Thoughts on a Second Wedding

I always thought that when I got married again, it would be less of a fancy affair. I envisioned I’d get married on New Year’s Eve in some bustling city somewhere far enough away that only my closest family would attend. Or perhaps I’d get married quietly at some winery in California. For awhile, when the Star Trek Experience exhibit still existed in Las Vegas, I imagined getting married on the Enterprise bridge. (When they removed that exhibit in 2008, I was honestly a bit sad that I would never get to live that particular fantasy out.)

Of course, it took me a long time, and lots of grief to live, before I would even entertain the idea of getting married again. The day Mike died, I swore myself to celibacy–a living monument, if you will, to the love Mike and I shared. I even swore I’d never even change my last name from his last name. Part of grief is a resistance to change. Perhaps because change happens so quickly all at once, you find yourself wanting to hang onto the little bits of your life that you have left to try to grasp some sense of normalcy in a world that has suddenly turned 180 degrees from normal.

You couldn’t have told me then that I would change my mind about these proclamations. I would have argued with you vigorously. I would have argued with myself just as strongly. At the beginning of the journey through grief, I couldn’t see past the fog that blocked my path to entertain any ideas about the future and other people’s thoughts on the matter felt like an affront.

Not surprising, as I worked myself through the grief, I had little changes of heart. As a single woman again, I slowly let go of the habits of a life shared with Mike–little things at first, like buying a different laundry detergent. Then I picked up my own hobbies–bicycling, skiing–and I threw myself into them. After wading into the water of change, I took the plunge and did something I never thought I would do: I changed my last name back to my maiden name (for many reasons I don’t need to go into at the moment).

The last tendril of “grief belief” I held onto was my conviction that I needed to have a much more subdued wedding. I was afraid that I would compare my second wedding to the first. I wanted them to be nothing like each other so that a comparison would not even exist in my mind. Would the first wedding eclipse the second? Or would the second wedding eclipse the first? Worst yet, would my guests–those who had been at both weddings–make comparisons? Having gone through a wedding before, would I would feel odd or some kind of gloomy sense of deju vu?

I don’t know why, but I lived in fear of the answers to these questions.

When Crow and I got engaged, we started to discuss what we wanted from a wedding and it became immediately clear that he wanted to have a ceremony in front of his family and friends. He imagined more like 50-60 people; however, numbers that low are impossible with the size of my family. It was all or nothing–a wedding with friends and my multitude of extended family, or we eloped. In the end, we decided to go full-tilt wedding. And I realized that I actually wanted that too. Even though I was getting married a second time, I felt–just as I did with Mike–like I wanted to declare my love before everyone I knew. I wanted the ceremony and the celebration. Not only was I in love, but I was in love again. That seemed like such a miraculous thing, finding true love twice in my life.

In the process of planning our wedding, and moreso on the wedding day, I realized my fears about comparing one wedding to the other were unfounded. I learned that just as you can’t compare two relationships to each other, one wedding–even if the bride is the same–cannot compare to another. When done right–with both people involved in the planning–a wedding reflects the overall personality of the couple. My first wedding was emblematic of Mike and me; my second wedding, Crow and me. Each wedding stands alone in my head as separate events.

Contrary to my fears, I woke up the morning of the wedding with butterflies in my stomach but, at the same time, a sense of calm. I think I experienced the same feelings the first time I got married because one thing was for certain both times: I have always felt I’d picked the right guy.

My pre-ceremony preparations were enjoyed with the same four girls I’d chosen as my bridesmaids the first time I got married–Melissa, Diane, Angy, and Sarah–and it didn’t feel awkward like I had thought it would. There was a certain comforting constancy in the fact that the four girls I considered my closest friends at 26 were still my closest friends at 38. Though Crow and I limited ourselves to three groomsmen and three bridesmaids, I still managed to find a special job for Sarah so that she could be a part of the special day; she would read The Apache Marriage Blessing at the end of our ceremony.

It was such a beautiful day. The sun shined brightly after a week of incessant rain and floods. I was excited, not melancholy, nor did I experience the feared deju vu. The experience of marrying Crow was a new one and I had no thoughts of previous weddings or the life I’d once had on that special day with him. It was our moment together in time, completely separate from anything else, just as our future together soon would be.

