It’s Gone

I am in a silent state of panic.
I am staying at my parent’s house in Massachusetts,
for about 10 days, over the Christmas break.
While here, something happened.
Something awful.
Something so awful and so sad and so horrible,
only other widowed people could possibly understand,
just how awful it is.

Those who are married, to spouses who are alive,
cannot understand.
Not fully.
Not totally.
Not really.
And because I am unsure of the exact time or day,
that this awful thing happened,
I have been walking around like a zombie,
in a silent state of panic.
Not telling anyone of the horrible thing,
that transpired.
Because maybe,
just maybe,
if I refrain from saying it out loud,
than maybe it didn’t actually happen at all.
Right?

I cannot find my wedding ring.
My husband is dead,
and gone forever,
and I cannot find my wedding ring.
My hands are shaking as I type this.
My fingers feel like someone else’s fingers,
without my ring on.
My skin is so naked and wrong,
without my ring on.
I have nothing else to latch onto,
nothing to cling to desperately,
in the unbearable moments of missing him,
without my ring on.

It fell off my finger.
It must have fallen off.
Somewhere.
Somehow.
I don’t know how.
Or when.
I have looked all over this house.
Like a detective,
or an investigator,
I have searched every crevice,
and nook,
and corner,
of this house.
My ring is gone.
Just like my husband,
my ring is gone.
It was there,
and then it wasn’t.
What am I going to do???

I feel like I cannot breathe,
yet I am holding it inside,
silently wailing,
and screaming,
and begging.
Please just let me have my ring back.
Please, universe.
Please …

And yet somewhere inside me,
I know,
I just know,
that it is gone.
The ring is gone.
It is in some parking lot,
covered in snow.
Invisible.
No longer on my finger.

When your husband is dead,
the way that my husband is dead,
you cling to things.
You cling to things that symbolize
other things,
like your life together,
your marriage,
your vows,
your world,
your time,
your heart.
You cling to them,
because the person,
the physical being,
is no longer here,
to hold or to smell,
or to kiss or to talk.
So instead,
in the still of the night,
you stare into space,
and you run your thumbnail,
again and again,
over your wedding ring,
petting it,
feeding yourself with comfort,
with love,
with something,
ANYTHING,
that feels like proof,
of the life you had.

Because I have so little.
So little of our life,
is left with me.

We had no children.
We had no chance to have our family.
We had no house to own together,
no time to buy one,
or to afford such things,
in our young married life.
His family was and IS dysfunctional,
and many of them dead,
so no D.N.A. to look at or feel and say:
“He has my husband’s eyes.”
And the worst part,
now,
is that I never even changed my last name.
I never became a Shepherd.
There was no reason for this,
except laziness,
lack of motivation,
and now I wish,
Oh how I wish,
that I had my husband’s name,
so that I would have some sort of evidence,
that we really happened.

I had my wedding ring.
And now I don’t.

When he died,
so suddenly,
it felt like he disappeared,
or went to work,
and never came home.
And now,
my wedding ring,
has also disappeared.
It sits in the pavement,
or flies in the wind,
or rolls down the highway,
running away from me.

I feel scared,
panicked,
invalid.
I feel like I don’t exist.
I feel like I somehow failed him,
for losing the very thing,
that sat on my hand,
and said:
“We were love. We ARE love.”

I keep staring at the space
on my finger
where the ring was
only hours or days ago.

How is this possible?
I cannot lose any more of him.
I cannot lose any more pieces
of the life,
that was.
Another death.
Another loss.
It feels like he just died,
Again.
And yet I know,
that nothing will ever be worse,
than when he died.

But looking down at my finger,
and not seeing my wedding ring,
is sadness on such a deep level,
that I cannot even cry.
Instead,
I wait in silence.
Waiting for something
to happen.
Or not happen.

I already knew that I was no longer married,
after he died.
But I could pretend.
I could keep my ring on,
and pretend,
inside my heart,
that inside my own universe,
I am still married.

I want so very badly,
to still be married.
To still be his wife,
and for him to still be,
my husband.
Even if he is my dead husband,
I still call him my husband,
because I get chills,
everytime I say the word.
Husband.
The most beautiful word,
ever.

