For starters, I've learned that I can be "that" girl who wanders aimlessly in the same clothing for FOUR DAYS not realizing that FOUR DAYS have come and gone. A huge thank you to my sister who kindly pointed out that my black top and yoga pants were great widow's attire on the first day I wore them, but she was pretty sure the odor emanating from my attire was not my perfume. When she realized that FOUR DAYS had passed since my last apparel change, she kindly suggested a new outfit would look nice and a shower might make me feel better. (ok, she really just said, "Seriously? Four days in the same clothes?" and promptly dragged me to the bathroom and turned on the shower.) And yes, I did actually trot myself out in public like this...yikes! For the record, I did continue brushing my teeth twice a day and even remembered to floss...just sayin'. It made me realize how much my kids love me to just accept me as I am even when I'm really awful looking and smelly.
I also learned that I can laugh hysterically at a funeral home when handed my husband's cremains. Oh, did I mention they were given to me by the funeral director in a box that was inside a shopping bag? Yes, you read that right...a shopping bag. I just burst out into a monster fit of giggles right there because I knew that Smitty would find that rather amusing. Not to worry! I got the stare down from the "Behavior Un-Becoming of a Widow" police in the funeral foyer. Did it stop me from giggling? Nope. I also became quite the queen of comedy in the parking lot when I asked my mother if I was required to strap the seat belt across the bag since my husband was in it. God bless her, she just laughed right along with me, all the while thinking that her daughter had lost her marbles.
One of my favorite moments (said with lots of sarcasm) was when a "friend" approached me at Target by calling out "Here's the Merry Widow!" Huh??? Wait, did she really just call me "the Merry Widow?" In my mind, I told my daughter to hold my hoops while I kicked Ms. No Manners in the shins and said "are you "bleeping" kidding me? What kind of sicko are you?" In real life, I put on my big girl panties and just regressed to high school behavior that resulted in name calling...well, only one name, but it was a mean one. I promise. Once Ms. No Manners spun on her heels and left, I apologized to my daughter for my immature behavior. My daughter actually gave me a high five and fist bump right there in the shampoo aisle. I love that kid. Seriously, people can be so clueless. There isn't anything "merry" about being a widow.
Here are a few other tidbits from my widow's walk over this past year. My Christmas tree stayed up until March. (I would have left it up longer but the leprechauns weren't having any Christmas take up their holiday real estate.) Here's another good one...One of my husband's doctor's offices called to confirm his appointment and when I told them he was deceased, the lady said, "then he won't be making the appointment?" My first reaction was to say "that would be a big NO unless he re-animates because of the Zombie Apocalypse." Some people...ugh. Umm, what else? Oh! I was also told I was too happy to be grieving. (guess they didn't get the memo about my massive amounts of tears shed every morning on the way home from school drop off or the hiding in the bathroom crying that commences every day at some point. Apparently, I needed to be more wounded emotionally, carry more Kleenex and sob hysterically in public. I wasn't behaving like a "normal" grieving person except for the fact that I wear a lot of black...but I've been sporting that color for years so still not a "normal" widow. I was told by another "friend" that maybe now I could finally lose weight since I was no longer a caregiver to my terminally ill husband and could no longer use that as an excuse! lol! (yeah...she's no longer a friend...) A personal favorite was the lady who asked me if I was still Mrs. Smith...this came just two weeks after my husband died. HA! Fooled you, lady! I am still Mrs. Smith! Sadly, it seems that too many of us are so disconnected in life that we don't know how to react to those who are experiencing grief. That really breaks my heart.
However, for all of those difficult and challenging moments, even more moments were beautiful and sacred. One of the most amazing moments was the incredible amount of support that my daughter received for the Jump Rope for Heart Fundraiser where she collected nearly $2300 and made the nightly news broadcast. She discovered that even in her own grief, she could do good for others. I am beyond proud of her. I also was completely overcome with emotion and pride when my son escorted his sister to the school's "Father / Daughter dance just a few weeks after their dad died. I'm sure Smitty was smiling down on them the entire time. We also met many amazing and wonderful new friends over this past year who just gathered us up and loved us to pieces. We were always surrounded by family and friends who stepped in and helped us walk this path when we weren't sure what we were supposed to do. I learned that I am much stronger in spirit than I gave myself credit for and can forge on even when I didn't know what lie ahead. Smitty never once complained during the entire time of his long illness. If he could walk his journey strong in faith, then so can I.
A bittersweet moment came for me when I was cleaning out my books over the summer. Smitty had hidden a card for me inside one of them. In it was a lovely letter sharing how much he loved us and wanted us to carry on with joy after he was gone. He wanted Catherine to keep dancing and for Connor to continue playing his music. He wanted me to keep writing and find joy in celebrating the holidays. He didn't want his death to be the reason that we stopped being who our souls came here to be. He didn't want us to become so wrapped up in grieving for him that we lost who we are in the process. So while we miss Smitty each and every day, we honor his memory by living as he asked us to in his letter. The letter was dated December 24, 2012. He had written it just three days before he died.
If there's one thing I've learned this past year, there is no "right" or "wrong" way to grieve. So even though I have taken up residence in the "Widow-hood", I choose to spend my time here with happy memories and finding the funny in every day knowing that Smitty wouldn't want it any other way.