On the notice board I have in my hall, next to the photographs of my late wife looking like a supermodel on our wedding day, are two save the dates printed on pretty posh paper. Two of my oldest friends are getting married next year. I love them both dearly and am genuinely delighted that they have found the loves of their lives. We’ve literally grown up together but to see them beaming, so excited about their futures, so immersed and happily stressed by wedding planning is bittersweet for me. Two years ago, that’s who I was too – a giddy 26 year-old, counting down the days, getting ready for her big day, going to the gym (that didn’t last long), choosing music and dealing with a flapping mother-in-law to be who insisted on expensive flowers for my nieces who we didn’t want as flower girls. That giddiness and happiness was tragically not to last. Mental illness killed my marriage and I never did celebrate an anniversary with my gorgeous bride, although I did have a few months being Mrs. Others getting married reminds me of this.
Many widows consciously count the days since their loved ones died. Rightly or wrongly, I have chosen not to do this. My wife is dead. Really fucking dead. She’s just as dead as she was that fateful day when I found her and couldn’t revive her. I cannot define myself by the number of days she’s been dead because that would be defining my life by my widowhood. I point blank refuse to do that. I am me, I am vibrant, I am living, I am laughing and I am open to loving again. I am not just a survivor of suicide.
Bizarrely though, it seems like there is some form of calendar ticking inside of me, a calendar of the heart, which picks up on semi significant dates without me even being conscious of them. On the 18 month anniversary of my wife’s death, I couldn’t figure out why the heck I was feeling so damn sad. There hadn’t been a trigger. I hadn’t smelled her perfume. I hadn’t looked at photos. I hadn’t watched old video clips. What could it be? Then I clocked the date.
There are, of course, the significant dates which I am conscious of. Often, people say that the anticipation is worse than the day itself. I agree with this now, having navigated my way through various festive celebrations, anniversaries and such. Granted, I have been drunk for most of them or spent a fortune gallivanting off to another country, but I more than got through. Tears, yes. Laughter too.
I know that I am not yet advanced enough to carry on with my normal day-to-day routine on these bigger significant dates so I tend to plan ahead and book time off. My mind wanders and I’m not productive so being at work is pointless. May is going to be one of those hard months for me where there’s a sadness in my eyes that people won’t quite be able to pinpoint, unless they have also saved the date. There’s my wife’s birthday tomorrow, and my wedding anniversary a few weeks later.
Two years ago today, on this British May bank holiday Monday, I was hungover. It was always the tradition to go out to a particular gay pub on the Sunday night in an advance celebration of my wife’s birthday. The whole crew would come. We’d dance, we’d sing, someone would kiss someone else inappropriately (including my bloody wife), and we’d haggle with an illegal cab driver to get home. Those days, and those friends are gone.
Who knows how I feel this time round on her birthday, or twenty years down the line. Will I forget the relevance? I don’t know. I think I’ll always have saved the date, albeit I won’t be pinning a calendar to my notice board.
I choose to measure my life in love, not days. I’ll love her infinitely.