When the morning came it would be time to go back to my reality: daily reminders of her absence, insomnia from racing thoughts, paperwork and phone calls addressing her estate, final medical bills, funeral costs, and sadness to celebrate the holiday without “Mother Christmas”. I saved those menacing thoughts for a bit of light stressing on the plane.
That night I would just walk beside my husband and feel everything. Feel the cold on my face, the closeness of people passing by, see bright lights glow against tall buildings, hear the hustle and bustle of taxis racing by and the warmth of my best friends arm holding mine as we strolled in carefree silence.
New York was important, not just as a reprieve from managing the aftermath of my mother dying, but for my relationship with my husband. To say our marriage had become strained during her illness and eventual death would be too strong of a word, I think. We were very close, probably closer than ever. But it was the type of closeness two people experience when holding onto a life raft floating in the middle of a hurricane. We depended on each other every day to make it to tomorrow. It was survival mode and we had been lost in it for far too long.
The hurricane had been downgraded to a tropical storm, and we were beginning to loosen our white-knuckle grips from the raft. It was time to stop holding our breaths, fearing upsetting the other by talking about sensitive subjects and focusing on getting through our day to day static routines. We were in the first stages of letting go. It’s not something that happens over night; it’s a process consisting of love and trust and openness to free ourselves from fear and sadness. The process culminates, not with finding who we were before the hurricane hit land, but who we are together after the storm passes and we sift through the debris.
I tried hard not to lose myself in grief and took extreme steps, like skydiving, to awaken my senses. Our trip to New York was a wake up call that even though we were supportive and loving to one another, our relationship had taken a long hiatus from fresh, spontaneous and happy. This trip was just about us. No friends or family to divert attention from one another, no jobs or estate paperwork to keep us busy. It was several days with no itinerary or plans but to just go and do and laugh as we pleased- together. While walking the streets of Manhattan, holding my hubby’s hand, I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I held it when it wasn’t for support like a crutch. Inhaling fresh air and blowing out the stagnant, New York was defibrillator to our marriage. We could feel the pulse again.