Thursday, April 27, 2017

CONSIDERING HAPPY

“How are you doing?”

I feel strange and pretty guilty when I reply, “Well, good . . . I’m doing good.”

It looks as if I’m no longer the weepy, fatalistic heap that I became at 6:06 PM on August 30th. Seems kind of right. But mostly wrong.

I wrote in my husband’s obituary that “the best way we can honor Jim's memory is in living happy and taking care of each other.” It’s taken me nearly eight months to even consider adopting what I wrote. I can do the “taking care of each other” part easy. I’m pretty good at caring for my people. But even though I wrote that it would be honoring Jim to live happy, actually following through on that has seemed more like dishonor.

If I laugh am I not giving Jim the mourning he deserves?

If I have fun does it look like I don’t miss my sweetheart?

If I go a week without crying, maybe even a month someday, am I forgetting him? Am I—gasp—moving on?

I’m a stickler for using the right words to say what I mean. So I am careful to specify that I’m working on moving forward. Never that I’m moving on.

Moving on sounds like I forget or brush him under a rug. Instead, moving forward means pocketing all my pieces of Jim so that they’re close and taking a step or two toward what’s next. Whatever the hell that is. I talk about him. I sigh at his photos. But I also think about permitting new stuff to enter my life. That has been hard. I still avoid watching new shows that I hadn’t before he died. TV series. Movies. Guys, I haven’t seen Rogue One. Me. There is a Star Wars movie I haven’t seen. I own it—thanks, Kay Kay—but I haven’t watched it. There are some strange stumbling blocks along my way “forward.” Evidently that is one.

I am proud of how I’ve grieved. I do it. I don’t pushed aside my sadness or avoid talking about the loss, even if my voice catches or my makeup runs. I can’t imagine not talking about Jim whenever I want. I wrote about him and talked about him constantly while he was alive (to the annoyance of pretty much all the people everywhere actually) and I don’t see a reason to stop even though he’s gone.

With that I think I’m left healthier than if I didn’t have a talent for emotional expression and a willingness to do it publicly. I feel that maybe I am even progressing toward acceptance faster than I’m comfortable with. Just eight months after my husband died should I really be ready to even consider the idea of someday seeking happiness? The only way I can stomach that consideration is by giving myself credit for immediately embracing grief and the recognition that I’m luckier than most in the constant support I have from family, friends, and people I didn't even know before Jim died.

I have always been bright, clever, funny, and useful. But Jim made me vibrant. I’ve felt like that vibrance died with him. However, you don’t live with Jim, gain so much, and at his passing just lose it all. His knowledge base was so different from my own. It awoke dormant curiosity. He loved to go, to do. It made me braver and even eager to try new things. He gave me more family—the kids, his sisters and parents, Victory Woodworks. It beefed up my team and left me more people to serve. I’d like to think what our love and marriage gave me is mine to keep. I just have to find the tools and gumption to dig it back up.

With Jim I was happier than anyone had ever seen me be before. He was his happiest too. That’s got to be one of the things that my family has had the hardest time with, that so many people have really. She was so happy! He was so happy! They were so happy together.


Is Happy still in me? If the qualities I gained or amplified in being Jim’s girl—curiosity, bravery, and a desire to live bigger and offer up my strength and spark to more people—still belong to me, shouldn’t at least the concept of absurd happiness also remain mine? I don’t know where I can find it or even if I will, but gradually I’m coming to a place where I can bear the idea of keeping an eye out for joy, of “living happy” and letting Jim’s memory be the thing that takes care of me.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

WIDOWING

A few weeks ago there was an 18” bruise up the side of my right leg and pain in my back. A mean windstorm flipped our stupidly giant hammock over the top of my upper deck rail, I fought to stop the thing from totally wrecking a rain gutter, and I lost. There is a 3” dent in the drywall in my office because I have no business wielding a hammer of any sort.

Where I’m lucky is that at least 20 people read those things and thought, BUT I TOLD HER TO CALL ME IF SHE NEEDED ANY HELP AROUND THE HOUSE! I’m grateful that’s the case, but, honestly, like I’m going to do that. Why should my friends be inconvenienced when I want to hang things? Also, I’m not patient. If something needs doing, I’m not good at waiting for help. I’m going to plow ahead, do a horrible job, probably break something, and then take a humble pie in the kisser by way of paying a guy to fix the result of my impatience, ignorance, and arrogance.

I’ve always talked to myself when things are hard. You can do this. You can do this. Problem is, I’m generally wrong. But that’s what I whispered heading out to the garage this evening on the hunt for a stud finder. (Couldn’t find one. We have every other tool imaginable, but evidently Jim didn’t need to find studs; they found him.) When the tool chests came up dry I scanned the garage for more possibilites. I’d already been teary, searching through Jim’s stuff, but I didn’t actually lose it until my eyes landed on his nail bags. It wasn’t often that Jim donned bags to get my silly home decor tasks done, but when he did it was about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. He loved me for how capable I am, and man I loved that about him too. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. My husband liked that about himself. When hanging shelves or mirrors or doing whatever strange thing I dreamed up for him—Can you please suspend this painting from our slanted ceiling using eye hooks and rope?—he’d be about halfway through and say, “I’m really talented at this stuff.”

Heart eyes. Eyes spewing a shit-ton of hearts.

It’s just about every day that I’m grateful I cupped Jim’s face to kiss him. It’s not only my lips that remember his face but my hands can too. Sometimes I bring my hands up and reach out like I can hold his face in front me. My fingers don’t find anything, but I have to make sure my arms remember the height difference between us and my hands don’t forget the width of his face and feel of his whiskers.

We hit seven months last week. Another dumb marker. And one that makes conversation kind of harder. “My husband died.” Sad eyes and sympathy accompany, “How long ago?” “Seven months now.” And then faces lift a touch—I don’t have to be too, too sorry for her now; phew—and sad eyes shift into a look that reads something like, Oh, so you’re pretty much fine now, right? No. Not how it works. And even though I appreciate that you try, you can’t understand. I’m happy for you; being able to understand what this feels like means you’ve been through it, and that’s awful. There are very few people on whom I wish Awful.

I look pretty normal. I act pretty normal. I pat myself on the back—I’m a yogi; I can actually do that, pat myself on the back—when I consider that my new students can't guess that my insides are wrecked. I’m just the really, really encouraging teacher who gives her all to trying to curse less in class and manages to laugh off moments where she biffs it out of an arm balance in front of 20 attentive adults. I am pulling this off like a champ.