I’ve wondered why I still haven’t been able to get rid of the dress from my first wedding. When I boxed up my second wedding dress, I put it in the closet next to the first. Both dresses represent a different part of my life. I’m someone who hangs onto momentos. I still have my first engagement ring/wedding band set too. Over the years, I even thought I’d do something with that first wedding band set–take the diamond and create a necklace or another ring or something. But just like with the dress, I never had the heart to follow through.

I was shocked when my happily married coworker said that she sold her dress to a consignment shop when she returned from the honeymoon. She obviously finds no attachments to these things. I wondered if there was some flaw in my personality that makes me cling to physical things like this. But I guess I’m just not ready purge myself of all momentos from my past. Maybe I never will be. I think it’s okay, though, because I do not let these items drag me back to the past. Rather, they just serve as tags of the events that constitute my life.

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A Very Special Day

I’ve not had a chance to really write about my wedding yet. I have some reflections to share and I promise that when I get a longer free moment, I will sit down and write them all here.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words…. so here are several for you to grok on this “fusion” video our wedding photographer created. These are some of the best pictures in a pile of wonderful proofs he’s given us to go through to select for our wedding album. I think this video captures the spirit of the day–nay, I daresay, it captures  the spirit of Crow and Heidi. I relive that magical day each time I view this video or look at our pictures!

It’s been only a month, but I’m so happy to have Crow as my husband. I hope I’m happier each year that we are together. That much happiness seems impossible. But I believe we can make it happen. I hope we have a very long and happy life together!

Once in a Lifetime

A lot of people in my life right now don’t know that I was widowed. I’m not hiding it, but I’m not advertising it either. I’ve had chances to correct people, but I’ve let them slip. It’s just easier that way. At a time when I’m involved in a major, wonderful change in my life–a change I don’t want sobered by some depressing back story that is only slightly relevant to the current situation–I just feel it’s better to leave the topic of my widowhood untouched.

I’ve just switched jobs. Out of sympathy for those around me, because it always causes people to behave awkwardly, I’ve not corrected anyone when they have made comments that suggest that I’m planning my first wedding ever. As far as anyone knows in my current job, and some other aspects of my life (like newer members of the bike club and Crow’s friends and family), I’ve been single all these years to 38.

I’m mostly fine with this. I’ve even been careful not to bring up prior knowledge of what it’s like to plan a ceremony and go through with the entire thing. Sometimes I say something like, “Well, you know, people RSVP, but there’s always someone who shows up who didn’t RSVP and someone who did RSVP but doesn’t show up.” I guess they figure I know this from past experience planning parties in general. I’ve left a few hints like, “The day will go by so fast, I won’t remember any of this.” I guess they assume I’m making these statements based on the experiences of friends who have gotten married before me. God knows I’ve had plenty of experience as a bridesmaid for proof.

So when people refer to my coming wedding to Crow as a “once in a lifetime” event, I just inwardly cringe.

Once in a life time.

Yeah.

But this is my second time. And it’s not because I got divorced. I didn’t fail in my first marriage. My first husband didn’t fail me. Life, I guess, failed the both of us. Or rather, Mike’s poor heart failed him.

I want to respond, “Well, it’s not my first time. But it’s equally as important!”

I feel almost as though admitting to having been married before takes something away from what people think about my marriage to Crow. As though he were some sort of consolation prize. Or an emotional and spiritual fix for a girl who lost her first love to tragedy. I’m silent about my first marriage because I want people to value Crow’s marriage to me with just as much value as they would have placed in my marriage to Mike (if they were there to witness it).

For those in my life who were around to witness my wedding and marriage to Mike, I only hope that they can see the two events as completely separate. I don’t want people to compare one wedding or one relationship to the other because I don’t. I love Mike and Crow in completely different ways because they are completely different people who knew a completely different version of me at utterly different stages in my life. One does not replace the other in my heart; they each occupy their own spaces. It’s easier for me as a widow to understand this concept, I think, than it is for someone who has not lost a spouse to comprehend. It still seems as though bringing up my first husband in a conversation makes people feel as though I have not completely healed. And I have.

