About Me

My wonderful husband died when I was 44 years old. Being widowed this young happens to less than 3% of married people. Writing through this loss one word at time helps me understand what I've lost and helps me continue to grow. It is how I have gradually recovered from such a severe loss. Research shows that you can benefit from taking just 15 minutes a day to write out your deepest feelings as a way of healing. On the right side of this blog, you'll see a tag for Exercises to Try. If you need some help knowing how to use writing to help heal yourself, I suggest you start there.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Web of Memory

Nineteen years ago this month, I married Ken. It was inevitable because after we met we were happier together than we were alone. We made our decision to marry while standing outside the wolf pen at the Lincoln Park zoo on October 31, 1992. Our wedding would take place just two months and two days  later with seventeen attendees, all family. I always liked the way we decided to get married in the company of wolves who mate for life.

Many things I'll never forget, like the excitement I felt driving to his place in Ukrainian Village, a neighborhood which in 1991 I had never heard about or visited. The drive there from my place in East Rogers Park, when we were just beginning to date,  was always this wonderful journey on an adventure I couldn't wait to begin. There, right on Damen Ave just south of Division St., he was growing peaches in his yard and tulips in his garden, in a neighborhood where, back then,  anything not chained was likely to be stolen. Once, the iron gate to the yard was ripped right off its hinges, and one year, to Ken's deep chagrin, even the peaches were taken.

Most often when I arrived at his place, I could see him through his sliding glass doors, talking on his cell phone, dealing with one crisis or another in his work in residential treatment for children.  Maybe a young girl had run away to be with her much older boyfriend. Maybe it was a call to deal with a suicidal teen. The calm with which he handled these frequent calls was impressive. Here was a man who could handle tough situations with ease, and with empathy. His empathic nature was like nothing I had ever encountered in my life. He was an emotional home I had never known.

January holds not only Ken's and my wedding anniversary, but also the anniversary of his death which falls on our daughter's birthday. The power of emotional memory this time of year is like a vast spider web, lightly descending and enveloping me.

He's been gone six years now, a long time. His children are growing up without him. His son hardly remembers him. And me? I am doing my best to accept a different life that feels vastly less secure than it did before that day in February of 2002 when we found out he had cancer and my dreams became inhabited with coffins flying through a black universe or vast holes suddenly appearing in the foundation of our home.  Sometimes I wonder if one of the most amazing things about a great marriage is the illusion it can give of a safe, secure world. I don't think I'll ever feel as safe or as secure ever again, the way I did before cancer stripped me of the center of my life.

There's a part of me that likes the way this time of year throws me back into a place of memory and sadness. Conveniently, it corresponds with the holidays, when everything shifts out of the typical work/school schedule and there is added time for rest and reflection. I like knowing that the tears are still there. I want to feel how much Ken meant to me back when he was still here.

Soon, the year will move along. We'll all get busy again and I will need to remind myself that: "I can do this!" "I am not afraid anymore!" "I can handle this solo-parenting life I never expected to be living!" "I am happy!" "I can be a breadwinner for my family!" I will be my own cheerleader, my own motivator, my own engine.

Every Friday night I drive my son into the city where he plays a card game called Magic with a bunch of guys much older than himself at a storefront that caters to such activities. I drive there, I drive back to Evanston, and then I drive back to pick him up. It's a lot of driving; fortunately, one of my pleasures is driving while singing and listening to the radio.   This Friday, my top favorite song ever, Stevie Nicks' Landslide, played as I drove.

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Mmm, mmm, mmm

Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older and I'm getting older too


Sometimes I feel bolder. I definitely feel older, as are my kids. I built my life around Ken, and what's left is simply change and how to handle it, as well as I can.

Happy New Year to all. If you're with a life partner, well-chosen, may you truly appreciate what you have and step lightly over perceived imperfections as if they don't exist at all.


Debbie said...

Love this post Jill. Your feelings relate so closely to my life. Wishing you a wonderful 2012 as you rebuild the center of your life.

Tamara said...

Your eloquence takes my breath away, Jill. Certain songs remind me of my life with Brian, but I always cry when I hear Landslide in the car.

Jill Schacter said...

Debbie, so nice to hear from you. I miss your words and I hope you and your boys are doing well. Tamara, thanks for your kind words. All three of us had wonderful husbands who left us too soon. But we sure were lucky to be with them. xx

Anonymous said...

Holidays are a time for reflection, full of memories, and feelings. New years eve was my first anniversary without him. I filled it with a mini-getaway with friends as a means of distraction. It was a temporary distraction, but necessary for self-preservation.
Once again, I wish to thank you for your writings. We all have our ways of coping, and reading and relating with others has definitely been helpful for me.

Jill Schacter said...

Thank you for writing. I'm glad you took a mini-getaway. Good idea.

Ruth said...

So beautifully said, Jill. I loved this post - thank you for sharing your journey.

Radiant_Being said...

Thank you for writing again. I frequently check back in to see if you have posted. Your words are powerful and the seep within me a new recognizing of grief. Thank you.

Radiant_Being said...

Thank you for writing again. I frequently check back in to see if you have posted. Your words are powerful and the seep within me a new recognizing of grief. Thank you.