Archive for the 'New Beginnings' Category

Closets
Monday, August 3rd, 2009

We put all kinds of things inside of closets. There are things you expect to find inside this storage space like sweaters, dresses, and shoes. Then there are the other things that you can’t find a place for somewhere else in the house like old yearbooks, memory boxes, or last year’s tax returns. Perhaps there are mothballs, spider webs, or the odd price tag dropped from a purchased item….all of this you might find behind the doors of your wardrobe.

The useful thing about closets is you can shut the door to cover up any messiness that might be found inside. I suppose that is why we also hide some feelings in places with doors that snap securely shut. No need to look at those fears we place behind shuttered doors or to share them with the world or to force ourselves to examine them too closely. At least that is how my emotional closet works. I have shoved a bunch of stuff in there over the last four years. Trouble is whenever I need a sweater (aka some emotional stamina) I have to peek inside and try to stick my arm between the doors without allowing any of the hidden items to find their way into the sunshine of my room.

One thing I have stored way back behind the formal dresses, and the ridiculous high heels that kill my feet but look perfect with my dress, is my need to be in a loving partnership again. This need took me almost two years to look in the face, almost three years to admit publicly, and close to four years to stop worrying about how loving another man would reflect on my devotion to Phil. So let’s free a few more of the stowaways from my emotional closet…Am I betraying Phil by loving someone else? Does finding a new man give the world the false impression that I am, God forbid, “over it?” Will I ever stop feeling like the other shoe is going to drop any moment and my new partner will die too? How do I handle the fact that I was happy in my marriage and never wanted to see it end…but here I am without a partner? Why do some people think that grief ends when a new relationship begins? Will my widow community understand that loving someone else does not make me less of a widow? Because as much as I hated that word the first time I had to own it, I have come to realize that being Phil’s widow is the only way I can still be his wife. And how in the world do I explain THAT to another man?!

Last week I told another widow that I have a boyfriend, a serious boyfriend actually. And I was shocked by her reply…..”What a relief, finally, someone to talk to about this!” While reading her response I realized that my fear of being judged for moving into a new phase of widowhood has kept me from sharing information that could be helpful to our widow community. I happily share my widow self, my mother self, my sister/daughter/friend self…but I for fear of hurting or shocking newly widowed women who aren’t ready to think about life four years from now, I have not shared my whole self. I am a widow, I will love Phil forever, I have learned to accept that life will not be what he and I planned, and I have found a man who understands that my past, my loss, and especially my grief have made me the woman I am today…and he loves the woman I have become. As I have learned to love again I have held on with both hands to the reality that true love never dies and that I don’t have a limited supply of love to give.

The Big Red Day
Sunday, February 1st, 2009

My husband used to call Valentine’s Day “So What Day.” Romantic, huh? He thought greeting cards were a waste of trees; that buying flowers because someone told you to defeated the purpose; and that going to dinner on the big day just to eat from a limited menu and have servers anxiously awaiting your departure from the table was ridiculous. I will admit that we fought about this on a few occasions who wants to be the only girl in the office that didn’t get flowers? Eventually we settled into our own brand of celebrating our love, both on the big day, and on the other 364 days of the year.

I expected to breeze through the first Valentine’s Day without him, because he hated this holiday. But as the day approached, I found myself missing my heart day scrooge. There was no one around to balk at the increase in flower prices. There was no need to peruse the recycled card collection looking for just the right sentiment for my grumpy Valentine, and I cried when I realized there would be no one to take me to dinner at 4:30PM to avoid the crowds. Very quickly I found myself repeating in my head all the reasons to boycott the Hallmark holiday.

When the day arrived I found myself unable to ignore the National Day of Love. Instead of pushing the memories of our on-going struggle to find a happy middle ground for our own celebration out of my mind, I called them each front and center. And I laughed out loud. Recalling the times he showed up in the kitchen with a flower from our garden in hand, the dinners we “accidentally” went to on the 14th of February, my efforts to get him to just write me just one letter telling me how much he loved me (I was successful), and finally, the fact that he proposed to me on Valentine’s Day I felt loved. And I guess that is the point of the day after all. Even though Phil never contributed to the romance testaments proudly placed on desks across America, I never doubted that he loved me. That night I drifted off to sleep murmuring “happy so what day honey.”

