Several weeks ago at Grief Group, one of the Widows mentioned that her anniversary was coming up. She said that she was going to visit Archie and release some orange balloons for their wedding anniversary. She explained that Archie was a great Tennessee fan and that orange was his favorite color. She then wondered aloud if anyone would care to join her at the cemetery on that special day.
Candy was hoping that perhaps two or three of us Widows and Widowers would join her to release her 23 orange balloons.
Ten of us showed up.
Do you remember my writing in my blog "Sleep Peacefully My Love" (written on our 28th anniversary 48 hours after his death), that I hoped to make Kirk proud? Do you also remember that I had not driven for quite a few years? I am driving like an almost-real-girl now. I drive myself to and from work. On the highway. But that is as far as I go. I know Kirk would be proud of me driving like a big girl. Well, an almost big girl...
When Candy asked if anyone would join her, I knew two things. I knew I would join her. And I knew I would drive there by myself, a trip farther than I have driven. I knew that was what I was supposed to do. I could have asked to hitch a ride with someone else. But I knew this was something I had to do. Somehow I knew the Holy Spirit was prodding me and telling me that I could and should do this.
Might I take this moment to tell you that I despise the color orange? Sorry, Candy; but that is a color I would never ever wear.
Let me tell you about Widows and Widowers (henceforth called "widdas") in Grief Group. We are people who have joined a club none of us want to join. We have never ever met any of these other widdas before. We wish we had never met them. But bonds form almost instantly. It is surreal. I feel closer to my Widda friends than many people I have known for decades. It is bizarre. But it is true.
So I dug through Kirk's drawers and found an orange T-shirt. Because for Candy and Archie I will wear the despised color orange. I was not the only Widda to sport orange that day. Not only in our garb, but one of the widows brought orange nail polish. (Who'd uh thunk of that? Brilliant!) So all of us, men included, wore at least one orange fingernail that day in honor of Archie.
We arrived at the cemetery and Candy had 23 orange balloons. (and oddly, one blue one). We all took some of the balloons and wrote messages to Archie on them. We held our balloons as we watched Candy trace the letters of Archie's name on his tombstone ~ slowly, deliberately, and lovingly, she traced her fingers through each letter of his name, spelling out his name aloud as she did so. We stood silently by as Candy performed her ritual. She then turned to all of us gathered there. She looked at Archie's name and with a sweeping motion taking all of us in, said, "Archie, I want you to meet my new family."
I don't think there was a dry eye there. I had chills as I realized, Yes. This is my new family.
I cannot convey to you the profundity of that moment. It was a turning point. Yes. This is my new family. These are the people with whom I can be myself. I can say whatever I am thinking and they will not judge me. They will not try to dissuade me. They will hug me and hold me and love me until the pain eases for a moment. And they will understand. Utterly.
Every Grief Group I have attended has at one point or another said that "Your address book will change." I did not grasp the truth of that statement until that moment at Archie's grave. I had realized that people would be subtracted from my address book ~ the people who cannot handle the grief-stricken me, the people who just want me to 'get over it already'. But I had not considered that my address book would have new entries. It does. And they are pure gold.
After we released Archie's balloons and watched them disappear, Candy retrieved the mysterious blue balloon. She walked over to another widow and said, "I know tomorrow is your husband's birthday; so I brought this balloon for you to release for him." Again, not a dry eye.
We feel each other's pain. We understand dates and their significance. At one point during this very emotional celebration, Candy looked at me and said, "And you will not be alone on your One Year".
Four of the other Widdas present that day, have spouses buried in that same cemetery. Two men and two women. So we went around and visited, were introduced to, and spent time at each of those graves.
We spent a couple hours at that cemetery. Then we went out to eat together. Sweet sweet fellowship.
A Turning Point in my Grief Journey. I can't quite describe it or define it. But that day was most definitely a turning point of some kind.
Yesterday was a Widow Breakfast. Next week (Thursday the 25th) will be the One Year Anniversary of Kirk's death. They asked what I wanted to do. All I knew was that it will involve sunflowers. Any of you who knew Kirk will understand that.
I know that I will not be alone with those sunflowers at Kirk's grave next Thursday.
51 weeks. I never thought I would survive. But here I am. I have survived, kicking and screaming many times, but I have survived ~ with God's help, the help of family and friends, and with the Wonderful Widdas that have joined the ranks of my very dear friends.