It’s hard to believe almost 18 months have passed since we lost the cornerstone of our family. In that time Daniel has become unrecognizable to Reed. Lucas becomes more and more like him with each passing day. Each of our sons have cried, become angry, thrown things, laughed at my stories, tried to remember and embrace their dad and asked me countless time why we cannot join him in heaven.
Communication is not one of my strengths. Never has been. I’m more of a listener and a problem solver but not much of a sharer. I drove Daniel crazy any time I withdrew when I became upset. When I held my emotions in check. When I struggled to cry in front of others. I have always been rather private and had difficulty sharing my feelings. "Why in the hell am I sharing my feelings through a blog then?" you must be wondering.
However, this process didn't begin with the intention of production of a blog. This process began with me having all of these horrendous and crazy emotions and not knowing what the hell to do with them. It began with loneliness, with thoughts of not wanting to continue in this world without Daniel. It began with wanting people to remember him. How could I do that though? How could I help myself and others through this monstrosity of pain and suffering? I joined a few widows groups. They helped some. I tried to talk with my supportive family members and friends but they all looked at me, well, like my husband had just died. They didn’t know what to do with me. Frankly, I didn't know what to with myself. So began my catharsis, my writing process.
I sat down last summer and began writing our story. How we met and fell in love. Out struggles, trials and tribulations, what made each of us “us.” When Daniel was diagnosed he talked about writing a book about kicking Mesothelioma's ass. At this point we all know that didn’t happen but what did happen was we both journaled. He vlogged (video blogged). I wrote during our chemotherapy sessions. I wrote when he was down. I wrote when I was at the end of my rope. I wrote and wrote. As the summer progressed my journaling became more.
Thanks to the support and encouragement of two amazing people, Ryan Whittington and Beth Hunt, I was able to organize my thoughts and share our story with others. The book has been a year in the making and describes our journey from diagnosis to death. It is the pre cursor to this blog.
To purchase ‘The Unexpected Widow’ visit: www.createspace.com/6219448
Money. Kids. Work. Responsibilities at home. Activities outside of the house. These are the things that started arguments in our household. We were not perfect. I know not to go to bed angry. I know not to throw stones. I know not to say things when I’m angry or worse when I’m drinking. I know that things once said cannot be taken back. I know these things but it didn't stop me from making those mistakes during our marriage.
When your life is rocked and flipped upside down you look find perspective. It's easy to wish to have done things better. You realize there may never be enough money. No one knows the exact recipe for raising successful kids. Happiness is the most important thing to get from work. You are both doing as much inside the home as you can. Both of you require breaks outside.
When Daniel and I began planning our wedding to each other our main goal was to make it personal. I wanted our guests to walk away knowing each of us a little better. Bright colors. Carolina Panther grooms cake. Lots of booze and music were necessities. Making our ceremony our own was imperative to us. We sat down with our officiant and began laying out our ceremony piece by piece. Each word spoken, each song sang, each reading was hand-picked by us together. I had known I wanted to write my own vows to Daniel, however I was unsure how he would feel about it. This was after all what a wedding was all about; what was tying us together forever. I was anxious about asking Daniel his thoughts on writing his own vows but once I broached the subject he never even hesitated.
As the days came closer and it was time to turn our vows in so-to-speak Daniel began getting worried. “Don't you think we should share them with each other? What if they don't go together? What is there isn't a flow,” he asked? All will be fine I assured him. They are for us, no one else, so it doesn’t matter if they “go” together. I wanted the surprise. I wanted to share our vows in front of our family and friends for the first time. I wasn't worried. I didn't have a clue what he had written but I knew from the first few words he had blown my vows right out of the water.
Today, I offer everything that I am to you.
I offer my past, my present, my future, my success and failure, my joy and sadness, and, most of all, my love.
I promise to honor and care for you;
to support and encourage you;
to grow and change with you;
and to always be grateful.
I promise to be compassionate;
to be faithful and honest; to listen;
and to nurture the dreams that we share together.