There is an amazing double-standard, I’ve learned, with how one is supposed to grieve and remember a spouse as opposed to a relative or friend. If I bring up missing a grandparent, as I do often, no one bats an eye. People don’t even behave as though they are uncomfortable. When I bring up Mike, the air becomes still. No one breathes. The subject is touchy. Is it because people treat romantic love as something less important, easily replaceable? Or is it such a sensitive loss that people don’t know how to react? If the latter is the case, why are people so quick to advise others to find a replacement love? No one tries to suggest that someone should fill the gaping hole left in my heart from the loss of a grandparent with another grandparent (or grandparently type person). A widow needs the very same consideration… there is no “fix” but we learn that while we miss our loved ones, we can still build new relationships, not as replacements to the old, but as magnificent additions to the many relationships we’ve experienced in the past and present.

I struggle with words of finality. There are lots of events in life that could be considered “once in a lifetime.” The day that I got to stand front row and center at a U2 concert, right at Bono’s feet, might be considered a once in a life time event. Except, well, it could happen next tour too. Or something better could happen (I could get pulled on stage by Bono!). Each and every experience I’ve had at the seven U2 concerts I’ve attended in my life provides a very special memory. When we mark events in our life as more special than other moments, I think it takes something away from all the other wonderful moments of our lives. I don’t really feel that it’s fair to label any event as being so special it can only ever happen once.

After all, I found love twice.

I’m not only one either. From all the blogs I’ve read on the internet, it’s clear there are a lot of widows and widowers out there who have lost and found love again. Love is not something that can happen only once. Connecting with someone enough to want to share your life with them can happen multiple times. You just have to be open to the possibilities. And you need to realize that the human heart is big enough to share with many people. Each love is unique and special.

Perhaps we can call every special moment for exactly what it is, leaving out a count and finality. I’m getting married to Crow. Period. It’s a very special day for both of us where we publicly vow to commit a life together, a life we promise to share as long as either one of us is alive. Now that is a very special moment in both our lives.

Who is Mars Girl Again?

I don’t know if anyone noticed, but under the “Mars Girl” title on the right-hand side of my blog page, I have made a little change… The description used to read:

Who is Mars Girl? I’m a young widow, avid cyclist, sometimes amateur astronomer, world traveler, and relisher of red wines.

It now reads (changes in bold):

Who is Mars Girl? I’m an avid cyclist, sometimes amateur astronomer, world traveler, and relisher of red wines and craft brews.

Well, it’s true. I’ve recently developed a taste for craft beers.

Oh, yes, and I’ve dropped “young widow” from the list of items describing me.

I decided it was time to stop identifying myself as a young widow. I’m not in a state of denial about my past. My new love and relationship doesn’t erase the pain of the past. Crow does not replace Mike in my heart. (He has his own place in my heart.) However, my world has changed. It’s undeniable. In a little over 7 months, I will be married for the second time in my life. I won’t be widowed, technically, any more. I will be someone who was widowed once. Someday, the one-time widowhood might be “a long, long time ago.” Hell, it already feels that way. This is good.

I thought about changing that paragraph to describe this scenario–something like an allusion to a phoenix rising from the ashes. Well, maybe not that dramatic. But I wanted to find words to describe what I feel I am: someone who prematurely and tragically lost the first love of her life, suffered a lot of pain, went through a lot of self-reflection, healed herself through avid cycling and the passage of time, learned to love life for herself by going out into the world and doing what she wanted, and then just so happened to find a wonderful man and fell in love again. But that’s a mouthful. And, also, it sounded too Hallmark channel for me. And a part of me is still sensitive to a recently widowed audience who would maybe have been a little disturbed by the language. I know it used to make me feel as if I couldn’t relate to the widow if they were finding themselves in a new relationship or getting remarried.

It is what is it is, as they say. I don’t want to be the voice for anyone else’s experience but my own. I’m glad I have a happy new beginning to my life. But it’s really just another of many new beginnings. Everything that happens to you in life is an opportunity for a new beginning. Even the tragic loss of a spouse. Some beginnings are happy, some are sad. Hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to have many happy new beginnings with Crow.

I’m lucky. Or fortunate. Whatever you want to call it. And I don’t for one second take any of that for granted. I’ve been given a chance to share my life with someone and I’m grateful.

And that’s that. I’m no longer a young widow, but soon-to-be a (not as young) wife.

