A very close friend of mine’s father passed away. I was going to call him my close friend’s husband but he such a good friend also. There was obviously a funeral and I was obviously going. Of course when I hear funeral I get a little twinge of nervousness. I believe I have only been to one since Howie’s and it was very soon after. I think at that time I was still a little numb to what was going on around me. It was also not in the same funeral home where Howie’s was which made a difference, although I didn’t realize it at the time.
This whole family are “family friends” of ours and our kids have always been close. In a normal circumstance I may have wanted my girls to be at the funeral, but our circumstance is not normal. My first instinct was for them not to go, that they should go to shiva but not the funeral. If I was feeling a little nervous about going, it may be too much for them to handle. Amanda’s first instinct was to go, that she wanted to be there. I told her I was hesitant, that I was afraid she would get too upset. Amanda said that she didn’t feel that she would. Lily, on the other hand, immediately said that she did not want to be there, that it would be too upsetting for her. Lily is a lot like I am, very emotional. So Lily was definitely not going and I told Amanda we should be think about whether she should be there or not. As it turned out, Amanda got sick so was unable to go anyway.
So I was going alone. Well not really alone, my friends offered to take me with them which I was grateful for. I would have hated to walk into something like that by myself. Beforehand I didn’t think much about the funeral home itself even though it was where Howie’s funeral was. I was only concerned about the actual funeral – the sadness around me. But walking into that funeral home hit me. I instantly remembered being there five years ago. It was almost surreal. When I saw the family to give them my condolences, I remembered standing there and people coming to me. I felt a little emotional being in that room and I told this to the friends who I was with. They asked me if I wanted to leave the room but I said no. Being in there was a little difficult but not so much that I couldn’t handle it. I walked over to both my friend who lost his father, and his wife – each separately. They both said the exact same thing to me “thanks so much for coming – you didn’t have to – we would have understood”. In a million years I wouldn’t have thought of not coming, which is what I said to them. These are friends that have gone above and beyond for me ever since Howie died. Not being there for them would not have been an option. But I was so touched that they both thought of me and how I would feel at this time. This day was not about me and I wouldn’t have expected that.
The funeral itself was sad, as funerals are. It is hard to watch people you care for talk about someone who they love that is now gone. And yes, I pictured Howie’s funeral the whole time. It would have been impossible not to. But I also kept picturing Howie sitting next to me with all of our friends. I felt the same way sitting at all of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah services that I went to. He belongs at these things and it is just really sad that he is not there.
Later that day I went to the house to pay a shiva call. The first person that I saw was the grandmother – the wife of the man who passed away. I gave her a hug, sat down with her, and asked her how she was doing. Her response was that she was tired, and that she felt a little out of it. I looked at her and asked her if she felt like this wasn’t real, like this was all happening around her but she wasn’t really there. She smiled at me and said that was exactly the way she was feeling. I told her that was how I had felt, and it might last for a little while. She went on to say that as bad as this was for her, it must have been so much worse for me with Howie dying so young. Again, I was so touched that another member of this amazing family was thinking of me at this time. My response to her was that I agreed with her in a lot of ways, but that she was with her husband for 52 years, and that can be a lot harder to move on from. Bottom line is that losing a spouse sucks no matter when or how it happens.
There will always be occasions like this that remind me of Howie – really of his absence – of what he should be a part of. These things are hard and always will be. I might be 80 years old one day and maybe remarried for years, but still attend something that will remind me of the fact that he belongs there but is not. It is all part of being a member of this terrible widow club that no one wants to join.
I am becoming a little obsessed with yoga (to someone I spoke to at back to school night – I hope I’m not really losing you with this!). My kids think that I have gone completely crazy. But it has been more about health and getting in shape for me – not so much the “mind” part. But the other day the instructor said something that made me think. She was talking about letting things go and being in the moment. Then she said to let the past go, not worry about the future, and just be in the here and now so that you can live in peace. I love that, and would love to be able to do that. I strive towards it, but it is really hard to do!
