I Forgot You Died

My husband’s sudden and unexpected death happened on a Wednesday.
July 13, 2011.
We had gone to sleep the night before, and I still don’t recall saying goodnight.
Or saying anything.
We simply fell asleep, in the exhaustion of having two jobs and being busy and life.

A few hours later, he had left for his volunteer job at the local Petsmart,
helping out with cat adoptions, and then stocking pet food.
But he never got around to any of that.
His manager found him collapsed on the cold, hard floor instead,
about 90 minutes after arriving to work.
(Just a side note; I don’t actually know for a fact that the floor was cold, but for some reason, whenever I describe it to anyone or write about it, I always describe it as a cold floor. I just picture it and see it as being cold. These are the kinds of things, big and small, that trauma puts into our heads.)

My very healthy and active husband,
who was a paramedic and saved other people’s lives daily,
suffered from a massive heart attack at only age 46.
No symptoms. No warnings. No goodbyes.
Here one second,
Gone the next.
On that morning, I literally woke up to my new reality and the new life I didnt want, as my husband was gone from our apartment, and gone from Earth.

And since that catastrophic day,
I have been counting,
both consciously and subconsciously,
every month, week, hour, minute, and second,
since he died.
On the 13th of every month,
Every month,
my heart would automatically know it was the 13th.
On the rare occasion that I didnt know within minutes of waking up,
my body would remind me.
I would feel “off”,
or sick,
or really, really awful.
If it was the 13th of the month, and a Wednesday,
that was even worse.
I would re-live “that day”,
again and again
and Again.
Every 13th.
For over 2 years.

Until this week.
This week, someone innocently asked me,
“How long has it been since your husband died?”
And instead of blurting out, like a robot,
my completely normal response of:
“It has been 2 years, 4 months, 5 days, 17 hours, and 3 minutes since my love died” –
something bizarre happened.
I forgot.
For a few seconds in time,
I could not recall the exact time that had gone by since his death.
I had to think about it.
It required math.
I had to use my fingers, and carry the one.
That had never happened before.
Not ever.

And then I remembered something else,
that I had forgotten.
The 13th.
For the first time ever, since his death,
the 13th of a month, that happened to fall on a Wednesday,
creeped by,
without me even noticing.
The only reason I even thought about it,
was because this person had asked me,
“How long since he died?”
So I counted. Did the math. Remembered.

But here is the best part:
I didn’t feel any guilt.
No guilt.
I didn’t feel bad or guilty,
for momentarily forgetting the exact date in time
that my world exploded.
Because why should I?
It is insane to think,
that I could ever really forget.
That’s not possible.
His death is in the rhythms,
of everything I am.

I felt something else.
A new way of breathing.
I was happy to forget,
even for a few moments,
because in my world,
this is progress.
I was excited.
I almost felt like singing.

And after that day, this week, where I had forgotten what I had always remembered, I noticed other things happening too. Small things, but still things. I noticed that lately I have been sleeping in the range of 3-6 hours per night, instead of the 0-3 hours range that used to be my normal, for the first 18 months or so of this new life.

I noticed a couple walking down the street, holding hands and kissing, clearly in love – and for the first time in a long, long time – I didn’t want to simultaneously trip them and watch them fall into a manhole, never to be seen again. I mean, I didn’t want to throw them a goddamn party or anything, but I didn’t feel massive rage at them for having time together, when my time with Don was up. It’s a start.

I also noticed that this year, on the upcoming Thanksgiving, which will be my 3rd one without my love – that I’m not filled with anxiety and fear and dread, as the day approaches. I wouldn’t say I’m “excited”, because, well, let’s not get crazy – but it’s not looking like the black, dark hole it used to be.

The other day, I was in the car, driving to meet my best friend Sarah for dinner somewhere, and I had the car radio on. Now, that in itself, is something that is very recent for me, in my new “after” life. Music is still very hard. Music was my husband, and my husband was music – so it’s very, very hard. Only recently have I been able to even listen to music of any kind in the car, and still, lots of times, many songs will send me into random bursts of sobbing, and I become an emotional dishrag. But on this particular day, for whatever reason, it was different. Not only did they play music, they played Christmas music. “Let It Snow”.

I sat there. Driving. There was a slight pause in my tiny, ginormous world. Nothing happened. And then, something did happen. I turned it up. Loud. And for the first time, in a long, long time – I sang. It has hurt too much to sing since he died, because I’m not singing with him. I’m not singing while he strums his guitar. I’m not singing to chords that he learned, just for me, that would sound melodic, blended with my voice. Music was my husband, and my husband was music. And we, together, were music. Like a duet. When he died, the music stopped. There just didn’t seem to be a point anymore.

