A few weeks ago, I was washing dishes and talking to my friends Becky and Michelle. They had come over with their kids for dinner and we were chatting about our lives. We discussed a blog post of mine that had come out recently – the one about how I need to figure out how to make it in the world without a man. “Not forever, mind you!” I said with a wink.
They knew what I meant. I’m certainly not done with men for the rest of my life. And yet the future of that part of my life seems…difficult to comprehend.
“In the movie version of your life,” Becky said, “you’d be swept off your feet by a handsome stranger right about now.”
I laughed and then the three of us started talking about all of the things that would be different in the movie version of my life.
First off, all of the things that take up so much time in my life – choosing a new health care plan and buying winter clothes for the kids and figuring out how to plan for retirement – that stuff would have to get cut. It would definitely not be in a movie because it is BORING. It might take up 90% of my free time, but no, it could not be part of a movie that anyone would want to watch.
Also, in the movie version of my life, I’d have a number of other dramatic things that would happen to me after my husband died. Because, of course, the death of a spouse wouldn’t be enough to propel the movie forward. Maybe I’d lose my job (only to find a better one!) or one of my children would run away (only to be rescued by me a few hours later!) All of these other significant events would show my determination to overcome my circumstances. Merely surviving the loss of a spouse wouldn’t be enough to show resilience.
Finally, in the movie version of my life, I would not still be sad. There might be a scene with me laying flowers on my late husband’s grave, but I’d be standing next to a new man, and I’d look up from the grave and smile at him. As we walked away, he’d put his arm around me and pull me close as happy music played. That chapter of my life – the one with my late husband – would be over and there would be a whole new chapter unfolding. One without Shawn.
But grief doesn’t work like that, and while I may be far from finding love again, I know that if and when it does happen, I will still miss Shawn. I will still be sad. I will still want my old life back.
That doesn’t happen in the movies. It doesn’t even happen in the novels I’ve read about widows. It doesn’t happen because it doesn’t work for the progression of a plot line. The widow can be torn about her new relationship at first, sure, but once she moves forward with someone new, she closes the door on the earlier chapter of her life.
I won’t be doing that. I don’t know if I’ll always leave Shawn’s jackets in my closet and I don’t know if I’ll forever keep the notes that he wrote me in my nightstand. But I know that I won’t just let our 15 years together fade into the distance, forgotten by time and new experiences. I know that won’t happen because I won’t let it happen.
I know my memories with Shawn will get hazy and that I might forget some of the details. But I will not willingly forget him. I will not willingly forget us.