Today

It’s been six months since that terrible day. I’ve tried to fill you in on what I’ve done and how I’ve experienced in the post love era.

There are a few notable moments I didn’t mention.

One of my friends nearly died. She had a procedure that should have been minor but complications kept her in the hospital. Her husband later told me he was shouting at Christine for trying to take his wife. I think that’s how he explained it.

It was terrifying for all of us. I don’t think anyone could have taken another death in our small, close knit group. She recovered. I was so thankful. I was also incredibly jealous. That sounds so horrible, but it made me think even more about my own loss. Why did everyone else get to have a person? I know, I’m selfish.

Then there was the night I was on the edge of joining Christine. It only happened once, me feeling that way. I was at our friend’s bar celebrating their 10th anniversary in business. All of our friends and acquaintances were there, having a great time. And I just started to feel so alone. Christine should have been there, but she wasn’t and never would be. It was also the first time several people had seen me since she passed away, so I had the whole widower leprosy thing going on as well.

I just kept coming back to joining her. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I moved away from my friends started messaging her, telling her I didn’t think I could make it through another night without her. And then a friend texted me this:

smiles

I know, it’s ridiculous. And it pulled me completely out of that line of thinking and I’ve never gone back.

There was the benefit for Crisis Connections we held in Christine’s honor. A friend did an amazing job getting stuff to auction off and raffle and we raised thousands. I even stood up on a table and gave a short speech. I thought it would be a horribly sad night but it wasn’t. It was a great night.

There was Halloween in Ireland where I was the one who got the ring from the barmbrack bread, supposedly signifying I would be married within the year. It was incredibly awkward but I kept the ring as a promise that things will get better someday.

barmbrack

I went out with the team that night to have a couple pints. When they learned about Christine they told me of an Irish tradition wherein a glass of the departed’s favorite drink was set at the table and a spot left open for them.

They bought her a glass of pinot grigio we kept a place at the table for her.

I also failed to tell you about the most important of the revelations I had. I realized I hadn’t mourned Christine. I pushed her aside so much trying to stay away from the bad feelings and just bottled it all up.

So I decided to let myself feel it. And holy shit how I’ve felt it. I’ve been a total wreck for three weeks. Just constantly breaking down over the littlest thing. But that might be OK.

Oh, and I found a therapist.

So there we are. All caught up. I’m alone. My wife’s sadness overwhelmed her and she took her own life. My kids lost their mom. The world lost the most beautiful person it had.

No happy ending. Not yet. Not even sure if you can have one of those in a situation like this. I mean, Christine clearly can’t. Can I?

I don’t know what’s coming from here. The pain has been overwhelming the last couple days since we buried her. I know it won’t get better, but it will get different. I’ll keep moving forward and keep my memory of her with me everyday. I just need to remember the good ones. Hold those. I’ll probably share them here from time to time.

I’ve heard from an astoundingly large number of people since starting this blog, a lot of them have said me telling this story is helping them through the same darkness Christine suffered from.

I’ll keep writing, you keep reading. We’ll get through this shit show together.

Yours in love,

-B

Musical Interlude – Happier, Bastille and Marshmello

Hey Babe,

Yesterday was so much harder that I thought it would be. It’s like I lost you all over again. It’s all so raw and painful right now. So final.

I’m empty. I’m totally destroyed. I really don’t think I can do this without you. There’s all these people reaching out to me and offering to be there but it isn’t enough. It doesn’t lift any of the pain. There’s no respite.

I’m just sitting here totally dead.

I can’t stop thinking about you. About how much you must have hurt.

That’s why I chose that song. Happier. It isn’t a happy song. It’s someone telling a person they love that they love them so much they have to leave. That they have to go away so their beloved can finally be happy.

Every time I hear it I cry. And it’s every where.

I imagine this is what you thought. That last night when you were all alone.

Know that means I’ll have to leave
Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been thinking
I want you to be happier, I want you to be happier
So I’ll go, I’ll go
I will go, go, go
So I’ll go, I’ll go
I will go, go, go
Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been thinking
I want you to be happier, I want you to be happier
Even though I might not like this
I think that you’ll be happier, I want you to be happier
I think it’s what you thought. I think you were being selfless. The ultimate sacrifice for me. I think you were trying to save me from you.
You must have been so alone. So horribly sad. So totally destroyed. I wish I had been there for you, to tell you again that you’re the reason I live.
And babe, you were so totally wrong. It is so much worse without you.
I don’t know if I can make it. I don’t think I can do this.
I’m not strong enough. I’m so very weak. I need you. There’s no way to replace this. It’s just emptiness. An open wound. A bottomless pit. A void.
An absolute absence.
Great pain is repetitive. Grief is repetitive. Sherman Alexie wrote that. It’s perfect in the most horrible way.