I knew I was no longer married,
but I could use the ring to pretend.
I needed to pretend.
I still need to pretend.
I am nowhere near finished pretending.
But I cannot pretend,
because the ring that helped me do so,
is now replaced by nothing.
Pretending,
even inside the confines of my own world,
silently,
without words or announcements,
allowed me to better cope
with my reality
in the outside world.
If I cannot pretend,
in my own little corner,
the world around me feels
impossible.
What the hell do I do now?

Circle

About a week or so ago, my mom found this great quote from a much older widowed lady who was featured in a photography / interview project on a website called “Humans of New York.” She saved the quote for me because she thought it sounded exactly like something that Don would have said to me, if his death wasn’t sudden, and if he had the chance. It is this:

“When my husband was dying, I said to him, ‘Moe, how am I supposed to go on without you?’ He said to me, ‘Take the love that you have for me, and spread it around.'”

For whatever reason, and for multiple reasons, this quote caused an immediate, instinctual reaction inside of me – leaving me filled with deep emotion and thought-provoking feelings. When I posted the quote on my Facebook page, almost 200 people “liked” the status update, and it received many shares and comments. I couldn’t stop thinking about why this seemingly simple thought, conveyed such a powerful and loving message. All week long, these words from a total stranger stuck to my heart, the way that comfort food sticks to your ribs. It was clearly one of those things that some may refer to as a “game changer.”

I found myself thinking about it Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day – during those moments of pure loneliness, as I sat in darkness and silence after the day was done or just beginning – listening to the rhythm of my own breathing, and hearing the exhaustion that comes from two and a half years of missing him – sitting inside of each exhale. As I dragged my head off my pillow, I would ask myself with 100% sincerity: “How the hell am I going to get through this day?” At first, there was no response. Just the nothingness of questions unanswered, lingering in the cold winter air. But then, suddenly, I would hear the voice of this older man, coming to me as a spirit, whispering into my ear: Take the love that you have for me, and spread it around.

And really, if Im being honest, that is what I have been doing all along. Paying it forward. Helping others. Helping myself. Trying to heal. Offering support. Accepting support. Expressing my feelings. Sharing my world and my pain and my truths. Telling everyone and anyone who will listen, about the amazing man that was my husband.

I have spent the past two and a half years doing this very thing – taking the love I have for my husband, and spreading it around. Only, I never realized that is what I was doing. I never really thought about it in that way. Until now. And now, when it is worded that way, it is just about the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.

And even more than that, it is the thing that will save me. It is the thing that will keep me from drowning in the waves of hurt. It will force me to keep going, keep crawling through mud, keep walking through fire. It is the thing that makes me keep choosing life.

Hearing these words and knowing them and putting them into action, does not stop the pain. Nothing does. Not ever. But it does give me a really excellent reason to continue to connect and love and feel and be. It makes me want to do better. It carries, in it’s words, the love that my husband gave to me, and that I will now give outward, in the largest and smallest of ways.

It really is the only way to get through this. The only way to survive.
In order to get through losing love, you have to give love.
Love is contagious.
Love is ongoing.
Love is a circle.

And I will keep going around.

Ambush

Does it ever end?
These ambushes of the heart …
These attacks of emotion …
These volcanoes of grief …

Does it? Does it stop?
Is there finally a time,
where the winds get calmer,
when days and weeks and months,
go by,
with no emotional breakdown?
Will I ever be at the place,
where I no longer await,
with fear,
the next big mess of sadness,
coming at me,
no warning,
splattering all over my floor?

Do I get to breathe at some point,
In and out,
restfully,
unaware,
like normal people,
who aren’t holding their breath,
for the ocean of hopeless,
to Pounce?

Because it seems like it will never end.
Because two hours ago,
I was “okay.”
I was in a good place.

And now my heart is beating
outside my chest,
I’m aching to hold my husband’s hand,
and I’m crawling out of my skin,
just wanting to be anywhere,
except inside my own body.

It suddenly feels like there are bugs,
invading my space,
living in my arms,
and my eyelids,
and my ears,
and I want out.

Is there somewhere else I can go?
Someone else I can be?
Please …
Just for a little while …
so I don’t have to feel this pain
or know this loss
anymore.

For there are nights,
like tonight,
that I simply cannot fathom
or believe
or comprehend,
even after all this time,
that I have not looked at
or touched
or kissed
or hugged
or laughed with
or spoken to,
or felt
my husband,
My HUSBAND –
in two and a half years.

