Never Forgotten

It’s been a softer year this year.

The pain hasn’t been as intense.

The longing hasn’t been as intense.

And most importantly, I haven’t spent the past month or so fighting my brain.  Suicide hasn’t been an option.

For the past 4 years, my brain has been telling me that suicide is an option around this time of year.  This year? That hasn’t happened.

I’ve looked towards those further out in this journey than me to see how I might react as days and months go by.  2nd year was harder than the first just like they said.  Things got harder and easier, just like they said.

But around 5 years, it seems that widows and widowers start to diverge.  There’s those who are still grieving hard and then there’s those for whom it gets softer.

That’s not to say that those who are grieving hard haven’t moved forward, some of them are remarried and some are still alone.  And for the ones who it’s gotten softer, they are either still alone or remarried.  There is no hard and fast rules.  It just comes down to a matter of there being some who are grieving hard still and some for whom the grief has softened somewhat.

And for me, things have softened.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still have days of ugly cries.  I have moments of tears leaking down my face while I’m almost unaware of it. I have days where the pain is still so intense I can’t breathe.

But those days are further apart.  Those moments happen less often.  And the pain doesn’t last as long as it used to.

So here I am. June 26.  The day he died 5 years ago. Getting ready for work.

And this is what I mean by softer.

Every other year I have been unable to function.  This year… I’m going to work with people who will trigger memories and tweak the pain.  This year, I did not take the day off like I normally do.

This year… I’m living.

He is never far from my mind.  His name is said on a fairly regular basis. He will never be forgotten as long as I live, as long as my children live.

He died. It devastated me. I almost died with him (there’s an actual study on that.  People DO die of a broken heart!)

But this year I’m living.

This year I’m going to go care for people who may or may not have the chance to go  home. (Some do, some don’t)

This year, I’m going to love the hell out of anyone who needs it.

This year, I’m going to lean into the man who has embraced ALL of me, and offered me a future.

This year, I’m going to say his name, watch the memorial video and then roll over to snuggle my Sexxy Chef and get some sleep because I have to go back to work tomorrow.

I miss him, terribly.

Mark W. Smith
May 18, 1963 – June 26, 2012
Forever Loved
Forever Missed
Forever Remembered

 

17 Years

As I write this, my new Love is in our bed, sleeping peacefully because he has to work in the morning.  I have no where to be; I have some stuff to do at home but for the most part, my next 3 weeks are my own.

I snuck out of the bedroom. I wanted a few minutes to myself to write this post and I haven’t managed to get them today.  It’s been a busy day.  My friend from Vancouver Island was up visiting this weekend.  My daughter was over printing pictures of my grandson. The drive to the airport was just over an hour and when I got home, there were extra people in the house.

It’s hard to just feel when there are people around.  My house was too people-y.

On the way back from the airport, I had a cry. I talked to him. I yelled at him.I raged against the unfairness of it all.

I was supposed to have 50 years with him and I got barely 14. Not quite 13 married.

There’s a part of me that still rages about that.  Because, yanno, I miss him.  I miss his smile. I miss his laugh.  I miss the look in his eyes when he thought I wasn’t noticing.

But there’s the part of me that doesn’t.

I have a beautiful life in so many ways.

I’m going  back to school – and able to make a difference in other people’s lives.

I’ve met people who are amazing and fun and make a HUGE difference in mine.

I’ve got a new love who loves me intensely.

I’ve got a good life.

And none of it.  NONE of it would have happened if he was still here.

I miss him. I miss my Mark with so much intensity that I don’t know how to breathe when I think of it.

I miss him.  And I’m grateful for every. single. day. I got with him. He taught me so much and allowed me to become more myself than I would have been able to without him.

I wish I could be celebrating the end of an amazing day with Mark. I wish he were here to see his grandsons.  I wish, with all my heart, that we had gotten those 50 years.

But as the saying goes… if wishes were horses…

I can’t change the past. I can honour him, honour our life together, do good for other people, but I can’t change the past.

