Eight Years of Reshaping My Entire Existence

It is eight years since the hot July night that my husband passed from this world, and my existence as I had known it for forty-four years, since the age of seventeen, was shattered. Even now, when I think of it I can’t seem to breath. And yes, even after all this time, there remains a smidge of disbelief. How can the man who was my best friend, my lover, my husband, and yes, at times the father I never had, be gone? How can the life I knew be gone?

It was my friend and fellow writer, Mary Ann, who said to me, “You are reshaping your entire existence.” Her concise words made me blink. In mulling over the idea, it comes to me that the reshaping of my existence could be akin to the renovation of an old house. Some things we keep, some things we throw away, some things we adjust. All of it we build on what came before.

Grief and loneliness have become a part of my life. That sounds sad, but it is not. It is living life on life’s terms, which is real, alive life. There are times, still, when grief strikes me and brings tears–often when I’m driving, which is a dangerous proposition. There are times when I am bone-achingly lonely for the one person in the world who understood me better than I understood myself.

Grief, I’ve learned, is part of being human and living life down here on earth. Right from the start, there’s loss of the comfortable, protected womb and being plopped into this bright, cold world. My mother used to tell the story that she thought was cute about when I was six years old and the movers were packing our belongings for our family to move across the country. The men disassembled my bed as I looked on, eyes widening. As they carried the bed frame out of the house, I began to sob, blubbering, “They’re takin’ my be-ed.” This was an enormous and fearful loss of my home as I knew it.

As I write this, I sit in my travel trailer in the midst of a Mississippi forest. My bed must still mean a lot to me, as now I’m toting it along with me when I travel. I’m alone, with my dear dog. I drove up here alone, set up my camper alone, have gone sight-seeing alone. (If I waited for someone to go with me, I’d never go anywhere.) I am not, however, lonely at this moment. The truth is that I’ve become comfortable with myself and with being alone. It turns out that my nature as an introverted writer fits with my new existence.

Today I am stronger than I ever would have thought being. I’ve become strong enough to face my vulnerability. Being vulnerable means I must humble myself often and ask for help, which I’ve grown adept at doing. Or maybe I can only when I am pressed, and I’m quite often pressed. I still do not like being vulnerable and asking for help. But today I am more comfortable with facing what is, not wasting energy on thinking should be.

None of us shape our lives alone. I have had help learning and growing from my dear family and friends, and even strangers. I know surely in the way only experience can give that God sends help just when I need it, often in the form of people who can provide exactly what I need. I am learning to rely on this fact.

Sometimes I have sense of Jim smiling at me. Sometimes, when I have something mechanical to fix I first ask God for help, then I’ll ask Jim. There is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t use one of his tools or remember how he did this or did that, skills that help me in my new existence.

Over the past year, I have felt an awakening to a general sense of well-being taking root in my life. I cannot say that I am happy, not as I would have said it in my old existence. But I am amazingly and certainly content. I laugh more easily than ever, and I follow my mother’s advice to laugh every time you can. I laugh often at myself. Frankly, I’m a pretty funny person.

I am at peace with myself and with my life. And I am profoundly grateful for the life I had with my beloved husband, and for all of the people who help shape my life. I am blessed.

I owe so much of my reshaped existence that I enjoy today to the man God sent to me as my husband when I was yet a child. Thank you, James David Matlock.

31 thoughts on “Eight Years of Reshaping My Entire Existence

  1. My dear friend. This is a wonderful post! So beautifully written. I have been reshaping my life for 11 years since my husband went to heaven; as I get older and more challenges appear I have to constantly adapt or change. As I look back I realize how naive I was about life; I was stunned at the grief that came and how completely rudderless I felt. However, now I can clearly see how God was taking care of me and how I came out of my shell and became a social person so that I have so many friends I say I have a Village. I am surprised that I was able to make healthy decisions and take actions as a single woman such as selling my house and buying another–one that is just right for me. I went through things without a partner that I thought I never could do such as four major surgeries. I have discovered that I am strong, that I like my own company, that I am competent, and that I’m not alone. Thank you for sharing this and for being part of my journey.

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    • Maxie, you state it all beautifully. Today I do things that I never would have imagined I could do, and it is from leaning on God. I can look back and see how God has taken care of me all of my life. Each of us daily reshape our lives, or rather, God is reshaping us daily.

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  2. Curtiss Ann, this is such a beautiful tribute! Missing you and hope you’re well. You are in my prayers till you’re safely home.

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  3. Thank you for this. I’m sharing with my mom who is five years into reshaping her own existence. Thank you for reminding us that life isn’t always how we hope it will be but we can still find contentment and joy in it.

