Almost daily, someone asks me why I decided to write this blog. Here’s the response I usually give:
In the beginning it was a way for me to connect with my loved ones and get my feelings out into the open. But then the blog (and my motivations behind it) changed a bit. DC Widow became a place of where I could connect with people that I didn’t know, specifically other young widows. My posts sparked conversations with my friends both online and in person. Soon, I found that I had a new reason for writing. I wanted my loss to have some sort of meaning.
One of the posts that generated the most responses was “Salsa in My Cup,” the blog post I wrote about watching loving interactions between my friend Kristin and her husband Shaffer. I heard from so many people afterwards, especially widows. One person commented, “Since my loss is still so recent, I often feel a sting when I see my friends sharing a hug or a kiss with their spouse because it is a reminder of what I have lost.” Another noted, “I like what you say about sitting with your feelings. I’ve encountered the same thing when I see couples my age having fun or just walking by holding hands.”
But it wasn’t just people who’ve lost a spouse that connected with that blog post. “I never comment publicly on your blog even though I always read it,” a friend of mine told me in person, “but this post really struck me. When I couldn’t get pregnant, I had a hard time being around people who had babies. It’s different, of course, but that feeling of wanting something you don’t have – I get that.”
My favorite comment came, not surprisingly, from my widower friend, “I don’t know these people, Kristin and Shaffer, but I like them,” he texted me. “They know what they have.”
I think that blog post, which was mostly about love but was also about loss and jealousy, really hit a nerve with anyone who’s ever loved someone. We all want what Kristin and Shaffer have. “Reciprocated love,” as my dad would say, “is the most important part of life.”
Of course, I remember what it once felt like to have that kind of love. It wasn’t that long ago. Even just a little over a year ago, I saw the look in Shawn’s eyes when he was with me.
Other people saw it too, and one of those people wrote me after I published “Salsa in My Cup.” Here’s the email I got just a few days later (the sender knows I’m using this email, but I’ll keep her anonymous here):
We’ve never met, but I had the pleasure of witnessing one of those magical moments between you and Shawn. Given the topic of your recent post, I felt it was time to share.
For background, I had the pleasure of working with Shawn from 2004-2006. We shared great laughs, inside jokes, and as many have attested, exchanged stories of his deep love and fondness for you. He loved you so dearly.
So fast forward to the summer of 2008. I had recently returned to DC and made an appointment for my annual gynecological visit. I took a seat in the waiting room, and across the crowded room, noticed you and Shawn sitting nervously, yet expectantly with one another. It had been a few years since I had seen Shawn, and given the setting, seemed like an inappropriate/awkward time to approach and say hi, so I kept my distance.
Despite being across the room and in a corner, I couldn’t help but notice that you were beaming. Radiant, actually.
Looking back at the timing of it all, I think I may have witnessed one of your very first OB/GYN visits in anticipation of Claire’s arrival.
I say this not to be creepy, but to share that it’s been over ten years now, and I still remember the energy between you two.
Shawn looked nervous. Steady, but nervous. You were glowing, couldn’t contain yourself. Yet, between you two there was a mutual assurance, a “we have each other’s backs” sort of energy. It was clear there was a deep trust between you two, and despite being on the precipice of one of life’s greatest and scariest adventures, there was groundedness and deep affection.
She was right. That was likely the first or second appointment we had with my pregnancy with Claire. I was 29 and we’d been married for four years. We were babies ourselves, really.
But our love for each other was so obvious that someone who observed us across a crowded doctor’s office could see it. This woman – the one who wrote me this email – didn’t know me, and she hadn’t seen Shawn in years. But she could feel what we had with each other. Reciprocated love.
So maybe that’s another reason why I write this blog. To remind myself of all that I once had. To remind myself that it was real.
Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.