Im not sure quite how to say this without sounding all “Oprah”, but for me, this year of 2016, feels like an important year. It feels like it already is and will be an important year in my life, for many reasons. And when I type that, a small part of me gets the chills, because I really need to be more specific when I say things such as that and put them down in writing. After all, the year of 2011 felt like an important year too. It just did. Don and me would be coming up on our 5th year wedding anniversary that year, in October, and my September birthday would mark “the big 40.” I remember sometime in February or March of that year, I had a feeling, much like the feeling I’m having today – that it was going to be a big year for us. So I put up a status on Facebook that said:

“2011 is going to be a big year for me and my husband. Big things are going to happen. I can just feel it. Bring it on!”

Well, life certainly “brought it on” alright, when my beautiful husband left for work on July 13th, and never came home. I remember looking back at that status update and sobbing and cursing at myself, saying: “Dammit! Why did you write that? You should have been more specific! You should have said GOOD things are going to happen this year! Not BIG things!!!” As if somehow, what I had written controlled or set in motion my husband’s massive and sudden heart-attack. Obviously, what I wrote that day had nothing to do with what ended up happening, but it sure felt like it did. I remember being so excited that year, along with my husband, that we would be married 5 years. We were planning a special trip for that anniversary – maybe a weekend getaway somewhere new and different. Months after he died, I found his research online for romantic getaways in Cape May, Montauk, and a few other places he was looking at. He also was teasing me endlessly that year about the fact that I would be turning 40, and I was teasing him that my presents better be good. “It’s a surprise, Boo!” He would say, smiling. Yeah, well, “Surprise!!! I’m dead!”

My husband was very excited about seeing me turn 40, as he was 7 years older than me, and was always teasing me about being younger, and warning me with almost devilish excitement about all the aches and pains coming my way the minute I turned 40. “You just wait – this will be you in a few years and Im gonna just laugh and laugh and laugh,” he would say, as he got his latest prescription for contacts or reading glasses, or had another back ache, or picked up his “Just for Men” hair dye to keep the grays away. (He would kill me for telling you that, but he’s dead, so he can’t. I win. ) We were struggling big time in those early years of marriage, always working our asses off to pay bills and feeling like we could never get ahead. Don had picked up a second job at Pet Smart, on his days off from EMS. He was exhausted and worn down, but also excited about the idea of getting us out of that New Jersey apartment, maybe moving someplace a bit bigger and nicer, and putting away some money in savings to buy a new car that wasn’t always breaking down. We had many talks while lying in bed at night, about having our own family, having children, and when the best time would be to make that happen. We were at that time in our life where things weren’t YET happening for us, but they were about to. Or we wanted them to. We were trying to build a life for ourselves, and we were starting to envision what that life might look like together.

That life never happened. Don never got to tease me even once about turning 40, because he died while I was still 39. We didn’t get to take our anniversary trip, because we missed the 5 year mark of marriage by 3 short months. Instead, he died well before any of our dreams could be realized, or even begin, really. I was left with that shitty car that always broke down, a crappy Jersey apartment rental, no savings, no life insurance, loss of health insurance (was covered under his), and absolutely no clue how I was supposed to keep going – keep living – keep breathing. In one traumatic second, my world went from one of hopes and possibilities, to “what the fuck am I supposed to do with THIS???”

Now, here I am again, with those two big and important milestone dates coming up and staring me in the face. This July 13th will be the 5-year mark of my husband’s death, and it is also the first one that falls on a Wednesday, which is the day that he died. The 5-year mark, to me, just feels like a huge deal. I cant articulate exactly why, but it does. It feels that way in my soul, in my heart, in my mind. It feels like it’s going to affect me in a different way, a new way, than any of the past death anniversaries. This is neither a positive or negative thing – it’s just a thing.

This year’s wedding anniversary also feels like a very big deal to me. It would have been our 10th wedding anniversary, this coming October. Ten years. It stings everywhere inside, even just to type it. The fact that we didn’t even get HALF of a decade, never mind a decade, will always hurt with a pain that is difficult to describe. The tears are forming as I type this, for the loss of our future that never was.

