On Becoming a Widow
I have never done this before.
On the final drive to the hospital, my “I’m going to be all right, you know”
and your “I know you will” our only preparation for my years without you.
In those first tricky raw months
I no longer feared time as I had.
It became clear what I needed to do.
I never did the time-filling I was advised to do by so many.
I learnt to live with, rather than hide, my deep sorrow.
I sat with the sadness and the loneliness and found my way.
Early days, and it’s not always been easy.
I am seizing the opportunity you have given me.
What else can I do? There is no other way, this my belief –
I remain open and everything I need comes to me.
I needed this, though not wanting it, nor knowing why,
and you were beautifully ready, and with grace accepted.
So I remain here, in deep gratitude,
reaping the rich rewards of our life together.
In living like this, I honour you and our relationship,
the learning we did together.
You would have done the same.
But the job is mine.
Sundays with You
Sundays are the hardest, our stay-at-home-together day.
Slow start, my fruit salad, your coffee,
cooked breakfast with the Archers.
Chatting, sharing, laughing,
drifting round each other,
in the kitchen, doing this and that.
Perhaps planning, making joint decisions.
Then you to your motor-bike workshop, door wide open.
I pottered and tidied in house and garden,
popping in for an occasional chat.
Till I would find you in the kitchen
making scones, heavy with seeds and fruit.
We sat together.
Home-made jam, Earl Grey tea, best china.
To start with, I went away most weekends.
Now I stay at home, time alone to miss you.
I am getting better at doing Sundays on my own.
It’s still my day with you.
Now you are no longer here,
I have moved the table.
Every day I face my beloved garden.
Before we were both side on,
sharing the view equally.
No more hospital visits,
two years of those inward-facing
waiting, not knowing,
the power always with them.
And I will never see you slip
into lonely dementia,
nor be parted from you by
illness or craziness,
nor jointly struggle
with elderly caring at home.
It could have been different.
My body marked my losses,
a broken chunk of tooth for each death,
Dentist visits before each funeral.
Lucky, just a few doors down.
Happily, my chewing ability
were not impaired.
Life goes on.
Needing a Break
Sometimes I need to be in someone else’s house,
with companionship, friendship, chat,
talks, meals, outings,
ordinary sharing togetherness at home.
A rest from my solo life here,
the moment-by-moment intensity
of living with the constant
presence of your absence.
I don’t know how grieving a husband works, not having done this before.
The deeper and more frequently I feel the pain, the faster it will go away?
Do I visit the places where it will hurt the most?
The garden I saw three days after you died,
your favourite walk along the river,
the restaurant we had our last meal out,
the seaside places we enjoyed together.
It’s a long list.
Always new places.
People say, “Do what feels right for you, everyone is different”.
I experiment constantly, with familiar and new.
It makes no difference.
The boring sadness drifts through it all.
I used to turn to you,
slip my arm around you, spooning
against your solid familiar back,
for silent, warm comfort
calmed into sleep again.
Now the space beside me lies flat, empty, cold.
I turn the other way,
reach down for paper, pencil.
Into that rectangular void
I breathe my life.
Becoming a mother, becoming a widow.
Someone comes in, someone goes out.
Each a sudden end to the former life
into a new and unknown place, for ever.
A shock, however prepared. Dazed,
we have to withdraw, take a day at a time.
Reading and concentration become impossible,
the mind drawn back to re-living the change.
The loss of usual daily routines, life revolving now
round the demands of the in-comer.
Who am I? Everyone views us differently now,
the new role the reason for contact.
Family dynamics change immediately,
our new status repositions us in the clan history.
Our sense of community and belonging shifts,
where we will be welcomed, will fit.
Language too must evolve, from I to we,
mine to ours, or from we to I, ours to mine.
Our house around us is not the same,
filling with baby kit, emptying of his things.
Yes, widows who are mothers
have done a big life change before.
Survived and grown.