Moment by Moment
The anniversary of my husband’s passing ( March 13th) was also around the time most of America began shut-downs due to COVID-19. My husband, who most people called Steve or Stevie, had an amazing sense of humor he tapped into during even the most difficult occasions. I can just imagine the jokes he would have made about people hoarding toilet paper, and my even more out of control obsession with hand sanitizer and soap. If we were social distancing together, we’d watch our shows like we always did, eat snacks, and work on our computers while showing each other funny gifs.
Although Stevie lived with epilepsy since his teens, he’d always managed to thrive in spite of his seizures. He’d dealt with medication changes, injuries and the nagging feeling that a seizure might arrive when he least expected it. However, this didn’t stop him from wrestling and joking with our kids, helping others and making people laugh even if he was groggy or in pain. So the day he passed, I felt as if my life was no longer my own. Of course I’d wake up tomorrow and this wouldn’t be happening, right? He’d always been okay after a seizure, and now this? Our living room filled with family and friends that lovingly offered their support and mostly sat in stunned silence because who really knows what to say when the love of your life dies?
The weeks following that evening are a mixture of blurry and vivid moments. I’ve never fainted, but came close the night before the service while at the funeral home. I doubled over when I saw his body once full of life, zest and jokes now wrapped in an unfamiliar stillness. Disbelief, heartbreak and sadness left my body in a stream of tears and sobs. I remember my niece Londa holding me and saying “Breathe J, you've got to breathe.” I’ll never forget that moment. Sometimes, when the world feels as if it's going to end, all you have is your breath. The steady ins and outs that remind you there’s still another moment ahead whether you want to face it or not.
A couple weeks after the funeral some stationary I’d ordered before Stevie passed arrived. The notebook’s front cover had pastel clouds with the words breathe stretched across them. I don’t think I could see it in that dark time, but I was beginning to get a bit of a message of how to make it through. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. One of the best pieces of advice I heard from members of a young widows’ group a loved one referred me to was to take things day by day, moment by moment if necessary. That's a hard pill to swallow for an over-thinker who longs to know when I can check real and imaginary boxes off as complete. My therapist further reminded me of this advice when I simply told her that I was done. How am I going to get through his birthday? How am I going to deal with Christmas? I’m not enough for my children… The thoughts racing through my head exhausted me so much that sleeping was the most comforting thing I could do. However, the advice she and many others gave echoed the same sentiment. Take life moment by moment. Breath by breath if necessary.
Today, things are still incredibly different without him here. I can’t put into words how much I miss him, and how much I know I’ll always miss him. Yet, I am sometimes surprised to find that I now have regular moments of genuine happiness. There are spaces and places in my life where the sunlight still shines, and that grow in spite of Stevie’s physical absence. It's hard, conflicting, and scary AF, but this is my present. Sometimes I feel guilty for experiencing this new present without him physically here. I don’t know a lot, but what I do know is that in all the happy, sad and in-between moments, I’m breathing. Inhaling Exhaling. Pausing. Sometimes that pause brings tears, sometimes it brings a smile. But whatever it brings, I’m trying to embrace it and learn what’s necessary in that moment.
Like everyone else, I wish I knew when we might return to some sense of normalcy after being struck by COVID-19. However, I’m reminded of what I've been learning since last year. To simply take a moment to pause. To thank God for my current health and good memories. To laugh with my daughter who watches the same movie for probably the fifth time this month, and does the characters’ accompanying British accents. To pet my dog as he follows me into the kitchen because that’s what dogs undoubtedly do. To smile when I see funny gifs that I know my husband would have sent me or think about how he could make me laugh to the point of tears. To pause and pray for the people who’ve lost health, employment or someone dear to them. To inhale and to exhale because that, after all, is part of what helps us to move through life and all of its uncertainties.