Two years and four months ago I stretched out across my bed. Matt walked in with a manilla folder and said he wanted to go over some things before his heart surgery. Etched all over it were dates, names of doctors, and notes he had taken during conversations. At the top:
He went through each page with me and explained what to do if something happened to him and he couldn’t take care of it. It bothered me we were doing this. He was only 34. There was no reason except for blatant pessimism for us to go over this with such detail. As the kids shuffled around us, playing with their toys and jabbing their fingers on the piano next to our bed, I teased him that if he were taking this that seriously he should give me the password to his computer. Seven years prior I was using his computer and it crashed…deleting all of his files. I swore I didn’t have anything to do with that happening except it being pure chance I had been the last one to touch it, but alas, I was never quite trusted again.
He hesitated at my request for the password.
I laughed in delight.
But then he gave me the password.
I am sorry this letter is titled to the "Young Widow." I know how much that word disgusts you. How your stomach drops, you feel sand in your mouth, and how you automatically reject the title.
Widow is not who you are.
Why would anyone ever want to be called that? That is the box you check on government forms. It is how you describe a character in a movie. It's that sweet old lady from church that spent 65 years with the love of her life. And even then their marriage was cut too short.
Your mother drove you home from the hospital and you said out loud in your trance: "I am 29."
And then you silently thought: "I am alone. I am 29 and my life has ended." You wouldn't say that out loud right now. You screamed your nonsense over his dead body. You are aware enough now that saying that would hurt their feelings or would leave them to protest it isn't so.
And you don't want to argue right now.
Everything you thought was forever is now gone.
Widow: Old English "widewe," from an Indo-European root meaning ‘be empty,' compare with Sanskrit vidh ‘be destitute,’
--> Destitute: without the basic necessities of life
And you realize: why yes, perhaps I am a widow.
You feel empty. You feel like the basic necessity of your life has been ripped from you. It was his smile that filled your heart. You didn't realize that during this time called marriage you actually had become one. How hackneyed it sounds. How corny. But when they are gone you realize that you really were one. You know everything about them. You know what they will say, their secrets. how their heart beats, what their face feels like, and what they smell like. You know more than maybe they even knew about themselves.
You realize all that time you thought you were two radically different people that loved each other with no rhyme or reason--you were wrong. You were actually paired together by God to complement each other and complete each other.
And now he is gone.
But let me tell you how you will transform because of this.
Your husband's beautiful spirit will create a gaping hole that can never be filled. But you will start to see from the first second how friends, family, and strangers step forward and cast a string over that hole. There will be so many people that throw their string over it that soon only little cracks will be open for light to shine through.
And while they never will cover that empty space and especially not fill the hole---you will see so much good come from everyone.
When a tragedy strikes of course you will feel sorrow, but how could you not see the blinding light of goodness that shines from everyone? Your friends that plan the funeral in a week, your friend that drives all night from states away to be at your side, and your family that loves on your children while you choose his casket.
Your community will gather around you and lift you up in prayer. If you let them they will feed you, they will support you, and they will give you so much (emotionally, spiritually, physically) that you are left speechless.
In your darkness, you will see so much beauty.
God has created contrast in your life like you never had before. All you had to compare the good and the bad to was point A and point B. But now you know it goes so much deeper.
You know what point Z is.
Point Z is the guttural cry, the kind that takes your breath, the kind that you wish takes your breath. Point Z is your body thrown over his as they call the time of death. Point Z is when you walk out of the hospital room in a trance and curl up in ball in the walkway to the visitors' lobby. Point Z is telling your 7 year old and 4 year old they will never see their father in his body again. Point Z is realizing all the things you never said to him. Point Z is sobbing in your bed alone knowing the only person that could hold you and make you feel better is gone. Point Z is realizing half of your heart is gone and yet you can still go on--in fact, you must go on.
One of the most beautiful things I heard was that in heaven there is a constant state of joy and peace. Whereas on Earth there is contrast. Here we experience light and darkness.
The beauty is knowing the depth and being able to compare.
Because once you have seen darkness, you can see light so clearly.
For me it opened my eyes. I could see tiny miracles that no one could quite believe until they were with me and experienced it themselves.
Hummingbirds were magnetically attracted to me. Whereas before I had never seen a hummingbird by my house, they now flocked to our feeder (a gift given to us by a friend after he passed). Hummingbirds would literally sit with me while I sat outside. Butterflies appeared out of nowhere and circled the kids and me like out of a fairytale. Colorful birds I had never seen before in red, blue, and yellow would sit on my fence and sing to me like I was flipping Cinderella. Rainbows appeared, songs that were special to my husband and me would magically play. White feathers literally rained from the sky one day. God was all around me and I could feel his light and love like I never had before. I could feel my husband around me. You know that feeling--the one that tells you you are home.