Letting the past go – I first need to figure out exactly what that means for me. You can’t erase your past, and I wouldn’t want to (well most of it anyway). The past it a large part of what makes you who you are. For one thing, there are so many wonderful memories in the past that I cherish. For another, I wouldn’t be who I am now without things that happened in the past. Experiences, both good and bad, are what help shape you as a person. That all being said – I’m sure that she wasn’t saying to erase your past. I think she meant to let go of bad feelings, hurt, anger, etc.. I think I wrote about this once before – this is what I have been trying to do, although not easy. Like most people, I have had experiences that have made me both sad and angry, so negative thoughts are the natural reaction. But I have learned that those kinds of feelings are just bad for you. They make you unhealthy, physically as well as mentally. So the best thing to do for yourself is to live your life as happily as you can. This has taken me years to figure out. Letting things go is not the easiest thing to do, and being happy can be more difficult than it sounds! But I am trying to let the bad part of my past go and I feel like I am finally getting there.
The next part is not worrying about the future. This part is just as challenging for me, if not more so. How do you possibly not worry about the future?? There are sooooo many things to worry about! I worry about the immediate future – getting Amanda’s car fixed, taking Lily to the dr. because her back hurts, little problems at work, fitting all I need to do in the little free time I have, getting a broken toilet fixed…..the list can go on and on. Then I worry about the near future – Amanda getting into the college she wants to go to, Lily getting through a very challenging year at school, getting through the holidays which I hate, etc.. And of course the distant future – my finances, both girls going to college, eventually moving out of my house, getting old, wrinkles, osteoperosis (seriously)…this list can truly go on forever! How can I not worry about all of that?? I really do not have the answer to this. I do try to take one day at a time but my thoughts can’t always help but going towards worrying. I can sometimes block things out, which I do often. Doing this can be good and bad. This is why I may appear a little scattered sometimes. I put a lot of things on the back burner which makes me sometimes forgetful, or sometimes it just appears that way – i just may need to concentrate on the worries of today, not the worries of tomorrow. Funny example – the parents of seniors had to do some things for the yearbook – send in a baby picture, pictures with friends when they were younger, and do an ad (put pictures of your child through their life and write something to congratulate them). I believe we received the first email about this in August – it was due in the beginning of October. I read it and put it aside thinking I would deal with it when it got closer. There were other more pertinent things to worry about in August. I love my friends dearly but some of them were truly worrying and talking about this as soon as the email came out – and continued to do so for two months. I wish I was the person that did it right away and put it behind me. But since I am not that person, I need to just not think about it until I have time to get it done. I have started to figure out how not to turn something like that into a big concern – too many other big worries!
Is that not worrying about the future? I don’t know. I do know that when thoughts of the future bother me, I remind myself to stay in the present. And when upset about something in my past, I remind myself that whatever it was is over now and to not hold onto the negative feelings. This is very challenging for me. I tend to ruminate and can drive myself crazy. But I know that I have lived the other way for years and it was not good – so much anxiety and stress. So now – no I have not gone yoga crazy – but I will try to focus as much as I can on staying in the here and now because my goal is to live in peace (as much as I possibly can).
Not only does it “take a village to raise a child”, it sometimes also takes a village to help someone get through a traumatic experience, tough time etc.. I am lucky enough to have the best village in the world. I only hope that others are as lucky as I have been to have people in their lives that support them in hard times. I feel like I should recognize those who have done so much for me…
My next door neighbors who are also my amazing friends – I don’t know what I would have done without them the night that it happened. They were by my side every minute and while I’m sure it was horrible for them as well, they didn’t show it – they were just there to support me. And not just that night – they have done so much for me ever since Howie died. I once called Steve in hysterics while he was watching a football game because my sump pump broke (I had no idea what a sump pump even was) and was flooding my basement. He came running over to help me. I am so thankful that years ago I told them about the house next door to me that was for sale – and that they actually bought it! Best neighbors in the world!
My parents who came running from Long Island to be with me the night it happened, and stayed for a week to help us. It annoyed me so much during that week when my father was obsessed with getting an alarm installed in my house and having my garage cleaned out. It turns out he was right to be obsessed. I am so thankful to put my car in the garage, especially in the winter, and to be able to set the alarm at night. They have also been there for me ever since. Even at 50, sometimes it helps to hear your mom’s voice.
