how did i get here?

my husband, my beautiful Dragon, died suddenly at 12:03 AM on 9 February 2009. there was a cold, lovely full moon and 3 feet of snow on the ground. i "slept" for the following 10 months and "woke" to the physical and emotional pain and torments of deep grief. i "woke" to find i had moved the day of his funeral and that i am lost. i am looking for me while i figure out the abstract, unanswerable questions that follow behind any death. my art has evolved. his death changed that as well because i am forever changed and will forever bear the mark of losing the only man i can ever love.
there is alive and there is dead and there is a place in between. i am here wholly in my heart for my children, but i feel empty inside at this time. i miss him. i have not gotten very far in my grief journey. i make no apologies for this.
this is my place, my blog, where i write to tell the universe that i am still here.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

you are what you leave behind

my husband died. it's the first thing i think of when i feel the need to convey thoughts out to anyone. i feel the need to get that out there so as to explain why i'm sitting in front of the computer and typing anything to anyone.

i was never this lonely, to be drawn to sit at a computer. my life didn't revolve around a computer beyond checking email, balancing my accounts with the bank, and visiting my children's Facebook or Myspace sites to see the new folder of photos they set up for me. i don't mind computers but they were never the focus of my life. i don't believe in artificial intelligence. when a computer binges then goes to the bathroom to throw up because it thinks it's too fat, then i'll believe in artificial intelligence. why would i sit on a computer searching for people to talk to when i had everyone i ever needed? no one but my children and my husband cared about what i thought or was thinking or feeling. but my husband died and i am alone. my children have their busy adult lives and they don't need me like they used to. they are raised. they're done. the advice i have given out lately is that it's okay that the chicken cooked a little bit when they used the microwave to thaw it and if you haven't, at some point, thought about picking up your handy copy of "War and Peace" and beating someone over the head with it there's been no real relationship.

i am existing each day and wondering where do i go from here? my home is not a house where i can paint the walls or go outside to a little yard to garden. i don't need to fuss over hydrangeas that are sitting in a row by a beautiful little fence. i don't have a gate to open to walk a path to ocean's edge.

most of all i fully realize i don't have him to talk to. he's not here to come sit beside me and coax me out from behind my book, or up from my sewing to go walk with him, do something with him, not even to go to the grocery store to pick out something for supper. i see his shoes in the closet and i know he won't be using them anymore but to give them away or toss them would be akin to an act of treason. it's cruel and it's so simple. the more i try to hold onto him, the less i have to hold onto. he's gone. all i have are my memories and i'm told that he will someday become a sweet moment of sadness that passes by as i go on about my day. i take what other's, who have had their spouse die, tell me and try to see if it can be applied to my own life. then i think, maybe i'm not there yet. i keep filling in the cracks that open up because of this grief and as soon as i address one, the next one is starting to open.

the facilitator of the group asked, what have i learned and what would i say to someone else.

as of now i've learned that i can be in debilitating pain, cry an ocean of tears, barely be able to catch my breath, dream of a dragon of a man who was one in one hundred million, and still be called alive.

what i would say to someone else is you are what you leave behind. everything you do and everything you say, however small, has ripples that affect the world in a lasting way. toss a pebble in a small pond and the ripples glance off a twig, submerging it for the length of time it takes to blink, and possibly a dragonfly dies.

i wonder if it had been me that had died would he sit and remember all the times throughout each day that i said "i love you" and if he would become quiet and introspective. i wonder if he would flash on one of the countless of times i sat beside him, looked at him, and would reach up my fingers to touch his mustache and stroke his beard and say, "you're so pretty" in a hushed, meaningful whisper that held my reverence for him. i wonder if he would become remote and unreachable in his grief over the death of his woman that he rescued from the shadows.

he gave me belief in love. he gave me his medals and his stories. he gave me his undivided attention. he gave me his hand to hold and his heart to keep safe. i was going to die in his arms just as he died in mine but we were going to be so old that it would be expected, even desired. but by God, we were going to be together. whoever went first, the other would not be long behind. but now? this situation now? what do i do now? what do i live for now?

my children are worth living for but i don't matter in the way i did when i was their whole world. that's the way it's supposed to be. i did my job with them. i raised them, guided them, taught them, protected them, and now i've set them free.

and my husband, i lived for him, for his smiles, his love, and now i still live for him only death took him but it won't let me go. it's not like holding onto a kite or a child. kite strings break and children grow up. but the death of my husband, my Dragon, my life? how do i let go of that and if i try, it doesn't let me go. he is here and so alive in my heart, the love i feel for him, so alive with no where to go. i can't reach over and touch his face. i can't see him blush with my adoration that he secretly thrived on.

i've buried my parents, my grandparents, my stepmother, and a baby. you never really know what death will make you do or feel. how do you define it that you can set up a curriculum for bereavement classes? how to you try to reach past all the pain and fit the pieces of a solitary life together when it seems they are way too broken to bother? is this the result of the half-year milestone, his birthday, and our wedding anniversary all rolled into one horrible conflagration of anguish today, yesterday, the day before, the week before, and possibly tomorrow?

where do i go from here? i have no extended family. i have no friends. i work at home alone, and i like it. i can't face having to rise and dress and go out into the world knowing i don't have a Dragon at my back. i love being the artist. but it's all that i am. all i am now is the mother of two wonderful children whom i was blessed to have been given. all i am now is the maker of the quilts, the designer, the artist, an unknown woman in the shadows who frequently puts her head in her hands and sobs. all i am is the Dragon's widow.

all i wanted to be was his wife.

