Four years

Recently, a friend told me that a friend of hers (who I don’t believe I’ve ever met) said “How long has it been?… almost 4 years? She’s not seeing anyone now? What are you doing to help her with that?”

I have found that there is a continuum of widowhood. At least on the observation (judgment?) scale. Its “ooooh, too soon” to “mmmm, when is (s)he going to move on?” There is no set time when the switch flips, but as soon as it does, you can FEEL it. Not internally, but in the way others treat you.

There have been things in the last 4 years. Flirtations, situations, intimacy. I have no regrets. Things happened when they did, why they did, for reasons that I can not explain, and yet for which I am very grateful. The first was, by all external observation “too soon.” And yet, I am extremely grateful for it. It was just what I needed, when I needed it. It was joy, excitement, sadness, distraction, but most of all, it helped me understand myself so much better than anything else could have at that time. I guess I could say it was a revelation. It was about me, and not about only my loss. And when it needed to be over, it was so very clear to me, in a way that it would not have been for a younger version of myself, for a pre-Tim, pre-children version of me. In that time, I was telling myself I was only surviving, but I found that I wasn’t only surviving, I was fully living, and I was getting to really know who I am. If anything, I was falling in love with myself. Another situation was just as rewarding. It was good for my heart, fun, and freeing. It may have been cut extra short by global pandemic, and yet helped with that too. It was truly always on a timeline. And in all things, as a mother, my children – their happiness and safety – come first, and other choices fit around that.

I told someone else recently that my father died last year, and their first question was whether my mother would remarry. I immediately found this an interesting and (to me) unexpected response. Like, do you remember you are speaking to a widow at this moment? I’m not sure he did. He was thinking of when his own father died, and that his mother did remarry. And that’s ok. I understand that we live life relative to our own experiences, what we know, what we understand.

On Glennon Doyle’s podcast, We can do hard things, she and Amanda were talking about the question “What happened?” Their topic was specific to infidelity, and the end of both of their first marriages… but Amanda talked about how awful that question is, and specifically because its never for the person being asked, always for the asker (I am paraphrasing – I 100% recommend listening to the actual podcast We Can Do Hard Things). Amanda talked about the person asking wanting to know what happened, so that they can understand, analyze, diagnose how it happened, so they can mentally come to terms with how it won’t happen to them.

How MUCH I identified with this. I had to laugh, too. Imagine Tim’s response if I told him I identified with a podcast about infidelity. He was the most fiercely loyal human I have ever known, he would have been initially aghast. But he also never lived through the aftermath of the love of his life’s death, and I know he’d have a lot of grace for that unknown. I had a very intelligent friend ask me if the fact that Tim lost his hair so young was a sign? Was it the cancer? I couldn’t even believe he was asking me this…. and yet I did. I understand the NEED to look for a reason, or for a sign that we all missed. I understand looking for that comfort. It may not be a luxury I have, but it doesn’t mean I don’t understand it.

I am, always, who I am because I loved Tim, and because I lost Tim. Not just because of our children that I am raising, but the forever imprint on my heart, my being, and my knowing. He is present in the decisions I make for our family, and I have silly moments when I think of him and it stops me completely still. We move forward as a family, always letting each other become who we were meant to become. I can not wait to see who our children will be in each next step in their lives. And I also look forward to learning who I am becoming.

My mind is open, my heart is open, and I continue to do just “the next right thing.”

“…I chased desire, I made sure I got what’s mine…. and I continue to believe that I’m the one for me. And because I’m mine, I walk the line. We’re adventurers in heartbreak so that our final destination we lack…We’ve stopped asking directions to places they’ve never been. To be loved, we need to be known, we’ll finally find our way back home. And through the joy and pain that are life’s brain, we can do hard things” – Tish Melton

Author: marybethgaige

Mother. Sister. Daughter. Widow. Friend. Worker. Lover.

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