Today is the birthday of several good friends. And I wish them LOTS of happiness as they celebrate another year of life to share with loved ones and good friends.

It also is the inauspicious anniversary of my late husband Keith’s passing at only 54 years old…the same age that I am now. You can read lots elsewhere in this blog (starting at summer of 2012)  about the transition through his rapid decline to death to the journey of grief and resilience that I have undergone. He was my best friend, lover, and husband of 30 years. He was someone I would trust without question, share in heartaches and celebrations, and the journey through parenthood raising our two beautiful daughters Sarah and Anastassia.

Today it has been three years since your passing, Keith. A lot has happened. I have grieved… and still do. But I have also moved forward with many of life’s demands and the promises I made… to you, and to myself… and to others.

I have embraced joy in the form of a future grandchild expected in December. And I’ve embraced building a life filled with happiness and love in my marriage to my second husband, Steven, who understands that you came before him. He honors you and protects me. Sometimes he is quick to get upset, mostly out of frustration, when he feels unsuccessful in protecting my interests, or feels slighted by a family member. He is learning the art of nuance and patience. He is learning that what others say or do is not about him, nor is it meant to impugn him. He is learning to let go of the wounds of his other life before me so that it doesn’t fracture an otherwise beautiful relationship.

And I am learning to feel your presence as a guide, to look around me and examine it through your eyes. This has become especially important as we move forward building a new home on Perry Road. You and I and Steven all came from a tradition of craftsmanship. This included a respect for workmanship, the materials, and the process. Things were carefully planned, constructed in the right order, with attention to detail. When it came to homes, it was about making them last, energy-efficient, and beautiful.

As I look at the workmanship of some of the rough framing crew, I am appalled. It has left me – and especially Steven – stressed. We are determined to keep the project moving forward, but only if the workmanship is up to our standards. It is hard to let go. And some things, I admit, I am willing to let go. For now, after several days of stressful challenges to the contractor, I am willing to see what he will do to keep to his promise to address our concerns.

If not… well. Keith… what would YOU do? I ask myself that… every… single… day…

Yes. It’s been three years. But I still depend upon you to guide me and give me strength to keep moving forward.

with love always,

Mara

Photo: Keith and me in Fiji in 2001 chaperoning students.

We were chaperoning a large group of community college students on a study tour to our old stomping grounds in the South Pacific. Keith felt like he was the "dad" to them all - young and old.

We were chaperoning a large group of community college students on a study tour to our old stomping grounds in the South Pacific. Keith felt like he was the “dad” to them all – young and old.

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Above: Thanksgiving 2011, what was to be our last one with Keith (deep frying the turkey). We deep fried a turkey this year, our best one yet, in Keith’s honor. Missed him terribly. But celebrated our family, too. He’ll always be a part of our lives, for which I am forever grateful.
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During this holiday season, it is too easy to fall into despair and self-pity. Missing Keith brings me to tears, crying myself to sleep at night. But I have much to be thankful for in spite of our loss.

Unfairness in life is all around us. It’s what we call it when we are frustrated, angry, despairing over what life has thrown at us. How unfair is it that Keith’s life was cut so short? How unfair is it that I would spend this holiday knowing I will never have another holiday with him, or to hear his laughter, feel his embrace? My best friend, husband, loving father… How unfair is it that I spend each night alone?

Do you see how easy it is to fall into self pity? Yes, there are times when I indulge in it. There are times when I cannot fight the ache in my heart and therefore feel the overwhelming pressure of the waters that must flood their banks in the form of tears and wails.

But unfairness, or to wallow in the notion of its cruel facade, is to neglect the true beauty that life has gifted me. I had 34 years with Keith, a life that had its ups and downs, yes. But it was also a time of great beauty, when we grew up, grew as humans, artists, responsible and caring people. We shared our life together and supported each other, experiencing the world, raising two beautiful, intelligent daughters. Saw each through college, and walked one down the aisle. Yes, we experienced a lifetime of love and joy and wonder together.

Each day, each week, or year, we may experience what can be described as unfairness. Yes, it is painful. Yes, it is heartbreaking. And yes, there is the feeling of incredible loss and pain, seeing something or someone you care about slip beyond your reach. Feeling the sting of an unfair act, or unfair words.

I could choose to measure life’s unfairness each day, tallying it up like a scorecard each week, letting it tighten its grip on my life with each passing month. But then I would be denying myself something far more important. I would be denying myself the ability to treasure the life that I have had in the past, or the one I wake to each day. If I counted up the daily unfairness tally, I might spend all my time counting. I would deny myself the joy and gratitude for the gifts I have been given. The stories of our lives that we’ve shared, and the future stories yet unwritten.

Yes, there are times when life seems so unfair. But I can’t bring myself to deny the life I will build upon the foundation of a beautiful life I had with Keith.

So, here’s to being thankful for my life with Keith. And to the future, watching my children build their lives, and being part of that. Here’s to whatever life will throw at me. I will not tally the unfairness of Keith’s passing. His life and our life was full and wonderful. With tinges of occasional sadness and cheeks yet slick with occasional tears, this first Thanksgiving and holiday season without him, I choose to remember him with a loving gratitude.

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Below: This is the photo I mentioned earlier this week, taken at the Beachouse in Fiji in 2001. Love that sly grin that also said “you did it to me again, stuck me in the middle of all these Mott students.” He’d complain in a good natured “grumpy old man” sort of way. But he always had a good time anyway.

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