I pulled the car door shut, then fumbled for my phone and dialed Kevin’s office. He picked up on the first ring.
“What’s up, Baby Doll? How’d your dentist appointment go? You can tell me.” His voice lowered dramatically. “Is it…,” he paused for effect, “…the ‘little c’?”
I couldn’t help it. I laughed.
Because, yes. Yes, it was. Lower-case c for cavity. I had my first cavity ever. It hit me hard, but I could count on Kevin to get me laughing about it. I endured several days of good-natured ribbing, especially when it was time to help Little Bear brush her teeth. “You better let Daddy do it, Beary,” he informed her very seriously. “I have perfect teeth, but Mama…well, you know, she’s got a cavity. Not sure we can trust her to keep your teeth heathy.” Then the two of them turned mock aghast faces at me before giggling their way down the hall to the bathroom.
Cancer versus cavity. We were probably the only ones who saw the humor in our “Big C” and “little c” joking, but that’s okay. We’d lived with cancer long enough by then to know how to find the funny in any situation.
And deep down, we knew.
It was not the same.
So many things are not the same these days. I wake up, cook, clean, laugh with the Bear, run her around to archery practice and piano lessons. We hang out on the deck, dangling our feet over the arms of a chair as we cozy up with a good book. We eat pizza and swing in the hammock. And Kevin’s not here to see any of it, to do any of it with us, and it’s getting harder to pretend he’s at work and he’ll be home later – my go-to coping method for most of this past year.
It’s not the same.
Not too long ago, in a fit of pique, someone threw some words at me. Seemingly careless, but designed to wound. Words that hit hard, and slashed deeply as they tore into me and bounced around the brokenness inside.
It’s time to stop feeling sorry for yourself.
I had no defense in that moment. It was only later, after I’d cried my eyes swollen in the dark of my room that I realized what that person didn’t know.
I don’t feel sorry for myself.
I feel sadness.
And that’s not the same.
I am sad. I am so sad, so much of the time. Within the normalcy of this new life I’m creating with my Little Bear, I miss Kevin. I miss my best friend. I miss the old life we had together with our beautiful daughter. I’m sad that he’s not here planning vacations with me, and eating all the crackers and putting the empty box back in the pantry. I’m sad that I’m sitting in his recliner watching television with a cat on my lap, instead of me sitting on Kevin’s lap, kissing him senseless after he’d finally returned from wherever he’d been for so long. I’m so very sad that my girl – who is the image of her Daddy – is growing up without him and will never be able to look at him and realize on her own how many connections they share.
But I think many in our culture don’t understand this everlasting sadness or the enormity of grief. I think grief annoys some people, especially when it lasts beyond what they consider an acceptable timeframe. I think grief frightens many people, because they don’t know how to deal with such raw emotion; it makes them uncomfortable.
I talk about Kevin a lot; I cry about losing him a lot.
But I’m not having a pity party.
This is the biggest loss of my life, and of my daughter’s life. It hasn’t been that long and I expect we’ll be missing him in some way for the rest of our lives. And grief is so overwhelming, so all-consuming, I have to talk about him, and cry about him just to make some space inside me to keep feeling love and hope. When I share my thoughts and tears and memories and fears, I’m letting go of some of that grief and creating room inside my heart to keep living. I’m not asking for pity or attention; I’m asking people to help me hold a space to keep going. Because that’s what I’m supposed to do – what Kevin wants me to do, what my daughter needs me to do. Keep living, keep laughing, keep loving our girl, keep doing whatever I can to leave this world having done all the good I could.
Feeling sorry and feeling sad?
It’s not the same.