Paperwork is a part of life. It’s crazy to think how our life can try to be summed up by a bunch of check boxes at times. As I fill in summer school applications for the kids I notice one that is almost jumping out at me on the page. It asks for parent’s marital status. As I click on the options I see one that says “Birth father deceased.” A tear starts to form in my eye and once I click that box the next screen showed my marital status as widow.
Who came up with that word? Never in my wildest thoughts would I have ever thought of myself as a widow. I always envisioned widows to wear black for a long period of mourning and staying to themselves because life is too hard to go on without their spouse. That is, until I became one. My previous thought of what a widow looked like was definitely not me. I do wear a lot of black, not full outfits worth, but enough for a slimming effect. I would love to stay to myself and bury myself with the thought that life IS hard without Mark and at times I don’t think I can go on. The reality is, there is no time for those thoughts. Life goes on and the world doesn’t stop turning so I have to keep moving too.
Then I filled out another form and my only options were married or single. As much as I’d like to check married, in the eyes of the government, I am not. The reality of being single again hit me. I got mad for the first time that widow wasn’t an option on that paperwork. I felt that checking off that single box disregarded the whole 17 years I spent with Mark, 14 as his wife. As if those years no longer existed if it wasn’t for the proof of my last name. Then it hit me. Another milestone in this journey.
I am learning to embrace the words I did not want to hear after Mark died. I find power in those words and have gotten rid of all stereotypes of what those words used to mean to me. Yes, I am that “W” word, I am a widow. I had the honor and privilege of being married to an amazing man up until he left our world. There were no bad thoughts between us, no negativity, no regrets. Just love, and an abundance of it at that. So next time I hear someone refer to me as a widow, my first instinct will not be one of wanting to punch them in the face. A new realization of all that widow word means will come to the forefront. The thoughts will be of taking that moment to reflect on the loss of a life that was beautiful, a life filled with wonderful memories and lots of laughter. A life that was lived. So yes, I am a widow.
I absolutely love “This Is Us.” I still remember watching the very first episode sitting next to Mark on the couch. Every week we’d comment on stories of our friendship and how we became an “us.” We were never sure when those feelings went from being just friends to love because it was so natural.
Everything about us felt so natural. We could sit next to other and be so content and so incredibly happy. I would lean my head on his shoulder and he would turn and kiss my forehead. Life turned into always being “Mark and Sarah.” It was as if one wasn’t complete without the other. Isn’t that how fairytales go?
We could go to parties or functions for work individually but we were still “Mark and Sarah.” No matter what. Like Oreos and milk, jeans and a comfy shirt, we complimented each other so well. We could exist independently but together, Mark and Sarah could conquer the world. We did. Until the day it felt the world conquered us.
The day Mark died a part of me went with him. A part of me that will never come back. The part that is now making me learn to live this life as just Sarah. To not have Mark is to feel like everything has been turned upside down and inside out. The ground was broken open that morning and the happily ever after I thought we had was in some sort of free fall while I was trying to make sense of it all.
It still doesn’t make sense. I am slowly learning to navigate this new course. I don’t want to but I know I have to. Failure is not an option. After 17 years I am learning how to be Sarah without Mark. It feels like learning how to walk again. I have come to one conclusion. The day a part of me left with Mark, he also left a part of him with me. That part will help me learn to take life one step and one breath at a time with my head held high because I will always be thankful for the blessing that was Mark and Sarah.
Tonight is one of those nights when the waves roll in. Going about my business of just cleaning up the living room. I lay down on the floor for just a second to stretch and it hits me. Smack in the eyes, hit me. Those damn tears start leaking out of no where.
I look up and see your face. Except not the way I used to. I used to be able to see your face and reach out for your hand. Not now. Not anymore. Now I look up and see your big, beautiful, smiling face up on the bookshelf near your urn and hydroflask. That handsome face is looking down at me. That handsome face that I’ve memorized every detail on over the years. The face I see in the smiles of our daughters or the twinkle in the eye of our son.
My love, I simply miss you. If anyone were to ask me when, I’d reply, “Only when I’m breathing.”
Grief is definitely a roller coaster. On those days when I’m happy it feels like the roller coaster car cautiously reaching the top of the tracks. It slows down as if it knows the drop is about to happen. The past 3 nights have been the drop. The tears haven’t stopped and I can’t even tell you what triggered them.
I get through work with a smile on my face and connect with others until my day is over. Then it’s back to my car that now feels more like my traveling snow globe. Today the tears slowly started as I walked out the elevator and got to my car. A migraine was my alarm clock today. I got through the day with my headache as my constant companion. By the time my work day was over, I was completely exhausted. As much I wanted to crawl into my bed and wait for tomorrow, my mommy duties wouldn’t do the same. So with a deep breath, lots of AC, some Excedrin, and a great concealer for my under eyes, I was back on my way. Picked up my girls and we were off to ballet for the youngest.