And then there was. In the car. When I sang “Let It Snow”, all alone, and with him.
For about 25 seconds in a row, I decided to let Christmas in again.
It hurt.
It hurt a lot.
I’m still not ready for all of Christmas.
But maybe just a verse.
So I sang.
And then I cried.
But first,
I sang.

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20 thoughts on “I Forgot You Died

  1. Thanks for your post, reminded me of when I first forgot to count the day. My son was the one that pointed it out to me. I don’t think I would have remembered if he hadn’t said it. Somehow life goes on and I’m finally learning to catch up and go on with mine and you know what It’s ok. I’m ok!

  2. I sort have been wanting to ask the question lately “do you think it’s ok if I’m happy?” Because, sometimes I am.

  3. I love your writing Kelley.how you had such a hard time with music is so similar to me and my Gary , he played everyday and our home always full of music. Only about 2weeks ago did I bring up the guitar and slowing started strumming , getting the dust of the strings which hadn’t been touched since sept 16 -17 ,2011. I am glad I can relate to someone too, that I’m not alone

  4. That was so beautiful and eerily echoed myself so clearly. My husband died suddenly too, of a heart attack, no warnings, not symptoms….nothing.
    I dreaded every Tuesday and if it was a Tuesday and the 17th? Well, I had a wretched day.
    It slowly, ever so slowly, happens. The days pass and the before I even realized it, Tuesdays passed…and they aren’t wretched.

  5. I never expected to be in this place at 50. However, 14 months of it is starting to bring small changes and progress..and that’s good. Thanks for sharing yours!

  6. It will be 20 years for me in March…..I think this year is the hardest I have ever faced since I stopped counted the months, hours and minutes since he left. I am 48 years oldi have surpassed the age he was when he died long ago, 19 birthdays for the three kids and myself and him, Christmases, thanksgivings, anniverasies and 3 graduations from high school. I got through all of those but this year is so difficult. Thank you for reminding me to smile and SING!!

  7. I was happy to hear about the losing count, but even happier for you about the singing. So happy you are healing. Please keep singing!!

  8. Thank you so much for your words of comfort. In the beginning I felt the exact same way. I’m at 11 months and still counting – some days more than other (but not as much). Thank you for showing me there’s progress happening in my life sometimes I just don’t see it.

  9. Yup. Exactly. I refused to do the days and hours thing, but I did the Thursday thing and the 26th of each month thing. But after a while…time just happens to us. Without us realizing it, we are letting go, not of the love and the memories, but of the pain. You don’t love your husband any less if you don’t remember; you don’t cherish him any less if you let go of some of the pain.

    What happens over time (3 years, 3 months – not exactly – for our son) is that the rawness softens, life starts trickling in and we notice the sun shining or we can hear a song without it immobilizing us. It’s ok to do that.

    I also believe that our concept of time has no place on the other side. We mark our life here with time, and are not only guided, but constrained by it. I believe there are no deadlines, markers, passage of time after this life. So I think it’s healthy to let go of some of our earthly footholds and just breath, and cherish the loved ones we carry with us always.


  10. Thank you, I lost the love of my life, Ralph suddenly and tragically exactly 2 weeks after you, July 27th, 2011! Your thoughts and feelings are so similar to mine, and I realize now that I don’t always realize it is the 27th of every month or even exactly how long it has been since our lives were totally dismantled. On the healing road…YEAH!

  11. this is great! i know it hurts but i want to see my prof happy and im pretty sure all ur loved ones would wanna see a bright smile on your face. hope ur all the joy

  12. Kelly, your writing is just wonderful; it is a gift that God has given you to help others that are experiencing the same trauma, the same emotions, the same baby steps and sometimes giant leaps to recovery, to see that although this is not a club we wanted to sign up for, at least we are not alone. You should try to get published. I know that when my sweet love died (July 16, 2012), I ran out and got every book I could find about grieving, anything to help the horrendous pain. If you were able to publish your blogs, others would truly benefit from your gift.

    • THank you Susan. That is the plan. Im self-publishing my very first book which will be a combination of some of these blogposts, and some other chapters and pieces I have been writing behind the scenes. My goal release date is late spring 2014. I will keep everyone updated right here on the blog. Thanks for the kind words …

  13. I happened upon your blog just trying to find some peace through the internet. My husband passed a month ago today, March 13. Thank you for your writing, I plan on keeping up with how you handled this. I am still unable to listen to our music, he was all into the music and there are so many songs from the 60s and 70s that I just cant listen to anymore.

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