I recently saw my dentist for the first time since losing Jim. She gave me the inevitable sad eyes and said, “You were so happy.” I’ve gotten good at accepting sad eyes without crying in response, but her words did me in.

“We were,” I replied, “So, so happy.” She and I talked about how great things had been and how I have piles of amazing memories that make me smile and get me through the days. In remembering Jim, nine times out of 10 I laugh instead of cry.

“But, really how are you doing?”

After a pause I said, “Well, I’m good at this. I know it sounds weird, but I’m pretty good at alone and I don’t deny myself grief. I can’t. I love him too much. So while I’m not doing good per se, I am doing good at this.


It’s weird though. While I’ve pretty well ditched shame regarding public crying, I am having a hard time figuring out how to talk about Jim without making people too uncomfortable.

I was talking with a gum-loving student after class the other night and told him about the time that Jim was chewing gum in one of Tanya’s yoga classes and she walked over, put out her hand, and he spat his gum into it. “One of my favorite memories,” I said. And then I looked away and quickly pushed the conversation another direction. Because when you say “memories” it implies that something is done. But why? Why’s it done? Not because you got a divorce; you don’t usually talk about favorite memories when you’ve gotten divorced, right? And if not a divorce, well, what is it? Yeah, a death. So then you have to go there. And while I love talking about my husband, I’m more socially adept than that. People don’t know what to do and I just end up apologizing for telling them about my situation.

I was at a doctor’s office a couple weeks ago and a nurse asked about the double strand necklace I wear. “What’s engraved on that second pendant?” she asked, “The thing that starts with N?”

“You’re so bummed you just asked about that,” I said.

“Oh, I’m sorry. If you don’t want to talk about it—”

“No, I do,” I told her, “It’s why I wear it, but you’ll be sad you asked. The top pendant has my husband’s initials, JSE, and that number—N985CA—on the bottom pendant, it’s the tail number from the plane that crashed and killed my husband.”

And then shit gets all awkward. Killed. My. Husband.

“Oh I’m so sorry.” “I know. Thanks . . . ” And so on.

My friend Liz who also lost her husband gave me an analogy that stuck. This widowing thing is like learning to live with a limp. Initially, it's everything. The pain that causes you to limp is your world. And then you learn to live with your new escorts, Discomfort and Difficulty. It might look unwieldy, but that's just your new way to walk. I limp now. Depending on the moment my limp is more or less pronounced. It might not make me stall at crosswalks anymore, but it's there, and figuring out how to maneuver around the change and craft a new normal is the task at hand. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

THAI COLLAPSE

The Thailand entry stamp in my passport says February 25. The Thailand departure stamp in my passport says February 26. The 24 hours I’ve been in Thailand are about 22 too many.

February 25th:

4:00PM—Land Koh Samui Airport in southern Thailand
5:00PM—Check in Samahita Retreat for Yoga Medicine week-long spine training
6:00PM—Mandatory dinner. Meet other trainees. Silently begin to lose shit.
7:30PM—Training orientation. Shit-losing increases.
7:45PM—Admit defeat. Book it back to private room to frantically schedule flight to get the hell out of Thailand.

Koh Samui airport. About as much Thailand as I actually saw.
This trip was me being the brave widow. And it was a big fat fail. I’ve traveled a fair amount since Jim died. Disneyland, three or four trips to Utah, Los Angeles for a baby blessing, Denmark to spend Thanksgiving with the Johnsons. All the trips are sad because I’m without my love, but I’ve plodded along, going through the motions. Thailand was supposed to be part of that.

I erred. It didn’t occur to me that all the other post-Jim travel I’ve done was with or to visit friends and family. This wasn’t that. Instead it was Megan jetting to the other side of the planet entirely alone. Genius.

Yoga teaching certification-wise, I have my RYT-200. A next step is getting the 500. Maybe six months before that stupid plane crash I picked a school—Yoga Medicine—and kept an eye out for a training module that would work. Jim and I talked about going to the spine training in Thailand at the end of February. Maybe I could do that and he could come and we could explore after? Yes.

Then he died.

And I got extra stubborn. I’m going on the damn trip. I’m gonna do the damn training. Did I want to? Not even a little bit. But it’s the right thing—go learn, get better at teaching, do something. Be tough.

I’m not a quitter. I don’t fail. Except I just quit and failed.

I’m glad that I didn’t chicken out before I got here. If you heard from me that I was going to Thailand you were probably kinda confused; I seemed way bummed out. “But Thailand, Megan! It’s beautiful!” “Don’t care. Don’t want to go but have to do this.” Even though it’s lame that I traveled for 30 hours to get here just to turn around and travel 30 hours to get home, it’s better than not having tried at all. Which I myself don’t even understand. Why is good to try and fail? To learn your breaking point? I don’t know. I only know that I’m glad I didn’t back out in Reno.

Rather I got to travel really far to learn for certain that I’m newly emotionally ill-equipped for life outside my home bubble.

On my flights to Asia everyone was coupled. On the ride to the yoga center I was desperate to to hear what Jim would think about all the old power lines strung through the streets. At dinner other trainees did what people do—talked about their kids and their significant others and their teaching jobs and other trainings they’ve done. I sat quiet, attributing my reticence to fatigue when really I was just mired in spite, resenting anything that might smell of happiness. That's not like me. I overheard girls talking about how some Instagram yoga people get big followings they don’t merit, and I wanted to smack ‘em for their intense interest in the inconsequential. It. Doesn’t. Matter.

Whimpering stray dogs made me sadder than they should have. Strays are a problem in Thailand. Hotels ask guests not to feed or touch them. It was too much. At home I keep an extra leash in my car and will miss appointments and classes to catch a pet and help it home.

Even though admitting defeat isn’t my proudest moment, I’m supposed to be pleased that I had the self-awareness to concede that the little things were adding up to a too-big thing, and I couldn’t hack it. I’ve got limits; I misjudged them to start, but I am fixing it. I can’t be alone for hours and hours and see couples happily traveling together while I’m so close to Jim’s death. I can't pull off common social graces and to pretend Instagram is important or fein interest in strangers’ kids. I don’t have to cope with the sadness of walking past whimpering homeless puppies.

