This week, my week before widowed, I took a trip off the main path of my journey and doubled back to the places I saw you last. My head said “yes” but my heart said “no don’t go”. It’s been 1,098 days since I could actually touch you, hear you and see you in person. Today marks Day 1 of year 4.
This week’s weather matched my emotions. There were dark clouds, heavy rain and furious lightning filling the skies and in my heart. I have felt sad, depressed, lonely and angry but the one thing I can’t feel anymore is denial that you’re gone. So this week I walked in places that we walked. I ate at places we ate, I sat in places we sat.
Work holds so many memories of you for me. My job is the reason we moved here away from our friends and families to build our life together in a little beach town. Had we not moved here, would you still be alive? It’s a question I ask myself all the time as I fight grief’s guilt. I catch myself stopping and staring at spots where we were. Others think I’m staring off into space but they don’t realize how often I see you.
I went to the last place we ate together, The Gulf. I wore your hoodie and your pineapple shorts. I ordered a drink and sat in the same chair as last time. I pulled your chair out for you and I remember helping you sit and stand that night. No one knew I wasn’t alone. The bartender stopped and said she liked my shorts. I choked up and said thank you. She asked if I was ok and I told her about our last dinner. I thanked her for “seeing” you.
I went to Olive Garden and had a glass of wine in your honor as I waited for our takeout. I ordered your favorites and started to tear up. The waitress asked if I was ok and I was honest. I told her I was ordering dinner for you. She shared her condolences and I heard her share my story with her coworkers. The staff’s energy changed and it was like they gained perspective on just how their day was. You gifted them that and they “saw” you.
Yesterday was your angel anniversary. I woke up crying because minute by minute I’m further away from the last time I saw you. The day was going to be whatever I wanted it to be so we had champagne and key lime pie cheesecake for breakfast. Roan and I sat together on the couch talking about you. He still looks for you. We cuddled under your favorite penguin blanket and I still wear your favorite sleep shorts and the sweatshirt we got from our first trip to see my family.
Before I went to lunch, I drank a beer in your honor. I burst out laughing and my eyes welled up in the store when I saw it had your favorite saying. Not my first choice but I couldn’t say no to you.
Lunch was at our favorite little French restaurant, The Bay Cafe. We wanted to sit outside but the weather continued to match my emotions. The Staff said the outside dining was closed and my heart hurt. I shared that we were there together on your angel anniversary and they immediately arranged for us to have a private table outside to ourselves. I looked across the water at the building you dreamed of buying to create a bed and breakfast. The waiter came out to check on me and saw my tears. He gave me a gentle smile and I knew he saw my love for you.
The toughest stop on the tour was next. I hadn’t been to your mother’s house in over 2 years. I had gone a few times after you died to help her and check on things but since your mother had a stroke and was moved to Illinois to be in assisted care, there was no reason to go. This year felt different. The lawn was overgrown, the house stale and everything still exactly where I remembered it. I looked at the bathtub where I last helped wash you. I walked around the yard that you so lovingly landscaped. I sat in the same chair I did the last time I saw you and looked where your hospice bed used to be. I found your favorite bottle of cologne and for a moment I could smell you.
I left the house just as I found it and went over to get us frozen yogurt. It wouldn’t be your day without it. Along the drive I held my hand out in hopes you’d grab it and I could feel you again but my hand just hung there empty as the passenger seat where you used to sit. As I searched the flavors, a spunky young woman asked me why I was so picky. She knew I was thinking really hard about my choices so I told her about you. She smiled and said “That’s beautiful you are remembering him like this” and right then, in a world full of loss, a stranger gave me a hope filled hug because she saw you.
Today, like every Saturday, I sit and write this blog alone in our apartment. Every day I see you in the pictures. I see you in the designs. Although it’s not in person, just know that I still see you. All week long, friends and strangers have shown me great kindness. They’ve given me gifts beyond measure because they “saw” you.
On this tour called life, I’ll keep sharing our love story in hopes that others are gifted the opportunity to see you too…