Milestones

5 years. Although I stopped counting a long time ago, except when my demarc date comes around, that is how long it has been.

Demarc date is a phrase I coined because when year 1 rolled around, I could not wrap my mind around the word “anniversary” to denote the marking of my husband’s death. Anniversary has a happy connotation to me; the day he died is far from a happy day. Demarcation means separation, so that is what I choose to call it – my demarc date from my physical life with my husband.

It is odd to think that 5 years sounds better than something else and yet 5 years sounds so much better than the product of 31,536,000 x 5 – the number of seconds since he passed away.

I do not know if anyone can relate to a need of mine. A need I always feel most strongly during the autumn. At this time of the year, I feel a burning need to share with others the man I continue to love and respect.

5 years is inconceivable. Our lives are marked and measured at times by milestones. Milestones have a number of years tagged to the passage of time. 5 years ago I praised myself for making it through 5 minutes at a time. In the autumn of 2006, I praise myself for making it through 5 years – it has not been fun, it has not been exciting, but still I have made it here and I have done an okay job at something I desperately did not want to do. In the autumn of 2006 my husband and I would have been celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary; a milestone, the silver one. Instead, in the autumn of 2006, 10 days after what would have been a milestone wedding anniversary, I marked 5 years of physical separation from him. It is very surreal to consider I have reached the point of marking my husband’s death in terms of milestones.

As much as I praise those like Jackie Kennedy who created the model of poise, grace, and dignity in the face of indescribable heartbreak, pain, loss of love, and loss of self, I often wish they had shown more of what I now know they felt, and I often wish I had not so wanted to emulate them. But, I understand the model. It, the grief you feel, is something difficult to share at a time in your life when you feel the most alone. The composure comes from the honor you hold and the respect you feel for a love just stripped from you; it also comes from shock. You do not have to be in the public’s spotlight to emulate the Jackie Kennedy model, for the emulation comes without being summoned. If only one could have an inkling of what it feels like without having to experience it, then maybe it would not have to be felt as based on the model; maybe it would not have to be felt in silence. From those not touched, maybe there would come a fostering of true healing for those touched, rather than the impatience of not “getting over” it and for not “moving on” from it.

I differently define “getting over” and “moving on.” I will never get over my husband’s death, but I have been able to get over many things about his death. I have gotten over not wanting to get out of bed to face another day without him and not wanting to acknowledge another day’s end by going to bed each night; of not being able to see the beauty of the rising and setting sun. I have gotten over not wanting to live without him; I have had no choice, and so I have lived. I have moved on from feelings of complete hollowness inside to finding great moments of pleasure and joy. I have moved on from completely hermitting from the living world; I have moved on to being able to join in with the living. I have moved on to finding ways to cope with it and to learning ways to manage it in my life. I have gotten over having to measure how life is lived according to another’s definition; I have moved on to accepting my choice to emulate, embrace, and find comfort in the “model.” I have made it to the milestone of defining for myself, getting over it and moving on from it.

5 years is inconceivable, but I have made it here. I have made it to a milestone both in arriving at a demarc date and in living my life. So has my son I am proud to say. Now that I am a few days past the darkening of autumn’s days, I can again be thankful for the Jackie Kennedy model, the model most contemporary to me. The model has helped me live through the unlivable. And, I am thinking, I bet they who created the model also found their first milestone inconceivable as well as defining.

© October 2006