Two years of widowhood- an honest assessment. And what now?

Six months into widowhood, I wrote a blog post about what to expect in widowhood.

I decided to do a blog post summing up my thoughts.

Kind of a sampler of random thoughts.

Before I delve into my experiences, I want to mention that everyone’s experience with grief is different.  This post is based on my experience.  Your mileage may vary.

Secondly, I use the term widow and “she” because I am writing from my perspective.  But this also applies to widowers as well.  I just thought my writing flowed better saying “widow” instead of “widow or widower”.

And third, this is no way a complete list of things I could say about widowhood.  But this is a blog and it will be ready for those words when I write them.

Widowhood is hard to reconcile.  And accept.

I thought I was going to grow old with Bryon.

Then he died and I had no say in the matter.

Survivors guilt is a real thing.  I tormented myself for months, wondering what I could have done for a different outcome.  It took me many months to come to the realization that there was nothing I couldn’t have done.

I don’t know why this had to happen.  I probably never will.

But it did happen.  Whether it is for a specific reason or as the result of the butterfly effect or a combination of the two, I don’t know.

Sometimes shitty things happen to good people.

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Our society doesn’t know how to handle grief.

After Bryon died, I was barraged with cliches.

Everything happens for a reason…

You just need to find your new normal…

It was all part of God’s plan…

He will always be with you in spirit…

God doesn’t give you more than you can handle…

He will be watching over you and your daughter…

He’s not hurting anymore…

People mean well.  They feel like they need to say something to make you feel better but they don’t know what to say.  So they revert back to these cliches.

The problem is that these cliches rarely make people feel better.  They usually make people feel worse.  The best case scenario is that the grieving person just ignores it or rolls their eyes.

This is usually the opposite effect than was intended.

If you know someone grieving, ask how the grieving person is doing.  Take them to lunch. Share a story about the deceased.  But please, please, please, try not to use a cliche.

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People will disappear

It doesn’t matter how popular your deceased spouse was.  People disappear.

It starts with the funeral.   You won’t hear from 70% of those people again.

And as time goes by, the amount of people who check up on you continues to goes down.

People move on and forget about your deceased .

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If you make it to two years out, the people that are still here are your nearest and dearest.  Hold on to them.

People will kick you when you are down.

My late husband was a popular person.  In fact, he is way more popular posthumously than I am alive.

I have had people use me and my situation to latch onto my husband’s popularity.  You know, offer to help on social media where everyone can see but they never call after a snow storm.  Or people who try to take pictures with my daughter treating her like a photo op instead of a real person.

It’s sick.

A couple of times it has surprised me because this behavior came from people who I thought were my true friends.

I am going to clear something up.

Widowhood is lonely, even with amazing friends and family.

But just because a widow is lonely does not mean that she must accept all friendship, even if she is being used and treated poorly.

It is insulting.

For me, the opposite is true.  Life is short and I need to spend my time with those who care about my daughter and me.

I’ve also learned there are a lot of narcissists and toxic people around and it is important to set boundaries.

If I cut someone out of my life, there is a very good reason for it.

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At first these realizations upset me but now I am appreciative of them because they taught me important lessons.  And I can make room for true friends.

Your tolerance for bullsh*t goes way down.

When Bryon and I got married, I thought my tolerance for bullshit went down.

And it did.

When Bryon and I became parents, I thought my tolerance for bullshit went down.

And it did.

But it was when Bryon died that my tolerance for bullshit plummeted.  When you watch one of the two people you love most slowly die, you quickly learn what is important and you lose any tolerance for people who try to make your life miserable.

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It does get better.

It take time but eventually the pain lessens.

Though I haven’t figured out if it is actually getting easier or if you just get used to their absence.

But the pain never goes away entirely.  You will still have bad days.  There will still be things that trigger you.

But there is hope.

Where does this leave me now?

As I said in my blog post on Tuesday, I feel like am  stuck between two worlds.  I am looking forward to the next chapter but I am struggling to let go of the past.

The first year of widowhood was about survival for me.  Getting out of bed was enough of a challenge.

The second year was about getting used to Bryon being gone and getting used to envisioning a future without him.

The second year was also the year I learned to love myself.

And now I am about to embark on the third year.

