Susan Harrison Wolffis is an award winning writer known for her engaging writing style.