It is not very often one can say on this Widowed Road that they have been fortunate. Or maybe it is, but is just too hard for us to see when we are mired in our grief. But if I had to identify one area in which I had been fortunate regarding my wife’s death, it would be that she died in the late winter, which meant that I had a good nine months of active grieving before I had to face the dreaded holidays.
Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I love the food, the time with family (when possible), and everything it stands for. But for me it has always been overshadowed by holidays like Christmas and Easter, for reasons which I will likely delve into when those holidays come around again. One thing that I have always dreaded, at least when I lived at or near home, was the obligatory “what are you thankful for” session around the Thanksgiving table (sorry G). I dread it all the more now, though I have not spent Thanksgiving with my side of the family since the last one with my wife in November, 2006.
It can be hard as widow/ers to be mindful of the positive things in our “new” lives. How can we possibly be thankful for anything when everything we’ve ever lived for is suddenly gone? It’s a hard question, and one that is not easily answered. Nor is the answer the same for any of us. But I suspect that over the next week or so there will be many posts in the blogs listed at the right of the screen which deal with this topic on some level. And I suspect most, if not all, will contain some level of gratitude, even amidst our given circumstances.
The first Thanksgiving without my wife was spent as planned prior to her death, with her family in a state adjacent to my own. It has become an unspoken tradition that we meet there every other year when her sister has her children for the holiday. It’s a time I always look forward to, but one that was incredibly difficult that year, nonetheless. Thinking about it now, though, I cannot convey just how difficult it was. This is one of the many times I wish I had been able to write during the multitude of firsts. Sadly, unlike many of you who have or are about to experience them, I have no written record of those times and can only rely upon my memory, which is unreliable at best. But what I do remember is that we all cried a lot and laughed a bit, and ultimately made it through.
Last year was an off-year as far as that unwritten tradition is concerned, and as it is too far to travel to my original home state in the Midwest, we relied upon our surrogate family here to take us in. On Thanksgiving Day last year, we woke up in our own beds and watched the parade in our own living room. Late in the morning we drove to the home of our friend’s parents and spent a lovely fall afternoon. The weather is more temperate here this time of year, so the kids were able to play outside and even jump in great piles of leaves without much fear of illness settling in. We stayed through dinner time, then headed back to our house and watched specials on tv together. I was still not able to write then, but my recent memory serves me a bit better than my distant memory does.
And so arrives this Thanksgiving. In staying true to the pattern, we will again head to that adjacent state in the morning, fighting what I am sure will be all manner of angry drivers and impatient travelers along the way. My daughter, for what I believe to be the first time ever, told me this morning that she is not looking forward to the traveling part this time. Or maybe it’s just my frustration level during the journey that she’d rather avoid. But I digress.
I can’t really say that I’m much in the mood for the holidays yet this year. The time off work – absolutely. I’ve been looking forward to that for weeks. But so far I just haven’t been able to get excited about the actual celebrating of the holidays. However, in preparation for said holidays and the composing of this post, I have once again been reminded that I have plenty for which to be thankful.
Like my beautiful, precocious little girl, who still looks and acts a lot like me, but has those blue eyes and sweet disposition that drew me to her mother all those years ago. Despite her ear surgeries over the summer, she is a healthy child. And since health is something her mother battled with for most of her short adult life, I am certain that she too would be grateful that our daughter has been in such good health these past few years as well. She is doing well in school, both academically (like me) and socially (like her mommy). And she has handled life after her mother’s death with a grace and poise that is well beyond her five years. Though I always dreamed of having a large family, I have been given more in my one child than I would have ever thought possible.
Though we are physically isolated from our families much of the year, we make every effort to see each other when we can. Both families. And that is another thing for which I am thankful. I come from an average-sized, though anything-but-average family. Love was always a part of our home growing up, and though at times our differences have caused that love for one another to be much less evident as adults, I am confident it is still present. And I married into a family that was very similar to my own in that regard. My wife grew up in a loving home, which I was welcomed into with open arms. And as you can tell from the preceding paragraphs, that love was not cut off after she died. In reading blogs of other widow/ers, I am constantly made aware of how blessed I am not only to have my own family, but to have my wife’s as well.
There is also, of course, the laundry list of other things as well. I have a good job, which to this point has been safe from the spiraling economy. I am in relatively good health myself. I have good friends and acquaintances. I can afford to pay my bills and still have some left over to go out to eat and take trips to see family. I’m even starting to come out of that six-month state of lethargy I wrote about here (see photo above for the completed version of the photo at the top of that post). And now I have an ever-growing support network in a place I never thought I’d find it – the internet.
Lots of blessings.
Lots of things for which to give thanks.
But perhaps the thing for which I am the most grateful, is that over the past two years and nine months, I have not once had to worry about or question where my wife resides now. She had an unshakeable faith in Christ and I have no doubt that she is with Him now. This knowledge has done little in the way of taking the sting out of everyday life on earth without her, but over time I think it has helped me become more accepting of her death. Now I’d be lying if I said my own faith hasn’t wavered greatly since then, but at times, it has also been the only thing that has sustained me.
So yes, I have a lot to be thankful for. And as cliché as it may seem, I am putting it here for you to see as Thanksgiving approaches and ultimately passes us by. But I’d like to leave you with this: As you celebrate this holiday with family or friends, please be reminded of those of us who are celebrating it with one less chair around the table. Especially those like Dan and Woman N Shadows, who are doing so for the very first time. If you are a praying person, please say a prayer for us as well.
And if you are fortunate enough to be celebrating with your husband or wife, hug them a bit tighter for those of us who can no longer hug ours at all.
Bridging the Divide
1 week ago