My heart was broken, but I could not for a moment deny or ignore the beauty that permeated my life.
God is everywhere. He is in nature and in the hearts of people that surround me.
I know that my husband is with God in heaven. I know he is at peace and full of bliss. I know that through God my husband sends me signs of his love EVERY SINGLE DAY.
I don't like what has happened, but I can appreciate the new eyes I have been given and the depth of my heart. I am thankful for the time I had with my husband, the children we have, and how our love has changed me.
I know God will take care of me all I have to do is trust.
I promise He will take care of you too.
(from the depths of my heart)
More Posts about being a Widow:
(Posts are sequential oldest to newest)
If you follow my Instagram or Facebook you might know that my husband passed away.
I am 29.
My husband died four days after his 35th birthday.
Matt was born with a heart defect and at 9 months old they operated on him. It was a success. But he grew up with a weaker heart than most. He knew one day he would need open heart surgery to replace a valve and to repair the other.
As we prepared for this surgery none of us worried—except him. This kind of surgery is something they do for 70 year olds, not an otherwise healthy 35 year old. And even then a valve replacement and aortic repair only had a 10% mortality rate.
He felt an impending doom that made me sigh and wonder if he was being a tad dramatic. Because considering how sick his heart was, he was a vision of health. The weeks before he looked the way you do when you have a cold. Exhausted and depleted. But there was still pink in his cheeks. A sparkle in his eyes. A teasing tone to his voice.
An extremely simple explanation of what happened is his heart failed before we got the surgery.
The heart stopped doing its job, thus making his vital organs sick, and in turn making his heart fail. Causing him to die.
Just four days after I took him to the ER because he looked like crap. Just two weeks before the heart surgery that would have fixed it all.
And the only way I can move on is to know that this was God's plan. That's why Matt didn't get better when thousands of people all over the world prayed. When it comes down to it God could have answered one prayer--my prayer. But he couldn't because this was part of his divine plan. I don't know how it will unfold and sometimes I really don't like it. But until I do understand, I will continue to have faith.
Fast forward one month later. (Because I can’t handle traveling back in time to write how I felt right now).
I was urged by my family to turn one of our bedrooms into an art studio. It is made to be an office. It is the only room with high ceilings, a built in window seat, and pretty glass French doors. We had been using it as a bedroom for one of the kids, but ever since he passed they can't seem to sleep alone. So bunk beds were built and this room was empty...
I struggled between two conflicting emotions:
The first was the need to change everything so I didn’t hurt every time I thought of the way it used to be.
The second was to keep it all the same, to preserve and hold on to the memories.
You see, he always complained about my feminine décor! It was supposed to be OUR house, a place that reflected the two of us. Well, honestly, we never could figure how to do that! For the guy who wanted to live in a sleek, modern apartment in a big city and the girl who wanted to live in a Victorian farmhouse with colored rugs and flowers in vases….there was hardly ever a middle point! So to decorate and change…I could hear him scoff! But on the other hand, I was mad at him!
I told him (aka, talked aloud to myself): “You left me! I get to do whatever I want now. So there!”
In a quiet fury I hung picture after picture of my flowery, feminine paintings.
Up went the lace curtains.
Up went the flowers in jars. (Of course they were fake. He was the only person that could keep plants alive here. )
I already knew what I liked. I had teasingly warned him during discussions in years past, “You think this is girly?! You have no idea what I am capable of!!”
I stood back and admired the first room in eleven years that felt like me. And then I cried. Because no amount of lace or flowers could ever make me feel okay. I would choose him over everything. I dried my eyes, sighed, and looked around. This room made me happy. And if I could have one place that made me feel like that when my world had crumbled, I knew he would be pleased.
As I set up my new desk I knew what it needed: a painting.
Not just any painting though. It needed to be a window, a portal of some sort. From his world to mine. A place we could meet.
I pulled out my largest canvas and all my paints. I started splashing, smearing, and blending.
I felt him by me as I painted. I heard him in my heart say, "Stop. This is it."
And so I named it, “This Must Be the Place” after one of our favorite songs by Talking Heads. A song that always felt so perfectly us, but as I listened to it after he died it shook me to my core with the line:
Love me till my heart stops. Love me till I’m dead.