How is that possible?
That cannot be possible.
But it is,
and here I am,
in this prison.

There is an ache,
that moves inside me.
It is indescribable,
Incomprehensable,
and it chews away,
at my soul.

It hurts so much,
so very much,
that the only thing to do,
really,
is sleep,
and escape,
temporarily,
and hope,
that by morning,
I will have exhausted
my pain,
and made it tired,
enough,
so that it could sleep
through the Ambush.

Crumb of Cake

Call me crazy, but I’m starting to feel like maybe I’m a little bit crazy.
Is that crazy?

Is it Nuts-ville Crazytown that I feel like I am more in love with my husband now, than ever before? That I would rather have one-way conversations with his spirit or soul, than put any real efforts into possibly finding a new partner who I could actually speak to, human to human? Is it insane that looking at his picture on my nightstand before going to sleep, and saying out loud, in a faint whisper: “Goodnight BooBear – I love you” seems to make more sense to me than saying nothing at all? Seriously – level with me, people – is it time for me to just go and get the straightjacket and try it on for size? Or is there a place that I can go to exist, where there isn’t all this pressure to “move on” or “get myself out there again”, and where having a continued relationship with my dead husband isn’t universally frowned upon?

I know, I know. It sounds crazy. But is it? Is it?

This is the man I chose to spend the rest of my life with. This one. Not another one that I have to go find all over again at age 42. Not someone new that I would have to date, get to know, figure out, play the stupid games, live the “single” life, read their mind, know their heart, and trust with everything. If I already trust everything with the person that I already chose, why should that have to change? How can it? How can I just not be deeply and powerfully in love with my person anymore? How do I train myself to fall out of love with him? How? And if the answer is that I don’t have to, and that I can still love him forever – then how do I go forward in my life having this all-encompassing love for a person who no longer walks the earth? My heart hurts with how much I love him, and with the reality that our time together here is gone. Four and a half years of marriage will just never be enough for me. Not ever.

Imagine being a baker, and spending 7 years of life creating the most delicious, incredible, perfect chocolate cake – that took you until you were 35 years old to get the recipe just right, and you were so proud of your cake and you just wanted to savor in it and taste it over and over and over until time ended – and one quarter of the way through your first, tiny bite of enjoying all your hard work and your creation, before your taste-buds could even react – a large and menacing hand snatches the cake away abruptly, and proceeds to smash it into tiny crumb bits, all over the floor. “But I only got one quarter of a bite!”, you scream in protest. It’s too late. Nobody cares. You only got a crumb of cake, and the rest was taken away for no reason at all. Time’s up. (Leave it to the fat widow to come up with a cake analogy.)


I don’t know how to do this. My heart is with my husband, and my husband is not here. And even though it is never fair or never enough, to have this new, other-wordly relationship with him – and it’s not even close to the same thing as actually having him here with me – this is what we have now. We have this. And there is a very large part of me, that would rather have this with my husband, than have something unknown with anybody else.

My whole life, nobody was ever in love with me. Nobody ever returned my feelings back. Nobody ever protected me or made me feel safe or truly, deeply loved. Nobody. Not until I met Don. Not in high school, not in college, not after college – nowhere. Nobody. I dated a lot of idiots over those young years. I had boyfriends. Some were nice, some were not. But none of them were deeply, madly in love with me. When I finally, FINALLY met my person – I was almost 29 years old. He was in Florida, I was in New Jersey. We bonded in a music chat room online, and became instant friends. And then more. He flew out to meet me, and then we were in love. I told him things about me that nobody else knew, or knows. I shared with him my soul and my fears and my heart. For 7 years, we dated long-distance, until he packed up his life and moved to New Jersey for me. Because he loved me deeply and madly. He supported me and cheered me on in my dreams. We were a team. Always a team.

Now he is gone. I know how to live without him. I’m learning, and it isn’t easy, but I know I can do it, and I know I will be okay. I know how to live without him. But how do I love without him?

If I’m being totally honest, and I always am in my writing, I will say that I am terrified. I am scared to death of growing old all alone, and dying all alone. Even more, I am frightened beyond words that he was my only person. That for the rest of my years, nobody will ever love me in that beautiful, amazing, trust-you-with-my-life sort of way, ever again. I live in terror that I will be granted a long, healthy life – never being allowed another bite of that cake.