Snow days

How I miss him when it snows.

I realized that yesterday.  It may have been a little hard to realize last year because I simply missed him so very much all the damn time that it was very hard to distinguish, but I remember feeling it the first time I went out to shovel, the first time I saw the white stuff out the front window, and watched as my au pair that year, who had never seen snow, was amazed.  I certainly felt it the day we went to Longwood in the snow.  I had never before seen Longwood Gardens in the snow.  He never saw Longwood in the snow.  How he would have loved it.

Snow days are hard.  There’s what everyone thinks of first.  The basic logistics.  The anxiety if we can’t get out, run out of food.  The anxiety to shovel, get the driveway cleaned… but truthfully, I think snow brings out greatness in neighbors.  Realistically, I know my neighbors will help me.  They are amazing.  At least three different neighbors attacked my driveway at various times yesterday.  So if I can quell the anxiety, I know the logistics will be just fine.

The hard part is just how much he loved snow.  Snow was his thing.  He loved to stay on top of the Capital Weather gang reports, he loved to get out there and shovel.  Even when we were in Arlington.  In January 2015, our first winter in Fairfax, we got a huge amount of snow starting Friday night all through the weekend.  The plow couldn’t get to us for a long time.   The public schools were closed for a week.  (Our kids were not out of daycare yet.)  Still, our driveway gleamed bright and black, for Tim was out there with the shovel and the salt nearly hourly.  He had a blast playing not just with our kids, but all the neighbor kids.  Yesterday’s snow was a good snow.  Tim would have loved it.  There is guilt there.

Snow reminds me of getting out there and playing in it and shoveling it, and it reminds me of snuggling up together inside.   Loving being together, and letting the rest of the world go by while we had each other.  There is longing there.

There is also an element of snow that is like Christmas.  It’s magic.  It’s a magic that their father truly loved, and I want to ensure is passed down to A, R and D in just the right way.  There is also some pressure there.

But I myself have always loved snow.  I love ice skating, ice hockey, sledding, skiing, every winter sport.  It was the driver of my wanting to go to the Winter Olympics in Torino in 2006.  There was a moment yesterday when the kids got sick of sledding and went inside to warm up.  I took that opportunity to grab a sled and go down the hill on my own… and it was wonderful.  Just wonderful.  Selfishly, it was the best part of my day.   Then I went a few times, because, why not?  I even raced one of my mom friends down the hill!

Looking out at the snow… it’s so beautiful, it takes your breath away.  I miss him when it snows for all the reasons I’ve said above, and yet, when I was exhilarated from sledding – I felt him smile.  I know he would tell me not to put so much pressure on myself to make things a certain way for the kids… he’d tell me not to worry about the shoveling, or the food, or the amount of screen time, or whatever my exact worry is… but just to enjoy these moments.  But as I am me, that is not easy to do.  However, when I let myself relax, and just completely enjoy speeding down the hill on a little sled, I feel his smile, and its the best gift I could give myself.

I know now.  I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person.  – Sylvia Plath

The second Christmas

I’ve read a lot about the second milestones and the second year being “harder.”

I remember Tim talking to me about grief on the second Christmas for a family member grieving, saying that in the second year there is less help, less attention, less sympathy, less people are thinking of you or reach out, less people remember. Or even if they remember, it’s the first year after that people make a big deal about it.

That is all true. But that’s not at all what makes it harder.

And that, in itself, is surprising.  Before I experienced this – when I imagined the sudden loss of a loved one, I never could have imagined what really makes it hard.  So I understand why others can not.

There was less attention this year.  And my heart was so full of gratitude for those who made the effort to be with us, or reach out to us.

But honestly, I remember so little about the first Christmas.  I remember D was sick.  I remember a grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it determination to make it good, and magical for the girls and for D to whatever extent possible.  I remember going to Burke Lake Park with Tim’s dad and D.  And really, that’s about it.   That’s all I remember.