Lastly, this year, on April 13th, to be exact, marks the year that I will have been widowed, longer than I was married. My fingers want to run away from the keyboard as I type that sentence. It pains me inside every cell to say that and to BE that, but that is what it is. On April 13th, which also will fall on a Wednesday, I will officially be a widow for longer than I was a wife. Holy shit.

It feels like 2016 is a year for my soul. A year for my soul to think with new eyes, to see with new eyes. All of these milestones and dates on the calendar, they make me incredibly sad and they feel like a big deal to me. But they also feel like the most important reason ever to live in color, find some fucking joy, and go after the things I truly want. Right now, its only April 1st, and already, this year has provided so many new and exciting things for me. I filmed a movie in Los Angeles. I presented in my 9th Camp Widow event. I had my first “anything” since my husbands death – my first real feelings for someone that isn’t him -after over 4 years of not being able to feel anything other than nausea at the thought of “someone else.” The best part is, I’m ready for these feelings to be there. There is zero guilt or weird thoughts about that. It’s a complicated situation, yes, and I’m still not quite sure what it will turn out to be or how it will play out, but it feels really good and really nice, and it feels like something that Don would absolutely want for me. This year, I have really started to feel what it means to have joy and pain in the same breath. I have started to understand that whole “bittersweet” thing, and what it means with life after loss. This year, it has been cemented in my soul, that we only get one life. And yes, I’m going to love and grieve my husband forever, but I’m also going to honor our love and his short life, by living mine at volume 11.

In February of 2005, that man moved mountains so that he could be with me. He moved his entire life into a Pensky moving truck, and left Florida to come live in New Jersey. (I will never forget his self-written wedding vows to me. He said: “My love for you defies all logic. After all, who moves to New Jersey? On purpose?” He was so proud of the huge laugh that one got from the crowd.) And not only that, but he met me during a time when I was nowhere near ready for a relationship. I had been through a trauma, and I was filled with anxiety, fear, and self-loathing. But he waited. That man spent THREE YEARS talking on the phone and computer with me, without meeting in person, because that is what I was comfortable with at that time.

And then, when I was finally ready, we met. And we fell in love. But it was slow, and for him, it must have been painstakingly slow. I have always seen these actions as huge sacrifices on his part. All the waiting on his end, and then moving his life for me, for us. But now, all these years later, and being in a personal situation myself that is eerily similar – I understand. It is as if I can see through the lense of Don’s eyes now. For him, these things weren’t a sacrifice. I mean, they WERE, of course, and they took great patience and great hardships and change. But he never saw it as a sacrifice. Not really. For him, it was simple. It was this is what needs to be done if there is any chance of us being together. If he hadnt have thought in that way, and if he hadnt have been courageous enough and beautiful enough to be the one to offer to move his life, then we would have never had the 4 years and 9 months of marriage that we had. In so many ways, he gave us the life we had together.

Thank you, Don. For loving me. For showing me how to truly live again, and for putting me on the path I am on right now. Thank you for always remaining beside me, and for giving me sign after sign that you really, actually haven’t gone anywhere at all. I love you so much, and I will never stop. And Im going to take that love, and with it, create more love. Isn’t that the whole point of this thing called life? To love and to connect as much as we possibly can, and to create something beautiful out of the amazing love foundation that you left with me. Out of love comes love, and nothing means much of anything without Love.

This feels like an important year. A year of GOOD things filling in my soul. I’m still terrified about what’s going to happen next, and I still fear losing everything all over again, and I still long for that life I had. But I think all of that will always be true. There will never come a day where I DON”T feel all of those things. Yes – things will always be complicated in this “after”-loss world. Things will never quite make sense. That is just how it is from now on – and how it’s going to be. It’s going to be one big, giant cluster-fuck of massively beautiful chaos. And I’m so ready for the explosion.

(I welcome your amazing comments, as always!!! Anyone passed the 5 year mark who can tell me if it felt “different” in some big way? Im curious.)