I can’t believe how much I hurt. How dark it all is. The pain is unbearable. There’s no escape.

I thought it was getting better and now it’s so much worse. I am totally alone without you. Incomplete. Broken. I need you.

I am so sorry.

I love you.

Requiem

Hey Babe,

We’re having your graveside service today. It’s going to be a very small group, just family. I don’t think we’ll do much. Everyone is coming over to the new house afterwards for a small reception. I got all the food from Costco. No pinwheels. You hated those so much.

I also finally picked up your ashes yesterday, the ones we’re not burying. I put a little aside for each of the kids, some for me for a tattoo (I’m getting the Tlingit love birds one you wanted so much), and then we’re going to spread the rest in Dingle. I hope that’s the right place. You always said ‘My heart belongs in Dingle’. That was my favorite day with you.

Right now you’re sitting on the nightstand on your side of the bed. It’s weird.

I realized yesterday that I haven’t done much to tell your story. Not with this blog or anywhere else really. I’m sorry. You were right, by the way. I am selfish. Or actually thoughtless.

I’m not selfish. If someone asks me for something I give. I do a crappy job of thinking about other people though. I need someone to tell me to think about them.

Just like how all I talk about is how much I hurt but I don’t talk about you. I’m so sorry I didn’t listen to you more.

I’m going to try and tell your story. I’m sure I’ll forget stuff. I’ll probably tell people some stuff you wouldn’t want them to know. Sorry in advance.

OK, here goes.

Christine was born in Sitka, AK. When you live in SE Alaska and you’re on Native healthcare you have to go where the facilities are. In her mom’s case that meant travel from Petersburg to Sitka.

She grew up in Petersburg (with a short 6 month stay in Skagway). They lived in a trailer, mostly because they had to rely only on her mom’s salary because her dad just isn’t a good guy. In fact, he’s terrible. He’s a monster.

This overshadowed her life. It would anyone’s, but in her case she grew up very mistrustful of people. She was always looking for hidden motives and rarely believed people had her best interest at heart.

However, she did have some people in her life that loved her a lot. Her mom and grandfather were on team Christine from the beginning.

She was a pretty girl and had a lot of neighborhood friends. She wasn’t much of a student.

She was also fiercely proud of the fact that she started commercial fishing when she was in 2nd grade and would regularly bring it up when people were complaining about how hard life is.

As she got older she became sadder, and with that came weight gain, and with weight gain came more sadness.

Kids were cruel to her. She was a Native girl in a town populated by Norwegians, some of them incredibly racist. There were times she wasn’t allowed in homes of her friends because she was ‘dirty’. They also picked on her because of her weight.

Kid: Tubby tubby, 2 x 4, grease your hips to get through the door

She told me that story many times.

Her father never paid her for fishing so she started working when she was 14 at the local Trading Union. She also worked at a pizza place making desserts and espresso.

Sadness was a regular part of her youth. She talked about it a lot. She also talked about how her grandfather and mother protected her from her dad. They were bright spots in a dark world.

Christine graduated when she was 17 and moved to Washington to attend beauty school. When she got here she found out that the world was a much bigger place and that people liked her and her sense of humor. She started going to clubs and got into the rave scene. She lost a lot of weight.

She met a guy in the navy, a pretty terrible person who treated her like crap. Because of her feelings about herself she didn’t think she could do better and stuck with this guy for a lot longer than she should. He was the only person she ever dated besides me.

School didn’t last long, one quarter. Christine found jobs to keep her apartment, eventually landing a sales job at Tiny Computers. She was told by her manager that her job was to stand at the front of the store and look pretty to draw people in and then he’d sell the computer and give her credit.

That manager eventually left and she learned to sell on her own. She was promoted to Lead Sales, similar to an Assistant Manager role. The new job was at the showroom where I worked. We both applied and she got it.

I hated her instantly. I was also incredibly attracted to her.

After a few days of bullying from me Christine pulled me outside and asked me what my problem was. This little 19 year old woman got in my face. I apologized and we became friends. And then more than friends.