In early December, a good friend of mine told me that her dear friend from high school (also with young children) was also suddenly widowed.  Her situation drove a lot of difficult “logistics.”  My friend did not ask for my advice specifically, but this is what I offered, “Before Tim died, the idea of “the logistics” seemed like the big thing. The kids and the money and the paperwork and the arrangements and ALL OF THE THINGS.. that I call logistics… Seemed so overwhelming… and it is… And yet..somehow.. it pales in comparison to the bigger thing. The loss of him… and the grief.  She will get through the logistics. Because she loves her children. And because we just do. But the big thing being the loss of the person is something that’s hard to convey. But just being you and being you for her in any way you can will be big.  It will seem small to you, but I promise it’s not. ”

I offer this not because I propose that all widows have the same experiences, or because she asked for my advice, which she did not, or because I consider myself some sort of expert on widow grief…. I offer it because in almost all cases, when I see a HYWC post I say to myself “Yes. This.”  There is an empathy and understanding there that I have never before felt or imagined.  I offer it because since one of my dear friends with young children died 6 months before Tim got sick, I recognized what I experienced on the outside, what I felt/thought/imagined for her husband and her family, and I recognize the chasm between that and what I truly felt when Tim died.  And maybe, just maybe, if I can help explain that chasm in any small way to others, it lessens the distance between the deeply bereaved and their greatest (but fortunately inexperienced) supporters.

A dear widow friend who is on a similar timeline to me, described year two in this way “Less tears.  More sad.”  Yes. This.  I guess what I would say about this Christmas is less shock, more feeling the loss of him.  The first is about survival.  In year two, you understand that you will survive.  Slightly less effort is required to simply keep breathing in and out.  Which gives you more ability to feel.   I said to my sister on Christmas day (because I can) “I am so glad you are all here.  But I would send you all back in a heart beat if I could have him here.”  Without hesitation she said, “and I would happily go, if it meant he could be here.”  I told her it was both easier and harder this year.  I was more… involved… more awake.  She said she could see that.  (I can only imagine the dead look in my eyes she must have seen sometimes in the first year.) And in a strange way, there is guilt for any bit that gets easier.  It feels bad sometimes for anything to feel better.

I know the kids grief will always be there.  I know it will take different shapes as they mature, different shapes for each of them based on their personalities and based on the ages they were when he died.  And I want so badly to support them, even though I have no idea how to do it.  The best thing I know how to do, is read, learn, listen, and support my own grief.

The thing that made me happiest this year, was giving the kids and my father-in-law the quilts made from Tim’s t-shirts.

I asked my niece to video them opening them because the company I got the shirts through (Project Repat) advertised a video contest on Instagram.  Always ask creative teenagers to do this sort of task.  My niece did an amazing job, and then edited them and set them to music.   She set the one of the kids opening theirs to Beyone’s Ave Maria.

She was lost in so many different ways
Out in the darkness with no guide
I know the cost of a losing hand
But for the grace of God go I
I found heaven on earth
You are my last, my first
And then I hear this voice inside
Ave Maria
Sometimes love can come and pass you by
While you’re busy making plans
Suddenly hit you and then you realize
It’s out of your hands
Baby, you got to understand
Ave Maria
Ave Maria
Ave Maria
Grazia plena
Maria, grazia plena
Maria, grazia plena
Ave, Ave dominus tecum

 

The Holidays

The Holidays are joyful, magical, especially for children. The holidays can be difficult for adults. They are difficult for many people. They are especially difficult for grieving people, people in crisis, people processing tragedy.

The Holidays – Christmas in particular – are for children and people in love. This year, I am neither of those. But I do have three small children at home for whom I must ensure the magic.

When I was in the Widow’s support group “the Holidays” was a topic on the giant post-it note paper, and I didn’t totally understand it. It was October, so I think I knew intellectually it was staring us all in the face, but I could not yet comprehend it.

