(Spring 2014/Photo credit Joanna Samples)
Four years ago today I woke up a wife and when I finally dropped into a bed that wasn’t mine about 24 hours later, I was a widow. As I was lying there awake in my friend’s home, next to my mom, sobbing, I could hardly believe it. How does one go from married to a healthy man to widowed in the blink of an eye? How was I going to give birth without him there? How was I going to keep working night shift as a single mom to (soon-to-be) two small children? How could he really not be coming home to us where he belonged? I mean, I’d seen his body—there could be no doubt that he was dead. But the sudden death thing was really throwing me for a loop and my brain could not process it.
For the longest time it felt as if he should just walk through the garage door at 4:15 after work and tell me it was all a nightmare. I could hardly sleep at night for the next couple years because his absence in our bed was so palpable. My toddler walked around the house looking for him and she, too, thought he would walk in the garage door. After two weeks this faded and she began night terrors for a while instead. At 16 months old she’d been abandoned by her Dada but could not understand that it was not his choice.
Today I remember it, remember how it felt to receive the calls no wife wants to receive. I remember the way it felt once they broke the news to me in the ER, though by that point I’d figured it out so I took it in with zero emotional response. I remember telling my husband’s parents that their firstborn son was gone because I didn’t want them hearing it from a stranger. I remember the way my soul was torn in two when I heard my beloved mother-in-law’s cries. I never wanted to see her hurt like this, to have to watch her lose a child. This was her baby.
All the trauma of that night, all the things I carry, all of it—I carry more than any other time on June 24th. I do not dwell on it all the time because, to be honest, my life has been blessed. Yet it was a cruel, cruel, blow that my husband was killed in a car wreck on June 24th because that used to be a day our family celebrated with joy. For the first 27 years of my life, this was a day involving birthday cake and presents, for you see, today is also my sweet daddy’s birthday. Here we were though, trying to salvage the day that would have been Dad’s 63rd birthday and the unimaginable happened. Is it any wonder then that today is incredibly painful?
I’d love to spend this day balled up in my bed hiding from the world, with someone else watching my kids, drenched in misery. That’s not really my style though. That’s not really a good/healthy/useful response for me personally to have. Instead I will go about this day as normal. I’ll shower. I’ll feed my kids breakfast. We will go to church. I might cry at church, and that will be a bit out of my typical, but that’s okay. We’ll have lunch with my mom and spend the afternoon doing stuff with her. We’ll have a relaxing evening at home. I’ll put the kids to bed.
People who see me out and about today will have no clue the things I’m carrying (unless they’ve read this or know me). I’m a master of carrying on in the face of it all. It’s life, after all, and you’ve just got to keep living even on the days when you feel as if you might break. Onward and upward.