She later told me she couldn’t believe how long it took me to ask her out. She would do things like lean over me so that her breasts would push against my arm, laugh at my jokes when they weren’t funny and get into things she knew I had interest in.

I wanted to ask her out very badly. I had talked to a friend shortly after meeting her,

Me: She bleeds sexuality

I was scared. She was super intimidating.

I finally asked her to come over and cut my hair. She agreed. I asked for frosted tips. It was 2000. Don’t judge.

We kissed that night. She slept next to me on my twin mattress, both awkwardly fully clothed.

And we never looked back.

I’m pretty sure Christine got pregnant the first time we had sex. I asked her to marry me a couple months after that.

I used a $2 ring I bought at a stand in the mall.

She said yes.

These things never work. She was 19. I was 21. It was doomed. But we did it.

I was upset with her for getting pregnant. I was not nice.

She planned a trip home after K was born.

Christine: How long should I stay?

Me: I don’t care

And then something happened. We fell in love.

No that’s not right. She loved me. I fell madly deeply in love with her. It was a holiday weekend. Labor Day? I don’t know for sure.

We had such loud sex the cops were called. That’s pretty personal but it’s a great story.

It was HOT. The windows were open. When we were done-

Cops: Renton PD. We need you to keep it down. We’ve had several noise complaints.

How long had they been standing there listening? We laughed uncontrollably.

K was born.

Two weeks later we were married at the Issaquah courthouse in front of my parents and her mom.

She took that trip back to Alaska. I missed her so much. Every minute.

I’m making this about me again.

She tried to be a good mom. I was out of work and staying home with K. She worked everyday and brought in all of the money.

I got a job. We found a place to rent. She worked delivering papers in the middle of the night so K didn’t need daycare.

Her grandfather’s health was failing. She wanted to be around him. I wanted an adventure. We decided to move to Alaska.

We struggled at first. The child support for B was crippling. Christine worked hard. First at a bank, then at the assisted living facility. I did better. We bought a house ‘out the road’. The property touched the ocean. It was ours.

I started traveling for work. Her depression got worse. Then she started taking medication. The medication made her not care about anything. I’d get home and find out K hadn’t been to school while I was gone.

We wanted another kid. It was her dream. We tried and tried but found out she had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. This meant she should not be able to get pregnant. And then she did.

T was born. Christine held her every minute she could. All the time. Even the slightest noise from T and Christine would pick her up and hold her close.

She also wanted a boy.

Me: I don’t want to have any kids after I turn 30

She took that as a challenge.

E was born 12 months and two weeks after T.

We had a full family. She had the family she always wanted.

I lost my job. We moved back to Seattle.

Christine wanted to chase her dream of being a hairdresser. We didn’t have the resources to put her through school but we did it anyways. I always gave her anything she asked for. Absolutely anything.

She finished school and went to work. Six months in she was a salon manager. Six months after that she was running 6 stores.

I am so impressed by her. I don’t remember all of the steps of her career through the years but she just went for it. She was the first person in her family to get promoted. And she just kept doing it.

Her hands started to hurt from cutting hair and she wanted to quit. She also wanted weight loss surgery. We were in a position to do it. We had to work hard for six months to prove she cared enough to do it. She was in the gym 3-4 times a week. She changed her diet. Like always, she worked her ass off.

The surgery was scary. It isn’t a small one. I walked six miles while I waited to hear how it went. The doctor came out and told me it went well.

The weight fell off. She was so happy. She was so so happy. Everything was perfect.

We bought a house. We loved more. We loved so hard.

It was all so good.

And then it wasn’t. Christine started to get jealous. She thought I was having an affair. She was convinced.

I wasn’t. Just so everyone knows. But she was sure.

I stopped talking to anyone from work outside of work hours. I did everything I could to prove to her I was only into her. But it didn’t go away.

She got a new job. It was a temp position. Then it was permanent. Then she got promoted.

She was insanely popular at work. Everyone loved her so much. It’s not hard to understand why.

At home the fights came more frequently. She would get so mad at me. Anything could lead to it. She would bring up things from 5, 10, 15 years before.

She started cutting people from her life. One slight and they were gone. It kept getting worse.

She started telling me the same thing.

Christine: I want you to find someone else. Why won’t you just find someone to make you happy?

She didn’t believe the person I loved more than anything else in the world was her. She hated herself. It got worse.

