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Friday, September 13, 2019

Tenth Anniversary

The last time I wrote about my wedding anniversary, I made the announcement on this blog that my beloved husband had died.

It's been three years, and I've survived and put together some semblance of life. He was taken from me far too soon, but I've mostly accepted that the summer of 2016 was his time. The thing about this kind of grief is that it always hurts. It's not something you get over. It's something you live with. Or not.

The death of Stanley Arthur Coombs is the worst thing that's ever happened to me, and I don't care who knows it. With amazing help from beloved friends and family, I've moved forward. (Moving on is not the right phrasal verb because it connotes leaving things behind, forgetting. Forgetting is the last thing you want to do when all you have of the love of your life is memories.)

Even so, a world without Stanley still feels sudden and verging on unbearable. Is it worth living in such a world? It's exhausting to have to answer that every morning before I get out of bed.

I've taken measures to make this question easier to answer yes to. Every day, I read a few pages of a book my husband and I had read together. I meditate, a new practice we had discussed many times before he passed away. I live with a friend because although I needed space to grieve when I first arrived here, by my second year, I needed the kind of human contact only living with someone provides. Most dramatically, I moved to Spain.

Moving to a foreign country far from friends and family might not seem like the wisest self-care option. For me, it's the only way to make a world without Stanley tolerable. We had discussed moving to Spain together shortly before he died, so coming here has been, in part, keeping a promise to him. I tried to arrive on our wedding anniversary to ensure that his spirit would stay with me.

Spain is where I've always wanted to live, where I feel (ironically) at home. I keep up with American friends and family through the magic of technology. I go to Manolo Garcia concerts (the best thing anyone can do!). I eat delicious food. I do things I never imagined, like sing in a choir in the Teatro Principal or go on a pilgrimage. I take trips to see the kinds of amazing sights I've always wanted to, sights that make me want to write novels. If I'm feeling down, I can step out into the street and see Romanesque and Modernist architecture, hear beautiful Spanish used to express all manner of feelings, smell the aromas from the bakeries or the burgeoning life in the river, or watch the birds fly home in the soft, changing colors of the sunset over the castle.

These small things don't necessarily make life worth living in and of themselves. But pausing to appreciate them honors what Stanley taught me about what's important in life. These things make getting up in a world without the love of my life a bit less of a burden.

I'm also working on long-term goals, such as ensuring my continued residency in Spain, getting my writing translated into Spanish, and writing new surprising works. All of these activities require enormous optimism I think has always been a part of me, but found its raison d'etre in Stanley, and took a nosedive at the end of July 2016. The optimism is coming back up now, though it may need extra coaxing.

Of course, I always imagined I would celebrate my tenth wedding anniversary with my husband. The tenth, and many beyond that. Perhaps we would watch the now-antique video below and marvel. "That doesn't seem like ten years ago!" Or "We thought we were in love then, but we had no idea! It just keeps getting better! How can this be?" But here I am, with only a blog to mark this special occasion.

Look, my love. Look at those two starry-eyed kids. That was us! 
Start at 57:00 to skip the raw footage and view only the edited cut. 
Knauss & Coombs Wedding from Frank Breen on Vimeo.