Happy Anniversary my Love.  I will love you for the rest of my life. You left me with beautiful memories, four amazing children, and a lifetime of love. I was your happy ever after. I got the fairy tale of “until death” and I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d love you and walk that journey with you again if I were asked – even knowing that our paths would diverge.

I love you.

Are You Ok?

Three simple words.

Sitting at the afterparty, a derby girl I’d just met, just played with for the first time that night, sat across from me at the table I was sitting at and asked me, “Are you ok?”

She saw that I was teary when I came into the dressing room.  She wanted to check in with me that I was ok.

She asked, and was genuinely concerned.  She genuinely wanted to know.  And so I told her.

And she… she listened.  And understood.

She held space and let me talk for 5 minutes.

Because.. she truly wanted to know.  Was I ok?

I was. And having someone just take those 5 minutes, take that time to be genuine, I was even MORE ok when we were done talking.

Really ok

If you randomly read this, for whatever reason, Amanda… thank you.  Thank you for that moment of just being genuine and holding space and allowing me, for one moment, to just not be ok… before I was ok again. Thank you for that moment.

Be Grateful

I’m sure you’ve seen the meme on Facebook or wherever.

Don't Cry

I was at a derby bout this weekend.  Northern Mayhem vs Terrace.  In Terrace.

Terrace is the place where Mark and I moved a month after we got together. It’s the place he proposed to me.  Where we conceived our first… and lost it.  It’s the place we had our marriage blessed by the church we belonged to. It’s where our Andrew was conceived, and born.  It’s where we solidified our relationship and who we were as a couple. It was the start of MarkandJane.

And I was there, driving around the town, ripping off bandaids, picking at the scabs, allowing myself to bleed a little.

And then I get to the derby bout.

I had planned to ignore the last weekend and just have an amazing fucking time, learn new things and play hard.  But one of the North Stars came up to me and offered me more.

“You’re my buddy.  You and I are going to work together all night.  Last weekend was last weekend and tonight we’re going to have fun.”

I started crying. Apparently it took someone just being nice and supportive (damn you Mark for dying and taking that from me!!!) after the day of picking at the emotional scabs for the tears to finally come out.

I had to explain that this (tears and emotions) had nothing to do with this (the derby stuff that happened last week and I was ignoring it this weekend regardless of what happened)

And she said to me…

Be grateful for the town.  Be grateful for what it gave you and the memories you have because of it.

And somehow… for the first time… I’m able to see that.  I’ve seen the “Don’t cry” meme before and in my head I’m like.. DUDE.  Do you not GET how fucking PAINFUL it was to lose him? (yeah, I yelled at the meme a few times)

But grateful.  I can do grateful.

Grateful doesn’t mean I’m not sad.  Grateful doesn’t mean I don’t cry.  Grateful doesn’t mean I ignore the pain.

Grateful means that even when I’m crying, I smile because of everything we shared.

Grateful means that even when it hurts so much I can’t breathe, I still hold on to the love we shared.

Grateful means that I can look at the town here we started and smile at the memories even as they’re ripping me apart.

Grateful means that picking the scabs and ripping the bandaids means the healing can carry on… even if it leaves a scar in the end.

I can do grateful.  And I am incredibly grateful for her for saying it in those words.

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The top image is Mark and Me and Kyle and Katie at the mouth of the Shames on the Skeena River.

The bottom is Mark and Chi-wen & Simon and someone I don’t remember hiking Terrace Mountain.

 

So…. My Husband Died

I’m in nursing school.  In just over a year I will have finished a diploma program and will have (almost) earned the title “Practical Nurse.”

It is a … therapeutic process for me. Each new thing I learn, each new skill I learn brings up memories from when he was in the hospital.

And each new instructor I have to have a conversation with them.

