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Breathing Through September

Labor Day is — should be — our 24th wedding anniversary. It is also the anniversary of the day he died. On a Labor Day…it was on September 7 that year. Oh, and we just happened to fall in love on a Labor Day weekend as well…all of one year before we were married.

I’m never OK on this weekend. A loss on one of those holidays that falls on a different calendar date every year is its own special kind of hell. The actual calendar date and holiday date only correspond once every six years. Strangely, I thought due to leap year, it would be every eight years, but I’ve never been good at mental math. My husband, my love, always concerned about me and others, died on a day most people were not at work and therefore were more readily available to come to us in our hour of need. But in doing so, every five out of six years, there are two days of intense grief and pain.

When I entered the community we tend to call “the club no one wants to join,” I learned a whole new set of words and phrases I never knew before. We have no official word in the English language denoted for the anniversary of someone’s death. My guess is this is because our society truly cringes and desperately tries to believe that if we ignore it, death might not see us waiting. They call it “sadiversary” or “angelversary.” I’m not really a fan of either of those. Deathday, or suckiversary seem a better fit to me. This year is the eighth year for us. Leading up to this weekend, I felt strong. There were even thoughts of “maybe it won’t be so bad this year” in the back of my mind. But really, I knew better. My heart and my soul knew better. Despite feeling strong during the previous days, my sleep was restless on Friday night. The terrible dreams of him being alive, but rejecting me, made their appearance. And in a semiconscious state of half-sleep, I felt wave after wave of emptiness. Of a black hole, dry heave of my entire being.

I stumble and blankly stare my way through this last hurrah weekend of the summer. The actual date, for all but a few years in the cycle, does fall on a workday, but I do always have Labor Day to mourn. Cherishing the memories of our wedding, while simultaneously mourning his death and all that should have been. I leave him a rose at the cemetery for our anniversary, but never for the deathday. I sometimes wonder if our children will even remember what his death date is, as I make a point not to point it out to them. Why spend energy remembering such a terrible day? As adults, we will always remember them anyway. Will the children? Probably, but maybe not until they become true adults.

My husband and I were married on September 4. He died on September 7, 16 years later. His funeral was on September 11. Some advised against having the service on 9/11. My feeling was that it is a day of sadness already, so what’s a little more sadness thrown in? I’m told there was an exquisite rainbow over the church during his service. It was a cold and blustery late summer day. Much like today. Much like the Labor Day weekend we fell in love, and the day of our wedding. This Labor Day weekend will soon come to an end. I will tiptoe my way through the next week, until the actual deathday passes as well. September, once my favorite month of the year, now leaves me raw and spent. Left to slowly recover, to face the year to come. Time does not heal all wounds. The wounds change. Scars form. Yet certain days and dates remain that tear the scars open like new. We learn to breathe through these days. Cherishing the memories and the time we had. Until we meet again.

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Thinkstock image by leskas