Monday, May 31, 2010

The Fair Factor

Fair is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. Nobody ever said life was fair. All is fair in love and war. Fair's fair. And so on and so forth.

But where does 'fair' come in to play in all this?

It doesn't seem 'fair' that my husband, a good man, a kind man, a loving man, would be taken from this world when so many horrible people doing terrible things are allowed to stay in it.

It doesn't seem 'fair' that two loving parents should lose their only son, the most precious part of their lives.

It doesn't seem 'fair' that a young wife should have to lose the love of her life without even getting to say goodbye.

It doesn't seem 'fair' that just when his life was getting started, it should all be taken away by someone else, without him even getting a chance to fight for it.

It doesn't seem 'fair' that any of this would happen at all.

One of my favourite song lyrics has been running around and around in my head since the day of the accident:

"The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair."

I've always loved this line.

It says, hey, if life was really fair and people really got what they deserved, we'd all be in a world of hurt. Because we are all flawed. We all screw up, we all hurt other people, we all do the wrong thing. But thank God for grace because it sets everything to rights and protects us from the consequences we really deserve for all the things we do.

Only now how do I reconcile this concept with my new life?

On the one hand, I am grateful life is not fair. Grateful that we are not punished for every mistake we make.

On the other hand, why couldn't this one thing be the one time life was fair? Because if it was, no way would my husband, who is so desperately needed here, be taken away.

No way would his parents have to live the rest of their lives without their only child, without grandchildren.

No way I would have to live out the rest of my life alone, separated from my other half.

No way would some other guy be walking away after falling asleep at the wheel while my husband's ashes sit by my bedside.

I wish I had an answer to this one.

I wish I could understand.

But it just isn't fair.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Not Quite Yet

I was on my way to meet a friend for coffee the other day. Was in a bit of a rush, trudging through the crowded downtown streets, focused on just getting where I needed to go.

I looked up and walking towards me was an old coworker I haven't seen in years. Was a bit surprised he even recognized me.

Being the lonely widda I am (Widda: A younger, less scary version of widow), my face lit up and I was genuinely thrilled to see an old familiar face.

We both stopped to chat and catch up for a few minutes. He told me about where he was working, teased me about being a slave to the corporate world, had a few laughs.

And then, "So I hear you got married. How's that going?"

Time freezes. All I hear is white noise.

Deep breath.


Stop looking like a deer caught in headlights.

This silence is going to long.

Just say it.

Say something.

Say anything.

Then, "Great! It's really good."

And with that we parted ways, he on to his life, me on to mine.

I couldn't quite choke out the words I wanted to say.

"Married life? I can barely remember. I have no idea how married life is anymore, I have no life at all. My husband died, he is gone."

There will be more, I'm sure. Old friends, acquaintances, strangers. Splashing into ordinary moments of my life like little droplets of rain, only to disappear as quickly as they come. People who won't know. People I will have to tell.

But for now, I guess I am not quite there yet.

For now I will just pretend.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Muchness

From Alice in Wonderland:

The Mad Hatter: "You're not the same as you were before. You were much more... 'muchier'. You've lost your 'muchness'."

My muchness. My essence. My me.

In losing Craig I lost my muchness.

Every day I have felt it missing. My sparkle, my energy, my happiness. The things that make me laugh, the things I love, the things that give me hope - they are as invisible as I am now.

But today, for the first time in 10 weeks, I felt a tiny glimmer of my old self.

I woke up and smiled.

I remembered there are still good things in the world.

I thought, maybe, just maybe, one day a long, long time from now, I can be happy again.

There is still hope. However frail and small, it is there, winking at me.

I am reclaiming my muchness.

One little piece at a time.

Monday, May 24, 2010

No One Ever Told Me That Grief Felt So Like Fear

For those who have experienced the shadow of death in their lives, C. S. Lewis' quote rings painfully true: "No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear."

While there are a number of emotions that rock you daily - anger, sadness, frustration, pain - it is actually fear that becomes the most difficult to deal with since it is at the heart of almost all the others. It consumes and takes over any ability to make rational decisions or view the world with an untainted eye.

