In 2011, life happened—like life always does and choices were made by me and my husband resulting in our relocating 5000 miles back to Virginia from Kauai in 2013. For 5 years those happenings in my world presented as family elders becoming ill, 4 deaths, daily care taking, and all the stressors complicit with up-rooting your entire life, careers, relationships, and the constant daily logistics of dealing with the overlap of our “living” while navigating the dying, illness and the dismantling of lives that had ended.
Fast forward to June 20, 2016. By 8:00 a.m. that Monday morning, my husband had taken his own life less than 30 feet from where I stood feeding our dogs.
This is the first time I’ve addressed this in a public format. I am choosing to do so because I find myself, more than 9 months later, benefiting from exactly where I am because of the choices I made, or didn’t and because of the choices made by my late husband.
The word beneficiary is defined as, “benefiting from; receiving favor; being granted a privilege, or having a gratuity bestowed upon you.
Most often, we equate being a beneficiary with receiving money, property etc., after another’s death.
Having dealt now with 5 deaths and the myriad of legal-ease, documentation and bureaucracy that is required to “officially” close the books on one’s life, I started to explore just how I truly am benefiting from the way my life has shown up, comfortable or not, through my choices or the choices of others. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far….
I learned/ I am beneficiary of/ I choose;
- I continue to choose raw authenticity when the waves of grief, sadness, regret and reality wash over me.
- I chose to grieve well—to live the experience completely so I could process it completely and live fully present through it regardless of the pain as a means of self-love so when I arrive at “DONE” I can move forward in freedom.
- I learned to ask for help, and allowed myself to receive it.
- Grace—grace for those individuals, family and friends who simply couldn’t show up.
- Allowance for those who couldn’t show up colored by the fundamental truth and knowing that their inability had absolutely nothing to do with me or their love for me.
- Deep humility and gratitude for the people who came immediately and who stayed for the dirty work—the aftermath of my raw and seemingly inexhaustible grief, guilt, doubt, self-questioning, etc.. These same people who have stayed and held space for me to find my happiness again and are as equal to the task of allowing my joy as they were my pain.
- The purge of situations, people and expectations from my life because I was/am no longer willing to show up in familiar roles for “them”. This was painful initially as from the outside looking in I had lost everything.
- The rebirth of my “beingness” rather than filling a role of “wife, step-mother, friend, caretaker, daughter, sister”.
- Reclaiming my integrity—self in relation to self. I am no longer willing to let anyone else’s well-being or opinions hold more importance than my own.
- I continue to benefit from honoring myself—guilt free—for the choices I made knowingly during my marriage and with family members. This gives me the ability to learn from the dichotomy I chose to stay in without victimizing myself or creating drama.
- I learned to be kind to myself and allowing when I was less than proud of my behavior or reaction in various situations.
- I learned to “lean into the jib”, and get after creating something beautiful in this huge space that’s been provided.
- While this may seem harsh or too pragmatic for some, an unnecessary distinction for others,–I fulfilled the terms of my contract—till death do us part—I’m ready for LIFE—and I’m grateful for this feeling of inspiration and excitement.
From one perspective, I “lost” many friendships as people could not hold the space for me to show up other than as the consistent, happy, solution-finding anchor most of my circle experienced me to be. For others who left, they just couldn’t handle the gritty, ugly, authentic pain as it had the potential of forcing them to rub up against something equally uncomfortable in their own lives.
Perhaps entangled in all the leavings was an inability of those individuals to allow me the space and the grace of being weak, needy or vulnerable for just a moment in time. For this I am grateful. This experience has deepened in me the ability to see beyond a moment and hold space for any moment to morph into the next even more magical possibility.
In the grand scheme of things, that’s the simplicity of what has occurred for all of us these last 9 months. Moments in time strung together and defined as an experience.
My moments were filled with the crushing weight of holding a loved one while his body released all life that was left as his soul withdrew—by his own powerful choice. I am the beneficiary of having been imbued with the strength to respond with love and be with him through his death as I was with him through our life. I was/am blessed with the gift of trust. This trust allowed me to lean into that vast ocean of grace which was represented by LIFE showing up to support and love me immediately through the people, opportunities, beauty and magical moments that ensued and continue to unfold.
These next 9 months will be the same in that they will be a series of moments strung together which we will define as an experience.
So the questions I ask myself now include, “What beauty will I create in the space that’s been provided? What intention will I imbue in the moments to come?”
How about you?
With warmest aloha and deep appreciation for all of life,