Sunday, April 2, 2017
I have never not been a single mom. Not for a day, an hour, or even one minute. My partner died in an accident when I was just eight weeks pregnant. We lived together, were in the midst of planning a small wedding, and had planned to have a baby. When I found out I was pregnant I waited all day to tell him the good news. When he got home from work I sat him down and told him I was with child. His smile was profound, the biggest I had seen on him yet. He looked over at me and said “I’m gonna be a dad” and jumped up with his sports fanatic zealousness that I had grown to love. We had spoken about this many times before and immediately began arguing about names, whether our child would be allowed fast food, and how many hours per day “it” would practice basketball! He did not hesitate to announce it to the world although I preferred to wait a bit.
I took a trip to see my family soon thereafter, several states away. They were all excited for the new addition and were helping me plan the wedding. I picked out a dress (an unconventional purple) and invitations. I booked the venue. I asked for my partner’s input on songs for which he replied “I don't care” and then, after I pressed him finally responded with “Love is a Battlefield”! We weren't the typical couple. We were on opposite sides of the fence on a lot of big issues. We debated often. But, in the end, we both carried the same core of integrity and had each others backs. He was the best man I’d ever known and I was proud to be planning a lifetime with him.
Then the day arrived. My bags were packed and I was heading towards the airport to get back to my life with my love. My wedding dress was neatly folded in my suitcase and all I could think about was giving him a giant hug when I saw him that afternoon. I missed him greatly after only 6 days apart. I was beyond excited.
I had left my phone in my back pack and I must not of heard it, because when I pulled it out I had 7 missed calls. (It was only 7:30am). I listened to the first voicemail and my heart sank. It was the HR person at our job (we worked at the same place) and she said that my love had been in an accident. I couldn't believe it. Thoughts and fears flooded my mind immediately. Had he been in a car accident on the way to work? Did he break any bones? I called back and got the news. A keg that he was cleaning had exploded, and he was in the hospital. I was in shock. The next minutes were consumed with worry and various phone calls. Now I was beginning to worry on a deeper scale. Could he be paralyzed? Brain injury? When I spoke to his best friend it was clear that this was far more serious than a broken bone. Finally, I got a call from the hospital. The nurse told me I needed to get there immediately, but I couldnt! I explained that I was on my way to the airport and I would be there later that afternoon. Then the doctor got on the phone. He explained to me exactly what had happened to my love. When the keg exploded, pieces of it had impacted his head and chest causing “irreversible damages” and sending him into cardiac arrest. I asked how he was and what this meant. He said plainly, without emotion, “He didn't make it”. The next hour was a blur. I remember screaming, punching the dashboard, crying hysterically. I remember my sister pulling over and crying. I remember my young nephew in the back seat freaking out and not understanding what was happening. I didn’t understand either. I couldnt understand. It had to be a horrible joke or a dream….a nightmare that I could not escape.
My sister did not want me to board the plane alone, but I had to go. I needed to be with my love. I needed to see him and hold his hand. I couldn’t get there fast enough. In the airport my tears would not stop. I was crying uncontrollably the entire wait and then the entire flight. No one spoke to me. No one asked if I needed help or even needed a tissue. A couple sat next to me on the plane and the man was blind. The woman (I assumed his wife) was reading aloud to him. They were very affectionate with each other, touching and kissing the entire fight. I just wanted the plane to crash. I wanted to die.
When we landed my friends were waiting. They had a blanket and tissues and they drove me directly to the hospital, which was still an hour away. We went inside and had to wait even longer. Then we finally went upstairs. We talked to the doctor and he asked if we had any questions. I said no, that I just wanted to see him one last time. A nurse walked us into the morgue and into a small room off to the side. I felt faint. I felt out of my body. This could not be real.
There he was, lying on the cooling board with his body covered in a white sheet. His face and hands were exposed. The first thing I noticed was one of his eyes were open. His beautiful blue eye. I got to see it one last time. I walked up to him and rubbed his eyebrow as I often did. I held his hand and I cried. I have no idea how long I stayed, but I never wanted to leave. This was it. There was blood in his teeth and he was so cold. When I left him, just 6 days before, he had held me all through the night with those perfect warm hands. This was the last time we would touch.
Fast forward five years: I am a single mother to an amazing four year old son. He is joyous, vibrant, even-keeled, extremely energetic, and has big, beautiful blue eyes just like his dad. We have been through a lot together. We have moved too many times to name across four different states and even lived abroad. We have been on many adventures and visited loved ones all over. Most important, we have survived. We have made it through the most depressing, difficult days together. We have escaped a house fire. We have made it through my exhaustion too many times to count. We have laughed, we have cried, we have danced and gone crazy. We have done it without the support of a grandmother since my mom passed a year and a half before my partner. Now we have settled into a home and plan on staying, plan on building community. This is the scariest part of all for me.
For years we have been on the go. Experiencing life, I have had one boyfriend (another long, horrible story of its own), traveling, playing, and not really making any new friends. You see, when you are a non-widow widow, it is tough to explain. The benefits of being a wife legally are non-existent when you weren't married yet. People like to ask questions, and when they discover the answers they usually walk away never to return. (A dead partner and mother!). It’s too much for most people to face. It’s too hard. It is unimaginable to most.
I get that, but I also get how hard this has been and how resilient we all are. How much help is needed and appreciated by single moms. How much friendships are needed. It’s ok to talk about grief and hardships. It’s ok for everything to not be ok. If you can laugh with me, play ball with my child, run an errand, or just sit in silence as we feel the sun on our faces…I appreciate you. We are all going to experience tragedy. We are all in this together. Please don't shut those out who have lived through grief. One day you will be there too and those who have come before will be able to stand by your side and be strong for you.
And please, if you see someone crying in an airport, hand them a tissue.