My fear tells me to not get back in my car. Someone could fall asleep at the wheel and I won't see them until it is too late.

My fear tells me not to get out of bed. There is no point in going on.

My fear tells me to double and triple check the locks on the doors and windows. I no longer have a protector.

My fear tells me to hold my tongue. Others might not care about my struggles.

My fear tells me to hide from everyone. Their expectations are too high for me to meet.

My fear tells me I will always be alone. Nobody could possibly love me the way Craig did.

My fear tells me I am defeated. That in the one moment that mattered, I was not there and can never make this right again.

I fight my fear daily. Minute by minute, hour by hour. It never eases, it never goes away.

It makes me fake my smiles, shoulder-check three times before changing lanes, and spend too much time alone.

But then when I am not looking a friend offers a hug and a listening ear, I manage the drive home safely, and I find myself laughing at an unexpected joke. And in these moments my fear becomes so small, I can lock it away.

Even if only for a moment.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Things I Have Learned Since Becoming A Widow

Being a widow sucks. Aside from the actual grief and loss, there are a million things that come up that can catch you unexpectedly at all hours of the day or night, things you never saw coming. These are the things nobody tells you about and that you are unprepared for, like losing the ability to remember anything or think clearly for more than five minutes.

There is a lot of learning that comes from grief and trying to cope. I just wanted to share a few of the things I have learned with all of you. Hopefully someone else will find it helpful or at least a little bit humorous.

Things I have learned since becoming a widow:

1. You need to know how to do handy things like replace light bulbs, hang pictures, and change the air pressure on your tires. Boys are useful for this but so is Google and the right tool.

2. No matter how long you sit and wait for your toast to toast, it’s not going to get any darker unless the toaster is plugged in.

3. A prepared meal in a crock pot that you set in the morning is a great way to ensure you come home to a decent meal. It is also especially helpful when you turn the crock pot on before you leave for the day.

4. If you can’t find the keys, they are in the fridge. If you can’t find the mail, it’s in the fridge. If you can’t fine the socks you were just about to put on, they are in the fridge! If you can’t find the milk, it’s in the cupboard behind the cereal.

5. If you want your clothes to dry you have to put them in the dryer. Starting the dryer without the clothes in it results in wet clothes still in the washer. Go figure.

6. Try not to point Hate Face at unsuspecting coworkers who blurt out inappropriate comments or loiter too long in your office. They probably don’t mean to. And you are going to scare the bujeepers out of New Guy.

7. If you are wondering why the ground beef just doesn’t seem to be defrosting after 8 minutes of microwaving, try placing it IN the microwave to speed things up.

8. Nothing is handier than a friend who can show you how to operate a grill.

9. Sticky notes are man’s greatest invention. Use them on the front door to remind you not to leave your keys in it. Use them on the fridge to remind you to buy food. Use them in the bathroom to remind you that you are out of toilet paper.

10. Stock up, stock up, stock up. You never know when you might be functional enough to go to Walmart again and nothing sucks worse than running out of toilet paper with nobody in the house to shout to who can bring you some.

11. Before wasting an entire morning scrubbing out your fridge and taking out the garbage in an attempt to eliminate that rotting food smell, try taking a shower. Especially since it’s been 2 days since your last one.

12. A good friend will bring you dinner and talk with you all evening. A great friend will bring you McDonalds and sob with you all night.

13. Tragedy rewrites your address book. Old friends will disappear, as will some of the new ones. These secondary losses will cut like a knife but the friends who really matter will always be there no matter what.

14. Shoveling walkways or stairs is a waste of time. It’s Calgary. Sunny weather is surely on its way, and that sh*t will melt within a day or two anyhow.

15. When it feels like you are forgetting something you probably are. Don’t be afraid of forgetting Craig though. You won’t.

16. Always check to make sure you shaved BOTH legs while still in the shower.

17. Give your best friend a house key. This will alleviate your constant fear of locking yourself out and will also ensure someone can barge their way in at any time, thus eliminating the possibility of you giving up on life and lying on the floor in a cesspool of your own misery for three days.

