Sunday, April 26, 2009
Death Turns to Birth
I had everything I had ever wanted . . . right up until our Easter Sunday dinner when my then seventeen month-old daughter and I watched as my amazing husband, Erik, slid down the kitchen counter and died. He was 29 and I was seven months pregnant with our second child. One minute he was laughing, and thirty five minutes later, he was proclaimed dead. Just like that.
Needless to say, it was unimaginable.
Six years have now passed since Erik's death and, again, I have everything I have ever wanted. After pushing through the ups and downs of spousal loss and unexpected single-parenting, I'd like to think I have earned this right to happiness. I put in the time. Endless hours of Post Traumatic Stress therapy. Journaling. Eye Movement Desensitation Reprocessing. Hypnotherapy. Chakra work. I figured the only way to get over Erik's death was to go straight through it, as painful as every step would be, and that the more time I spent healing, the sooner I would feel capable of being a good mother again, and eventually, a good partner to someone else.
Of course, what I didn't know when Erik died was that grief is not something you ever truly 'get over'. Grief is like a newly given birthmark on your face, eternally staring back at you in the mirror.
Erik's funeral was followed by a catered 'celebration of life' on one of George Lucas's soundstages. Erik was a rising star in technology management at Lucas's special effects' division, Industrial Light and Magic, and his unexpected death was high on the richter scale for thousands of people. I will always be grateful for the outpour of love and support from the Lucas employees and my incredible photography clients.
I remember when one of my ex-boyfriends arrived at the funeral chapel, how I wondered if he would end up being the next daddy to my children. Even in my black maternity outfit, it was as if Erik was sending me a message, telling me to find love again. Sure, I admit that I started dating way too soon according to most people's ideas of grief etiquette, but I have no regrets. Feeling desirable was all a part of my healing process, and there was this biological yearning, a screaming inside of me, "NEED FATHER FOR CHILDREN." The idea of being a single mom to two baby girls was inconceivable, but I was not willing to settle for anything less than the happiness that I once had.
Six weeks after my second daughter, Keira, was born, I did an online search for other young widows, and found myself on Match.com. for the first time. Men and women of every shape and size. I scrolled through to see if there was anyone, at the age of 30, who could relate to my situation, someone I could talk to, but I ended up searching through all the men—widowed or not. I needed to connect. I needed male attention. But, who would want me? Who would want a young widow with two babies?
Next thing I knew, I was Match.com member, typing up a headline for myself.
“Add water, will grow.” My catch phrase.
Then I wrote and rewrote my Match.com profile, which finally read:
“There is a place where happiness overwhelms you, where you feel you might burst because it feels so good. I have been to that place. I have been there and tasted its richness and I know that I will return there once again. I have to believe that those capable of loving with such intensity, of living each moment completely, must deserve to love again. Successful, charismatic, intelligent, attractive, energetic, confident, athletic, talented, great sense of humor (sounding pretty good, yes?) looking for a friend with potential. Someone who is unafraid of their feelings, of delving deep, or getting dizzy in the rain. Someone who knows how to see the joy in the most difficult of times. Someone who wants to live life to its fullest, who puts love above all else. Most importantly, someone who adores children. I love movies, dancing, running, singing, playing pool, writing, getting dressed up for a night on the town and dressed down for a long hike, scrabble, backgammon, late night talks, afternoon naps, the ocean, the mountains, travelling, moments where you don't have to say anything. I am a self-employed Baby/children's photographer with world-wide publications. My job is awesome! I get to blow bubbles and roll around on the floor with little ones all day. Right now, I am taking time off from my business to write a memoir and cherish the precious moments with my two baby girls.”
In the morning, I checked my emails. Ten different men, a couple of them even good-looking. My first night on Match.com and I had received ten emails! I was a hit—already on my way to feeling less like a young widow, less like damaged goods.
Time passed, and after a couple of six month relationships, two years of workshopping bits of my memoir, and the eventual resurrection of my photography business in California, along came the serendipitous email through Match.com. Along came Evan.
My girls, Tatiana and Keira, were 2 and 3.5 years old when I brought them to the soccer field and introduced them to Evan and his 8 year-old son, Jason. The connection was instant between all of us. Within a year, we moved into a house together in Northern California, with the most incredible view of San Francisco, and Evan asked Tatiana and Keira to start calling him daddy. The girls were elated.
Before Erik died, he promised to always take care of us, and I must admit that, for a while, I was upset with him for dying, for not being there anymore to take care of us. I know that there is no rational thinking in being mad at someone for dying, but grief is not always meant to be rational.
The day after we told the kids that Evan and I were getting married, and that he would be legally adopting them, Tatiana nuzzled into my lap and asked, "Mommy, do you think Daddy Erik sent Daddy and Jason to us?"
I stroked her long, curly hair and said, "Yes, sweetheart, I think he did."
I believe that. I believe that Erik sent Evan to us, that this was his way of taking care of us, the way he promised.
And I even wonder about our new baby, the one Evan and I conceived, Julian Erik. He is 16 months-old now and the happiest little boy. Is it possible that Erik has recycled his soul into Julian's body as another way of forever being a part of our lives?
Evan wants me to finish this memoir, even though I am struggling to find the time with four kids and a photography business. He has given me the weekend off to write while he takes care of the wee-ones because he knows how important it is to me to make something beautiful out of my experience, to remind others to cherish love and not compromise until you get everything you want out of life . . . even if you have to do it twice.