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)
Song by Talking Heads
Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me round
I feel numb - born with a weak heart
I guess I must be having fun
The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground
Head in the sky
It's ok I know nothing's wrong... nothing
Hi yo I got plenty of time
Hi yo you got light in your eyes
And you're standing here beside me
I love the passing of time
Never for money
Always for love
Cover up and say goodnight... say good night
Home - is where I want to be
But I guess I'm already there
I come home - she lifted up her wings
I guess that this must be the place
I can't tell one from another
Did I find you, or you find me?
There was a time
Before we were born
If someone asks, this where I'll be... where I'll be
We drift in and out
Sing into my mouth
Out of all those kinds of people
You got a face with a view
I'm just an animal looking for a home and
Share the same space for a minute or two
And you love me till my heart stops
Love me till I'm dead
Eyes that light up
Eyes look through you
Cover up the blank spots
Hit me on the head
I go ooh
I did love him till his heart literally stopped. But my love doesn’t stop there.
I will continue this earthly life. I will raise our sweet children. I will find joy. I know God has plans for me.
And one day when God says it is time, I won’t be afraid, because I know he will be there waiting for me.
And I will know this must be the place.
Here is my new painting I created for my sister on her birthday! Let me tell you--I got lucky in the sister department! She is the kindest, most gentle, patient, and loving soul. I have learned so much from her and I am continually inspired by her spirit.
She had asked me to paint something for her newly remodeled bathroom. She had suggested something with an antique bathtub and my imagination ran away with itself...
She loves mermaids and reading, so that was easy to add. Then putting the mermaid in a room seemed too boring! Then I had to ask myself, "If I were a mermaid, where would I want to be?"
A flower garden, of course!
So that is the story behind the piece. Prints are available in the shop :)
Now if YOU were a mermaid...where would you want to go?
Life has gotten busy!! I just thought I would share with you a few of my recent instagram photos. I am working on a fresh Summer line that sports brighter and warmer colors plus hints of gold!
It has been so much fun to paint with gold. It is the Martha Stewart Metallic Acrylic Gold paint. It is perfect!! I love how it shines at a slant in the sun. It shows up beautifully on my watercolor paper.
I am inspired this summer by lovely images of red, coral, pink, yellow, and orange flowers. I am painting a lot of beautiful white dresses, geometric shapes, and the sweetness of friendship. These images are some finished pieces and works in progress.
In my personal life I have been busy finishing up the school year. I substitute teach (mostly kindergarten) and was lucky enough to get to sub in my son's class this year while his darling and smart teacher wrote the curriculum for our district's Common Core program. We went to the Kinder awards ceremony this morning and it was so cute. I am so proud of my sweet little boy. He completed his first year of school, conquered a broken leg, and grew up a lot.
Here he is with the robot he built with his tablemates. He was very proud! I heard the teachers had *lots* of fun spray painting these beasts. His teacher allowed each table to create a robot using odds and ends (cereal boxes, party hats, foam spheres) as closure to their 2D and 3D shapes unit. They were adorable. I thought the gold spray paint looked the best. If I get the chance on Monday I will take more pictures of the different robots (5 total).
I am already starting a Summer pinterest board. I always say I am going to accomplish a lot during the time off, but that doesn't always happen... I love all those "schedules" and weekly planners. I need a plan...because if there isn't one then I will just paint and laze about. There are only so many Summers left with my little ones actually wanting to spend time with me!
I hope all of you have a great Summer ahead of you!
Though it may be hot, there WILL be fun!
Happy Spring! Ours was looking so wonderful this past month. The fields were green, buds grew on trees, flowers swayed, and butterflies hatched.
Then came the 90 degree weather.
It started yesterday. I am praying it goes away! It gets really hot where we are at and once that sun starts beating it kills everything.
Soooo, anyway....let's keep our spirits bright and celebrate with a sale! April 8th-16th you can use the coupon code SPRING30 at checkout for 30% off your entire purchase in my shop.
Easter is coming up, lots of birthdays, and Mother's Day will be here before you know it. In my family we give female a little present. I always loved that growing up :)
This weekend my husband took the kids and me out to get some Jack in the Box. We took it to a nearby grassy area and had fun exploring.
And to keep things real I will include this picture.
My husband was making fun of me because I didn't want to sit on the ground. There were ants! No, there were GIANT ants.
So he claimed I couldn't handle nature, but perhaps it is just that I can't handle bugs. Particularly ones that BITE.
This coming weekend will be busy because a friend of ours is having her wedding. I will be taking pictures and my husband will be playing the guitar during the ceremony. She is such a sweetie, so this will be fun :)
I am a watercolor artist located in Southern California.