I vow to enjoy life with you;
to laugh and to cry with you;
and to just have fun with you.
Your beauty, kindness, courage, experience, intelligence and your independent spirit are all reasons why I am here today. I intend to walk beside you, hand-in-hand, in the journey of life, from this day forward, until the day that I die.
As I stand here today I cannot express the overwhelming feelings of happiness and excitement as I look toward our future together. I feel truly blessed to have met my soulmate, my partner, my life long best friend. I have a reading that describes our love. I want to share it with you today:
Love is friendship caught on fire; it is quiet, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection, and makes allowances for human weaknesses. Love is content with the present, hopes for the future, and does not brood over the past. It is the day-in and day-out chronicles of irritations, problems, compromises, small disappointments, big victories, and working toward common goals. If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you do not have it, no matter what else there is, it is not enough.
Our love caught fire when you came into my life. I knew I would be forever changed. You challenge me daily and help me be a better me. I promise that I will walk by your side, love and encourage you. I will listen and share with you. I will share your laughter and tears and look forward to growing old with you by my side. I love you.
As you read our vows to each other remember why you are with the person you are. Instead of noticing their flaws, celebrate them. It's ok if they leave toothpaste bombs in the sink. It’s ok if they drink milk directly from the carton. It is ok that they didn’t add the item they finished to the grocery list, making you return quicker than you anticipated. It's ok if the laundry didn't get folded for a few days. It's ok if the cabinet doors are left ajar. It is ok if the kids missed their baths or forgot their homework. No one intentionally forgot to tell you about their upcoming work function. Falling into the toilet, while gross, especially in the middle of the night, is not the end of the world.
Laugh together. Love passionately. Don't go to bed angry. Forget the stressors and simply love one another.
Happy Anniversary Daniel.
As children, especially as adolescents and young adults we strive to fit in. We strive to find our niche, our posse, that group of friends that we call our extended family. We strive for various things and attributes which describe us and place us into categories. Smart. Athletic. Funny. Musical. Faithful. Wild. Thin. Pretty. Put together. We all want to be something. This process generally leads to finding others like us. Maybe this is a lifelong process. As we get older these goals change and evolve but somehow stay similar as we strive to find our niche in society. Maybe this happens in the workplace. Possibly within our neighborhoods. Maybe you have friends from college or from your childhood. Maybe it’s a book club. A prayer group. Your child’s athletic team. Mothers and fathers. CFO’s. Chefs. Administrators. Representatives. Homemakers. Creators. Engineers. Generally this core group is derived from a set of commonalities and likeness.
Most of us learn we care a little less about fitting in as we age, because fitting in becomes less important but also because we have already carved our spots within our circles. Sometimes these circles are fluid, adding and subtracting, weaving into other circles. I have a core group of friends from my childhood, another small group from college. A group at work. All of those foundations were not built on my marriage but all of our connections included my marriage.
And then it was all ripped away. I feel like I am back in my adolescent stage of trying to find my place again. Our core group was built on being with other couples or other families through our boys’ activities. There aren't many places for widows. I don't have many single friends these days other than my newfound fellow widows. Our “couple” friends no longer know what to do with me. I don't blame them. Restaurants are set up in evens, not odds. Tickets to events are generally given or supplied in duos. Men want to talk to other men. I am no longer a double date. I have become an extra. I throw off the feng shui at your dinner table. I don't even know what to tell people. Am I married? Am I single?
When you fill out paperwork for school for your children or for new medical appointments everyone wants you to check a box. Are you married or single? I don't feel that I'm necessarily either. I am on an island. It is no ones’ fault. I'm just once again lost. I don't fit anymore. Many of our foundations with friends and acquaintances have crumbled. I struggle to make decisions that once would have be so easy and deliberate. I was sitting with someone the other night and we were making plans to get together again sometime soon. She indicated that she needed to talk to her husband before making a decision. She stated she was not single like I was. A very basic comment not meant to hurt but it did. It stung. I don't view myself as single. I guess in reality I am but it wasn’t my choice to be in this situation. You cannot fathom how desperately I yearn for Daniel to aid in my decision making. How much I’d give to have his opinion. To affirm I’m making the right choices. To tell me I’m wrong. I’d even agree to have one more argument over something petty and unimportant. I yearn for his voice, his guidance, his love to manage challenges that arise every single day.