“So… my husband died.  And this is bringing up a LOT of memories and triggers.  And if I step back from what I’m doing or what’s being taught, please understand that it’s a matter of trying to get myself under control or minimizing the emotional battering I’m going through.  But I AM learning, I just don’t want to be penalized because I have to do it differently at that moment.”

So yeah.  My husband died. And I get to talk about it over and over.  And maybe as I talk about it, I’ll desensitize more?  I don’t know.  It doesn’t seem to be happening, but I still talk about it.

Sometimes I don’t want to though.

Today I didn’t want to, but I did want my instructor to understand that I am going through things and working on them.

Because my husband died.  And he wouldn’t want me to live life any other way than out loud and as boldly as I am. So I talk.  And I learn.  And I try to make the world around me a bit better and a bit brighter.

And I will take the lessons learned from him and his death and build a life that is beautiful and bright.  And be there for another who is going through the same thing.

It’s part of why I’m becoming a nurse, yanno?

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More Content

I was on a short road trip with a couple of my derby peeps today. At some point, someone said to me something about my posts on Facebook being more relaxed, calm and more at peace with being alone.

I sorta had to stop and think about that for a minute.

I am at peace with being alone.  I am at peace with not having someone to snuggle up to every night.

I am not lonely. Not right now. I am not struggling with how to do everything on my own, and who am I going to share my life with.

I have 2 beautiful, intelligent, articulate, funny and amazing young men I get to call my sons living with me.  Some days they are more than enough company. Some days they drive me nutty.  But I like just the “them and me” parts of our lives.

I wish they were a bit smaller, but then if they were.. .they wouldn’t have gotten as much time with their Dad before he died.   So I’m glad they’re not.

But they are amazing. And when they give me their time and attention, it’s an awesome time.  My Andrew is so funny and so fun to be around.  Luke is mostly his awesomely sweet self (unless he’s in hell monster teenaged mode)

But for the most part, I’m good with my time alone.  I get to control the TV.  I get to control the music.  I get to decide if I want steak or macaroni for dinner.  I paint the walls the colour I want.

I don’t feel a desperate need to find someone who wants to fill the hole because the hole HAS been filled.  I filled it.  I filled it with memories that make me smile, joy in my children, a life I love, and enjoyment of my own company.

Life is truly good.  And I don’t know that I’d trade what I have for what I had.  I miss him terribly.  But my life is GOOD and that’s amazing.

Peace

(disclaimer: I’m a widow, with widda brain.  I reserve the right to feel completely the opposite tomorrow… LOL)

2015… wait… 2016… and peace…

I didn’t do my usual end of year post.

Reflection on what was, and hopes for what will be.

I am in a different place than I ever have been.  It’s odd, really.

I am practicing “non-attachment” in my life.

I am not attached to the outcome.

I am not attached to a certain path.

I am not attached to a future that only truly exists in my mind.

I am practicing this on a daily basis.

I invite people to share my time… and I am not attached to the answer.  I would be happy if the answer is yes, and understanding if it is no but not attached to the answer.

I refuse to agonize, to dramatize, to create pain for myself.

Do I miss my husband?  yes.  INCREDIBLY.  I miss him with every fibre of my being.

Do I miss my Metalhead Poet?  yes.  I miss him with every fibre of my being.

Do I spend a lot of time agonizing over what was, what could have been, what might be, what might not be?  Fuck NO.  It’s done me NO good over the past 4 years.  (hell, ever)

This hasn’t been an easy place to get to.  It’s easy to say… just let go of the outcome.  Just let go of the attachment.  But it’s fucking HARD.

I am a control freak.  (yep, I said it out loud).  I am that person who can organize the shit out of any situation and have everything “just so” and make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.

If you are moving, I will find you a place, have your utilities hooked up, your stuff packed and all mail/correspondence addresses changed months before you actually move.

I am the person you want in a crisis.  I will be there to hold your hand. I will manage things, I will take notes, I will advocate the hell out of everything.

