Do you know that my husband would have been 60 years old had he still been alive?
Do you know that I thought he would have been 59? Yes, I forgot how old he is. Only gone 6 years and I can’t even remember his age!
All week I have been working hard to be positive during this hateful, painful time – where we get to remember both Adrian’s birth and his death in the same week. I have purposefully concentrated on the happy memories. How we met and fell in love, our wonderful sons and the music he loved! This year, for the first time in 6 years, I didn’t shed a tear on the anniversary of his death. Well, good for me! Whoop de doo! I must be moving forward in this slow grief process. Onward and upward! Great stuff – just ask everybody. They tell me that is a real step forward and I believed them and myself – it was.
Today, Adrian’s birthday, I forgot how old he was going to be! I can’t believe that after only 6 years I have forgotten how old my husband was to be? I mean to say, we celebrated 28 birthdays together and now I forget?
The tears started ….. and then I realised that there were indeed other things that I failed to do this year. I hadn’t spoken to his mother on the anniversary day! How could I NOT do that? I had visited his grave but unfortunately there was a burial right next to his grave, which meant I couldn’t really have any alone time to arrange the non snapdragon flowers on the grave. Yes, only BabyBoy was able to find snappies to put on the grave but not me …. I left looking too late.
I feel shame today. I feel ashamed today. If moving on means forgetting – I don’t want to move on! I want to stay stuck in the middle of my grief …. at least I remember then!
When you have been married to a Preacher Man, no matter how many years ago, when he dies, your memories good and bad will always be tied to those special Christian festivals.
I love the holiday celebrations. They have always been my thing. It started as a child for me, when my hard-working parents couldn’t afford many extras during the year but at birthdays and Christmas and Easter we were spoilt with gifts and food and church festivals. Don’t get me wrong – we never went without anything on a day-to-day basis – but excess was often the go at holiday time! Rituals were begun and followed. Like the yearly Christmas visit to my Dad’s brother’s place, where my Aunty always had her tree decorated with lollipops! Or the fact that Mum always included a religious gift with our Easter eggs. I remember with delight a beautiful pink twinkley cross to wear around my neck and my Living Bible that was all the rage in the 1970’s. Christmas was church and carols and Advent Dinners and beaches and new dresses for the Sunday School Nativity.
I grew up in Auckland, New Zealand in a church with many European nationalities. Each of those wonderful families brought a lot of their home culture to my Mandy Christmas tradition that was being moulded. Candles were always important, as was music, food, and seasonal colours. A real tree was much-loved and decorated with the symbols of God’s gift to us. The Advent Wreath, that dripped candle wax on you, at Communion time, if you were not careful. And Carol singing will always begin in my mind with
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
and end with
Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.
So it was not surprising to me, that I chose to get married during Advent to my Preacher Man. The church was decorated with the previously mentioned Advent Wreath and there were pine fronds in the church flowers. I was presented with a beautifully decorated rolling-pin to carry from a Swedish family, which I cherish to this day.
And so my own family tradition began! Adrian’s family were not much on tradition, so it took few years to train my Preacher Man up on what was expected. A real tree was found and decorated with love and family heirloom decorations. If money was tight, as many presents as you could buy for a set amount must be bought and each item must be wrapped individually! The Advent Dinner must be full of purple and candles and Carols. Then as our Boys arrived, more traditions developed with decorations galore, many with a European touch and presents opened on Christmas Eve, after church, as a nod to both of our German heritage. The Boxing Day test match on TV was never missed. Our family celebrated the Christian holidays with gusto – both Christmas and Easter.
They were our favourite ….. and then Adrian died …… on an Easter Monday!
How to go on? Not only on a day by day basis but those special holidays that were all of a sudden raw and full of pain. He would want us to celebrate. After arriving in our marriage with little or no Christmas celebratory spirit, Adrian, in his last years questioned why the Christmas tree couldn’t stay up all year long! He loved it!
