On becoming a widow – a year later

February 25, 2020 § 2 Comments

collage print

My sweet husband passed a year ago and so many words now have meaning. His spirit lives on in my soul. I am eternally grateful for the light of compassion, tenderness and love that he brought into my life.  Although it has been a year of feeling extraordinarily vulnerable, I sense his presence and can move on, with courage.

Only recently, I started to think that he would be proud of me, picking up my life,  making a difference in this lifetime, knowing that I am not done.  I want my life to honor his memory, in humility and integrity. It takes courage to hold this together while longing to be in his loving presence, his hand was always there for me. My heart is broken and I suffer the pain from loss. This morning, while meditating, I saw him sitting opposite me, smiling and I did not want to come fully alert.

He lit up my heart, my life with happiness from our first date to the end, feeding him mashed/processed chicken and vegetables from a spoon in a dementia care facility dining room. I never didn’t want to be his wife.

I am filled with many simple memories from adult day care, before he entered the facility in 2017.  Greeting him, arriving home on the shuttle bus, clutching a prize he had won in a game during the day, a new small calculator in hard plastic packaging, special for me. I always asked him if he had a snack that afternoon, knowing what he would say but enjoying watching him trace a circle in the palm of his hand saying “small things,” maybe cheese or Goldfish crackers.

Memories of his generosity and kindness will always nurture me.

I promised him often that I would always love him.  He used to say this to me too when he could speak, when he had language, and I knew he meant it.  Every time he heard this, he would kiss me. I wanted him to live forever so I could claim that kiss, I would tell myself, as dementia continued to take over his brain’s capacity. This yearning in a strange way helped me to have hope to go on. With each day, I  was witness to his decline, that I was losing him. This sadness was always with me until it turned to grief.

Today I understand that the gift of love that I experienced for sixteen years will be treasured as long as I live.  I will always miss him and what we meant to each other.  In memory, our loved ones live on.  I am forever grateful and humbled by the process.  My difficult childhood and his previous broken marriages now have a proper place in the depths of our personal histories, far from the passion of our life together.  This is the power of love: sustained, compassionate attention.

As he descended into dementia, I was his only caregiver.  Even while the demands of taking care of him at home were overwhelmed by nocturnal psychotic symptoms, I would not stop trying to provide some normalcy to our lives until his geriatric doctor intervened.  She said with the medication she prescribed, he was no longer safe at home, walking around steps in the dark,  listening to the voices in his head. She said that he needed 24 hour care with medical supervision and recommended a nearby facility.  The day he moved to that place, even though it looked like a hotel in Provence, was one of the worst days of my life.  On that first night, as we kissed goodbye, he asked me where I was going, I said home and he told me he understands.

In Judaism there is a memorial prayer, El Malei Rachamim, and it is explained this way: “Our loved ones live in our broken hearts. Their acts of kindness and generosity are the inheritance left behind. We feel their absence; but the beauty of their lives abides among us.  As it is said, The name of one who has died shall not disappear. Our loved ones’ names – and their memories – will endure among us.”

“So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.”

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