“If you knew this was all going to happen to us would you still have married me?”
Daniel asked me this very question back in February of 2015, about a month after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and a few weeks after his first round of chemotherapy. I find myself doing a lot of reflecting these days and this question always lurks in my mind. I wish I could confidently say that I responded vehemently with “hell yes I would have,” but at the time I think I just sat there. I was in shock that he was asking me this. I was in shock that we were facing this horrid monster. A piece of me believed we were going to beat this, we were going to persevere. Another piece of me felt so defeated and beat down that I couldn’t find a response. I couldn’t find my voice.
Reflection is one of those things that takes many shapes and forms. Nights are often quiet in my home and I find myself asking why; reflecting on my day, about our boys, reflecting on our marriage, my job, my parenting, who I am as a person. When I was younger I was drawn to the quote “Everything happens for a reason.” As I’ve grown a little older, I’ve found that life cannot be found in a saying or quote. It is much more complex and messy. Hard. Delightful. Elating. Surprising. Jaw dropping. There is no "reason" behind Daniel being ripped from us when he was. Everything does NOT happen for a reason. Some things simply happen. Some things simply suck and make no logical sense whatsoever. These things are beyond our control. These things are difficult for logical thinkers like me to understand but drive me to spend copious amounts of time reflecting.
Sometimes reflecting can cause you to pick yourself or others apart. Sometimes you may not like what you see and what you examine. I could have handled this situation better. I should have been more thoughtful. I should have been more careful. I should have been more aware of others’ feelings. I believe we could all be a little more conscious and cognizant of our actions.
A speaker at Daniel’s funeral described him as patient with others and respectful of their feelings. We could all take a page from this book. Let’s try to be a little more thoughtful of others and less thoughtless. Be more honest and less dishonest. More selfless instead of selfish. Be more open minded instead and accepting of others instead of viewing them through a narrow scope. Be compassionate and courageous with others. More mindful.
When you go to bed tonight, spend a few minutes reflecting.
How was your day? Do you feel good about yourself and your actions?
To answer your question Daniel. Absoluetly. Positively. I would marry you over and over again. You’ve made me more empathetic to others, more conscious of myself and others, and you give me strength every day.
As a quick aside, thank you to everyone who has been following, reading, commenting and supporting this new journey we're on. You are carrying me through each day.
I’m sitting on the couch this evening after having tucked Lucas and Reed into bed and reflecting on our week. It has been quite a week. Summer brings sun, fun, vacations, yard work, sports, swim time, and enjoying the outdoors. Who doesn’t love the hot summer months?
I got up earlier this week and went out to mow the yard early since we were headed to the beach for a few days. I was jammin’ to my playlist through my headphones, currently on shuffle, when Elton John’s “Daniel” came on. I was smiling; the weather was perfect this morning, a mere 75 degrees. I was feeling accomplished as I knocked things off my to-do list and prepared to head out of town. I was dancing to the lyrics behind the mower, white girl rhythm in full mode, singing out loud. I looked down and looking back up at me was a snake. Now I will admit it was a small snake, most likely a baby but still a REAL LIVE brown snake. I decided just to drive over it with the lawnmower, thinking that will take care of it for me. This was the second snake that had been in my yard in the past month. The first one, I let get away. (It scared the bejesus out of me) This one I did not however want crawling over to the swing set where Lucas and Reed play every day and making a nice home in our rubber mulch. I quickly pushed the mower over it and backed it up, just to make sure. I looked down and that little sucker was still sitting there looking up at me. Now, it was lifting its head from its coil. Apparently, I pissed it off.
Just so happened that my next door neighbor was outside so I hollered at him and asked him if he was comfortable getting rid of a snake. He looked at me for second, seeming a little dumbfounded. (I'm sure he was trying to figure out if there was really a snake in the yard or just a woman exaggerating.) “Sure” he finally replied. I walked back over to the mower and the little thing was still sitting there. Lucas and Reed were beside themselves with excitement. Lucas is obsessed with alligators and snakes right now. He wanted to know if he could pet it. He wanted to know if we could keep it as a pet. Reed jumped up-and-down in his shorts and knee high blue rubber rain boots. I was not sharing their same sentiment. Our neighbor walked over with his shovel and looked at me and at the boys. He’s staring. I finally understood what he was going to do with his shovel and hurried the boys to the garage. Sayonara snake.
