Love After Death? Scary Stuff!

BeBraveLove

A new romance after a long term relationship can feel a little strange, but a new romance after the death of a loved one can feel beyond bizarre and completely surreal. A good friend and fellow widow met a wonderful guy – yes, not only is it possible, it happens all the time…don’t believe the naysayers out there!  When their Saturday night date ended Sunday afternoon, their relationship segued into the next phase.

She texted me: “This was a huge step for me, first time with someone new, hard to explain the emotions…it’s just…different.”

I knew exactly what she meant. I texted back:  It’s weird and exciting, scary and happy, strange and yet strangely comfortable, thrilling with just a dash of terrifying.

“I knew you of all people would understand the feelings!” she typed back.

When you’re in your teens and twenties, starting new relationships happens more often. But for Baby Boomers fresh out of a decades-long love life, a new relationship can be scary, triggering dozens of excuses to avoid dating at all costs:  Can’t compare. It’s not the same. There’s no one out there.  It’s impossible to meet someone.  I’m too old. I’m too tired. I’m too…[fill in the blank with your favorite excuse].

It’s tempting to do nothing. Nothing can be good. Nothing’s comfy.  And comfort is something you have been striving for through the mourning, the grieving and all the upheaval since the loss.

But (and you knew there was a ‘but’ coming), nothing won’t be comfortable forever. Nothing will eventually nudge you out of your comfort zone. When you get there – and we all get there at our own pace, in our own time – don’t be scared, when it inevitably gets scary.  That’s normal. The new normal. And in the new normal you may soon feel like your old self, or some wonderful new version of your old self.

StartingOver

Midlife Love

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I hear voices from the basement: talking, giggles, screams. It’s my boyfriend, Billy, editing the home movies of his three kids, now all adults. It’s a labor of love, turning memories into Christmas gifts, birthday presents, family keepsakes.

He smiles and laughs, mesmerized by the video clips of his beautiful daughters of all ages throughout the years.  Casey crawling.  Allie swimming.  Nicole posing on the beach.  Vacations in Hawaii. Birthday parties and pony rides. Christmas mornings with mountains of presents. Billy’s so proud of his girls, eager to share their lives from their gymnastic conquests to college graduations. It’s all so lovely. But I wasn’t part of it.

In later-in-life relationships it’s understood we’ve already done lots of living without each other, pasts populated with lovers, spouses, children, friends. Ups and downs. Love and loss. Triumphs and failures. What we are now is in part a result of what we were then.

One of the many things I love about Billy is how much he loves being a father. Taking the stacks of old bulky VHS tapes, he’s tweaking and transferring to DVD their yesteryears. It’s a tedious and time-consuming job, editing out all the minutes of waiting and nothingness – but he’s enjoying the journey.

Whenever I pass his workstation, Billy calls out to me full of excitement about the latest tape: “Look at Allie!” he can’t stop smiling and laughing as she has her way with a plate of pasta. It’s contagious and I’m smiling and giggling, as well. His girls are adorable! Then and now. They’re absolutely lovely: smart, interesting, fun, successful, warm and caring.

Of course, Billy isn’t part of my past, either. He’s not in any family photo albums, never met my Dad, doesn’t know the old neighborhood, and hasn’t been on any of our incredible group vacations. A year or so ago Billy was working on a house project that involved moving stuff in the closets and came upon my wedding pictures. When I got home, he greeted me at the door with the album: “You were a gorgeous bride!”

It’s been over four years since we’ve been together and we keep adding to the memory bank of each other’s history. From the old stories repeated at get-togethers and holidays to cherished photos, we begin to feel connected to – if not present in – each other’s yesteryears. We aren’t part of each other’s memories, but appreciate each other’s past.

Billy’s a wonderful photographer and takes painstaking care to document our lives in photos. We’ve got an album for each year and a separate one for each vacation, our yesteryears. I’m looking forward to filling more albums with a wealth of tomorrows that will become part of our collective past.

Heartache Preparedness?

 

WorryWomanAgain

Once you experience a close death – especially a sudden death – you fully appreciate the overwhelming accuracy of the expression “life can change on a dime.”

