I’ve been sitting on this post for a week for fear that I’ll offend many people. Odd, considering that’s never really been something I’ve valued before. But for whatever reason, that’s been on my mind. I feel it’s important that everyone work through grief the best they can in their own way. I don’t want to judge or even guide. For this post, however, my views expressed may come across as judgmental or, more likely, minimizing. It’s certainly not meant that way. Hopefully, this post will serve as simply a glance through the window into the life and mind of a humble widower who loved his wife more than words can say.
Last Tuesday was Maggie’s Angel day, the first anniversary. Many, many people sent me well-wishes, condolences, flowers, cards, etc. All were acts of kindness and I appreciate them as such. The day was certainly worthy of a thick reverence. But, despite what people might expect, for me, it was just another Tuesday.
A long time ago in a place far away, Maggie and I sat at a bar visiting with a local somewhere. See, when we traveled, we loved best the experience of living life as much as possible like the natives. We’d seek out restaurants and bars and hangouts of the locals and, at any chance, chat it up. I don’t recall where we were but we were chatting with this guy and, over beers, he said something most profound to us and I’ve never forgotten.
We asked, ”So what to do you think about all the tourists?” He responded, “They are great for the local businesses. I’m glad they come here to visit and have a great time. It’s a great place to escape and play. But I live here.”
“But I live here.” I can’t imagine a phrase more appropriate for last Tuesday.
Last Tuesday (and now every subsequent May 4th) is marked as the day Maggie died. (Gosh, my heart skips a beat and my stomach turns just typing that.) May 4th is an anniversary, a reminder that It happened – she died. She’s gone now. It’s a day to reflect, remember, and let the reality become just a little bit more… real. If there’s an anniversary then it must really have happened, despite how hard it is to grasp. People use that day as a time to take a break from their daily lives and revisit the grief, sadness and disbelief. It’s like visiting a strange and uncomfortable land. And then, respects paid, they go home. But I live here.
Whereas people think back to parties, dinners and happy hours Maggie attended, I go to sleep in an empty bed every night. Whereas people think back on how much fun it was to talk to her on the phone, I miss the other half of my brain. Dinner parties with Maggie were fun – I eat dinner alone almost every night. Happy hours, parties, dancing – all great memories people share, the absence of which will be noted but not life-changing. But every Saturday and Sunday morning when I wake up in bed by myself, the reality is all too… ever present. I live here. This is my home.
I’m not for one second trying to compete. I’m certainly not trying to win a grief competition. (And that’s why I’ve been hesitant to publish this particular post.) But I think it’s worth publishing for three reasons:
- It’s counter-intuitive for those who haven’t been so lucky as to play this game.
- Those who do share a similar experience should know that they aren’t alone in feeling this way.
- Those who are confused at my lack of overwhelming sorrow on her Angel Day might better understand that yes, it’s an important day to mark, but I mourn deeply every single day and this day is simply no different than any other. Every single day prior to this was just as, if not more, difficult. Every single day.
The hardest thing for me on Maggie’s Angel Day was watching other people be sad. It just hurts to watch people suffer. I once told Martha a story about watching a man grieving over Maggie’s death. It curled the edges of my heart watching him, his face wracked with hard emotions all the while trying to contain and control the wild forces that were tearing him apart. It hurt me badly to witness and know there was nothing I could really do to extinguish the pain. Martha responded “Now you better understand how we’ve all felt watching you over the last few years.” Humbling.
So, yes, Maggie’s Angel Day was quite a day. But for me, it was a day of watching people reflect and hurt. My increased pain that day was because I hurt watching so many people be sad, not because my sorrow for the loss of my sweet wife was any more intense. I wanted to hold them and comfort them all. I couldn’t. But, thankfully, they were just visiting and, after the very long, very difficult day came to a close, they all went back to their homes and their families and friends.
I live here. Here, Tuesday was just another day.