A few months ago, I remember thinking something like, “I think I’m in such a different place, because I’m not walking around the neighborhood crying anymore.”
Well, strike that. Because that’s exactly what I did last weekend.
There wasn’t a specific reason why I started walking about the neighborhood. I was overwhelmed by my kids and one of my friends kindly volunteered to take all three of them and I thought, “I gotta get out of my house.” The sun was shining and I decided to take a walk.
As I started walking, I thought about my life. I thought about all of the walks I’d taken in my neighborhood and I thought about all the times that Shawn and I had gone down this exact street where I was walking. I thought about watching him carry Tommy on his shoulders because that kid was never a good walker, at least not while Shawn was alive. I thought about how Austin would often walk hand-in-hand with his dad, both of them content to walk in happy silence. I thought about when Claire first learned to ride her bike and Shawn would hover near her, careful to watch and make sure she didn’t crash into the road.
The tears came quickly. Sometimes I know when I’m going to start crying. In fact, these days I usually know when I’m going to start crying. But not this time.
I was so sad.
I was sad about the life that I used to have. That life – the one that’s already starting to fade around the edges of my memory – sometimes I miss it with a level of desperation that feels out-of-whack with the daily life that surrounds me. The beautiful house and the happy kids and the fulfilling career….all of these things are still part of my life. And yet, when I think back to my old life and what it was like, I feel like my new life is just a shell left over after the real life – the good life – crawled away.
I can see Shawn, clearly, in many of these memories of my past, but others are hazy. What I do remember clearly in all of these memories is being with my family, just the 5 of us, and feeling like there was nowhere I’d rather be.
Shawn felt the same way. I know because in these moments, he’d turn to me and say, “who has a better life than us?”
Sometimes he said this line to me when I was stressed out about money or logistics or by the mere fact that we had 3 little kids. But other times he’d say this to me when we were walking home after getting the kids ice cream and the big kids were on their bikes and he was carrying Tommy. We’d be on the sidewalk by our house, tired from a day with kids and the sun would be fading and rather than try and hurry up the day, he’d make me slow down.
I love that he did that.
I never do that now.
Because when I do it – when I step back and look at my life and think about it as a whole – I just start crying.
And that’s what happened on my walk the other day. I thought about how lucky I was to have three perfect kids who bring me so much joy. I thought about how blessed I was to have a father (and extended family) who are so devoted to me. I thought about how wonderful it is that I am surrounded by friends who will pick up my kids when they hear the slightest waver in my voice.
But I also thought about what I don’t have anymore – Shawn and my intact family of 5.
I know I am luckier than most widows. I know I am blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life.
But I don’t have him. So no matter what I do have, it always feels to me like I got cheated out of the life I was supposed to have. The life where my husband would turn to me on the most perfect of early spring days and say, “who has a better life than us?”
I knew the answer to that one.
“No one. We have the best life.”
Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.