by Lynne Harden
Don died on D-Day (June 6), 2011. He would have found that fitting as he was a true WWII buff. The day was sweet, with a close friend or two dropping by. They brought a strength for Don, me and our two grown children. Hospice made it possible. After several weeks in the hospital, Don came home for a while. His first words on waking were, “Wow, I’m home!” It made cleaning out the dining room, looking out to the patio, a fine place for Don and others to spend time.
Not much, however. He left gently, in the early morning just two days later.
Because his was not an unexpected death, (he had told me a month or so earlier that he “was taking a trip, but I couldn’t go on this one”), we had time for our goodbyes. We shared with him our gratitude for the important role he had played in each of our lives, of our love, and of our willingness to let him leave on his trip. This made his going easier, I think.
The first months were busy; painting, legal matters, going through 53 years accumulation of “stuff” kept my mind and hands occupied. I think I delayed the beginning of the grieving process by several months and then, when it came, it was fierce. I couldn’t speak without crying and I don’t do that with others well. It seemed as if I was always mopping my face and apologizing. And I was doing dumb things — twice I pulled into a parking spot, gathered my purse and went into the store for an hour or more only to return to a running car with the keys still there! Friends, and even acquaintances, assured me that my tears and forgetfulness were normal. Boy, I felt so far from “normal”, whatever that is. There was a feeling, during that time, that I “didn’t want to be here”. I wouldn’t have acted on it, but I DIDN’T WANT TO BE HERE!!! My daughter gave me a small plaque which reads, “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the voice that comes with the morning quiet saying, ‘I will try again today.'”
Christmas went much better than I ever dreamed it could. We only did Christmas Eve. My children and I and a friend (we are a small family) reminisced. We even laughed several times. That may have been the start of mending.
Then the year 2011 went away. Never have I been so glad to say goodbye to a year. Finally, last Saturday, we set Don’s headstone and that was another page turned. That night, I felt a real sense of permanence for him. A foreverness. Don wasn’t just there. With no acknowledgement. Alone. He was now a member of a sort of community; old families, wandering deer, and a headstone with my name on it, letting me know that we really would be together again. I think that night was my first real sense of peace since his “leaving”.
About the Author: Don and I met in high school and were married for 53 precious years. I taught school for a few minutes soon after marriage, and then mostly raised our family of two. These days, I am teaching English as a Second Language and loving the interaction with the students. Everything in life is coming slowly with the occasional big-time setback.
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