My silence here began after the shootings in Connecticut. It felt wrong and disrespectful to write in the wake of their fresh tragedy. I cried daily trying to imagine the horror the victims and parents experienced- to enter into their pain, surprised again by the breeds of darkness that exist here in this world. It brings wordlessness. Amidst all of the finger pointing, the only word that someone posted on FB that felt right to me in those first few days, whether it has any merit or not, was just one: “Maranatha,” “O Lord, Come.”
The 17th- three days after the shootings- was your birthday. I planned nothing with others and embraced it as my own. We picked up flowers and cheesecake to sing Happy Birthday later and drove to the cemetery in the rain. There was a bitter chill, so we didn’t stay long. I left three bouquets- white roses from your parents, pink carnations from Audrey, and red ones from me.
Audrey and I continued singing Christmas carols into Christmas. Our first Christmas that we didn’t travel somewhere to get away from being at home for Christmas. It was fine. We bought a tree and decorated it. I set up a small paper winter village, arranged tall red winter berries with white hydrangea in an antique enamelware pitcher, and decorated our porch with white lights, wreaths with red bows, and Christmas balls. I only broke down one time on Christmas Eve just after Audrey had gone to sleep and I gathered all of the presents I had to wrap on the living room floor by the tree. I told myself it was festive- grabbed a glass of red wine, put on “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the tree lights. There was a package from a friend that had arrived and I opened it up to find a thermos for me and a craft project for Audrey. The Amazon card for mine said something like, “I wish Dan could be there with you,” and with that, I wept on my knees. Then, I went back to wrapping. This is how it is now. Another young widow, a friend of mine now that you knew from college, gave me the analogy of a suitcase. Your grief and heartbreak is something you always carry around with you, she told me, but in the early days everything explodes out of it all over the place when you open it. Later on, it’s more contained- you put things back inside quickly and neatly and pull it along.
I wrote supportive comments on a widow blog to a widow asking about suggestions for New Years’ Eve, “No, I wouldn’t even think of watching the countdown,” I wrote quite pleased with my wisdom. I encouraged this one woman who had no plans and no children or friends to call a friend and do something simple. New Years Eve I think, happened to coincide with the day she lost her husband. But then after an early dinner with another family at a Mexican restaurant that provided noisemakers and balloons for young kids, I found myself sitting in bed and trying to find a live streaming page of the countdown on my computer at a few minutes to midnight. I’m not sure why. I guess just because I was still awake and it was almost midnight. As they started counting down, crowds in Times Square waving and screaming – all crammed together in this moment of human communion- I felt overcome and remembered my own advice on the widow blog. With maybe ten seconds left, I quickly escaped- click- closed the window and went back to the Korean drama I had been watching with my earphones while Audrey slept beside me- the sound of muffled fireworks outside.