Eleven
Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

I am eleven years a widow now. I reread the words I have written in my widowhood and wonder how I ever made it through the pain, the fears and the frozen terror of life in the aftermath of death.

But I did. Sometimes it actually feels contained. The grief. The longing for him alive has been replaced, filled, adjusted. I can attest to rebirth and renewal. They’re not only r & r words.

And then it hits me again. Peter’s mother, twenty-four years a widow, dies at the age of 94. His twin sisters omit Peter’s four sons and his grandson from their mother’s obituary. And if they’ve removed them from the obit, you can imagine what they’ve done with their inheritance. “This brings it all up again,” I say to my mother. “If Peter hadn’t died, it would be so different.” I can almost hear my mother rolling her eyes from the other side of the line, wondering when I am going to eliminate that pointless lament from my repertoire of woes.

Ram Dass says he is “stroked.” He lives a life after his stroke that is forever different. Such is the experience for a woman who is widowed. As women, we become mothers, sisters, daughters. And we are “widowed.” I can almost see the peak at the forehead when I say the word now. The peak that begins the rest of the elaborately complex hood. And when we are widowed we pare apart a union that was once paired. We become singular in our life’s choices.

Should I go back to school, sell my house, move out of this mausoleum of grief, we wonder as widows. Should I quit my job? Do I have a choice? Some of us actually do. We’re the fortunate few.

Eleven years later, I’ve done what fortunate widows and women do. I’ve fed my boys, earned my masters, worked a farm, quit my job, sold my house, fell in love again, fed my boys some more. Through it, I’ve known that my life’s work runs parallel to my life. I have discovered a hood of being a woman that I never imagined wearing but have tailored to fit my life. Being a widow has intersected with being me.

I am a widoe. I’ve softened her with an “e” so that I can wear her name. Bear her existence. That she was I. Peter was gone. I had babies. It was survival for many years. Not enough. Too much. Too many. Too few. When is it not about survival?

But I’m not a refugee widow. Not in the Sudan. Afghanistan. Not fearing my daughter will be raped at the well. Not gathering wood to sell at market. I am a privileged, white-faced, mother of sons whom I watch grow strong like the green winter grasses outside my window. Young ones, older ones, middle-sized ones; I’ve inherited two more in my merger of families with a new mate. Six sons. A grandson too. There’s a hood I can wear more easily.

Unfortunately, motherhood and widowhood are commonly worn together. I founded WidowSpeak, a non-profit that makes visible the lives of widows, and far too commonly, it is only about survival. I work for a neighborhood of widows whom I call my “widows in the hood.” I work for renewal and justice and the strength that we must harness as a community of widows, but most of the stories that come across my desk are desperate. Widows with AIDS, widowed grandmothers raising babies, widows with hungry children. Africa, Indonesia, Iraq, California: some may forage for our children’s next meal; some of us fight for our sons’ inheritance.

Eleven years ago, only four months after Peter died, I signed the papers that removed my mother- in-law’s name from the title of Peter’s and my home. In 1988, Peter’s “ahead of his time” microbrewery had declared bankruptcy and when we bought our home in 1989 we had put it in his mother’s name. We had agreed to pay all the mortgage and property taxes and had. It was mere hours after he had suddenly died, that my mother-in-law had insisted that I change the title of the house. “I want this house out of my name,” she had repeated.

I was thirty-six, the mother of three sons, pregnant with our fourth, working at the local high school and trying to hold it all together; and I was calling loan agents to apply for credit for the first time, so that I could please my mother in law. I tried to assure her that I wasn’t boarding the next plane for a Thai beach, and saddling her with the house, but she was determined. On a cold January morning, the baby’s first kicks fluttering in my belly; I was sitting by myself at the title company, having to gulp back the tears and the morning sickness as they came in waves.

Uncanny that she would be buried, eleven years to the day, that I had signed those papers. Peter had been an eleven, and he had always claimed magic in the number. He was born at eleven minutes after eleven on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. In his mother’s eulogy, they said that in her last days she had talked about having not seen Peter for a while and that she was going home to see him again. Peter had been close to his mother. They had shared a special bond. I hope she doesn’t show up at Peter’s home looking for him. That home was sold some years ago. Or maybe showing up to a house of strangers is a good place for her to start knocking. It’s a sad story. But it’s not desperate.

