July 8, 2013, Steve’s last day on this earth. It’s hard to believe almost a year has passed yet, in the same breath, it seems like this has been the longest year of my life.
I believe I have learned a great deal in this past year, some good, some bad. I have stubbornly chosen not to listen to the sage advise written in every book on grief. You know the line, “One should never make any major changes during the first year of a spouse's death.”
Well, let’s see, I bought an 8 year old rescue dog two months after Steve’s death. I bought, sold, remodeled and moved all within 4-7 months after July 8th. I admit it was a huge, huge limb when I bought a very cute, but very impaired 1972 Chevy Side-Step pick-up truck. That whim gave me 17 days of sheer delight, but ended up costing me not only a chunk of change, but my pride as well. I guess one might say I blew it when following the “Grief Manual.”
I will say that adopting Lucy Belle was one of the best things I have done this year. I have found that I was able to transfer some small part of my roll as caregiver from Steve to my fuzzy, rather needy old dog.
A little jewel here, when you have lost someone you deeply love, it’s best to fill that empty void with a dog. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I talk to Lucy out loud, all the time. I find myself telling her about my day, my sad moments, quirky little stories. I tell her how adorable she is, talk to her about how much I love her and I realize, in a very broad sense, I’m talking to my dog in much the same way I visited with Steve. Is this a little crazy? Maybe...just glad I don’t hear Lucy talking back, or we’d have a big problem on our hands.
I’ve written about the moving and changing of homes ad nauseam, so all I will say is, that while it was a difficult move, it was exactly the right move for me. Often people would ask me, "Wasn't so great to remodel this home? Wasn’t it so fun to get to pick out all the new fixtures, appliances, colors, making it my very own?"
Honestly, no, there was nothing fun about any part of this process. I think it is hard to find joy in much of anything during this first year of loss. My decisions were fuzzy, I was fairly nondescript in my choices and none of it seemed of any importance. I was simply going through the necessary motions without Steve by my side to make it a fun experience. I know this is a part of grief and I was fortunate to surround myself with great friends and a contractor who helped me make just the right decisions.
I am happy in my new home and I will say that once I started moving our things into this house it quickly felt right, good and comfortable. It is now my home.
The bad truck I owned for a full 17 days before it cratered.. lesson well learned. As Brooke told me, while I sick to my stomach having made such a horrible purchase. “Mom, it could have been worse. I mean, what if you had spent $5600 and gotten a really bad face lift instead of a really bad truck? Then you would have to go through the rest of your life looking surprised. Be thankful it was just a truck!” I hate it when my children put me in my place.
So those were the landmark changes of my year. There have also been subtle transformations that have simply slowly evolved during this year. I wonder if this is true of others who have lost their spouse? That suddenly you notice your normal has shifted.
Our bed, now my bed. For the longest time, I slept only on my side of the bed. I would put pillows, books, stuff, anything on Steve’s side, hoping by doing so, it wouldn’t feel so empty. Today, I find myself sleeping right in the middle of my bed. When did this subtle shift take place?
I’m not sure I could give you an exact date. All I know is every night after I turn off the lights, I place my hand gently under the covers and touch the cool sheets where Steve should be. I will myself to feel the warmth of his body, his hand on top of mine. I want to feel his heart beating, hear him tell me he loves me and have him kiss me goodnight. Instead, I’m left with only the memory of this special nightly ritual. It is then that I roll over into the middle of the bed and whisper into the empty pillow how much I love and miss Steve. Oh please, those of you who still have your partners never take this gift for granted.
Cooking dinner. I don’t. Steve and I had our roles in the kitchen. Steve always cooked the entrée, while I made the salad, veggies, bread. We would listen to our favorite music, sip wine while we cooked and laugh. Often I would grab him and make him dance through the kitchen with me. Steve was never a dancer, but on these nights he never turned me down.
Now, I don’t “do dinner.” I stand at the refrigerator and I graze. On rare occasions I will not sit, but prop myself on a barstool and “dip” (as in chips and dip), but sitting down to a dinner I have actually cooked, nah, I’m just not there yet.
Fix and repair. No longer when something is broken is Steve, Johnny-on-the-spot. No, I have had to reach deep within and do my best to understand how things work. I bought a lovely lime green, lightweight drill and I am now a master at using it. I can lift or roll heavy objects using all sorts of new tricks. I’m great with the electric hedge trimmer and I have bought a shorter 6 foot ladder that I give great respect when climbing.
Travel. This was one of the things Steve and I did best. He would plan great trips and work out the itinerary. Steve would research and I would nod, pack and go. We went all through Europe renting cars and loved that it was just the two of us, together doing and seeing exactly what we wanted to, no tours, no groups, no cruises.
Well, I’m back to traveling and have been fortunate to have gone on some incredible trips this last year. The traveling has kept me afloat. I find I look so forward to these trips, a break from the monotony of reality. I also realize that no longer do I have my best traveling companion. No longer is there that same unspoken pace and momentum that we had learned to do so well. Now, I must learn to be a pleasant part of the group. I have to be a team player and go with the flow, even if it may not be my flow. Don’t get me wrong, I will say yes to anyone, anytime, anywhere to whoever wants me to travel with them...it’s simply different now that Steve isn’t with me.
I think I may have finally grown-up. I will be 60 years old in November and this is the first time in my life that I have lived alone. I have had to face many challenges this year, a multitude of firsts and new normals. I am finding that in almost 12 months I can do most things, I will do many things and I hope to experience many more facets of this life of mine before I’m through.
Most importantly, I have grown in my faith. I have felt the comfort of God blanket me with his amazing grace. I have watched as he has provided for me and our family, and I respect his love for me. I have drawn closer to God because I have needed him, I have had to lean on him, and I have felt his presence in far greater ways than ever before. I am thankful for his for his mercy and care.
A year of changes, yes...but that’s life right? Without change how does one experience all the aspects life has to offer? Without change how does one grow? Difficult? Yes. Impossible, never with God.
For what it’s worth,
Daniel 2:21 "He changes times and season...and gives knowledge to those who have understanding."
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