If you are reading my blog, you probably know that I am a widow. ‘Widowed’ is the very proper, age-old way of saying that your partner in life is gone where you can no longer see them, touch them, talk to them, laugh with them, cry with them. Gone. Dead.
If you’re not a widowed person you might be tempted to think that posts related to this subject are completely inapplicable to you and your life. But think about this. All married relationships end in one of 2 ways basically – in divorce or because of the death of a spouse. I know there are a very small amount of annulments scattered in there, and a tiny number of cases where both spouses die together. However, in the vast majority of relationships either a divorce or separation will sever the relationship or death will do the honors. So if you have a successful marriage, it is going to and when one of you dies and the other becomes widowed.
It’s a scary fact of life to consider. We took our marriage vows very seriously. I very clearly remember having a conversation with my husband when I was frustrated by a logistical limitation imposed by my MS . I felt compelled to apologize for it, and telling him that I was sorry, because I knew it wasn’t what he had signed up for. I can hear his voice in my memory when he responded that he had not signed up for anything, that he had made a vow, and that nothing was going to change that until he died someday, so I shouldn’t worry about it and we would figure it out. Of course, he was referring to our marriage vows – you know, the ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part’ vows. When he was cranky or difficult because of the stresses of his career, he would eventually apologize and laugh and tell me that this was covered by the ‘for better or for worse’ part.
I always felt great empathy for the few widowed people I knew. In the very back recesses of your mind you think, “There but for the grace of God go I…” And then when it happens to you, you realize it’s not a matter of the grace of God. It is almost entirely a matter of life happening. You don’t lose a spouse to death because a higher power is punishing you or punishing them. It isn’t really bad luck, bad karma, cosmic vengeance, or divine retribution. My husband died because another man committed a crime and Chris was his victim. Other spouses die because of illness or accidents, or old age. All of it is an inescapable part of life.
Trying to navigate the pandemic without my husband makes this ordeal tougher than tough. I don’t want to be misunderstood with this; it’s not that he simply handled everything. That wasn’t the case at all. We really had a partnership in which I could depend on him, and he could depend on me. In any great partnership, I think, each partner brings a unique skill set to the table. Part of Chris’ considerable skill set was the ability to handle situational crises.
Here, he was working at home during the blackout days of Hurricane Sandy, sitting on the floor by the sectional in the living room so he could use the natural light from the window. His desk at home was nowhere near a window. He was keeping his cell phone and BlackBerry charged by hooking him up in the car for an hour at a time. That huge storm hit us October 29, 2012. We had ample advanced warning that the storm was coming. Chris came home from Home Depot with 5 hard hats for us all, to which he attached small flashlights. We weren’t going to be outside in the storm, so we really didn’t need them. It was a psychological thing, to make us laugh and feel confident that everything was under control.
People who are widowed know all about the things that we, as surviving spouses, miss, Love, friendship, companionship, romance, laughter, adventure, comfort, shared experiences, conversation, shared memories, emotional support, financial support. You would think that dealing with something like the ongoing pandemic would not be compounded so badly by widowhood – but it is. Of course, I can only speak for myself, but I have learned that very frequently what I experience is common to others as well.
I second guess all my decisions related to how I’m trying to lock down my house and protect my family during this modern-day plague. I ask myself what my husband would have done, and frequently try to corporate that into my efforts. Weeks and weeks ago I put an end to all tutoring sessions for my kids, and a couple of other services that would usually come to our house. It’s an unavoidable fact that my disability makes me unable to physically do a lot of routine things myself, such as house cleaning, dog walking, errands, cooking and more. My disability also necessitate visits a couple of times a day from essential health care aides; It feels odd to call them that, because they are far more than workers, they are family friends at this point. My brain plays the “What if?” game sometimes … what if Chris had not been killed, then my disability would not be so bad right now and I would not need all the help that I do. And then my family would be even better protected because they would be exposed to nobody else. It is a ridiculous line of thought, but that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes think it.
It is extremely hard not to have my best friend – my husband – here to discuss any of it with. Would he have been better able to find Lysol? What safeguards would he have thought of that I didn’t? Would he have recognized the need to lock it down quicker than I did? Isn’t that I see myself as incapable of handling things. The fact is, as someone with a major disability, I am at a disadvantage. Add to that the fact that Chris was always incredibly capable of handling problems and obstacles, and I think it would be unreasonable for me tonight think of it this way. I know that the “What if?” game is completely futile in this type of situation but that doesn’t make it stop.