On Widowhood, After One Year
"But 46 percent of the widows and widowers in this study reported that they had satisfying marriages. They believed that life is fair and they accepted that death is a part of life." Deborah Carr
My sister's husband was killed in a plane crash last July. Forget about lucky 7/7/7, to us 7/16/06 will forever be a seriously unlucky day. And it's back in the news this year too.
Judy has shared some thoughts on widowhood with us during the past year. I asked if she had anything to say about the one-year anniversary of Bob's death.
Oh boy, did she.
If you know a widow--or are one--maybe these thoughts and feelings will help you. And if you have anything to share, please add a comment.
Clearly, Judy's still a fighter. No matter what our status in life, we can all learn from her.
A year. A widow. A WHAT??? So hard to believe it's been a year since I got the call my husband's airplane had crashed at an air show in Hillsboro, Oregon. Life, as I had known it, was gone forever. I became someone else through all the emotional ups and downs.
Bob and I had been together for 21 years. We had so much fun and he gave me so much: travel, skiing, diving, his great intellect, his humorous habits. I even got my own pilot rating so we could share his passion for flying.
Legend has it that when you receive news of this sort, a tsunami of grief knocks you down and takes you away. Not me. Instead, there were fuzzy, muddled thoughts... trying to digest what had happened... figuring out what to do now... back to what had happened... on to how do I spend the rest of my life.
And worse, feeling so in sync with Bob, imagining the sheer terror he must have felt as the ground came up to meet him way too fast. Wondering how his perfect airplane--the other love of his life--cared for so efficiently and completely could have let him down.
Legend also has it that people often turn strange in the wake of a personal tragedy. My plans for a memorial service were bucked along the way by Bob's son from a previous marriage. It surprised me since we always got along so well.
When we finally came to terms with help from my sister Sally, it was a great memorial. A celebration of Bob, crowded with camaraderie. Bob's friends meeting Bob's friends and so many Bob stories evoking smiles and laughter. He was one of a kind, this strange ranger. MY strange ranger.
The year has been a roller coaster. I have therapeutically thrown myself into my work which gets me up early and lasts until late. I await the day when they figure out I do it with mirrors. Sometimes I feel very incompetent but Bob was always so encouraging, I still turn to him -- inside my head.
I find escape and relaxation going to a movie alone, so I've seen nearly everything worth seeing and defended myself to no one.
I have also found that while Bob used to be the prominent elephant in the room, that has diminished and not everyone whispers his name any more.
There have been low moments, too. I wept at photographs. I choked up as I drove past 'our' places. I thought I would never travel again because I had lost the best trip planner and traveling companion.
I still wonder if I'll every ski or dive again, but it isn't critically important any more. I've had the experiences and I'll always have the memories. So I just wait and see where life takes me.
For the memorial we made large posters of the final pictures of Bob and they now grace my living room walls. Sometimes we chat. Strange, talking to a wall but it makes me think more clearly. I realized I'm beginning to forget how he felt and smelt, but with a little effort I can conjure him up and that feels pretty good.
April brought both his birthday and tax time. To celebrate, the tax man was Pac Man, munching up a big chunk of his estate. Those two events, followed by a Blue Angel crashing in South Carolina dumped me into a deep hole. I got some help and while I'm still occasionally on the ledge, for the most part I am living my own life.
I still travel. My most recent overseas nursing venture was a trip to Vietnam for two weeks of operations on needy children and adults, an activity that always impressed Bob. I have visited my scattered family several times.
I'll go back east in October for my XXth high school reunion. I hope to continue on to visit family in Israel, where I've never been and Bob had no desire to go. He won ... then. Now it's my time.
All of the above notwithstanding, I miss him terribly. I wish he was here. There are so many things, big and small which catch me up.
I take a perverse pleasure in getting my own way without 'the look.' But I miss it anyway.
I still sleep on my side of the bed.
I still occasionally stumble into what used to be 'my' bathroom.
I can't bring myself to go through the box of 'our' personal items.
I have one of his flight suits hanging in the closet that was 'his' and is now mine.
I've kept his blue blazer with the Harvard buttons and a ski jacket there too.
My favorite is the Hawaiian shirt he wore when we went to Maui ... and the last picture of US in which he's wearing it.
I got rid of a few pieces of furniture he liked and I didn't, but I haven't bought anything new. Except the new bed we had already chosen. It's comfortable. But emptier now.
I found I don't have to explain myself to anyone, I really can do anything I want, I can manage Bob's estate just fine with some expert help, and I'm doing okay.
I don't minimize the depth and importance of our relationship, but I have come to grips with reality.
He isn't here, I am -- moping my way through life accomplishes nothing.
Thank you, 'Dith. Keep fighting. We've got your back.