I desperately wish I could go back in time.
To the days when we texted stupid things throughout the day. To the days when I yelled at you for staying in the gym too long. To the days when you, me and Lola spent all day inside on a Saturday eating pizza for all our meals because we were too lazy to go to the grocery store.
I’ll even take most April 16, 2016. It started off simply, sweetly and normally enough. Lazy morning in bed, pancake breakfast at the clubhouse and then an afternoon at the movies. All while in sweats and a messy bun because that’s when you swore I looked most beautiful.
I’m starting to see that time doesn’t heal all wounds, but I read somewhere that it does “give you the tools to deal with all of them.”
You see, at one year out, the pain is still just as real as it was on April 17, 2016. In many ways, worse.
I now know what it’s like to live without you.
That thing we both feared. The reason you asked me to stopped knocking on criminals’ doors to get their sides of the story. The reason we moved closer to your job so you wouldn’t have to drive an hour and remain in traffic with thoughtless people behind the wheel.
But it got us anyway.
You worked so hard to protect me. To make sure I felt safe and loved. I tried my best to help you think three steps ahead and include the unfortunate “could be” scenario in possible plans.
If only I had succeeded that night.
That stupid night when you wanted some stupid snacks, and had them in your hands. You were feet away from our home… from my arms, from our life.
I’ve been blessed with a great network of support. Our families are my rocks. My friends have thought of things my brain couldn’t. Strangers have become friends by shining light in my darkest days. I know everyone doesn’t have that when the unthinkable happens, and I’m truly sorry for that reality. It’s taken a village to get me to this point. I couldn’t imagine doing it alone.
If I’m honest, I’m slowly remembering what it was like to be on my own.
I now often look upon those years God made us spend apart while dating as cruel. We lived in different cities and towns for seven years. It strengthened our bond and taught us to communicate in so many ways. I wish we had been able to spend those years together, but in a way, that time is helping me now.
The muscle memory of knowing you were always in my corner – even though you often couldn’t physically be in my corner is coming back to me.
Remembering what it was like to see you after weeks apart.
Learning how to go long stretches without hearing that big, beautiful laugh.
I’ve learned the dead do talk back; We just must listen closely.
I don’t mean in ways we’re accustomed to in this world. It may sound strange if you have been blessed to not lose someone close to you, but certain breezes on clear days; the cardinal with his bold, red chest perched high on a nearby tree branch; the song with a message that pierces your heart at just the moment you needed – they all help me “hear” you.
And though it’s nowhere near those great hugs you gave me when you returned home from work, I still do feel your presence surrounding me.
But it’s not the same.
I constantly battle angry thoughts over why our bond had to be broken while others’ remain. Why did someone kill MY husband when there are so many jerks still walking this planet?
As a widow mentor told me, over time, the edges soften.
If only we had been warned.
If only we knew that April day was going to be our last together.
I still remember the intense pain that filled me that first week. The ringing sound you hear in movies during the most difficult scenes, y’all, it’s real.
All I could do those first few days was curl into a ball. I mean literally everything physically hurt. My heart literally throbbed.
My heart still physically pains for your presence, but I’m trying.
I try to get up and push through each day to do what I think God has left me here to do.
There are so many things. We always tried to stay focused on the goal so that’s my reason for living now: staying pressed toward my goals, our goals.
I can sometimes still hear you cheering me on, beaming with pride. I can sometimes feel you pushing me out of bed, trying to stick the toothbrush in my hand to get me going on so many difficult mornings.
I honestly had no idea how I’d make it a week with this pain. I don’t know how it happened, but I did it. I made it to one year.
I made it to the anniversary no one wants, but we’ll all have one day. Today is your first angelversary.
We won’t celebrate together.
You can’t suggest I throw some clothes in a bag and hop into the car so you can take me to that adorable bed and breakfast in St. Augustine.
I can’t bake your favorite dessert and watch your eyes shine brightly as you take your first bite and act as if it’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever eaten.
This one we each must mark on our own.
And marking the first one on Easter nonetheless? I don’t quite know what God is trying to tell us, but I think we all know it’s something major.
One year out.
In those first few hours and days, I thought there had to be some way to bring you back. That brought me some comfort through those first few weeks.
Then the first month hit, and my heart sank even deeper.
Every month after you traveled further and further away from me, and it pushed me further into a darker place.
Here, one year out, I’m living something I never thought possible.
In many ways, I’m a shell of my old self.
The sadness lives here; sipping tea and eating butter cookies with the rest of my emotions daily. However, I’ve also grown into something I’m proud of and I know you are, too. I traveled to India; I’m writing again; I started working on legislation and scholarships in your name; I even bought our first home, and so much more.
One year out, I’m learning the pain doesn’t go away; you just learn how to live with it.
My anger is amplified when strangers try to sneak into your place. Do my rings not signal there’s no room here for anyone else? The world sees a single woman. My eyes see a married woman doing the best she can to live a solo life. Every compliment, every pick-up line, every attempt makes me want to scream and show them a bit of those self-defense moves I picked up over the years.
Living this life is so difficult.
The world sees what it wants. My heart feels the only thing it can. And nothing adds up to anything helpful.
As a widow mentor told me, over time, the edges soften.
Some days I fall on the jagged parts and it cuts open the wounds, spraying pain everywhere without warning. Other days, a memory presses forward. The pain is there, but I’m able to hold back the tears – at least until I make it home.
The hardest part of all of this is knowing I must wait my entire lifetime to see you.
There’s no expiration date or “next Tuesday” or even circling a date in 2020 that could solve this problem.
We have a love that soothes my soul.
We had a relationship that those together ten times as long weren’t guaranteed to be blessed to experience.
You will always be my only.
You will always be my husband.
Never moving on, but trying to move forward.
Please note I wrote this post on April 16, 2017, which was exactly one year to the day that my beloved Rasheed died, however, I couldn’t find the strength to revisit this and actually post it until a month later on May 12th. It’s grief. Doesn’t make sense, but I’ve learned to do what’s right for me, and sometimes that means writing, but not actually posting. XO