Dream House

When I started looking for a house in 2005, I felt myself gravitating towards the Akron area. More specifically, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I had the fondest memories of my life with Mike there–we used to hike some trails, ride along the towpath, hang out in Peninsula. When Mike died, I found hiking an activity that grounded me and gave me meditative focus, a place to put all my pent up sadness, anxiety, frustration, and I would spend hours hiking various trails within the Cuyahoga Valley. My relationship with the park was both joyful and bittersweet. I was ready to face it again after I went through the whole process of leaving the area when I sold the house I shared with Mike, moved to the east side of Cleveland for a little over a year, moved to Colorado, and then returned again Ohio and the east side of Cleveland. Since Mike’s death, I have struggled with finding a place I could call home and feel like it was truly home. I think all that moving was symptomatic of my inner turmoil. I was just trying to find a place where I fit.

I ended up moving back to the same town where I lived with Mike. In fact, less than a mile from the condo we shared. I felt like it was proof that I was through the roughest part of my grieving because the memories of my life in that town no longer haunted me. The ghosts had dissipated. The town had actually changed just slightly. Some restaurants we enjoyed were gone, replaced by new ones. I spent some time re-remembering the back roads to all the useful places one needs to go.

And, of course, I returned to the Cuyahoga Valley. This time, as a cyclist. Cocky and full of the spirit of a Coloradoan, I was convinced that I could take any hill in Ohio on my bike because I’d spent hours climbing passes on a scant few rides in Colorado. The Cuyahoga Valley told me that I had a lot to learn. My first road was Quick and it was painful. I remember thinking, “How is it possible this hill is so hard?” I guess I never realized that while long, the roads in Colorado tend to be less steep than the windy, abrupt ascents (in some cases, “walls”) that line the Cuyahoga Valley.

But I explored the Valley quite a lot those first couple summers. And along the way, I discovered this quiet little rolling road in the woods with a dozen or so houses nestled in the trees. People lived here! “This,” I thought with a smile, “would be an awesome place to live.” The same thought always came to mind as I cycled along that road on various rides with my bike club–some of them in the mysterious darkness of the late fall–for the next seven years.

Fast forward to 2012. Crow and I are starting to look for houses together. Nothing formal, just looking things up on Zillow and then driving by to check them out. If they were vacant, we’d peer through windows, walk around the yard, try to imagine ourselves in those houses. We had an idea in our mind of what we were looking for and we hadn’t found it yet in our cursory, informal search.

Our Tuesday night club ride has the same route every week. And every week, it goes along that road. I told Crow more than once how cool it would be to have a house on that road because I was still thinking it every time we went down it. He shared my same enthusiasm for the thought. But it was useless to wish for something impossible. So we continued looking at houses from afar.

And then one Thursday night Crow and I went for an evening ride on a warmish spring evening using that very same road to get to a hill we wanted to climb. The miraculous happened–one of the houses had a For Sale sign up that had not been there when we road by with the club on Tuesday. I saw the sign but was slow to react. Crow had already stopped and was pointing. We dismounted our bikes and walked them halfway up the driveway until curiousity urged us to leave the bikes behind and walk around.

The house was vacant so we looked through the windows.

There appeared to be three bedrooms. Check off one requirement.

Two car garage. Check.

Spacious kitchen. Check.

Ranch style. Check for Crow who has spent several years living in the top floor of an apartment and had no desire to have to lug groceries–or anything–up stairs again, ever.

Huge open living room with vaulted ceilings. Check for me. I’ve always wanted vaulted ceilings or a loft.

Big windows facing the beautiful property. Check, check.

A screened-in porch! Bonus points all around.

We walked the yard a bit. It appeared as if the yard bordered the national park. There was wide open space in the back, a little hill behind the house, and some ravines on both sides of the property. My head began to fill with visions of snow-shoeing out the backyard in the winter.

It was hard to hide our excitement. I took a picture of the For Sale sign for the agent’s phone number. Crow called the next day and we saw the house from the inside the very next day during my lunch break at work. I hate to say it, but I fell in love.

I tried not to fall in love. Because, you know, there could be hidden problems with this house. And also this house’s location was definitely desireable for anyone who has a love of the outdoors and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It was a really nice layout on 2.9 acres of land.

We learned that the house’s water is provided by a cistern–a strange concept for this city girl. Apparently, wells were are not popular in this particular area because the water is supposedly very high in iron. I soon warmed up to the idea of a cistern, though, when I realized that it is filled by collecting rain water–a commodity in Ohio–that falls into the gutters from the roof. (The water undergoes a purification process from equipment in the basement, of course.) How green is that?

