When my husband died suddenly and tragically 3 years ago, besides the shock and abject grief that overwhelmed me like waves of the ocean, drowning me, there was another very strong sense vying for my attention. That was the sense of unfinished business and of parts of a life left unlived.
Almost right from the beginning I realised the need to grab life by the horns and live fully, leaving nothing undone. Seeing his wallet and car keys sitting on the bedside table made me miss him terribly, and at the same time I realised that life is shorter than I ever thought it could be, and I wondered, am I truly living? See nothing scared my husband, he lived a full and adventurous life, one that he would have been proud to say, he didn’t shrink back from. And maybe because of his thirst for adventure, I lived more cautiously. But here we were and what was I afraid of?
How much unfinished business would I have when I died?
I had a choice. I could let this one huge life altering event take hold of me and put me in a corner, cowering, fearful to live for fear of dying, fearful of death that stole from me, crushed and overcome for the rest of my life. Or I could make a determined decision that whatever it took, I would rise up and conquer this thing that was now engulfing me, defeating and destroying me, drowning me… I had 4 very good reasons to get up, and no matter how weak and incapable I felt, put one foot in front of the and those 4 reasons were my 4 beautiful children. I wanted them to look to me for strength and not feel the hopelessness. I wanted them in years to come to be proud of who I became and how this event changed me and not be ashamed. I wanted them to take their own lives in their own hands and live as fully as they could as well.
But it wasn’t just going to happen, I had to make it happen.
I had to do life scared, raw, uncut. It wasn’t pretty and I had a lump in my throat the whole while but step by step bit by bit I began to intentionally live and to live intentionally. I found a place that I could do ‘grief work’ - working through those things that I had only questions about and be prepared to have no answers. I enrolled in a course that would lead to employment where I could support my family. I breathed deeply through the fear and after a time I breathed it all away, fear left and determination took its place.
A real turning point came when I was challenged to write down 1000 things I was thankful for at a time I could not remember being thankful for much at all.
A challenge to live thankful for the tiniest ray of light coming through the window, lock of hair on my youngest child, sound of the ocean waves gently pounding on the sand outside my window. To photograph and document and to look at the end of each day to the ONE thing I could say thank you for. Yes, I knew all that I could scream at the darkness about, but being thankful in the midst? I began to search out and photograph things to look at when I felt saddest, I drove to clifftop and dirt track, I searched out the good things in life to overcome the darkness I felt and soon, bit by bit, the lump in my throat lost its grip and I could breathe. I learned to smile like a child learns to walk and I felt happiness creeping back in. I learned that life has a rhythm, a cadence, there are good and bad days, but the more intentional I was, the more good days I had until there were more good than bad and I wasn’t just walking but running, sometimes tripping, but I was living.
I had a choice, death or life and I chose life.
By Kate Lithgow
P.S. We would love to hear your thoughts and comments in the section below.