This week we’ve finished a bittersweet drive to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, an almost 2,200 mile round-trip, as a family, not for a vacation, but to attend my daughter’s father’s memorial (a.k.a. my first husband). This was a quick trip, which took two long days to drive each way, with the 6 year old twins and a 2 year old in the back seat.
My job was to help with the kids, making sure they had snacks and entertainment along the way.
Death of a family member is always very difficult, I think particularly when it’s unexpected. Mike had successfully completed his battle with cancer, around the same time the baby was battling her two battles with it, so needless to say, they past few years have been intense for my daughter.
Apparently a little known side effect of the chemo treatments is a potential deterioration of teeth and unfortunately this affected Mike. He developed an infection which ran ahead of the antibiotics, and got into his blood, no doubt since his immune system was still recuperating.
He had been feeling poorly, but when it got very bad, he went to the emergency at the hospital, where he died, just the day after finding out that his grand daughter’s CT scan results showed her to be cancer free.
Although he had passed away before Thanksgiving (US), it took a while for his widow to able to think about organizing a memorial to celebrate his life. Close to 100 people attended, each person sharing their good memories and how he had helped them.
The kids all got to meet Grammy, and her mother Nanna, and they all got along like a house on fire! The woman who I had seen years ago as my arch nemesis, over the years had lost this image in my mind, to gradually turn into someone dear to me, and now I’ve had the pleasure of adding her mom as a friend.
Though she and I now get along, I was still surprised how this trip brought some old questions and issues to the surface in my mind, even after all these years. I had a particularly poignant moment when someone raised a glass to Mike, and told her she had gotten one of the good ones, temporarily removing my self confidence, and sucking me back years ago to when I was the jilted wife.
He and I were damaged people when we met, I was very co-dependent, and he was still in his addiction to alcohol and drugs. Years of treatment, therapy, growth and healing later, and the person he emerged wasn’t the same as who he was going in, which is all too normal, but unfortunate for our relationship.
After he met her he tried to explain to me he wasn’t leaving me because there was something wrong with me, but that he felt very connected to his new love, and felt they were more compatible than he and I were.
It took me years to re-build my self-esteem, because I had unfortunately taken his actions and words to mean I was inferior to her, and that there must be something wrong with me. This low self esteem no doubt was planted in me at a young age with my mother’s criticism and physical abuse, and from which I had struggled hard at overcoming and healing from.
Then strangely enough I was send spiraling into that old mess, sitting in the living room with people all around me grieving for a very fine man.
I felt myself being sucked down that rabbit-hole, and then I had a grounding thought, “I’m not that person anymore! I don’t have to go there! I’ve grown!”
It still took the better part of that long drive home to pull out the phantom tentacles which threatened to choke my heart again, but the more miles that were put between me and Ft. Lauderdale, the better I felt.
Those phantom feelings floating through me were also compounded by the fact that it hasn’t been a year since the divorce from my second husband, so my questioning if I am still a desirable woman or could be a good companion for someone was valid, I felt.
Thankfully the universe, via a social media site, sent me a gorgeous man, Antonio, who is either Spanish or Italian, for those are the languages he posted on his profile on LinkedIn. He messaged me, and opened with “Hi Gorgeous,” in order to strike up a conversation. I called him flirty, and he replied he was just expressing how he sees my picture.
I haven’t replied back to him, I guess I’m not ready to take anything a step further, particularly since we live hundreds of miles apart. I’d feel more comfortable if we were able to meet face to face, but his emails did come at a perfect time for me, giving me that boost I needed!
Mike’s death has made me think about who he was, his childlike sense of fun, his ability to find the zany in the ordinary, and his love of corny jokes, which made me realize I had spent the last few years being a little too serious, and that I need to let my sense of humor out more, and allow silliness to live a little more in my life.
Saying goodbye to the past isn’t just about forgetting everything in order to move forward, but to pull the good moments and the good lessons from it in order to move forward a stronger, healthier and happier version of our self. At least that’s what I’m taking from this experience.
Which leads me to share a little from the book again, which hopefully will help someone going through a loss and needing to start fresh:
On Reinventing Ourselves for a New Phase
“Letting go doesn’t mean giving up,
but rather accepting that there are things that cannot be.” – Unknown
Complete changes in our lives, which shake us down to our core are very difficult, yet when we give ourselves time to mourn our losses, feel our pain, and then reach a point of knowing it is time to pick our self up and move on, we can realize we have been given at this turning point of life, an opportunity to evaluate everything in our lives, and make choices for change, which allows a re-invention.
In this re-invention, we can’t entirely leave the past behind, or become a completely new person, forgetting who we were in the past, but rather we try to integrate the pieces of ourselves we are most proud of, and remember those hard lessons, because it has formed the fabric of who we are, and holds the seeds of who we will become.
Click on any image to see it on Fine Art America!
“In three words I can sum up everything
I have learned about life: it goes on.” – Robert Frost
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#On Becoming a Lemonade Maker, #Tamara Kulish