Nothing prepared me for April 20, 1996. It was the day after Easter a supposed time of resurrection and goodness. Instead, my husband was DOA after sliding backwards into the center divide in his brand new (with not a scratch on it) Infiniti.
Two days before after years of tearing one another apart like confetti, we had struck a truce and took the girls to the desert. Along the way, we stopped to see a play. The star of the show Meredith Macrae was a friend of mine. Would you believe a man had a heart attack during her performance? This was an eerie foreshadowing of the foreplay we were about to experience.
We arrived and Palm Springs was bursting with color. We made love for the last time in what felt like forever. At least it was progress.
Two days later he was dead.
Nature’s way of saying it’s over! And in an instant, I joined the ranks of my ancestors. I was now a third-generation young widow, as my mother and grandmother were also widowed at a young age. I remember hoping it would never happen to one of my daughters and it did.
When all is said and done after losing someone whether you hated the son of a bitch or he/she was your true love, you always lose part of yourself. There are always memories you have with that person and when they die you no longer have them present to enhance your shared memory. That is the irreversible truth of death.
I have grieved! The number of folks that I have loved and lost reminds me of a continual tidal wave: my father (suicide), my son ( SID), my first husband, my stepfather, and my mother. As a result, I do great Waikiki funerals equipped with soulful singers, outrigger rides, leis, and cremated remains wrapped in Ti leaves.
There was no time to prepare. Death simply happens. In my fifties and sixties, three of my closest friends died from the Big C -Judge Napoleon O Jones, My cousin and sister Suzanne, and two faithful pets, a chocolate lab Brownie, Polo Snickers Stanger, and a golden Max Cohen.
Death was to rear its head this year with 4 more deaths: Chris Jones our best friend and wayfarer, my dear friend and boss’s mother, John Henry a fierce protector and young Client who fell victim to the opioid epidemic.
If I can give one bit of advice;
- Life is messy.
- Expect the unexpected.
- Make sure no matter what your age, have a will in place, it’s hard to pick up the pieces if there is none.
- Have insurance
- Write down how you want your life celebrated in death.
- Know that in death some people will turn in and some will turn away from you.
- That you will discover new gifts not exactly the Christmas, or Kwanza gift you want.
- Find a way to celebrate yourself and your loved one.
- Be gentle with your soul- grief comes in waves and no two people grieve the same way.
- As good as Elizabeth Kubler Ross was in telling us about stages of grief no one ever follows that exact trajectory.
- Depression is normal, not pathological during grief.
- At times you might be not intentionally emotionally unavailable to others as grief has overtaken you.
- Allow your children to participate and know death can be explained.
- Let others help you and it’s okay to ask for help.
- Remember someone the way you want to be remembered.
- Whatever your custom whether it’s planting prayer flags on a mountain, spreading ashes over the world, having a cemetery plot, etc know as the Buddhists believe that life is inextricably tied to death and that you have the opportunity to be present.
- Talk to professionals or join a group.
- Exercise, let tears flow, rejoice and discover.
The path is not an easy one and more eloquent writers than I have written. Life as they say is for the living and in each breath, we can be fully human, feel our feelings, and you can rise to your best possible selves.