On March 12, 2020, as Joe and I drove off of the beach together for the very last time, we received the email that would be the catalyst for a tough year ahead, to say the least. The email told us that our upcoming show, Forever Vintage Market in Belleville, IL, a show we had done since starting our mobile candle store way back when was canceled. When I read the email to Joe, I could see the color drain from his face and his whole body change instantly. I have said from the beginning that he died at that moment, coming off of the beach; he never recovered, though he certainly did try to. He had been doing so well, healing in Florida, and ready to come home and go to work. No one knew why we traveled to Florida every year. They thought it was just because Joe loved to fish (he did). But the truth was, he needed it to heal. He needed the sunshine, the salt air, the distraction. He needed to focus on something he had a great passion for without pressure from the world and to occupy his mind from the memories that haunted it.
For the first time since March of 2019, the Forever Vintage Spring Market was held last weekend. Finally, I got to see our FV family, hug them, talk to them, answer their questions, try to help them understand, and remember Joe with our favorite stories and memories of our times spent together. I got to re-introduce everyone to Amanda—it had been years since she’d been in Belleville; our world traveler was just a kid her last time there. Full circle. That’s how it felt. I feel as though I can finally breathe. As though the last page of the book has been turned. I have NOW completed our whole show schedule. Some with others helping me, and some on my own. None of it was easy, and all of it was necessary.
So as March is coming to a close, I wanted to honor my birth month by thanking it, thanking it for giving me what I really needed to have. And mostly for being the month that ushers in the next season. Spring is always here by the end, although it seems winter never really wants to give up its hold. My birthday always signifies the start of the new year, and this year, I chose to do the most loving and kind things for myself. Permission to rest when I’m tired (it doesn’t mean I’m lazy), to be sad when I feel sad (it doesn’t mean I don’t have joy), to cry when I need to cry (our tears are evidence of our love), and to heal and feel whole again (because why wouldn’t I want that?) I’m showing up as MARIE—just as I am and where I am. In sadness, joy, pain, love, anger, or none of the above. It’s all good. And good is how I want to feel.
Losing Joe was like losing half of myself, and a part of me died with him. My heart is still bleeding. I’m like a baby, still finding my footing and learning to walk. The sadness, pain, and sometimes suffering are still there, are very real, and are part of my new beginning. I welcome them to come with me if they need to. They will always be there in moments—grief does not end, but the goal is to have more joy and less pain. Most of the time I do. I can’t describe how this loss feels more than I already have, and the truth is, as my counselor has said, “until you experience a loss like this, you will not understand it.” I remind myself every day to look for the gifts—while also allowing myself to be in sadness if that’s what I’m feeling. THAT IS GRIEF. Living fully and grieving fully. Let whatever needs to come up come up—no ignoring it or shoving it down.
You have to feel it to heal it. In other words… Deal with your shit or your shit will deal with you.
I can’t control my circumstances—they only dictate our lives if we allow them to—but I can control if and how I respond or react to them. I am also still human. I will forget to do the things I know to do at times, make bad choices, and say or think hurtful things. And then I will do my best to do better… again, and again. I could have decided I was done living when Joe left this world. It never even once occurred to me to do that. Joe was suffering incredible pain that he did not believe he could overcome. And no matter how deep, wide, sturdy and strong our love was, it could not cover that pain.
I’m not here to convince anyone of anything; that’s not my job or purpose. I’m here to put down in writing whatever God is asking me to put down. I don’t know who it’s for other than myself-it’s helping me to share my experiences (grief demands a witness.) To share what I know from my experience—the effects of depression, anxiety, the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse, and of a death by suicide—mine and Joe’s story, and to give a voice to the possibilities in the becoming of this new life, this new person I now am. I’m learning how to do everything from a place of love. It’s not an illusion. God is love; He is the Source of all things. You are not an accident. You are here on purpose. If you follow your Intuition (God speaking to you), how can you be wrong? And if—or instead—WHEN (we’re not perfect) you discover you’re headed in the wrong direction, turn yourself around!