Today, my life and work intersect again. I work for the widow in Chad who relies on the United Nations and private donations from wealthy countries, and miles of bureaucracy, for a plastic tarpaulin to call home. And I also work for the widow who blogs from the attic space of her rented home. Living in Chile, as a child, in the years leading up to Allende’s election, my window to humanity’s collective suffering was opened and only gets wider. When I look at my well-fed children, I cannot forget the children’s gaunt eyes from the gutters of Coya. When I blow my “woe is me widow-whistle,” I renew my pledge to work for widows worldwide. Widows who lose their homes and their children too.

I pledge to blog as the widow I wear. A postmodern widoe, whom I call my PoMoDoe. I’ve been quieting her because I fear my edge, my anger, my bitterness, my myopic singularity. “Who am I to speak for widows?” I question, stuffing my words into my behave box. Today, I realize again, that there are no “ifs” in his story but that there are necessary edges to my story and though I may be able to soften my Doe, I will no longer be able to stuff her.

I have a voice and I will continue to listen for the voices of the widows and their children whose voices have been stripped from them. To be widowed is to become singular, but it doesn’t mean we are alone. It’s 2009. It’s a new year. The numbers add up to eleven. We welcome a new president, of a new generation of Americans, whose mother-in-law, a widow, will be living with her family in the White House. Peter’s mother had been a staunch republican. She had campaigned for Reagan, she was bitterly opposed to immigration and didn’t hold back her thoughts about Americans of color and language. “What are they doing here?” she’d ask with exasperation. “Tell them to go home and learn English,” she’d say about those who were moving into her once only-white neighborhood on the sparkling Marina. There are some beautiful ironies here. The Catholic priest who presided over her service was Pakistani and his lyrical accent was difficult to understand, but he spoke an impeccable English.

The Widow Next Door
Thursday, December 18th, 2008

WidowSpeak Blog—Michele

Grief is a thief; it steals the breath of life and leaves devastation in its wake. What happens when grief robs a woman of not only her husband, but also her ability to cope with the world around her? How do others know when the aftermath of loss has created a dangerous situation for their friend, family member, or neighbor? When has enough time passed that we no longer wonder if a person’s life difficulties could have something to do with the death of a loved one? The answers to these questions can only be discovered if we are willing to plant our own feet next to a widow, and walk a portion of the journey by her side.

A young woman lost her husband in a car accident six years ago. At the time of her husband’s death their children were eight and two, and her full-time occupation was caring for their family. The car accident that took her husband’s life left this young woman in deep despair. And then she got lost. As each year passed, her ability to find her way out of the forest of grief declined. She stayed in bed, she stopped cleaning the house, she let the yard go—and most people stood by and watched. After the first few years these others assumed this woman was lazy, useless, and a bad mother. Yet, her friends remembered a kind person who loved her children and worked hard to make their lives full and happy. At one time she belonged to the local church, volunteered in the neighborhood, and reached out to others. But when it was time to walk the road of loss—she walked alone.

After six years the department of child protective services was called to this family’s home. The house was declared a fire hazard, as was the surrounding property. And then someone spoke up. A friend recognized that this young woman never functioned the same way after her husband’s death. She noticed that the light was gone from her eyes, her former level of energy never returned, and she could still see that she loved her children and wanted to be able to take care of them. Most importantly, she didn’t put a timeline on her friend’s grief journey.

This good friend searched the Internet for a group that would help this widow. She sent a message to a widow’s support site, and that message happened to land in the lap of someone who knew someone who might be able to help. After a volley of phone calls and e-mails it was discovered that this woman was given one week to get the house cleaned up, or her children would be removed from the home. When the first call for help was received, three days had already passed.

A group called Catholic Charities was contacted, and agreed to make a home visit. What they found when they arrived was a home that could be aired on a daytime talk show—and a woman so lost she couldn’t find a path out. The very next day Catholic Charities rounded up eight volunteers and worked twelve hours straight—sifting, sorting, removing, and caring. On the appointed day, they still needed more time. The case worker for Catholic Charities called the Sheriff assigned to the case, and said they were well on their way to getting the situation under control but could they have one more day? Granted the extension, more volunteers showed up the following day, and as they finished the last bits of work a social worker arrived to take the children. As the social worker looked around the house, she wondered aloud what the problem could have been. The children looked healthy, the house was clean, the kids obviously wanted to stay with their mom; after a few phone calls she left, bewildered by what had taken place. The next day, the Sheriff returned and declared the case closed.
What a gift this wonderful friend gave our sister widow: the gift of understanding. She recognized grief for the thief that it is, and reached out a hand in help instead of pointing a finger in accusation. This led to another gift: the care and concern for others so beautifully displayed by the staff and volunteers from Catholic Charities. They do their work without judgment, and they don’t leave the person in need once the immediate dilemma is solved. This family will receive free counseling, and now has a place to turn for help, support, and hope.
The last thing this widow said to her benefactors was, “I didn’t know how to ask for help, I am so grateful.”

