One more piece of the my history is becoming...well, history. It's 2015, which means it's time to renew my driver's license. So what, right? It marks the passing of ten years and, more than that, sets off a countdown to an anniversary that I dread.
How did I get here? It's all a blur of kids growing up--swim meets, friends I no longer see, wine bottles consumed by the firelight, sobs in the dark, soccer games, lacrosse meets, horrible dates, fabulous vacations, graduations, and college dorms. Yet here I remain in a house where I brought babies home and where I witnessed my husband's last breath.
Why am I thinking about all of these things simply because it's time to renew a driver's license? Because I look at that picture and remember...
In my mind's eye, I see the day as if it were happening now. It was the day before my birthday--I push deadlines of all kinds to the very edge--and my husband was working up north. He'd been gone for a few days on the job site. On the way to get my license, he'd called me and we laughed over something mundane. He said he'd be back home in time for my birthday.
He never showed up. In fact, it was the first birthday of mine since we'd been together that he missed. He fell off the grid for three days, which was very unusual because we were the type of couple who called or texted multiple times a day just to stay in touch. His boss assured me that he was on the work site and I needn't worry...but I knew in my heart that something very serious had shifted.
I heard the drum of doom long before May 29, the day he committed suicide, but I had no idea what to do about it.
I look at this drivers' license picture and I see a woman who is oblivious to what her life is about to become. I see the innocence in my eyes and the confident smile. Despite the rocky relationship, I had hope that we'd get back on track because there is one thing that I never doubted--love. I believed at the time that love could conquer all and we had that without a doubt. We'd survived his alcoholism and moved on--I believed in us.
Sean never showed up for the birthday dinner. The unraveling began then, but I couldn't put my finger on the cause no matter how hard I wracked my brain.
I accused him of drinking again, of falling off the wagon...he countered with me being paranoid and not letting go of the past.
"What do I need to do to prove myself to you?" he'd ask and I'd question my instinct.
Money started disappearing from the account--the kids and I spent the rest of April living on green beans and whatever else we found in the pantry because he kept taking cash out of the accounts and maxing out the credit cards.
"Why do you need all of this money? Where is it going? I don't understand," I'd say.
"I'm working away from home, it's my money, why don't you trust me?" he'd reply.
That was it, the unraveling of life as I knew it to be, but I didn't understand that day I was getting the drivers' license picture taken with my innocent eyes and confident smile. At that moment, I trusted that we'd grow old together.
But then he never showed for my birthday and I knew...deep inside in the dark recesses of my heart where ancient knowledge whispers...I knew something horrible was creeping up on my little family.
One more piece of the past that I'm letting go. A simple driver's license. No big deal, right? Maybe not, but when I look at it now I can recall sitting in my front seat with my cell phone pressed to my ear and laughing at something my husband said and wondering if I should have picked up on a clue. I didn't. I continued on with my day in ignorant bliss. Things happened.
I'm no longer that woman in that picture. In fact, she looks like a stranger to me.
As I surrender this license for a new one, I can't help but wonder what the camera will see in my eyes this time...they definitely aren't innocent any longer, perhaps they are a darker blue, but I'm hoping they shine with the inner strength I've come to embrace.
Peace to you,
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of both fiction and nonfiction. Her memoir about surviving the suicide of her husband and raising two young children through the grief and trauma has been named "One of the Ten Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read." It has also graced both national and international best seller lists. She wrote it with the intention of spreading suicide awareness and nurturing a culture of compassion.
Have you ever wondered what you should say... or not say... or were afraid to say anything at all, read this. The insights are deep and true.
I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. From the moment Easton finds her husband, to the humiliating and insensitive behaviour of the emergency and police services on the scene, to family and friends unable to provide appropriate help to dealing with the long term consequences of bereavement this book is an emotional tour de force that will stay with me for a long time.