I’m Not Ashamed

I had prepared a different post to publish today (not this one), but I changed my mind. Instead, I felt compelled to write about how it feels to arrive at the 18-month mark since Suzanne died.

On my personal Facebook page, the memory of what I wrote 1-year ago came up and I posted it—it was from when I was “6-months out.”

In that post at 6-months, I said this:

Six months.
Six months since I last kissed you and you knew I was there. Six months since I had my hand on your heart as it beat for the last time. Six months since I told you how much I love you and you heard me say it.

Six months.
Six months since my life changed forever. Six months since the whole of my universe came crashing down. Six months since I lost direction, purpose, passion. Six months since I lost the promise of a future with you. Six months since you died.

Six months.
Six months feels like six minutes. Six months feels like six lifetimes.

Six months.
Six months without you. Six months since my heart broke into a million pieces and will never quite be whole again. Six months since our little girls last said they love you. Six months since your mum and dad told you they loved you.

Six months.
Six months means it’s now closer to a year than to the day you died. Six months since everything changed.

Yesterday, Feb 19, 2020, marked 18-months since Suzi died.

In the time since she died, I have spent a lot of time trying not to distract myself from grief. Some of the time, I did find distractions (some good, some bad). Other times, I would listen to music, songs, etc. that were meant to bring me back to the times we were together. By listening to songs that reminded me of her, including some of her favorites that I never liked, I felt closer to her and was able to grieve for her.

Then there was my own music. Some of it was music I used to make her listen to in the car, etc. (when I would drive). There were songs she never really liked (“Turn that noise off”, she would say). But others that meant a lot to me.

The summer we got married, I bought a CD and played it almost incessantly in my Jeep when I was on my own. Since I was a teenager, I have had a favorite band. The group is called Big Country.

Big Country are from Scotland and most people of a certain era (age) will remember their 80s hit song “In a Big Country.” What most people don’t know is that the group was not a one-hit wonder (in fact, their second album debuted at number 1 in the UK charts). The summer Suzi and I were married saw the release of their 5th studio album, and it was that CD I had on loop in my Jeep.

In total, the band released 9-albums before their lead singer died (he committed suicide) in 2001. I still own multiple copies of every single album they made.

Big Country, 1997

There are so many of their songs that I grew to love over the years, but one in particular still rings deeply true with significant meaning for me today. It’s from the 5th album, and the song is called “I’m Not Ashamed.” The lyrics are:

We all make our plans, we all have our choices
Try on different faces, talk in other voices
I said a lot of things that never let me sleep
Made promises I really meant to keep
I’m not ashamed of the things I’ve done
I took the blame when I could have run
I’m not ashamed of the things I’ve done
I know I stayed when I could have gone
I don’t expect it to be easy for me

We’re tied together by a simple little pledge
Before we know the trust it takes to walk up to that edge
We build a house of cards where the wind has always blown
We build our little garden on a bed of sand and stones
It took to long for me to be who I am
Maybe it’s enough for me to be it when I can
I’m not ashamed of the things I’ve done
I took the blame when I could have run
I’m not ashamed of the things I’ve done
I know I stayed when I could have gone
I don’t expect it to be easy for me

Our little house is where the wind has always blown
Our little garden on a bed of sand and stones

We drift along in quiet waters on the tide
We rise and fall in rhythm almost satisfied
We let ourselves be drawn, let ourselves be used
I only ever wanted to be taken in by you
It took to long for me to be who I am
Maybe it’s enough for me to be it when I can
I’m not ashamed of the things I’ve done
I took the blame when I could have run
I’m not ashamed of the things I’ve done
I know I stayed when I could have gone
I don’t expect it to be easy for me

I share this song today for several reasons. The lyrics are truly profound to me, and they are meaningful to those of us who are grieving a spouse or partner.

Some of us, me included, said things we didn’t mean, and undoubtedly made promises we truly meant to keep—not just to our person, but to ourselves. We made choices. And one of those was to love someone we thought would be ours for this lifetime, and we lost that person.

I am not ashamed of the choices I made. I am not ashamed of the vows I took. I am not ashamed that I have had to grieve.

Suzanne and Jeff, July 2018

Today, I am not ashamed to look to the future. I am not ashamed to hope for something new. I am not ashamed to ask for something more in my life.

I can look back to the simplicity of the pledge—the vows—we took, never really contemplating in that moment what the “til death do us part” truly means. To me, I thought it would be some far-off day, when we were old and wrinkly… when our kids, grandkids or great grandkids were surrounding us. And yet, we still chose to tie ourselves together by that simple little pledge, and we take a leap of faith into the abyss—the unknown—of a life and love together.

We, as widows and widowers (no matter what the age), know first-hand what that pledge truly means.

Life is full of twists and turns. Fate changes us all and sometimes it is a cruel irony that we never realized that we had created a false sense of security as we built a house of cards on shifting sands.

As soon as the strong wind of death blows, that house of cards falls. As widows, we know this because our card houses came tumbling down around us and yet we still stand amongst the sands of time. Some of us wonder if we will rebuild another house of cards, alone or with someone new.

I ask all of us, “What would it be like to choose to rebuild another house of cards after losing our person?” “Who would possibly want to be the next person willing to take that leap of faith with us?” “Will we ever be ready to take another leap now the person we chose is gone?”

All we do now is drift along on those quiet waters on the tide, rising and falling in rhythm with it. We all know our time is finite, still we choose to let the tide take us to new shores (whether near or far).

To me, the song seems an all too poignant metaphor for the life we lead without our person in our lives. The question I have asked myself lately is, “Have I taken long enough to be who I am?”

Over the last few months, I have spent an exceptional amount of time rediscovering my true Self, my passion and my purpose. Yes, in some ways, I think it has taken me too long to truly be who I am—and that what I am is enough. But I get to be who and what I am now. And I am not ashamed of that person.

The next post will touch more on the part of the journey I took to find my Self and to new love, but I felt compelled to share this post today instead. Thank you for reading.

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