I’d have to get used to a septic tank. Totally typical for just about all of the places Crow and I desired to live. Heating oil for the furnace and hot water tank. Again, pretty typical (though some use propane, and we agreed we could later switch if we wanted). The only “city” utility provided is electricity. So very rustic. For me. Crow, who spent some of his teen years on a farm with the same conveniences, was completely calm about all this. Which helped.

Small sacrifices, I think, for the location. One of the rationalizations I used to get past my unsure feelings about such a setup was that all the other houses on the same street had similar situations. From all appearances, those houses were in good shape and lived in. I also got the sense from the realtor that the seller–a trustee to the estate of the original owner–had a love for the house.

The interior of the house itself is in decent shape. There are full bathrooms–one full bathroom in the master bedroom, check!–that are in desperate need of some TLC and updating. A full basement with an extra room for storage or a work room. Wood floors in the living room and hallway. All three bedrooms have old carpet in desperate need of replacement. It definitely was going to require some fixing up. But even with all those imperfections, I could see what the house was and what Crow and I could eventually make it into.

We spent the weekend doing everything we could to get our ducks in a row so that we could put an offer in on the house–getting loan pre-approval, signing a real estate agent, and, believe it or not, evening visiting a few open houses in the area.

We put a bid on the house the following Tuesday.

Our offer was accepted after going back and forth the obligatory few times. We got it at a very reasonable price given all the updates the house would most definitely need.

We went through the whole long and drawn out process of inspections, appraisals, and waiting on the loan to go through. It was a long month. We missed our original closing date by over a week. We were on needles and pins for weeks, saying nothing to our friends or family about the house out of a shared paranoia that something would go heartbreakingly wrong.

But finally, that day came. We signed all the papers.

We got the keys on Monday.

We’ll be spending the next week preparing the house for us to move in (painting, wiring, cleaning) and then  packing the stuff at our own places.

We’ll move in June 23-24th.

Our dream house is no longer a dream.

A Rose By Any Other Name…

The number one question I’ve been asked lately–after, of course, the date of the wedding–has been: Are you changing your last name?

If you’re a long time reader of my blog, you might be aware of my thoughts on this subject. Being a feminist, I do question the tradition of a female changing her last name on marriage. Having gone through it before, I am completely aware of what a pain in the ass it is to change your last name. It was even more frustrating when I decided to change my name back to my maiden name in 2005 because unlike a divorce, there’s just no clear order (such as a “divorce decree”) for the law to see a direct connection to changing your name back it its original form. I guessed by the many baffled looks I got when trying to do the name change that widows don’t often put their name back to their maiden name. Maybe because most widows are old and they were their married name longer than their maiden name. Maybe because other young widows have children with whom the last name represents a connection. Maybe some people just don’t bother to change it back. For a lot of personal reasons, however, I had to.

When I went through the process of getting my maiden name back, I brought copies of my birth certificate, marriage license, and Mike’s death certificate. Sometimes that wasn’t enough information because the death of someone else–even your husband–does not necessarily make a connection to a name change. Even though the death certificate does contain a field for Surviving Spouse that indicates the maiden name should be used, if female. Looking over Mike’s death certificate last night, I realized my name is actually on his death certificate twice: once with my maiden name in the Surviving Spouse field and a second time with my married name in the Informer field (because I was the one who called the ambulance, I assume). So you would think that would be enough proof of my identity attached to Mike’s. And wouldn’t you assume that a birth certificate trumps all? It’s obvious I wasn’t trying to invent a new name all together.

Still, it was even harder to change my name back to my maiden name than it was to change it to my married name. Such a fuss, in fact, that I did not change my name on everything. I was in the middle of changing my name when I bought my house; therefore, my house title and all of my utility bills are in my married name. Recently when I went to buy a new car, I realized that my car title (I bought my car in 2003) was in my married name. So, of course, there was a bit of a fuss with that. I had to run around town the day after I bought the car trying to straighten things out between the title company and the dealership.

Needless to say, the name change thing has never ceased to be painful. I’m still kind of caught between two identities. And now I’m about to get married again. So I made to mull over the whole issue again.