I plan my life like a master chess player.  I look for every nuance, every possible outcome, every path before choosing one.  And when one path closes, I move to the next path.  When plan A fails, I move to plan B.   There’s 26 letters of the alphabet to work with.   My doctor, 2 1/2 years ago (or more, I don’t remember exactly when) told me that if I’m always living life as if there’s a game going on – then I’m seeing things in terms of winner vs loser.   IT TOOK ME THIS LONG TO UNDERSTAND THAT.

Seriously.

If I’m always looking at things as if they are a chess match, planning my next move, then the people around me?  They will suffer.

I was with someone a few weeks ago… having some fun sexxy time… and he said to me… just relax… enjoy the moment… and for the first time… I did.

I just relaxed.  I enjoyed the moment for what it was.  I wasn’t focussed on the ending, the outcome, the next step.  I was just focused on him and how I was feeling with him at that moment.

It was amazing.

I started to put that into practice in other parts of my life.  This was… 3? weeks ago? ish.  And I have been mostly successful. Focusing on the moment.  Focusing on the now.  Enjoying what IS rather than what I want things to be.

It’s freed me in a lot of ways.

As a side note: there are areas in my life where this is HARD to do… where I am struggling… but most areas, I’m mostly succeeding.  Some days it takes some mental working to get to that point… but when I do get there, it’s a beautiful thing.

I’m discovering peace.  And I like it.

Peace

It Was Meant To Be…

When I was in employment flux, between my first and second seasons at BC Wildfire, I went to a career counsellor, jumped through some hoops and decided on Licensed Practical Nurse as my upgrade/career path.

My reasons:

  1. The amazing nurses who inspired me.
  2. To be of service
  3. To be there for other people going through what I went through (simliar to #2)
  4. Employability.
  5. Mobility OR stability.

What I didn’t remember… was it was something I had thought about a long time ago.

This was part of an update post on April 13, 2012.  Almost 3 months after he initially went into the hospital.

Mark Healing Community Post

I can’t do a point/arrow/highlight on a picture in a wordpress blog, but right in the middle… It says..

“If I could do it over again I would go into nursing or surgery because that was AWESOME to watch.”

 “I would go into nursing”

And yah.  In 2 months, I will be in nursing.

It was meant to be.  It is happening.

I know for a lot of widows/widowers, the phrase “everything happens for a reason” is cause for white hot rage, seriously offended, going to throat punch the speaker reactions.

For me?  It’s the truth.

Everything happened.  For. A. REASON.

I am exactly where I should be in my life.

I am doing what I am supposed to.

All avenues, all options have closed off and the path towards nursing is brightly lit, clear and safe.

Path

I know where I’m supposed to go from here. I can see the way, and without EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED…

I wouldn’t be here.

I’d be in Squamish still (miss my friends!) working with Co-operators, selling life insurance and probably doing an amazing job at it.

I’d have a husband who requires round the clock care with a recovery measured in years not months.

I’d be exhausted.  My kids would come second to my husband’s needs.  My husband would feel guilty about that.  He’d feel helpless and hopeless and lost and a burden.  I would probably spend more time trying to make him understand that he’s not a burden than just loving him, because he’d need that from me, from us.

The reality is, life would have amazing beautiful moments.  I would still be Mrs. Mark Smith.  I wouldn’t resent it for a moment.   But it would be my life, focussed entirely on my husband.

But now, I’m allowed to shine.

A friend of mine blogged a long time ago… he gave me my life back.  I know that he’d be here if he could… but in the end, he loved me, loved his family enough to let us out of the limbo we were in.  He loved us enough that he would have fought if there were any real options left.  But there weren’t.  So he let go, and let us move forward.

And now… where I’m supposed to be is coming to fruition.

I love him so much more for being willing to let go.  For doing what’s best for EVERYONE, instead of holding on and keeping us in that holding pattern.  It shows how amazing of a person he was.   And I wish everyone who reads this could have met him.  Could have known him.

