People don’t know.
Unless someone had a likeness to the life we lived, to the love we shared - they don’t know what it is like to live this now, without all that.
Rick and I lived life together.
We were an oddity, even in those years. An oddity among those he worked with. Among our family, our friends, and our churches.
There were few times we were apart, in all those years together.
He chose jobs to work where I could be involved with him in them. Whether riding with him for the day, or helping with paperwork at home, or being just a phone call away for directions.
He said "no" more than once to a job, or opportunity within the company, where I was excluded. Some people did not understand, but he stood firm in his convictions.
And this was not something that I imposed on him. This was HIS choice, for his life.
This choice carried over into our personal lives as well.
Family events and get togethers were either gone to by both of us, or neither of us.
Friends were not "his" and "mine" - they were "OURS".
Even church activities were either both of us, or neither of us.
I don't even remember us going out to eat without one another!
Again, this was HIS choice. And mine.
There was once, many years ago - we had not been married too many years, both kids were still little ones. A group of guys decided they were going to a deer camp for a few days. They invited Rick.
He simply declined. Of course, they asked him why, implying that it was "his wife" who was saying no.
He said he looked at them, and then spoke firmly: "It is not my wife's answer of "no". In fact, she told me to go if I wanted to. But that's the thing - I don't want to be away from her. I got married to spend time with her. If I had wanted to spend more time away from her - I would not have married her."
And that became his standard response to anyone, at any time, for any reason - if he was asked, or pressed upon, to spend time away from US.
Now, as his widow, and in being 8 years old in this journey, there are realizations that make me see things more clearly.
Realizations that are not always easy to process.
Sometimes I feel like a cow out in a pasture, laying there in the grass, chewing her cud. Or like a dog gnawing at a bone.
Realizations are not easy to accept, even after processed.
But I am finding out that once they are processed, and accepted, they do tend to make life as a widow a bit - not easier, but perhaps the word I search for is: Peaceful. Not so churning.
The realization today?
I am a vivid reminder to people that Rick is no longer here.
Because now it is no longer - "Oh, there's Rick and Margaret" - it's just "There's Margaret".
Now granted, I could be a point of reference, contact, or a touchstone, to them, for them - to their memories, to Rick.
But, I am also an irritation and annoyance to them.
Without intending to - I make them face their own loss. And I remind them that he is no longer here. He is not off to work, he is not driving a truck somewhere. He is NOT HERE.
And believe me, I get it. It's easier for me, too. To hold him at bay, telling myself that he is on the truck, or with a customer at a dairy somewhere. That is why I can't see him, or hear his voice.
So, yes, my presence puts others in a place of being confronted with grief and loss - their own. And then their realization of "Oh, he really is gone - so Margaret is grieving, too". Which now, they feel compelled to help me in some way deal with my own loss and grief.
There is also a certain amount of anger and annoyance that I survived, when Rick did not. Which is a normal part of grief.
But a very uncomfortable part of grief.
And most people, simply do not know how to do that.
As a society we really are not taught how to deal with our own grief, let alone help someone else deal with theirs. More than not, we are simply taught to "ride away from it", to let it go, to move on, to get over it.
I will say this - these moments of realization are hard. And yet, in some backwards way, they are also comforting. Because while it is my presence, and Rick's lack of presence, that they shy from - it is not ME.
As a widow I have lost the confidence in me, in my life, that I once had - back when I was a wife. When I knew without question that Rick had my back.
Back then, I really did not pay much attention to when someone shied away from me, or even blatantly rejected me. It's not that I didn't care - it's just that I knew Rick had me.
As a widow, I have literally obsessed myself with being shied away from, or being rejected. And that "rejection" often takes the form of simply not being included, not being invited.
I know I am a reminder.
But then, what people don't know - I am a reminder to myself as well.
When I am hungry - it's no longer what do "we" want to eat, it's what do "I" want to eat?
It's no longer what will "we" watch, it's what do "I" want to watch?
It's not what will Rick enjoy seeing me wear, it's what is comfortable to "ME".
I could sit here and write a gazillion words of how I am a reminder to myself as well - that Rick is no longer here.
I know that others feel like they shouldn't speak his name, or talk about their memories of him - because it will make me sad, or it will make me feel the loss again, or somehow it will increase my grief.
People don't know.
It makes me more sad to think that he has somehow been forgotten by others - because no one talks about him, no one shares their memories of him.
No one can increase this grief by speaking his name, or sharing memories, or by asking questions.
The reality is:
Hearing others talk about him, or even just ask how I am doing these days - that is like a balm and a bandage to the hurt.
Yes, there may be some tears along the way, but think about it - sometimes to take care of a wound causes pain -- yet, it is a pain on the side of healing.
What people don't know:
It is a heavy burden to try and do all the remembering.
To carry all this burden of loss and grief - AND do the doctoring - - alone.
If you are a widow or widower - I urge you to take these realizations and allow them to wash over you, helping you to move forward just one more step in this journey.
If you know a widow or widower - I hope you find a small measure of understanding into our life and world, and that you will remember to remember.
My heart says it is always "US".
My life says it is "ME".