A few days after Mike died, I clothed myself in everything that was his-mine-ours.
The Director of the Funeral Home gave me a bag of my husband’s belongings that the Coroner had collected. It was beyond horrific to receive this bag.
Let me pause here to say: if you have been given such a bag, from the depths of my being, I am truly sorry. I wish I could scoop you up and give you a big hug.
Receiving this bag was the official kick off of me desperately trying to feel connected to my husband through tangible things. I wore his wedding band around my neck. Every piece of precious or keepsake jewelry my husband gave me, I wore or kept close. Several times a day, I would dunk into my room just to breathe in his scent on his clothing or linen that I kept. I would even pull on his oversized shirts and winter socks, the ones he always put on me when my feet were cold at night, desperate to feel his warmth on my skin. I tried everything and anything to feel like he was still with me.
The first months passed by with so many changes and realities slapping me in the face. We moved several times. We went from being a homeschool family to me putting my children in school full time. I had to spend countless hours, for months on end, telling and retelling the details of my husband’s accident and death to insurance companies, student loan agencies, counselors, friends old and new, and on and on. The forms needing me to specify my new found widow status and the request for death certificates felt endless.
Somewhere in the midst of all of that, I began to attempt to figure out what life for me and my children should resemble.
It was about six months after he died that I found myself sitting in a friend’s living room crying out to God and Mike to direct my steps.
I felt so devestated. So lost.
Everything I had ever dared to dream for in a husband when I was young I had found in Mike and now here I was, his widow.
Our beautiful life halted.
My life, and the lives of our children, redirected.
By beautiful grace what landed and etched into my heart and mind was this: to move forward in hope.
I believe to this day that it was faith and love that delivered it. An answer to my cry in the wilderness.
As I got closer to the one year anniversary of Mike’s Heaven Day, suddenly the beautiful platinum wedding ring that we had picked out together and that he had surprised me with in an extravagant and memorable engagement, seemed to loose all meaning. It became a weight I was no longer able to bare. It felt like a betrayal. I felt like a fraud every time I looked at it. It no longer brought me comfort to wear it. It taunted me, reminding me of what I no longer was.
And so I took it off.
I put it away back into its precious box he gave it to me in.
And the assumptions and opinions crashed into and over me. The misunderstandings. The sideway glances. The confused looks. The explanations for me taking it off and for the timing.
And I looked at the thick tan line on my finger and felt… free.
I felt free from the expectations and timelines of being a widow. Free from having to live as a woman who lost her husband and was now destined to live a sad, uninspired life. Free from always being defined by what I’d lost. I felt freedom by honoring the stirring inside of me too. It was incredible.
I quickly realized, that his belongings were not required to express the love we shared. They are tangible, lovely memory keepers. Without them, I do not love him any less. Choosing not to wear my wedding ring does not make me any less his wife or widow, soulmate or best friend.
I am certain what came next won’t be a surprise to fellow widows and grievers…my very first tattoo, a symbol and outward expression of our love and story. I chose to have my husband’s initials and my nickname for him, MJ, engraved in my handwriting. Joining the initials is an anchor. The anchor embodies and serves as a daily reminder for me of the soul-strengthening, life-giving hope that has carried me through every day since that living room epiphany.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19a)
The same hope that I had as a young girl of twelve dreaming of my husband. The hope that again landed on my heart and mind, carrying me to – and through – this day.
P.S. And yes, I did make a husband wish list of qualities (some superficial and many surprisingly not (haha) at age 12 and still have it! Did you ever make one?