Monthly Archives: July 2014

Learn To Live Without

On this quiet Saturday evening as I wait for the coffee pot to descale and Julia has finally drifted off to sleep in my bed I find that I’m pensive. And that my weekend nights are very unexciting these days. I’ve been marinating on writing something for a few days but honestly as I began to put words to my thoughts I found it too exhausting so the computer was set aside, the silver lid firmly shut with a decisive click. But tonight I’m ready to talk.

A few months ago a friend sent me this video:

In many ways I have not stopped hearing this song in my mind since it was sent to me because it seems to echo the thoughts that I have in my mind, the aches in my heart. I’m not sure if idina Menzel is singing of her characters divorce or a death she encounters in the musical from which it originates, If/Then but to me it is the song of my heart and where my mind goes in the quiet evenings when Julia has at last fallen asleep, her lips in a determined line and our home is still. I turn on Netflix and watch episodes of Arrested Development or House of Cards episodes that I watch, but not fully. Dialogue that I tune in and out of because I cannot fully think; I cannot fully commit to anything. I’m restless and find myself flitting from task to task with little determination or motivation propelling me forward toward completion. I find satisfaction in a job well done and seeing all the dishes put away; the scarf finally knitted; the last page of a book read and its cover closed. But I lose steam midway through and the quiet of the house overcomes me like an unwelcome shadow. Too heavy and still are the hours and minutes between nightfall and when I can close my eyes to sleep. 

But back to Idina and her haunting lyrics that play on a loop in my mental soundtrack. I’m struck by what I’ve learned since losing Wesley–16 months that seem a lifetime long and the feeling of living without what I thought was a certainty. To know what you are missing as a fulfilled prophecy of Tennyson’s words of loving and loss is harrowing and makes the time I spent with Wesley bittersweet because of the time I now spend alone. I feel gratitude, unending thanks for the time and life I had with Wesley but it is a life that is now lived in many ways without; I’ve learned to cope and to just close my eyes; breathe and move but that is not like the living I did before. Before I knew the loss of love and how to hold myself together with shaking hands I had a life that was unfolding and felt solid and sure, now the uncertainty permeates my waking moments. So I think on what I’ve learned. 

I’ve learned to cry without sound, to mask shuddering shoulders and ragged breath. I’ve learned that the garbage man comes early on Monday mornings and the garbage cans are heavy and cumbersome. I’ve learned that the mac and cheese must still be made even when I just want to pull the covers over my head because Julia needs dinner and normalcy. I’ve learned that I’m terrible at accepting help preferring to just brave on to keep the facade of holding it all together intact; I’ve learned that looking at baby clothes is painful because it reminds me of the children I’ll not have but the children borne by friends and family bring incalculable joy. I learn to speak so calmly when my heart would like to scream and shout. I learn to live without. 

I’ve learned the beauty of empathy. I’ve learned that Julia has sensitivity that floors me to be a part of and bear witness to. I’ve learned to count the blessings ceaselessly to drown out the petty plaintive cry of “Why me?” I’ve learned that my sorrow can have purpose and the feeling of helping others makes my own sadness easier to bear. I’ve learned that when I tell Julia that I’m crying because “I miss Daddy” it does not begin to encompass my loss but she usually dashes away to bring me the panda bear that belonged to Wesley as a child before I can explain any further. I’ve learned that the passage of time is at times hard to witness, the gulf growing wider between my life with Wesley and my life without. 

A friend told me years ago that there are times in your life when you will be the best of yourself and have it all together and other times when you will put one foot in front of another and the act of walking forward, feet heavy and burden laden, takes in entirety the effort you can muster. I have pondered that advice because I feel that I’m in the time of my life of slow plodding motion. I try to remind myself that it is facile to think my life could be different if I just tried to put it out of my mind or hardened my heart. That with enough effort I could again be who I was 16 months ago, but I’m not. In many ways that woman seems frivolous and self-absorbed to me now. She cannot be recreated because the clay from which she was made is not the same consistency. It is harder, more dense and unrecognizable through my new eyes. It cannot be shaped again in the same way. And I’m grateful because I’ve grown strong, I have no other choice. I’m without another option. 

But I’m committed to honesty and sensitivity as I strive to find a life for Julia and myself. To find a way to breathe and smile and find the joy in the loss and absence. I learn to live without–but not alone. 

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Happy Birthday Darling

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Today marks a year since I went public with this little blog to commemorate Wesley’s birthday. I had a guest blog post that was posted on life as a widower and I announced my own blog creation as an outpouring of my own grief journey.

I decided I wanted to be with Wesley’s parents in the house he grew up in on what would have been his 39th birthday. This journey and being in these 4 walls with Julia, but without Wesley, is terribly painful but makes me feel close to Wesley. Last year I celebrated Wesley’s birthday in Detroit with a visit to the zoo, dinner at an amazing Italian restaurant and a day that was just as he would have wanted to be a part. I very deliberately wanted to be with Wesley’s parents because this is where he came from and to have another day that he would have enjoyed.

My heart hurts to be here without him. I can almost see him sitting on the couch and my ears strain to hear him teasing and laughing with his siblings; hugging his mom in the kitchen and the way he said “Mama” to her. To not say to him as I head to bed with Julia, “No stay up with your Dad and play World of Warcraft…I want you to visit with them.” To not feel him slip into bed long after I had drifted off knowing he had a meaningful time talking with his father and brother after the house was hushed of children playing leaves me feeling alone and my world too softly hushed.

I imagine him in every room, every fiber of this house as this was his home. The walls that contained his years of laughter and learning to walk, his sibling squabbles as Wesley’s two sisters and brother grew together from toddlers to children to young men and women, the place where he brought a nervous 22 year old girl from Florida who he already knew was the woman who would someday be his wife. The warmth of family and place a constant landing place of security and love. I feel him here and look for him in ever nook of the house that has pictures of him, frozen in time preserved in frames of silver and gold.

Today’s birthday celebration is filled with Chic fil a for breakfast, a favorite of Wesley and Julia’s and the place where they often snuck off to on Saturday mornings letting me sleep; Busch Gardens where I can see Wesley delighting in Julia’s face as she rides carousels and holds hands excitedly with his mother and father. But the most poignant moment is one that came from Julia’s planning.

About a month ago I asked Julia what she wanted to do for Daddy’s birthday. Her reply, sure and immediate was that she wanted to draw pictures to send to Daddy in Heaven in balloons. She imagined a great celestial Post Office where those heavenly inhabitants can receive their packages from loved ones still tethered to Earth. Julia knows Daddy will recognize our balloons because they are pink and purple, her favorite colors, and can show the pictures to God and Jesus that she lovingly colored of our little family. Daddy and Mommy in one balloon, Julia in another. As we were eating our breakfast of Chicken minis and egg biscuits Julia disappeared upstairs. She returned with two little pieces of white paper, colored red with hearts for my in-laws to put in their balloons because she did not want them to feel excluded. She wanted them to feel a part of her ritual of remembrance. As we released the balloons into the blue sky, willing them to miss getting caught in power lines and tree branches we saw the colors of purple, pink, yellow and orange rise out of sight until they were specks that we could no longer see.

To find joy where there is absence, hope where there is loss is a constant struggle for me. But to see the balloons floating weightless save for the small messages of love inside untethered by worldly sadness is beautiful and my heart for a moment feels light.

Happy Birthday my darling Wesley.

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