In my head, I’ve been practicing ways to let people know my husband has passed away. Not those close to me or close to him, obviously, and not the friends of friends who have heard the news through the usual channels, but acquaintances and strangers who may ask. It is with this internal role-play that I hope to avoid the awkwardness and the sharp pain that I imagine will accompany such questions. The cashier at the grocery store who always saw us together will likely one day ask “where’s your husband?” Someone I meet for the first time may inquire about family, and ask the seemingly innocent question, “Are you married?” Even future forms I’ll need to fill out will suddenly require a new checkbox for me. I am no longer married; I am widowed. Phrases such as “I lost my husband” and “my late husband” bounce around my head and they just all sound wrong.
Although there are many women my age I know who are divorced, there are none I know personally who have lost a husband to death, and certainly not a sudden one. So I’m in uncharted territory, and I’m going to have to navigate the waters on my own. Don’t get me wrong. I have literally dozens of supporters who have been reaching out and offering their condolences, words of wisdom, and general comfort. But for the most part, they are also sailing the unknown. I believe my husband’s death has opened up a window to a reality that most people my age were happy to see remain closed. Yet, a seemingly healthy 50 year old man dies suddenly and one’s own mortality comes into question, which can be sobering (and frightening) to some people.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. That’s what everyone who loses someone too early, or too tragically, or too suddenly thinks, isn’t it? One of the best/worst things about my husband’s “last weekend” as I’ve come to think of it, is that it was a great weekend. We had spent the entire time together – from dinner with old friends on Friday evening, to running errands in the morning, then watching our son go off to Junior Prom and snuggling on the sofa on Saturday evening, to Sunday spent at the beach planning our (next) future and then time spent with our oldest daughter while we waited for her to get off work so we could go to dinner again. Literally every (non-bathroom) minute was in each other’s company. That’s how most weekends were for us. Not many couples can say that… especially these days. So while I’m thankful that his life ended on such a high note (and I’m purposely choosing to ignore his hospital stay when I consider his “last days”), it angers and saddens me to know exactly what I will be missing from here on out.
Although somewhere along the way, the little romantic gestures had dwindled, he had in recent months taken to opening my car door for me again. He would raise his hand to stop me from getting to the side of the car first, do a little skip/jig by me to the door, and open it wide and sweep his hand in a Vanna White type of gesture, saying “Madam…”, all the while with a goofy smile on his face. This whole routine would, of course, bring a goofy smile to my own.
That’s just one of the many things I’m going to miss. He had a way of making my heart glow, and it has definitely dimmed in recent weeks. Already, I find my light becoming fainter; with every missing “Morning, Gorgeous”, and every evening I go to bed and don’t hear “I love you, beautiful”, the flame dies a bit more. My hope is that, like a fire, it may be reduced to simmering embers in the coming days, weeks, and months, but one day it may burn brightly again. Knowing that he believed me to be the one who kept his own light illuminated, he would want that, I think.
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