We got home and my oldest two children were amazing and helped get dinner ready knowing I wasn’t feeling well. As I dozed off for a nap I could feel Mark there. It was as if he knew. He knew how much I needed him. Even in life he knew how much I’d need him but I always wondered if he knew how much I truly loved him. The beauty of our relationship was that it started with friendship. The love grew from there. I’d tell him, “I love you.” He’d turn to me with his huge smile and say, “I know,” and start to laugh. Tonight I know he knows how much love there is.
As I woke up from my nap, I checked my phone and found the quote, “Meeting you was fate, becoming your friend was a choice, falling in love with you was beyond my control!” All I could think of was yes, yes, and YES! He knows. From wherever he is now, now I’m sure he truly knows how much I loved him. I always will. With that reassurance I found the strength to wipe the tears away and make it through another day.
Running for exercise seems like the most logical thing. Most people run to get back into shape, get healthier, become their best. I run to feel.
Some days it still seems so surreal, this new reality I face. I run to remind myself I am alive. The pain in my muscles, the soreness in each step, reminds me that I’m still in existence. Every breath that becomes harder to take because of pushing my physical and mental self to its limits reminds me that I’m still human. Every so often a leak will roll down my cheek and that reminds me that I haven’t gone totally numb and I still have the ability to feel emotions. I have not become completely robotic in my day to day living.
Running is that out. A way to take all that negativity inside and let it loose. The music that plays through the earphones brings back memories of a time when I did run for exercise. When life was simpler and planned out. Running is not the same now.
I run because I no longer have my running partner with me. The man who would push me to my ultimate limits is no longer there. I run to still feel the breeze surround me and remind me that he is never very far, his love still surrounds me even though I can’t see him. I run to feel real again. That is why I run.
In every journey through life there are people who come and go. At times some of those people re-enter our lives years later. Through social media I have been able to reconnect with many people from what seems to be a lifetime before. In college I met a young woman by the name Sonali. She was always so confident and very insightful. She has been one of those people that I have been blessed to reconnect with through social media. To her, I thank for this blog entry and for being such a positive spirit to help guide me on this journey through the grief process.
Today she sent me a link to a video of Joe Biden talking about what helped him deal with his grief of losing loved ones. One line immediately stood out to me, “There is hope in purpose.” Those four simple words are so powerful. Not only to have hope but to have a purpose, a reason for being. There have been so many moments I question God and why he didn’t take me instead of Mark, why am I still here without my soulmate? So many times I would wish that I could go just so I could be there with him.
I look around at the life I’m in and see the three amazing beings that bring me purpose to keep going. Our three children. Yet, I question that they were Mark’s purpose too so why is he gone? I may never have an answer to that question but I hear Mark constantly telling me, “Babe, keep moving forward.” So I take a deep breath and keep going on. What is my purpose? What on earth is it that I’m still meant to accomplish and to do?
Mark’s 39 years on this earth were filled with so much life, love, laughter, and yes, many accomplishments. As the reverend said at his service, it was not the quantity of years lived but the quality. He taught me and so many others that having a purpose in life filled any void. It filled his heart and his soul with so much joy you couldn’t help but smile if you were near him. He didn’t get to finish all that he set out to do, but he instilled that drive and gumption in me and the children.
So when I thought of purpose, I thought of Mark. He is not truly gone. He has left a legacy so great that it seems almost immortal. Maybe my purpose is to carry on his legacy and intertwine it with my goals. Goals that have changed since his passing, yet still ones he would be so proud of. Wait, that he IS proud of. I know he is around all of us and guiding us in ways we may not be aware of. He’s probably even laughing thinking this is the only way I listen to him without arguing too much. The thought of finding what that true purpose is gives me hope. Hope is so powerful. Hope keeps us going. Hope lets us breath and wake up in the morning. Hope tells us there is something out there bigger and better than what we even know. Hope.
Fridays have been hard, no joke. Many people can’t wait for Friday to come because it means the weekend is beginning. Friday took on a very real beginning for our family 3 1/2 months ago when Mark passed away. It then seemed like every Friday after that would be a situation where another harsh reality would occur. From my first birthday the week after his passing, to going to appointments for paperwork regarding his death, to his service itself, they were all on Fridays.
I came to hate Fridays. I stopped looking forward to them and always tried to just get through them. I have cried everyday since that fateful first Friday. Every. Single. Damn. Day. Especially on Fridays. Until this Friday.
January 5th is not only the first Friday of the new year, it’s the first Friday I have gone for over 24 hours with no tears. It’s like a ray of hope that this year will be a year of making Friday something to look forward to again. I’m not even sure what made this day so awesome but I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the smiles, the laughs, the family and friends that made Friday tear free.
I jogged through the park and let my mind wander to all the positivity in life. After the jog, I sat on the shore and listened to the ocean. Each wave that came in took a little of the sadness with it as it went back out into the vast ocean. The next wave would bring a peace that would resonate within my heart and mind. That moment on the shore was a perfect way to celebrate Friday, to celebrate love, to celebrate memories, to celebrate hope.