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10 thoughts on “Explosion

  1. The joys of always waiting for that rug to be ripped out at any point in time. It’s a shame we know that feeling, and it sucks knowing we can never stand on concrete. Because nothing in this life is concrete.

    I think at some point my brain turned off milestones. I’m so thankful for that. Maybe in two years when he’ll officially be dead longer than I knew him, or when I turn 36 and officially become older than he ever did, maybe then the switch will flip back on. But for now it’s on silent. I hope yours goes silent. We never forget but it’s nice to have the quiet.

    Here’s to 2016 being filled with GOOD and POSITIVE things happening for us all!

    • Love you Beth. The milestones were shut off for awhile, but this year they all feel very significant and huge in my heart. 5 year death anniversary. 10 year wedding anniversary. And being widowed longer than being marrried. Those are 3 BIG things all to happen in the same year. It just feels like another one of those huge SHIFTS, ya know? Not necessarily a bad thing. Just a big one.

  2. I am really happy for you, Kelley Lynn. You had a lot of things to work through… but you did that — the down and dirty work of grieving and living and fighting for every breath and every first (and last). And all the while, inviting us on your journey into this unknown.

    Here’s to a 2016 that will bring so much happiness to you!

    • Thank you. Still a lot to work through, there always will be. The WHAT changes over time – as in, what I need to work through and experience, but as long as I am alive, I will always be working through and dealing with grieving that life and processing it. And figuring out how to blend that life with the one I have now. Its an endless process, really. But one Im very willing to go through, because I get to be here to live my life, and Don doesn’t. To do anything but LIVE it would be an insult to him.

  3. Your eloquent (as usual!) words brought me back to a long forgotten memory. My dear husband also had to wait for me.. 2 long years until I finished college, in SC, and he was in NJ… I never really gave enough acknowledgement or apology to him for that.. And I wish I could right now, but you know, he’s dead.
    I’ve recently been looking forward to your writings, Kelley. At first (3 years ago) they were hard for me to read… I guess I wasn’t ready for the brutal honesty…. Thank you for sharing the hard truth of this weird journey… And for the reminder that we are given the opportunity to really live.. To live .. the opportunity that is denied our husbands. Thank you, my friend.

    • So good to hear from you here, Diane. Please keep commenting. Im so glad this brought back a memory for you. I too, wish like hell, that I could say thank you a million times to Don, for EVERYTHING, but especially for having that kind of patience and love to take a chance on us, and for helping me rebuild myself after a horrible trauma. I know Wayne and Don would absolutely want to see us both finding some joy here, as you said, because they dont have that same opportunity. This message to live becomes more clear to me every day, and every time someone else dies, it is clearer still. Miss you lots. Lets do another pool party weekend this summer. We are overdue.

  4. Henry and i had our one and only trip 24 days before he died. We went to toronto and to see niagara falls ( his childhood dream ) and im so glad we did. We knew each other 3 years at work and when i finally got the courage to ask him out he told me he had a crush on me the whole time but thought i was out of his league. Lol. Me . I said the same to him. He was so different than any other man. Intelligent kind caring treated me liike gold. We were only together a year and a half but to us it was an eternity . We loved each other so much. Mine will be 2 years july 22 and i still count the dates. Birthdays coming up and so is what would have been our 3 year anniversary. I miss him immensely. Ill never be whole again. Thanks kelly. As always your words are spot on. Hope this year brings you some peace

  5. I hit five years in January. If I had it to do over again, I would be more brutal about who I allowed to be with me that day. I flew to Houston to be with my children, and that was good, but my sister and son in law were also at dinner with my daughters and me. They sat in stony silence. I should not have allowed them to come. The same advice applied to my 40th wedding anniversary in March of 2014. I thought I had everything planned perfectly, and it almost went off without a hitch, until my nephew showed up at the chapel where we had gotten married, bringing his two noisy disruptive kids and his bagpipe because he wanted to hear the acoustics in the chapel. Be brutal, Kelley. Do what you have to do to make it through those days with peace and love. Your feelings are the ones that matter.

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