What does that even mean?  What does that mean for this blog?

While I miss Bryon every single day and I will still have sad days and moments where I cry.  But I can’t stay in deep sadness forever.  Grief is exhausting and I have been grieving for two years.

Do you know how exhausting it is to work full time, write a blog, raise a daughter by yourself and experience and process deep and profound grief at the same time?

I know Bryon doesn’t want me to be this sad forever.

Bryon gave me so much in our years together and the best way to honor him is to start living again. He made the most of his 30 years.  He accomplished more in those years than most people do in 80.

But it is hard for me to listen to people complain about becoming older.  Bryon didn’t even make it to middle age.  I need to make the most of the years I have left.

So the third year is going to be the year I start to live again.

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Two years

Two years.

I am trying to let that sink in.

Two years ago I was sitting next to you during the last hours of your life.

We were both clinging on in a way.

It was what I imagine Purgatory to be like.

As much as I wanted the agony to be over, I had no choice to but to cling and wait out our last hours and minutes together.  Because once Purgatory was over, you were going to be dead.

(There was no way, at that time, to foresee the agony that would follow during the months after).

I don’t know why you were clinging on but you did.  I am sure it was because of some deep spiritual meaning that I can’t understand in this human form.

Or maybe you were waiting for Chelsea to score even though we weren’t watching a game.  Besides, your heart stopped beating at 6:47 am which is probably still too early, even for English Premier League Soccer.

I am in a much better place now than I was last year.

Your first deathaversary really kicked me on my ass.  It put me in a funk that I couldn’t seem to shake off until Christmas.

Last year I would have said that your death made a big impact in my life.

Which it did.

But now I realize that your life had an even bigger impact than your death.

I will probably never understand why our years together were so short but I am grateful that I had you for as long as I did.

I am grateful for the memories and all I learned from you.

You loved me at my worst.

Sadly, you never got to experience me at my best.

I’d like to think that you would be proud of me.

I am better person because of your love.

You always believed in me.

You were right.  I am a lot smarter than I ever gave myself credit for.  Though I am sure you roll your eyes a lot every time I mess something up or forget to do something.

I remember how appalled you were when we were in our dating days when I half-joked that whenever I hear a noise in my car, I would turn the music up and hope that the noise went away.  You told me that you were going to take care of the car and I happily obliged.

Well, I’ve actually kept up on car maintenance.  I even checked with my Dad to make sure there wasn’t anything I might have forgotten and he said I was all set.

Though, truth be told, I am too scared to let car maintenance slide since I drive with our daughter in the car.  If it were just me…then…eh…

But I have been trying hard to learn these new skills.  Because you aren’t hear to take care of the things you used to take care off.

Last year I was still grasping the concept that you died.

This year I am grasping the concept of how much time has passed since you were gone.

I used to marvel at how much has changed since you were here but now I can’t help but notice how much has changed since those early months after you died.

It might seem silly but it started when I noticed that the heels on my boots were wearing out.  And then I remembered that I bought those boots after you died.  How can it be possible that you have been dead long enough where I can wear out a pair of boots?

Friendships have run their course.

(Do you remember when I used to let people walk all over me and use me?  I would get so upset and those offenders and the situations always angered you.  At the time, I didn’t realize that it hurt you to see me hurt.  You encouraged me to stand up for myself more.  Well it is safe to say that I don’t out up with being treated poorly anymore.)

You died a month before our daughter turned two.  Now she is almost 4 and she is going to be starting pre-K.  And your best friends son who was born after you died is almost 2.  I am not going to lie but your absence hurts the most during their milestones, first and achievements.  You not here to see them grow up.

At this time last year, I was still struggling with adjusting to life without you.

Now, I feel like I am used to you being gone.  Or maybe I am just used to your absence always being present.  But I know that nothing is going to bring you back.

I have to accept that this is our story even if it’s not the ending I would have written for us.

I keep hearing that you are supposed to live in the Present.  But my Present feels like I am living in limbo between two different worlds.

One of the worlds I live in consists of the past.  While I am not in denial about your death, part of me is having a hard time letting go of the past.  It just feels like every time I complete a task, your existence on Earth is erased just a little each time.

I took your name off of the bank account.  It was time.  The process only took about ten minutes and the guy working at the bank was really nice but when I got back to the car, I cried.

