Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How Can I Be Merry?

This is the fourth Christmas I have spent without Phil. I find that fact almost incomprehensible. Where has the time gone? How do I begin to count the things that have happened in my life since his death? The kids have grown several inches, our families have grown and changed, our house is different in many ways, and I put up the Christmas lights in record time (I am getting good at it!)...and all of these things are bittersweet. Life has changed in a variety of ways, and yet Phil is still dead. He gets the updates about our lives via my heart-to-heart chats with him, but there are now other people who get the updates, too. There are many parts of Christmas that remind me of him, of us, of a life that is no longer...sometimes the memories make me laugh, and other times they make me cry. And there are still days when I shake my head in wonder that Phil is not coming through the front door any minute.

So how can I be merry? How do I savor a life that Phil isn't sharing? When do the memories cease being haunting? I can only answer for myself...and what I have found is that knowing that Phil is forever in my heart gives me the comfort I need to have a different life. Things aren't what they once were. I am no longer naive to the concepts of death, grief, devastation, and despair. But meeting these dark companions has changed my life. When I discovered how dark life can be, I instinctively reached out for the light. As I walked through the valley of fear and uncertainty, I searched for a path towards hope. And when I experienced the absolute truth that life is actually short, my own life became more valuable as a result. My new motto is live. Live for today, because this moment is all we have.

How then to be merry? Accept that healing takes time. Know that happiness is eventually, and always, a choice. Hold tight to the love you have for your spouse, but don't let that hold become so tight that it strangles the living you. Value the opportunity to change someone's life, in ways large or small. And as a good friend once said to me, rest in the riddle.

Wishing all of you the chance to be merry....even if only for the briefest of moments.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Question Number Sixteen

Did you feel his presence in any specific way?

I have to admit that in the early months after Phil's death I ran from place to place (literally and figuratively) hoping to find a definitive sign that he was still with me. Is he in our room? Maybe in his garage amongst the tools? Could he be in the car? Near his bikes? Somewhere in the backyard? Insert in your mind here a vision of me looking under the bed, picking up each and every tool on the shop bench, sitting in his seat in his truck, straddling his bike though my legs were too short, and wandering aimlessly in our backyard...all in search of proof that Phil wasn't really gone. Over the last few years I have heard many stories of people who have felt their loved ones in their presence. They have no doubt that this experience is real, and derive great comfort from being with their lost spouse for just the briefest of moments, but Phil and I haven't been in the same room, for certain, since he died.

I have often wondered if the reason I don't feel him around me has something to do with my belief in the possibility that this could actually happen. Over the past three years I have looked for him in every imaginable spot, and even ordered him to appear when all else failed. I have spent a good amount of time fervently wishing, hoping, praying, or begging that I could find Phil in a particular spot, any place would do. Eventually I realized that if this were possible for me, I would never do anything but sit in that sacred location, and be with him. He knows me well, and I think he knows the truth: I couldn't handle being able to 'visit' him. Each visit would need to be a bit longer, every opportunity to run to him at any sign of trouble would be taken, and over time life would pass me by as I hid my face in his silent presence.

Some spouses are blessed with the certainty of their loved ones presence, some are left to wonder where they have gone; but I believe that love is the place all of us will most certainly find our heart's desire. Our loved ones live best in the hearts of those of us who loved them and lost them...each person who knew Phil holds a little piece of him in their hearts, and it is in our shared memories that I find him--without fail.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Another Widow's Voice

One of the blessings of the work I do is the opportunity to share stories with widows from all over the world. Our sister widows are some of the most generous, courageous, inspiring people I have ever met. You all continue to humble me with your trust, and I am touched by your willingness to share your personal journey of grief with myself, and your sister widows.

Today I received this wonderful antidote from my friend Kathy who lives in Seattle, Washington. Kathy lost her husband of 28 years, Steve, in September of 2006. Through the fires of grief and the devastating pain of loss, her long held dream of becoming an elementary school teacher has emerged as the precious metal that the flames left behind. I am thrilled to report that she is going to school full-time, and heading confidently towards her dream of teaching young people. Here is the message she sent me today, I smiled as I read her words, and thought you might, too......

Good Morning Michele,

When VHS movies first came out, Steve had a poor copy of Neil Diamond's The Jazz Singer. He loved that movie and the girls grew up watching it. They have searched for it, but have never been able to find it. Today, while I was doing Christmas shopping at Target, I looked up and there on the shelf was the 25Th anniversary copy on DVD of The Jazz Singer.....two copies left. It was like he was saying, "here's my Christmas gift for them." Oh, I love it when those special moments happen.

Hope your holiday preparations are happy and your home full of love.

Merry Christmas!!


“Face your deficiencies and acknowledge them; but do not let them master you. Let them teach you patience, sweetness, insight .When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.” - Helen Keller