The best that can be said for me last Christmas is that I survived it. I think the kids enjoyed it. I went through the motions. I know this for sure because when I unpacked the Christmas ornaments I found a homemade ornament from each kiddo marked 2017, which I would swear I’ve never seen before, and yet I am positive I must have seen last year. On my birthday (two days before Christmas), I drove to the grocery store and fantasized about running away. My kids were with two people I trusted completely. Certainly, running away was the best option. Tim loved Christmas. He was absolutely kid-giddy about it. When we first took the kids to our new home, the first thing he asked them is where we should put the Christmas tree. (It was June). He loved Christmas lights! I know, without a doubt, that if Tim had died on me before we had children, I’d want to take time off and go to some tropical beach, and completely ignore the holiday. But that’s simply not an option at this point of my life. Not when I need to supply the magic of Christmas to our children. To help them see the Holidays through the lens their father would have showed it to them. I feel the pressure to give them the best Christmas possible, for them, because of what they are missing without him here, and because he was the great Christmas lover. So I ask myself “What would Tim do?” and then I do it… And so often that helps.

Today, I listened to an episode of my favorite podcast, Terrible Thanks for Asking, Happy(ish) Holidays III . In it, a man talks about looking forward to a Christmas that he will spend with his family, including 2 teenage sons, through a stage 4 cancer diagnosis, knowing that this is likely to be his last Christmas season.

And it made me think. What if we all thought about how we would want to spend the holidays if we knew it was our last? How would it change your perspective? How would it change how you spent it?

As much as I wish we could have had so many conversations… to prepare… for ME, I am absolutely thrilled for him that he never knew. Had no idea that this was coming. But if he had known…. If he had known that his last Christmas, would be his last Christmas, how would he have wanted to spend it? Like all things with Tim, because of how well I knew him… the answer comes to my mind immediately: exactly the way he did. Everyone said we were crazy. But he didn’t care. And for once, I didn’t care either! We threw caution to the wind, we planned, and we took a 5 year old, 3 year old, and 5 month old to London for Christmas. We took time off. We traveled. We trusted each other. We relied on each other. There were few gifts that year. The gift was the experience. Exactly the way he always wanted. We said that the Christmas gift we gave each other was paying for expensive airport parking to make our lives easier getting in and out of the airport in the US. Santa had small, modest gifts under the tree in London Christmas morning. The kids didn’t seem to notice Mom and Dad didn’t get anything. Most importantly, we spent Christmas together, simply. We played games, pulled Christmas crackers, I cooked dinner, and had some snacks and charcuterie for “lunch.” We enjoyed each other. Just our small immediate family. And we could not have been happier. I don’t tell myself that’s how he would have spent his last Christmas to make myself feel better. I do it because it is simply true. But thinking that today… it did bring a measure of comfort.

So then I thought to myself…. if I knew this Christmas was my last… how would I want to spend it? Again an easy answer. I would want to spend it with my family. However, wherever, that was. Spending it with Tim is not an option. Yet if this was my last Christmas, I’d want to be with my children, and make it special and memorable for them. I would want to see the magic of Christmas that can only be seen in a child’s eyes. I’d want to slow time down, and just BE with my family.

It’s probably not my last Christmas. But I don’t know that. And elements of it could be “the last”… kids grow and change so quickly. My children’s cousins will be here this Christmas again, but one of them is already in College, so I know that family togetherness is fleeting. If I’m lucky, I will grow old. My kids will grow up, and have their own interests, their own people, and they may all chose to spend it with their own families… maybe then I can try that tropical vacation Christmas.

Somehow, there is comfort in knowing the answer to that question. It’s not a question about Tim, and doing what he would want me to do. It’s a question about me – how would I want to spend it if I knew it would be my last?

I know the answer. And that is just what I am going to do.

For better or for worse

Normally, the “until death do us part” is the part of our marriage vows that rings in my head these days.