So I’m withdrawing back to Sparks where my mom is waiting to feed me healthy food and hover to wait for a bit more rebuild. In weaker moments ditching out on the training feels like regression. I’ve been holding it together like a champ for months by way of making the right choices. I cry when I need to. I push forward when I can stand it. I bail when things are too much and usually don’t beat myself up about it. In this case the size of the bail makes the success of yielding to my limits feel like a fail, though I suppose I know better. I need to be where I can stay held together—with people who know what I’m dealing with and dogs that have homes. While I don’t hesitate to acknowledge that I’m mending from being broken, I guess it took coming to Thailand to realize that I have to be more cautious when the glue’s not dry.

Friday, February 24, 2017

ONE DOZEN LOVE LETTERS

In filling out that book 642 Things About You That I Love for Jim I came across this prompt:

This is what I believe about you—

My answer came easy. I really believed that you could save yourself. I’m still shocked that it’s not true. I believed you were more powerful than death.

A lot of what I’ve felt since Jim died is shock. There are still the bewildering realizations that he’s never coming home but also this sense of disbelief that my sweet man was actually able to be killed. Something in me was convinced he had the power to prevent that.

While rolling trash cans to the curb this week—a task that wasn’t all mine until 6 months ago—it occurred to me that actually I was right. With a soul the size of his, Jim was too powerful to die. I see myself as Jim's legacy-keeper—the job that came with the privilege of getting to have him at all is keeping him alive once he’s gone. It's not hard. There is so much good to hang on to.

I don’t focus my attention on life after death. Now is what matters to me, but no matter what I might believe about the soul and life after we die, I can treat Jim’s death as absence not disappearance. Like I mention perhaps too often, you don’t live as large as he did and just vanish once you’re not breathing. By way of my unabating memorialization, that man’s not going anywhere.

I have scads of little love notes from Jim. When my mom asked for copies of a few [of the chaste ones] I was delighted to oblige. They’re too good for me not to share. Enjoy. And maybe do this: pick up the nearest scrap of paper and write your person a love note. It doesn’t need to be fancy or poignant or a work of literary art. Just take a sec to be you loving your someone while you’ve got the opportunity to do it.












Friday, December 30, 2016

THE HIERARCHY OF SADNESS

I’m back in memorial-service mode. Jim’s mom died three days ago. It seems the world at large is whining about 2016 being a bitch, but I’m not in a position to indulge in the frivolity of giving a damn about this year’s celebrity deaths. So if I wasn’t opposed comparing miseries, I’d go ahead and call the win on behalf of my clan in regard to the suckiest 2016. Jim’s best friend Brandon died. Four months later my Jim died. Four months after that Jim’s mom died. And there were two family dog deaths sprinkled in there someplace. So we win at loss. However, that yields to the Hierarchy of Sadness, which shouldn’t be a thing.

When people find out about my loss, they invariably end up waiving claim to sorrow of their own, surrendering to what I’ve come to call the Hierarchy of Sadness. Everyone has misfortune and when friends tell me about what’s hard for them they qualify it by saying something like, “I mean, it’s nothing like what you’re dealing with . . . ” They don’t want me to think they compare their grandma’s death or rear-ending a car to losing my person and our future.

It’s unavoidable though.

We do our best to relate, dusting off our saddest thing and using it to find our way to comprehension of some kind. It’s good. It’s kindness. But also people feel like they can’t tell me their woes because I might assume they find their stuff equal to what I’m dealing with. Here’s the deal: you don’t know how I feel. I don’t know how you feel either. It’s why we talk—or write—about stuff, to reach something like understanding. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a parent. I don’t know what it’s like for my parents to get divorced. To lose a sibling. To lose a child. I know what having a cheating spouse felt like. I know what my own divorce felt like. I know what it feels like to become a widow.

My horrible thing that I think about all the time and weighs me down and makes me pitiful doesn’t make your problems any smaller. I don’t want people to feel like they’re not entitled to their emotions because my misfortune seems bigger. And okay, maybe it is bigger, but really it’s just different. I’m in a different place of sadness than someone separating a family or struggling with a disabled child. My sadness might debilitate or visibly alter me more, but it doesn’t nullify how your sadness affects you.

I spent the last few years breathtakingly happy. I had an incredible man, I told people about him, and I know that my story made some people wish their lives were different, maybe even more like mine. I feel like people forget—no, that they don't know—that the mass and style of how happy I got to be shouldn’t have rendered anyone else’s joy insignificant. While it’s natural for us to compare happenings and feelings, letting our judgement of the comparison invalidate how our own life experiences affect us bums me out.

That was me being nice for a minute. And I do feel like that. But generally I need to avoid looking at other people’s lives because when I slip into the inevitable comparing I usually end up invalidating people’s experiences for them. Oh, but is your partner still alive? Oh he is? How nice for you. Shut your mouth.

Random old people get under my skin. Because they’re alive. They get to be 80 and my Jim got 30 years less. I hate that I’ll probably be one of those old people some day, healthy and stuck staying alive. Come 80 I’ll have been widowed for 46 years.

It’s not uncommon for people to suggest that I’ll get married again someday. You’re kidding, right? He died. We didn’t get divorced. I’m married. The difference between my marriage and others is that I wear both our wedding rings. I didn’t marry Jim because I wasn’t good at or fine with being alone. I married Jim because he was Jim.

Our wedding ceremony. Gay, Jim's mom, giving me his dad's ring. Though blacked from the fire, that ring survived Jim's plane crash. Now it's fixed and shiny and part of a bracelet on my wrist.
Yes, post-loss I had to amp up my alarm system because I don’t have a person to make me feel safe without beefier electronic security. Yes, I do fret about what if I start to choke and I’m too short to use the back of a chair to successfully Heimlich myself. But those concerns aren’t enough to make me want to hop on eHarmony. I’m putting my name on Jim’s headstone. Our headstone. The hole in my life isn’t just man-shaped; it’s Jim-shaped. 

With the right components in place, suffering can morph into healing. Admittedly I don’t want that, to heal, so whatever improvement occurs is pretty much against my will. Yet whether I want to be or not (not) I am one of those right components.

When I got divorced I was crushed with the feeling of failure. So I became an expert in redefining the win and spun losing the marriage into a victory because I lost a loser. After Jim’s death though I decided that redefining the win was stupid and quit that shit. There was no spin there that was going to make my husband getting killed a good thing. We were already each other’s great success. Alas, as I’ve said too many times to count after this tragedy, I am not stupid. And while the small boosts I can identify don’t fill the pit in my soul even a little bit, I can’t help but see them and they give me pause enough to acknowledge that everything doesn’t absolutely suck.

