Since you died I feel like I am masquerading in someone else’s life. The likelihood of outliving you was always in the back of my mind, but it wasn’t something that I prepared for because I naively thought we had “the rest of our lives” ahead of us. I honestly thought that we had at least twenty more years together. And, because I blindly believed this, I arrived to widowhood completely unsorted. For the first few months everything was raw and rough. I was unpracticed at being a widow, so I made homespun, amateur attempts at surviving. However, with time, my ability to live with grief has become more polished. Fifteen months later, I do less improvising throughout my day.
I am doing this ‘widow thing’ . And, from the outside looking in, things appear to be returning to ‘normal’. But, those of us who live this life know full well that we can never return to ‘normal’ again. I don’t say this looking for sympathy. I say it because it is the truth. You know this as well as me. It just is what it is. This is widowhood.
As much as I dislike it, living with Grief has become somewhat ‘normal’ to me. I don’t remember what it feels like not to miss you. I don’t recall living without emptiness inside me. I don’t remember what ‘normal’ feels like anymore. I don’t remember what it feels like to be an ‘ordinary’, ‘regular’ mid-aged woman. I am forever changed.
The death of your spouse permanently alters a person, and I am no exception. Yet, somehow, I am starting to become okay with the changes in me. Even still, I am not proficient living my changed life. Most of the time I feel like I am participating in a makeshift existence that was not thoroughly planned out. I did not rehearse for this; and, honestly, it shows.
Art: Loui Jover
Death is a part of life. We die because we live.
The concept is simple. It is understood by everyone. But, the mechanics behind surviving without someone you love are tedious and complicated. It is relatively simple to comprehend the facts. They. are. dead. But, to accept this is not easy. To live this reality – this – brings you to your knees.
It is overwhelming and utterly disorientating to remain alive when the person you love is dead. Most of us do not prepare ourselves for outliving the ones we love. Honestly, I know there is no way to “prepare” for death; but, looking back I wish I had put more forethought into it. Until death intimately affected me, I never seriously entertained the idea of living without him. So, when he died I was blindsided. I was lost with no sense of direction.
Everything felt surreal. It still does…
because he doesn’t ‘feel’ dead to me. Maybe it’s because he is still ‘present’ in my life. Mike is no longer here physically, but he is ‘here’ – everywhere – all around me. His arms are still around my life. I can ‘feel’ him. Now, he is the soft breeze on my back. The warm sunshine – that dries my tears. The blue sky – that helps to ease my mind.
He is the sunlight gleaming off the ocean water,
Which glistens the very same way his eyes once shone for me.
He is the hot sand beneath my feet,
That forces me put one foot in front of the other.
He is the Malbec in my wine glass,
That tastes just like his kiss.
He is the beat in my heart,
That now beats for both of us.
Mike is everywhere, and nowhere all at once.
His memory catches me around every corner. On a Sunday drive, I ‘see’ him on the empty seat beside me. He is the voice on the radio. He is the rhythm of our song beating in my chest. As I aimlessly drive, mile after mile, he comes to mind. He is all I see. I see his face in every cloud. Every song that plays takes me back to him.
I can taste his lips against my memories.
My senses bring him back to life again and again…
He is everywhere, and, still, nowhere all at once.
Art: Loui Jover
Every morning he is the warmth of my coffee – in my hand. On my way to work he is the big Peterbilt truck that passes by – and roars in my ears. At the market, after work, he is the beautiful red roses – calling my name. And, in the produce isle, he is the big red radishes – catching my eye.
As I slowly head to the car, with my groceries in hand, Mike is walking right beside me – when, in fact, there is no one by my side. Once I load the groceries, he takes his spot in the car – I ‘feel’ him in the seat beside me. I sigh, and I sit for a minute. I feel his eyes fill with tears as I put my head on the steering wheel. He knows that I am broken; and there is nothing he can do to fix it.
Widowing is exhausting. But, like you, I don’t have a choice in it. So, I lift up my tired head. I softly whisper to him and start the car. And, then, our song plays on the stereo – it is all Mike can do to let me know that I am not alone. I smile and thank him as tears stream down my cheeks. As I drive out of the parking lot I pass by a police car; and, like always, Mike is every police officer I see. Again, he is everywhere, and nowhere all at once.
At home, while I’m making dinner I absently stare into the pot of boiling water. As the water boils the bubbles pop; and, then, disappear. The bubbles turn into nothing, just like he did. Gone. It’s like the bubbles were never there… They just disappear. Sometimes, it feels like Mike was never here either…
The day is slipping away and it’s getting dark. After dinner, I stand alone washing the dishes; and, again, he is ‘with’ me. I ‘feel’ him. Then, at that very moment, I look out the window and there in the light of dusk is a hummingbird. I know. And, I smile. I’m thankful, really I am. But, in my heart, I feel guilty because deep down, it’s not enough. Mike can’t give me what I want. I don’t want him to be the soft breeze against my back or a damn hummingbird. I want all 6’0 of him back – alive. I know that my heart wants, what it can’t have. So, I just give in and I finish the dishes in silence. The only thing I can hear is the breaking of my heart.
I don’t want the kids to catch me crying so I sneak outside. And, like countless times before, I hold out my hands, reaching for him. It is awkward because I do not know where to place my fingers. I clumsily grasp at the air around me. Then, I just drop my hands to my side because there is nothing for me to hold. Where he should be, now there is nothing. So, I stand and I ask myself again and again, how could someone so big and bold be gone? How can Mike be gone – into nothing? How can he no longer exist? I don’t have the answers to these big questions. (But, I’m working on it…)
The kids have gone to bed, and now, I sit alone. I pour myself a glass of wine and I stare into the emptiness. In the silence – he is here. I ‘feel’ him. He is the steady ticking of the clock. He is the stillness in the air. And, as I bring my wine glass to my mouth, I know that he is the Malbec on my lips. He is the whisper in the night. And, he is the twinkling star overhead. Mike is the air that I breathe. In the quiet – I ‘feel’ him with me.
And, once again, I’ve lived another day without him. And, like always, when I turn out the lights, I close my eyes and I ask him to lay with me because I still want his arms around me when I lay down in my empty bed.
From morning to night,
Mike is everywhere, and nowhere all at once.
I don’t know how to quiet my love for him.
I don’t know how to live without him.
But, day by day, I’m doing it.
With my Malbec in hand,