I would have voted to keep my last name. But in fairness to Crow, I took his feelings into account. I suppose there is somewhat of a lack of unity in keeping two separate last names when you’re trying to build a single family. And, I admit, that sharing names appeals to the romantic in me. I did seriously contemplate hyphenating my maiden name with Crow’s last name since, unlike my first married name, this would actually work without causing a brain aneurism for anyone trying to pronounce the entire name. As I thought about all the situations in which I would have to give my full name–and how long it takes to say even this simple hyphenation–it seemed like more of a hassle than it was worth. People are still unsure about hyphenated names. Even if there is clearly a hyphen in the name, people don’t seem to understand what it means or how to deal with it. I’ve spent all my life–both married and unmarried–with names that are apparently difficult for people to pronounce or spell without specific guidance. I always spell my name when asked it–even my first name since people can’t seem to spell that either.

Hyphenating also doesn’t solve the problem of having to go through the whole odious name change process, as I’d still have to go to the Social Security office, the license bureau, and then mail out marriage licenses to every credit card company and bank I use (which are numerous).

And then, I thought, is it really fair to the Crow since I did change my last name for Mike? He didn’t express any jealousy over the issue, but I felt it was a little unfair to him. As if I was saying that there was something less about my relationship with Crow that I wouldn’t fully embrace his last name like I did Mike’s. I know, I’m over-analyzing the situation. But I think if roles were reversed, and it was my name a man was taking or leaving, and he was a widower who changed his name the first time, I might feel a little miffed.

Even though I spent days going through the same thought process about changing my name for my first marriage, I ultimately decided to change my name. Because… well, I loved him and I wanted to be a member of the “team.” Not for his family or anyone else. For both of us. I know that I have similar feelings about Crow. And I guess I can’t go around life assuming that the same scenario that prompted me to dump my first married name would happen a second time around should anything happen to Crow. I have to give people the benefit of the doubt.

I feel that changing my name–knowing fully what a pain in the ass it is to do–is almost a commitment of sorts. It’s like saying that I trust that our marriage will work out. That I won’t have to go through this whole mess again no matter what. I think I’m sacrificing a little something to make a statement to the man I love that I believe in us.

So, the short of it is: I am changing my last name.

I know. Shocking.

When I told Crow that I decided to change my last name, he said, “Well, I’ll go with you to all the offices where you need to sign the name change forms, if you want, as moral support.”

I was touched. He realizes the sacrifice I’m making for him and he’s offering some comfort through the frustration of legalizing the name change! That statement alone assured me that I’d made the right decision.

My only amendment to agreeing to the name change is that I am going to use both my maiden name and my married name–sans hyphen–whenever I submit my writing to publication. I won’t use my given middle initial in that case. It will simply be my first name, maiden name, and last name–the maiden name looking as though it were a middle name. When I really thought about it, I realized that it was having my maiden name attached to my writing that was most important to me. And I know I want Crow’s last name on whatever I write as well since he’s so passionately supportive of my attempt to fulfill my lifelong dream of publication. I want him to be a part of my successes as well.

11 Years Later

It has not missed my attention that April 14th—the anniversary of my first husband’s death–was this past weekend.

It’s so easy to forget sometimes that I had this other life. The tears are dry. The grief has subsided. The anger is gone. Mostly. I remember things we did together, places we went, things we said. But sadly, those memories are almost as fogged over as the ones I have of being in high school—just distant remembrances that float to the top of my memory from time to time when something familiar triggers it. Despite how much I do bring up Mike in conversation with people, my memory of him has turned to a shadow, frozen forever in time at the age of 32. This is exactly what I was afraid would happen. I suppose it’s just natural to forget the details in time. Normal. Healthy. But I still feel a little guilty.

I will never forget April 14th, though. The shock and horror will remain etched in my mind’s eye as a reminder of how quickly everything can go so wrong. I think that watching someone you love die is probably the hardest experience a person can have. It has an effect on you that can’t be erased. But it taught me something too. Every second in life counts. Live each one of them to the fullest. And I feel in these past eleven years–at least in the last five years–I’ve adopted this philosophy as I’ve let nothing stop me from going to the places I’ve wanted to go, doing the things I’ve wanted to do.

