Promises

DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley stands in field with partner Chris

Below is a post that was written by my partner, Chris. It took me two months of persistent lobbying to get him to write again after his original blog post. He’s worried he doesn’t have anything to add to the conversation about widowhood, that it’s not his place to talk about the things that he hasn’t lived. But he loves me, and loving a widow is….complicated. Here’s just a bit of that story, written only because I put him under (some) duress.

“You know my only rule, right?”

It was a question that made me feel a little bit uncomfortable, I guess in part because I had no idea what was coming next. Beginning a relationship is almost always a process of feeling out the edges of your partner – their joys, fears, excitement, discomforts, and apparently, their “only rule”.

I have never fallen in love with a widow before so I wasn’t quite expecting Marjorie to answer her own question in the way that she did.

“You have to promise you won’t die.”

The look she was giving me as she said this was not one of someone who is amused, or joking around, or realizes that she is asking the impossible. Eventually, she cracked a smile, but it took at least five Mississippi’s, as if to say – “no, seriously”.

But of course, I can’t promise I won’t die.

Because I don’t share her experience of losing a partner, I have a generally easier time promising things. Marjorie constantly hedges.

This can play itself out in quirky ways. The kids know that when they ask their mom something, she’ll always tell them the truth. Instead of promising Tommy that there is a 0% chance that robbers will come into the house for no apparent reason while we’re eating dinner (this is a legitimate concern for a six year old), Marjorie prefers to hedge, ever so slightly, with something along the lines of, “Tommy, it is highly unlikely that robbers will just barge in while you’re in the middle of a chicken nugget”.

And so I get to observe Marjorie living in what must be a strange place – someplace between never promising anything, informed by the idea that life can jump up and bite you in ways that hurt, that leave a mark not easily healed, and yet at the same time hoping for a promise that she won’t ever have to feel that hurt again.

This feels like a weird place to be sometimes – to recognize that what your partner most wants is something you can’t give her.

I guess I have no choice but to stand beside her and feel uncertain together. I’m not about to be the non-widow who guest-writes on a widow blog and says “well, everybody dies at some point”, because (in addition to that being callous, and crappy) you all are more schooled than I in the harsh reality of the how close we all are, constantly, to not being here. But, I will say that I have found some closeness, maybe some warmth, in the idea that there are promises that Marjorie and I can’t make to each other. Rather, we get to live in a mutual risk, together.

I can focus on the promises that I can make – to love Marjorie and the kids – with all the joy, love, patience, and sometimes messiness that can entail. So, in lieu of bucking the “only rule”, I’ve instead decided to adopt it myself.

Promise you won’t die, Marjorie, ok?

Image Credit: Becky Hale Photography.

4 Replies to “Promises”

  1. Francine Whitehorn says: Reply

    Beautiful 😍
    Having lost, is frightening, because it can really happen again.
    I’m sitting here tonight a 5hour drive from my partner. He a widower and me a widow now on our beautiful journey of healing together in love.
    He is really sick with gastro and it frightens me. I’ve not experienced him being sick yet….. and death consumes me when sickness raises its head.
    Promise is a weird demand, we can’t! I promised my husband of 30years that I’d never love again, and here I am loving again.
    Thank you for your lovely words Chris

    1. This is beautiful. I know that feeling – it’s so hard to think of all the risk there is with a new love. I hope your new partner feels better soon, and is comforted by your love.

  2. Standing beside her and feeling uncertain together is the most beautiful gift you can give.

    1. I agree!

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