After my beloved husband died in 2018, I knew that the days ahead, navigating through this new life I never wanted, would be challenging.
Inevitably I encountered emotional landmines, especially during the holidays, riding a roller coaster of triggered anxiety and depression. Even something simple as grocery shopping and spotting a carton of orange sherbet—his favourite dessert—swallowed me whole with a fresh wave of grief.
Now that the bright lights of Christmas and New Year’s are behind us, a new landmine blasts at every turn complete with hearts, flowers, chocolates and advertisements for dinner for two–and when you’re suffering heartache as a widow or widower on Valentine’s Day, they seem to pop up everywhere.
My husband and I didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day with a lot of fanfare, as he was a “here’s-a-gift-for-no-reason” type of guy, however, we did mark the day in our own way.
He’d kick off the morning by serving me tea and toast, using peanut butter to draw a heart on the toast, and I would give him a bowl of Smarties (he loved his sweets).
I’d give him a card—the kind we used to give as kids at school–of course, there wasn’t anything childlike in the naughty note I’d written inside the card (well, I am a romance author after all).
He’d give me a card—the traditional “for all occasions card.”
Twenty-years ago, my husband gave me a card for my birthday–the card looked oddly familiar, and then when I opened the card I knew why it looked familiar. He had given me that card on our anniversary with a sticky note inside with his endearment—here it was again for my birthday, with a different note inside.
It was a running joke that I treasured all these years, as he said it saved him from never forgetting a card for any occasion, he’d just recycle the card and just change the sticky note to suit the occasion.
As I said earlier, he loved giving gifts for no reason, and about six months after he died, I finally went through a few of his things in his man cave area, and discovered a binder filled with vintage Beatles cards.
I figured out that he had been collecting them to surprise me with them at some point, but with chemotherapy and in his weakened state, he hadn’t spend much downtime in his man cave, and I am guessing he forgot about that binder with all that was going on.
It was a bittersweet moment, and I remember having to spend a day in bed after finding the cards—the heart ache was so intense. I then shook myself out of my despair and with tears in my eyes, felt joy for his thoughtfulness. I forced myself to go to MICHAEL’s and purchased a frame. Some of the cards hang in my office where I can enjoy them.
This Valentine’s Day I will make toast and use peanut butter to draw a heart on it; I will hold the for-every-occasion-card close to my heart; I will look out into the garden and take in the tall oak tree, and remember the day twenty-eight-years ago when we planted the acorn together on the first day we moved into our home.
I will open the treasure trove of memories my husband left me from the beautiful life he lovingly gifted me every single day of our marriage, remember his deep love, his smile, his wit, his great sense of humour, and how passionate he was about our family, and although it will be another heart-wrenching reminder of all that I’ve lost, I will force myself to smile through the tears and continue to be grateful for the everlasting love we share.
As I do every night, I will close my eyes, remember his soft kisses and say, “I’ll see you on the other side of the stars, my love.”
On May 4, 2017, I hung onto my husband’s hand as we listened to a team of specialists explain the ramifications of my husband’s diagnosis of Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer.
In that moment, all the oxygen got sucked out of our lives, and it felt as if someone had turned off the light switch to our world, shrouding us in darkness.
I was filled with fear, angst and an intense sadness and I worried I would never regain any composure or strength.
It was my husband who composed himself quickly, squeezed my hand and said, “We’ll get through this.”
I felt the love flow from his fingertips straight to my soul; we took deep breaths and pulled ourselves together, and as we did throughout our marriage when faced with a challenge, we held onto to each other tight, and prepared for the emotional roller coaster we knew we were about to take.
From that moment on, we filled our home with love, laughter, and spending every minute of every day together, celebrating the moments, cherishing our time together, with family and close friends.
We turned the seven-hour chemo treatments at the Cancer Center into “dates,” complete with all our favourite board games, snacks, and the memory board we put together filled with pictures of our travels, and family adventures through the years.
Cancer is a short drive from optimism and laughter to the cul-de-sac of worry and anxiety about the future, however, we remained adamant about taking it one moment at a time, working hard not to drive down “What-if Avenue” or “Brooding Dead End.”
My husband was bombarded with countless blood tests, medication–enough to open our own pharmacy, treatments, clinical trials, emergency trips to the hospital, and endured harsh side effects.
He went through all this, maintaining his incredible sense of humor, wit, selflessness, and kindness; never complaining or asking “why me?”
A true warrior.
