After spending the past thirty 4th of July’s together, which was also my husband’s birthday, grief comes back full swing and is one of the more difficult holidays to get through for me.
Year one I made a nice Facebook post with photos. Then I made sure to be away from home. My brother and sister and mom and our kids joined us in Cape Cod for a family reunion. This ensured a good distraction and no one really mentioned Mike. Avoiding pain and sadness was my immediate goal. My family was hopeful that I’d be OK, so I was.
Year 2 I again avoided our traditional celebration of the 4th and accepted an invite to a barbecue with new friends. Hoping to again avoid sad feelings it backfired when I was overcome with a sobbing fit in the bathroom.
These new friends were lovely but they didn’t know it was Mike’s Birthday.
They didn’t know about all the crazy parties we used to go to with his high school friends and those fireworks! They didn’t know we used to host parties at our house and that Mike made amazing steak sandwiches.
One sweltering hot year we all jumped in our above ground swimming pool. Even the grandparents climbed up and over the ladder in hopes of chilling out. The group got rowdy when the entire party started to play the game “keep the beach ball in the air”. That was fun and I know there’s a picture around somewhere to recall that memory.
My new friends are great but they didn’t know about the tradition of having a Carvel cake with candles for Mike on the 4th of July. They didn’t know that he loved the Grateful Dead and that he always played “Jack Straw” in the morning of his birthday because of that one line “…leaving Texas 4th day of July. Sun so hot, clouds so low, the eagles filled the sky”
They didn’t know that his favorite photo was the one with all the neighborhood women kissing him on his 50th birthday.
It wasn’t their fault. I was happy to have new friends but I also felt like I was cheating. I wanted people to remember him too.
Some friends recently expressed how much they miss my husband in their lives too. I’ve been selfish and the healing has been about me but maybe I could do something to bring us all together. We could share stories and speak his name.
I wasn’t sure I was ready for this. But the past 2 years I felt a bit detached. I was ready to share the day with people who loved me and Mike and it would be Ok to share memories, I thought.
My mother in law once shared with me how her mother dealt with the loss of her son in the service back in the 1940’s. After her mom mourned alone in her bedroom for several weeks she came out of the room. It was understood that no one would mention her brother and so no one did. That’s how it was done.
Memorial at Home
Fast forward to last week on the 4th of July. I displayed the poster boards I had hastily put together for the wake almost 3 years ago. I asked people to light a candle and recall a memory about Mike.
To read more about my journey after loss, my book NO SIMPLE HIGHWAY: A widow’s journey to seek justice for her husband’s death is available on Kindle and paperback on Amazon:
Read the first chapter here: Chapter One
People walked around the house and deck saying Mike’s name, sharing stories with his parents and me and helping us all heal from this tragic, senseless loss.
We shared a brunch of quiche, bagels, fruit and Prosecco. Mike would have enjoyed the gathering, in fact I’m sure he was with us.
So often I hear that widows and widowers are sad that no one says their spouse’s name anymore. No one is really sure what the reaction will be, but most of us are happy to know that our loved ones are remembered.
They made an impact on us. We think about them all the time.
They made an impact on others. It’s not just something to leave on a tombstone…it’s nice to share stories and keep those memories alive. Especially the ones that make us laugh.
How people live their lives, how they make others feel are what we remember.
I love to laugh with friends over funny memories of Mike. I also appreciate people who recall how much he loved me and our boys.
This is all part of the support we get from others that enables us to move forward and embrace life and more love in our lives.
Thank you for reading and letting me share my grief journey and Mike’s memory.
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