Touched by loss. Empowered through community.


Sunday, January 22, 2017
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As shocking and unexpected as was my husband’s death (35 years old, died in sleep, heart attack), I feel unable and perplexed on how to recognize his passing. It has been 4 ½ years since he died. While my life has continued steadily without too much drama, I am emotionally stuck when I have to make choices about how to honor and recognize him. I thought I would share a most recent happening and wonder how others have handled such things.

When Dave died he was working at a college. He loved working there. It was his first real job after college and had he not died, there is no doubt he would have continued working there until his retirement. Following his death, I met with the president of the college and shared that I would love to give something to the college in his honor. A typical thing is to establish a scholarship fund, but that wasn’t feasible with my finances. I asked her to keep me in mind if they had a need. Last spring, I was approached with an opportunity to purchase a bench for an outdoor garden at the college. Dave’s last job was manager of construction projects.   This would have been one of his projects. In addition, this garden is a Shakespeare garden that was suggested by the theater professor – who was/is a dear friend of ours. It seemed fitting on many levels to do this.

But I hadn’t considered how hard it would be to determine what to put on the bench plaque. It brought back all of the memories of selecting a tombstone, picking the funeral home, the casket, the memorial card, and what he would wear, etc. All of those things are just dreadful decisions. It brings to the front of my mind: how can this be real? How can a 35 year old man that I love be dead? How can I raise our one- year-old daughter without him? There must be a wrinkle in time that skipped a beat and I’m stuck in the wrong reality.

Decisions on how to recognize and honor my true love puts me in a mindset where I get stuck. I’m now living in a reality that neither of us chose, which makes his death so hard to accept.  We can adjust to most things in our lives or we can at least look back where we made a choice which led us to a specific path. Or when we see that the path isn’t working, we can make choices to reverse or start a new path. Dave’s death represents a choice that was made with no warning or foresight. He lived a well-balanced, healthy life and his death is the most unimaginable reality that he would have never chosen. And yet the bench plaque is calling for information that I must provide, whether or not I choose to accept reality.

It took me six months to finally draft copy. Luckily there was a delay from the designer re: length and number of lines:

In loving memory of Dave Sarther from his wife and daughter

“This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath, May prove 

a beauteous flow’r ushers next we meet.” – Romeo and Juliet 

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