A Moment of Reflection

Time

As I watch my friends and fellow bloggers reflect upon the end of the year, I have a sense of joy for all that is happening to others around me. There is a feature that keeps rolling across my Faceb.ook timeline called “Year in Review”.  Seeing the year that my friends and family have had, makes me smile at their successes and achievements, while continuing to wish them well on the not so great moments.

For me, the year was defined by my husband’s death. Maybe in years to come 2012 will have an abundance of layered memories. But at this moment, the singular, overarching thought is simply that in 2012 my husband died.  Oh there’s more of course. As a ripple to his death, my heart experienced blackness I didn’t know existed, my mind was pushed near the point of madness and my life changed course in the most unexpected of ways.

So, it is with bittersweet apprehension that I peek at 2013.  I can already sense the great relief at seeing a different year in “print”, while acknowledging that 2012 represents a time when my husband was alive and with us. I spotted the quotation above and it struck a chord.  We thought we had more time. Who’s to say how much more time, but we didn’t see his time here on earth ending in June.  2013 starts anew without him.  There will never be another calendar year in which he is present.  There isn’t a day that I don’t think of him at least a dozen times. But he isn’t here.  And I am.  I continue to push forward in fits and starts. Some days I experience bursts of laughter so true and authentic that I feel guilt, even as my face cracks a smile. Other days I feel waves of despair so deep and dark that I think this will be the one to push me over the edge and I struggle to hold it together.

But held it together is what I’ve done. Yup, I’ve done it for 6.5 months.  Not with a flourish or exclamation point.  No, rather with a battered dingy, full of holes and a roll of super sticky duct tape that keeps getting tangled in my hands.  I can’t stop thanking God for this special duct tape though.  My duct tape is made up of tears, deep breaths, long periods of silence, held breath, collective prayer, family, friends and tons of wine.

We have survived my 36th birthday, my 8th wedding anniversary, my husband’s 37th birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Oh what an emotional ride this holiday season has been.  Tonight, NYE marks a “holiday” full of traditions that we built over the years, but that he and I won’t ever share again.

My prayer for 2013 is that I remain gentle with myself as I certainly know there is no “end” to what I’m experiencing while trying to be as in the moment as I can with our son, Little TDJ.   May peace and blessings be upon all of you and your loved ones, today and in the year to come.

Signature

Advertisements

The Passing of the 9’s

Funny how things take on a clarity that’s not apparent until you are in the midst of the situation.  I gave myself way too much credit and I was overconfident about my ability to control my emotions.  I made a conscious decision that I would not mourn the anniversary of my husband’s death.  Nope, WOULD NOT DO IT.  I told myself that it was foolish.  Although June 9 changed everything, I didn’t want that date to paralyze me for eternity.  Yeah, go ahead and shake your heads.  “Denial” is more than just a long azz river in Egypt, right?  Somehow I thought that I could actually control the dates upon which I felt the most pain.  Riiiiiiiiiiiight. I was even so bold as to tell my therapist that I wasn’t counting the days since MrTDJ passed away.  I’m a liar.  A naïve, well-intentioned liar, but still a liar.  Little did I know that I’d have not the teensiest bit of control and would be at the mercy of my calendar.   I have not taken an actual calendar and marked off the days since his death, but my mental calendar is clicking and ticking.

I keep a personal journal and thank goodness it is the only witness to the daily arc of my thoughts.  It’s clear to me now that I was altered and unable to honestly acknowledge that there was a connection between my waves and the 9th day of each month.  I awoke this morning at 1:41 and was compelled to pull out my journal.   Hmm, me thinks maybe there is a pattern.  On July 9, I had a dental appointment for a crown repair.  Ugh, bad day, no wonder I was in such a terrible mood.  Riiiiiiiiight.  August 9 found me calling into work because I’d barely slept two hours in the three previous nights.  I cancelled plans with friends at the last minute on Sunday, September 9 because I just didn’t have the energy.  Although October 9 came on the heels of Columbus Day and a three-day weekend, I simply couldn’t get it together to do or say much to anyone.  And now, it’s 3:23 am on November 9 and I can’t stop crying.  The 9th of each month has done just what I unrealistically denied it could do – slam me against a brick wall and send me spiraling down the rabbit hole.

I know not how to change the course.  It’s as if I build myself up from the 10th of the month and then subconsciously, my defenses weaken around the 7th of the following month and by the 9th, I’m drowning again.  I think of my husband hundreds of times each day and the good memories have not yet tempered the stinging ache of having lost him.  That’s not to say that I don’t smile and laugh, because I do.  Undoubtedly as the 9th approaches, my efforts to sustain a sense of normalcy seem to be in vain.  At some point today, I know that I will drift off in the middle of a conversation, stop watching during the middle of a television show or completely check out during a meeting at work.  During that time, I will relive, with laser like precision and accuracy, the last 2 hours of my husband’s life.  Those 120 minutes run through my mind in about 7 or 8 minutes.  The moments play like snapshots in a photo montage and then there is a pause.  The pause makes way for our last, laughter filled conversation as we awaited the arrival of the paramedics.  Snapshots again.  Then another pause for MrTDJ’s last interaction with LittleTDJ.  And then the FEELING.