Thank God there was someone who didn’t need to be asked aloud in order to hear the cry.

Grief as Transformation
Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

The life cycle of the butterfly speaks volumes about the process of grief. The life of the butterfly begins inside a cocoon, hanging inconspicuously from the limb of a tree. Silently, but deliberately the transformation begins. Anyone looking from below would have no idea what is going on inside this tiny cocoon.

In essence, there is a dissolving of one form and the emergence of another form. The cocoon starts to break open when the growth of the butterfly can no longer be contained within the protective shell of the cocoon.

Grief often begins within a cocoon of self-protection. There is comfort in the darkness, which allows for rest and renewal and remembrance. But at some point the protective darkness becomes oppressive and uncomfortable.

The butterfly actively participates in the process of her emergence from the cocoon. Her beauty is breathtaking.

This too is the journey of grief. The trauma of grief can open the heart in magnificent ways. The process is not easy and it requires action, just as the butterfly works to emerge from the confines of the cocoon.

And in that moment of emergence, her life is totally transformed into a new world of spectacular brilliance.

The butterfly is following her natural life cycle. She can do nothing else. But her journey shows us the possibilities of new life beyond the darkness of the cocoon.

I am grateful for the lessons of the butterfly.

WHAT TO DO WITH WEDDING RINGS
Thursday, July 17th, 2008

One of the questions which comes to mind when you lose your spouse is whether or not you wish to remove your rings. You may also question when is the appropriate time. And you may also hear advice from family and friends about how to handle these deeply personal questions.

The night my husband died I was told by the mortuary to remove his wedding ring. Wow. OK. I was in shock. I did it. For security purposes, they said. Not sure what that meant, but I had no energy for questioning. I did what I was told.

I placed the ring on my finger, but I was afraid I would lose it. I had to keep it close to me. It was a symbol of our love. It now became a tangible way to stay close to him while at the same time feeling so very lonely.

I decided to put his ring on a chain around my neck, very close to my heart. it helped me feel close and it brought comfort.

A couple months later my ring finger began to itch beneath my own rings. There was no physical reason for this irritation. Intuitively I sensed it was time to remove them. But taking them off brought up so many feelings. There seemed to be a new finality to our relationship. There were feelings of guilt. There were feelings of disloyalty.

After several days I was actually able to remove the rings from my finger. It seemed appropriate to add them to his ring on the chain around my neck.

Surprisingly, within a couple weeks I felt like it was time to remove the necklace of rings. I placed the rings in a special heart-shaped box where they remain to this day. I open it on occasion and smile in gratitude for the shared life represented by these rings.

Removing the rings is a milestone that we each must handle in our own way. Trust your feelings. You will know what is right for you.

GRIEF IS A JOURNEY
Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Sometimes life seems to become a giant “to do” list. It’s just about getting done and checking things off the list. We forget about the journey and focus solely on the end result. Then we experience frustration or annoyance over any delays in reaching the projected end result.

The same thing can happen when we are grieving. Life can become about making it to the end of the day. Life can become about getting back home, pulling the blinds and curling up on the couch.

The goal of life can become hiding from life. There is no awareness of the process. There is no living in the moment. There is impatience and frustration and resignation.

When we lose awareness of the present moment life can feel very scary. Grief is pulling us back toward what has been in the past. The future becomes an overwhelming obstacle filled with fear and uncertainty.

Time to pay attention to now. What is happening right now? What are you experiencing right now? When you are driving, is there enough space between your car and the car in front of you? If you are at home on your couch, how does it feel to be sitting there? Are you comfortable? Is there a book you want to read? Would you rather be outside taking a walk?

Now you are back in the present moment. Now you are responding to what is, right now. You are back on the journey of your life. You can be grieving. You can be walking. You can be reading.

Grief is filled with multifaceted and sometimes confusing feelings. Our job is not to hide from them. Our job is to be in the moment with whatever we are feeling.

