My First Anniversary Without My Husband

Jul 04, 2019



Ian’s best friend, Harry, read the profound words of Dr. Seuss from above at our wedding on July 4, 2014. Ian and I never took ourselves too seriously, so we thought the reading was perfect. His weirdness matched mine and the rest was history. Today, on what would be our five year anniversary, these words take on a whole new meaning. Everything is just a little bit weird right now.

People have asked me if I knew that Ian had cancer when I married him. I did. In fact, just weeks before our wedding we found out that Ian’s eye needed to be removed to get to the tumor at the primary site. At the time, we thought this was the worst it would get. Even with his cancer diagnosis — his 1 in 20 chance of it metastasizing — we never thought that “we” would be over less than five years later.

Others who attended our wedding have told me that they were always a bit unsure or fearful of what Ian’s medical news would mean for our future together. Some have said that the uncertainty is partially what made our ceremony so precious and even bittersweet. Ian and I walked down the aisle that day with no uncertainty or expectations of what the future might hold; just love in our hearts for one another and the belief that it would all work out — because in that exact moment we had each other. Nothing else mattered.

Five years later from the day Ian and I exchanged our vows, I’m sitting on a dock overlooking a pristine, motionless lake in Maine taking time to myself to write this post. All I can hear are the birds chirping, the hum of far-off boats, and my parents chasing Izzy and Theo around in the background. I’m on a family vacation. Finding these moments of silence are rare and golden. Yet, these tranquil times of solitude — when the kids nap and you have a second to clean the house, get work done, sleep, scour through social media, or watch a quick TV show — are when I miss Ian the most. I miss him more in these subtle moments than I do on a milestone day like today, our anniversary.

When Ian took long-term disability in November 2017 he was able to stay home with the kids and me daily. During our kid-free breaks, he would persuade me to stop cleaning, working, shuffling around, and instead just slow down, sit with him on our deck to chat, read or just soak up the silence together. Sometimes I resisted. Let’s face it. We are busy! But, in looking back, those are the moments that mattered.

Having your mate, your partner, your “one”, is having someone to just be with. Someone to dangle your legs over their lap with a sigh of relief as you finally relax for the day; someone to complain about work, the kids, or the bad driver who cut you off in traffic to; someone to curl up next to on the couch and watch Game of Thrones or Handmaid’s Tale and talk about how epic, disappointing, or plain messed up the show is; someone to drink wine and play cribbage with all night; and someone to fall asleep next to, feeling comforted by their breath, their body warmth, their closeness, and then wake up to the next morning with renewed reassurance that that your “one and only” is still there by your side to just be with you always. That’s what I miss about Ian. My king-size bed feels vast. My house — large and empty. But I’m using the memories and the eternal love to help fill the space.

My wedding band and engagement ring remind me of the two of the happiest days of my life — our wedding day and the day that Ian proposed. Ian was not much of a planner or a romancer, so the fact that he surprised me in Key West, Florida with a magical proposal — dim-lit lanterns, flower pedals, champagne, the works — gave me butterflies in my stomach for weeks after. I was so surprised and humbled that Ian wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. We had no idea what life had in store for us, but it didn’t matter because we had each other.

I’m still wearing my two rings — as well as Ian’s Koa wood wedding band on a macrame bracelet that I had made in Hawaii — because it feels unnatural to take them off. Wearing them is somewhat of a fallacy I guess because I’m technically not married, but removing them seems like too deliberate of a choice that I’m just not ready to make. It’s funny how these subtle nuances make such a massive impact when you lose someone.

I’ve even visited support groups on the subject. Some widows took their rings off right away because the reminder weighed too heavy on their hearts. Others had jewelers turn them into earrings, bracelets, or melded together, etc.. And, some just left them in a jewelry box. Yet the common theme when they finally decided to make whatever choice they made was that it just felt right. I’m trusting my heart, that when the time is right I’ll just know.

So today, July 4th, 2019, on what would be Ian and my five year anniversary, I watch my ring sparkle in the morning sunlight and it reminds me of the magical relationship we had. And even though Ian isn’t here to celebrate our five years with me in person today, we chose July 4th for our wedding date deliberately. Not only did we get the venue half-price for celebrating on a weekday over a weekend date, but we also knew that we would always be surrounded by friends and family, and would be guaranteed a great party on such joyous national holiday. We knew that fireworks would fill the darkness of night with light, excitement and splendor — reminding me again that although life is weird, it has a funny way of working out.

Happy anniversary, Ian. I’ll be thinking of you as I watch the fireworks tonight!

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