When she got mad she would leave. She would sleep in the car. She would go to the bar. She would buy wine and just drink. So much.

She started hiding her drinking from me. I would find airline bottles and boxes of wine hidden all over the place.

And then Norway. We agreed she would seek help when we got home. She pleaded with me to sit in her sessions because she said she would lie otherwise. It was all set.

And then she didn’t make it home.

Christine was passionate. She cared so much. She wanted the world to be how it should. She was furious it wasn’t that way.

Christine was popular. Everyone gravitated to her. She was magnetic. She made you want her to be your friend.

Christine was funny. No, she was hilarious. I’ve never met a person I could laugh harder with. I’ve never met someone who always made me laugh. We spent so many moments in time crying because we couldn’t stop laughing. Bent over, doubled over. Painful laughing.

Christine was loving. She cared so much for our kids. It broke her heart when B was hurting so far away. She would defend me and the kids against everything and everyone. She always took our side.

Christine was beautiful. She was beautiful before her surgery. She never believed that I could love her and find her beautiful. She has always been the most gorgeous woman I’ve ever met.

Christine was smart. She succeeded when she should have failed. She was the most incredible person I’ve ever met.

Christine was broken. She thought in black and white, and the black kept taking more space.

Babe. I hope I did this right. I hope I told your story. I can’t include everything. I can’t expect people who didn’t know you to understand how incredible you were. You amazed me. You did what no one should have been able to do. You said ‘fuck it’ and just did it.

I miss you so much. The kids miss you so much.

Christine: I want you to find someone you can be happy with. Why won’t you find someone you can be happy with?

You are that person. I was so happy. I’m sorry I couldn’t make you understand that.

Babe, I loved you.

No.

I love you. You are everything to me. I would do anything to have one more minute with you. Sacrifice anything.

I’d tell you I’m sorry. I’d tell you you’re the best thing I ever had. I’d tell you you’re the best thing the world had.

You are my everything.

I hope you’re better now. I hope you’ve found the peace you couldn’t find.

I miss you so fucking much.

Coming Home

The week following my return home is a blur. It’s funny how the first 24 hours are so clear in my mind but everything after that is just a jumble. There are some milestones throughout the last five months but otherwise it’s just one big mess of thoughts, emotions, small victories and big mistakes.

I sent an email off to my work letting them know what was going on. Then I announced Christine’s passing on social media. The response was intense. My family and friends mobilized on my behalf, putting together a meal signup, creating a gofundme to help with immediate expenses, taking care of all the details of the service. B was able to get some time off and stay with us for the month.

No, that’s too fast of an explanation. There’s some things I need to touch on before continuing. First, and it’s so weird that this stands out so clearly, if you offer to bring a grieving family dinner, please, for the love of everything holy, do not bring them pasta. For days on end we had pasta delivered to us. Lasagna the first two nights, then some other random pasta, then pasta with shrimp two nights in a row. I’m sure this comes across as ungrateful to some but after the first couple nights we either went out to dinner or tore the delivered dinner apart. I took the shrimp out and made a frittata, I pulled the noodles out of the lasagna and fried what was left… Which was delicious, FYI.

It was also interesting to see the response from people. It’s amazing how many try to empathize by telling you their sad story. ‘My grandpa died’ ‘My sister died’ ‘My cousin died’ ‘I know someone from high school that took their own life’. Every one of these statements came from a distant family member, an acquaintance, a co-worker. Someone I wasn’t close to. Each time it was preceded or followed by ‘I know it’s not the same as what you’re going through’. And they were right. It isn’t the same. It’s not even fucking close.

Next thing I heard from the same group of people, ie., people I don’t know, was ‘let me know what I can do to help’. Can you invent a time machine? Bring my wife back to life? No? Then you can’t do anything. You’re worthless. Go away.

I know. That sounds cruel, but after the 300th time hearing this from some random person that went to school with Christine, that knew me from a previous job, that neither of us had ever met I just wanted to scream in their stupid faces that they didn’t matter. I didn’t of course. I told them all the same thing ‘thank you, I appreciate it’ and left it at that.

Look, I know there aren’t words to describe how you feel when you interact with someone in my situation. I get it. Maybe there aren’t words because all you’re supposed to say is ‘I’m sorry’.

