I never realized it until just this year, but my birthday, wedding anniversary and big milestones in life are clustered in the same every-five-years pattern. For example, I was born in 1969 and married in 1994. So in 1999, I turned 30 and we celebrated a 5 year anniversary. We also became pregnant with our first child. It was a big year.
Then, on December 2, 1999, the biggest thing happened. My husband died.
I didn’t know how I’d survive. If I’d survive. If I could raise our daughter alone. If I could find meaning in life again or ever trust someone enough to enter a relationship. I did all of the above. I had a beautiful baby girl who looked just like her daddy. I remarried and had another baby girl who also looked just like her daddy. It still makes me chuckle when someone comments that neither of my girls looks anything like me and I say “they look just like their father” and then make a little “Z” sound.
Somehow I made it through the unimaginable with my mind, body, soul, and sense of humor relatively intact.
Humans are resilient and adaptable and even the most painful events can bring humor and comfort with the passage of time and a little perspective.
When you are young and your husband dies no one really knows what to say so I got a lot of cards with quotes about time. If one more person told me that I just needed time, I thought I would lose it. But of course, they were correct. Tolstoy wrote, “the two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” This might be true; but, when you just want to move past the painful phase of acute grief, it’s the last thing you want to hear.
I remember shortly after Greg’s passing I wished I could either reverse or speed up time.
I didn’t want to be in those moments of grief, shock, and pain. I wanted to be in the past, with Greg. Or in the future, when the time had already healed all my wounds.
Recently I was out to dinner with a friend and while talking about Greg, I realized this year was going to be his 20-year deathaversary. Hallmark doesn’t exactly have a card for this. Twenty years! That is ⅔ of my life at the time he died. That’s the exact amount of time it took for me to give birth to our daughter, raise her and send her off to college as a young adult. As our good friend Abraham Lincoln might add, it is an entire score! I’ve had 6 cars since then, 4 of them Honda Pilots. Twenty years is clearly no joke.
In the 20 years since Greg died, there have been many technological advances and inventions. Things like the internet and Urban Dictionary and new words like “deathaversary” that aren’t real words but people say them anyway.
Hallmark may not recognize it but Urban Dictionary defines a deathaversary as “the anniversary of a death.” Obvs. If it’s in Urban Dictionary, it’s a thing.
So it seems that this milestone 20th deathaversary must be accorded its respect. It calls for something big, but not too big as to call attention to itself for the wrong reasons. Solemn, but not sad. A memorial of a life that ended too soon, but a celebration of the life that went on.
It’s hard to have one foot in the past and one in the future. You don’t get to firmly be in the present. And that’s where I want to be this December. Living my life and enjoying the moments. I’ve had enough time to grieve. The future is now. You know, I hate to admit it, but I think Tolstoy was right. 20 years was just enough time for me to figure it out.
Lauren Weiss is a writer & college essay advisor based in Marblehead, MA. Lauren has founded several web-based nonprofits including the Food Allergy Website, Westfield Foodie and Young Widow – Chapter Two. Lauren’s professional work experience includes VP of the Conference Group at Bear Stearns and PR Director at the JCC of Central NJ. Lauren graduated with a BA in Psychology from the University of Michigan. Originally a Jersey Girl, she recently moved to the North Shore of Boston with her husband, two daughters and a floppy cavechon.