While I’ve always loved a morbid joke or two, my wry humor was pushed to its limits in the wake of my husband’s death. There are just some things you can’t possibly anticipate and have no choice but to accept.
The day I went to pick up my husband’s ashes I was forced into yet another encounter with one such awkward moment. The urn weighs far more than you’d expect and it was a struggle just to get it to the car. At that point I pushed it onto the front seat and headed for my side of the vehicle.
If I take off, is it going to roll right off the seat? Round marble might make one heck of a projectile in the event I slam on the brakes. Visions of the urn flying through the windshield and striking down some sweet little old lady pushed everything else out of my mind. I had no choice. I’d have to buckle it in.
I start up and pull away but damned if I could focus on anything other than the strapped-in ashes sitting next to me. Now I’m not one of those widows who thinks of my husband’s ashes as my husband. In fact, when others refer to the ashes as “him” I get a little weirded out. Can he see out of that urn? Feel? Think? If so, I’m in big trouble. Especially considering what happened next.
The urn was far too distracting and I couldn’t stop the impulse to constantly reach out and put my hand on it. Only two blocks into my drive I pulled over, stepped out of the car, and fought off a full-blown breakdown. I couldn’t put it in the back seat because I knew it would be just as distracting and my recent desire to cleanse my house had left next to no room between the boxes of clothes for donation, picture frames, and recyclables. It would only roll around on the floor.
That left just one place.
Right up next to the spare tire was the perfect little spot to wedge the urn into and, as I rightly guessed, out of sight, out of mind. I drove home at peace, without a second thought.
Until two days later when I headed to work and kept hearing a clunking sound I was sure meant big trouble and an expensive trip to the mechanic. It was only when I popped the trunk to investigate I realized I’d left them in there. I’ll never forget the reaction from the first family member I told: “You put Craig in the trunk!?!”
I guess I never thought of it that way.
The was only one of the many new weird situations I found myself growing accustomed to when I was widowed. Situations that would have made my stomach churn with apprehension over the awkwardness mere months before. Situations that friends and family (and random strangers) cringed over when they were forced to share them with me.
Having to explain to the DMV that my husband, in fact, could not renew or cancel his vehicle registration, no matter how many times they asked. Going with my new husband to the accident site. Accidentally setting that extra seat at the table. Crying in public. Crying to police officers when I get pulled over. Wearing my old wedding rings remade at my wedding. Sitting on the floor amidst the spilled cheerios, picking at what I can for breakfast. Correcting my husband’s coworkers for the third time about how to spell his name.
The longer you are widowed the more the taboo around death diminishes for you, and the more you can take a step back and just shake your head or laugh when caught up in these weird moments. Sometimes the hardest part is remembering that while it’s your new normal, it is still weird to everyone else.
But I try to face each day with my sense of humor intact, laughing when I can, worrying less and less about what others might think, all while keeping my crying outbursts to the safety of my own home. Or car… or grocery store… or church… Ok, I confess, I cry wherever I feel like it. That’s just part of this new weirdness I guess.
Our thanks to guest author Emily Clark for sharing her story here with us. You can read more of Emily’s journey through young widowhood on her blog.