Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sometimes It's Not So Easy To Walk The Walk

So this is it. The dreaded anniversary weekend. And just as I thought, I’ve been feeling much better this week than I did last. I’m such a weird griever. The only thing I can say is…I’ve never been a procrastinator. Leaving things to the last minute completely stresses me out. Now I’ve learned that I get everything done early. Even grief.

This weekend will be a busy one. Ever since I lost my husband, I started hosting a gathering to remember him on his anniversary. That first year was a whopper (and something I’m not sure I’ll ever do again). I was doing my best to feel “normal” and since we were always big entertainers, I thought, “What better way to commemorate my husband than with cheesesticks and a keg?”

Little did I know, throwing that party would make me miss him more than ever because he wasn’t here to give it with me. Hey…we live and we learn.

When he was with me, we used to always give a big summer party. In fact, the weekend following his death, we were supposed to give our biggest one yet and I had no idea how many people to expect. We had invited all of our friends and family and then he’d opened it up to people at work.

I had a fear that I would be calling my parents in tears, telling them that 500 people had shown up, I had no idea where that pot came from, and that I was going to have to replace all of the carpet and screens.

Anyway, my husband passed away on a Wednesday and the party was scheduled for the following Saturday. Even in the blur of trying to put together a funeral as quickly as possible, I remember really stressing about whether or not someone would show up for that party who hadn’t gotten the word.

I mean…can you imagine? You show up at someone’s house in your Hawaiian shirt and a six pack only to find 100 people dressed in black, eating ham, and crying?

Luckily, that didn’t happen. Or if it did, my family was good enough not to tell me.

Since that year, I have gotten involved in a local 5k race that honors organ donors and celebrates organ recipients (my husband was an organ donor). Fortunate enough for me, it’s usually held right around my husband’s anniversary. In fact, this year it’s ON his anniversary. So I form a team and let all of my friends and family know that they can join us if they’d like to. I supply bagels and juice afterwards and we all sit around talking about how, if my husband were actually with us, he’d probably be griping about the fact that we woke him up that early to take a walk.

So, this fundraiser has been very helpful to me and something I kind of look forward to every year. But I have come to realize…not all widows feel the same way.

I noticed, after meeting some local widows, that a lot of us seem to have our causes. In fact, I think we’re the walking-est group of people you’ll ever meet. We can’t get through a summer without supporting each other by taking at least 20 walks for various charities. I used to think that everyone did that: Lost someone, found a cause, got great legs.

Until last week.

I have a friend who lost his partner and the love of his life (who also happened to be my friend from college) to cancer about 6 months ago. We started talking about all of these walks and fundraisers and he told me that he had been approached several times about various cancer research fundraisers. Like those who approached him, I thought for sure he would join in anything he could. I was in for a surprise.

When I asked, “Well, what do you participate in?”

He calmly replied, “Nothing. It’s too late. He’s already gone. If they had asked me before he died I would have been at everything. But now it’s too late.”

Now, some people may look at this as selfish or short-sighted. But for some reason, it made complete sense to me. And it was a response I had never heard of before.

I mean…he’s right. It is too late for him. His partner is gone and, frankly, I think his response is a pretty normal reaction. We all want to blame someone, something, for our spouse’s death. So what’s a more appropriate thing to blame than…cancer?

Now, I’m not writing this so that you all stop what you’re doing and ask the American Cancer Society for a refund. I’m just saying that we all deal with things in our own way. As we have said before…what makes sense to one person may not make sense to anyone else. Really…he could think I’m completely off my rocker when I celebrate my husband’s life by not showering, strapping on a pair of running shoes, and hanging out with 3000 people he never knew. But that’s my choice.

And my friend fully admits that someday, he may be ready to take that walk. But for right now, he’s angry. He doesn’t want to give anything to the enemy that took the most important person in his life away…even if it’s in an effort to get rid of it.

What I admire the most is the friend of his who said, “Tell me your partner’s name. I’ll walk for him until you can.”

© Catherine Tidd 2010


  1. I love your closing line, it is really beautiful. I am grateful for his honesty and for his friend's generosity of spirit. I have seen pancreatic cancer survivors (what my Brian died of) and it is strange to have one foot in grieving a terminal diagnosis and the other foot in experiencing the "cure".

    We are all different in our grief and nothing is wrong with us.

    I will say that again: We are all different in our grief and NOTHING is wrong with us.

    Thanks for this post...

  2. Very nice...both the blog and the comment. Very nice and I agree wholeheartedly...

  3. Being less than 1 year into this, I am new to the "walks", but have already formed a team for a suicide-prevention walk that just happens to be 1 day shy of my husband's anniversary. For me, it seems an appropriate way to spend the anniversary, but I can totally see how others would not want to go anywhere near it.
    We used to throw a big party once a year around the same time, so, Widow Chick, I can relate to the throwing a party without him. He made those parties. He had all the ideas to top whatever had been done the year before, bought & cooked all the food, while I just made sure everybody had a place to sleep.
    And I too get my grieving done early. The anticipation of an anniversary/birthday/whatever-day always seems to be worse than the actual day. I'm okay with that.

  4. This one hits very close to home. I lost my partner to cancer 5 weeks ago. From his initial diagnosis, and all the way through treatment, I read everything I could get my hands on, donated, advocated, and promised that when he got better I would be the best volunteer ever. Now, I can't read the articles in my inbox, can't read the advocacy magazines in my mailbox, and can't stand to hear the "survivor" stories. They make me want to throw up.. I'm sure I will get there one day, but I'm not there yet.