It's been a year since my world, as I knew it, came crashing down around my shoulders. My beloved wife of 38 years was gone. After struggling for what must have seemed forever to her, with multiple health problems, God called her home. Thus, began my new journey into unfamiliar territory called "alone."
This journey that I have been on has been a roller coaster ride to say the least. It has been filled with highs and lows. The lows far out number the highs, but the speed with which this year has passed is phenomenal.
The day after Tilly's funeral, I rode back to Texas with my brother and sister-in-law. There I began the grieving process. They both were super to me, spending time listening to me, crying with me and, too, giving me time alone to think and write. (Before I left, Professor had given me a journal.) I relaxed in the sun and got refreshed, but all too soon it was time to return to the reality back home.
Tilly had always handled the day-to-day running of the house. I had no idea when the bills were due, where to mail stuff, or even what the password to our on-line banking account was. I wasn't sure what was in the cupboards or freezer either. I learned quickly! And I am proud to say that the utility bills and insurance premiums have all been kept current and paid on time. I have had to deal with the mountains of debt incurred during those last days that Tilly was in the ICU unit at the hospital in Ft. Wayne. My mind is still reeling at the exorbitant fees that doctors charge for just walking into a patient's room. The hospital bill alone edged very closely to $100,000. This didn't count the numerous doctors and technicians who bill seperately. I am truly grateful for the medical insurance that we carried. And I advise everyone out there to make sure you have adequate life insurance. We didn't! I will be paying off the funeral expenses for a long time to come.
Along with all the "stuff" I have already talked about, I have learned about grief. The grief that enveloped me was huge. One minute I was thinking, "Oh, I can handle this," and the next minute I was racked with tears and feelings of darkness and despair; a loneliness that was and still is indescribable. I equate it with being in a dark tunnel with no light at the end, stumbling along not able to see or feel anything.
"First" are not pleasant either, but friends and family seem to make them happen. Cousins had me at their home for Thanksgiving. My children were at my house for Christmas. Somehow, we all made it through that holiday, but the pain was there right below the surface for us all. Mom was missing! New Years Eve was spent with my friends da Hubes, and I had a good time, despite the feeling of being a "lone wolf." Valentine's Day came and went . I looked at the cards with longing and a heavy heart. Suddenly the romance was gone from my life. Would I ever feel that way again? On Tilly's birthday, I made a wreath for her grave. I also had Lil Bro and Sistah over for dinner. I fixed Tilly's favorites, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans. We toasted her memory. I remember, too, how weird it was to write the word "widower" on a form for the first time. But that was "me" now. Get used to it!
On the advice of my family doctor, I have joined a grief recovery and healing group. This group has helped me a lot. I realize now that I am not the only one who has ever been through this life-altering experience. I realize that it's okay to cry, and it's okay to laugh. I have learned that it is good to talk about my grief, and to talk about my life with Tilly. It's okay to feel anger, and sadness; basically, it's okay to feel the way I do at any given moment. And believe me, those feelings change all the time.
Through all of this, my family has been so very supportive. At first, both of my children called me daily; just to check in and see that I was okay. My Texas and Ohio family called frequently to touch base and give me words of encouragement. Now that it's been a year, I think my kids have relaxed and know that Dad is doing alright most days, and that I'm not leaving them anywhere in the near future. I spend lots of time with my son and daughter-in-law, and now my new granddaughter. They fill a great void for me and I admit I would be lost without them. I email Professor almost daily and we call back and forth across the miles between here and Montana often. I know they care...that's the most important thing right now.
My friends have been there for me and have seen me through some of the toughest of times. Of course, some of the couples that Tilly and I did things with have distanced themselves and that's only natural. Others have become closer than ever before. With them, I can laugh, cry, and just be myself.
My faith has been tested this last year. Why not! I have wondered why Tilly died. I have asked God, "Why me," in my moments of darkest despair. But, when I talk to others and they mention losing a loved one, I know I didn't "lose" Tilly. I know exactly where she is. I find tremendous comfort in knowing that she is now pain-free and I picture her singing in a heavenly choir. My pastors and my church family have played an important part in my reaching this point in my acceptance. They have been nurturing, kind and loving. I could not have reached this point without them. I still am singing. It's one of the things that brings me joy. Tilly was my biggest fan, and I can feel her nudging me to continue, even when I would rather stay home.
A year later I am still in the grieving stage. I probably will always grieve. But I am more at ease with the grief. I understand it more each day. That tunnel I mentioned earlier is still dark, but there are days that I catch a glimpse of light at the end. Even though it is dim, or at best just a flicker, it gives me hope.
Peace and Hope,