A widow friend of mine posted the poem below on her blog a while back. I remember reading this poem a long, long time ago and liking it a lot. I was probably early twenties at the time. I thought I understood it then. I did not. Not the way I do now.
Comes The Dawn
Veronica A. Shoffstall, 1971
After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security,
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And you learn to build all your roads on today,
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans,
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong,
And you really do have worth.
And you learn and learn...
With every goodbye you learn.
I really can't read that without having tears come to my eyes. My life has changed so much in the last 4 years. I have had many ups and downs, many steps forward and many steps backward. I honestly cannot believe how much time has passed, how my kids have changed, how I have changed. I can't believe how our lives have continued on, the things we have done, without Joe with us. I have made new friends who I love dearly, who I can't imagine my life without. Not a day goes by when I don't look at one of my kids and think how Joe would love to see them as they are now. Every new step I take without him, every big decision, every small one that I know he'd be involved with, feels like a step away from him and I hate it still. Yet at the same time there is no other way. I never talk about all the things swirling in my head, because I know it is impossible for anyone to understand, and I can't explain things with the depth that they feel to me. But it's still always in there, and probably always will be.
I know that my "self" as I knew her, died that day with Joe. All of a sudden my whole present and future changed. I was going to grow old with this man. We were going to raise our babies together and live a life that we planned. All of it was gone in an instant. The moment I saw that motorcycle on the ground a new person was born. I am still navigating a life that I never dreamed of, with all its ups and downs, greatness and sadness, and learning about the person I have become; the good parts, the bad parts and everything (new) in between.