Today it would have been five. It should have been five. This year, more than any of the other four, we worked our marriage hard.
Because we’d been under so much stress with my work and his career change, with family situations, and with a recurrent conflict between us, we started a marriage enrichment book during Lent. It took us longer to work through than we anticipated, lasting well past Easter and into the Pentecost season. It sits unfinished behind a pile of cards on my dresser, including the four cards he gave me on each of the anniversaries we did have. Though I’ve read through the cards, I haven’t been able to look at the book yet. The notes about improving our conflict resolution and increasing our understanding of each other’s feelings would be too cruel a reminder that our work didn’t get the full resolution we intended to celebrate on this anniversary.
I want to be grateful for the time we had, but an attempt to ONLY be grateful is foolishness. I am angry to be 42 and not only a divorcee but now a widow too. I feel unlucky in love, even as I understand how lucky I was to find a second love that healed me so thoroughly from a disastrous first. I am jealous that my first husband has more years with his second spouse than I will ever get with mine. I am afraid that my life won’t include a relationship that spans decades, like I’ve always wanted.
Grief makes every experience emotionally multi-faceted. I long for the simplicity of feeling one thing only: just joy, or just sorrow, just anger or just fear. Instead, I tend this crowd of emotions as best I can, knowing how unruly they become with the slightest provocation. Especially on a day like today, which is flooded with memories that used to be only happy, but are now tinged blue with grief.
Nothing feels quite right to mark this day, so I will be doing little things I hope will add up to a recognition worthy of this fifth year. I will read the vows we wrote each other (against my will, let it be noted). I will wear his ring along with mine. I will travel with three of the children he gave me, plus my own firstborn, holding them close to me as we get out of the town we were married in. I will read those four cards and look at the photos from our day. And I will try not to cry so much that I embarrass the kids.
I am sure it will not satisfy the ache of missing him, but maybe it will honor the love that causes it. This love was created and nurtured between us. It made us family, and it is stronger than death. This love will not let me go, and I am glad of that.