Mu husband and I moved across the country from Massachusetts to Seattle just 16 months before he died. We had been back living there since we were married 8 years earlier. Each of us had grown up in Massachusetts, left at some point, but decided that we wanted to move back there together after we were engaged. We did just that and we settled in there, got married there, had babies there, had family there. Steve had grown up very near Boston so he had the accent – and the attitude. We loved everything about where we lived and I never really thought we would leave.
Rather suddenly, Steve started talking about moving to Washington. He had several good reasons, but I was taken back. This hard core Red Sox, Patriots, North End, Aerosmith, Cape Cod-loving man wanted to move away? What? He did have good reason to want to go and the biggest reason was that his entire immediate family had already moved to Washington over the course of the previous few years. His parents had divorced when he was little so he was thrilled by the possibility of living near all of his family in more harmony than there had been for years. On top of that, he had a great job opportunity in Seattle. But still – we were dug in and loved the town we lived in. We had good friends and were happy. But if we were going to do it, this was the time as my oldest was set to start Kindergarten in the fall. So we did it. I always say I came kicking and screaming but once we got here, I completely loved it. It was like ripping off a band-aid. The process was awful and painful but once it was done it was good.
We made lots of friends here so easily and quickly. Steve loved his job; I got very involved at my daughter’s school and our church, and had a great part-time job. Living close to Steve’s family was really wonderful. His mom, dad, step-mom, two sisters and their kiddos all were here – kind of amazing. They loved all over our girls, we saw them all the time, and they lived in a sweet little town to the North of us that they were crazy about and we became crazy about too.
Another kind of “written in the stars” piece of our moving out here was that my brother just happened to be stationed in Washington and moved here about the same time as we did. My brother Michael is an officer in the Navy and has lived all over this country and a few others with his wife and five kids. The odds of them being here at the same time as us were damn small but it happened.
I could not have survived the trauma of Steve’s death, my pregnancy and the time that followed without the support of this loving, hands-on family. I could have – but it would have been ugly. My parents were and are wonderful, supportive and generous, but 3000 miles away and considerably older than Steve’s parents. The strength that I got from my brother and Steve’s dad especially, the first few days and weeks after he passed away was tangible – I felt then like I couldn’t possibly stand on my own, couldn’t do what needed to be done. They did it all with me and held me up – literally more than once. They were a gift – two of the most amazing, caring, generous, faithful, funny and loving me that I have ever met in my life.
I spoke for a minute at the vigil, the night before Steve’s funeral. Lots of friends and family got up to speak about him, sharing stories and memories. It was a very special candle lit service and I loved listening to every word that was spoken. I had not planned to speak as I didn’t think I could. But I got a feeling all of a sudden and I just walked up to the podium. I’ll never remember exactly what I said but the gist of it was this: this room full of friends, family, co-workers – this was Steve’s gift to us. He didn’t know it of course at the time, but there was such a rhyme and reason to all that we did in the year and a half that lead up to his death. Right down to the house that we chose. I was really pushing for another one but he wouldn’t hear of it. He was sold on one and wouldn’t budge – the not budging wasn’t that unusual, but it was really strong for a house that we said yes to sight unseen. If we had taken the house that I was rooting for, it would have put us in a different elementary school for our kids, and in hindsight, that would’ve been awful. The friends I made at the school Maggie started Kindergarten in are some of the best friends I have here to this day. The friend that I met at school a few days before classes even began became such a good, close friend of mine, that she is who I called the morning Steve died, when the police and EMT’s were asking me over and over again, “Is there someone you can call?” Her and so many others became so tied to me and to our little situation. These were the people that came over and cried with me, brought us dinners, came over to fix things, mowed the grass, took my girls to do fun things, loving on them and giving me space.
All of these fabulous people and living exactly where we were at the time Steve died – Steve set it up. Unconsciously and with God nudging him along every step of the way, he made sure that we were in a community that loved us and were with family that would help to carry us. We were exactly where we needed to be at the exact right time. I wish like hell that he never died, that he could still be here enjoying this life, these people, this gorgeous part of the country, with us. It’s tragic what he’s missing in our children. But dammit if he didn’t do all he could right up until the day he left us, to make sure we were OK. And we are. One minute at a time.