Sudden change is not always bad. Eight months ago, I fell in love with a friend–a guy I’d known for 3 or 4 years, with whom I’d ridden on club rides. When I gave him a chance, we both learned we were very compatible. Last month, we decided to get married. We’ve started that process of making financial decisions, looking for our together house, planning a wedding. Things are happening so fast. Like they did that first time. What a ride. In the blink of an eye–from good to bad, to better, to good again. Life’s a constantly moving wheel of fortune.

How does it feel going through the motions a second time around? I have to admit it’s a little strange. I try to suppress the waves of deju vu that surface on occasion. Didn’t I do this before? Didn’t I think this would be the last time, just as I’m thinking this is the last time as we make our plans? The relationship is different, the person I’m with is different; hell, I’m even different. But some parts of it are similar enough to remind me of the first time.

I’ve been struggling to adjust my verbiage after I referred to “my husband” in a conversation with Crow. He rightfully pointed out that soon he would to be my husband. It was like stating the obvious, but I needed that jolt of reality because it hadn’t even occurred to me that when I am married again, I can’t use the term “husband” to refer to both Mike and Crow. So my brain has to learn a new term. I never liked the term “late husband”–just what is he late for? If you’re waiting for him to come, he’ll always be late!—so I’ve always referred to Mike as simply my husband in conversation. It sometimes caused people to ask questions, assuming that my husband was alive, but I preferred it to the plea of sympathy that referring to a late husband seemed to provoke. I’m now teaching myself to call him my first husband. Because that’s what he was. Alive or dead.

I hope that Crow is my last and final husband. In that case, he will always be “my husband.” Trying that term on a new face feels a little strange. But yet, no stranger that it felt the first time I ever got to use it in a sentence to describe my relationship to someone I loved. I’m adjusting to “fiance.” It makes me giggle the way it did the first time. I’m engaged. Again.

I always thought that when I got married again, I’d do something so utterly different that it would not even look the least bit similar to the first wedding. I think this was mostly a grief-driven reaction. I was afraid of a second wedding eclipsing the first, erasing that part of my history. Not only did I fear that people would compare a second wedding to the first—perhaps liking it better—but I was afraid I would. I didn’t know then how to separate one from the other because, frankly, I couldn’t even anticipate that I would or could love someone as much as I loved Mike.

It’s a cliché, but time heals all wounds. It leaves scars. But it heals. And as time anesthetized my pain, my heart grew larger and new chambers opened up to receive new possibilities. And there he was. And now I can see what I couldn’t see before: Love does not compare! Mike and Crow are two completely different people and, while my capacity to love them is similar, there is no way, ever, that I could or would even think to compare one to other. If I have a grand ceremony with Crow (as we are currently planning), it will not lessen one bit the wedding or marriage I had with Mike. They are two completely different events in my life. I can separate and compartmentalize. It’s not even a chore, it just happens.

I hope other people who have been in my life have the same capacity to separate me with Mike from me with Crow. Sometimes when planning aspects of our wedding, I worry that someone in my audience—who will have witnessed both weddings—will compare and find they prefer the first wedding. Or they prefer the first groom. I’m afraid they will think, “Well, that was nice. But not as nice as her wedding to Mike.” As if other people’s judgement of my love for someone has any reflection on our feelings for each other. Why should I even care what other people think? Maybe I’m afraid they won’t give Crow a chance. I feel enormous pressure to impress upon my audience that this love is just as important as the first. I don’t know why I feel I have to prove anything. But I do.

I regret that my grandma H is no longer alive to meet Crow. Some part of me wishes for her approval too. I want her to meet my love, the way I wanted her to meet and approve of Mike so long ago. I’m sad that neither grandma E or grandma H are alive to witness my wedding as as they were present the first time. I want them there to see me happy again (though Grandma E died two months before Mike so she never knew what I went through).

I won’t lie, I’m a little scared. When I let go, I feel again those glimmers of hope and excitement for the future that is not yet written—trips we plan to take, the house we plan to buy, the life we want to build together. I remember feeling this way before and I’ll never forget how that ended. There’s trepidation, for sure. As I’ve said here on this blog a hundred times, life does not always work out the way you planned it. But do I have any regrets about the past? Not when it comes to having loved Mike. We made the most of the time we had together. I know this is all any of us can do. And I will make the most of the time Crow and I have together. I pray that this time Fate won’t let me down.