On June 5, 2018, we were delivered devastating news; there were no more treatments available, as the cancer had spread and there was nothing else that could be done.
I held my husband’s hand and said, “We’ll get through this.”
For the first time since I’ve known him, he looked at me, despondent and said, “Not this time, my love.”
On July 10, 2018, I held my beloved husband in my arms as we said our last “I love you’s.”
Since that day, I have faced the hardest months of my life. In the early months, it felt like I had lost a limb, was dropped off in a dark forest, with no instructions on how to find the light, and having to navigate my way through this forest without the use of a limb.
Every day presents a new challenge, the grieving at times is more intense now than in the early days, and missing him is even hard to put into words.
For those of you who have endured the loss of a spouse—that person who is not only your lover, but best friend and the one person that would’ve helped you the most during this grieving period, you know that it changes you as a person.
I did find my way out of that dark forest, although, it still feels like I am missing a limb, and embraced my mission of moving forward and honouring my husband’s life, and his legacy of live, love, laugh and stay passionate about all things that bring positivism into my own life and into my family’s life.
With the support of family, friends and a group beautiful souls who have also lost their life partners, I’m doing okay adjusting to this new life.
I’ve redecorated my surroundings, changed my daily routine, volunteering at my grandson’s school, enjoying the little ones at every chance I get, and remaining committed to living up to the promise I made my husband that I would continue following my passion with creative writing.
I wanted to let you all know why I’ve been absent all these months, and not updating the blog.
My goal is to start uploading new recipes, and updating you on my creative writing journey, and at times talk about grief, and hopefully reach out and help others who may be struggling as well.
Thank you for sticking with me all these months, and I send out my best wishes and love to you all as you too navigate through the challenges in your life.
In Loving Memory of our cherished & beloved Warrior
Cancer may have taken your body, and now Heaven has your soul, I have your heart; forever intertwined with mine.
Please join me in welcoming Rosanna Leo to this week’s Tasty Tuesday installment.
Rosanna is chatting about how humor and grief go together, and is dishing up a slice of…I bet you think I’m going to say apple pie, right? Well, she’s fresh out of home baked goodies, instead she is serving up a slice of her new, hot and sexy release SELKIE’S REVENGE(blurb and excerptposted below).
Never fear, there’s always food on the blog on Tuesday’s, so in honor of Rosanna’s blog post and because she’s as sweet as apple pie…I’m sharing an apple pie recipe that is as delicious as the Selkie on Rosanna’s book cover.
Trust me, the sauce that goes with this recipe is like a big ‘O’ for your taste buds (recipe below).
Without further ado, or naughty food metaphors, I give you, the witty and fun-loving Rosanna Leo.
* * *
I’d like to offer a huge thank you to my pal, Selena, for hosting me today! I’m so proud to be here.
If you know either of our canons of work, you know humor is pretty important to our writing. I never really fancied myself a comedic writer, but once I discovered my author’s voice, I realized there was a lot of snark and silliness in there. Go figure.
This doesn’t usually present a problem to me. You see, I write paranormal and contemporary romance and there’s plenty of room for humor in both genres. However, with my latest work, SELKIE’S REVENGE, I realized pretty quickly that it couldn’t be a total funfest. You see, one of the themes is grief and how it can devastate a person.
Perhaps not, but if you’re like me, you still laugh at that scene in Mary Tyler Moore where Mary cracks up at a funeral. Even in our darkest moments, we do seek the light. We look for something, anything, to ease our burden. And humor can be an incredible stress reliever. Just a little giggle, a modicum of silly, can sometimes take a bit of our pain away, or at least push it aside for a little while. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t tend to look for pratfalls at funerals. I don’t lay banana peels in the church aisle in the hopes of tripping up one of the funeral directors. But sometimes a shared memory can trigger a smile, even a laugh. And when that happens, another part of our heart is touched. The sadness becomes more poignant and bittersweet.
So in writing about the grieving process of my heroine, did I leave out the humor? No. Let’s face it, life is funny. And I think a book that dwells only on sadness would just about break my heart. We need something uplifting, a little sweetness. A reason to keep reading.
Have a seat with me now. Let’s put on that episode of Mary Tyler Moore, and pay homage to Chuckles the Clown. Because, dammit, it is hilarious!
On the beaches of Orkney, Scotland, an evil entity stalks mortal women. Machar “Mack” Kirk is a selkie man with a haunted past, one that has prompted him to become a hunter. He prowls the beaches at night, his arrows aiming for the finman who took his first love.