School supply list for 4K: family photo. Easy enough right? No. It's not. I want to use one of the four of us, but our most recent photo is already 18 months old. So much growth from both boys in such a short time period but so very evident. So do I take one that is more recent? What about how taking a simple family photograph to school affects others? Does taking a photo of Daniel open Lucas up to talking to peers about his dad being in heaven? Would you want your four or five year old coming home from school and asking about heaven? You may be thinking yes because you know Daniel or I and you want to show support but truly think about explaining heaven and the death of ones parent to your young child. It opens up several questions and anxiety for many young minds. So do I not include him? No, I’m sorry I can’t do that. I'm sorry that you may have to have a conversation with your child. I want to protect my boys even more so from all injustices is in this world as much as the next mother and father. We all know that is unrealistic. There will be events put on at school, at church, through their activities that specify one parent or the other. How many of you and your children have been invited to father/ daughter dances, muffins with mom, doughnuts with dad, mornings with mom, afternoons with dad? How do the kids feel who’s homes don’t fit that mold? How about the children that don’t have either or both parents in their lives? Are we causing others unnecessary pain? Do we think about what makes a family when we schedule and plan these events? Not usually. We are so focused on ourselves and our own busy lives that we often go with the norm. We decide that the majority rules. I challenge you to ask yourself what is the norm? Aren’t our family make-ups changing? Would it be so difficult to make events more universal to include everyone?
Here I am feeling lost, searching for my place. Trying to open the eyes of others. Look outside of your own home. Recognize loss. Recognize differences. And don’t just recognize them. Change the patterns. Accept and be inclusive of all. Make a difference.
This is me. Tape this to my back. Hell, wrap me in yellow caution tape as well just so no one is confused. I am a constant work in progress; spiritually, physically, mentally. Always striving to obtain a balance between motherhood, being a single parent, being a good therapist, a believer, a contributor, a motivator, a leader, and simply being a decent person. Emotions quickly come and go and become responsible for our moods and actions towards ourselves and others. Are we responsible for our actions and moods or is it others?
I used to want to blame others; it’s easier that way, not to take responsibility for ourselves. I want to blame those around me for making me angry, guilty, jealous, happy or sad, left out and not included, inferior, but I am in charge of me. I am angry my husband is dead. I am frustrated by people whom I find selfish, rude or disrespectful. I struggle to balance the mental energy I put into my job and the kids I work with every day. I feel guilty that I do not have the energy for my own kids some nights but I have given it to others. I am saddened that my four year old asked me if I made his daddy sick. I am hurt that my two year old is confused and stated at the dinner table that his daddy doesn’t live here anymore. I am a swirling mass of emotions.
But what’s the flipside? What are the options here? The flip side is that those selfish and rude people help me assess myself and decide for myself that I will be different. I will not make others feel small. I will be accepting. I will put others first. I will make a conscious effort to be a giver and to be a motivator for others. I will be patient and treat others with gratitude and respect and see no differences in any of us, accepting everyone. I will continue to do my job every day and give myself to others because I feel good. I am not inferior. I am contributing. I will try to make this world a better place for my kids and I will provide hope and guidance to those that have none other than what I can provide.
It’s a fight to find that balance as the pendulum swings in different ways throughout your day, your week. But who is in charge? You are in charge. Sometimes we need to forgive. We need to forget. We need to be patient with others. We need to be accepting of each others flaws. We need to look at the bigger picture. By holding out and being stubborn, who are we helping? What are we proving? I create my days. I am in charge. I am a work in progress but I will persevere. I am looking out of my front window right now. I don’t see rainclouds. I see the potential for rainbows.
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.