When the Music Stops

July 5, 2019

As I cleaned up my kitchen this morning, the aftermath of food prep from yesterday’s barbecue, it brought me to this blog. Once the visitation and funeral are over, the last relative has left town, and you have miraculously found space for yet another baked ziti in the freezer, (a quick and merciful aside: when providing food for a grieving family or anyone in need, please, for the love of all that is good and holy, lay off the ziti, lasagna, manicotti, or anything similar! I think I speak for everyone when I say while we appreciate it and recognize that it’s an easy and cost-effective option, it begins to cause a serious gag reflex. I kid you not. Too much of a good thing, folks. After eating the same thing representing varying degrees of culinary aptitude, one begins to loathe anything with a noodle and tomato sauce. Consider a simple meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Perhaps some chicken? A breakfast casserole is nice. Even a gift card would help soothe those pizza cravings. Anything, dear God, anything, but baked ziti! OK?)

But I digress. As I began to put my kitchen back in order and return to normal, I thought back to the day after my husband’s funeral, when my daughter and her family were preparing for the long drive home. The car was loaded, the cooler was packed, and the kids were ready for the trek down I-95. Normally, my son-in-law is the first to kiss and hug me goodbye but this time he hung back until only he and I were left in the house. He told me that he was loathe to ever offer anyone advice because he hated it when people offered him unsolicited words of wisdom. But he, having experienced an unthinkable loss that affected our family a few years earlier (another blog, another time) wanted me to be prepared for something that was sure to occur and it would occur sooner rather than later. What he said was simple, and of course, I paraphrase: “You have a lot of people who care about you and many have demonstrated that in the last week or so. You will be the most popular girl in the room – for about a month. Then life goes on.” I knew exactly what he meant. And I thought I was prepared for it. I wasn’t naïve enough or self-centered enough to think that those who were so good to me didn’t have to return to their own lives and their own responsibilities. It’s life after all. I have done it myself. I have been helpful and solicitous to someone I care about who has lost a relative or is having surgery or just needs a helping hand for a while. That’s what we as compassionate humans do. But there is a limit, right? Of course, there is. What I wasn’t prepared for was crickets. Crickets as in I never heard from some people again after my other half died – do I only come as part of a couple? Do I serve no purpose without my partner? I have tried to understand, but I don’t think I ever will. And, I am sure I am not alone in this, the complete lack of acknowledgement of my husband’s death – send a card, you ass. I will never let that opportunity pass now that I have been on the receiving end, or I should say, LACK of receiving end. Reaching out to someone, even if you don’t know them well is possibly the nicest thing you can do, especially if they are having a particularly dark day. You just never know. And despite those who were or haven’t been there for me and others in my shoes, there are so many who have been and are. And as is typically the case, they are just silent heroes who just go about their days putting out their own fires, dealing with their own issues and problems, but always, always taking the time to think of others. It makes you want to be a better person when they do something special for you.

It’s true what they say that it’s harder a month after it’s over. It truly is. Most of the paperwork has been completed, you’re no longer the most popular girl in the room and you’re sort of looking around with a quizzical view and a questioning of life’s choices and your own expectations when you were young and wide-eyed. When my husband passed away, I was barely at retirement age. We had plans to downsize, travel, relocate, spend more time with the grandchildren, relax, have some fun. Yeah, well, all that was shot to shit. Not as easy when you’re single, alone and not the most popular girl in the room anymore. But enough for now. That’s future blog fodder. Say that three times quickly.

2 thoughts on “When the Music Stops

  1. Thanks, Mary. Would like to share the wonderful advice I got from my pastor after my husband died suddenly at 59. He said, “When someone invites you to do something, just say YES. No matter what it is. Because if you say NO people will stop asking you.” Almost five years later, I am still saying YES. And am glad I do.

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    1. Eileen, that is excellent advice and I do follow that whenever I can. You seem to be having a great time. I was following your trip with Jean Williams. I had no idea you knew her! She’s great. She used to be in my Rotary club. I hope you are well. Come visit me in Raleigh!

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