Losing My Husband
Without warning, a massive heart attack took my husband at 55. Losing Bob was never on my radar. He was my answer to prayer after twelve years of being a single mom. I told him he was my boyfriend every chance I had, since we were still basically newlyweds compared to our friends.
Oh, and the plans we made! Someday, we were going to be the fun grandparents! The destination for family fun and grandchildren drop-offs. Our place would be on the beach, so my husband could build sandcastles and teach the little ones to ride the waves. We were going to purchase a massive shaved ice machine for the modern version of a Lemon Aid Stand. We could make memories and teach the kids about entrepreneurship while also fulfilling my husbands need for 24/7 access to shaved ice. In fact, we spoke about our plans so often, they became reality to us. It seemed as if we had already owned the beach house; our white picket fence destination.
We had thirteen amazing years together, raising four children as a blended family, and filling albums with pictures of our adventures and celebrations. I felt like the luckiest woman alive. Suddenly, I was the saddest, most frightened woman alive, with too many things to figure out, and struggling to find my balance.
I had a lot to figure out. I had to sell a business and decide if I could be brave enough to become fully corporate when all I had known was anything but. My adult children played a huge role in convincing me that everyone fakes it until they make it, so I acted as if I had the confidence to move forward on my own.
The friendships my husband and I had with a handful of couples seemed at risk now that I was only one. I wasn’t sure I would be included in adventures meant for couples and honestly had no idea if I even wanted to be. The thought of being without my other half when everyone else was still whole seemed too much to ask of myself. Yet, these were the choices I had. Stay home and miss out on a great adventure or brave it and take the sad with the joy of friends who still wanted me, regardless of their sadness over the loss.
Finally Saying Yes To Solo Travel
My first solo trip was the annual golf tournament weekend in the desert, where memories go back to our first year of marriage. Golf tournaments, dinners, poolside fun and late-night games were guaranteed to entertain. There was no question I would be welcomed, but how could I risk the pain? I waited a few years before I said yes. I found that year was unexpectedly comforting because everyone there missed my husband too. We could talk about him and laugh about the things he did. The sadness that came when I hit the pillow has dissipated over the years and I don’t feel like half a person anymore.
Since then I have had a fantastic time traveling as the “fifth wheel” with two couples who seem to fit my travel style: relax, eat, drink and laugh. One husband always has a suitcase of jokes to keep us in stitches. We have been to Cabo many times and when they invited me on a cruise to Barcelona, Italy and France, to save on costs I invited a girlfriend to room with me with one stipulation: she leave her hubby home.
Once bitten by the travel bug, I opened myself up to adventure! I began checking destinations off my bucket list as each opportunity presented itself. My world opened to new friends and new perspectives. To date, I have traveled to Rwanda to gorilla trek, Kenya for safari and Nairobi to be with the orphaned elephants. Last year I traveled to Israel for the first time with 50 people from my church and I just recently returned from a sixteen-day adventure in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
My family, friends and work associates have all encouraged me to take time to explore what my heart is drawn to. As hard as it always is to prepare for a long trip, once I am in the air heading out, I know it was worth the effort. Then as I head back home, my cup is full, knowing I have new challenges, responsibilities and loved ones there. And of course, another trip to plan.
Writing this story has been cathartic for me, as I recognize how far I have come in healing from my loss. This is my new normal! I have faked it well enough to believe myself! I am more than surviving. I feel blessed and thrilled to be alive. And, if someone, man or woman, finds encouragement by reading my story, I am doubly blessed.