After the excitement died down and I told Lucas and Reed the snake had been moved to the woods I went back to start my mower and it wouldn't start. Now, I never have trouble with my mower, only the weed eater. I pull and pull and pull. Curse word, pull. Curse word, pull. Karma from the snake?? I had already filled up the gas tank before I started. I looked in the oil part and pulled up the dipstick. I decided it looked a little dry. Normal response, I decided to fill it up. (Go ahead and shake your head if you know what happens next) Possibly, you may need to wait to fill up your oil tank when your mower is no longer warm or hot? (I had already mowed about three quarters of the yard.) I put the oil in and a little smoke puffed out, with an accompanying sizzling sound. I screwed the lid back on real tight and went back at it. Pull, no response. Curse word. Pull, curse word. What the hell? I pulled one more time like I was going to yank the damn starter cord off. The mowers’ response to me? A big middle finger. The oil container lid popped off and old faithful shot out of my mower. LiteralIy, it was raining oil.
There was nothing to do but laugh. I figured letting it rest would help. I pulled some weeds and went back about thirty minutes later. Damn thing is still mad at me, and refused to start. I looked over at my weed eater sitting in the grass. Different tool, same concept. I decided to weed eat the quarter of yard I had remaining. Damn straight, that's what I did. (#resourcefulwoman)
After the mowing debacle we packed up the car and headed to the beach. It was time to kick back in a chair, put my toes in the sand and drain a cold one.
Beach Bag with food, sunscreen and beach necessities
Sand buckets x2
Sitting in the sand and draining a cold one was good in theory, however managing your two and four year alone on a beach can be difficult at best. I was outnumbered and draining a cold one was not on their list of priorities. The list above includes all the necessities I hauled from the 12th floor condo room each morning to start our day. Whew, it was a feat. And that was only the beginning. Where is my vacation to recover from my vacation?
Whether widowed, divorced, a single parent or guardian, doing anything alone is difficult. Last summer as we visited the beach we were surrounded by family but I believe I was in shock. Even though three months had passed, Daniel’s death had still not sunk in. Over a year later, I still wait some nights for him to walk back through the door.
This year we returned to the beach with a different set of folks, a mixture of family and friends. We had a wonderful time, were blessed to be invited and are grateful for the experience. Lucas, Reed and I love the sand, the water and getting away. The crazy question that keeps circling in my mind is: How in the world can you feel alone when on vacation with 11 other people? Being a Widow does that to you. The sense of loneliness that sets in just kind of stays with you, whatever you do, wherever you go. Even in a crowded room you still feel lonely.
It has nothing to do with the person or people that you're with or around. It’s a feeling that haunts you day in and day out. I have avoided several activities and social situations over the past year due to the stares, the difficulty of going alone and handling Lucas and Reed by myself. One of those activities was taking the kids out to dinner. Who wants to go to dinner alone and deal with the stares and whispers and who wants to take on the two to one ratio?
It was beyond time to tackle this demon though. Surprisingly enough we all survived and it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I anticipated. The boys were good. I kept them occupied. And yes I used electronics but only at the end after their meals were complete and coloring the menus became old. The hardest part for me is the stares from others and the judgment I feel. As the three of us sat together at the restaurant I know people were wondering why I was alone. Where was the dad, other mom or other adult? Was I divorced? Did I have two babies out of wedlock? No and no, but I can hardly stand up and yell I'm a widow in a restaurant. We dealt with that as Daniel became sicker and sicker. When he couldn’t stand up or walk long distances, people would stare. We had a man ask us in church once if his back was hurting him when he didn’t get up during song. Daniel looked at him squarely and simply said “I have cancer.” When he needed a wheelchair on our trip last winter and when we were out in the community; people stared, passing judgment. When he used an electric scooter but looked so healthy. I know what people were thinking. But they didn’t know. You never know what someone else might be battling.
The same thing happened to us while on the beach. If Lucas wanted to go in the ocean and Reed didn’t and I was by myself I left him under the umbrella. Was it ideal? Absolutely not. I stayed where I could see both of them, but I was not right there. I could not be in two places at once. Several people often stopped and stared at one or the other of them trying to figure the situation out, seeking their parents. If I could have painted on my umbrella “Husband and dad died at age 33, mother doing best she can,” I would have.
We are so quick to make judgments of others. We are so quick to place blame on others and point fingers. I understand I wasn’t the best parent on the beach this past week. I got up every day and did the best damn job I could manage. Some days that looked a little better than others. Think before you are so quick to judge others. They are probably doing the best job they can too.
Meet the Author (me)
Driven by a need to help others. I have known from a young age that this is what I wanted to do. This is my very real, somewhat sarcastic, look into my newfound widowhood. I hope this site will help you as much as it helps me.