The other thing that stands out is how many people I discovered really did care. Some of the people who took time out of their day to attend the service, deliver a meal (even if it was pasta), share a memory of Christine, surprised me. We weren’t close, but there was something about my/their/her relationship that compelled them to deliver comfort in a real way. These were coworkers, friends of friends, people I’ve played soccer with. They never asked me a damn thing, just let me know in the most gentle way that Christine and I are loved.

At the same time my closest friends stepped back from me. This isn’t because they’re cruel people, but because they know me the very best. Despite what I’m trying to do with this blog, I’m a generally a very private person. I don’t like people doing things for me, I don’t like asking for help. I do like time to think. These people knew this. They checked on me, they brought dinners (lasagna!), they made sure I knew I could talk to them, but for the most part they left me alone and for that I am eternally grateful.

My larger family began to get details together. They spoke to Christine’s work on my behalf about how to get life insurance and collect her things and claim her 401k (I still haven’t done this). My mom made lists of things she needed input on from me while trying to get the service put together. It’s amazing how overwhelming answering a single question can be. I’d look at this list and close the app, putting it off until later.

The gofundme my aunt had started was growing rapidly. This was weird to me. I didn’t need the money, and yet it kept coming. I think more than anything else this was a way for people who didn’t know what to do to help in some way. It’s appreciated, it was uncomfortable. We used the money to buy tickets to Disney World.

I spent days with my kids, or tried to. Nothing held my interest for long. I would try and watch TV, play a video game, read. Restlessness would overcome me and I’d usually end up in my bedroom because I didn’t know where else to be. Except at night. I stayed out of my bedroom at night for a week, until B arrived. I spent most of my thoughts on all the things I could have done differently. I could have been more kind, I could have called the police, I could have stopped her from walking out of that fucking hotel room. I barely slept at all.

I also started unpacking her luggage. This was a slow process, but one of the first things I found was her room key. Room 212. That’s where it happened. That’s where she spent her last hours. Just one floor away. Until that moment I hadn’t known where she went next, not for sure. She was so close to me. Why didn’t I go to the front desk and ask? Why didn’t I call down to be connected? Why did I just sit in my room, angrily hoping she would get her shit together and come back? I burned the key card.

The other thing I got from a lot of people during this time was ‘What happened?’. Well, for anyone reading this that is curious, she took her own life. I don’t care if you want closure, I don’t care if you want details, I don’t care at all how you feel and what you think you need. All you need to know is she was so sad, felt so terrible that she thought the world would be better without her. This bright, shiny, beautiful woman couldn’t recognize her worth and left us all. Don’t ever ask a suicide survivor ‘What happened?’. They’ll tell you if they want you to know.

Furthermore, at the time I had no idea. I didn’t want to know. She was my wife and she was gone. That was already more than enough for me to handle.

Concurrent to this I was working with Norwegian authorities to try and find out what the hell was happening with her remains and belongings (they wouldn’t release her phone and they still had any jewelry she was wearing). I won’t say I was very dogged in my work. It was exhausting. It could wait another day. Everything could.

T’s birthday was on Wednesday. The entire family came together. It was a huge turnout. I warned everyone beforehand this should be about T, not about Christine. We shouldn’t cry, we should celebrate my little daughter. It went well. Shockingly well. And then we got in the car and I handed T the last present she had asked me for. It was a picture of her and her mom together. She began crying immediately. ‘I miss her’.

Like I’ve mentioned, B showed up on Thursday. I also went out with friends that night. The first half went pretty well. I talked a little about the trip, we ignored the elephant in the room. Then it just all came out. We cried, we struggled through the night, we won a surprising amount of money playing pulltabs and they gave it to me so I could do something with the kids. Some woman in the bar thought we were speaking poorly of her gender and confronted us. I told her what we were talking about and she offered to take me home with her. I declined.

I don’t know what happened Friday. No recollection at all. I’m pretty sure it was more of the same cycle of guilt and sadness. I think I might have walked down to the bar.

Saturday came and we had her service. There was a slideshow. Some songs. T read her mother’s day card. E said some things. I choked my way through some words. People said nice things to me afterwards and hugged me. It was nice, it was awful.

We went to my mom’s house, just some family and our very closest friends. We drank, I got drunk. My friends gave me a ride home and we stood in front of my house drinking while I told them the story of Christine and I’s last night.

I went inside my house, fell into my bed and told Christine how much I missed her. Then I fell asleep and dreamed of her.