But today was a strange day.  I mostly took the day off work to take A to doctor appointments.  And mostly it was an awesome day.  There’s just something about getting a lot of one-on-one time with one of our kids.  They are all seriously amazing, awesome humans.  At their current ages,  and considering I work full time, when we are all together there is a lot of vying for my attention, and they can get nasty with each other, or with me, and exhausting, and just generally challenging the way young humans are.  But A is 7 now, and goodness, she’s just a good and interesting human, and we mostly had a great time together (except when I basically had to hold her down for a flu shot, but…)

A few things stand out.  I had an interview with one doc.  Going through my file he asked, “so what happened with her dad ?”… the usual shock: “Wow…. nothing short of tragic…how are YOU doing?… are you seeing someone? Do you have friends?”  You may think some of these sound blunt, but I typically appreciate the blunt comments to the over-cautious, or completely- ignoring-it ones.  But I would be lying if I didn’t admit my eyes filled  with tears a few times during that discussion.

At the next appointment, I got some paperwork I had to update highlighted fields and glance over the rest, all vital PII… down to Marital status: Single.  Choke.   I get it.  I do.  And yet…  Widowed should always be an option.  Single just does.not.cover my status.  That appointment brought us to the 6th level of a building with glass walls and elevators and A kept talking about how if Daddy were here she would not let him near the edge, would tell him not to look down.  Daddy is afraid of heights, yes.   In the present tense.  This discussion with the nurse, who didn’t know.  The anticipation/discomfort I felt for whether she would find out in this conversation (she did not.) The doctor who did know.  the discomfort I felt for her/me/A.  The present tense.  I love that she speaks of him that way.  And yet…

At the end of the day, I had to take the dog to doggie ER.  Hopefully, fortunately, he’s going to be ok.  On the way home with him and 3 prescriptions, I felt myself falling apart at the seams.  The engineer in me tackles. Assesses the situation.  Takes action.  The human in me is secretly always afraid if I take someone I love to the ER, he or she will never come home.  It’s a weird sort of PTSD.  And with a 13 year old dog… is he already living on borrowed time?  I don’t know.  There is the part of me that remembers how much Tim feared dealing with his death – the dog’s death.  The moment for the kids of course, but secretly, I think the thing he feared most was dealing with it himself.  Watching the movie “Marley and me” broke him.

And here is the thing I thought about driving home tonight: Tim, my love, for better or for worse, everything in my life is because of you.  What a strange thing for a feminist to think, to know to be true.  My whole life is inextricably linked to you. This dog that we got together.  This particular dog that you convinced me to adopt, when I was initially turned off by his jumping up on me at the Homeward Trails meet and greet event in Georgetown.  This dog who was our first baby, our first shared love, who stole my heart before our children did.  This dog, these other three humans who made my heart grow and expand and who have all basically defined my life, whether I thought I wanted that or not – for better or for worse.  Everything I do and everything I am is now defined by them.  For better or for worse.  Whether or not it was what I ever thought I wanted.  And I would have it no other way.  I told him that a million times in the 26 days.  And yet. I have to make all the decisions alone now, without him here.  All the decisions for all of them, without the one other person who loved them just as much, who’s life was defined by them as much as mine is.

When I came home, E told me that the kids were asleep.  That the girls had asked if BJ was coming home tonight, or if he would stay forever.  And  for the zillionth time I was reminded:  I’m not the only one with that special brand of PTSD.  I woke them both to tell them I was home.  To tell them BJ was home, and he got medicine and should be OK.  But I remind myself he may be on borrowed time.  And I will need to deliver another message some day.  And the way in which I deliver that message is entirely up to me.

Anyone who has worked with me is likely to tell you that I love to be in charge.  I tend to think I make decisions better than most people.  But there are days when the magnitude of my personal responsibility is crushing.  And all I can do is hope that I continue to make the best decisions possible.

For better or for worse.