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  4. Thank you for writing this Curtiss Ann. It will soon be four years since my wife passed away. Slowly I’m rebuilding a new life. I have settle in a house in Northern Ontario with my best friend, JJ the wonder dog. We camp alone and I’m getting to enjoy it mostly. I find I miss the closeness and companionship I had with my wife and maybe someday I will find someone to share life with again. In the mean time I deal my “new normal” in various ways depending on what song is playing or what memory pushes into my mind. I have some moments of tears but many happy memories and tears.
    I’m glad your out camping with your dog. I just got back from a weeks camping with JJ.

    I very much enjoyed meeting you for lunch when I was in your area. I wish we had more time to talk as I found you very interesting to chat with. And as I evidenced by this article, you are very insightful.

    Thanks again for writing this.
    Jim and JJ

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    • Jim, I am at this moment camping alone with my wonder dog Faith. I am delighted to know that you and J.J. enjoy the same, and that you have a new home. When I moved into a new home two years ago was a great turning point in my life. God bless you and J.J.

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  5. Curtis Ann as I read your post I saw similarities between us although the love of my life is still living she is in advanced stages of dementia. The only time I met you was when Sarah asked you to come up in the balcony at Church to introduce us. She talked quite a bit about what a nice friend you were. The thing is if God takes her first I don’t know what I’ll do. August 16th next month will be our 60th anniversary. She is the love of my life and the best person you’d ever want to meet. Never had a harsh word to say about anyone. As her caregiver I’m doing things I never envisioned doing but when I get frustrated I think back to the first time I met her Friday the 13th of January 7:00 pm 1961. When she opened her door I said to myself I’m going to marry her. The next thing I think of is if the situations were reversed she would do the same for me. I’ve often thought that I would rather die first but then I think what would she do. The ideal would be for us to go at the same time in each other’s arms…

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    • Hello, Smitty, thank you for sharing with me. Not too many days go by that I don’t think of Sarah, and we pray in class for you both. Dementia is the most cruel stealer. My heart goes out to you and to Sarah, for you both having to go through this trial. I did not have to care for Jim long, but I did my mother. Often I thought I could not endure, and often felt I failed, but today I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to care for her. The care-giving gave me a larger heart. God bless you.

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  6. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and writing. I was in school with Jim and although I lost touch with him, I’ve always had good memories of him. He even talked me out of my authentic Navy pea coat.
    In the past few years I’ve through some health issues that has altered that I previously viewed my retirement years. However, I am very thankful for so many aspects of my current life. My husband and I have been married 41 years and thankful for these years. Though some of our losses are not similar, your posts have assisted me in looking at my future and not being afraid to make adjustments to my plans. Blessings to you. I do so enjoy your writing and share much of your writings with my family and friends. I love spreading your knowledge around the world.

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    • Thank you, Jenny, for your message and kind thoughts. I understand completely about health issues altering our lives. You know that old adage: Life happens when we make plans. Oh, yes, that Jim had such charm. Everyone loved Jimmy, and he was kind to everyone. God bless you.

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  7. God bless you my dear and precious “sister”. I have lived, and still live so many of your words. We must find our smiles, joy and laughter as often as we can, for so many of us, that is all we have left…..that and sweet memories. May happy days, safe travels, rainbows, and the simple beauty of our earth surround you as you journey! I have loved reading your letter-but then, I always love your words! Your stories mesmerize me always!
    Anne

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  8. Curtiss Ann,
    What a beautiful love story. It is also encouraging. I wish you peace and contentment as you travel alone. Looking forward to more stories. Be safe.
    Linda Hanson

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  9. So beautifully said. I have lost both my parents and my only sibling, Your understanding help a lot today as I was really missing my mom today. I was in my early 20’s when she passed, and this November it will be 42 years.

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    • I’m finding the years do not dim the love, and therefore the grief of loss. There is no time limit to love. Soon after losing my husband a widowed friend told me that as time went by I would tuck him into my heart, and he would always be there. It has taken 8 years to get it. 😊 I have done the same with my mother, mother-in-law, and father-in-law, all who were a major part of my life.

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  10. CurtissAnn, You always have the perfect words to say. And your words help me just as I’m sure they help many others. The bible says a day is like a thousand years, thankfully that is God’s timing. Eight years for us is 2,920 days but at times it can feel like thousands and thousands of days. You my friend have accomplished so much in 8 years. I hope you can understand what I am trying to say. 😀 Sending hugs and prayers to you. Friends Forever, Linda

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  11. just beautiful a friend lost her husband to pancreatic cancer just this morning i will show her your post later , too soon now but lovely the hope and gratitude and optimism of your attitude

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