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.
7/28/2015 06:49:42 am
What a beautiful interpretation Heatherlee. As everyone always tells you, you have such a way with words. For all the darkness that has fallen upon you recently, you have found a way to grasp on to hope and light (if even for only a moment throughout your day). I admire you so much.
7/28/2015 07:53:42 am
This is beautiful Heatherlee. It warms my heart to know that you've let your faith thrive through this all. Thank you for being so open and allowing us to go through this with you. You continue to be in my prayers. ❤️
7/28/2015 08:07:14 am
Thank you so much for continuing to share your journey through your devastating grief with us. You are SO strong; I and continually amazed by you!
7/28/2015 05:19:38 pm
This is so beautifuly written my dear. After hearing your news through our mutual friends I ached to know how you were. Your faith is an inspiration and just another layer to the beauty you have inside and out. ❤️
7/29/2015 07:37:25 am
Oh Heatherlee...my heart is breaking for you. Nothing I can say, or anyone can say, can fix what is broken. Know that there is so much love for you pouring out of your devoted fans than you will ever know. Hold those babies close and let the tears fall where they may. <3 <3
7/31/2015 10:11:33 am
Missin' him terribly. Youre not alone. Your painting is beautiful. And by the way, matt had his man cave garage with the musical gear, dodgers stuff and a fridge full of beer (until i got there at least! lol). Im sure he l'd be tolerant of your girly makeover. :)
7/31/2015 02:12:33 pm
Oh it's so hard to think of timelines. So hart to not play "what if" a million times to the end of the earth and back. I applaud your beautiful, sweet faith. It is a blessing and talent as wonderful as your painting.
8/9/2015 04:18:37 am
So sorry for your loss. I hope you find comfort and healing in your beautiful new studio.
10/2/2015 04:45:14 pm
I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I am crying as I am reading your post. Sending lots of prayer to you and your family. May all of you get stronger in faith. I give you the link from youtube, this song "blessing" really help me during my sadness of the lost of unborn baby. God bless you!
12/10/2015 09:42:08 am
Thank you again. This was beautiful and really resonated in my spirit. It's good to felt understood and not alone. Hugs.
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I am a watercolor artist located in Southern California.