My left eye started itching last night, like something was stuck in it but I couldn’t get it out. This morning when I woke up it was red and nasty. Great. Pinkeye. I thought only 2nd graders and heathens got that. Fortunately, #4 has been enough of a heathen that I had a largish bottle of antibiotic drops (because he went through a spell for a couple of years where he had it a LOT, and the doctor got tired of seeing him so prescribed a liter of the stuff…ok I exaggerate but it was a big bottle. And it hasn’t expired yet.) so instead of going to church I stayed home and dosed myself every couple of hours with it. And did some sewing, which always puts me in a reflective mood.
So, it’s been 19 months since Himself died, and I still see the last day in my head every day. Him laying in the hospital bed, motionless and plugged into every sort of machine, all those tubes and nurses hovering. I see him after the all the machines were turned off and tubes removed, motionless and still warm, and so pale. I hate that that is is my last memory of him. It makes me wish he’d died in a massive explosion so there was nothing left, and my last memory could be of him leaving that morning, lunch box in hand and the usual “I love you!” traded. Way back 30 years ago, when we got married, we decided that, no matter what, the last thing we would say to each other when one of us was going somewhere was “I love you!” because it was important that this was the last thing we would say in case something happened.
A couple of days after the funeral it occurred to me that I couldn’t remember if I’d said it that morning when he left for work, and I kind of flipped out (I was pretty busy flipping out over a lot of things just then). #4 reassured me that he remembered clearly us saying that to each other. I guess we’d been doing it for 30 years and it was such a habit I couldn’t remember doing it, but I’m thankful that I did.
As much as it hurts to remember all that, I am thankful that I do. I hope I never get to the point where I don’t think of him and remember every part of our lives together. As much as it hurts to go through photographs or look at the pieces of furniture he built just for me (My entire sewing room, every piece right down to the box that holds all the buttons), I cherish every piece, every memory that is attached, and feel like he is still here in a way. It’s comforting, and sometimes I need that.
You see, Widowhood isn’t something you get over, it’s a Change, like…I don’t know…Puberty. Once you’ve gone through puberty, you are permanently changed and won’t ever go back to what you were before. When you’ve spent a long time (or even a short time, I don’t think there’s a certain point that makes one person’s widowhood more widow-y than someone else’s) with a person, experienced so MUCH life with them, whether it’s kids and moving or arguments and hurts, they’re so under your skin that they are a part of you, and when they’re gone, it’s an amputation of sorts, and that part can’t be replaced.
It can, however, heal. There are scars, to be sure. Any trauma this severe will leave them. I’m not even there yet. I’m still bleeding, though not nearly as much as even 6 months ago. For the most part I can talk about him and remember the times we had (good and bad) with love and warmth, but stuff still sets me off- like being in a room full of furniture he built, just for me, or looking at photographs. I think it’s fine to do that. Our culture tells us to avoid pain and Unpleasantness. Hurting people are given pats on the back and told it will be ok, or distracted away from the pain, or somehow told Pain is Bad. But the truth is, Pain is a part of life and not meant to be ignored. It’s part of growing.
But, pain also means there was 30 years of joy and struggles and love and perseverance. It was so worth it.
It still gobsmacks me, to realize I am a Widow. Sometimes I can think it, and shrug, saying “well, it’s where I’m at now.” and other times I think “What?! NO! RIDICULOUS!” I generally feel like I’ve accepted it, but occasionally…not really.
So, when I get all philosophical (like right now), I thank God for taking ahold of Himself and carrying him to a wonderful place where he can be free of frustration, and for providing me with the strength and encouragement to plow through this new territory called Widowhood. I’m grateful for the women who’ve been here longer than I have, because they can be so encouraging.
I have a whole different future ahead. Because I am a compulsive planner, I *think* I know what it holds, but if the last 18 months has taught me anything, it’s that plans can change dramatically in the blink of an eye, so while the plans are there, they are somewhat fluid. A house is being built, plans are being made to move, stuff is being learned, #4 is working on his plans for the future, as are the other sons. It’s all the stuff of optimism, even in the face of loss and sorrow, and it’s ok. Because that’s what life is made of.