Since July 10, 2018, grief has become my constant companion.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since my husband died.
Some days it feels like yesterday that I was plunged into navigating a new life daily without my lover, my confidante, my best friend, a great bonus dad, a cherished Baba (grandfather) and so much more.
Some days it feels like years since I last saw his handsome face that is forever tattooed in my memory. Thank God for memories.
I’m still a work in progress, but in the past three years I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned how to take some of the pieces of my shattered life and glue them back together to form a new life. The hardest part of all that is doing it without my husband—the one person who could’ve helped me through this heartache.
I’ve learned how to accept widow brain, which is a real thing, a breathing, living thing. It gives you grief-induced anemia when you can’t figure out how to spell a simple word or the name of a store you frequent often. Thank God for Google.
I’ve learned how to pull out all my self-sufficient skills—thank God for YouTube instructional videos.
I’ve become even more independent, and in doing so have learned that my own company is quite enjoyable—thank God for my passion for reading, writing, decorating, and painting.
I’ve also learned that hard days can feel like they will never end and that though time moves forward for others, for me it feels stagnant or stuck, especially on specific days or months. June and July are two of the most challenging months for me to navigate. June was the month we lived in hospice, and July is the month he died.
This year I wanted to commemorate the anniversary of his death in a way that would help me, and my family get through the day, and at the same time honour my husband’s legacy of strength, love, and resilience.
I decided one way to do this was to create a memorial rock garden, utilizing my creativity in the hopes that it would help me plow through the flashbacks.
I spent all of June collecting, prepping, and painting the stones. Both of our grandsons also lovingly painted a few stones for this love-filled project.
This memorial rock garden project was both hard and easy to complete.
It was hard because it was another punch to the gut that he was in fact gone forever.
But, on the other hand, it was easy—even though I was up to my elbows in paint and there were quite a few do-overs. It was easy because I go to re-live a lot of our life together as portrayed through some of those memories through my rock painting.
Each brush stroke soothed my injured soul.
Memories of our long into the night conversations about how we would solve all the world’s problems. How we would at times talk about nonsensical stuff—the kind that only two lovers understand but others would find perplexing, and long talks about our future, our hopes, and dreams.
Memories of the laughter, the quiet times, and even the challenging times, and how through it all, we rode life’s roller coaster together, holding hands, and always attempting to stay positive and find humor in every situation.
The memory of one Good Friday when we were going for a long walk, and we saw a frantic older gentleman who asked us if we knew of a grocery store that was open as he forgot to buy fish for dinner. The man and his wife were distraught that they’d have no fish for Good Friday. Grocery stores were all closed.
David told the man to wait with me, and when he returned, he was holding a big cloth bag, which looked oddly familiar to me. He handed the man the bag that contained a selection of frozen fish and told him to enjoy dinner with his wife. When the man tried to pay us for it, David declined. I asked him where did he find an open store? He told me he went home and emptied out all the fish we had in our freezer.
The memory of David’s incredible sweet tooth popped up. He was working in our basement with my brother when my brother came running up the stairs, laughing and telling me what David had done. David had found some of my homemade cookies in the freezer—in a container labeled eggplant because they were for an upcoming event. He had obviously figured out my hide the homemade goodies strategy. He had taken two of the cookies out, placed them on a paper towel on the dryer, started the dryer, and proceeded to warm them up a bit so he could eat them.
The memory of David playing mini-stick hockey for hours with our eldest grandson from the time our grandson started crawling. Those two had an incredible bond, and their conversations were not only comical but so heartwarming.
One day, as we were driving with our grandson, who loved to talk about anything and everything, and David told him, “You got your jibber-jabber from Nana.”
Our grandson responded, “And I got my laughing from you, Baba, because when we’re together, we laugh a lot.”
It is these memories and many more that help in sustaining me and keeping me upright.
The memory of watching the Euro cup soccer games as I cheered for my mother country (Italy) and he cheered for his (England). We placed a friendly and sexy wager on the outcome. We were both winners either way.
The memory of David’s love for animals. He would save a spider’s life by capturing it and throwing it outside, and while he was in Virginia for training sessions for his work, the deer were so friendly they would walk up to him without fear. He also loved turtles and collected them in wood, ceramics, glass. Like David himself, turtles have a laid-back attitude, and they love water.
The memory of David collecting an acorn from our cottage thirty years ago, and when we moved into our new new home, we planted the acorn into our garden. David loved to grow things from seed, and he especially loved trees. Oak and maple were his favourites, and sunflowers were his favourite garden flowers.
The tree has grown over the last thirty years and remains as strong as our love.
I created a second, smaller rock garden under this oak tree, and I hope his spirit can see it and feel the love that went into it.
Memories of a spiritually strong and compassionate man who always had witty comebacks and a clever sense of humor. David was generous and possessed a kind soul who always walked the walk of treating others the way he would like to be treated.
Now that I have faced another year without my love, I will keep on working through each day, reinventing my routines, my life, my person while still cherishing who I was when my husband was here on earth.
Grieving is challenging work, and there is no expiration date, and every year it will continue to be difficult to circumvent the flashbacks of those days in hospice, and the night I held him in my arms for the last time.
People often say that it’s time to move on, only there is no such thing as moving on because the memories I hold so tightly inside my heart and soul are gifts and not things to be moved. My husband is still my forever love. There is no moving on from that.
There is moving forward one moment at a time and traveling this new life with new experiences while always holding on to the memories and the love.
And when I stumble and feel overwhelmed, I will give myself the same grace I would give a loved one who stumbles.
Forever in our hearts. A man who was is cherished by all who knew him. A loving, wonderful soul, who embodied the full meaning of life, love, friendship, integrity, and kindness.
My darling, I loved you on earth for your whole life, I’ll miss you for the rest of my life.