I don't think of myself as a maverick, but I've come to recognize that I'm not entirely normal, either. From physical things like my pear-shaped, short-waisted body and my food allergies to life choices like buying raw milk but not buying paper towels, I'm in my own space, dancing along to the melody of my own flautist.
The thing is, though, I don't go out of my way to be different, so it always comes as a surprise when someone points out that I am.
Grieving the death of a loved one is an intensely personal process, dependent on a variety of variables: the degree of relation, the suddenness of the death, beliefs about the end of life, previous experiences with death, the presence of a support network, and the personality of the mourner. Nevertheless, stereo-types and expectations about how the bereaved will behave in the world are ingrained and strong. A young widow whose husband died unexpectedly in the prime of life should, apparently, be hysterical when the police tell her what happened and thereafter be visibly distraught with tears on her puffy cheeks. Also, she should, apparently, be unable to smile. I clearly fail to uphold this stereotype.
Adam was my husband, but he was also my best friend partner alter ego. He complemented and completed me in so many ways that I'm reeling as I try to figure out how to be those things for myself. I feel like half of my soul has been torn away. I feel physically and emotionally raw like I am made of the tender new skin exposed after a burn. Despite the heat, I find myself reaching for my summer cardigans. I have frequently caught myself overlapping the fronts of these sweaters across my chest and then folding my arms to hold them in place, especially when out in public, especially in conversation with other people. I'm not cold. I'm exposed.
But most of you don't see that. You see me wearing black, but smiling and laughing. You see me cleaning my house and hosting a joyful celebration of Adam's life rather than a somber wake. What you see is me coping.
Adam's death was my worst fear. I am living my phobia come true.
The first summer that I lived at Rambling Farmhouse, Adam had to make a short business trip, and I remember being struck by how isolated I was. "If I were to scream, no one would hear me," I realized, a sobering thought for a girl who grew up in a compact neighborhood where I could watch the neighbor's television from my bedroom window.
I worried incessantly every time Adam traveled, which was often. We developed rituals. We said "I love you" every morning and every night, even when we didn't like each other. He called or sent a text as soon as he arrived at his destination and right before he left to come home. Still, I worried. Adam finally said, "So what if I do die? It's going to happen someday. What will you do?"
We talked about the answer to that question a lot. We purchased life insurance, we invested money appropriately for people our age. We discussed that we both would donate organs and tissues if we could, that we both would be cremated, that he wanted his funeral to be a celebration of the life that he had lived, that each of us expected the other to keep living. What you see is me following the plan.
I laugh and smile every day because my children and I are alive and healthy, because Adam made sure I had a good plan that will allow me to keep living, because life is beautiful.
I cry every day because I miss my other half, and he is never coming home again. You'll forgive me for not exposing my ravaged soul in public.