Sunday, July 22, 2012

Monday Mournings: The Death of a Spouse

Donna lives and travels full-time in a 41' 5th wheel toy hauler pulled by a small Freightliner truck. A retired IT professional she also rides her own Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Her most recent passion is writing. You can find her at http://2takinga5th.com as well as http://donnamcnicol.com

DW: Who was the person that died?
DM: It was my husband of 19 years. 

DW: How old were you at the time? 
DM: I had just turned 58. 

DW:  How old was your husband? 
DM: He had just turned 62. 

DW:  Was it a sudden death or did you know it was going to happen? 
DM: He had been diagnosed with head/neck cancer in 2001. He stayed in remission just over two years so when it came back, he was terminal. He had almost another year. I'm not sure if knowing it's going to happen is an advantage or not other than being more financially prepared. 

DW: Did you and your husband talk about death? 
DM: Not to a great extent. I think he always thought he would beat it. I tend to be more of a realist and knew the odds. I tried my best to prepare myself. 

DW:  Had you experienced any other deaths in your personal life before this person died? 
DM: I had lost all four grandparents, a couple of uncles and both parents. Some were unexpected and at a younger age, the others more late in life deaths. 

DW: Were people supportive of your grief or did they shy away when you were grieving? 
DM: People were extremely supportive of me. If anyone shied away, it was me. We had moved from Florida to a small town in Tennessee less than two months before he died. He wanted to see me settled in a comfortable spot. That was the good part. The bad part was I knew one neighbor (barely) and my realtor. Oh, and the Harley-Davidson dealer in the neighboring town where I had bought my new bike the month before. I slowly got to know people by forcing myself out of the house even if it was to sit at McDonald's to drink coffee and read for a couple of hours. 

DW: Is there anything you wish you'd done differently? 
DM: I wish he hadn't worked right up until the end but I also know that working helped him through his days.  

DW: Was he buried or cremated? 
DM: He was cremated and most of his ashes where spread in the mountains of Tennessee. In addition, we bought small glass bottles and the funeral home put some of his ashes in each. Each of our kids (we were a blended family) and some close friends and other family, got the bottle with the Dr. Seuss/Theodor Geisel saying, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." on it. They then chose to celebrate his life in their own way. His ashes were spread at Daytona Bike Week, Pikes Peak in Colorado, down by the river he played at as a child in Rochester NY and other favored spots. I also carry a small vial on my key ring with some of his ashes so he is always with me. My bottle of his ashes will be mixed in with mine when I pass. 

DW:  Did you learn anything about the grieving process that you'd like to share? 
DM: The biggest thing that surprised me was the ebb and flow. For the first two years it's a roller coaster. You'll be doing fine and a song or a phrase or a TV show/movie will bring back a memory. I learned to let myself wallow for a bit, then head back out and face the world as best as I could. 

DW: Were any songs played at the memorial that were important to your husband? 
DM:  He had no memorial service, thus the bottles of ashes, but some good songs would be: "Shameless" Garth Brooks (his favorite and it still makes me cry) "Live Like You Were Dying" Tim McGraw (I could listen to either of these the first year) "Colour My World" Chicago (sort of our song - see http://www.write4ten.com/2012/06/prompt-song-memory.html)

4 comments:

  1. I am so sorry that cancer has taken your husband from you at such a young age, it is so terribly sad.

    I have experienced significant loss and can so relate as you describe not only to the ebb and flow/roller coaster of emotion, but to being hyper sensitive to music for quite some time after.

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience, God Bless.

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    1. Thank you, Jennifer. He always loved life and I knew that "life is for the living".

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  2. " I learned to let myself wallow for a bit, then head back out and face the world as best as I could."

    Donna, thanks for sharing that wisdom.

    Pamela, thanks for sharing the video--a reminder not to sweat the small stuff.

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    1. Thank you, Linda. Life does go on. I have friends who have stayed in the wallow phase. My Mike would have hated that so I just kept on living as he would want. :-)

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