5 years

5 years ago on this day my life changed forever.

It’s a bit of a blur, but moments of clear memory will still hit me every now and then. Earlier in the day I stood in the kitchen while the hospice nurse explained what to do if Jason’s breathing should turn to that tell tale rattle that meant death was near.  I think she knew that it would happen that day.  We said goodbye only to call her back a few hours later when everything changed.

Our final moment together, really together- him looking into my eyes, me standing over him holding on tight- it’s burned into my brain.  I hope it never leaves me, honestly.  He looked at me so intensely, and I told him it was okay to go, I would be okay, I remember saying those words, it’s okay, I will be okay.  He mouthed the words I love you and then he was gone.

I got to hold him as he died, I got to call our family and friends to surround him and speak words of love over him as he left us.  I have met many widows who didn’t get that moment.  I choose to be grateful for the chance to experience that with him.

It’s hitting me a little harder this year.  Maybe because 5 years feels like a bit more of a milestone.  Maybe because it’s a Friday again, and every hour I am hit with another memory of that day I didn’t know I’d forgotten.

I’d love to know what he thinks about what I’ve chosen to do with these last 5 years.  I know he is proud.  I know he watches over me, I feel his presence as I stretch myself and grow through the pain of losing him.  I know he has had a hand in the path I’ve followed.  My loving husband, our beautiful son, I can’t help but believe he is sending me these gifts. 

I am a different person today than I was 5 years ago, and I’m very proud of that.  Death is hard. Grief is immense and complicated.  There is no end to a grief journey, I am not over Jason’s death, I will never be.  Our life together, the experience of living with cancer, and the crushing pain of losing him is always going to be in my heart.

That’s why I have to embrace the perspective it gives me as I continue to live.  I feel like it’s a way I can honor him, and our 15 years together.  Sometimes, when I’m working out and my heart is pounding away, I can’t help but cry.  I am alive, just that heartbeat is amazing. I am grateful for the ability to appreciate the simple things in a deeper way.  The serenity of an evening stroll with my little family.  The pure joy in the laughter of my son.  The blessing it is to be in love, to be loved, and to give love.

Sometimes the complexities of being a widow are overwhelming. It’s complicated to love my life now so deeply, to adore my husband and cherish our son with my whole heart, yet always wonder what would have been.  What box do I check on forms? Married? Widowed? I am both. I am loyal to both lives, to both loves. 

I’ve been coming back to this all day trying to find a way to wrap up my thoughts and nothing seems just right. But maybe that’s fitting. This day, the five year anniversary, doesn’t represent the end of anything, certainly not the end of my heart missing Jason.  In so many ways my life began again as I learned to live the last five years. I can’t help but end with my favorite quote: 

“It’s not the length of life, but the depth of life.” Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Do that with me please, to honor Jason. Live. Live fully, live deeply. Just live.