Because of Joe’s life and his death, I am now on a mission. A mission to prevent the sexual abuse of children everywhere. To advocate for their healing and be a voice for those who have already suffered this incredible trauma. I am a voice—one of many. And I am so grateful to have the opportunity to let Joe live on through this work. This work is his legacy. And what an honor to be called to do something so profound and of such great importance. Do not live in fear. Educate yourself, and be prudent. Listen to your gut-it will never lie. Your Intuition is a gift; use it.
I honor Joe every day by allowing joy to exist with my sadness and longing.
Joe and I had so much fun living and traveling. I will be sharing some of those stories and adventures with you. I’m so glad we didn’t wait to ‘arrive’ at some future state or our later years. (There is no ‘arriving,’ btw.) I will never forget our friend Pat encouraging us to do the things she regretted not doing herself. Tomorrow is not promised. Live like you were dying (because we all are.)
I received encouragement a few weeks ago from someone I love so very much. And not only because of these words, but because she has stuck with me through it all. One of only a very few that could hold me in my suffering. Some people are strong enough to withstand the storm and some are not. And it’s all okay. Forgiveness, compassion, and grace are what I offer to those who have walked away—including Joe. Their purpose was served. I release them and any responsibility I thought they had—those who are meant to stay, will. They are indeed special. I told her I would remember her words for the rest of my life and reference them often…
“It may or may not feel like it now, but making the videos and blogs is very therapeutic for you. To tell his story from what you know of it….to not let his memory just fade into nothingness…it’s important! It matters. He lived and his life was cut short. Not because he wanted it to be….he no longer had a choice to live because he couldn’t live in peace. Someone a long time ago set that course in motion. They took the longevity of his life away from him—it was all stolen. So you have to be a truth-teller and make the lasting imprint that you can! That’s your purpose. Or at least part of it. And you’re doing just fine!”
I’m so ready for this new season. The season on the calendar, and the season of BECOMING.
“There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness. And this is neither. This is the season about becoming.“-Shauna Neigist
To your healing, and mine.
xo, and peace.
As always…thank you for reading, commenting, sharing, and your lovely messages of hope, faith, and inspiration. If what I’m writing resonates with you, let me know. Leaving a comment here on the blog is the best way to connect. This is helping me. I hope that it’s also helping you. Much love.
Call: Lifeline 1 800 273 8255 (USA Only)Text: CNQR to 741 (741 Crisis Text Line (USA Only)
I just want the pain to stop… (video)
Suicide is not a selfish act. It’s a desperate act.
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Debbie W says
Marie you are such a beautiful writer! Such heartfelt words and message you have written
May God Bless you
Thank you Debbie. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that anyone is reading what I’m writing. I hope that it’s helping others as much as it’s helping me. xo
Melissa F. says
First, I want to say how very sorry I am for your loss. I also want to say THANK YOU for expressing yourself and being open about your story and your grief. I lost my husband January 12 this year to Covid complications. We would have celebrated our 23rd anniversary on April 24th. Every day is a struggle, but I am slowly learning to find joy in life again. I am blessed with a great support structure and 4 great adult children I can depend on. Your blog and your words help me tremendously, give me inspiration and allow me to have hope for the future, that it won’t always be this painful.
Melissa…first of all, I am deeply sorry for the loss of your husband. There is nothing easy about losing half of yourself (in my experience). Nothing. I am glad that you have a support system; it means everything to be surrounded by loving friends and family. They will carry you, I’m sure. I, too, have been blessed with great support, and our customers have been incredible over the last (hard to believe) almost two years now.
And thank you. Thank you for your kind words and your condolences. I have found that time is a funny thing with grief; it’s in slow motion and at warp speed simultaneously. One minute it feels like he was just here, and the next, it feels like it’s been an eternity. I’m able to laugh and see all the JOY and beauty around me- even in the little moments, and then I find myself on the floor unable to get up. The world just seems to be upside down. And it’s all okay. The sun will still rise tomorrow and we will rise with it.
I am so grateful you took the time to share that what I write is helping. It’s helping me, too, and I’m trusting that it reaches the people who need it. There is so much we can learn from each other. I have changed a lot in two years–I have changed a lot in the last two months! I am praying for your healing and your strength. I hope you can feel God wrapping His arms around you, and your family. Much, much love to you, and please stay in touch-reach out anytime!