Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Friday, September 26, 2014

Visiting the Cemetery



I was in my husband’s home town a lot this past week so I popped into the cemetery to---to do whatever it is we widows do while visiting a gravesite. I still haven’t figured out why we go. It’s not like Don is there, buried six feet under. Part of his ashes are but his ashes are all over the place: on the shores of Lake Michigan, in the winds over a ghost town he loved, along a nature trail, in our back yard, in a river that runs through town, in a locket, and in a four inch high, boxed urn tucked in a bookcase. I was a regular Johnny Appleseed when it came to spreading his ashes. I had to make myself stop coming up with places where I thought his ghost would like to roam. And I’m still surprised I didn’t find a way to ship some of his ashes out west to the mountains in Colorado, his favorite place on earth. I was on a mission that spring after he died. I told myself it was a mission to please him but I suspect I was just making sure I had places to visit Don that didn’t involve going to a gated community full of dead people. But you've got to admit, Don is now part of the Classic Elements: Earth, Air, Water and Fire and there is something poetic and eternal about that.

The cemetery is a pretty one full of trees and hills and they don’t restrict the height of the stones like so many places do. Don picked out the plot himself, based on the fact that his life-long friend and his wife bought the lots next door. Party time when we all join him there, I guess. That thought tickled Don’s sense of humor. This week, I did not expect to see the stone with our names on it so overgrown! Vegetation covered up half the surface since I’d been there earlier this year. It made me sad, mad and embarrassed that I hadn’t check on it sooner. I didn’t have any tools with me but I pulled out what I could, unearthing a nest of angry ants in the process. I tried but couldn’t ignore the ‘yuck factor’ the ants brought to the experience. Ants will take over the world….or so I’ve heard and now I have proof.

I stopped by my sister-in-laws house while I was out and about and we got on the topic of burial verse cremation. She wants to be buried and I said, “I don’t care what they do so long as they make sure I’m really dead first.” But I am getting cremated and my box of ashes will reside down with Don’s and the ants. Yuck, yuck, yuck! Have I mentioned YUCK! I don’t like ants. She doesn’t want her kids to spend a penny more on her funeral than she spent on her husband’s funeral and I said, “Considering how long ago he died and how much longer you can live you’re going to get buried in a cardboard box! Prices go up.” She laughed as I knew she would. My sister-in-law has been a presence in my life longer than my husband was at this point in time. How strange the math gets after someone dies. I’m now older than my husband was. He’s like one of those butterflies that got trapped in amber for all eternity. My memories of him are fossilized and grow yellow with age, perfectly preserved with no chance of growing in numbers. Maybe that’s why we widows go to cemeteries? We need to polish the amber from time to time, to see where we’ve been to know where we’re going. We give an accounting at the gravestone, ticking off on our fingers our widowhood accomplished. Hey, Don are you listening? Am I doing okay? Are you doing okay? What do you think about the classes I took? As I said these things in my head, I felt like Little Orphan Annie searching for her lost past and future all rolled into one. If only that were possible for widows like it is for orphans searching for their birth parents.

The trees at the cemetery are entering their show-off mode. Some people love the fall color palette---the yellows, browns, oranges and golds---but it’s my least favorite. It signals change and effects my moods in a negative way, says the woman who wouldn’t eat orange foods until I was over forty. Years ago I took a class on Color Psychology where I learned it wasn’t just in my head, there are physiological reactions to colors which explains why they don’t use orange in the psycho wards. Interior designers know this. People who create commercials know this but what does all this color talk have to do with a widow going to a cemetery? Not much. I just got sidetracked thinking about how much easier it is to visit in the spring when the promise of renewal is palatable in the air we breathe, when the crabgrass hasn’t claimed the stones and the ants are still hibernating underground. Out of sight, out of mind.

I didn’t cry while I was at the cemetery but I chocked up as I drove through the gates to go home. I could feel the tears behind my eyes begging to spill out. But I told them, “NO!” I am woman! I am strong and I will forge a new life for myself even if I die trying. ©

14 comments:

  1. I was a regular Johnny Appleseed when it came to spreading his ashes.
    I think that is a wonderful metaphor (is that actually a metaphor?). Your writing is really very good! You brought me along with you and I thank you for sharing it.
    Regards,
    Leze

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  2. Yup, it is a metaphor and I'm SO glad to know I'm not the only Johnny Appleseed. At the time I was doing it, I didn't dare to tell family and friends I was doing it for fear they'd think I was acting weird. Thanks for commenting!

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  3. Well Johnny? You did a great job. Fred wanted his ashes spread behind 2nd base at the ball field where he played--impossible! He also wanted some of them buried with his mother...in Wisconsin--impossible as I wasn't going to drive around Chicago to get there. I did fulfill one of his wishes--the ashes of his 15 year old dog, who died 11 months before Fred, were buried with him. Actually--the dogs, ashes were in a really cute metal box with doggie paw prints on it--much nicer than what Fred's ashes came in. Oh my Gosh--how did I get on this tangent?

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    1. Talk about a hard mission, 2nd base! His mother's grave could have been accomplished by sending them to a near-by funeral home and paying them to do the deed but what a lot to go through. I would have given some of his ashes to his kids and tell them to carry out their dad's wishes on these two. I didn't know Michigan allowed pet ashes in a cemetery for humans! I'll have to look into that for Levi.

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  4. I have not experienced this loss and all the emotions that go along with this loss, but I was with you every step of the way.

    I feel the same about fall as you do. Not my favorite season either.

    Have a blessed day my newest friend. ☺

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    1. I'm glad to know someone else who doesn't like fall! thanks for sharing that.

      It's a beautiful day out and I'm going to the grocery store.

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  5. H and I want our ashes spread on the Atlantic Ocean on the Outer Banks. My son will probably store us in a storage facility and forget about us.

    The cemetery where my parents are buried does a pretty good job of keeping it neat and clean.

    You are a strong woman and this is beautifully written.

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    1. You could always sweeten the deal and include money for a nice vacation on the Outer Banks to go with the ashes. LOL

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  6. my charlie is in a veterans cemetery about 20 mies from me, his wish. i shall be there with him some day. it's a lovely place and i love the wreaths at christmas and the flags on holidays everywhere. but when i go i really do not feel he is there. i think he is still in the apartment with me sometimes. i really do.

    hugs, bee
    xooxxoxoxo

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    1. I feel Don is with me here, too, at times. I felt that way constantly in the first year, then something changed and it's only occasionally now.

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  7. Poignant and beautifully written -- love your metaphors (that class is paying off!), your humor and your heart.

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    1. Thanks Donna. I think the class isn't so much teaching us how to write metaphors as it teaches us to recognize them, and how cutting just one little word in a sentence can change a simile to a metaphor. For example: Changing 'my life is like...blah, blah to 'my life is....blah, blah blah.

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  8. Better rethink your sister-in-law's cheap funeral. Here in Australia, at least, cardboard coffins cost way more than the cheapest 'wood-ish' ones. Go figure! The boffins find ways to make money on anything trendy, it seems.

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    1. You've got to be kidding! Who would have guessed that? Here, the cheapest is actually renting a coffin and buying the coffins that are like shipping containers.

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