That acknowledging isn’t something I do enough publicly. Mostly I just bump around downcast and come off as hating everything everywhere, which, yeah, might be my most-of-the-time take, but I keep coming back to the concept that I’m not dumb. I would be dumb not to see what’s great, and there is a boatload. You’ve read that here more often than I say it aloud because I write it for the reminder to myself and because I want to holler that I’m not the most depressing, negative, unfortunate person ever. I’m just a girl who was so happy and then suddenly so not. But it has to be separate from the good things, because the not-Jim good things didn't go away. In fact, they enhanced.

The relationships that were already in place strengthened. I've been able to enjoy the Victory crew personally. It’s been a gift getting to know my sisters-in-law more. The relationship I have with the kids couldn’t be better; we are a team. I already loved Traci and her kids, but now she’s my sixth sister. We all had the saddest, most sentimental Christmas, but we did it together. And we have a wedding coming up. Dustin and his doll got engaged.

As a grief exercise I bought a fill-in-the-blanks book called 642 Things About You (That I Love). While Jim will never receive it, at least I’ve got stuff written down and I have direction for that time I hover in memory space. One of the early questions is “If our relationship had a mascot, what would it be?” Not each answer comes immediately, but that one did and came with a groan. A damned phoenix. My sweetheart and I came together from the ashes of destroyed marriages, the both of us, and now I’m left to rise again, this time from for-real plane-crash ashes. A phoenix. Shit. Of late the rising looks more like hovering and then diving into ash again and again, but I’m Jim’s wife—against my will there’s moments of rise. I pretty much hate being so freaking awesome.

Monday, December 26, 2016

SMART, BEAUTIFUL & DIFFICULT

Stuck to a magnet on the door of the garage fridge is a small laminated paper that says LUNCH. My solution to a recurring problem. I slapped the magnet on Jim’s car door at night when I put his lunch in the fridge so that the next morning he’d take it off, turn around, and go back to the fridge to get the lunch he invariably walked past on the way to his truck. I made him fancy salads and tart, tart vinaigrettes. And yeah, once or twice I may have included carrots and radishes cut out in the shape of hearts

If he didn’t get all the way to work before remembering he forgot the lunch he’d turn around and drive home to get it. “I could have brought it to you!” I’d tell him. “How else will I learn?” he’d reply.

He wanted to eat healthier. I wanted him to eat healthier. He didn’t have time to figure it out. I did. “But more than that,” I told him, “I love making your lunches because at 11:30AM every day you are certain that I love you.” The care I put into that food couldn’t spell it out more clearly.

I’ve said here before that my mom often told us that you love those you serve. I kept that in mind in my marriage. I trusted that the more I did for Jim the more I’d love him and the more I loved him the happier I’d be. Listen, I failed in my first marriage. I’ve never been shy about taking responsibility for my part in a marriage that was weak enough to snap. I didn’t make time or care, and I’m not sad it broke; it got me Jim and his family. Fresh out of a failed marriage though, there were some things I knew I wanted to do differently to make this one work.

The euphoria I felt from the love Jim and I had was enough to overpower inconveniences. So he forgot his lunch, his glasses, his computer, his charger and I’d have to restructure my day to get it to him? So what? It meant I got to see him. And if I didn’t get to see him it meant I got to leave a love Post-it. So he left his shoes at the bottom of the stairs? First, they’re darling, second, it was an uncommon occurrence, and third, if I put them away that’s one less thing for him to do when he got home from work. I’m grateful that even when he was alive I knew that seconds saved doing stuff for him were seconds I could use to enjoy him instead. Think of it as selfish. What I wanted was to be happy. Doing a good job loving Jim made me happy. So doing the things that could enhance the love and increase our time together would get me what I wanted. Simple, simple.

I am not saying I was the perfect wife. Gosh, no. The other morning I finally read through the last few months of our text messages. It was mostly logistics and me whining about stuff. Yes, there is lots of “love you baby” and “miss you” and “can’t wait to see you” and even a “hey hotpants,” but there are also boatloads of me being a pain in the ass.

But that’s part of it.

For one of Jim’s business groups he had to put together a list of the 10 things that are most important to him. In reading it to me he listed “My Family” and named all the kids and his mom and sisters and then moved onto the next item. “Hey,” I interrupted, “I want to be on that list!” “Hold on—” He got through a few more things and then read, “My Wife. I think she is smart, beautiful, and difficult.”
(from early June this year)
The love was worth it. It was worth inconveniencing myself to accommodate him. It was worth him putting up with how difficult I can be. I’m not naive to the fact that we didn’t get to do that for nearly as long as we would have liked and so we didn’t have 25 years to see if our patterns were sustainable. We also had the benefit of starting over together in second marriages. But I’d like to think that rather than us not having time to see if the ardor would fizzle, his death took the time we would have used to continue the work of perfecting Us.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

WAITING IN STAGES

Well, I’d do it. I’m certain that given the real option, I’d spend the price of my soul to avoid sitting through another double date without him. Why can’t that be a thing? If not access my soul, can I at least surrender an arm? An ear? Both ears? My sight? My talents? All of it? Tonight I was alone on my side of a restaurant booth. “Put your coats and purse over here,” I told Nick and Mallory.  I'd give whatever asked to make it so Jim and I together mean that we all have to find hooks for our things.

I’ve spent the holiday week in Copenhagen at my sister, Mal’s, house. “You don’t have to try to smile,” she tells me, “It looks like it’s hard today, and you don’t have to do that with me.” She watches my gaze slide to the floor when a room’s silent and I think she sees I’m scrolling through the memories that got me here. He bought our tickets. I cancelled his. I came alone. 

There's a difference between being a tourist and traveling to visit family. It means we go to the grocery store. We pick up my little nephew from school. I eat lots I shouldn’t. I ask about my brother-in-law’s job, and he listens to me talk about Jim. We watch movies and drink tea. The time here isn’t the go-see or find-trinkets kind, and while I can’t help but laugh with any of my sisters, I often find that laughter can’t get to my eyes. But they are my family and they’re patient with me. They wish he was here too. Last year Jim and I met Nick and Mal in Milan so the guys could go ski the Matterhorn. While I’m glad they got to do that before he died, it isn’t comforting.