I’ve never blogged in detail about the events of that morning and I doubt I ever will.  I’ve journaled them and talked to my therapist and inner circle about them.  What I will share is the FEELING that I experienced.  I was standing on the front porch of our home when my husband made his transition.  At that very moment, I KNEW.  Minutes before a paramedic came to update me on his status, I KNEW.  Well before we traveled to the hospital and he was officially pronounced, I KNEW.  We’d shared a heart for 2 decades and gone through too much for me NOT to know.  I FELT his spirit pass through my body followed by the gentlest of breezes blowing across my cheeks.  I KNEW because I FELT the essence of him hug me tightly, and then release me.  I was absorbed in the stillness as I FELT him float to the heavens above me.  The tears didn’t come until much later.  Dare I say that the moment was both heart wrenching yet peaceful.  It’s hard for me to express in words.  When I think of it, a line from the Sarah McLachan song, Angel, passes through my mind.  “In the arms of the angels, fly away from here”.

I feel him all the time, but on the 9th, everything deepens.  The 9th marks another month that I’ve had to survive here without him.  Maybe someday, the 9th won’t send me straight into darkness without passing go.  Tonight, I’ve got plans with friends and I’m trying to prep myself to hold it together.  I know how I’d like today to go, but the universe has offered me no assurances.   Five months into my new normal and it still seems like I’m living somewhere in the Land of Oz.  And even the Land of Oz would be ok if MrTDJ could get here.

The Intersection of Grace and Grief

During a business meeting today in regards to my husband’s recent death, I was stunned by the comment that a stranger directed at me.  Through eyes glistening with tears, she said, “My heart aches for you and I’m so moved by your grace during this difficult time.  It’s obvious that you are sad and grieving, but your composure is amazing.”  Hmmm.  I’ve heard a variation of this a few times over the last 26 days from family and friends, but hearing it from a stranger gave me pause.  I can hear my husband’s voice in my ear, as if he were still lying beside me in our bed.  “Girl, you’re one of the strongest people I’ve ever known.  You don’t see it, but everybody else does.”  Ironically, one of MrTDJ’s favorite Whitney Houston songs was, “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength”.  That’s one of the songs that has been on repeat over the last couple of weeks.

I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster that seems surreal and dizzying most days, but I suppose my internal struggles aren’t visible to the world.  I feel as if my heart has been shattered into a trillion pieces and there’s no such repair kit available.  I’ve always heard the term that everyone grieves differently, and now I actually understand what that means.  As the minutes, hours, days and weeks begin to pass, the loss of my life partner has actually gotten harder.  Since I’m an event planner by trade, my brain outvoted my heart and I put on my business hat to make it through the moments and days right after his death.  I’ve not really allowed my deepest emotions to show because it’s been easier to focus on the “to do” actions.

Our love was strong, flaws and all.  There are moments when I simply crave the perfect imperfections of my life prior to June 9.  Allow me a few minutes to talk about my dear MrTDJ.  Often in death, the deceased is unintentionally canonized into a model of perfection.  Um, no.  Not gonna happen here.  No one walking this earth lives as such and I don’t seek any such illusions for my husband.   My statement isn’t meant to color him in a negative light, rather to say that he was as imperfect a creature as any of us.

When he and I met, we were both young and new to love however we knew from the beginning that we’d found something special in one another.  Folks around us weren’t quite as certain because we appeared to be polar opposites, but we naively and innocently dug our heels in pushed forward.  From 1992 to the morning that my husband passed away, humor united our hearts.  Laughter stayed at the core of our relationship, through all the highs and lows that a twenty year relationship can traverse.  Thinking back, I can’t help but smile at the memory of teaching MrTDJ to tie a necktie, and in return, he taught me to shoot dice.  LOL!  See what I mean?  We were so different, yet alike in the areas that mattered.

I am so happy to have shared the milestones of my youth and adulthood with my husband.   I am blessed with a son who looks just like his father.  Looking into my son’s face, I am transported back to the hallways of T.C. Williams High School and the first time that I laid eyes on my husband.  There are moments when the similarities between the two are a little too much for my fragile heart, but I am hoping that one day those things will bring me nothing but joy.   As a testament to the strength that he believed I possessed and with the support of my family, friends, neighbors, listserve and facebook friends, and this amazing blog community, I am holding it together minute by minute.  I’m wearing clean clothes, keeping my pedicure fresh and not crying in line at Sam’s club.  Being told that I look composed, graceful and calm is a good thing, I suppose.  But please don’t let the glowing skin that’s due to consuming more water than food in the last month fool you into thinking that I’m ok.  My wounds are deep and raw.

Monday, July 2 was my 36th birthday and I was without MrTDJ for the first time since 1992.  He and I celebrated my 16th birthday with Good Humor bars from his neighborhood ice cream truck, and he gave me a shiny new “Virginia is for Lovers” key chain as a gift.  I wanted to write a little something for a few days, but Monday took me to a low place and I wasn’t yet ready.  Today I felt compelled to write.  I debated if I wanted to write in my journal, or share things on the blog.  Words have always brought me peace and comfort, so I decided that a blog entry might be a baby step toward my healing.  MrTDJ was my biggest fan and always encouraged me to write something every day, whether I shared it with no one, him or the world.  He even mailed me an actual “fan” letter once.  That dude.  ***deep sigh***

My husband was known for his loving heart, his quick wit and certainly his smile.  Do a little something for me, would ya?  Please share a laugh and a smile with someone today.  Tell someone you haven’t talked to in forever how much you miss and love them.  And, if you wouldn’t mind, please continue sending all the positive energy and prayers.