How am I doing? You mean, "Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" The beginning of the firsts.
- How are you doing? When people call, greet, or want to truly offer sympathy and condolences, it often starts with the greeting, "How are you doing?"
- I KNOW that they are being kind, showing compassion for me, and they are trying to give me an opening to share. So it comes from a great place. But when people say that, I hear, "Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"... my first thought at a response is, "Other than having half my purpose and soul being torn from me, I'm doing just great".
- The first swim, the morning after Melissa passed, a guy in the pool asked me, "How are you today?"... I answered, "Worst day of my life, but it was very kind of you to ask". He didn't know how to respond to that. I decided to handle future encouters with more aplomb and not go raging dick on people that didn't deserve it. (Though I did say the latter part with sincerity and not snark/sarcasm).
- Over time, I think the question will lose the bite it has now. And my canned response is, "Doing the best I can, given the circumstances". A neutral plattitude that sums up a lot of the grief into whatever they want to make it into. I laugh, I cry, I try to find joy/humor, all while missing the great life I had with the greatest person I had known. But life goes on.
- Cards, pictures, flowers Along those lines, people send cards, flowers and pictures, "Here's a great picture of Melissa". And I'm like, "Thank you for reminding what I've lost and never get to see or hold again". But they mean well, it matters as she mattered. In that instant -- I love seeing her and remembering, and I love the moment they shared together and they are sharing with me. They are saying "she touched me", like so many others... right before I hate it, am bitter/angry at her for leaving me/God/world that she's gone/and at myself for pulling the plug (metaphorically), depressed that my life will never be the same, and accepting all the reasons why this had to be this way. I suspect when the feelings aren't an explosion, but more a whispering echo, that I'll be past the worst of it. But today is not that day.
- Swimming I did my morning swim to keep some sense of normalcy (I was just trying to get in and out without losing it, plus under-water, no one can see you ugly cry -- they just think you're breathing ugly). As I was changing to leave, one of the guys I know from the locker room was lamenting that his wife had him doing an errand that was going to add 30 minutes to his commute. So I ambush imparted some wisdom that someone who’d lost their wife had shared with me decades ago, through choked sobs, “Dude. I lost my wife last night… and I’d pay ANYTHING to have the opportunity to do that errand for her”. Poor guy didn’t know what hit him, the guy he was talking too gasped, "Oh fuck!". I didn't do it for malice or revenge, but from love. I bet he’ll look at that chore a little differently.
- Fleeting Life is fleeting. My wife and I had the benefit of one of the first trials as newlyweds was that she was having angina (chest pains), and had to have Heart Surgery. This reminded us both throughout our marriage that I would be there for her, how it could all "change in an instant", to prioritize what was really important, and to cherish the moments we got. The persian phrase, this too shall pass was seared in our minds, in good times and bad.
- Firsts A friend that lost his wife of 25 years mentioned that grief is a lot of counting firsts. This is the first morning where she was gone, the first time I swam without her eventually being there when I was done, my first shopping without her or her in mind, the first time I went out to dinner with friends without her or the possibility of sharing the evening in story with her. I went into the Hospital a Husband and came out Widower, and everything I'd thought I known was new again, because I was doing it without her. Not a fresh new, but a colder more lonely new. I'm told I'll be counting firsts for a while, and that my face will continue to leak at remembering why this time the same old routing is different.
- Balance Again, the voice of experience said, "don't change anything for a year". Some people leave a shrine to the person, and won't touch/change anything. Others go whirling dirvish and try to remake their life to hide from the greif; sell their house/move, start fresh, remove everything that reminds them of the "old". I've always believed in balances. So I decided to compromise. Each day, I'll pack up one thing(s) that are hers. NOT to forget her. (At that pace it would take 50 years, and I'd have to raze the house, or world, to do that). But just to symbolically go forward, remember one great thing / treasured memory or momento, and remember life goes on. (Life is for the living). The same way that I write about something, so I can savor it, understand it, and get past it. Some things can never go. But some things have to. You can't live a life in a temple to your greatest loss.
- Sharing Grief Melissa's friends and family were putting up tributes to her.
- My first thought was selfish. NO! My GREIEF! MY LOSS! You can't know and share in MY pain. She was MY wife, and you know only a fraction of the joy of our life together, and the devistating tragedy that losing that means. (I'm wordy and redundant, even in my selfish grief).
- Then I recognized that they all hurt too. Melissa touched so many lives. She was so special that her absense hurts them too, and they deserve to be able to pay tribute to her. They are going through what I am, even if it is different. And the world needs to know how much it lost with her passing. They were magnifying my pain for the world to see, and sharing out to the world what I tried to tell her daily (or at least weekly), "Baby, you were so special... and I'm so lucky to have had you in my life".
- Funeral Homes Unfortunately, you can't dawdle when picking a place to send remains to -- the hospital is not in the meat packing business, and they want you to find place to park your loved ones in like 12 hours, or they're feeding them to the hogs or something. I asked a neighborhood group and got a few choices. My inclination was to send to the first place, and a close nice one was Rosewood. But Melissa would be pissed if I did that without price/site shopping. So I drove by, they weren't very helpful, nice facilities, but I got a smarmy vibe, and $4K to BBQ my spouse sounded excessive. The second place was called Darst Funeral Home, and talking to them (Libby) on the phone they were much more helpful (and I liked the person I talked to), and they were half the price ($2K in fuel, shipping and handling seemed fair. But it wasn't about the money alone, as much as who I was working with). I called a third place and they were in-between and further away. Normally, I tend to purchase mid-grade, unless someone convinces me of the value/quality -- but I was pretty sure none of the places were leaving any meat on the bone (so to speak), and I liked Libby, had a recommendation, and called the Hespital and got Melissa fed-exed over. I'd decide on other details later. When I met them, I was glad I did. Not as many bilboards or as nice a facility, but nice dog and good people.