Life is a Gift
Author: Rachael Hill
Every day I wear a black bracelet on my wrist with my husband's name on it. I never take it off. In some respect I feel like even though I had to take my wedding ring off, I still have this daily token to wear that continues to represent him. Sure it has his date of death on it, but it surprisingly doesn't remind me that he died, but rather that he lived! I wear my bracelet with pride. I get excited when people ask me about it, because it gives me the opportunity to tell them a little about my amazing husband and the life that he led.
I teach classes at a local gym throughout the week, so I see a wide variety of people on a day-to-day basis. While I was setting up my equipment before one of my classes recently, a participant came to me and asked me about my "soldier bracelet," as she called it. She asked me who was on it, and when I told her it was my husband her face dropped. I often get that pity look when I say it's my husband, but I continue with a smile and proceed to tell them about Jeff, trying to make the conversation as light as possible to ease the tension. It makes me happy to talk about Jeff! However, her response that day really caught me off guard. She gave me that typical sad look and said, "But you seem so happy."
"But you seem so happy"…what an interesting statement. Am I not supposed to be happy? I didn't realize I was supposed to wear black and live in a constant depressive state for the rest of my life. Yes, I am sad that my husband died and I will always miss him terribly, but that doesn't mean the joy from my life has to die too. There are always bad things happening in the world, but there are also some very wonderful things happening too. It's ok to be happy and to celebrate them.
This woman's comment also made me realize that I don't want my husband's death to become my identity, and for the most part I don't think it has. I know people I don't know very well often refer to me as, "the one that lost her husband," but there is so much more to me than that. Jeff's death is something I've had to deal with, but it doesn't define who I am. I don't want my business card to read "Rachael Hill, Military Widow"…I'm just Rachael. I am proud of the life we lived together. I am proud to continue sharing his legacy with others, but I am still me with my own interests and life passions. In a sense, this woman's surprise in finding out I'm a widow was a bit reaffirming that I continue to reflect me, rather than the struggles of my life's experiences.
I am a military widow, but I have found a way to continue to see the joy in my life. Two of my biggest joys look back at me every day with Jeff's eyes, Jeff's smile, Jeff's personality, and so much more. How could I not revel in that? I am happy. It may be a different kind of happy than when my husband was alive, but I am still happy and more than anything, I know that it's OK to be happy. I don't ever want to let someone take my happiness away because of the standard widow stereotype. I often say that if Jeff saw me lying around sad and depressed, he would kick my butt…and he totally would! That was not his style…and truth be told, it's not mine either. Happiness is found within and sometimes it may take some digging to find it, but I promise, it's in there somewhere just waiting to come out!
"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift; that's why they call it the present." --Eleanor Roosevelt