The Anniversary

So. Yesterday, August 26th, should have been my 23rd wedding anniversary. When we first married, I truly believed that he and I were going to grow ridiculously old together. You know – like those doddering cute old couples you see oh so slowly walking through the mall, still holding hands.

As most all of you know, fate had other ideas. I steeled myself for yesterday, knowing it would be my first August 26th as a widow. I prepared myself for a flood of tears, a total boo-hoo day.

It didn’t happen.

Instead I found myself thankful. Thankful that Sid (aka Wyatt to his online friends) somehow found the inner strength to will himself to live past a terminal diagnosis to share what would be our last anniversary together with me last year.

Thankful beyond comprehension that I had almost a quarter of a century with him.

Thankful that I’ve been blessed by such an awesome outpouring of love from so many people in the months leading up to and well past his death.

And, I really don’t know how to say this without sounding callous, I’m not only thankful that he is no longer in such miserable, excruciating, soul-wracking, ungodly pain, but I’m also thankful that I no longer have to stand by helplessly being unable to do anything to ameliorate it. Perhaps the worst feeling in the world is to witness the suffering of someone you love and not be able to ease it, to take it away, to make it all better somehow.

My modus operandi in life has always kind of been that I’m the one who smooths everything out, who finds the answers, who ferrets out the solutions. I’ve always been the one who makes everything all better.

The last chapter in our marriage was one that no matter how much I tried, how much I wished, I simply could not fix. His long illnesses had taken their inexorable toll on his weakened body. I had to witness helplessly as his strength diminished rapidly, until finally, the virile energetic man I’d started my married life with was now frail, scared and in pain.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m thankful for the strengths I learned during his very long illness. The necessity to step in and run the household, the business, make the repairs. The need to be the strong shoulder to lean on, when I’d have much preferred to be the one doing the leaning. Those strengths are ones that I somehow know will serve me well in the future.

And I’m thankful – so wondrously thankful for those close to me who reached out yesterday to make sure I was okay. I spent hours talking on the phone to one of my “best friends I’ve never met” yesterday instead of having the pity party I’d anticipated. We talked about everything from death to houses to careers to neighbors to pets to religion to food to politics.

The time flew by. Just as in many ways my 22 year marriage flew by in retrospect.

I’m one of “those people” who buy e-books when they strike my fancy. A few months back, I saw a post about a quasi-spiritual, sort of “New Age” book about “things the recently departed want you to know”. I thought to myself “I should order that”. So I did. But when I got to the order page, I received a message saying “You’ve already purchased this e-book”. The message went on to inform me that I had purchased the e-book on October 21, 2014 – two years to the day before my husband passed away. Somehow, in the sudden need for and purchase of a new computer shortly before he died, I neglected to reinstall the viewer that the e-book was on.

Once I got over the shock of the date coincidence (at the time I bought the e-book, hubby was doing reasonably well. I still have no idea why I’d even purchased it, to be honest. But, I had).

As I read through the book, parts of it were, to me, a little “out there”, but other chapters brought me great comfort. The overriding theme was that (stick with me here, gang) we are all here to learn what we need to learn. The chapter that spoke to my heart the most was about one whose lesson to learn before “crossing over” was that they would be loved unconditionally while they were “here”, no matter what. I’d like to think that was the gift I was able to give to my husband especially as his illnesses progressed and as the end of his life drew near. Because, I did love him without condition – in spite of his pain – despite the limitations. And that very strong love is why I anticipated a much sadder anniversary than I experienced.

But as I sit here on the day after what could have been, I’m still tremendously thankful, overwhelmingly grateful, and quite amazingly, at peace.

And that peace, gentle readers, is what I sincerely wish for each and every one of you this day.