18. Vanity is a wonderful thing. It ensures you keep those teeth brushed, that hair washed, and those clothes facing the right way.

19. Check to ensure you put both earrings in and that they match. Calling it International Pirate Day only works so many times before your coworkers start to worry about you. Also try to put makeup on both eyes. Same reason.

20. Don’t forget to ask for help.

21. Always say yes to help when it is offered.

22. Don’t ever, ever forget who you are and what you are capable of. Everything in your life has prepared you for this moment and no matter how much it feels otherwise right now, you ARE still capable.

23. Fix your eyes on what is unseen. What is seen is temporary, what is unseen is eternal.

24. Be honest with those around you. Open up, tell them how you feel. Except your mother. That will just unnecessarily scare her.

25. Do what your best friend tells you to do. She is the must trustworthy person you know. Ignore everybody else.

26. Stupidity is an epidemic. At some point or another, those around you will become infected. Have mercy on them. At some point or another you will become infected too.

27. Home videos and an entire bottle of wine do not mix, no matter how good an idea you think it is at the time.

28. Yes, at some point, you will lose somebody else. And someone else and someone else and someone else. Do not let this dictate the rest of your life. If you made it through this one, you will survive the next one.

29. No, you are not going crazy. You already WERE crazy. Relieved? Us too.

30. Always carry cash. The debit card PIN you have had for 11 years will slip from your mind in the middle of the rush hour lineup at Starbucks while 18 people are watching in caffeine deprived rage, waiting for their grande-extra-hot-no-foam-double-shot-skinny-vanilla-lattes.

31. Do not cancel your caller ID to save a few bucks. You will need it! Movie Channel? That you can live without.

32. No matter how many times you stick that house key into the mailbox, it won’t work. And sitting there staring at it, puzzling over why it isn’t working for 10 minutes, will only cause your neighbours to grow concerned.

33. Dads are great for the most painful parts when you need someone who will help you not to cry. Just know that one day, when you do see him tear up from watching your pain, it will shock you to your core and hurt like hell.

34. You have a much bigger capacity to forgive than you could have imagined. You will find that spot in your heart where empathy takes over for the rage and you realize that preventing any more suffering matters a lot more than revenge.

35. When preparing to take a relaxing bubble bath complete with candles, a warm cup of tea, and a really good novel, make sure you haven’t left anything on in the kitchen. The nudie dash through the house, trailing bubbles, when the smoke alarm goes off kind of negates the soothing effect you were hoping to achieve. It also scares the neighbours’ kids.

36. Remember how fortunate you are – tell the friends who saved you in the aftermath just how grateful you are. Although they probably know anyway.

37. Staying up for 3 days straight watching episodes of the Office is totally acceptable. Previously mentioned best friends will sit and watch with you, pretending it’s the funniest sh*t they have ever seen too.

38. Don’t spend 2 hours in a mad panic, sobbing like a lunatic while tearing the house apart because you have lost Craig’s ring. Check the chain around your neck first. Saves a lot of stress.

39. Massages = good. Enough said.

40. God promises us joy, not happiness. Happiness comes from what happens to you, joy does not. Don’t feel guilty you still have your joy.

41. When you hear banging all through the night it is not your imagination playing tricks on you, telling you there are ghosts wandering about your home. Next time try closing the screen door when there is going to be a storm. Or just every day, really.

42. Don’t beat yourself up with guilt every time you laugh. Craig’s sense of humor was just as morbid. He wouldn’t have been able to help himself either.

43. If you take a cookie sheet out of a 350 degree oven, it will still be hot and require oven mitts 30 seconds later. On a totally unrelated note, stock up on Aloe Vera gel and Band-Aids.

44. If you drive to work, remember that it’s important to drive back home as well instead of walking down to the train station, getting on said train, riding it all the way back to Franklin, frantically searching for your car with mounting fear that it was stolen, before remembering you are a dumbass and left it parked in a downtown parkade.