Hamilton

A month ago I went to see this at the Kennedy center, with some great friends, and thanks to my friend Jen’s incredible perseverance to get tickets!  Her husband took this shot of us…. now I’m trying to refrain from the “I’m not throwing away my shot” joke…mvimg_20180809_192341I could not have been more excited.  I’d been listening to the music, and its just so great.  Honestly.  It’s story telling at its best.  Lin-Manuel Miranda rivals only J.K. Rowling in my mind with artistry of words.  But lyrics… to music.  Oh my goodness.  Words fail me.  I would recommend seeing it to anyone who has the opportunity.  So what do the lyrics mean to me? Where I am now, in my life…. in my journey of grief and healing?

Of course Hamilton, an American Musical is about American History, which I love, its about politics; it pushes you to think a little differently about both of those things.  But above all, it is a story.  And it is a story about love and loss and healing.  Romantic love, the love of a parent, the love of a country, the love of freedom, and the ideals of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  Loss through death, loss through War, loss through betrayal, embarrassment and disappointment.

I guess all of us are living a life that is a story about love and loss and healing.  Maybe they all take slightly different forms, but these three things are essentially what our stories are all about.

I could go on at length about what so many of the songs meant to me, but I will pick just three, in honor of Angelica’s “three fundamental truths”…

Aaron Burr is “the villain in your history” and this story of course, but his story is also told in a very relate-able way.  He may not have taken very distinctive political stances but his life was full of love and loss… and hopefully some healing…  This was one of my favorite songs, “Wait for it” which he sang:

Death doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners
And the saints

It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise and we fall
And we break

And we make our mistakes
And if there’s a reason I’m still alive
When everyone who loves me has died
I’m willing to wait for it
I’m willing to wait for it

I am the one thing in life I can control

I hope that I do not spend my life waiting.  But I do need to remind myself sometimes that I am the one thing I can control.  I can’t control anything else, but my own actions, choices, responses, attitude. I also know that not everyone who loves me has died… but  the one who loved me… the one who loved me the most, in a complete 360 degree way, in the way everyone dreams of being loved… he has died, so if there’s a reason that I’m still alive….
OK, I also just have to mention two other songs that I won’t quote… one is “Burn”.. it is so well-done.  The most perfectly eloquent song about response to public betrayal.  Whether or not you can relate personally, it makes you feel so much.  The other is “Non-Stop.” It is a long-ish song.  It tells so much story, and it incorporates almost every other song from the musical together into one song in the most beautiful way, and exhibits how everything comes together.
Also.. the songs King George does are hilarious.  They are so ridiculous… informative and ridiculous… and then when he jumps in with “he’s never gon’ be president now” in the Reynolds Pamphlet… just hilarious.
Later in the play, after the Reynolds Scandal, Alexander and Eliza’s 19 year old son, Philip, dies in a dual.  Unimaginable.  This song could have been called that.  Alternately, it is called “It’s Quiet Uptown”:
There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down
The Hamiltons move uptown
And learn to live with the unimaginable
This.  So very much, this.  Our family’s story was just so very unbelievable… unimaginable.  No one could get their head around it.. suffering too terrible to name.  What else can you do?  But push away?  So often, I have been so deep, when it would have been easier, so much easier, to just swim down.  And yet… I learn to live with the unimaginable.  I learn every day.
You knock me out, I fall apart
Look at where we are
Look at where we started
I know I don’t deserve you, Eliza
But hear me out
That would be enough
If I could spare his life
If I could trade his life for mine
He’d be standing here right now
And you would smile, and that would be enough
This part reminds me in a different way of Tim’s dad.  It’s a different context, for sure.  But how many times I heard him express his desire to trade his life for his son’s.   It is the pain of a parent, that I can imagine, that I have seen with my eyes, but I have not lived.
I don’t pretend to know
The challenges we’re facing
I know there’s no replacing what we’ve lost
And you need time
But I’m not afraid
I know who I married
Isn’t that the truth?  I know who I married.  This time has shown me how very much I know who I married.  For that, I am grateful.
If you see him in the street, walking by her side
Talking by her side, have pity
Eliza, do you like it uptown? It’s quiet uptown
Look around, look around, Eliza
(They are trying to do the unimaginable)
This part reminds me so much of the interesting use of words.  Of their meaning, and of choosing words carefully.  I never liked the word “pity.”  It has such negative connotations in our society.  No one wants to be pitied.  Certainly, I never wanted pity.  Then, a circumstance arose where I could have felt many things… but what I felt was pity.  I didn’t want to say that to the person I pitied though, because it felt mean.  And that’s not what I wanted to convey.  Meanness or ill-will was not what I was feeling.  So I looked up the meaning of “pity” almost for a thesaurus option, and the very definition of the word was exactly how I felt for this other person: the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others.  And then I realized, that I have no shame for all of the pity others have felt for me.  Why should I?  Should I not be grateful that I have people in my life who are caring enough to have sorrow and compassion for the suffering and misfortune my children and I have endured, and continue to endure for the sudden loss of the love of my life, of their father?
There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name
We push away what we can never understand
We push away the unimaginable
They are standing in the garden
Alexander by Eliza’s side
She takes his hand
It’s quiet uptown
Forgiveness.. Can you imagine?  Forgiveness.  Can you imagine?
Have pity… they are going through the unimaginable.
I resound with these words so much when I think about how others see us.  Everything we have experienced, and do experience, I know is (to others) unimaginable.  And yet, to us, it is life.  It is hard to imagine.
May we all experience the forgiveness.  May we all experience a grace too powerful to name.
And the final song in the play… “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story.”  Isn’t that what it is all about? When I have read about others’ discomfort with the widowed finding love again, that is often how it is explained that others feel… would their spouse “move on” so quickly?  What does their life mean?  Who would keep their flame, who would tell their story?  The thing that maybe only the widowed can really understand, is that we may move forward, but we never move on.

