Last night I realized that on New Year's Eve 1999, Tom had not had a stroke, my mother-in-law was aging but was not yet diagnosed with dementia, I was still working as the long-time Executive Director in a statewide child abuse prevention organization, our youngest son J was still in high school. On that New Year's Eve, Tom and I danced in the kitchen, ate a midnight supper, drank martinis and champagne and waited, laughing, to see if all the 'puters in the world came crashing down.
Never did we think that in a few short months our life, as we knew it, would come crashing down. Tom retired on May 1 and had his first stroke on July 11, 2000 - he never was the same again. He was a brilliant attorney and pilot who couldn't keep a checkbook anymore.
We did rehab, we did recovery, working side-by-side -- we reinvented ourselves and our marriage and we did so with purpose, with joy and with love. March 2004, he suffered another stroke although much lighter than the first but it took away his ability to drive this time and then the third one came along in late 2004 - that was the BIG one.
During this decade, I lost my 18 year old cat in 2003, my mother-in-law in June 2004 and my husband on November 14, 2004. A decade of grief and loss. A decade of transition and transformation.
In this decade there also were so many blessings - my darling only grandson, Evan, was born in October 2004. I met my wonderful business partner J and we established our amazing business that serves so many organizations with capacity building services, all rooted in community and in participation. The business is so much more than a business for both of us - it is the outward manifestation of our deepest values. We are beginning our seventh year of working together.
I have met and made so many new friends and I have been held and supported by an enormous network of friends and sisters across the country and the world.
I remodeled my house and transformed my living space. I discovered acupuncture and pilates and have incorporated both into my life as disciplines and routine preventative health care.
I was brought to my knees by grief - I was stripped bare and left myself by the side of the road many times over - not really caring if I lived or died. I doggedly kept moving forward even when I didn't believe the pain would ever abate. Year One of Widowhood was unbearable - Year Two was a million times worse - it felt as though I walked around looking fine but really the very skin was scorched off my face.
I met other widowed who held me up when I had no legs on which to stand and who laughed and CRIED with me nonstop and sometimes both at the same time. Then a step at a time a new life began to emerge from loss. I began to be able to hold others and listen deeply with those ears that grow from hard, real experience. I began to want to pay it forward to others. One day I actually laughed out loud with joy and didn't immediately feel guilty for being happy when Tom was dead!
Slowly this new life - the life that will never be the same again - the life that is different but a life that is full and joyful emerged and I am blessed beyond imagining.
Here this afternoon I stand - after a decade of loss, of pain, and of blessings so huge that I am filled with awe and gratitude. It is so good that we cannot see a day ahead - life is just that - life - and we only have the moment in which we stand.
Here's to a new decade - here's to each of you who have stood by my side and made my time on this earth a blessing. Namaste.