45. You will hear the following inappropriate comments at some point or another. Try not to Hate Face the person saying them. Laugh instead.

a.“I understand how you feel, my husband just divorced me.”
b.“Maybe Craig faked his own death.”
c. “I wish my husband was the one who died.”
d.“Maybe when my husband dies I’ll finally be able to lose a bunch of weight.”
e.“Are you going to become a lesbian now?”
f.“You look terrible.”
g.“So… are you ok now?”
h.“Well, since you’re single now…”
i.“You have your whole life ahead of you.”
j.“It must be so hard being all alone and having nobody.”
k.“It was his time to go.”
l.“This is part of God’s Plan.”
m.“My dog just died so I know how you feel.”

46. When you feel like visiting, visit. When you feel like laughing, laugh. When you feel like singing, sing. It could be another few days before you stop hating the world again.

47. People’s ability to care will amaze you. They will come from all over, many of them total strangers. Some people’s ability to not care will also amaze you. Ignore them and focus on those that do.

48. Feel it, lean into it, embrace every agonizing minute. Do not run from it, it will catch you. This grief is the price we pay for loving someone.

49. Don’t ever, ever let yourself forget how much he loved you. More than anyone or anything else in the world. You were his whole world and the only thing that brought him peace and joy in his life. The people who do not understand this did not understand him.

50. The human body has a shockingly strong ability to keep going. Sometimes you will be relieved by this. Other times you will hate it.

51. Do the things you have always wanted to do. A lifetime of playing it safe, never breaking the rules, and constantly worrying will protect you from nothing. So go live.

52. He will be the first one you see, the head of your welcoming committee, when you are finally called back home. Remember this with joy, because he will be just as excited to see you as you are to see him.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Beginning...

As my first post, I feel it is only appropriate I start at the beginning. Or at least, the second beginning. The first being the day I met Craig and my real life started and the second being the day I lost him and my real life stopped. Although, truthfully, he's not lost since I know exactly where he is. Not entirely sure what this new life is going to be like but for those of you who are curious, I'll do my best to keep you posted on the journey.

Craig, my husband, my lover, my best friend... killed on March 16, 2010 at 9:20 am in a head-on collision on the road by our home on his way to work. It was not a snowy day, it was not a special day, just a regular Tuesday. A neighbour was coming home from a night shift, fell asleep at the wheel, and crashed into Craig head on. He died minutes later.

Most days it feels as though I died that day too - I have been reduced to a walking corpse. The mind cannot fathom the body's ability to continue to survive, despite a total lack of willingness of my soul to comply. This is my new normal.

We were married for 4 1/2 years but best friends for 9 years. High school sweethearts, buddies, each other's favourite half. They say that love is really defined as one soul inhabiting two bodies and this couldn't be more true.

Maybe this is why I don't know me anymore.

If Craig and I were one, who is this person left behind? She is not someone I recognize when I look in the mirror. Her words sound foreign on my tongue. She is a ghost and a stranger. All these years and I hadn't noticed - I only ever saw myself as the reflection in Craig's eyes. Who he saw was who I saw. And now without him here to see me, I cannot see me.

So throw out everything you think you know about grief. I have. There is no manual, no instructions, no normal. The mind simply will not allow itself to imagine something this horrifying. Call it self preservation at its finest. I know most of you don't understand because you cannot understand.

So here's what I'm going to do. I am going to write. And write and write and write. I will be honest, I will be plain, I will share with you all the ups and downs. While I don't know if it will help bring you along so that you can understand, it will at least help me tell my story.

Please check back often, I expect I'll write daily. Pass along this link, ask questions, post comments. If there is anything you want to know, please inquire. Nothing is off limits, I am an open book.

For now, just my thought for the day. A poem by Emily Dickenson that summarizes today's mood perfectly:

You left me, Sweet, two legacies, -
A legacy of love
A Heavenly Father would content,
Had He the offer of;

You left me boundaries of pain
Capacious as the sea,
Between eternity and time,
Your consciousness and me.

Craiggie, I miss you...