Surprise!!! I threw you a 50th birthday party!! It was just like how you wanted it, small and intimate. Only family and close friends were invited. There was about 30-ish people in attendance, and we celebrated your milestone birthday and commemorated your life. I wanted to make sure you got the party you’ve been talking about for the last two years! It was bittersweet, and honestly, I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out, or who would actually come, or how my emotional and mental temperament would be like at the party. Under my “normal” widow circumstance, I would have spent weeks mentally preparing myself for the event. I would somehow channel some sort of inner strength and courage to put on “my big girl pants” and show the world I was “Okay.” But this time, I didn’t. I mean, I wouldn’t even know where to start, and I also realized that there’s nothing okay with me so why bother pretending!! And, to be quite honest, I didn’t know how to mentally prepare for a birthday bash that I was throwing for my dead husband with his family and friends, who were reluctantly attending to not really celebrate your birthday per se, but to support me, a grieving widow who’s trying to find some sort of closure in her grief process by fulfilling a plan we had in a life that doesn’t exist anymore?! I mean, I’ve never gone through anything like this before, so where do I even start to try to mentally prepare myself for this?! Everything I had to mentally prepare myself for before this event were things I’ve done before (minus planning your memorial service and giving a speech at your memorial, but I had written a speech and practiced it everyday for weeks before the service because I was determined to give you a proper goodbye even if we weren't able to do it before you passed). These mental preparations were for things I used to do before you died, so they were more of mentally preparing myself to get back on the horse after a really bad fall, and not necessarily doing new things. But, this party was uncharted territory for me (and probably everybody involved)! This was something brand new and distinctly part of my new widowhood circumstance. I already had a few mental and emotional breakdowns planning and leading up to the event, so I figured, what’s another meltdown in front of 30-ish people anyways?! I mean, these are the people who have already seen me at my very worst, so there’s really nothing that can happen that they haven’t already seen. These are the people who saw me screaming out of my mind in the so-called ‘family room’ at the hospital when the doctors said, “I’m sorry to tell you that your husband passed away!” or when I had the mental breakdown and started pacing up and down the side of the hospital, out of my mind, ranting like a crazy lady for hours on end or when I ran towards your lifeless body, hugging and kissing you while your body laid covered under a white sheet on a hospital slab, begging you to wake up so we could go home together or when I was screaming, out of mind, and deranged coming home from the hospital and laying defeated, flat on the ground of our bedroom floor, unable to move because I couldn’t find the strength or courage to do anything but cry in disbelief that this was actually happening to me or when I wanted to go to sleep, so I could see you in my dreams or finally wake up from this horrible nightmare I was experiencing. So, in my mind, there’s really nothing that could happen that would be worse than what they’ve already witness or seen me go through. So, I winged it!
Overall the party was good, light-hearted, and bittersweet. Before the cake cutting session, we read goodbye letters to you from the PO box (I had a PO box setup for people to send you goodbye letters, and a few of your coworkers actually sent in letters), and people at the party had time to say a few words to reflect on your impact in their life. The plan was to read the goodbye letters, but two sentences into the first letter, I broke down and couldn’t find the strength to read anymore, so EE had to take over and read them for me. I also wanted to take a page out of your playbook by giving an impromptu thank you speech to everybody that attended, but that didn’t happened. I could barely sing happy birthday, so there was no way I would be able to deliver a thank you speech on the fly like you typically would. I was only able to get through the first verse of happy birthday when I had to stop because I knew I was about to lose it if I kept singing "happy birthday to you." Well, in my mind, it could have been a lot worse! I could have lost it to the point where I’d fallen on the ground in despair, sobbing uncontrollably, and scaring everybody there, but I didn’t!! So, overall, it was a victory for me!!
Anyways, the highlight of the event was the photo mural timeline of our story. I spent hours and hours scouring through photos from our childhood to when we first met to our wedding and to when I was all alone in this world. I found all sorts of photos locked away in boxes and digital files. All these tidbits and moments of our life preserved in photos that sat disorganized, unseen, and forgotten in boxes and digital files. It was like walking through the memory lane of our life and story to only realize that this life doesn’t exist anymore. That these happy photos of us smiling would one day end tragically and terribly. An ending that’s so full of pain and heartache and unfulfilled plans and dreams. Nobody would have guessed that our perfectly happy and complete life could end up turning into utter disarray and uncertainty in less than 20 minutes. This was definitely not on my radar or even anything that I could even fathom happening to me. But, it did. It’s completely unbelievable, and at times, it’s still very hard for me to grasp or even believe that this is really my life and that you are really not here anymore, even though I’ve been living this new reality for almost six months now. It’s still hard to believe at times, and my heart still skips a beat whenever I think about it and try to grasp that this is my new reality.
You don’t know how many nights I laid in tears looking through these photos. How many times I yearned for the days in the photos to come back. How badly I want to see your face and feel your embrace like in the photos again. How much I miss you and wish you were here with me again. You don’t know how many meltdowns I had working on the photo mural timeline of our story. Each photo felt like it was mocking me, serving as a constant reminder of the life I used to have but don’t have anymore. It was a stark reminder of this terrible new reality I was stuck in. How everything from our life was relegated to these snapshots in time of some memory or moment we shared, but I couldn’t remember exactly when, where, or what happened, making me realize even more how important it is to start chronicling our story and writing things down. I’ve come to realize how everything we have and own has its own story to tell and share. Even the most insignificant thing like the aluminum stockpot that doesn’t even work on the induction stove has a story to tell. Even the return address stamps tell a story of our life, of where we’ve been, and of where we’re going. But the biggest heartache was realizing that these photos coupled with the memories in my head were all I have left of you (figuratively speaking of course babe, I know I still have an entire house full of your things that I still haven’t quite figured out what to do with yet either). Whenever I look at the photos of us smiling on the mural timeline wall or hanging around the house, I can’t help but feel this intense pain and yearning in my heart, like somehow my entire world was taken from me, ripped away against my will, stolen from me without any rhyme or reason. Sometimes, I wonder if our life was the dream and I’ve finally woken up from it. Most of the time, I just want to sleep so I can see you in my dream and hear your voice and boisterous laughter and feel your embrace. The only time I find happiness now is when you visit me in my dreams. I constantly go to bed hoping you visit me in my dreams, so I can feel the warmth and love I used to have in my life, but now they only exist in my dreams.
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A grieving widow who is trying to find meaning and purpose from her tragic event.