When the Lord Closes a Door
Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

My friend Michelle came into my life in November of 2005. Around that time, grieving my husband had become my full-time job—I did everything else part-time. Two months after Phil’s death my life was settling into a pattern of managing widowhood, and single parenthood, one challenge at a time. My friends and family still kept an eye on me, but at the end of every day my most reliable companion was grief. Until early November when I got a call from my sister, Debi, asking for my help. My brother-in-law’s cousin had lost her husband to cancer the week before, and Debi wondered if I would write her a note. She thought I might know, better than anyone else, what to say to her.

The interesting thing was I didn’t feel like I knew anything about being a widow—except that it was thrust upon me, and it wasn’t optional. Sitting at my desk thinking of what to write, I finally settled on the truth—I was so sorry she lost her husband and the months ahead wouldn’t be easy, but I was available to talk anytime she wanted. That short message began a relationship that has changed my life.

Within weeks, the two of us felt an unmistakable kinship created by our loss experiences. We discussed all the things that we hated about widowhood—sometimes in pretty colorful language. It didn’t take long to figure out that speaking to each other could be done in half sentences—the other friend could always fill in the blanks. Some days we needed to cry, other days we needed to laugh, but with each passing day we discovered that we needed each other. Many mornings I woke up, with swollen eyes from an evening of wailing, and ran to my computer to see if I had mail. Her words became my lifeline, or perhaps more accurately, my hope line.

Miraculously, we took turns having break downs; we also took turns carrying the imaginary candle of hope. Each of us believed in the possibility of healing, but neither of us was sure how to go about it. Many days we weren’t sure we even wanted to try. What we didn’t realize at the time was that we were helping each other heal with our every interaction. Our spirits were slowly rebuilt with each tearful conversation, with the quiet acknowledgement of each other’s pain, with the certainty of a pat on the back for a forward step taken, and with the intuitive phone calls that came when the voice on the answering machine didn’t sound quite right.

Michelle was the only person who understood that I wanted to die, but that I would never kill myself. I could tell her that I missed being a wife, but I had no desire to have another husband. One day she would agree with me that neither of us would ever re-marry, and the next day we could jointly agree to the exact opposite course of action. The most telling part of our mutual understanding was that we verbally agreed that given the chance, we would immediately trade our wonderful friendship in for the opportunity to have our husbands back—without hesitation and without any hard feelings! The illogical, roller coaster of grief was much easier to ride with a partner who was willing to either clutch my arm during the frightening drops or encourage me to throw my hands in the air—depending on the day. Somehow Michelle always knew what kind of day it was.

Reflecting on the phrase, “When the Lord closes a door he always opens a window,” I realize that my friendship with Michelle is a window that opened for me after the death of my husband slammed shut a door, with unnerving finality. Through the window of our friendship I am able to see the good that still exists in my life and in the world. The frame of our friendship window was forged by the fire of grief and reinforced by the power of shared experience. Our window is draped in mutual love and unwavering support. Unless you have lived the loss experience you might not notice that our friendship window has a unique style of glass—it allows us to view the world as it could be if we dare to believe in the power of hope. The deafening crack of the door that death closed for me reverberates in my heart and in my daily experience, but when the noise threatens to alter my life view—I just look out the window.

Thoughts On The First Anniversary
Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

As you approach the first anniversary of losing the amazing man that shared your life, your love, your joys, and your sorrows; I have a vision I would like to share with you. I am imagining you wearing a heavily laden backpack. This pack is filled with the searing pain of separation, the desperate fear of the unknown, the intense longing for the touch of someone who loves you, the emerging hope you have for the future, and a new love for today. You are surrounded by the beauty of the Arizona countryside, heading up the North side of the Grand Canyon. The landscape is breathtaking, sometimes the beauty of your surroundings causes tears to run down your cheeks—other times it makes you draw in your breath in wonder.

As you begin to ascend the canyon, you are feeling your legs, aware of the strain the climb creates. Your muscles feel weak at first, but as you continue ascending you realize there is strength in your legs you didn’t know you had. Each step forward requires effort. The grade of the climb changes often, once in a while the steep angle makes you lose your footing and fall back. Yet, even with the backward steps you move forward, pressed on by the thought that you are capable.

