Today, I find myself in Texas near Houston. A speaking engagement planned almost a year ago. It has been a long time since I have been able to travel, speak and feel the energy in a room of people. This new world we live in can be suffocating especially for a widowed man who sometimes feels deep solitude and aches for big crowds to entertain. I’m very much aware I’ve lost the person I used to be. I hope he returns soon because I miss him almost as much as I miss Clayton.
I’m honestly shocked at where my life has led me these past few years. Later today I will be speaking about inclusion, diversity and stereotypes. At every speaking event, I share about Clayton. Mentioning his name means his memory lives on and new people get a chance to “meet” him. One of the most important needs for someone widowed is that their lost love is remembered. This trip and this day are a little different. Yesterday I flew around a hurricane to get here. That’s not why this trip is different. It’s how similar this week is to the same week a few years ago.
You see, three years ago this week I was in Mexico for an animal care conference. Hurricane Nate hit the Yucatan peninsula the day before I was headed home. We flew around the hurricane and landed. The next day Nate landed. Clayton wasn’t feeling well. I wanted him to go to the doctor but we had to wait for the hurricane to pass. With only minor damage and some power loss, we were safe. Safe that is until I got home from work on October 10th 2017. Clayton was on the couch, weak and skin a deep yellow. I rushed him to the hospital and so marked today the anniversary of his terminal diagnoses. So what’s on the other side of yesterday’s hurricane? For me, there is a fear of the unknown and the unexpected.
Sudden loss has its signature stings, as does expected loss through terminal time. I can only speak of my caregiver grief and having this additional diagnosis day. Clayton was only 42 and in about a month I will be the same age. By the anniversary of his death in April, I will have lived longer. I feel a great heaviness and a deep gratitude. Two emotions can be felt at the same time – That’s called a fork in your road. I could have stayed home this weekend and felt my grief alone but I’ve decided to take the other path and go head first into life on the other side of the hurricane.
Today I get up on stage, share my love for building safe communities and remember Clayton with great pride and love. On this, his diagnoses day, as my words float across the room to inspire others, Clayton returns to me…