Venice last year after Nick and Jim crushed the Alps.
I don’t try to find comfort. I don’t even try to find forward motion. Comfort isn’t there. Forward motion doesn’t interest me. I wait for each part of this bullshit to find me on its own.

My version of the denial piece of grieving seems to look a lot like incredulity. Wait. It’s real? . . . What about now? Is it still real now? And now? Seriously? Still? I smell Jim’s cologne on his t-shirt that I keep tucked in my bed, and at the inhale I remember smelling it on him after a shower and saying, “You smell like my husband,” and I with that I recall what his back felt like under my hands while he fell asleep. I linger in a remembering space longer than a wife of the living would. Yes, Megan, it’s real. You can’t make a new memory. No more slipping into the laundry room to make out when company’s over or thanking him for vacuuming cobwebs on the porch. What you have is all there is.

My version of the anger stage isn’t anger with Jim for getting on the plane or for the pilot for crashing it. It’s at the exhausting business of death and the insensitivity surrounding the stuff that has to happen after your someone croaks. So what he made you feel pretty and took comfort that you drive the safest car? His death is just a death. Sign these papers and go cancel his gym memberships.

And Depression isn’t a stage of grieving. It’s the norm. The shifts come by way of how the depression shows up. Today it feels like sandbags on my shoulders. Today it feels like boards over the doors. And today it feels like why-can’t-I-just-take-another-Ambien-and-pass-the-hell-out-to-just-skip-this-day. After he died a few friends asked if I was going to see about upping my antidepressant dose. No. While I am on board with knocking myself out at night so I don’t spend eight hours stretching my arm into his side of the bed to feel that it’s still tight and cold, you can’t medicate away sadness. And Jim’s memory warrants feeling it all. I want to feel the tonnage of disconsolation because to do otherwise makes less of what he was.

But it makes me tiresome. I dwell. I make death-related jokes that turn conversation awkward. I fixate on memories. The number of Jim-stories I’ve got is finite, so I tell the same ones a lot. The reverence surrounding a death and the tiptoeing around a new widow means that no one tells me to stop. “We’ve heard this story before. Ten times.” “Stop saying that he ‘does’ things. Present tense doesn’t belong to you anymore.” No one can tell me to shut up without immediately becoming a colossal jackass. I’m a 34-year-old widow. The dead guy’s deified, but I’m the one they fear.

When I make comments about wishing to die, my people get uneasy. “You’re not going to, like, hurt yourself,” some say, some ask. No. I’m not that girl. But, man, I wish I was dead. It’s not that I want to bail on those here or cause myself more pain. I just want to be with my person. As that’s not an option, I’d prefer not to be here at all. The death-wish is hollow though; instead of taking action I'll just wish and waste.

Because of this: I’m still Jim’s wife. While wasting and pretty damn worthless, I still have somewhere a spark of what my husband loved. Jim was likable on sight, good at everything, and generous with all. It made him something special, and I was worthy of him. I’ve been dynamic and determined. I’ve dug out from ashes. I’ve accomplished hard things. His death is the hardest to get through, and I know that the me on the other side will be changed. My grief is about waiting. I wait for the tears and wait for them to stop. I wait to accept the void of my new normal. And I wait for pieces of the old me to find their way forward.  I’ve got a feeling that the parts that made me Jim's are the parts that will pull me to my feet when I’ve waited long enough.

Monday, November 14, 2016

WHAT'S GOOD? WHAT'S GOING RIGHT?

When Jim encountered rough stuff—say, work turning in the wrong direction or frustration from his ex-wife’s unwillingness to coparent—I’d listen, usually feed the fire, then stop and ask, “Okay, what’s good? What’s going right?”

His answers were consistent. “I have a great relationship with all my kids. I love my wife. I get lots of sex.” Even though big things might be rotten, bigger things were good.

I’m struggling. A lot is wrong. The business of death is a hassle and draining. I don’t have motivation to get myself out of the house for anyone but family and the Allens. I wish I could help the kids feel better, but I know nothing will to work. Most of all I ache like hell for my husband.

It’s a more difficult exercise now, but—Okay, what’s good? What’s going right?

I have a good relationship with all the kids. They’re my people. I get to hang out with Katelynn. I went flying this weekend with Dustin and Tjaden. I hear from Jo a lot. Ben sends me jokes. We don’t get to see each other nearly as much as we’d like, but when we were last all together Ben said, “This is like Disneyland.”

I’m mad as hell about it, but Jim left us ready. We were ready to be family without him. A year ago, we all wouldn’t have been able to brace up and enjoy each other without him around, but we’ve spent enough time together under Jim’s influence to have built trust and love enough to fashion our own support structure.


What’s good? What’s going right?

I have words. I have the ability to write about all this awful stuff. It blunts some of the despair. Writing and posting about losing Jim is like opening a carbonated drink, some pressure leaves, but all the liquid is still there.

By way of both my blood-family and my in-laws, I have a big bunch of family that I love and love me. My mom moved in with me for the month after Jim died. She went where I told her, waited when I couldn’t move, made me food, and even now if I told her that I can’t do this alone and I need her back, she’d be on the road in minutes.

I was in Utah this weekend to see my niece in a play. Before the show started her 11-year-old brother leaned across my mom to ask, “Hey Aunt Megan, how’s life?” “Shitty.” I replied, feeling only a little bit guilty that I cursed to a kid. Accuracy over prudence. “I’ll bet,” he said. Top to bottom, my family gives a damn.

I used to be superstitious. If I say something’s going to happen, it won’t. I lost that conviction in seconds. I am not dramatizing when I say that I wrote the last bit of my Terminal blog post as a specific mechanism to prevent loss. I first wrote the last paragraph as only disbelief at my good fortune. But then, afraid that my unrestrained happiness would spur some terrible event, I added as safeguard, “I know as well as anyone that things can—they will—change, fast, and life may not always look like this.” Despite my concerted effort, it was less than a week before life didn’t look like that.

Along that same hollow line of thought, I was counting on odds to give me more time with Jim. With a 16-year spread between us, I always expected to outlive Jim, but by how much? Brandon’s death gave me what I thought must be at least 20 years; best friends do not die close together. The remote chance of losing Jim soon after losing Brandon was enough for me to settle into relief that I didn’t need to worry about losing my person for a while.

Never tell me the odds. I need that on a shirt or tattooed on my body. Though the odds looked to be in my favor, they never were.