we are what we leave behind. i truly believe that. some have huge wakes and plaque dedications, people gathered to support the family - siblings, parents, wife, husband, children of the deceased - all milling around, all calling and remembering the important days you have to face alone. i have my two children who gifted me with the two bracelets with our wedding date engraved and brief, heartfelt sentiments dedicated to a love that impressed them and left them with the benchmark they want their own loves to be.

he left me with so much love to still give him. i'll die and my passing won't be noted by anyone but my two children. i have left no mark on the world. my quilts, yes, but my desired presence in a room, no. only he and my two children cared. we lead our lives and when they end we leave behind a bit of ourselves. possibly money. a few quilts maybe. so many medals that people are surprised - a Navy Cross, 3 Silver Stars, 2 Bronze Stars, and 6 Purple Hearts and that's the first row - i told you my Dragon was a hero. a kind word and deed remembered - specifically from chillinwithlemonade who stopped by one evening with take-out Mexican food and an alcohol-free Margarita on a night that i wouldn't have eaten otherwise. my girl, you your kindness was seen and noted and will be remembered always. (if i knew how to make a link to your site i would do so for you but i am not that savvy.)

sometimes we leave an empty space. if after i have gone, anyone notes my absence, know that i have gone in search of my Dragon. if anyone can truly wait for someone to catch up, it is him.


Supa Dupa Fresh said...

First of all, you ARE leaving the world better than it was.

Second of all, how wonderfully he changed you, yes, he marked the world and then left it, but you can still relish the change that is you NOW.

Third, your transformation is not complete. In your words I see a Woman who may or may not remain in shadow, but who will feel joy again. And we don't know what else she'll choose to do wth her IMMENSE power and who she'll share her fun and love with. I'm sure it doesn't seem possible to you, but I know it will happen, and as Mr. Fresh says, I AM ALWAYS RIGHT.



Suddenwidow said...

I agree with everything that Supa said. You are making the world a better place, stitch by stitch, and one word at a time. I am your friend and I know there are many more out there who care about you. We will keep riding these grief waves until they get more manageable and don't continually swamp us. We will be here for each other on this journey as we miss our beloved other halves and somehow find the strength to get out of bed each day and keep breathing.

I hope today had some peaceful moments for you.


twinmom said...

Your words are so hauntingly beautiful. The love you shared with your dragon was so special. Few are given that gift in life; to find THE ONE, the soul mate, the person that completes you. It makes sense that you are deep in grief right now. How could you not be? It will be a long road, moving through the grief of this tremendous loss. I do think you will smile again, feel your own strength again, and get to a time when you can find peace in waking to a new day. For now, you must mourn your dragon. As high as the emotions of your love must have felt, as low as the emotions of this loss must be...a difficult passage. Know that I understand the depth of what you have lost, and how it is echoing through your soul each and every moment. Through your words, I have come to care about you, and so wish I could come over and just sit, perhaps reading together while we sip coffee. Know that I am checking on you every day, worrying about you, and hoping you are okay.

womanNshadows said...

Supa, it will take time to see that anything i do from now on has any merit. he was the voice that quieted my self-recriminations. he never allowed anyone to hurt me. i am at the lowest point i've ever been in simply because his touch, and more specifically his voice, are no longer here.

Suddenwidow, i fell into making the quilts somehow but now they are my living. it is sometimes off-putting to realize that i will be making these for a long time so that every day i wake to someone's grief. but i can see the service i provide brings comfort and what better life could i create than that?

twinmom, thank you for your words. acknowledgment of someone's pain is sometimes all it takes to quiet the flow of tears. "someone sees me out here in pain." i love my Dragon, so actively that though i recognize the fact of his death, i haven't moved past into the acceptance that i will be okay somehow. i cry for him. i long for him. i need him. and you are right, he is my soul mate so it is normal to feel this shattered. thank you again for writing to me. it is comforting to be seen.

Ann said...

Your grief is not uncommon even as it is unique to you. I know how unbelievable it is that it will ever get better but it will. It won’t be soon, for I believe the deeper we loved the longer we grieve. Just hang on and know that you don’t have to know “what next” right now.

You mention that he gave you a belief in love. Everything he gave you, you still have. When it gets particularly tough know that he still loves you and grieves with you. He doesn’t want you to hurt as you do. He wants you to be happy and find joy again. When I have had a particularly bad day and I am, what I call “behaving badly” (read crying uncontrollably) I think of him watching me and I know that my grief breaks his heart - and I vowed never to hurt him. So I pull myself together and try to be brave for him. Maybe it will work for you? Try everything!

womanNshadows said...

Ann, thank you. a good idea, being brave for him. i will try. he is my world and i don't want to hurt him. i don't want him to see me suffering so. i want him to know i cherish our time together and can draw some strength from that.

Widow in the Middle said...

I think you show amazing character, intelligence, strength and courage for going to a place so few of us would choose to go. Yet, you are there and I believe that it is the place for you to be at this time. I have always hated how people have tried to talk me out of my grief before I was ready to come out from under the sea of my sorrow. My only heartfelt concern for you is that you allow yourself to come up for air and give yourself some time off from all that you are feeling. To be in such an intense place is so draining - you have to give yourself breaks to restore your soul, spirit and physical energy.

I also totally agree with Ann, in that our loved ones do not want us unduly suffering.

Yours is a love story that needs to be told. In doing so, you are also helping others understand the true meaning of deep loss. Your words convey so much truth and insight. The world is a better place for the love you and your Dragon shared. And it is also a better place for the story you are telling now.

I think of you many times during the day and always send my love and support to you.

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