It was August, 2016 and I had been a widow for 21 months.
He was everywhere. Some memories brought me tears. And sometimes I felt awkward about it. Like in year “1,” I was back in the mode of not wanting to cry, and not wanting others to see me cry. But I couldn’t hide it. He was still everywhere.
- One day I put back Roger’s Dad’s wooden level in the garage. Right next to it I saw the sign he had posted for me a long time ago when I was away on a trip. It said, “I Miss You.” I gently replaced the level, knowing that Roger loved his dad so much and that level was a connection to him. I stroked the “I Miss You” sign, and I cried. Oh how I missed HIM!
- Lisa slept in the queen bed with me when she visited, and I had to deflate her side of the Select Comfort bed. That’s what Roger would always do for himself. He liked a soft mattress. I always told him that it made me feel like I was sinking into the valley of despair if I rolled on his side!
- I looked at the remodeled bathroom. He wanted it so he could get around after his knee replacement. It was good then. And it was good while he had his brain tumor.
- I opened the drawer that housed his screw drivers and pliers. I thought about how he used them with those talented hands that could fix just about anything.
- I saw couples together and I remembered Roger and me–a couple. I was happy for them, but it pained me.
- I heard a congregational song at church and thought, “That’s not how Roger would lead it.” He had his own style.
- I turned my T-shirt right-side-out when I took it off to put in the laundry basket. Then I would flash back to all the times he just took his T-shirt off and threw it in the basket–inside out! (It may have annoyed me early in my marriage, but I grew to love that trait and didn’t complain about fixing it!)
- I drove home from church on Wednesday night past Casey’s and remembered stopping there to get a couple of slices of pizza. If we were “low-carbing,” we would eat just the toppings!
- I made chicken salad and looked for Roger to chop the pickles for it.
- I stood behind a guy in line at Circle K. I looked down at his feet and saw that his legs had hair, but his ankles didn’t. It was just like how Roger shaved his ankles so he could tape them before running.
- I looked at the clock one morning. 4:40. I thought of Roger and the records he set in the 440 in high school.
As those memories connected in my mind, they became a comfort–a comfort because I still remembered. You couldn’t erase 43 years with a death. The connections lived on.
Good friend Kari was always cooking up something for me. She is one of the people who let my kids tolerate me living alone. Kari checked on me, made sure I had enough to eat, entertained me, and surprised me.
One afternoon in August she came close to blindfolding me.
Earlier that week she had said that she wanted to take me somewhere, but it was a surprise. She even picked out what I was to wear.
She threatened a blindfold, but relented when I promised I would keep my head down and eyes closed as she and Kadence wound around town. Imagine what I looked like, climbing down from her truck, eyes closed, stumbling as I held Kadence’s hand as I entered the church’s fellowship hall, hearing many friends yell, “Happy Birthday!”
It was only after I got back home that I realized how much it meant to me to be with friends on my second birthday without Roger.
And my kids sent me great gifts.
A good birthday made me feel like I was finally making progress with life.
AN IMPENDING DEATH
Good friend Gary’s brother was near death. Years of smoking took a toll on his body. Cancer invaded Tom’s lungs, and once he was diagnosed, he didn’t have very long on the earth.
We all loved Tom. He was sort of a free spirit, independent, easy-going guy. His death journey was made a little easier for us because two years before Gary had led him to the Lord.
One Sunday afternoon, Della, Mike and I visited Tom in ICU and sat with the family in the waiting room.
As you can imagine, many memories flooded my mind. And I made comparisons.
- Unless there was a miracle, Tom was going to die soon. Just like Roger.
- Tom was dying, and we sat in the ICU waiting room laughing. Just like Roger. Only we were at home. Laughter was a good and healthy part of life–and death.
- Tom was coherent; he just couldn’t talk because of the breathing tube. Roger was not coherent; and he still couldn’t talk. Not because of tubes, but because he had a non-functioning brain.
- Tom was in a hospital bed. Just like Roger.
I won’t forget a statement Gary made to people who were already grieving for Tom. “There’s a lot worse things than death.” How true.
A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
For years Roger had tried to teach me how men were wired differently from women. But I had a hard time understanding that men were always looking around, always checking things out, always scoping their surroundings.
Me? I was always pretty much oblivious of what was going on. Maybe it was because my mother taught me that everyone was watching me. She would say, “Be careful what you do. Everyone is watching you.” So I didn’t care about looking at others. I tried to act right and speak appropriately–even though I never was entirely successful at it.
But 21 months after Roger had died, part of me had become a man. Not the way you are thinking. But in the way I saw things. My antennae were up, getting signals that couples were around. Old. Young. Middle aged. Other times I sensed that men were near. Good looking. My age. I found myself checking to see if they had wedding rings on, wondering where they were in life. But I refrained from making eye contact. That was just something I couldn’t do. It made me feel like the aggressor, and I had always been the one who was pursued. Part of me now wanted to be chased.
OBSERVATION: When little things accumulate, they can become a big thing.
OBSERVATION: You are not alone in your grief. Others are dealing with death, too.
HELPFUL HINT: Hang on to those “little things;” Eventually they won’t be painful.
HELPFUL HINT: Laugh. Laugh again. Celebrate. Savor the day. You are creating new “little things” that will become happy memories.