Two dead dads. When the Allen kids lost their dad, Brandon, the next best thing was Jim. He couldn’t be their dad, but he could love Traci and her kids like family. He could keep the memory of their dad fresh. He was consolation prize far from what they wanted but enough to be some kind of solace.

Nope. He only got to carry Traci’s post-vacation suitcases up the stairs one time. The only thing he got to fix at her house was the door to the playhouse. He only got to drop Brandon’s jeep off at the mechanic, never pick it up. The Allens only got to feel Jim’s runner-up support for four months.

What’s good? What’s going right?

I have Traci. Along with friendship, I have close and complete understanding from the other widow. After Brandon’s death Jim took comfort that he left behind a capable wife; Traci would do a hell of a job figuring things out after losing her love. I have that example to draw from.

I have my dogs. Since there are heartbeats waiting for me, when I come home it’s not to Entirely Alone.

I have long-suffering friends who let me have time and distance. They offer help of whatever kind I can accept whenever, if ever, I can.

I have yoga, the teaching and the taking. Yoga is somewhere to go that’s familiar. I told Cameron a few weeks ago that I appreciate that I’ve been doing yoga long enough that new studios don’t scare me. I’ve always gone to class when I travel—my husband loved that about me—and wherever I go yoga studios are places where I know what to do. With the teaching I have that slice of time when I really can ditch my sorrow and focus on someone else. I get ringside seats to students’ progress and change. It’s a reward I get paid to receive.

I have the team at Victory Woodworks, a group of talented, big-hearted A-players. A couple weeks ago I was having one of the extra rotten days, and if I hadn’t already said I would go by Victory to drop stuff off, I’d have stayed home all day. But I followed through and went to the office, and their kindness and hugs and success lifted me such that I left feeling a little bit better.

A while into my relationship with Jim I apologized to one of my sisters for being so off the grid. “I used to be a good sister,” I told her, “I used to be attentive and thoughtful. Sorry for being absent.” She said my absence was good, it meant I didn’t need them, that Jim was filling my needs. She was happy for me instead of resentful. There were so few of my needs that Jim couldn’t fill.

Because the biggest thing is rotten, I have a hard time seeing through the grief to identify what’s right. People. I read through what I’ve written above, and I see that what’s good, what’s going right, is lots about people. When I have the ability to pause and look what’s right, it’s there by way of the living.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

OPTING OUT

Most of the time I am doing one hell of a job faking it. I can’t tell if it’s a good thing or not. I go out in the world and I smile at my people and I make jokes—usually really morbid, sad ones, but they’re levity of some kind. I pull off what looks like a good mood, and if not upbeat, at least I come off as something not utterly heartbreaking. Hey, so it’s all a big fat lie. I don’t know though if it’s better to put on a smile and fool people or to do what’s more honest and tell everyone that I couldn’t possibly care less about what they’re saying and I’m even a little irritated that they aren’t as depressed as I am.

I wasn’t all that social before Jim died. I’m so much less so now so as to be antisocial. I don’t know how to talk about anything not-Jim. That’s not true. Cameron and I can talk about yoga postures for hours. But other than that, nope. Even then though we talk about Jim in between yoga stuff. I’m grateful when I learn that I’m not the only one who misses my husband.

It’s simultaneously shocking and deadeningly heavy that he is for-real gone. Like, really. Like the I’m-serious-and-still-can’t-believe-what-I’m-saying type of gone. How did I, at 34, lose the best thing that will ever happen to me? You can try to tell me that it’s not all downhill from here, but I’m uninterested in bullshit. Jim was the pinnacle. He was my trump card. When comparing myself to others, as I can’t help but do because I’m a girl, the inevitable inadequacy couldn’t beat me because I had Jim. You might be beautiful, but I get to go home to Jim. You might be smart, but I get to go home to Jim. Even if I couldn’t be the things I wished I wished I was, I could be to Jim the things he saw me to be. It was plenty. Being loved like I was loved was more than enough.

When you’re polite, and I like to think I was polite once, you talk to people about them and the things they care about. I can do that barely halfheartedly. 80% of the time as I’m saying the words that sound right I’m thinking, “ . . . I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care . . . ” It means I barely know what’s coming out of my mouth and don’t remember the conversation later. But I feel like I have to go through the motions of being a decent human or I will make myself permanently irrelevant.

It’s different when I’m teaching yoga though. Then I’m doing that being-present thing quite adeptly. I can focus on my students, and really, I adore them. It’s an hour and fifteen minutes where I can give a damn. I think I use up all my caring about others during that time and don’t have any left for casual conversation or optional social interactions. So I elect not to engage.

I suppose the fact that I can teach at all indicates some kind of progress in my process. But progress toward what? It’s all empty future without him. Okay sure, I’ll find some kind of happy someday, but I want the happy I had. It was fulfilling and unreal. And not just retrospectively. It was unreal when we were in it, ending in confirmation of the concept that if it seems to good to be true it probably is.


People used to tell me that our relationship gave them hope. Hope that they could find some kind of beauty for themselves, that when things seem all loneliness and dark there is potential for a turnaround. What I want to say after August 30th is this—sorry, but no; it’s all awful. Best I can give you is to say that you need to love your people full-on and ferociously because your version of Good can literally go up in smoke—flames and black smoke falling into an RV park and DOA—and all you’ll be left with is whatever memories you’ve created. So save the love notes, spend money on experiences, take photos of the mundane, blow off what only seems critical to be with your loved ones, and focus less on surface achievements and goals so that you can indulge in the luxury of having someone to love.

That’s the most positive stuff I can say. Everything else I have to offer is drenched in despair and outright intended to make people feel bad.

I do remind myself that other people are dealing with shit or have things they want to talk about that are interesting to them, but my response to my own reminder goes like this, “Oh, I don’t care.” So rather than go out and be an asshole, I avoid social stuff as much as I can. It’s poor manners to be with people and spend all your time sulking in a corner mumbling, “None of this matters, you know.” I run into real problems though considering that I have people in my life I love and appreciate who want to be there for me, who want to help me and the kids, and they don’t know how. I don’t know how to tell them how, and I don’t have the social fortitude to make up the difference between their love and my selfish sadness.