My sister and her family who also stayed every night the first week, and I’m sure it wasn’t easy with two little kids. I know my sister is always there for me and supports me in everything I do. She also keeps Howie’s memory alive for my niece and nephew, which I so appreciate.
My in-laws who have gone through hell themselves. I can’t imagine how hard this has been for them, but they are always there for the girls and I. They are soooo helpful to us in so many ways. Just last week I called my father in law because Amanda had a little “fender bender” and he was right there to take her to the collision place to get an estimate. I am really so grateful to have them.
My amazing friend (and her husband) who always understands what the girls and I are going through. I believe she came into my life so many years ago for a reason. Her father passed away when she was 12 (same age that Amanda was) and she just “gets it” in a way that someone who hasn’t been there cannot. I also have to add her mom – who came to talk to me in the beginning and told me her story. I remember so much of what she said back then and little bits and pieces of it help me all the time.
My best friend who walked into my house late that night after we got home from the hospital and cleaned the dishes that had been sitting out when it happened. She also called the funeral home and started making arrangements while I was in shock and still didn’t realize what was going on. We have been friends since second grade and I don’t know what I would have done without her these past years, and actually my whole life! We have been through everything together.
Two especially close friends and their husbands who are beyond good to me. They take me to dinner with them, we have gone on vacations with them – they have truly made an effort to keep my girls and I in their lives. They call me, check on me, help me when needed, listen to me when I want to talk, and are always interested in what and how I am doing. They also have patience for me when I sometimes withdraw and don’t reach out. They never give up on me which I am grateful for. Amazing friends.
Howie’s extended family who keep us in their lives. I am so happy that we are still cared about and included. Especially a few wonderful cousins who have made sure that my girls have nicer pocketbooks than their mother, and that Amanda got the most beautiful prom dress!
My aunt who even though I don’t see that often, always seems to understand me. Probably because her mom (my grandmother) also lost her husband (my grandfather) at a young age and she remembers what she went through. And she never gets mad when I don’t call!
Howie’s friends who have also kept me in their lives. They have been there for me, each in their own way, and have honestly helped me through a lot of things that I might not have been able to handle on my own. Howie loved his “boys” and I understand why.
All of my “old friends”. These friends I have known most of my life and I know they would do anything for me, as I would for them. What they have done most is make me smile and laugh when we see each other. It’s almost as if I am 16 again when we are together and I can forget my problems just a little. I am so thankful that we all have this special bond.
All of my “local friends”. They celebrate my birthdays with me, meet me for lunch, dinner, coffee, call, text, etc. and have just stayed my friends where others might have run away. They have driven my carpools when I couldn’t, taken my kids when needed, and are just there for me in general. People can say what they want about my town but there are amazing people in it.
The person in my life who stuck around when others would have disappeared. He has had more patience than I deserved sometimes. We probably met a little too early for me and I just “wasn’t ready” yet. I realized that I was ready almost a little too late – but I am glad that I did realize it and now I am happy that it seems to all be working out.
Don’t laugh – my dog. I think those with pets might understand this a little. He has brought a sense of happiness back into our house that might not be there otherwise. He makes the three of us smile everyday – and some days that is very needed.
Most importantly my daughters. They are the light of my life and my reason to be happy. They help me as much as I help them and I love them both more than anything.
I have just read this entire post back to myself and it might sound a little like I am accepting some kind of award that I haven’t received. I just wanted to acknowledge that so many people have been there for me for so long, and even if I don’t say it often, I am so very appreciative. That being said – I would now like to thank the Academy……..well I can dream can’t I?
Ugh it’s coming. My second least favorite day of the year. I’ll talk about my first least favorite when that gets closer. But the second is October 9th – the day Howie died.
It was October 9, 2011 – so this is the five year anniversary. That is almost surreal to me. In some ways I feel like this just happened – that it cannot possibly be five years already. But in other ways it seems like a million years ago.
