As a nurse, my ID badge is kind of a big deal. I wear it all the time and can’t do much of anything at work without it. When I first became a mom in 2013, I added a photo holder to the back of it so I could show off my baby girl. It was a sweet photo of her at six weeks old in a purple dress.
When my husband died, I put a new photo on the back of my badge. We’d had family photos made just two months prior in April of 2014. It was my toddler on her daddy’s shoulders with me behind, but I’d had to cut myself out to make it fit. She was laughing and he was giving that rugged, handsome smile I missed so much.
November of 2014 I gave birth again and was hit with a conundrum: update with a photo of both my babies and no longer picture the man I loved, or leave the photo as it was and leave out my newest child? I ended up leaving the photo as it was because I could not bear the symbolic significance of, even in this small way, “cutting him out” of my life. After all, my marriage didn’t end because either of us wanted out, nor was there any warning. It was just life as usual and then the next day I was, shockingly, a widow.
Throughout the course of a twelve-hour-shift my badge tends to flip over frequently, so the back is visible rather than my name. On occasion a patient or family member will ask, “Is that your family?” or “Is that your husband?” I have often found myself explaining my personal tragedy to strangers in those moments, which is not uncomfortable for me but appears to be unconfortable for most of them. I find myself trying to put them at ease because while it truly is hard, it is also “just” my life and I’ve accepted it.
In June I will be coming up on my fourth year of widowhood. Wow. Even saying that, it feels like a long time. In May I turn 32, in June we would have been married 12 years, and on June 24th will be the fourth anniversary of the day my Chris met Jesus. So much has happened since then and aside from the birth of Aurora, the most notable changes are those that have happened in me. I am not the woman I was before.
Just in the last two weeks my spirit told me that it was time to do a little more letting go. Letting go is necessary for growth and forward motion but it frightens us. We tend to hesitate and hang on to the familiar even if it is no longer to our benefit. Yet I could feel a gentle tug on my spirit, persistent, encouraging me to put a new photo on my badge. It is time, Aimee, it is time. You’re ready for this, to have something that reflects the present instead of holding onto the past. In response and commitment to this inner voice, I shared the intention with a friend. I knew I would feel more accountable to the change if I told someone I was going to do it.
Today I went to a photo kiosk and printed a wallet-size picture of the girls and me. It was taken this past autumn outside our home by a professional photographer/fellow widow/dear friend of mine. Now when patients see the photo on my badge, there will be nothing to explain beyond the names and ages of my daughters. I will always love their daddy... but by the same token, there is beauty in letting certain aspects of grief go at the right time. He is my past, not my present, and I fully recognize that.
This is my grief process and I’m figuring it all out a little at a time. You know what though? I have done so much healing over the last few years. It’s truly amazing. My God is ever faithful.