This weekend I feel a little like I'm wading knee deep in the muck of life.
You know that feeling. Sluggish, even though you haven't been challenged physically. Eyes at half-mast even though you've been getting enough sleep. Brain not functioning even though...well...actually that's nothing new.
I knew this weekend had the potential to be difficult. I have to give a speech tomorrow for the Donor Alliance, which I'm always happy and proud to do when they ask. And then dread a little more as the event draws near.
I have no problem with public speaking, but sometimes saying the words out loud, telling the story of my husband's death and donation, can be hard. And I never know how it's going to feel until I'm in the moment.
This weekend is a little different, too, because the Donor Alliance asked me to be the master of ceremonies at the Donor Family Tribute. I was a speaker at that event years ago, but as I've gotten further down this widow path, I know now more than ever that I need to be careful about what I say. After all, these people will have just lost someone in the last year and anyone who has had such a significant loss knows that what we all find comforting is very individual.
So, needless to say, it's been hard to come up with the right words that hundreds of individuals, raw with their grief, might find hope in.
Even though it's only Saturday afternoon, this weekend has already had its ups and downs. Yesterday morning, I attended the funeral of a young man who I knew as a boy when my husband and I lived at our first house. I didn't know him well, which is to say I remember him running around the block like all of the kids on our street and I'm sure my husband and I lived in the peripheral for him because our kids were too young to play with. But my heart broke for his mother who lost her son when he was only 20-years-old. When life should just been starting.
Funerals are sad. I bet you didn't know that, huh? Even if you don't know the deceased well, if you take a moment to let what has happened really sink in and think about the impact on the family...it's enough to bring anyone to tears. I watched slides of him as a boy and thought about my own children. I knew that, just as I was thinking - hoping - that something like this would never happen to my child, I'm sure that my friend never thought, when she took those pictures, that she would be sharing them with others at his funeral.
It's hard to think about what it is gone. And in this case, for me, it wasn't just the person...but a time in my life that I had no idea I would look back on and think, "Wow. We really had it good."
We never know that until it's gone, do we? That the moment we're living in will become one of the best in our memory. But as I looked at the slide show of just a regular kid who we'd never really see grow up, I couldn't help but tear up at the background - the houses and friends who helped make up some of the best years my husband and I had together.
That was back when all we needed to be happy was a keg of beer, the back of a truck, a loud stereo, and someone's driveway. When everyone on the block was so close we would spend entire weekends together. When it didn't even occur to us to make plans with outsiders because what more could we need than each other?
My former neighbor and I talked yesterday at the funeral about what we are speculating might be the curse of that block. Because while we were happy at the time, after we parted...things were never the same. Within four houses on either side of the street, we've endured cancer, seriously sick children, drug addiction with the most unlikely people, suicide attempts, my husband's death, an accidental shooting that left one man blind, and now this latest tragedy - the death of my neighbor's son.
"Don't drink the water!" we said at a lame attempt at a joke. But really...I have never known such a small group of people to be so afflicted with just about anything you can imagine.
And while I can now look back on that time in our lives when things were just so damn simple and not realize how almost perfect they were - I'm kicking myself a little for not appreciating it more then.
I think my husband knew. Or I should say...I think he knows. He gave me a couple of signs yesterday that he was with me. When I started the car for the funeral, the song that I've always thought is his way of showing me that he's with me, came on the radio. And yesterday evening, as I stood outside Coors Field waiting to watch my son's choir sing the Star-Spangled Banner at the beginning of the Colorado Rockies game, I saw a man walk by in a jacket from a little cafe in Orlando that my husband loved. And that made me smile a little.
Of course, what really made me smile yesterday afternoon was my youngest daughter. Because as we were stuck in traffic for an hour and a half trying to get downtown, she suddenly said, "Hey! Guess what I got at school today?"
"What?" I said, expecting her to produce a sucker or a certificate of achievement of some sort.
"This!" she said as she pulled something out of her school bag.
Now, with her right behind me, I couldn't see what she had. But my oldest daughter's reaction almost had me slamming into the car in front of me.
"Wha...is that a bird's head?" my daughter screamed.
"It's fake!" my youngest insisted. "Look...the beak is plastic."
"Uh...that looks real to me," said my son.
"Hold it up so that I can see it in the mirror," I said, certain that my daughter had not been carrying around a real bird's head all day.
I was wrong.
So, if you happened to be behind a black SUV on I-25 yesterday that was swerving around and then suddenly had a bird's head fly out the window...that was us.
After my heart stopped pounding and I silently thanked God for hand sanitizer, I could not stop laughing. And even though the whole thing registered about a 9.8 on my Gross Meter, I knew enough, after the morning I'd had, to appreciate the laughter in that car in that moment with all of my children happy and healthy (unless we all come down with some weird bird disease).
What a roller coaster of a day.
Which brings me to this morning.
All showered, pressed, and sanitized, the kids and I left for the girls' last piano recital of the year. We sat in the church and listened to a group of kids of varying skill level playing everything from "a single note at a time" to "did that composer sneeze ink all over that page and how are those hands keeping up?" My youngest, having lost a little momentum in the practicing department this last month, made a few mistakes but powered through.
"Sometimes that's what it's all about," I thought. "Sometimes we fumble around a little, but just have to take a deep breath and keep going."
And then the next girl took her place at the piano. Her first piece was complicated and she played it beautifully. But as she started to play her second selection, she fumbled, tried to correct herself, and then abruptly stood up from the piano.
"I'm just going to let that one go," she said brightly and took her seat.
I chuckled a little to myself.
Sometimes that works too.
Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of www.theWiddahood.com and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014). She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.