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Learning to live without love of her life

For the past two years, I have been learning to accept the fact that I am a widow.

After all these months, I am still wrestling with the realization that I am no longer a "wife." My husband was two months away from his 60th birthday, June 16, 2008, and he so wanted to make it to that milestone. It was not to be.

Instead, I turned 60 that August and I celebrated for both of us, surrounded by loving family and missing my husband deeply. As the principal of an elementary school, I was grateful to be able to immerse myself in school projects and tend to the needs of my students and staff. However, at the end of the school day, an empty house awaited me.

The home that I loved was no longer a place of respite and tranquility. I resorted to placing my husband's picture in a place where I would see it as soon as I entered the house. It helped somewhat, but it was a momentary fix at that. Selfishly, I even thought it would be better to have him back suffering through cancer!
Rick and I had been married almost 36 years and the last six years of his life had been plagued with ill health. The last 15 months turned from bad to worse and then to critical. With the help of Hospice, I cared for Rick at home. It was exhausting, but he wanted to be home and I wanted him to be at peace, with family and friends able to visit him in his own home, the home that we shared for the greater part of our marriage.

Sometimes, just from pure angst and lack of sleep, I wondered if he would do the same for me had the situation been reversed. But I knew he would, as best as he could. I surprised myself more than once at just how much I could endure, and it gave me a sense of strength for both of us.

In his pain and through my determination to be his caregiver, we grew closer than ever before. I'm sure knowing that time was running out also played a key role in stretching our love to greater heights. Our two sons referred to it as "unconditional love" and they were indeed so right.

Rick passed away April 6, 2008, surrounded by family as we both wanted. As I approach the second anniversary of his death, I still grieve for him as any widow can understand. There are days I refer to myself as the "weary widow." I miss my husband immensely and I still am growing into widowhood.

It still doesn't quite "fit." How can it be that I'm here and he isn't? But the good memories sustain me, and there is joy in even the smallest of blessings. My two sons have their father's quirky sense of humor and more than they realize, they are very much like their dad.

My wonderful daughters-in-law did not know Rick for very long, but they will understand who he was through their own husbands. I have two young granddaughters who remind me, with their sweet expressions, that my life is very good.

I know Rick can hear their laughter and I'm certain he is laughing along with them. I also know that he will hear the newborn cry of our grandchild, expected this August, and see my tears of happiness as grandma holds that tiny bundle for the first time.

Faith, family, friends, the changing of the seasons; in the expected gifts and even more so, the unexpected, I celebrate my husband and the life we once shared. I may not be quite the "merry widow" just yet, but I'm learning.

Teresa Siuta is an Orchard Park grandmother.

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