Let me tell you what I wish I’d known
When I was young and dreamed of glory
You have no control, who lives, who dies, who tells your story?…….

But when you’re gone, who remembers your name?
Who keeps your flame, who tells your story? Who tells your story (who tells your story?)

(Eliza) I put myself back in the narrative
I stop wasting time on tears
I live another fifty years, it’s not enough

Wow.  That’s possible.  I could live another 50 years…

I try to make sense of your thousands of pages of writings
You really do write like you’re running out of time (time)

He really did… My Tim.  He ran out of time.

I rely on Angelica
While she’s alive, we tell your story
She is buried in Trinity Church, near you
When I needed her most, she was right on time

Isn’t this the truth? My sister was absolutely right on time, when I needed her most.

And I’m still not through
I ask myself, what would you do if you had more time? (time)

You could have done so much more if you only had time
And when my time is up, have I done enough?

Will they tell our story? (will they tell your story?)
Oh, can I show you what I’m proudest of? (The orphanage)
I established the first private orphanage in New York City
(The orphanage)
I help to raise hundreds of children
I get to see them growing up (the orphanage)

OK, this is something I can’t exactly do but… are there other things that I should be doing?

In their eyes I see you, Alexander
I see you every time

In A, R and D’s eyes, I see Tim.  I see him every time.

And when my time is up, have I done enough?
Will they tell my story? (will they tell your story?)
Oh, I can’t wait to see you again
It’s only a matter of time..

Those last two lines haunt me.  I hear them in my head so often now.  When I miss him the most… I hear them at the gym.  Or when I am driving in my car, alone….. and after all, I guess it is true.

