Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How to be a Widow


Who would ever want to purposely write about this crap?
Certainly not me.
I am no expert.
I know how to be a wife.
I know how to be a mom.
I know how to be a woman.
I know how to be a friend.
I know how to be a CASA
I know how to be a Flight Attendant.

I am clueless how to be a widow.

When Henry was first diagnosed, I searched the internet like a freak looking for miracles. Plenty of stories of men with this horrible disease but never an ending. Never a wonderful outcome. Henry's cancer was a rare one. I just wanted an ending. Anything that would be good.
Posts were out there written by wives or loved ones going thru this same thing but the postings would just suddenly stop....


My heart somehow seemed to guess the outcome but my brain refused to accept defeat.

The day after Henry died, a friend of the family stopped by with trays and platters of food. Friends had all pitched in to provide food for the people that would be stopping by.

Thick slices of slow cooked tenderloin. Thin slices of fresh salmon with lemon and capers.
Desserts. Meat and cold cut trays. Buns, breads
Fruits, vegetable trays, cheeses, crackers and endless lists of food to feed the masses of people that were to stop by in the days to come.

While everyone else feasted on these foods,
my friend discreetly pulled me aside and gave me some advice.....

"Lana, people are going to be watching you. Judging you. No matter what you say or do, it will be scrutinized and picked apart. What you wear and how your makeup looks each day for the next who knows how long will all be judged. Not because of any other reason than that you are now a widow and people will talk. Be careful."

Holy Crap!
That all sounded horrific.

It also sounded sadly true.

Other friends offered advice of their own. These are actual texts from friends offering their best advice. I think I used each one. Those days were all a giant blur.

Wear low heeled shoes. Don't eat a heavy meal before the showing.
Don't eat fiber or you will have to use the bathroom too often. Don't drink water or you will be running to pee every 5 minutes. Bring mints. Chew gum. Bring lipstick.
Sit whenever possible.
Ask how did you know my husband to people you do not recognize.
Hug those you love. Shake the hands of those who you don't know. Excuse yourself and go to the ladies room any time you need to. Bring Wet-Wipes for your hands. Keep your chin up. Wear waterproof mascara. (L'Oreal Voluminous is amazing! I cried the equivalent of a river but my mascara stood up)

The day of the showing came. I had two black dresses I thought would be appropriate. One a Michael Kors for the showing and the other Alice & Olivia with long black gloves for the burial and funeral mass.
No low cut cleavage showing. No mini lengths. Nothing tight or too sexy. Nothing revealing. No flashy jewelry. No heavy cakey makeup.
I wore my hair straight and not too fancy. Just subtle and sad.
That was me.
Subtle and sad.

I arrived at the funeral parlor with it's old elaborate furnishings, velvet walls and spindely chairs 3 hours before the doors would open. I asked the funeral director to please lock the doors until the family was ready to receive. Ugh. Receive?
My son and daughter-in-law on each side of me, bracing me up. Giving me strength to see him again for the long day and evening to come.
I slowly approached the coffin where my husband was lying in state.
I couldn't wait to see him. He died on a Thursday and it was now Tuesday. I hadn't seen his face since he had died. I made the funeral home wait five hours to take his body from my house.
I didn't want to ever let him go....

I missed him so much. I was excited but scared shitless too.
One on each arm I was shaking. It seemed like a mile to walk the few steps to see him.

He seemed so at peace and looked so handsome. I had brought his wedding ring. His hands had become so swollen those last weeks that he had to remove it. I found it in his bureau in an envelope with the date he had removed it along with these words..... 5/27/2012 "From My Girl. * * * * * "
Those numbers. Those words.
Those words had reduced me to tears and sent me straight to bed for an entire day.
I slipped the ring back where I had placed it so many years ago at our wedding. It looked so right on his finger again. A band of gold with 5 diamonds.

Each diamond a word.
* * * * *
I Love You Very Much.
I* Love* You * Very *Much*
We signed every note we ever left each other with 5 dots.
* * * * *
I Love You Very Much

I bent to kiss his face and whisper how much I love him.
My tears fell like tiny drops of dew onto his face.
Dried up tears.
So many.
I knew he would carry them to eternity and it gave me some dreary kind of comfort. A part of me would forever be with him and since my heart was already there, it seemed right.

I was asked where I wanted to stand.
Near my husband so I could look at his beautiful face and gather strength to get thru this
The family was in place. The doors unlocked.
The people came in droves.
So many people.
So many beautiful stories of the kindness and good deeds or humorous things my husband did to touch so many lives. Each one a treasure. I keep them all in my heart and remember them even now.
The hardest ones to bear were from the young men that worked for him. Some were still working there but many had grown and gone on to bigger and better jobs. Each one came to me with tears and a hug to tell me what my husband did to change their lives for the better. Or a funny story to tell.
To see these grown men crying and missing him so much was very heart-warming yet difficult at the same time.
Hour upon hour the people came.
I knew my husband was wonderful but had no idea so many others did as well.
For nine straight hours they came and line went on and on....

My family and dear friends didn't leave me alone. I finally caught on.
I asked, "Are you all afraid I am a danger to myself or others. Is that why you stay?"
No, they replied, we are just concerned for you to be alone.

Henry had become so much of my life in the last year since his diagnosis that my life was his. I gave up being a CASA, working, YouTube, blogging, shopping, lunches with girlfriends, friends etc. that now that he was gone, I was at a complete loss. No more feeding thru that damn feeding tube every 2 hours. No more helping him shower, no more bandages. No more being caretaker. I would have done it all again for a thousand years if he could have just stayed....

The funeral and burial was to be tomorrow. More of the same.
Sadness and tears.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

He Was All I Have

Hello to all of you that have sent all of the amazing notes and to the ones that left me a Tweet or note here  every day, I owe you big-time.
You have no idea how these notes got me thru these last months. I got where I actually looked forward to them. They were a tiny bright spot in an otherwise very dark time.
A thin thread to a different place.

When I was approached to write a book during my husbands treatments, I told the publisher that I wouldn't write about his passing but instead go back. All the way back to my life as a child. 
It was a compromise. 
I totally dropped the ball on my writings the last 4 - 5 months. My hands were full with caring for the love of my life. Who can write when their heart is being crushed. I stopped everything and devoted every second to my husband.
He is gone.
I cry just thinking of him. 
I miss him so much it hurts like a physical pain. 
I seem to hang at the cemetery.
I rake and clean and preen and decorate his gravesite. 
Somehow it gives me comfort. I had to stop telling family and friends that I go there 3 times a day. Now they look at me funny as if I am loco.
Maybe I am.
It's like going to his place. It's all I have.
Someday soon I will write about it all. The 
last months, the beautiful love we had, and his passing.
Right now, I am so raw inside it would come out as rambling jibberish.
Writing clears my thoughts.  It's all I have.
Henry died the way he lived... His way.
If someone can die beautifully, he did.
I held him in my arms. He was all I have...