Well, the “year of firsts” following the loss of my husband is about to come to an end.
The anniversary is next Thursday, July 13th, but it’s the night of the 12th that will haunt me forever. I remember, as if it happened yesterday, the horror of watching him writhe in pain and throw up frank blood, and knowing that this was it—there was no coming back from this active dying process. I remember the trip to the hospice house where he finally got relief from the pain, which allowed him to rest peacefully. And I remember being at his side when he reached out his hand to me and breathed his last.
I can’t believe it’s been a year already. You know, I never thought I could be strong; in fact, I used to joke that the kids would have to drop me off at the psych ward after the funeral. I was only half-kidding. But I am strong, and have stayed that way because being strong is the only choice I have. Just days before he died, Will made me promise three things: that I would stay sober, stay on my meds, and stay alive.
That has not been easy. I don’t think I’ve ever been so sorely tempted to drink as I have in this past year, and I admit that there have been times when I wished I could go to sleep and wake up in Heaven with him. I’ve also toyed with the idea of stopping meds because I’m tired of taking them and I haven’t had bipolar symptoms in quite some time. However, those thoughts are banished quickly and I move on to other things; there is no point in dwelling on it.
Yet with all the suffering, something wonderful has begun to happen: I’m remembering more and more of the good times Will and I had. Sometimes a little snippet of our past randomly wanders into my head, and I find myself laughing spontaneously at these memories. Like when the kids were little and he playfully allowed our daughters to put ribbons and bows in his hair. Or when we had the snowball fight of the century and he threw one clear over the roof of the house, which smacked my sister right on the top of the head. (She was not amused, but we certainly were!) Or the times we went to the grocery store, making jokes and laughing until people must’ve thought we were crazy.
This is not to say I’m over it, because I will NEVER get over it. I will miss Will every day for the rest of my life. And I’m frankly dreading this upcoming week. But as the year has passed and the grief has lessened somewhat, I’ve discovered some truths about myself and my place in the world—even as a widow on Social Security Disability who can’t live alone, I belong here and I have value to others. I’ve also learned that I’m not the only one who’s experienced a profound loss; my kids are still struggling with their Dad’s death, and while none of them really wants to talk about it, they know I’m available to listen and help them process it.
Still, I know I’ll feel better when I wake up in the morning next Friday, because I will have made it through this rough passage. See you on the other side of the 13th, my friends.