Sunday, May 21, 2017

Three Years

Three years. 

Three years ago today my doorbell rang. It feels like forever ago but just yesterday at the same time. A posting and a half.

Three years ago today they told me my husband would never be coming home again. There's been an accident. His LAV rolled over. I am so sorry. I am so sorry. 

Half of his ashes are buried beside his comrades in the National Military Cemetery. The other half in Nova Scotia, under the shade of a maple tree. His ashes are there but he is not there.

He is here. 

He has always been here.

He is the laughter of our children. He is in their smiles and the way they move and speak. Are you sure Mom? I'm not so sure.

He is a thousand memories. Hello old man, I'm your dad. A walk across a flooded field. An empty chocolate chip bag. Two fingers banging on a keyboard. Have you seen my blackberry? 

He is the words of an old familiar folk song. We'd fired no guns- shed no tears. Now I'm a broken man on a Halifax pier, the last of Barrett's Privateers.

He is always here: always encouraging me, always believing in me, always guiding me.

He is the light that led me out of a dark hole in Wainwright. You can't stay here. You promised me you and the kids would have good, happy lives. 

He is there to give me a gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) nudge when I don't think I can go any further. Just a few more steps. Keep going forward.

And he is there to help me get back up every time I fall. You ARE strong enough. You've got this.

He is there, reassuring me when I don't have all of the answers. No one has all the answers Mon, not even me

He is there when I don't know if I should take a chance. What if it doesn't work out? You'll never know if you never try. You know it is so worth the risk. Don't live your life with regrets. 

He is there beside me every time I stand at a podium and speak to a regiment or a room full of military spouses. Tell them, they need to know. He is in every soldier's hug I receive.

He is a red Remembrance poppy worn over a grateful heart. For your tomorrow, I gave my today.

He is a bugle's lonely cry and the mournful wail of a piper's lament. Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling.

And he is the Canadian flag fluttering in the wind as it flies so proudly from sea to sea to sea. Oh Canada. I will always stand on guard for thee

He is always here.

He will always be here. 

This morning as I ran, he was there, his voice whispering in the gentle ocean breeze. Good girl. That's it. Follow your heart, it knows the way.


I promise. 

Three years. Forever and just a day.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Last Goodbye

Three years ago today, I kissed my husband goodbye for the very last time. He was on his way out the door for a six week exercise in Wainwright. Ironically, if he'd been deploying, I would have driven him to the base, but this wasn't a "real" deployment, it was just a routine training exercise so he drove himself to Y101. He'd been on countless exercises in the past. It never occurred to me that anything would happen to him while he was gone. Because what could possibly happen in Wainwright, besides a head cold?
Early that morning as I said goodbye, I had no idea I would never, ever see him alive again. I was blissfully unaware of what fate had in store for us twelve days later.
The truth is, we never truly know what the future will bring. When we say goodbye to someone we love, we don't know if that will be the very last time we will see them. When I said goodbye to Dan that morning, I had absolutely no idea that the next time I saw him, he would be lying in a casket in his DEUs.
In a casket. My husband.
"What are you talking about? He's only on an exercise!"
I sent him out the door that last morning with a kiss, and a bag of chocolate chip cookies Katherine had baked for him the night before.
"I'll see you soon babe. Tell the chilins I love them. And make them walk the dog."
The next time you say goodbye to the person you love, hold them a little bit tighter and give them an extra hug. Just in case. That extra hug might have to last you a lifetime.
Life is too damn short, don't waste it. Embrace it. Learn from it. Savour it. Savour each and every ordinary moment you get. Because you truly never know when you will no longer have any moments left.
This, I very much know to be true.
I'll see you soon babe.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Confessions From a Happy Widow

So apparently today is National Widow's Day. Honestly, I had no idea there even was a National Widow's Day, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised, there is a National/International Day for everything. Gin Day is my personal favourite.

National Widow's Day was created in the United States a couple of years ago (shortly before I became a widow) to encourage people to support and help out widows in their communities. One of the best ways we can support widows is to stop judging them. For the love of God and all that's holy people, stop the widow shaming. Just stop.

Many of our beliefs about mourning can be traced to Victorian England when mourning was governed by strict rules. In those days, widows were supposed to wear "mourning" for at least two years and they were not allowed to "enter society" for twelve months. Fortunately "widows weeds" are a thing of the past (thank the Dear Lord for that, I actually don't like black that much and those veils are just ridiculous) but the vestiges of those timelines still linger to haunt widows today.

When I was first widowed, I felt so much pressure to conform to that role. I felt as if I was expected to not just be a widow, but to play the part of widow: to spend the rest of my life as a negative, angry (military) widow, living a life devoid of any happiness or joy. Or love. Our society puts so much pressure and judgment on widows (widowers). How we grieve, how long we grieve, when we date, when we get remarried. The truth is none of those things are a yardstick of how much we loved our spouse. The widow that dates after six months doesn't love her husband any less than the one who waits ten years to date. The widow who gets remarried eighteen months after her husband died doesn't love her husband any less than the one who never remarries. The widow who visits her husband's grave every week doesn't love her husband any more than the one who hasn't been to her husband's grave in months (that'd be me). 

The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory ranks Death of a Spouse as the single most stressful life event (divorce and marital separation are numbers 2 and 3.) Widows (widowers) don't just lose the person they love the most; they suffer secondary losses as well: partner, co-parent, financial security, future plans, identity, sometimes even their (military) community, just to name a few.  These losses are compounded when widows find themselves facing judgment and criticism for not looking or acting like a stereotypical widow. As if there is any such thing. 

There is no one-size-fits-all rule for widowhood. We are twenty-three, forty-three or eighty-three. We have children. We don't have children. We have careers and we are stay-at-home moms. We lost our husband to cancer or suicide; in an accident or in war. They were plumbers, carpenters, doctors, and soldiers. We are the same and yet, we are all different. 

A few months ago someone actually told me I didn't look sad enough to be a widow. Because apparently I'm supposed to always have a perpetual aura of mourning (another memo I didn't get.) I didn't look sad that day because I wasn't. Sadness is a place to visit, not a place to stay.  I will always be sad Dan is gone but that doesn't mean I am sad. And that does not mean I can't have a joyful, happy life.

So just in case we haven't met, let me introduce myself. Hi! I'm Monica (the one in red.) I am the mom of three (almost) awesome children. I am a blogger and speaker and part-time university student. And yes, I am a military widow. 

Army Ball. April 22, 2017

And no, I don't look like a widow, I look like me (well without my glasses and with some fancy hair and makeup, I actually don't look like this most of the time, I have to be honest.) 

I look happy in this picture because I am happy.

As it turns out, I did not bury my happiness with my husband. I'm pretty sure I've already given up enough.

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