Following the winding path up the trail, you realize that the journey to the bottom of the canyon was fraught with pain and fear. There were days you felt you were free-falling and other days when you sat on a ledge unable to move either forward or back. No markers indicated where the bottom of the canyon was, so the descent felt as if it would last forever. Then, without warning, you found yourself standing on the banks of the majestic Colorado River. You are out of breath and a bit dizzy, but miraculously still in one piece. Trying to get your bearings you are shocked to discover that the descent is over. Calm surrounds you as you become aware that you have survived. You no longer need to wonder if you can live through the treacherous freefall of loss, suddenly you know that your goal is to climb out of the gorge you dropped into—one step at a time.

With each passing moment the strength in your muscles gives you confidence. The weight of your pack seems to change as you climb. Perhaps you have grown accustomed to the added load, but whatever the reason, you feel able to bear the weight. Climbing all the way up the opposite side of the Grand Canyon suddenly seems possible. Though you have a distance to go and your destination is not in plain view, you know it is there—not by sight, but by instinct. You can envision the outer edge of the canyon, and you have no fear of disappointment. Your journey will be whatever it is meant to be, and you are at peace. You have learned the lesson of the descent–you only have today. Today is what you live for, tomorrow is what you hope for, and yesterday is where your heart learned it’s most poignant lessons.

Onward friend.

Finding My Stride
Monday, March 17th, 2008

It was a perfect day for running. The morning was a bit cloudy, cool enough to wish for another layer, and there was a hint of fall crispness in the air—unusual weather for Austin in October. I was heading to a race start-line for the first time in over a year. For once there were no pre-race jitters or time expectations, just a lot of memories and a different kind of determination.

On August 31ST of 2005, my husband Phillip was killed when he was hit by a car while out for his evening bike ride. Phil was not only an avid cyclist; he was also a dedicated runner. He began his running career as a high school track athlete. Continuing his love of the sport as a devoted community track coach, he volunteered long after his own kids had outgrown the program. Running beside the kids at practice was one of his favorite things to do. Phil was a regular at all the local races; a towering pile of race bibs had a place of honor on his dresser. At 39, he was at the top end of a competitive age group. He was counting the days to his age group change, looking forward to racing as one of the youngsters in his field. But Phil never got to race in the next age group—he died three months before his fortieth birthday.

Before we met, I was an occasional runner. Through our courtship and marriage, my husband introduced me to the joy of running. Vacations were planned around running, track season caused the cessation of all other activities, and date nights usually began in running shoes. My love of running developed as our relationship did. After Phil died, my world looked different from every angle. The lines that distinguished what he loved and what I loved became blurred. I didn’t know if I loved running or if I only loved running with him. In the darkness of loss, I could not find the drive to put on my shoes, and run out the door without him, I quit running. Each morning I woke up in the haze of grief, with only the thought of how to make it through the day. After months of feeling lost without my husband, it finally occurred to me that I might feel more connected to him on a run. So, with some trepidation I laced up my shoes. For months I ran away; away from the heartache, away from the shock, away from the inevitable reality that he was gone. When I ran, I felt close to him in my soul and in my stride. Each breathless moment was a testament to all I had learned from running beside the man I loved. On my runs Phil was still my partner. Those runs left me spent and sad, but I needed them. Running became my way of saying good-bye to the man who was my husband and my friend.

The act of running was freeing. It reminded me that I was capable of putting one foot in front of the other—in forward motion. The destination was not as important as the journey. As time passed, my heart slowly began to heal. Eventually the nature of my runs changed, and I noticed that my step was lighter. I realized that my purpose in heading out for a jog was no longer exclusively a desire to feel close to Phil. Slowly, I stopped expecting to see him at every turn of our favorite route. Running did not always reduce me to tears. With every step I took, I began to remember the joy of running. Gradually, I ran just because I wanted to.

On that brisk October day, I faced my first finish line without my husband. A dear friend of mine, who lost her husband to cancer, lined up beside me at the start—we were there to run in honor of the men we had loved and lost, but not forgotten. Passing each mile marker, I marveled at the power of running. As we traveled the course, we shared stories about our husbands, we talked about the lives that were still ahead of us, and we celebrated the fact that we could run. Crossing the finish line I felt Phil’s absence, but I also felt his presence. Running had taken me across more than a literal finish line. As I crossed the line with cheering supporters in the background and my friend at my side, I realized that I wasn’t running just for Phil, I was running for myself, too.