Facebook’s ‘on this day’ feature is a widow’s worst enemy. OK, so it’s heart-warming to be reminded of drunken university bops in a sexy secretary costume a decade ago at Oxford. However, I sometimes get reminded of events that make me profoundly sad.
What made me tearful today was that it was four years ago yesterday that my late wife proposed to me.
I forgot the date and it was Facebook, not her, that reminded me. I messaged widow bestie.
‘Realised why I felt shitty yesterday and took the day off. Totally forgot but the calendar of the heart keeps track. I got engaged eight years ago. Facebook just reminded me.’
Then I realised that through my snot and guilt, I couldn’t even do maths.
‘Waaaaaaait. Not eight years. Four years. I’m such a shit wife.’
How could I not recall the date of the beautiful time when, in the bollock freezing cold at 7am, she wrapped her arms around me while we looked out at the view from the old city walls in Tallinn and asked me to marry her? How could I forget our champagne fuelled breakfast followed by a celebratory nap? Well. I just did. It passed me by without me having a clue, although my body manifested the emotion that must have been somewhere inside me in physical illness.
When I realised my failure, I had one of those noisy sobbing fits where the devastation of the loss came crashing down on me again. They’re extremely rare now but tonight I experienced that pesky emotion that creeps in from time to time – guilt. Guilt that she is fading away and I’ve moved forward. Then, after about five minutes, I could cry no more and my tummy muscles decided they’d had enough exercise.
Clarity comes much easier these days, two years since she died. My late wife is my past and it’s ok to forget bits. I’m allowed to not cling to and acknowledge every significant date. I don’t need to go sailing pink paper boats down the river while listening to Annie Lennox and releasing doves into the sky. I don’t need to sit in her half-blue athletics club hoodie on the sofa, looking at a shrine of photos and sentimental items to honour her. And it doesn’t make me a bad wife or erase the love we shared. I think about her every day, but then I forget because I’m busy focusing on the good stuff, swept up in feeling happy, singing away and enjoying life.
After everything, I damn well deserve the good and I’m going to do my best to prevent guilt eclipsing my joy. I didn’t deserve to lose my wife, it was not the plan, but shit happened. She died. I will not sit in the corner and wear black for the rest of my days when so much is out there for me. I deserve to embrace life and all it’s wonderful things, colours, feelings and special people. Must. Keep. Reminding. Myself.
Today, I kissed a special someone under an umbrella in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral. 17 December – that’s a new special date. Why? Because I’ve never kissed under an umbrella before and I felt the joy spread all through my body down to my toes.
Here’s to new memories.