He was so incredible and I was so blessed to have been loved by him.  So blessed to have been his wife for 13 years.  So blessed to be the mother of his children.  So very blessed to have loved him to his last breath.

Not a Hummingbird but a Butterfly.

Happy Anniversary to my Love, my forever 49, my sexxy redhead.

I spent a couple hours today at a waterfall.  I have made it my mission to spread some of his ashes at places where he might have wanted to fish.  I want to leave a piece of him in all the spots he would have liked to spend time at.

I feel closer to him beside a river.  I feel his presence more than at any other time, when I’m by the water.

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I stood on the shore of this creek, at the base of the waterfall, talking to him for about an hour.  Yelling at him.  Crying big heaving sobs that threatened to tear my soul out.

Asking, forever the question… WHY?  WHY did he have to die?  WHY did I have to do this on my own?

The only answer I can come up with is… so he didn’t have to suffer anymore.

He was in pain a lot of his last couple years.  Especially with the heart attacks, the ankylosing spondilytis, and then the last 6 months in the hospital due to pancreatitis.

He hurt.  All the time.  Every day.

And I get to be alone, so he doesn’t have to suffer anymore.

I always said I’d take the suffering, take the pain for him.   Well… I have.

I get to deal with, not the physical pain, but the emotional pain of not having him physically here.  And in trade, he’s pain free.  He’s not hurting anymore.

When I thought I was done crying, when I knew I was done yelling, I walked back towards my truck and sat beside the creek in the sun.

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And of course started crying again.   And as I was crying… not a hummingbird, but a butterfly stopped and sat on my bag.  It moved too quickly and flitted off again before I could take a picture.

Usually he comes to me in a hummingbird; today he was a beautiful dark brown and orange butterfly.

I smiled… thanked him for showing me he was with me… and cried some more.

And the butterfly came back.  Flitted around my head.  Slowly enough that I could see the colours, feel his presence, wash over in the love.   And just know that he was there.

I have been asking him for several days now, to come visit me.  Show me that he’s there.  Show me that he’s around.  Begging him before I fall asleep to visit me in my dreams, wake me before he goes so I’ll remember him.  And each day I wake up from a dreamless sleep.

He’s listening though.  He just waited until I needed him the most.

Not a hummingbird, but a butterfly….

Happy Anniversary my Love.  Thank you for the visit, the cleansing tears, and the beautiful afternoon by a waterfall.

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The “Perfect” Widow

WTF does that even mean?

Seriously?

I was accused of trying to be the “perfect” widow – go to all the widow camps, connect with all the widowed people, have all the widowed friends, blog about what it’s like to be a widow, hold on tight to the memory and love of a dead guy…. ?

I *have not* dealt with the death of my husband.  Not in any *meaningful* way.

I have adjusted to the pain and the grief.  I have found joy again.  I have lost that joy.  It still sits there, the pain and grief, snuggled up just behind my heart, waiting for a moment I least expect it to claw it’s way to the surface again.

I am living a full, rich life.  I am living it alone, but it’s me and my boys against the world.

So WTF?  What does it mean to be a “perfect” widow?

I’m not perfect at anything.  I wasn’t a perfect wife.  I wasn’t a perfect girlfriend.  I am not a perfect mother.  I fail to be perfect at as a sister, a daughter, a friend, an employee, a co-worker or a human being in general.

I am not perfect.

I am just me. 

I myself, am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.” – Augusten Burroughs

I am just me.  I am broken.  But I am healing.

Kintsugi My_Bruised_Heart_by_murtada_king (1)

And I will not deny a part of me, a life that was forced upon me, an event that irrevokably changed me.

I am a mother, I am a sister, I am a daughter, I am an employee.  And I am a widow.

It is a badge I wear with pride.  I loved someone until his last breath.  And that, my widowed, non-widowed, about to become widowed friends… is a magical fairy tale they said did not exist… I loved him as long as he lived. 

And I will love him as long as *I* live. 

Mar & Jane Wedding