I started the process of getting a headstone for my husband today.
Like all the sad details left in the wake of the death of a loved one, nothing is easy. I had been building up to this since he died 3 months ago. I was ready. It felt necessary. I thought I could go in, place the order, pay and mark it off that painful, never-ending list in my head.
Nope. Choices, details, decisions, it is a process. I have done many of the business necessities surrounding death. I had to start early because the vultures descended within a couple of weeks. Someone tried to steal his identity to get credit. While I was still in the deep fog of grief, barely able to get up and dressed, I had to call credit card companies, sign up with identity protection services, remove his name from accounts.
So, week by week I took care of business. I removed his name from the car titles. I removed his name from our checking account. I filed a Termination of Joint Tenancy on our home. The home that he loved.
We bought our property 5 years before we moved here and had it built. He spent months researching plans, showing them to me, discussing them, studying them in detail. He finally got it down to 2. We sent copies to my brother, the builder, to see if we could afford them. That left us with one. He then built a model of this house to scale. It had meticulous detail and a roof that lifted off so we could see the upper floor, then the upper floor lifted off so we could see the lower floor.
My brother was kind of stunned by the model. He used it during construction. I can’t find it. I think it got thrown away as it got well used and dirty and maybe stuff started breaking off.
He was on-site nearly every day during construction. He loved to build things and he was interested in every detail. When the house was finished he knew everything about it, structurally and mechanically. All these years later I’m still not sure where some important things are located.
So when I filed that termination and his name was removed from the County records of this home that he loved so much, it broke my heart. Again.
He hated cell phones. He was proud that he got a very old Motorola, a flip phone with not one smart thing about it, from his nephew. He would only use it when I insisted, usually when we were separated while traveling or shopping. He never recorded a message for his voice mail, because he never checked his voice mail. If he had, I would have kept the phone going just to hear his voice. But that got added to the list and I removed his phone from our joint account and now it’s just my account.
Because he stubbornly refused to use a cell phone, we kept our land line. The answering machine had me cheerfully starting the message with “Hi, you’ve reached Don and Jennine……” This last week I let one of the countless robo calls go to the message and I heard that happy, misleading message. I thought of all the times I had called others after a loss in the family and heard a message that belied the pain of that empty spot in that family. So I changed it.
After each of these changes there is a picture in my mind of me slowly erasing his name off the pages of our lives.
Which leads me back to the headstone. One of the big decisions I had to make was whether or not to put my name on it now. For years I have seen those double headstones where one spouse had died and the other still lived but had a headstone with their name on it in the cemetery. Back then in my innocent, happy days, the thought of having my name on a headstone before I died seemed, well, creepy. Turns out that decision, when it finally came, was easy and feels right. Of course my name will be on the stone. If I chose to leave that side blank, I would be erasing my name from his life.
Here’s how I’m dealing with that fear, the fear of losing him over and over. I’m going to talk about him, I’m going to keep remembering his kindness and love, there’s going to be pictures around the house. I’m going to write about my grief, and that I am grieving this hard because I loved him so much. I am going to remember how much he loved me and how many ways he showed it.
His name may slowly disappear from all the pieces of paper that clutter our lives, but I will never let him be erased from my life.