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Are People Forgetting Him?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013
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Last week’s blog focused on anniversaries, which was timely for me as the fifth anniversary of my husband’s death had just passed. I’m a Thanksgiving widow. We were married in February, but nobody remembers that date and I mostly treat it as any other day. My husband’s death date, on the other hand, has always given me fits. Like clockwork, every year as summer turned to fall, the days shortened and a chill permeated the air, these gut-wrenching feelings would surface – the sadness, the missing him, the trauma of not being able to revive him. I was so plagued by body memory on the first deathiversary that I came down with the swine flu the very next day. I’d tell you about the second anniversary if only I could remember it. The fog had yet to fully lift. By the time the third anniversary rolled around, my stepdaughter and I had established a comfortable routine. We’d spend November 30th together -- shopping, lunching and remembering. Sharing grief secrets, and offering each other support. It’s become “our” date, which gives us something to look forward to. There is no going to work on the death date; it’s our own, personal day of remembrance. We set this time aside to focus on her dad, and to be gentle to ourselves and each other. This year, the day fell over the Thanksgiving weekend and so my stepson, home from college, was able to join us. Always a good sport (like his father), he agreed to participate in our regular November 30th outing so we could keep to our established routine. Even though it includes shopping.

This was the first year I felt no visceral body memory as the anniversary approached. What a relief. Each death date has been proportionately less painful than the last, surprisingly linear on this otherwise topsy-turvy journey. As my stepdaughter recently said, “I never thought it would get easier, but it has.”

This is not to say that my mind doesn’t wander, and wonder what might have been, during the run-up to the deathiversary. It does. Mostly, I wonder this: Are people forgetting him? After all, it’s been five years. People don’t talk about him as much. I don’t hear from his colleagues and friends like I once did. Some people in my life today didn’t have the pleasure of knowing my husband, and some may not realize I ever married (e.g., classmates I haven’t seen in 30 years but reconnected with via Facebook).

And so this year, as summer turned to fall and the Thanksgiving holiday approached, I wanted to make certain that Jim is remembered. I wondered if I should inter his ashes, so there’s a marker proving he was once here. I tossed around other ideas, but nothing seemed sufficient or what he would have wanted.  How do we make sure our other halves aren’t forgotten? I don’t have the answers, but know most of us feel strongly about keeping the memory of our spouses/partners alive. On November 29th, I jotted down a few paragraphs describing my Jim which I posted to Facebook the following day. I asked people to think about him, to remember his life had meaning. The responses warmed my heart.  And reminded me of something I’d always known -- that Jim’s legacy is his children, and how he brought the three of us together. That’s how he’ll be remembered.

I’ve read articles about how social media has changed the way we grieve. Neither Jim nor I had Facebook pages when he died in 2008, and there’s little trace of him online now but for old real estate transactions and the dreaded obituary. I felt good about posting my tribute, a belated eulogy of sorts, even though he’s been gone five years. It was a small gesture, but I’m pretty sure people were thinking of him that day. I’m pretty sure people remembered. 

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