People talk about you less. When you first died, everyone was willing to talk to you and share memories.  Now it feels like I can only talk about you with a small group of people. I guess most people have moved on. I am not quite ready to move on.

It feels like you have been forgotten.

I don’t want you to be forgotten.

I also live the other life that consists of the future.  I hope it’s a happy time.

I live in a world where I am so ready for that next chapter.  Whatever it might have in store for me.

Though I get overwhelmed when I think of all I need to do physically and emotionally to get to the next chapter.

I have been in a deep sadness for two years but I know I can’t stay this sad forever.

I am tired of feeling sad.

This type of sadness takes so much energy out of me.

And I know you don’t want me too.   You want me to live my life to the fullest.

But you are one hard Mo-Fo to get over, Bryon McKim.

You changed my life and I will never meet anyone like you.  But maybe from here I am supposed to be the one changing people’s lives?  I am still trying to figure this out.

I want to be happy again.

I am ready for my next chapter.

No matter what happens, I will love you forever, BCM.

I promise I will never forget you.

 

Lessons learned: 17 months into widowhood

New Years Eve 2016, Bryon and I stayed in.  We figured it would have been too hard to get a baby-sitter that night.  Bryon made Beef Wellington.  I never got my kiss that night because I looked over at him at 11:53pm and he was snoring in his chair.

Life was good.  We had our routine.  Our jobs were going well and things were going well at home.  Our daughter was 16 months old and Bryon loved playing with her.

Bryon was preparing for weight loss surgery.  I decided that I was going to get healthy alongside Bryon and I started Couch to 5k and I was going to run a half marathon in the fall.

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In Feb 2016, we went on our last cruise with a few days in Florida beforehand.  We went to the Tampa Zoo and we spent the day at Epcot with my cousin and her husband and we had dinner with Bryon’s Godmother and her family.  On our cruise we visited Bryon’s two favorite ports, St. Thomas and St. Maarten.  We had a few fancy dinners on our last cruise and those were probably our last date nights.

In March Bryon had his weight loss surgery and it went well.  Bryon’s recovery started off well.  He was looking forward to being cleared to re-institute solid food and being cleared to exercise.  He wanted to start Couch to 5k and wanted to run a 5k.  We were looking forward to the rest of our lives.

Then in an instant everything changed.

Bryon was critically ill in the ICU where he clung to his life for 5 months.

For 5 months I was exhausted and ran on adrenaline and caffeine, desperately pleading to God to heal Bryon.  At the beginning of August, I had him transferred to New York City and for two weeks, things were starting to look up.

Until his body started to shut down.

On August 20, 2016 I was told that Bryon’s heart was going to stop beating.

He died the next morning.

For the following month, I was in total shock.  That shock turned into fog.  That heavy fog stayed for six months and then began to lift.  I started noticing things about how I felt and how I was treated.

The fog has slowly been lifting.

I was a happily married wife and mother of a one year old and now I am a 39-year-old widowed mother of a three year old.   Sometimes it feels like I was living my old life yesterday and other times it feels like a lifetime ago.

I feel that the fog is gone.  I feel like my present is a combination of that moment on every episode of Saved by the Bell where the chaos is ensuing and Mr. Belding comes in and says “Hey, hey, hey!  What is going on  here?” and that episode of How I Met Your Mother when the glass kept shattering.

I have spent the last 22 months thinking.  Thinking about so many things.

Things I have thought about over the last 22 months.  (Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive list)

My Marriage with Bryon.
How does his death affect our daughter?  She won’t remember him.
The meaning of life.
My life from beginning to present.
Tacos.
What happens after we die?
My relationship with God.
How do I want to spend my remaining years?
The fact that I need to watch all those episodes of This Is Us on my DVR.
The Fuller House storyline and the fact that John Stamos is still hot after all these years.
What do I want out of life?
Can I ever love again?
What have I learned from all of this?
How can I make this horrible event positive?
My relationships.

I have decided to share with you some of the lessons I have learned so far.  These lessons aren’t in any particular order. This is from my current perspective and may change after I spend more time thinking.

1)  Grief takes time and can’t be rushed.

2) Only YOU know what’s best for YOU.  Most people don’t have a clue what you need.

