It’s been seven years since my husband died on this date. It was a Thursday in 2013, and after a lingering breakfast during which we had one of the best talks we’d had in some time, he left to do his volunteer stint at the Winnsboro Center For the Arts. There, he had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital after friends found him.
Even after all these years, some details are still clear in my mind. What I was doing when my friend called to tell me that Carl was at the hospital. What I said to her. Calling a neighbor to come over and take care of my horse who was tied out in the yard for mowing duty. Calling one of my daughters. Telling her I couldn’t call the other kids. Would she?
My friend coming to drive me to the hospital.
Being slammed with the news.
I don’t remember coming home. I think my friend drove me. None of my kids were there yet, so I was alone. This “alone” was so different from the alone when Carl was at the store. Or at the art center. Or at church for a meeting with other clergy. This “alone” was going to be forever.
As I write this today, I realize that I never actually put those words to the situation before. I never fully accepted the reality that I was singular now. Not a half of a couple. Just one person.
Wow! Why did it take so long for me to acknowledge that? Perhaps because denial is an ongoing part of dealing with loss. Not the denial that he was gone, but not looking at that horrible reality of “alone” with open eyes and an open heart.
Sometimes we take giant steps through the grieving process and other times baby steps. Thank goodness there is no timeline for any of this.
As a hospital chaplain in charge of grief support groups, I learned that it is imperative to keep taking those steps. It’s also important, as part of a healthy grieving process, to work toward not focusing so much on what is lost, but looking at what we have. No matter how long that takes.
So I try to look at all the good things we had together for all those years.
In addition to the wonderful family that Carl and I had; all the kids and grand-kids who filled our home and our lives with joy, I had that one last good morning with him. It still makes me smile to think about it, despite how the day ended.
We’d just celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary a couple of weeks prior, and were so hoping we would make it to 50. Since his health had been so fragile for a year or more, we both knew that was a real long-shot, but we hoped nonetheless. That’s what people do, right? You don’t just stop and wait for that final moment.
Ironically, Carl had had a heart attack at the art center early in August on his Thursday volunteer day. He survived that one and came home from the hospital on August 19, the day before our anniversary. We had two weeks of really good days from the time he came home from the hospital until the day he died. He felt better than he had in months, and that dark mood that had made him so depressed had lifted. He had more energy. We talked often. He smiled more. It was like the sun coming out from a dark cloud.
That dazzling brightness that almost takes your breath away.
Today, I can smile through my tears, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss him. Or I’m “over it.” We never get over losing a partner, or anyone in our lives for that matter. It’s just that the pain of missing him isn’t with me 24/7 anymore. Slowly, as months and years march on, we adjust to the shift in our lives and have more days of no pain of grief. And, slowly, those days start to string together to form… maybe a whole week.
That’s all for me for today folks. I extend condolences to any of you who have lost people close to you. This grief stuff is hard. And in this current state of the pandemic, we’re grieving the loss of so much in addition to people we love – jobs, income, health insurance, socialization, and emotional stability.
Whatever you are dealing with, stay safe and stay strong. And if you’d like to share your story here, please do.