Fast Forward

pond in autumn.  woman wearing red coat siting on a benchAfter I heard the words your husband is dead I sobbed for a brief moment.  Then my thoughts went to my children.  How was I going to tell them that their father was dead?  It brought instant pain to my heart.  For the first time in life, I knew how someone could die from a broken heart.  The emotional pain consumed my body.  The anticipation of what I might feel next was overwhelming. 

You might think that during those first few weeks you experience the worst emotional struggle in your life.  Sad to say you haven’t even started…

I know that is not very uplifting, but honesty might get you through the next few moments of your journey.  

You begin to feel numb.  Your tears subside a little and you wonder why.  Is it normal not to cry now every time you hear his or her name?  Yes, it can be.  

Then there is a time when you want to hit the fast forward button to spare yourself from feeling any more.  I would meet other widows who were much farther in their journey than mine, and I would be jealous.  I could not even wrap my mind around how they were capable of functioning.  

I wanted to push fast forward and be in their shoes.  I wanted to laugh without guilt, to look at my children without tears and to face the world without fear.  What I discovered was that they too had walked this journey and that is why they were capable now.  

What made me realize this was meeting others who had lost their loved ones many years ago and hit the fast forward button.  They were still walking in my shoes. They did not let grief take over.  It frightened them so much that they couldn’t.  It depleted them, and they did not let go.  When I was in the room with them I could feel the heartache that was there. The grief absorbed into me.  I got up from my chair, ran out of the room and kept running.  I found a peaceful place near a pond and sat on a bench.  I sobbed.  It felt like I was sobbing for all of them.  I was releasing all of the pain and anger that had devoured them. 

Sitting alone listening to my own sobs provided me with an understanding.  I needed to choose which path I would take.  Would I hit fast forward or face what scared me?  I chose to face what scared me, and in those moments by the pond I began to hear the whispers of my crazy courage.  

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon

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My Forever

Mike and Samantha kissing on their wedding day.  Flowers in background

On our wedding day.

Mike and I were married in Las Vegas.  We joked about it and thought it was pretty cool to be married in the Garden of Love.

There were so many people that walked down the aisle before us, but when I turned the corner our eyes met.  It was as if this was our place where our intimate bond would be the first and last to have united in marriage in this room.  It did not matter where we got married, what mattered were the words we shared with each other in our vows.

When I said “I, Samantha, take you, Mike, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part,” it never once crossed my mind that death would part us before we both were retired, with grey hair, barely able to see and walk with great-grandchildren running around.

Hearing his shaky voice with tears welling up in his eyes as he said, “I, Mike, take you, Samantha, to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part” I never thought that he would ever leave me behind.

I took our vows to mean forever, that there would be no end to our time together.  That we would die together in a bed, lying next to one another with my head on his chest holding hands.  That our family would cry, not that they would be sad we were gone, because the end of our life story ended the way we did everything else in our lives…together.

On September 2nd 2010, my sense of forever changed.  The part of our marriage vows “until death do us part” happened.   A woman’s bad decision changed my concept of forever.

I thought our vows would last until the end of my time, not Mike’s.   Just thinking about this and writing it down makes my eyes well up with tears and here comes the tightness in my throat.  Why did my forever have to change?  It was unfair that I had Mike taken from me and my children. I realized that I am not in control of everything and what I did with that was important.

After I watched my husband’s casket being carried away, I knew my forever ended.  I needed to redefine what my forever meant.  To me it was about love.  I can carry love…that love with me forever.  I can hold onto the look in his eyes on our wedding day and the days that followed.  Love is something you cannot touch, but you can feel.

It was no longer about rolling over in bed and watching his hair turn even grayer.  Yes, at 32 he had several grey hairs.  It would no longer be the intimate moments, making coffee before he left for work, talking on the patio about our future and laughing when we imagined our children growing older.   It was about the love we had for each other, our children and the memories we shared.

Forever is the desire that I have in my heart to write this blog, my book; to educate people about trauma, about loss and what it feels like to have your marriage ended without having a choice.  It’s telling my children when they do something just like their father.  It’s fulfilling the promises I made to Mike when he was alive.  It is about letting go of my anger, forgiving him for dying and remembering our life together.  He still holds a corner of my heart, but has a different place in my life now.

My forever is about facing my new life with courage and living again.