em·pa·thy / empəTHē / noun: the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference
I often wonder if a month will ever go by where I don’t somehow take notice of the 7th day of the month. It’s not like I’m waiting for it arrive or anticipate that it will come but somehow it never comes unnoticed. If anything, it usually comes in full force and hits me before I even realize it's the 7th day of the month. Last night, I went to a community production of Grease in Sunnyvale. The play was great, the performers were amazing, the theater was small and intimate, and the crowd was on fire. At the end, there was a fundraising announcement for a foundation that provide scholarships to girls who are focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and, of course, for the theater group as well. Then the founder of the foundation (who was also an actor in the play) says the family will be matching all donations made to the foundation and the theater group, and then for a millisecond, she paused and said, “in Eric’s memory.” I wasn’t expecting to hear anything like that when I went to the play that evening, but when I did, it really did a number on me. I guess when you aren’t prepared or expecting a a trigger, it hits you like a category 5 tsunami that hits everything with full force in its way.
In that millisecond pause, which was so subtle and probably not even noticeable by anyone else, and after she said, “in Eric’s memory,” I knew that pause meant we shared a similar story, a common thread, that has and will forever change our life and the way we view the world. I felt every ounce of pain she felt in her heart, and I knew the strength and courage it took for her to stand up there and honor her husband’s memory and legacy while continuing to live a life she didn’t choose or have a say in or any control over. It felt like I was looking at myself in the mirror. That tiny millisecond pause is something I notice I do also. Then the pause is usually followed by a deep breath and I break eye contact and stare off blankly into space before I can say calmly and with composure, “...but my husband passed away,” after telling some random story about you to strangers and / or acquaintances. I never really knew when I started doing this or why I did this, but I started to become very conscious of it about a month ago.
The first time I really noticed I was doing this was when I was at a juice bar about a month ago. I was ordering something when the cashier said, “I really like your necklace.” I responded with, “Thank you. It belongs to my husband…,” then I paused, took a very deep breath, looked away and stared blankly to his right, and corrected myself and said, “...I mean it belonged to him. He passed away and that’s why I’m wearing it now with his wedding ring.” I think I kind of knew I was doing this but this was the first time I was consciously aware of it and not after the fact. It’s not even something I think about or plan to do, it just happens unconsciously and without any thought on my part. It’s automatic, probably a coping mechanism or survival tactic to make sure I don’t fall apart or start crying uncontrollably in front of strangers or acquaintances in public when I say, “...but my husband passed away.”
October just started, but I can tell it’s going to be rough month. It was your cousin RJ’s 50th birthday last Friday. You guys were planning on having a big bash for your 50th, so I can only imagine how he’s feeling. I know it can’t be easy for him. Just like it hasn’t been easy for me to know that I will be turning 40 soon, and you will not be here to witness it. You won’t be able to make fun of me like you said you would whenever you find me making a face in the bathroom in front of the mirror plucking my grey hair and / or looking at the fine lines that are starting to develop on my face. Everytime you catch me doing this, you would say to me, “Babe, you really need to embrace your age,” and I would give you my ‘oh hell no I will not embrace my age’ look, and then you would laugh at me and say, “I can’t wait to see you turn 40 and start having aches and pains in areas you didn’t know could hurt.” This is all I can think about as I approach 40. How you won’t be here to witness me experience aches and pains in places I didn’t even know could hurt. How you didn’t get to celebrate your 50th birthday, and how RJ has to celebrate his 50th birthday alone, without his best cousin by his side like you guys had planned. How each day progresses and I continue to feel stronger and more confident in my own skin and “new” reality yet still feel every blow and trigger like a category 5 tsunami just hit me and I’m being pulled deeper and deeper underwater with no escape in sight. It’s really hard and frustrating when you realize that your healing process is not linear or absolute. It’s frustrating to know that you are fully capable of feeling both extreme joy and acute sadness at the exact same time now. These are things I wish on nobody (not even my arch enemies or rivals), so when I felt her pain and anguish in that millisecond, I cried for her as much as I was crying for myself.
Anyways, Babe, Unhappy 9 month deathversary.
A grieving widow who is trying to find meaning and purpose from her tragic event.