There’s an exercise that apparently is quite commonly assigned by grief counselors as part of individual and group therapy sessions. It involves writing a letter to your deceased spouse to say all the things you’re holding inside. You’re suppose to get all your emotions out on paper, all the “woulda’s, shoulda’s and coulda’s” and then you’re suppose to tear the letter into little pieces and throw it away. No more guilt, no more regrets. Wow, life is so simple when you follow the class curriculum, isn’t it. So here goes my widow letter:
Dear Dead Don,
I hate to break it to you but you weren’t perfect like so many other husbands tend to be after they die. I’m not going to use this letter to build you a shrine of flowery words and tell you how I can’t possibly go on without you. I am going to tell you that if I have any regrets it’s the fact that I have to write this damn letter in the first place, that I can’t just look at you across the table and say the words none of us say when we still have the chance. Why the hell don’t the curriculums for living well classes assign this letter writing project when we can still share those letters with our loved ones ahead of death?
I’m also going to tell you that you sure kept life interesting. Between the two of us, we came up with all sorts of lame brain ideas. We talked half of them to death and acted on the other half. And it was fun. It was interesting. It was a life well lived. I'll miss going down road after road with you, me and the dog singing our theme song, that old Harry Woods number that’s been around since 1925:
Oh, we ain't got a barrel of money,
Maybe we're ragged and funny
But we'll travel along
Singing a song Side by side.
I will miss so many things about you. Your smile, your laugh, the twinkle in your baby-blue eyes when something amused you like it did the day you wore the Red Hat Society gear, and I will miss your determination (which at times could be labeled stubbornness depending on the goal you were trying to achieve and whether or not I agreed with that goal). Like I said you weren’t perfect. But I will say you were perfect for imperfect me. You understood me like no other person on earth ever did or ever will and I will miss that most of all.
Don't know what's comin' tomorrow
Maybe it's trouble and sorrow
But we'll travel the road
Sharing our load Side by side.
Gosh, we’d been through a lot of tough times in our forty-two years. Those early years when you fought and won against the demons inside, then there was your mother’s long good-bye which took a toll, and letting go of the farm. Then it was my turn and you were there to share the grief and heartache of my mom’s passing due to a secession of human errors. That was so hard for me to make peace with. Next came the five years of me share-caring for my Dad closely followed by your stroke. We supported each other every step of the way through all the bad times in our lives, big and small. And somehow I know that you are still supporting me now, still telling me, “It’s going to be all right.”
Through all kinds of weather
What if the sky should fall?
Just as long as we're together,
It doesn't matter at all.
But I promise you this, Don. I won’t dwell on the bad times we had together when there are so many good times to out weigh the bad. When I think of the good times vacations top the list. You were always at your best when you were on the road, leaving all your cares behind as you wheeled-and-dealed your way down the back roads of America. Remember the time we were in Utah, on our way home, and you stopped at so many garage sales we only made it eleven miles from morning to night? Remember the time you went into a gas station and didn’t come back out for four hours? And people wondered why I had a mini library in the motor home. Remember all the times at midnight you’d want to go to Lake Michigan to sleep on the beach? I’m taking some of your ashes back to the beach this summer.
Oh, and remember how you always had to remind me to put my wedding band on when we’d leave the house? Well, I haven’t taken it off since your service. I still hate wearing jewelry but the annoyance of wearing that band now is a reminder of how much our marriage meant to you. It’s funny how something could be both annoying and comforting at the same time. You could be both annoying and comforting at the same time, too, and that irony has not gone unnoticed. I told you when I began this letter I wasn’t going to enshrine you with flowery words. When it came to annoying things you did, telling long-winded stories I’d heard a thousand times sometimes fell in that department. And how I wish I could hear one of them one last time.
When they've all had their quarrels and parted
We'll be the same as we started
Just a-traveling along
Singing a song Side by side.
I’m so glad we got to say our ‘I loves you’ in your last days at the hospital. I will never, ever forget you, Don. That seems like a hollow promise considering how old I am and how little time I have left to remember. And that’s assuming I won’t get Alzheimer’s. Sorry, I just had to end this letter with a joke.
Another letter to Don written a few months later than this one can be found here.