… I can’t wait to see you again.  It’s only a matter of time…

Yes, I am

This evening traffic was terrible.  I was rushing from a meeting to get the girls to take them for their Thursday “play therapy.”  I was so excited when I realized that I’d be able to pick them up at just one place… but I had planned to pick up Cava for dinner and there wasn’t time.  So I dropped A off for her half hour, and instead of waiting with R in the waiting room, rushed over to Cava for food for all 3 of us. R and I ordered, went to the bathroom, glancing at my watch, we were late.  I was telling R to hurry with the lemonade she was getting herself… I look up and a woman ~ my age, probably younger is smiling at me.  I smiled back, but it did seem a bit more familiar than to a random lady rushing her daughter through the  drink area at Cava.  So then she looked me full in the face and said, “are you Tim Gaige’s wife?”

Without thinking, I said “Yes.”  She said she worked with him, and she recognized R from pictures he showed her… that she still had some FB messenger conversations with him that she’s saved.  I introduced her to R, and said “this lady used to work with daddy!”  R beamed… she told her how proud he was of her, and how often he spoke of her, and also that she is such a brave little girl.  This interaction meant a lot to R, I could tell.  She talked about it back in the car.

I reflected.  She didn’t say “were.”  She said “are.”  She didn’t say “widow,” she said “wife.”  Really, none if it was true.  I haven’t been a wife in over a year.  But it was the brightest spot of my day.  For just a moment, to say yes.  To see the look on R’s face.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Do not hold back from saying his name.  It was a beautiful thing that happened in Cava today.  Raw, unfiltered, and beautiful.  Another person may not have wanted to speak to me.  For fear of upsetting me/us.  For fear of it being awkward – introducing yourself to a stranger.. and in that way…. They might have stepped back and whispered behind their hand to their someone, “I think that’s my former co-worker’s wife… He died……”

This stranger that I’ve never met, and may never meet again, she was the highlight of my day.

Don’t forget the impact you have on others, friends.  And say his {or her} name.  It feels good to know the impact {t}he{y} made on others besides your immediate family.  We want to hear how you remember.  37 years may have been too short, but he lived every one of them.  It is so wonderful to hear him remembered.  Don’t be afraid you will upset us.   We never forget.

For just that moment today… it felt good to say yes.

Showing up

Today I went to my Uncle’s funeral.  I spent more time in the car than anything else.  I had some straight talk with the girls about where I was going, what I was doing today.  I got some questions that I never seem to be able to predict.  Those conversations are difficult, but getting less so.  My skin is getting thicker.

It’s a funny thing going to your uncles’ funeral as a widow.  It feels as though everyone is expecting you to either completely fall apart confronted with another death, or else to know the right thing to say.  (Maybe this is only in my head and neither of these are true.)

It was an open casket, and when I went to pay my respects I wished my Uncle luck.  I told him “there are a lot of good people waiting for you on the other side.”  One moment I found myself with two of my cousins, who have each had their own significant losses (mother and daughter) so I repeated the sentiment and they agreed.  I did not have much time with my Aunt – the newest member of the widow club.  The only thought that crossed my mind was to welcome her to the club no one ever wanted to join… but I didn’t say it.  I’m not sure I really said anything.

I know people spend a lot of time worrying they will say the wrong thing to me.  I won’t say there is no wrong thing, because that’s just not true.   Plenty of people have said plenty of “wrong” things to me.  But I forgive them.  I appreciate that they tried to say anything at all.  I appreciate that they showed up.  When I look back on the last year, what I appreciate the most is the myriad of ways that people showed up for me.  (And keep doing so.)

My sister, who is probably the poster child for showing up for me, questioned my taking the trip for the funeral today.  It came from a place of love, and big sisterly protection.  But for me, if there was a way for me to swing it, I wanted to be there.  I may not have words for my Aunt, but I wanted to try to show up.  I was glad I could do that today. Even if it was the only thing I really had to offer.  Grief is tricky.  It is unique.  And sometimes all you can do is sit in the sadness with someone.  Don’t look away from its ugliness, but simply be in it.  Acknowledge the love and the loss.

Rest in Peace, Uncle Chalie.  There are many who loved you and you loved on the other side – after you’ve greeted all of them – have a pint with my Tim.  He’ll show you around, and where to find the best beers.