In a few short hours it will be 4:58 am, July 8th 2017. One whole year since I felt the love of my life’s pulse stop beating beneath my fingers. One whole year since I have kissed his lips and heard his heart beat against my cheek. One whole year since I have been Matt Stringer’s wife. His partner. His everything. One whole year.
This week has been full of emotions and I have tried to drown them with busyness and distraction. I did not want to feel these feels and cry these tears. It turns out you can’t drown a souls longing for its missing piece. Every night this week I have had a panic attack at various hours in the night. I toss and turn. My whole body aches with strange pains and aches. Last night the flood gates finally opened, I could not contain the pain any longer. I literally wailed in my bed with absolute heart break. How can this be my life? When am I going to be OK again? When will my heart accept that Matt died….that he isn’t here to whisper in my ear at 3 am as I gasp for breath “It’s OK babe, just breathe….you’re OK. You’re OK. I am here. Breathe.” It is just me now. The absolute infinite loneliness feels suffocating at 3 am. And 4 am. Then again at 5 am. My memories torture me as I watch him suffer and grow thinner and weaker. I try with everything I have to block out the image of his eyes looking at me and saying “I’m scared babe. I don’t want to die.” His heart quit beating and somehow, mine kept going and I will never understand how, to me it defies all logic.
This week, ironically enough I have had to dole out more copies of Matt’s death certificate and it’s always a brutal reminder of my loss. My kids loss. This missing human that has annihilated our lives. Tonight I stared at it with tears and for the first time noticed something. It says right there: Surviving spouse: Michelle Renee Webb. (It gives my maiden name which infuriates me, why do they do that?? I’m still Michelle Stringer!)
As I stared at it the word “Survivor” began repeating in my head. I survived Matt’s death. I have survived all of the “firsts” without him. I survived our 15th wedding anniversary without him. I survived as a single mother to my three amazing and thriving kids. I survived school and beat all odds and found out I was accepted into nursing school. I have survived no life insurance money and found my way in spite of it. I survived a huge move and life change. I have survived. Now, surviving comes with guilt…..the “why not me instead of him?” and the “I’m still here to watch our kids grow and Matt is not.” Surviving isn’t for pansies you guys. I could not even begin to tell you all of my dark moments this year. I haven’t been open about my drinking through the pain the first 6 months, but someday I will when I am ready. But I survived that too I guess. I no longer drink my way through this pain and I’m proud of that…….although I still have moments and I own them.
This year has absolutely been a battle…..and I can say that I think I’m going to come out on top. I’m not at the top of this mountain yet, but I am making my way and overcoming the obstacles as they come. I have discovered that someday, if it finds me….pursues me….and it’s in the distant future, I can allow love in my life again, even though the very whisper of it terrifies me. I’m so convinced that I can never love like that again or even be loved like that again. I feel as though I am un-loveable……not a real catch. I have baggage to spare and who is going to sign up for that? I mean, really? A few months ago a friend put it to me like this: You know when you are pregnant with your second baby and you are so worried that you can’t possibly love the next baby as much as you love the first? You truly worry about it and it seems impossible that your heart can expand like that. Then this human is placed into your arms and you realize immediately that you love them 100%, just like you do your first baby. Maybe it is like that. And so yeah, maybe it is like that. I can honestly say I doubt I will ever pursue love, but if it finds me, it finds me.
I went to a medium two weeks ago (save your judgments, I literally couldn’t care less what anyone thinks about any part of my life so talk amongst yourselves) and it was nothing short of amazing. I went in completely skeptical and cynical….but thought “what the hell, yolo!” She is a young Catholic mom and I immediately felt at ease with her. There were no weird prayers or tarot cards….just she and I. At first Isabella came through and immediately I was overcome. My precious baby…..my sweet girl. The things she said…..the details were ridiculous. I could go on and on. Then came Matt and let me tell you, right away, without skipping a beat he began NAGGING ME and GRIPING to me. I laughed and laughed and said absolutely Matt Stringer is in the house!!!! Even though I am the woman, I am not a nagger. I don’t like conflict with those I love the most and I live to serve and make life easy for those around me. Matt? Lived to nit pick and nag me until my ears would bleed. Bless it. I think everything I did drove him a little crazy 🙂 Anyways, he immediately brought up that I bought our oldest a cell phone way before he was 13 and that was our agreement and I broke that agreement. I began with my reasoning and the medium said he cut me off and said “stop making excuses Michelle. You broke the agreement. Period.” I couldn’t help but laugh and smile. Well, you shouldn’t have died of cancer babe….so there! (this is our way with each other, non-stop teasing.) Still I was a bit skeptical……so Matt took every single measure possible to let me know this is him. I literally cannot tell you what he said, but I will say that I am not embarrassed easily and I wanted to sink into the couch and disappear. The medium was laughing but couldn’t make eye contact with me for a bit. He went there. That turd. She said Matt was thoroughly enjoying my humiliation because I had spent years purposefully humiliating him and now it was his turn. Touche. Suddenly Matt became serious and told the medium I am blocking the possibility of love for myself again. He said he told her before he died that he didn’t want that for me, that he wanted me to find love again. He couldn’t stand the thought of me being alone in this world. He said I am really good at this wife thing and I should share it. Whatever….I do what I want now. He was a dog with a bone, as he always was and said “Michelle, I’ve seen it. I know who it is even and you ARE GOING TO LOVE AGAIN.” Then he added “Don’t worry, you won’t find anyone as amazing as me, I’m not worried about it.” More belly laughs and more tears. Damn you babe. Why did you leave me. WHY. The best part? He wanted me to know that Heaven is more incredible and amazing than we talked about before he died. He said he couldn’t even begin to describe it. Isabella took him home and he is with her and our babies that we miscarried. He said he is home and is so incredibly happy that he never even misses this life. He isn’t sad he died he told me, because he is right where he is supposed to be. My heart needed this.
So. Here I am…..just a few hours shy of one whole year with my Matt. My first love. My best friend. My partner. My husband. I am surviving. I am growing. I am changing. I am navigating these waters in my little sail boat and adjusting these sails when I have to. This year has taught me so much about life, its value, its faults, its beauty, its pain, its ugliness. I am not the same Michelle I was this day last year. I am stronger. I am wiser. I am still learning the ropes. Climbing the mountain that is my life. Matt is still with me in the way he is allowed to be and cheering me on in all things. Death does not conquer love and that’s all I need.
Goodnight friends. Love big and hard and well.