As the March winds howl outside my window I’m reminded of a March in 1995, many years ago. That year March came in like a lamb (in Wisconsin). It was to go out like an angry lion. I had completed the cleaning my spring garden required, spring bulbs were popping, starting their early show, the weather had been agreeable, even the lawn was ready for an April shower. And we all know April showers bring May flowers. In my mind life was good, nature in its usual order, one thing after the next, a comfortable pattern. On occasion I had troubling thoughts, but had come to accept a hiccup here and there. One carries on and I rarely thought of Mike dying, although both his parents and his sister had died young. Maybe we do whistle in the dark?
As a child growing up in Munising, Michigan one of my neighbor hood friends, Mike Kennedy, would later in 1966, become my husband. He was two years older than me so we didn’t talk that often, our ages being so far apart:-) He was shy, handsome and had a lot of friends, very cool friends in my mind. I was a skinny girl who didn’t attract a lot of attention from cool boys. However, I would grow up and become an acceptable young woman. Evidently we eventually talked to each other, we loved one another and intended to spend our lives together, we wanted children, we were friends.
We married when he was 22; I was 20, without a penny to our names. Between us we had two new cars (foolish young people), a little furniture and a few household supplies. One U Haul trailer and we left Munising immediately after our marriage and headed to Green Bay, Wisconsin, on the day of a Packer Bear game, there was no room to be found. We did find a rather humble place to stay and set out the next day to find an apartment. We found one, the best apartment in the world for our last $90. There we would seek our fortune. We had many adventures and there are many stories, but this is about March 1995, 28 years later.
While playing racquet ball with a friend late one Friday afternoon Mike had a mild heart attack. He drove himself to the hospital, he was an EMT, understood what was happening and that was his usual behavior, get it done fast, take care of it, stay calm. He stayed at the hospital until the following Thursday, released given a clean bill of health, no damage due to quick action on his part, and eat a diet low in fat. We felt he had dodged a bullet.
Thursday evening came around, we went to bed happy dad was home and he was going to continue working as always, life was good, off to work in the morning. He was a stockbroker and his clothes were laid out before he went to bed that night, wingtips in place, suit and tie ready for the day. I woke at the usual 6:30 to find the house somewhat quiet seeing Mike was always up early and ahead of me. I called him, looked around, and found him. Sometime in the night he had silently died along side the bed. My reaction was as anyone would expect, I didn’t panic, I was in total shock and moved like a robot. I knew he wasn’t alive. I felt like a character in a very bad movie.
Mike had been a member of our village rescue squad and I immediately called and told them who I was and what had happened, please come without any lights and sirens please, he was already gone. They did just that, were there quickly and confirmed what I and the youngest of my three children already were trying to comprehend; Dad was gone. The rescue staff called my friends, my oldest son Mike had to be told and brought home. My husbands youngest brother Dennis on his way to work, was found by the Michigan State Police and appeared in what seemed a very short time. In the blink of an eye our lives had changed and each of us had a path ahead of sorrow, pain and eventually growth. Memories would be searched, anger would surface, sadness would be overwhelming, and many months fear and loneliness were my constant companion along with decisions that were at times overwhelming. I had a lot of growth ahead of me; I wasn’t aware. Amazingly enough during this time we also found moments to laugh, remember a story, or poke fun at something we thought was silly about one process or another that needed doing.
In the span of a week my husband and childhood friend died, a funeral was planned, my daughter Christina turned a sad seventeen, Conor had a senior ball to attend, and I found myself at the end of that week, alone. Listening to Emmylou Harris’s newest CD, Wrecking Ball, how right for my mood and emotions.
Anyone reading this may wonder why in the world would I go over all this, death happens daily to so many people, it’s a condition of life that we live so we must also die. My family and I are not unique. The musings that I have are that death of a loved family member is only one of the extremely painful events in life that people must face. Life does resume, and you discover it has never stopped, around you in your sorrow and grief people are living and loving and enjoying. I would like others to know that life does get better; you slowly go forward, taking baby steps and look to the future. Sometimes the future is only a day, or a week, eventually you return to normal, at least what does become normal. Time does heal and friends the rocks of our life, but one goes on alone forging a different future. I made mistakes by the dozens; I also got the help (professional) I needed to figure out who Trudy Lee Dolaski Kennedy was. What I had done right, what had I done wrong; for some of us it’s difficult to look at our own behavior, our own history. My first husband’s (notice I write first) death was among the most traumatic events in my life, not the most traumatic others may face, these are only my observations.
The March wind is still howling outside my window today, my current window in Cedar Creek, Texas. My husband Hal is working on a lecture. New gardens are growing. My animals are sleeping in the sunshine, my children are grown and I am a stronger, smarter woman than I was in 1995. And Michael Richard Kennedy is still missed by those who knew and loved him. I do not write this without a tear nearing the anniversary of his death. Our hearts are large with a great capacity for love. Loving once and losing doesn’t mean not loving or being loved again. And the April showers will bring May flowers, if not this year, than the next.