3) It is up to you to decide when you or if you are ready to live again.

4) You can’t change how people treat you.  You can only change how you respond and set boundaries.

5) People will project their feelings onto you.  Don’t take it personally.  If someone is tearing you down, it is likely that they are the ones who are insecure and they tear you down to make themselves feel better.

6) Be open to others but beware of their intentions.  People are not always who they project themselves to be.

7) Love yourself.  You deserve it.

8) Surround yourself with loving, supportive people.  Life is too short to be around toxic people.

9) There is always beauty in this world.  You just need to make sure your blinders aren’t on.

10) People generally mean well.  They don’t mean to say painful things.  They are just products of a society that doesn’t know how to handle death and grief.

The last Christmas

Christmas 2015 was my favorite Christmas with you.

You were the Clark Griswold of our street.

I even got you a Clark Griswold-esque mug that you loved.  You drank the Starbucks 2015 Holiday blend in it.  You are missing the 2017 blend.  It’s pretty good.

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In early December, you found a light up nativity on Craigslist and you had to buy it.  It didn’t matter that it was in Scranton, PA.  You had to have it.

So we drove to Scranton.

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We packed them in.  Complete with two bonus nutcrackers.

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Of course on the ride home Joseph fell over and he wound up face to face with our daughter.  She did not like it at all.  I would have been freaked out too.

But it was all worth it in the end.  #takethatgriswold

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You had researched which streets in the Capital District had the best lights and we drove there.

We attended as many Holiday parties as we could.

Our daughter wanted nothing to do with Santa.

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Christmas Eve was a bizarre 74 degree day in Upstate, NY.  You insisted we drive with the sunroof open.

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We spent the afternoon with our Christmas Eve crew at a local establishment.  As usual, I brought buffalo chicken dip.  

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We went to four pm Mass with one of our bestest couple friends.

Mass was uneventful until after communion.  The four of us sat down in our pew.  

A loud cracking sound filled the church as our butts hit the floor.  

We looked at the pew which was split lengthwise.

Everyone else in the church looked at us.

You lean over to our friends and me and say “Sh*t.  We need Jesus the carpenter, not Jesus the Baby.”

We stand there as we wait for Mass to end to for the church to empty.  People continue to look at us as they are leaving. After the church was empty, you put that broken portion of the pew up over your shoulder and march up to the altar and you explained to Father Bradley what had happened.  Father Bradley listens and doesn’t seem phased at all.  I guess after 40 years in the priesthood, he has seen it all.  I wished I wasn’t so mortified and that I thought to take a picture but the mental picture will always be in my mind.

After Mass, we went home and you made Chicken Parm.  After our daughter went to sleep, we opened our presents that we got each other.

That Christmas you and I went crazy.  The previous year you surprised me by putting the confirmation from a cruise you booked in a box for me to open.  You assured me that there was no cruise surprise.  I didn’t mind especially you already booked our 2017 cruise.  Though neither of us would go on that cruise.

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You were very concerned that you couldn’t live up to the previous year so you finally bought me the sewing machine I wanted for years.

For years we couldn’t afford to buy each other presents after we shopped for everyone else. I was having fun making up for those years.  

You told me that the $600 shoes you wanted were on sale for $445.  Hint, hint.  I took the hint.

(For those who might be side-eyeing the price, these would be shoes would have been resoled.  He was planning to use them for the rest of his life, and ironically he did.  But when they we were bought, we were envisioning decades of use.)

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You admitted to me after the fact that you were worried I was going to buy you more gifts and your competitive nature couldn’t handle that so you did more shopping.

After the fact, we admitted that we were ridiculous and that this would be the last Christmas were we would do this.  Even if it was fun.

I am beginning to have this theory that our souls know more than we do in our human form.  I think our souls knew that this was our last Christmas and that we needed to have fun and do what we felt we needed to do to show love to each other.

Of course you insisted we leave out something for Santa.

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Christmas morning was spent with our daughter opening up Christmas presents.  

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You also bought her a Barbie Power Wheels Jeep because you saw a good deal on Amazon.  I told you that she was too young.  You called me a “Miss No Fun.”   We decided to save it for the following Christmas.  You never got to see her ride it.  My father and I did assemble it for her second birthday a month after you died as one last present to her from you.  And I was right because even then, her feet didn’t reach the pedal.

