Today marks the one year anniversary of The Picky Eater’s death, and with it the end of my “Year of Firsts.” I’ve made it through the first holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries without the love of my life. And I have been forever changed.
The first three months after
died, I was in a fog. I don’t remember much about what went on. I know friends
took me to lunch, and the Ditch family took me to dinner and invited me to all
of the family gatherings. I binge-watched Downton Abbey and read many books for
the temporary escape they offered, but mostly I spent each day trying to get to
the next, because I knew the sadness and pain would ease with each passing
moment. I just had to hang on.
I spent a lot of time sitting in a rocking chair at my bedroom window looking out over downtown
at all hours of the day and night. That was my comfort place. I cried gallons
of tears there, raged at Mike for leaving me so soon, worked through the guilt
over things I should have done differently (only to realize everything happened
the way it was meant to), and, mostly, remembered all of the wonderful moments
we shared. I talked to Mike a lot. I still do.
If my neighbors can hear me, they must all think I’ve lost my mind. J
About six months into the first year, I started to feel more like myself. The sadness was there (still is), but it wasn’t as overwhelming as in the beginning.
Now I start year two without my love, my biggest fan, my knight in shining armor. I’ve entered uncharted water, where I can no longer think back to what “we” were doing this time last year because there was no “we” from
June 12, 2014 on.
I’m living “our” life by writing full time and teaching writing workshops, which
Mike and I had planned on my
doing all along. Unfortunately, the happiness I feel with each success is
tempered by the thought he isn’t here to share it with me.
While I can think and dream about what the future holds when it comes to my career, everything else I take one day at a time. Yes, I still have days when the sadness overwhelms me. When I just have to give in and wait for a better day tomorrow. Then sometimes I feel guilty when, because my day has been busy and full, I forget to think about him for a time. At other moments, he fills my heart so much I know his spirit is walking along side me.
The meaning of “bad times” has changed for me. Negative things happen to all of us, but now I understand what “it could have been so much worse” truly means. Because that “so much worse” happened one year ago.
When something bad happens now, I point to the sky and say to
Mike, “You promised you were my guardian
angel, so you had better help me through this.”
And he always does, with God’s help.
To mark the end of this year, I have moved my wedding band to join
Mike’s on the chain I wear around my
neck. It fits perfectly inside his, protected much the same way as he protected
me. My beautiful blue topaz
engagement ring now resides on my right hand.
I still miss him more than words can express, and some days more than I can stand. As hard and traumatic as it was to let him go one year ago, I would go through it all again as long as it meant I wouldn’t miss a single moment of our time together. No matter what the future brings,
will always have a place in my heart. I will love him forever.
Finally, but most important, let me thank all of those who were key in helping me through this year. I want to start with the entire Ditch family, for rallying around me in support on that terrible day one year ago (the funeral home had never seen that many people show up to plan a service!) and on every holiday and family gathering since. Thank you
Greg, Lisa, Scott,
Rocky, Quintin, and Kim, plus your spouses and
kids, for continuing to make me feel a part of the family. I would have never
made it through this year without you. And to Greg,
Lisa, and Steve,
for taking charge of arranging all of the funeral details and finances, so all
I had to do was approve or adjust some of the finer points. Also, thank you for
supporting my choices and making the whole process go smoothly.
I also want to thank my friends, both those here in the
and in New England, plus my blogging, writing and foodie
friends whom I only know via the World Wide Web. Whenever I felt sadness and
despair, I knew all I had to do was say something on Facebook and the
encouragement would roll in. And thank you for the phone calls, emails, and
lunch dates throughout the year. I hope you understand how much that meant to
me, and I hope you know if I didn’t return a phone call, answer an email, or
make a lunch date, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to. It was because I
Now to thank some specific people:
First, my mom. Think about it…my dad died three months before
Mike. So, she not only had to deal with
her own grief, but then that of her oldest daughter. Her support, both
emotional and financial, was key to my survival. Sometimes I think I would
still be curled up in a ball of tears on the floor without her. I love you,
is not only family but also my best friend. Mike
knew we would be great friends—he said so before I even met you! Since the day
he introduced us, you have never hesitated to come running when I needed you,
even if it was just to meet and talk over a cup of coffee. Your friendship
means the world to me…more than I can express.
Also, to my brother-in-law,
for your friendship and support, plus for letting me join the family fantasy
football league. Not only was it fun, but it made me feel even more connected
to the family…and Mike. (Who knew I’d win all
Next, my brother-in-law,
because you answered the phone. Soon after Mike
died, while the police and paramedics were still swarming around the apartment waiting for the coroner to arrive, I realized it was time to start telling people he was gone. I didn’t want to do it. I kept thinking about how my phone call was going to change everyone’s normal day into one of the saddest they would face. How could I inflict that kind of pain on others? Especially before I made one phone call after another…and
no one answered their phone. They either didn’t hear it or slept through it.
One after another, no answer, no answer, no answer, until finally you answered
the phone…and instantly became my hero. Not only were you there on the other
end of the line, but through your own sadness you took on the burden of spreading
the news to the rest of the family. Hearing the grief in your voice made me
feel less alone, and you saved me from going through that horrible task over
and over while the fog of grief settled on my heart, for which I will always be
, has been a rock through
it all. He took on the responsibility of telling his sister and mom the sad
news, which couldn’t have been easy. Now he answers all of my emails about my
writing business and life in general. Plus, he lets me in on his fantasy golf
fun for the major tournaments, which helps me feel connected both to him and
his dad. Thanks Picky Eater, Jr. J Mike
and Brad, thank you for asking me to lunch,
hanging out with me on the Carnival Magic, and taking the time to talk to me
and ask questions about my life. You guys are amazing.
Thank you to my fellow residents in
, our own little community
within the larger downtown neighborhood. Many of you stopped to wish me well
even though our only contact was occasionally riding together in the elevator. A
special thank you goes to the manager, Teena, who stayed with me that terrible
morning a year ago as I processed the worst event of my life. A big thanks also goes
to my neighbor Kansan
Towers Jan, who is always there to share
a drink when I need her, and to the unstoppable , whose spirit is an inspiration. Marge
And a final thanks to the leadership and congregation at
, for your warm welcome,
acceptance, and positive message. When I was searching for a church home to
find comfort after Grace
Cathedral Mike’s death, God led me to
Everyone, thank you for your patience, understanding and support. Please don’t go anywhere! I may need you even more in the year to come.
The journey continues…