I go through the motions of Advent – the season of anticipation and preparation for the coming of the Christ Child but also the coming of another wedding anniversary – spent alone. I buy and wrap each gift with love and thoughtfulness but when I sign the card from Mandy or Mum or Aunty Mandy and not Mandy & Adrian or Mum & Dad or Aunty Mandy & Uncle Adrian, there is always a lump in my throat and a sadness in my heart. I decorate the tree using the old and much-loved family decorations, wishing it could stay up all year long.
The same occurs at Easter time where my heart is grateful for God’s sacrifice of his Son but empty at the loss we experienced at this time almost six years ago. But my Preacher Man would want me to continue the traditions we forged as a family in the 30 years we spent together. For our Boys and their future families and for those around me that help me through these times. I try to continue making meaningful rituals that symbolize that life continues and we take our memories with us as we move on.
I am grateful for the reminders of God’s grace and love and the certainty of being reunited in eternity. I can acknowledge the peace that passes all understanding but I give myself the permission to struggle through these wonderful celebratory days, with my heart brimming and my eyes glistening with love and loss. And if I choose to be quiet and withdraw from life some days – that’s acceptable too!
Today it happened! For the first time, since beginning The Mandy Diaries, a couple of months ago, I don’t really know what to write. I am thinking, should I write a post about my obsession with Christmas? Too early? I should write about being a single parent of three grown men? But is that really interesting? Maybe because I wrote about my Mum, I should also write about my wonderful Mother-in-law? She does turn an amazing 96 years old this week! I just don’t feel motivated to write about any of the above things. I need to write about something but I feel blocked. I am just not feeling it. For me to write it, I must be feeling it. So what am I feeling?
I just miss you, Adrian!
There I’ve said it.
I miss you, Adrian!
It’s been five and a half years since you died and as the years go by, the loneliness does not get better, it just gets different! Sure the day to day functioning improves. Change happens because it has to and because you want it to. But, for me, the aloneness hits often and hard and when I’m least expecting it! Like today! So this is what I am feeling so I will write it.
I miss you, Adrian!
We were a team for 30 years – 28 of them married and living away from each of our families. Yes, the leave and cleave thing ….. we did that alright! We were different but we were the same. One of our mutual friends, when hearing that we had met, fallen in love and were to be married, said that we deserved each other! We laughed at hearing this but as the years passed not a truer word has been spoken about our relationship. We loved hard and played hard and fought hard and we never gave up on each other. Our life together was littered with hard stuff – lots of it! Loss was a common theme. We lost babies before they were born. We lost our beloved Ministry. We lost our fathers. We lost businesses. We lost our health. We lost money. But we continued to have each other. Loyalty was our thing. If you picked on one of us, you got both of us. When one couldn’t any more …… the other did!
I miss you, Adrian!
Our life together was sprinkled with amazing stuff too! We had three incredible boys who now are, creative and adventurous men who show tenderness and loyalty beyond measure. We had a wonderful extended family who went on this journey with us but allowed us to choose our own path. We had friends that went beyond the bounds of what friendship should expect. We had shared celebrations to make memories forever. We had holidays and football Grand Finals and weddings and music and a lovely home and great food! I still have every one of these things, today! But ….
I miss you, Adrian!
Not the big things because you are still in all those things. Not so much the physcial things because I see you every day in our sons, that have so much of your ways about them. Not even the doing, as much as the being!
I miss you, Adrian!
I miss the banter and verbal jousting that we had. I miss the knowing look across a room, that told me that you saw me and was on your way to rescue me from that boring person or topic, in a conversation. I miss watching out in a crowd to see if the person you were talking too, needed rescuing from you!! I miss calling you up to share some life altering sporting news that only you and I would see as life changing! I miss the deep breath we took together, before we faced the world of decision making – whether it was a School Principal, an Oncologist, the police or hospital on the phone! I miss being able to share news and talk about mutual friends that no one else knows. I miss knowing that I don’t have to cope alone, no matter what the situation.
So today, that is NOT a special or important day. NOT an anniversary. Not an especially hard, lonely or emotional day. These are the things I miss. These are the things I am feeling, so these are the things I write about.