Letter to Car: On your crapiversary

Today is the anniversary of your death–which I think is much more appropriately known as the “crapiversary” of your death.  You didn’t want “to leave the party early”, and so death was most unwelcome, even as it was accepted peacefully as you looked forward to the life hereafter.

I remember how devastating your death was to so many who were important to me even then. The day of your death was a brutal day–and to remember it will be hard for so many.

Today is the day when Husband will spend time at your grave. He will spend supper with the children.  You are often on his mind…but even more so these last days.  Husband will spend the day with your memory…I have made commitments all day that keep me busy and out of the house

Today is a day for me to create space for Husband to turn his thoughts towards you, his first love.

In these last days, friends have approached Husband to tell him that they remember that this is the anniversary of your death. One friend gave him a big hug and she cried, remembering your death.  The pastor who did your funeral took him out for coffee.  Another friend brought by tulips in your memory. Bright red, of course–you would have loved them.

Do people really know how meaningful it is when they remember a death years later? I think if we did, we all might do it more often.

So often, when Husband is talking about you, his face gets this twisted look, and he exclaims that he is so glad you aren’t in pain anymore.  He shakes his head and his whole body pulls back (picture someone tasting horrible cough syrup) when he talks about the memories of watching you in pain.

It’s like he is willing to endure the pain of your death because that means you don’t have to endure the pain of your cancered body.  I know you think you hid your pain from him…and he tried his best to let you think you had. But he knew.

He always knew.

Your ability to continue living even as cancer ravaged your body is something that has been admired often around here.  You didn’t like being the centre of attention, and would not tolerate cancer getting any attention at all. You sent a Junior Tribe Member out of town for a sports tournament the week you were sent home to die…and he went, because of your encouragement to stay living. 

I think your efforts to hide your pain so the family could lead a “normal” life were so very well intentioned. Your kids were plugged into their lives on “full” until the day you died, and jumped back into their routines within a week, and I think that was good for them.

But the flip side of underplaying your pain is in how you were such a good teacher.  They watched you and learned, I think. I know you never intended it, but kids learn so much from their parents.  And while there are little hints that they miss you terribly, your Junior Tribe Members seemingly handle the pain of missing you just like they learnt from you, which means it is behind the scenes.

That makes it hard for them to move through their grief, I think. It makes is more difficult to know what’s really going on with them. Your well intentioned strategy had a hidden cost that I know you wouldn’t have intended.

You’d be proud of your kids, though. I know it.

They are loving kids with a heart for other people. They care. And they have been nothing short of remarkable in allowing me, and my JTM’s to come into their home to live with them. The first morning I woke up in the Klassen household after coming back from the honeymoon, I was almost sick to my stomach.  How would they react to me living in the house, when it was you they really wanted? How would they relate to me, since my very presence was only possible because you had died?

They were the ultimate in friendly.  I think we’ve been a little wary of each other, but they have been cooperative to set the table when I ask (with only the usual foot dragging that is a normal part of every boy’s behaviour), chat over meals with me, and respond as I ask about their day. I suspect you taught them that.

A poster for the crapiversary of Husband's late wife's death: The song is ended but the melody lingers on...Quote by Irvin Berlin

I’m not their mom, and we all know it.  But they have been willing to accept me as a bonus parent around the house. Sometimes, in what I consider a huge compliment, they aren’t so polite anymore. They grumble when I ask them do something, or merely grunt when I ask a question. That’s a bit of music to this mama’s ears when they grunt and grumble…a sign we are getting real with each other, getting past the polite into authentic.

It’s an odd thing, isn’t it, that we share a husband?  I know he loves me…he tells me often and sincerely. But, gosh, he still loves and misses you.  Lately, it’s been especially your giggle that he recalls…he misses it terribly. Some days more than others…today will definitely be one of the “more” days. He will visit you today at the grave…likely bringing you red flowers.

He has this ability to hold big feelings at the same time in his heart that seem contradictory.  He loves you and he loves me…and those don’t compete.

I think he can hold these big feelings of loss and love simultaneously because of size of his enormous heart. I think he naturally has a generous and gentle heart…I think that was one of the reasons you chose him.

I think we both have excellent taste in men, Car.  J

But I also know that his heart grew over and over again by being married to you.  He will often say, when I comment on his kindness and generosity in a situation: “Car taught me that”. He cleans up after himself in the kitchen. He puts gas in my car. He asks me when I’m quiet if something is wrong. I watch him call a friend up who has been going through a rough time.

You worked with him really well, and he knows how to be an excellent husband, in large part due to you.

(Though I got after him last week for a laundry basket that was tucked away in the corner of the basement…it was a treasure trove of all manner of things that I had been looking for lately.  I let him know that piling odds and ends that are lying around the house into one laundry basket and hiding it doesn’t constitute as “cleaning up”.  He said, with his gentle smile, that I was not the first person to mention this to him. So…thanx for trying to work with him on this…I continue to build on your good efforts, but I’m not sure I’ll be any more successful than you were on this this one.) 😉

One of the things I admired best about Husband was how you and he loved each other so richly and deeply; how the two of you outsmarted cancer by using the experience to grow as spiritual human beings, and to grow stronger as a couple. My life is infinitely richer now because you played such an important role in the lives of those that have become so very dear to me.

Thank you for the myriad of ways in which you have positively impacted my life. I am grateful.

But today, I am more aware of sadness, and of the great loss of the world that now exists without you in it…the holes that continue to gape in the lives of your (and now also my) loved ones.

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