What do you do on your late husband’s 37th birthday after your daughter has gone to bed? After weeks of general fun and joy, you have cried so much of the last 30 hours you don’t even have it in you to cry anymore.
As someone put words to for you last night, it’s the loss of potential, the loss of what should be.
He should be 37. He should be so amazed at all she is becoming and this card that she wrote him with her name on it should be his best birthday gift ever.
Someone said the dead don’t get birthdays. I don’t understand that. True he doesn’t get older, but the day of his birth must still be marked and celebrated.
I have been running strong since April. The exhausted sadness of winter has passed. Our purposeful outdoor work, gardening, and play have been wonderful and in line with our Mays with Shah.
But the punches keep coming and I feel I am about to go down. Her birthday, Mother’s Day, his birthday, the anniversary of our first and last date, and then June 1, the day he was killed. I’m only halfway through this gauntlet.
Sometimes it seems beyond ridiculous that in the middle of this I have to put aside my efforts to learn live again and put on a work hat for hours each day. I know many widows and widowers who must also earn a living experience the surreal feeling of stepping into a work persona to accomplish a task while the invisible punches continue to assault your real self.
This just isn’t right, but this world isn’t right. Zoya and I filled our weekend with nature, and celebration, movement, gardening, cleaning, learning, music, and pools. It was truly exhausting but it is the hard work of learning to live again, and it felt great.
I think this is why the idea of working for a church has always been so attractive to me. In my imagination at least, there wouldn’t be such a jarring difference between work life and the rest of your life. I have had other times in my life when there wasn’t such a big difference between my work life and my real life, but those were all times when my work life was really my whole life and everything else was no more of an interruption than a lunch break.It isn’t even that I don’t enjoy the work that I do. It’s just that it is so separate from my real constant role of raising Zoya and learning to live again, and this month that task deserves all of my strength. It’s as if I was tasked with climbing Mount Everest, but I also told I needed to take a break from my trek each day to manage the supply of tires at a distant Costco. Though even as I write this I wonder if in general that jumping in and out of roles that use different parts of our brains isn’t a blessing and a gift. It’s just really hard when in a season that demands your all.
The question is always, when do you throw in the towel and just take a day off? In the back of your mind you’re always wondering, will tomorrow be even harder and will I need that time and even more? Do you need to keep pushing through so that you have the reserves built up for when you really can’t push anymore or do you take the time right now so that you don’t get to that point?
So these are my thoughts on what should be my husband’s 37th birthday. It kind of takes that normal yearning for the weekend and amps it up a lot.
He taught me to slow down and savor life, not just work and accomplishments. He loved travel and adventure, but he also loved a day in bed. He learned to be so considerate about my longing to go go go, while I learned to be at peace with being still. If we had had a quiet weekend at home he would remember by the second day to ask me if I was going stir crazy if we needed to go do something. I remember only on one of our last weekends that I say I was perfectly content just to stay home and do nothing.
I miss him and I don’t know how to do his birthday. Next year I will mark it better. Listening to a lament for an hour in the car and then acting like it was a normal day at work is probably the biggest cause of this discomfort with my work life today. It is a big day and I tried to go on as if it wasn’t, because I am mentally saving up for the other big day, the day of his death in just 12 days. But just like we celebrate my birthday 14 days after Christmas, I just need to be prepared in the future to mark both days.
May is a great month, but May is also a gauntlet. Live and learn. Maybe next year.