I’ve learned quite a bit since my husband died. All sorts of handy skills and life-hacks to help maintain the house and finances. But mostly I’ve stumbled across philosophical truths. It’s exciting to think that one day I might be wise.
I might even start a “Widow Boot Camp” or become a “Widoula!” I’m convinced my girlfriends will need my guidance some day. (Sorry Dudes – statistical probability!)
There are just so many falsehoods surrounding grief and loss.
For starters, I believe we all think the major life events are the days Grief Survivors will circle the drain, spiraling into the depths of their own despair.
I can tell. Because my phone blows up with all manner of genuinely loving texts.***
“Thinking of you today. Hope you have a fabulous Mother’s Day…”
“Happy Anniversary. You were both so blessed to have one another for the short time you did…”
“Merry Christmas! Hope you are surrounded by your children today…”
They also reach out on Easter, his birthday, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day. They take me to lunch or brunch to convey their compassion and remind me they are “here for me.”
The first birthday I had after I lost my hubby, several of my friends organized a brunch. About midway through the meal, one of my friends signaled everyone to hold up their Mimosas while she made a toast to the Birthday Girl.
“To the best year ever!”
Clink, clink, clink!
Clinks all around.
As I was clinking, and drinking, I was also thinking…
I seriously doubted I was about to experience my Best Year Ever. But I was equally convinced it probably couldn’t be worse than the preceding year.
Or could it?
I’ve now come to believe the second year of loss might actually be worse than the first. Remember how right after you had a baby or surgery, you sat up in your hospital bed and evaluated your overall pain experience? Most of us thought, ‘There now, that wasn’t so awful! I’m pretty Bad-Ass. I survived!’ You congratulated yourself with a pat on the back – reassured by your own bravery and resiliency.
Until the anesthesia wore off.
No longer numb, you panicked and started scrambling around, wincing in pain , looking for that little button on the bed-remote that has a nurse icon on it.
Likewise, the major holidays aren’t really what triggers the panic.
Quite frankly, my husband wasn’t all that stellar on the Big Days. As a young wife, I genuinely had to learn to manage my expectations. This was partly due to the fact that he was in the restaurant business. He was swamped in the weeks that led up to Christmas and exhausted by the actual day. Ditto our anniversary (one week before Christmas), New Year’s Eve, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentines Day. Same, same, same.
To be fair, some of his lackluster-ness, might also be attributed to the general stress the “important days” put on all of our relationships. There’s a lot of pressure to make them memorable.
But my husband instinctively knew his way around this problem. He made up for it on the minor days and in the little moments. The forgettable ones. The ones we take for granted.
In fact, he used to give a short speech to his young managers, whereby he acknowledged that their business wasn’t easy on marriage and family. Most of them would always work on weekends and holidays, so they better make up for it on their next day off. Make the little days count.
Like next Tuesday.
As time went on, we dubbed the iconic speech, “Any Given Tuesday.”
Now, it’s the minor days and seemingly insignificant life-moments that really get to me. I tend to be somewhat prepared for the big holidays. Typically, I am armed with scripture, inspiring quotes, and a supportive posse.
But the other day, I was in a restaurant trying to decide between the Rueben and the French Dip, I missed my hubby so much it didn’t matter what I ordered. All I could remember was him telling me, “Order your top two choices for both of us and we’ll share!”
A few weeks ago, Luke donned a cowboy hat and Emilie said, “Who are you Luke?” And he buoyantly answered, “Papa!” He didn’t mean Jimmy. He meant his other grandfather. He will never know Jimmy. And I could’ve never anticipated that level of heart-shred.
This week Luke has finally decided to call me by name. I took him to the park and installed him in a baby swing. He pointed to the swing beside him and barked out an order:
For a second I thought he wanted me to lie down in the park bark. (Which I was perfectly willing to do!) But then I realized it was his best attempt at calling me, “Lady!” Immediately I looked expectantly up to the heavens for my husband and my mom.
“Did y’all hear that?”
”Isn’t he so terribly clever?”
“Isn’t he brilliant?”
“That’s your legacy! He’s calling me by name!”
We learn so much as we muddle through life and loss. Maybe by the time we pass on we are almost complete. Perfect and wise. Maybe it takes longer for some of us than others. Maybe that’s why some die young. I’m still pondering it…
I’ll let everyone know when I’ve got it all down and ready to start a workshop.
But for now, in honor of all my lost loves, I spend my Tuesdays with Luke. Trying to make those little days count.
***texters and well-wishers: Don’t Stop sending that love!