We spent Christmas Day with our daughter’s Godmother, her now husband and their family.

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We bought each other a bottle of wine from the same winery although they were more generous than us.  We brought a peppermint pig and some coasters.  We were so excited about those coasters because they were custom made.  When our daughter was born, there was this mildly disturbing Georgia O’Keefe-esque artwork on the wall.   Our daughter’s Godmother and you were confused and disturbed by the artwork.  After she left, I suggested you take a picture and make it into artwork for her.  You loved the idea so much that you took credit for it but I didn’t mind.  Not a lot of people know that some of your material came from me.  You always said you were the funny one but sometimes I could be funny too.

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Ultimately you decided on coasters instead of wall art. The best part was that our friend forgot about the maternity room artwork and decided to be polite and say that they were lovely.  Of course, she had a good laugh when we told her where the artwork came from.

And this ended up being our last Christmas.  

There was no way we would know that this would be our last Christmas.  

There was no way that we could have foresaw that we would take one last cruise in February and then you would would unexpectedly become critically ill and spend five months in the ICU. 

We had no clue that we were so close to the end.

I have come to realize that unless someone is on their deathbed at Christmas that there is no way to know who will be there the next Christmas.  A lot can happen in 365 days.  My life changed 89 days after that Christmas and you were gone 240 days after that.  

Even if I could have known it would be your last Christmas, I wouldn’t have done it any different.  I was with you, our daughter and some of our closest friends.  And we had fun and ate some really good food. 

I am glad I didn’t know that it was going to be your last Christmas.  If I had known it was going to be your last Christmas, I would have been devastated and unable to enjoy it.

Now I am embarking on our second Christmas without you.  Some of the traditions have changed a little bit but I will be with the same friends.  Christmas 2017 will pretty much run nonstop from Fri until Wednesday with my parents coming for New Years.  So I won’t be alone without you.  

It’s hard to be sad around our daughter.  She is getting so much bigger and she is so excited for Christmas.  She’s warming up to Santa.  She won’t sit on his lap but she’ll at least stand next to him.  It just breaks my heart because you were looking forward to her being this age.  You were so excited about the kinds of conversations you were going to have.  Every happy memory that we create is also tainted with sadness because you are not here.

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Now I am reminiscing with the internet instead of with you.  Even though the internet and blogosphere is filled with great people, I would rather be recounting these memories with you.

But at the end of the day, I have to say I am grateful.  I am grateful that I have these happy memories.  Even though your death broke my heart, I am lucky that I have these memories that are filled with so much love and happiness.  These memories make me smile and laugh.  

It’s my job to push through my sadness and continue creating happy memories for our daughter and our friends so when I am gone, they can look back on those memories with love and happiness.

Wherever you are my love, I hope have a Merry Christmas.

50 long years

50 years.

That is how long I can potentially be on this Earth.  That is if I live to my 90’s like both of my grandmothers.

50 long years.

I don’t know how I am going to do it.

To fill up all those years.

I went from being a person with her life planned out to being a person who is merely existing.

I am obviously still here for a reason.

And I want to see my daughter grow up and meet my grandchildren and maybe even my great-grandchildren.

My daughter (age 3) told me that she is going to be a mother when she grows up and that she is going to have four children.

So I guess that means for every theatrical temper tantrum I have to deal with, she will get it back times four.

Karma can be a beautiful thing.

But it is all going to be delightful as long as my daughter gets an education first.

People used to ask me why I was bothering with a second degree because I was married to a lawyer.  I always said that if something should- God forbid- happen to Bryon, I need to be able to support myself and my family.

I used to say that but I never thought it would actually be my reality.

But here I am.  Surviving?  Existing? Keeping my head above water?  Waiting to live again?

Without direction.  Lost.  Anxious.

Bryon is not here to solve all my problems.  He is not here to tell me that everything is going to be okay.

No idea what the future holds.

I have lost my faith.  In God.  In the Universe.

The future feels bleak and empty.

Scared to be lonely.

Scared to let someone else in.

Scared that I will be unhappy.

Scared that I won’t be able enough for my daughter.

Scared that I will always be sad.