October 9, 2011 was a Sunday. For the first time since then, this year it happens to be on a Sunday also. It is crazy how I remember every minute of that day – but only from Lily’s afternoon soccer game until I went to bed that night (I was going to say “went to sleep” but I didn’t sleep). I really don’t remember the earlier part of that day at all. I can’t tell you what we did for breakfast or lunch, I can’t tell you what we did before the soccer game. That is totally blank. But I remember every moment from walking onto the soccer field and after that. Saying hello to friends as we walked on the field, who we sat with, my in laws stopping by, how Lily played, the drive home. They were the last hours of “normal”. And then the terrible hours that came after – everything that happened – when life as we knew it fell apart.
The four October 9th’s since then have been weekdays. This might not seem like a big difference but it is. As bad of a day as it is, a weekday made it a little better. It was a different kind of day than the day it happened. The girls would go to school and I would go to work. And as much as they argued with me about going to school, I think being busy all day took everyone’s mind off of it (I do believe I let them stay home on the first anniversary). But I fear this year will be harder. I might relive it a little more.
On this five year anniversary, coincidentally the year I turned 50, I can’t help but think how some things have remained the same, but mostly how life is so different. I wonder often, especially lately, what Howie would think of all that has happened, how I have handled life without him, and how he would react to the changes. I don’t think I have spoken much about Howie in my blog. I talk about what happened, but not about him as a person. I think I don’t because it is hard for me to do. But maybe now it is time to say a few things. Howie was an amazing guy and we were really happy together. I remember thinking at our wedding that I was so lucky, that I truly married my soul mate. He certainly wasn’t perfect, and neither was our marriage (whose is?), but we had a great life together and I’m sure we would have been together forever. He was an attorney, and so good at what he did. I always knew this but learned it more after he passed away. The messages, letters and calls that I received from clients as well as so many people he worked with were unbelievable. He truly helped so many people and I am so proud of that. He was a fabulous husband, he really did so much for me. I always felt safe and loved and taken care of. And we really did have so much fun together. But his biggest accompishment in my eyes was being a father. He was truly the best father in the world. He adored our girls and would do anything for them. He had patience for them way beyond anything I could handle. As young as they were when he passed away, I know they will always remember what a great dad they had and how much he loved them. On a lighter note, he was the BIGGEST slob – didn’t know how to put anything away and had no idea how to close a drawer or a cabinet. He also had a sense of humor that others thought was very funny but sometimes made me want to kill him – he could be way too silly – even when not appropriate.
So what would Howie think of my last five years? I have definitely made mistakes, done some things that I regret. If I had it to do over again, there is definitely a thing or two that I would do differently. But I have been taught that when you live in regret, you get stuck. I have learned that you have to let things go in order to move forward. That is what I try to do. With that being said, for the most part I think he would be happy with the job I am doing. I think he would be proud that I have a “real job” that I am doing well at, while also taking care of the girls. I think he would be amazed at some of the things I have handled on my own, things that he would have taken care of if he was here. I really have no idea what he would think about this blog – this is the one thing that might make him say that I have lost it! He would also be shocked that we have a dog and how much I am obsessed with him! But what I am most proud of – and I know he would be too – is our girls. They are turning into the most amazing people and are doing so well. They are both beautiful inside and out – they are such great girls and I am so lucky to have them. Their strength is unbelievable. I am sure that even I don’t see how hard this is for them, but they always persevere and amaze me every day with what they both accomplish. There have been very challenging times, and I am sure there will be more, but the three of us have a great relationship and we have and will get through everything together. This I know would make him most happy.
So five years ago today I had no idea that in a few days life was going to throw me one of the worst possible things it could. The last five years have been challenging to say the least. I have grown into a much stronger, capable person. I wish I didn’t have to but I did. But I am still me and I think he would see that although I may be a lot stronger, I still cry at the drop of a hat. Days like October 9th will always be hard – probably forever. So this Sunday, even though it’s a Sunday, the girls and I will get through it. Then we will continue to move forward as best we can while always keeping Howie with us.