Seven years later, and I still feel the twinge.

It’s more than a twinge actually, it is a moment when I feel my heart drop and I want more than anything for things to be the way they should be.

This particular twinge came from an invitation to a girls’ night, “The seven of us want to go for dinner Saturday night. Are you in?” The “seven” have been my closest girlfriends for 20 years, since our now college-age children were babies.

My reaction was a very excited “Yes!” I knew my boyfriend was away that night, so it worked out perfectly – I was excited to have a girl’s night out.

Six of the seven of us are happily married. I am the only widow.

Before my husband died, the seven husbands had become just as close as the seven wives. They were truly great friends. Now that Howie is gone, their friendships are still strong, and I am happy to say that they continue to celebrate my husband often and never let his memory fade.

As we made plans for our girls’ night, I asked, “So where are all the guys going to be on Saturday night anyway?” In typical suburbia fashion, Saturday night is date night and it was odd that they were all going to be without their husbands that evening.

“The guys are all going to Atlantic City for M’s birthday.”

My heart dropped into my stomach. He should be going.

Howie died over seven years ago. I have been through a lot in those years, both good and bad. I have finally come to a good place in my life, a “new normal” as people say. My daughters are doing well, I started a new business, and I am in a great relationship.

I am flowing through life pretty well at the moment, but every once in a while I step on a land mine which stops me dead in my tracks. This was one of them.

I was excited about a night out with my girlfriends, and I was also happy for the guys to have a fun night for M’s birthday. Since Howie’s death, these men have helped take care of me and my daughters and I love them for it. I am always happy to see them celebrating.

The hard part for me was knowing that there would be an empty seat at their table.

Howie was a guy’s guy and loved nothing more than nights out with the boys. To my dismay, he also loved Atlantic City and could spend hours at a Blackjack table. He would have been the first one to jump into this trip. I am pretty sure that he would have been the one to plan it.

This was where my twinge came from. Sometimes I feel a horrible sadness about what he is missing.

I have learned how to push the sadness out of my head and not dwell on it. This took a long time to learn but I would not have survived without this skill.

I decided to remain excited about my evening. I got dressed and jumped into an Uber with my friends. We went to a great restaurant where we sat at a big round table and ate, drank and laughed.

Towards the middle of dinner, my friends started to get texts from their husbands, some with pictures of their Atlantic City adventure. The twinge was there again. Howie should be there, and I should also be getting texts. Knowing Howie, I would be getting the funniest ones. My phone was silent.

My expression must have given away how I was feeling because one of my friends reached over and grabbed my hand.

“I’m sure this is still hard for you,” she said. “Please know that Howie is there with them. He is never forgotten, and they speak about him all the time. We all feel the void.”

The love I felt for my friend at that moment was tremendous. I knew what she was saying was true. He was with them in spirit, and I knew that he would never be forgotten by his friends.

I held back my tears and thanked my friend. We dropped the subject and got on with our very fun evening. I am not sure if their texts kept coming or not, but they were no longer shown to the table.

There will always be times when I feel the twinge, or my heart drops into my stomach. I will always be sad about missing him, and sad that he is missing so much. I am grateful that our friends will always keep him in their hearts and, although I am living a happy life, he will always be in mine.