Scared that I won’t make the best of my remaining years.

This is my life now.

For the next 50 long years.

 

Why I think being a widow sucks

  1.  I have no one to kill bugs anymore. 

    When everything happened with Bryon, people kept telling me that I was so strong and that was because I had to be.  That applies in this scenario, albeit on a lesser scale.

  2. Car maintenance becomes my responsibility.

    Car maintenance is not my strong point.  One time when Bryon and I were dating, I half-jokingly said that whenever I heard my car make a noise, I would turn the radio up and hope it would go away.  Bryon was appalled by that answer and said that he was going to take care of the car maintenance.  I was glad to be relieved of that responsibility and I happily obliged.

  3. Actually everything is now my responsibility.  

    I have learned that Bryon did everything.  The car maintenance, killed the bugs, took care of the yard and the finances.  I pretty much changed diapers, made sure there was milk in the fridge and did a half assessed attempt to keep up with the laundry.

  4. The empty bed.

    Some nights I just hope my daughter crawls in just so I won’t be alone.

    Or the cat.

  5. No date nights with my love.

    No more romantic dinner.  No more dances at weddings.  While I have learned to be a more independent person, I do miss these nights with Bryon.  And sure, I could date but I am very “meh” at the thought of dating.

  6. Being the third/fifth/seventh/ninth wheel.

    While I am so happy that my friends still choose to keep me in their lives, I always feel like the odd person out.  It could not be any clearer that Bryon is missing.

  7. Lack of sex.

    I supposed I could fix that problem but the thought of some strange guy touching me just isn’t my style.

  8. Having to troubleshoot any electronic problem by myself. 

    My cell phone was possessed.  I ended up just buying a new one because it was easier.  (To be fair, it was overheating too which I took as a bad sign).

  9. Being an only parent is exhausting.

    I know every situation with a single parent is different and some non widowed single parents are only parents and can relate.  But when you are a widowed parent, you are the only parent.  You have your kids 24/7.  They don’t go to their other parent on the weekends.  Between parenting, full time work, blogging,  fitness, housework, and dealing with grief, I am exhausted.  Then you have to throw in the new responsibilities like killing bugs and car maintenance on top of it.  I am lucky to get more than 5 hours of sleep in a night.  It’s a good thing I don’t want to have sex.  I wouldn’t have time for it.

  10. Single parent judgement. 

    It doesn’t matter how many stories I read to her, how many places I take her to, how many cute outfits I put her in or the fact that I am able to have her in dance classes and gymnastics.  People begin to judge every parenting decision you make and talk to you like you are ignorant and uneducated.  It’s like one day I was like all the other parents- married, educated and successful and now I am viewed as “white trash”.

    Just to be clear, I didn’t ask nor plan to become a widowed mother.  I wish I could have Bryon back.  He would put all those Judgey McJudedgersons in their place.  (Bryon always did that.  If I was being grumpy, he would say “Someone is being a Grumpy McGrumperson”.)  Actually he probably wouldn’t have cared what they thought.

  11. PTSD

    I generally process everything okay, but I know that if I ever date or marry again, I will always worry that that man was going to die.  It happened once, it can happen again.  Will I ever get to be carefree again?

    And while I generally stay calm in situations and get ice or ibuprofen or whatever, I worry about cuts.  Bryon had one infection after another and went into septic shock many times.  So even though it’s unlikely, anytime my daughter or I gets a cut, I bring out the neosporin and the Frozen band-aids because I am paranoid about sepsis.

 

Daily Prompt: Surreal

Today’s WordPress writing prompt- Surreal
https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/surreal/

Time stopped.

Nothing mattered.  Eating didn’t matter.  Showering didn’t matter.  Sleep didn’t matter.

Everything seemed like it was a million miles away.  My home.  My job.  The 2016 Presidential Election.

“Your husband has been transferred to the SICU.”

“Your husband might not survive this surgery.”

“Your husband’s heart will stop beating today.”

“Your husband is clinically dead.”

“Let’s look at the caskets we offer.”

The moment you give your credit card to the man at the cemetery to buy your second piece of property.

The moment you have to check the widow box on the marital status question on medical forms.

The moment you have to write deceased next to the father’s name on your child’s forms for school.

Those moments when life doesn’t feel real.