Indeed it can.

And when I met Billy, my life changed again, this time in a desirable direction. Who knew we were starting a “rest of our lives” relationship? Now I have a greater appreciation of Pharrell Williams’ lyrics: “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.”

Indeed it is.

But I still haven’t forgotten the dime. What if a distracted driver plows into Billy’s car? What if his plane crashes? And why won’t he wear a bicycle helmet!

Researchers have found that most of  what we worry about never happens, but that’s not the thought that comes to mind when you find yourself in an Emergency Room.

“It’s either a bladder infection or bladder cancer,” said the ER doctor dismissively.

The room was charged with silence, her words hanging in the air, as she and the nurse adjusted the continuous bladder irrigation apparatus (to be known to us as “the CBI” for the next 48 hours) through which Billy’s urine – the color of Chianti – was flowing. Thankfully, after a two-day hospital stay and several tests, we were ecstatic to learn all was fine. No cancer. No infection. No dime.

But before the prognosis, those dreadful hours were filled with rational worry and a trace of panic that had a haunting familiarity. Life doesn’t get easier once you’re widowed.  You’re never prepared to be devastated.

“I want to go first!” I’ve joked with Billy. We laugh in the fleeting security of healthy times and relative youth.

But the reality is someone will go last, with all the suffering that entails.

There’s no way to emotionally prepare for the devastation of losing a loved one. We can prepare for hurricanes, ward off certain health issues and avoid war-torn regions. But we can’t prepare for a broken heart, an empty bed, a silent home.

And so we clap.

“Clap along if you know what happiness is to you”

I do.

Katie Couric Segues from Widow to Wife

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This past weekend, journalist Katie Couric married financier John Molner in East Hampton, leaving widowhood behind. Couric became a widow in 1998 when her husband, Jay Monahan, died of colon cancer.  Widow — it’s a reluctant identity.  In a 2013 interview with More Magazine, Katie Couric discussed widowhood and said, “I think life is more fun when you have someone in your life.”

When you’re finally able to contemplate ‘getting out there’ again, the idea of dating can seem surreal.  How will you ever meet someone special…again? But we do find love. For some, a committed relationship without a wedding works fine; others want to tie the knot. Do you see yourself getting married…again?

There are those who’ll bet love comes but once, and yet…

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Three years ago today, I met Billy.  I’d been widowed for two years, and was ready for a relationship.  On our first date he invited me out for a drink, which turned into dinner; we ended up talking the night away and closing down the restaurant.  Eventually, we made plans to spend the rest of our lives together.

This wasn’t my “first” first date, but it would be my last. ♥

Getting back out there after a 25-year hiatus took courage. And patience. There were many first dates before I found someone second-date worthy.

To all my widowed friends, I hope you’ll give love a second chance…when you’re ready. You’ve probably been advised to “be good to yourself” after all you’ve been through. What could feel better than allowing yourself to be loved?…when you’re ready.  Just as there’s no timeline to the bereavement process, no deadline for grieving, remember there’s no expiration date on romance.

 

The Second Time Around

Written by Sammy Cahn

Love is lovelier the second time around
Just as wonderful with both feet on the ground
It’s that second time you hear your love song sung
Makes you think perhaps that love, like youth, is wasted on the young
Love’s more comfortable the second time you fall
Like a friendly home the second time you call
Who can say what brought us to this miracle we’ve found?
There are those who’ll bet love comes but once, and yet
I’m oh, so glad we met the second time around
Who can say what brought us to this miracle we’ve found?
There are those who’ll bet love comes but once, and yet
I’m oh, so glad we met the second time around

 

SecondTimeAround

 

 

Does loving again dishonor the person who is no longer here?

For those of us who have found love again, we may also find that it’s difficult for friends and family to accept that we’re moving on.  Perhaps you’ve experienced  awkward moments when out with friends or at family functions?  Widow author Carole Brody Fleet’s article “Forget-Me-Never: The Reality Of Remarriage After Widowhood,” offers an insightful glimpse into love after widowhood.
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