I often wonder why i keep the house tidy, why I don’t eat myself totally fat, why I go to class or teach class, why I voluntarily interact with anyone at all. It feels pointless when Jim isn’t my reward. The Whys I come up with are habit and fear. Fear that I’ll just make it all worse. That did not, however, stop me from sitting at my kitchen table tonight roasting marshmallow after marshmallow with the blow torch and squashing them between Oreo after Oreo. It’s what I had to work with since the preferable option of sitting on the couch tickling Jim’s head while he fell asleep on my lap was pretty well out of the question.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT UPLIFTING

I’m half Everything Sucks and half I’m The Luckiest Girl. No, I’m 70/30. And my Luckiest Girl moments irritate me. I’m sick of being grateful—grateful for the people that love me and care for me and think of me, grateful that I had Jim in the first place, grateful for the kids. The gratitude is exhausting, and I’m already physically debilitated by way of emotional trauma. Gosh Jim, where you at? I’ve turned into a total catch. You thought I was hot stuff before. You should see me now. When not sulking in public, I’m hiding in the house on the couch watching Star Trek special features on repeat.

I am in Monterey, California, for Jim’s hot cousin, Captain Amy’s, wedding. (Yes, I cried a lot and had to go take breather breaks in the bathroom, but my beautiful in-laws held my hand and supported me. We Ellikers, a sad, sad but steady group.) I came solo because my date died. He and I were looking forward to this trip. We looked forward to any trip together. “Want to go to—“ “Will you be there?” “Yes.” “Then I’m in. Duh.” We loved to just get in the car without a timeline and go explore. Ever taken that exit before? See that lake over there? Let’s find out how we can get there. But this I drove alone. I don’t mind driving alone. I mind going places alone where we were going to go together. On my drive I listened to the recording of Jim's talk at Brandon’s funeral four months before he himself bit it.

I’m not afraid to fly. You want freedom and experiences living when we do, you fly. I’ll fly to Denmark next month, Bahamas the following, and Thailand two months after that. I can’t let the manner of my husband’s death stop me from doing things he’d want me to. Hell, things we planned together. But man it’s effed up. He died in a plane crash. I hear the word plane in any context and think, “Plane? Oh that thing that spiraled down in flames to kill my husband? That kind of plane?” I watched some yoga teaching video and the example teacher told students to stretch their arms out and lean forward and down like a toppling airplane. Double take. Hope I heard wrong. Option for Toppling Airplane. Probably try to avoid saying that in class, teachers. It’s kinda tacky.

But here’s the thing. People don’t know my husband died. Or that he died in a plane crash. They don’t know that offhandedly saying things like, “Go slowly. You don’t know how much time you have,” and “toppling airplane” are going to set me off. They’re just words. Too bad they have meaning and I give them brutal context.

On my drive over yesterday I passed a private airport packed with planes. I couldn't tell if any were Beechcraft Bonanzas, the plane that crashed and offed my everything, but there were probably some. Would I go up in one? Yeah, especially if Dustin was flying. It’s getting back on the horse. Jim would want me on the horse.

There’s a lot of those assumptions flying around lately. Jim would be so proud . . . Jim would want . . . Jim wishes . . . I make the bulk of them. Jim would want to be here. Jim would want us to remember him by way of funny stories. And, if it brings us any measure of relief, Jim would want us to use his death to make jokes that make people uncomfortable. I’m quite confident on that last one.

I love how my boy said measure. mayz-jhurr. The bits of Nevada that fell out of his mouth from time to time helped complete a picture of this man I loved top-to-bottom. Sumbitch. Horse shit. I loved it all.

It’s a good thing I don’t drink, because if ever there was time the world at large would forgive me for becoming a drunk, it’d be now. I wouldn’t just drink a little. I don't have a stop button. I’d get head-over-the-toilet hammered in daylight.

Instead: Ambien for the nights. Ambien is like a sorta-friend that lives next door and you hang out because it’s convenient. She talks shit behind your back though—and you know it—but since she lives close, you get together anyhow. It’s not legitimate sleep you get with Ambien; it’s a chemical conk on the head that just lets you pass out for eight hours until you open your eyes, totally tired, and think, “It’s still real, isn’t it? I’m still a widow.” I may not know what day of the week it is, but I know that I’ll be spending it without my person. Oh my gosh, you guys, life freaking sucks. Still.

My husband was a man who one night sent my mother walking through the house in a human-sized hamster ball. Fellas like that are one of a kind.

Monday, October 24, 2016

HOW I AM

Question: “How are you?”

Answer A, the most common one: “Oh, you know.”

Answer B: “Shitty.”

Answer C: I pretend I didn’t hear the question. I really do that. Because I don’t want to have The Conversation, and even if people are only asking out of habit, I’m not interested in lying. There are times that I let, “Fine.” fall out of my mouth when someone asks how I’m doing, and I regret it. It’s not true. I'm functioning fine. I get the necessary stuff done. But I'm not fine.

Another workable answer might be, “I have no idea.” Am I going to cry in a minute? Am I going to get frustrated and throw something? Am I going to go back to bed? I don’t make plans because I don’t know if I can pull them off. I’m this lethargic, fragile thing on the verge of despondence or crying or screaming or slumping or I have no freaking idea.

I don’t want to write anything because I don’t want to propagate my depression. I’ve done a decent job highlighting what’s good, what there is to be grateful for, but I don’t feel a ton of that lately. I’m not bitter. I’m sure that will come soon. I am just so sad.

Gosh, but at the same time I’m not stupid. Or stupid enough to ignore the good of what’s right in front of me. I was sitting on the couch crying a couple hours ago, and there was a knock at my door, one of those incredibly well-timed knocks. It wasn’t just the cookies in hand that made me grateful—hell, delicious though they are, they’re so secondary to the kindness of a friend showing up at just the right time—it was the relief of being able to cry at a real person at that moment.

I get well-timed texts and emails from my people, known and unknown until now, telling me they’re thinking of me. It seems arrogant or assumptive, but I suspect that is happening a lot and I don’t know it—people thinking of and praying for me. Maybe I feel it? Or maybe I’ve just become so insufferably self-centered that I’ve deluded myself into thinking that my tragedy affected and continues to affect everyone else’s lives.

It means I’m touched though when people tell me how Jim’s death impacts them. It validates the pit of pain I’m still stuck in with no rise in sight, and also, I think it’s correct. Correct that people are changed. He was such a big personality. He had notable positive impact on really anyone who met him. I would be irked if his death was just something people felt sad about for a minute. It’s bigger than that and not just for me.

