It has taken a year, both of us working full-time, to save for the down payment for our first home. The lannon-stone house built in the 1950s, sits on a half-acre lot, nestled between farmland. There is no extra money for the Formica burnt-orange countertops and earth-tone linoleum flooring to be updated, that will have to wait. But it is home, it is ours, and we have a lifetime to improve it.
The kitchen, as in most homes, serves as the central gathering space when we entertain. Housewarming party, our son’s baptism, birthday and holiday celebrations – it seems everyone congregates here.
Like Central Park, an oasis in the midst of a chaotic life, our kitchen becomes sacred space. This place where meals are prepared and dishes washed becomes the central hub of our life, where our family and friends gather and memories are made.
All of these times flash back in my mind as I squat in the corner of the kitchen with my back against the doors of the lower cabinets, and my knees folded up against my chest. My head bowed down as I try to stifle my sobs.
Everything has changed. The people coming through the doors this past week are not here to celebrate, they are not laughing. It is night, my son is asleep in his crib in the back bedroom, everyone has gone home and this room takes on a whole new character.
Now floral arrangements from the funeral adorn every flat surface, and a stack of cards lie on the table.
The heavy woven curtains are drawn as I try to shut out the world, and the lights are low. I look around this room, noticing for the first time the dark, almost black mahogany wood of the cabinets and I think to myself, “I have never known such darkness.”
My thoughts feel like scrambled egg, one minute liquid, and then coming together with no predetermined pattern. I worry that the kitchen will never be updated, that a leaky faucet or plugged-up sink will overwhelm me. I think about having to work more hours to afford the mortgage. But the thought that returns over and over, is my new reality.
My husband Chris is dead, and I am a widow.
There is only one thing to do – be supported by the cabinets, in the room with all the joy-filled memories.
Lie down on the floor, where Chris stood, where our life as new home owners began.
Clutch his lunch box to my chest, and cry until my sobbing stops and no more tears come.
Take solace in the central hub of my home, where my grief can be released.
Letting the moments of our life together flash through the darkness, so that they can light my way.
Wow, Kathy. I get it. The last lines blow me away–“there is only one thing I can do… be supported by the cabinets.” My one thing was and is walking out to the woods and leaning into an old red oak near my husband’s ashes. It was our favorite place to walk for many years, especially when he was sick. We stood on opposite sides of the tree, leaning our chests and faces into it. We encircled the tree with our arms and held hands. Tree huggers. After his death, this red oak became my marriage tree, the strong solid place where I could lean,find support, and give thanks. The kitchen? It’s still a lonely place.
Elaine, I love the imagine of the two of you hugging the tree and using it to support you. It is good that you still have the tree! When I remarried, I left the home whose kitchen supported me in my best and worse times but it remains a place of memory even now. Isn’t it interesting how we find sacred places in which to live, and to grieve? That’s so much for taking time to comment, I always appreciate it!
I’ve been there…my gosh, so many times. Hugs to you from one widow to another. I am so sorry for your loss. Please know that there are a lot of widows online. Reach out. Women I still don’t know helped me feel more normal. Message me if there is anything I can do for you, even as a total stranger. Sending you love as you join the widow club – the one no one ever wants to belong to.
Thank you for the hugs because even though I was a 29 yrs. old widow and it was 24 yrs. ago that my husband died, we have an instant bond! I hope that as you help others you allow yourself to heal from the inside out, doing the grief work that is required. The gift of time has given me insight into what I wish I would have done differently and what was helpful – if I can be of service message me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope those moments of your life together will light your way. Hugs, j
The light finds its way in, even when everything appears overwhelmingly dark! Hugs back to you.