Monday, March 10, 2014

A Year Later...And Learning To Live

Today, March 10th, 2014, marks the first anniversary of my wife's death.  How strange it feels to even write that.  I will say, however, that the title bears witness to where life has taken me these past 12 months and how her passing taught me, and teaches me still, how to live.  I've learned much, experienced even more, and have come to accept that things do, in fact, happen for a reason.  I think it's safe to say I was not prepared for this in any way.  Who is?  Did I think that I'd bear the title of 'widower' before I was firmly in my 50's? No way...though I know there are those, close friends included, that have experienced it at a younger age than I.  Yes, this 'death & dying' thing is an ugly, nasty, cruel, mean villain, however I've also come to fully understand that life is more how we react to our circumstances than the circumstance themselves.

When I wrote a year ago, I said that I had no idea where life would lead me, though I knew I did not want to waste any time.  Doing what?  I had, and at times still have, no idea.  I came to realize, maybe somewhat subconsciously, that when an opportunity presented itself, I was taking it.  When the annual call came to spend time with friends going to a NASCAR race, I took it without question.  When friends suggested that they were going zip-lining and might I want to tag along and try it, the answer was a certain, "I'm in," almost before they finished the question.  When the time came to go to Tuscaloosa on Saturdays to watch the Crimson Tide, know that was going to happen.  Most importantly, when the opportunity to spend time with friends or family presents itself, I am there.

In all fairness, I stopped writing a moment ago (a pause indiscernible to you reading this, I realize) to ask myself what I am doing.  What I thought might be a long, poignant post....will not be.  I can abridge this and, today at least, feel I need to.  So what do I have to write about (rather than my usual rambling)?  It's a few simple truths I've learned - not Mom's Rules for Living, mind you, but it's what I've gleaned.

  • Family & friends are the most important things in the world.  These relationships should be cherished, loved, and nurtured.  Make time for them.
  • Everyone grieves at their own pace.  I, personally, had issues with this and was frozen with indecision at times.  I now realize you get to choose and decide what and when is right to move forward.  This is YOUR journey - no one else has to walk your path and they do not know what your life is like.  To say they do is ludicrous.
  • Do your job, do it well, but do not get lost in it.  Again, for me it was easier said than done.  it was my comfort zone and provided normalcy when I needed it.  That, and the people at work are family so it was easy to migrate to 'that place' at times.
  • Life is short - play hard.  Okay, in fairness, this is nothing more than reiterating the fact that, when presented with an opportunity to try something new, different, or fun, take the chance.  Not only will it keep you occupied, but you might just find something you really enjoy, as well as learn something.
  • Be gentle with others.  Okay, now I'm sounding like a Hallmark card, but hear me out.  Nothing makes you feel better than offering help to the elderly, holding a door for someone, picking up dropped packages, etc.  Kneeling down to talk with a child or to make them smile?  It's a feeling like no other.  Momma taught you to do good deeds - do them.
  • Act a little crazy and laugh at yourself.  In light of what happened, I can tell you it gives you a different perspective.  Things you might have worried about previously, don't seem that significant.  Hey, listen, I'm always going to be the guy that trips over that crack in the sidewalk, then jumps up to see if anyone saw me.  Always.  It's just that now, I've learned to get up and see if anyone saw me....then view them as an audience.  I don't pirouette yet, but why not, right?
  • Plan and prepare - PLEASE!  I said it last year and will again - make sure you have a will and that your beneficiaries are updated.  One thing many of you do upon seeing me now is either A) tell me how you've planned, or B) tell me how you're going to plan.  Do it.  Today.  Trust me, your family and loved ones will be glad you did.  
  • Don't let loss make you fear losing again.  Okay, even I read that several times to make sure it sounded right and made sense.  I'm pretty sure one of the 'Grammar Gurus' will point it out if I erred, however an explanation might help.  Just because your spouse/significant other died, you shouldn't be frozen with fear that you'll experience that pain again.  Because here's the harsh reality - you will.  No matter what happens, we are all going to experience this at some point.  Refer back to earlier points - live, laugh, and love.  You'll be glad you did.
These are but a few, albeit most important, of the lessons and realizations I've had in the past year.  I said it before and will share it again - I was blessed to have had Sharon in my life at all.  To love her, and be loved by her, was something I will carry with me always and will smile with every memory.  You've all taught me, though, that life goes on and this was a chapter in the book, not the end of the story.  There are many....or several, at least...chapters yet to be written, I hope.  I'm counting on many of you to take an active part in those chapters as well.  Thank you for being the amazing friends and family you've been, and for the love, caring, and kindness you've shown me.  I truly do not feel worthy, however I promise to do my best to show you, through actions, how grateful I truly am for all of you.  You've helped me learn what it is to truly live again.

Until next time.............

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