I am scared of forgetting. I am so scared I will forget what he felt like. Fretfully and with true trembling, I’m really damn scared. Over and over I listen to the couple recordings I have of his voice because I’m scared I’ll forget what he sounded like. Even with those recordings though I can’t find in my mind the exact sound of his voice when he answered my calls, “Hey baby!” I am scared of forgetting his habits. I sometimes have flashes of memory of something he did so often I can’t believe it wasn’t top of mind before. How can I forget his patterns? Time is going to pass and I am going to forget. I make notes. I try to capture what I can. I am so scared of forgetting all the things I loved about him.

On the wall just as you come in from the garage there is an 11x14 of my favorite of our wedding photos. The glass has fingerprints on Jim's half. My fingerprints. I touch that one as I walk by. I stop, run my fingers along his face, and sometimes I talk to him. Usually I just tell him, “I miss you so much.” Simple, accurate, inadequate.


I don’t like how I look in photos really ever. I’m not photogenic, and I’ve come to terms with it. I’d rather appear better in person than in photos anyhow. Point is, even though I don’t like what I look like in photos, when we decorated I hung quite a few pictures of us together throughout the house, because when I look at them I don’t see me. I see him. I look at the photos, I adore him, and then I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’m in that picture too. Weird.” But euphoria, I think, makes people prettier. Being so deliriously in love has to have made me look better or—and this might make more sense to me—I know how happy I am in those photos and that makes me care less about what I look like when I notice that I’m in the picture too.

Seems when I’m in a crying phase—read: right this second—I put on makeup just to cry it off. I often don’t wipe the mascara stains from my cheeks. I don’t see many people these days so I don’t need to look presentable, and the people I do see generally expect that I’m going to be a mess. Also, I’m comforted by the honesty of looking as sad as I feel.

One of the kind gifts I received after Jim died was a Giving Key. It’s a key stamped with a word, and you keep or wear it until you find someone who needs the word on your key more than you do. Then if you’re ready you give it away. My key says Brave. When I received it I couldn’t think why I would need Brave. What does being brave have to do with losing your heart? I figured it out. It takes bravery to go out into the world when there is the risk you’re going to cry to strangers. It takes bravery to go back to things you did before. Walking out the door as a new widow requires a deep breath and mustered gumption because you’re an unfamiliar person, and you don’t know what it’s going to be like to interact with things and people from Before. Brave is appropriate. For now I need Brave.

Friday, October 21, 2016

THE CONSTANT REMEMBERING

I won my husband with a beach cruiser. Whenever I was nervous about something—teaching a new class, a presentation at work, and really all the things ever—Jim would say with total confidence, “You can do anything. You built a bike.” The bike’s what did it. I ordered a beach cruiser and put it together myself with things like ratchets and swearing, and that’s really all it took for Jim’s heart to belong to me. He thought capable was hot.

Wait, also my butt. That man loved my butt. He fell for my competence and my butt.

He loved lemon anything. Lemon cake. Lemon bars. He loved acidic food. When we were wandering around the Lake Michigan area back in May we found a shop that sold tea and fancy vinegars. He tasted the Meyer lemon-infused white balsamic and put it on the counter while I was paying for tea. “Get that too,” he told me. “It gave me lockjaw, so it’s good.” I could get him to eat anything so long as I drenched it in vinegar. Anything but broccoli and arugula.

He liked those weird, giant Smartie’s lollipops. He would put one down on the kitchen island and then smash it with a saute pan so he could eat the shards.

Thinking of him smashing the Smartie’s lollipops reminds me of a time shortly after his divorce that  Jim made chocolate chip cookies. The recipe called for softened butter and he hadn’t set any out ahead of time. So he got a cube of butter from the fridge and a meat tenderizing mallet, put them in front of seven-year-old Ben, and said, “Here, soften this.”

When I was doing the pharma thing meetings made me travel, and he always, always had a surprise waiting in the hotel room when I got there or something delivered later. Flowers. Pie. Snacks. Shoes. When I didn’t tell him ahead of time what hotel—often I didn't even check myself until landing at whatever airport they'd sent me to—he’d ask coworkers where we’d be. There was one trip where nothing came until the day before I left to go home, and I thought, “Okay, this is the time he forgot. That’s alright. He can’t be all-the-way perfect.” Actually he could. The hotel made a mistake and since I hadn’t thanked him for the flowers yet, he had to call the hotel and be like, “So you screwed up, right?” Yup. Habits are helpful. It was his habit to send me stuff when I traveled. It was my habit to thank him when I received it. Since I didn’t execute my habit, he knew something was off.

He liked that he was habitual and predictable. I pointed out that he always stood the same in the shower, and he got a kick out of that. I love that he liked himself.

Whenever Jim was proud of himself he got the same facial expression. His “proud face” I called it. That expression would be indistinguishable from the everyday to people who didn’t study his face like a wife would, but small though it might have been, that tiny shift charmed me.

When we flew places he would lean forward on the tray table and fall asleep. But first he’d take off his glasses and tuck them into the seat pocket. Then he’d take down the tray table, put up his elbows and his forehead in his hands, and fall asleep. I used that as my cue to tickle his back and his head. And when I reached around and touched his earlobe I loved looking to his face to watch the crinkles around his eyes deepen as he smiled. It happened every time.

Since he died one of the things that people tell me they liked about Jim was that he didn’t have an ego. He was humble though he had plenty of reasons not to be. I liked it though when he'd show the rare flash of ego. It was cute. I’d point it out, and he’d like that about himself too.

I feel so bad for my dogs. I wasn’t the best dog owner before he died. Now I’m horrid. I haven’t walked Gus since we lost Jim. And when I’m home it’s not like I’m playing with them. I’m on the couch or in bed. I’m grateful they’re old, that they aren’t puppies and require a ton of attention. I couldn’t pull off a puppy right now.

The rooms in the house that don’t have pictures of Jim bug me. Or even freak me out. I get all frantic and have to go find a picture and tack it up. I don’t like sitting in the spots in the house where I can’t see him. He should be all over the place. I wish he’d haunt me.

Lately the bargaining part of this shitty process looks a lot like wishing that I could just tell him stuff and know for sure he heard it. That’s all I need. I’ll stop being sad and mopey and start looking people in the face again if I can just tell him things I know he’d find interesting or would make him laugh. I don’t even need to see or hear his reaction. I can imagine it perfectly.

Being happy was fun. I have the best memories of my husband. He loved me so much and I'm grateful that I know I made him happy. I smile when I think of him and our memories. I cry when his absence is too big. It’s always there, but sometimes it's just too huge for mere gloom.