Life Begins Anew
When the last breath comes life changes
When it ends that’s where it begins
Begins to dawn on me that it’s all new
Begins with that alien word widow
Widow the label that ends a marriage
Widow for the rest of my life I’ll be
Be the only parent they still have
Be the one who survived when he died
Died with so many good years still ahead
Died so that last line can’t be the truth
Truth maybe for me but not for him
Truth is I’d rather not do this alone
Alone with the years stretched far ahead
Alone but yet not because he’s still here
In the children who share his eyes and smile
Here in my broken heart and in my wounded soul
Soul still trying to grasp what’s been lost
Soul to soul we were for so long not long enough
Enough love to fill my life to overflowing
Enough time to intertwine on so many levels
Levels of grief that shift like ocean waves
Levels of solitude now mine to explore
Explore the empty bed and things now unsaid
Explore the emotions that ebb and flow
Flow as the tears that move like the tides
Flow into a new way of life and living
Living my way into each new day’s dawning
Living and growing even though it seems strange
Strange to make so many decisions without him
Strange not to have him here chatting and laughing
Laughing our way through twenty years and more
Laughing even when life was tragic and shattering
Shattering us as he held our dying newborn
Shattering me as I held him on his deathbed
Deathbed that had been our marriage bed
Deathbed he made with his very own hands
Hands that will never again build or cook
Hands that can no longer hold or caress
Caress me with his love and tenderness
Caress me with his passions in his eyes
Eyes that were windows to all that he was
Eyes I adored and will never see light up again
Again I will sleep this night here without him
Again I smile at the shelter dog in his spot
Spot he doesn’t need she happily fills
Spot where my life has become something new
New bed of my own where our marriage bed was
New life new belongings in a strange new reality
For over twenty years, Jim was my reality. It would be a lie to say that every moment of our marriage was wonderful, or that there weren’t problems from time to time. Some were external and beyond our control – like the death of our secondborn at 12 days old.
Others were internal – arguments we never really settled between us. Maybe we would have, if there had been more time.
Or maybe not.
I’ll never know, now. I can guess, from the ways we’d grown in our marriage, and were still growing. From the business we were building together, and the bonding we were doing while we did that. It was his dream, not mine – and it was a dream that died with him.
Other things have changed, too, since his death. I know it’s inevitable – and yet, there’s a little stab of something like guilt when I take apart the bed we shared, and in which he died, and buy a new one he never shared with me. When I adopt a shelter dog to share that bed, because I wasn’t sleeping very well when I was sleeping alone. When I rearrange the bedroom we shared, but which now is mine alone.
In so many ways, in so many choices from the tiny to the enormous, I’m moving beyond a marriage I valued and was committed to – beyond a man I still love with all of me, and whom I talk to about the changes: “Babe, do you SEE what I’m doing here?! I’m COOKING! For ALL of us! And it TASTES good!” “So, what do you think about this new dog in our bed. I know, I told you I probably wouldn’t get another one after you died, but it’s lonely, and she snores, and she loves to snuggle.” “Hey, did you know that Charlotte Rae, who was Mrs. Garrett on The Facts of Life, was Sylvia Schnauzer on Car 54? Or that she did stand-up in the 50’s, and was really, really funny?!”
It helps, this bridge of talking to my dead husband while I remake my life and figure things out I never expected to need to before last fall. It’s not exactly what I wanted – but I know beyond doubt that Jim would want me to enjoy my life, not sit around mourning him for the rest of it.
I know that because we talked about it, when he got sick, and long before that, when it was all theoretical, and not anything to do with our real lives….
But now, he doesn’t have a real life anymore, and I do. My goal now? Finish the raising of our children, and make the most of it, as joyfully as I can manage.