When the news was told to me, by mine and Kens Sunday School teacher who also happened to be a police officer, I dropped to my knees. Keened outward, shattered inward. It was a kind of pain I had never felt before. So abrupt and awful that my brain shut off. My instinct was to call my mom. I needed my Mommy even more in that moment than I ever did as a child. I tried answering the questions the officers asked me but I couldn’t focus. Times, names, details…they all floated just out of my grasp. It took me a half dozen tries to dial my moms number correctly. My hands wouldn’t stop shaking and my brain was nothing. I left a message on my moms voicemail. Then my friend Joi texted me. I automatically replied. Just “Kens Dead.” The words swam surreal in my vision. I almost puked. She lived 15 minutes away but she pulled in to my road within 5. Her husband hadn’t even parked the car and she was out, car door swung open, she ran to me with a sad look of pity on her face and her arms stretched wide. I realized the pity was for me. I clung to her and wept. The ground was falling in. The cookies were burning in the oven. I asked a neighbor to take them out. Her teenage son went in to sit with my sons. I couldn’t remember how to light a cigarette. I couldn’t remember how to breathe. Everything hurt. The officer wouldn’t shut up. I had no answers. I couldn’t think.
Then it dawned on me……his mom.
Oh God, his mom.
I couldn’t let this awful phone call come from some stranger, some clinical police officer.
I found her number in my phone and dialed. She answered. Her hello broke my heart. It was the last word she would ever say before knowing her son was gone. It was the hardest phone call I ever made in my life. I asked if she was alone. She was. Fuck. I didn’t want her to go through this alone. I told her. Said the most awful vile words any human ever says to a mother. Her voice…her crying…I couldn’t forget that sound in my ear even if I tried. It burned into my soul.
I didn’t know how to function that day. Or the days after. My heart was gone. I was lost. I couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t eat. I wrote him a letter he would never read. Was given the engagement and wedding ring set he had bought that day before the accident. Opened the box outside of the police station, wiped the river mud off of them and cried while smiling. My heart. Oh my heart. He had messaged me saying “Someday I will get you a ring you deserve. But these were perfect. The most beautiful rings I ever saw. “You did good.” I whispered to the air. I imagined what the official proposal would have been like. I Travelled to Ohio for the funeral. I had never even seen a dead body before . My first one was my soul mate and best friend. I was first at the viewing. He looked like wax. Him but not him. His hair was parted in the wrong way, not the way he preferred. I wanted to go buy a brush and fix it. I told him I loved him. His mom came in behind me, her voice cracked when she said “Oh” as if she’d been kicked in the stomache. “I had hoped they were wrong.” she confessed aloud.
So had I.
His dad threw himself over the coffin and wept loudly over his sons body. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” He sobbed out. My heart shattered.
It is all seared into my heart.
Back home. Walk into our bedroom. There was a stack of his folded sweaters and shirts on the dresser. I had washed and folded them the last day of his life. He had grabbed one off of the top to wear that day. I saw those shirts and my brain said “He’ll never wear those.” and suddenly I was crying so hard I didn’t recognize the sounds coming from me. I sounded not-human.
Life ebbed on.
I still have moments I cry.
Not one single day goes by without thinking of him. Drezdyn still calls him Daddy. The boys and I mention memories of him often. He is very much still a part of our family. He died believing he didn’t matter very much. He never knew how much he truly did matter. More than I can put into words.
And now there is Justin. The other two men that came after Ken, the ones who I thought could fill that void in some halfass way …I was stupid and wrong. Ken had told me once “If anything ever happens to me, please don’t get involved with Dave.” He knew Dave had feelings for me and he knew the hell that man would put me through.
But Justin. Justin is different.
Justin has tasted grief and swallowed it whole. His fiancé and soulmate had died unexpectedly in a car accident a few years earlier. He knew the path the kids and I had walked. He met us on that path one day, at a curve in the way. We walk it as a family now.
God gave me a second soul mate. This fact humbles me greatly. The memories Ken and I shared was enough to fill a lifetime Now I have a second chance. At love and happiness. I feel very undeserving. I still struggle with guilt that I wasn’t there and could not help Ken that night. I struggle with guilt for moving on and loving another man. I feel guilty to his family that I am taking steps forward without Ken by my side.
These feelings mesh with my feelings of gratitude and happiness and love.
Grief is a complicated. Messy. Never ending. It ebbs and flows.
It is a part of who I am. Who we all are.