This week if the first anniversary of Kaiti’s husband John’s death. I am filling in for her this week, and I ask that you send her your virtual love and support as she makes her way through the anniversary of a day that altered her life. Sending much love your way, Kaiti. May John’s love fill your day in unexpectedly beautiful ways.
Over the past five years whenever I’ve done something that I believe Phil would have either actively disliked (getting a tattoo) or probably didn’t appreciate (leaving his ashes in a locked safe for three years) I have used this phrase, “Well then you shouldn’t have died,” in a sassy justification of my behavior.
This phrase when looked at from another angle goes something like this, “If you hadn’t died__________.” Since Phil’s death, there have been hundreds of ways to fill in the blank. Here are a few from the first couple of years: If you hadn’t died I wouldn’t be harboring evil thoughts for the poor, unsuspecting fence contractor who asked me for a long term life plan, four months after you died. If you hadn’t died I wouldn’t be standing in the bathtub in my Ugg boots, your boxers, and a sweatshirt stomping my feet to try to convince whatever animal is under the house that he wandered into unfriendly territory and should leave immediately…at one in the morning. If you hadn’t died I wouldn’t have to work twice as many hours at the same time as I became responsible for twice as many household duties. If you hadn’t died I wouldn’t be home alone crying into Chinese food for one when the kids go off to their dad’s for the weekend. If you hadn’t died your shoes wouldn’t need a new home, and I wouldn’t be wearing both our wedding rings. If you hadn’t died I wouldn’t be the person who hushes a room every time she walks into it and then spends the rest of the evening wearing her best ‘really I am fine’ mask.
As the months passed and I lived with the reality that you weren’t coming home, the blank in the sentence has been filled differently. If you hadn’t died I wouldn’t be known by our friends (and often my children) as the ‘death lady’. If you hadn’t died I wouldn’t think at least once every day that life is short, and have that thought impact the outcome of a decision. If you hadn’t died I wouldn’t have traveled the country by myself, overcoming fears around every corner. If you hadn’t died I would not have been forced to redirect my life at the age of 35, carving out a whole new future from a blank slate. If you hadn’t died some amazing people who would not be a part of my life. If you hadn’t died I would not have learned that not wanting to do a thing is not the same thing as being unable to do that thing, I am more capable than I imagined. If you hadn’t died I would be living an entirely different life. If you hadn’t died I would not be the woman I am today.
There seems always to be some buzz around the widow world about whether a remarried widowed person dishonors their new spouse by continuing to discuss the ways their widowhood experience impacts their lives; our current life, the one that is happy and includes a new love and many, many new blessings. I can only speak for myself, but here is my thought, how could my past not influence my future? Especially a past which has created the person I am today.
Phil’s death still impacts by daily life. Not in the horrifically painful ways that used to form those early days, and now not so much because of his physical absence, but more because of what his absence has taught, and continues to teach, me. I was loved well. I enjoyed a partnership that fed my soul. I stretched and grew as a person; first as Phil’s wife, and then as his widow. I didn’t ask to know what I know, but the knowledge death imparted has changed me. In most ways for the better.
I don’t think of the differing ways I have filled in this loaded sentence to be a balance sheet. There is no way to measure out in even amounts what I lost and what I have gained. I didn’t have a choice about my life circumstance. All I can do is make the most of what lies ahead, in honor of the potential that exists with each day that I draw breath.
So while the ruminations about life without Phil continue to mill about my brain, my ability to love my husband Michael is firmly rooted in the love I once knew with Phil. Not in exchange, but in addition.
Phil’s death has taught me more lessons than I can count, but perhaps the most powerful lesson imparted by grieving a man I love from the depths of my soul is that at the end of any life what remains is love. Love well.