Beth Pedersen also watches the sea. The haunted widow has suffered losses of her own, ones that have crippled her into a state of stony grief. Beth can no longer feel, can no longer see color and life. Until the day Mack Kirk saves her from a mysterious foe, flooding her world with brightness and foreign temptation.
As Mack and Beth fight their inundating passion, the finman escalates his attacks. Before long, Mack realizes he’s not just playing Good Samaritan. He wants Beth, too, and will do anything to ensure his lover isn’t taken by the finman. But can he protect his mate from a monster with no soul?
As a torrent of emotion coiled up through her core, Beth kissed him. She barely understood his words, barely comprehended her own thoughts, but she knew she needed Mack’s mouth upon hers. She smashed her lips against his, and his tongue penetrated the warmth of her mouth, finding its home there. He slid his hands down her back to her bottom, and he groaned, digging into the soft flesh of her behind.
Desire and common sense raged a war inside her head. Common sense told her to pack a bag, purchase a ticket to New Smyrna, and leave Mack Kirk far behind. Desire told her to submit, and it was winning out by a mile. “I don’t know what to do. I need you to tell me what to do.”
He leaned in, smelling so sweet, like an exotic fruit she just needed to peel and gobble up. “Just let go, Beth. Just feel.”
She dared to look him in the eye. “I’m afraid to feel.”
“I know. For years I was too.” He brushed his lips against hers, and his tongue slipped out to caress between them, making her ache with such yearning. “But I’ll help you.”
Jamie and Edan arrived with beers. Edan gave Jamie a look as if knowing they’d interrupted something. “I’m heading back to the bar to try my luck with the luscious bartender.”
Jamie grimaced. “The old one with the beard?”
“Not him, you eejit,” Edan said with a grunt. “The female bartender. The one with the big…” He paused, looking at Beth. “Uh, bottle of vodka. Right, that one.” He dashed off.
Jamie winked at Beth. “I’ll get to her first.” With a smile, he was after his brother.
She leaned against Mack’s wall of a chest, wanting to lose herself in him. “Show me how to feel again.”
“With pleasure,” he growled into her ear. He nibbled her earlobe and then proceeded to slide back out of the booth.
“Where are you going?” she asked, already needy for his touch again.
“Just to the jukebox,” he replied, grinning. “You are going to dance with me. And feel.”
She watched, glued to her seat as Mack inserted a couple of coins into the jukebox and selected a song. He turned to her, his lips curled in a grin. As the first rolling guitar chords of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” washed over her, making her want to move, Mack beckoned to her with a finger.
Beth’s body moved toward him, responding like a homing pigeon diving toward its destination. He pulled her into his arms and they swayed. Beth had never danced so closely with a man to anything but a romantic ballad, but Mack wouldn’t break contact with her. He moved his hard body against hers, his hands on her hips, and his erection was a thick temptation grinding against her stomach. She had to fight the need to drop to her knees, rip down his jeans, and take his cock deep in her throat. The urge, and the depth of emotion accompanying it, made her light-headed. He turned her away from the bar area toward the nearest wall and slid his hands over the curve of her bottom. His fingers dug into her ass, and Beth had to remind herself they were in public. She wanted him to nail her right to the wall. Through the damn wall. She needed him inside her at all costs.
He felt so good.
My mate. Could it be?
He lowered his head so he could whisper against her ear. “Do you feel me, Beth? Do you feel my desire throbbing against you? My need to be joined to you again?”
The song reached its crescendo, and his hips rolled against hers in a heady foreshadowing of what he would do to her the next time they were alone. Beth closed her eyes. The way he moved was sinful. She imagined devils from the most depraved circles of hell might dance in such a fashion. All of a sudden, even her soft leggings felt tight and restrictive. She wanted them off. She wanted no barrier between their bodies. As if sensing her need, Mack reached a discreet hand toward her breast and located her distended nipple through her tunic. He tugged and she had to bite her lip not to cry out.
“Take me home, Mack,” she begged in an unfamiliar, wanton voice. “I want to feel more.”
About Rosanna Leo
Rosanna Leo is a multi-published, erotic romance author with Liquid Silver Books. Her books include For the Love of a God, Up In Flames, Sweet Hell, The Selkie, Sunburn and Predator’s Kiss. When not writing, she can be found haunting dusty library stacks or planning her next star-crossed love affair.