Bearing Witness

My widow friend, Andrea, in Texas recently posted a quote from a movie that sums up better than I have ever been able to what it is that goes missing from our lives when we lose our spouses.

”We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness’.”

Shall We Dance, 2004

I had never really thought about it in just that way. Funny how sometimes just what you need to know or see or do will arrive via a movie or the daily horoscope in the daily newspaper. A song will come on the radio and something that a moment before was an insurmountable problem or an inscrutable dilemma melts away into clarity.

I have been puzzling in my head how to best remember Will on the second anniversary of his death this coming January 23rd and was not satisfied with any of the ideas I was coming up with thus far. I started a memorial page for him on FaceBook but realize now that this was not something that many people who knew him would ever see as I am the only uber-geek of the bunch. None of his friends or family would have much use for a social networking internet site. Try as I might, I have never been able to capture him in words to my own satisfaction though I have written about him, I have never painted his picture with a thousand words.

I’d thought about a memorial in the Des Moines paper where we lived, but again, no one who knew him would see it. Sadly, few of them read or keep abreast of the world outside the bubbles they live in. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. His best friend going back to childhood called my parents house the other day to find out my number because he and his family would be back in the Des Moines area for Christmas and wanted to drop a present by for Katy. He must have called the old number and discovered it was disconnected and thought we’d moved or something. I don’t know what he thought when my mother gave him my new cell with a funny area code but he called it and left a message. I gave it a bit of thought before returning the call. It was apparent he didn’t know I’d remarried and moved out of the country. I suppose this was mostly my fault for not calling to tell him last spring, but he’d pretty much dropped out of our lives after Will died. I heard from him once the May after when he called wanting to know where Will was buried. There was no “how are you?” “how is Katy?” just asked for the location and I haven’t heard from him since. I did see his wife and mother-in-law last Christmas. She called and asked if I could stop by to pick up a gift for Katy, which we did. During our little visit, I learned that Doug wasn’t handling Will’s death well at all and at the time couldn’t bear to talk about him. He kept the ball cap and the pool cue of Will’s I had given him hanging in the cab of his truck and no one was allowed to touch either. I felt at the time I heard this, and still do, that this was really no excuse for avoiding me or Katy, who is his goddaughter. Will wouldn’t have done that if the situation was reversed. I was/am a bit tired of his family and friends laying claim to grief for my husband as though it was some kind of contest.

I didn’t get a hold of Doug. I called him but his voice mail picked up. I gave the abbreviated version of the past year and haven’t heard back. I guess that tells me what I need to know.

Sometimes I feel that no one knew Will at all until I came along. His family. His friends. If it weren’t for me, who would bear witness to him in a true sense? I still haven’t figured out how best to do this however, but I have not quite another month to think on it. I think though that the way I have lived and moved forward, building a future is a best testament to him so far.

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