Living and dying on the Internet is a strange concept. One of my fellow hot young widows. Nora McInerny wrote about it in a piece featured in the Times, “We Live on the Internet. We Die Alone.”
Nora’s husband died the same week mine did. We both had tiny babies at home and were very public about our loss, grief, and the messy aftermath. Now, Nora has gone on to TED talks and best-selling novels- she also very privately re-married and had a baby.
She didn’t tell any of her followers until said baby was born, and I always wondered why- until now.
Ten years ago, I started a blog, “Cocktails & Chemo” the first post can still be found on a rough, self-published Blogspot page. I very naively wrote,
I decided to name this blog, “Cocktails and Chemo” because sometimes you need one (or two) to get through the other.
Navigating cancer can lead you on a twisted road of unfamiliar and sometimes you just want a taste of normal. You want to feel like two 28 year olds who want to drink dirty martinis and just be newlyweds.
I haven’t figured out why I want to write this blog or really my purpose just yet.
It started out as an idea to give family and friend’s updates on my husband, then maybe a way to inspire other people going through cancer but I think it may ultimately be a place to get my feelings out in writing. A place to document the highs and lows of learning to be a wife while attempting to be a good caretaker and desperately trying NOT to mix the two.– Amanda Clark, 2012
And document we did- we shared the darkest moments of my life, the scariest news from doctors, and when fear kept me up all night, I turned here to feel less alone.
So, why now that life feels so overwhelmingly happy, do I feel so much guilt sharing that part of my life? Maybe it’s because the world crumbled around me the last time I had good news. We found out we were pregnant, and then five days later, my sweet 29-year-old husband’s blood results returned something wasn’t right.
The truth is, sometimes feeling happy feels terrifying because you wonder when the floor will open and swallow you up. Sometimes, it’s “survivor’s guilt,” knowing you’re still standing after watching someone die. Or maybe it feels weird to proclaim my happiness from the top of the hill when so many are at their own bottom?
Then I read this quote from our leader Brene Brown.
“One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through and it will be someone else’s survival guide.”– Brene Brown
So here I am to say my name is Amanda; I became a widow at 30 years old with a baby on my hip and brokenness so deep I was sure I’d never recover. I lost my job, friends, family members, home, and so many losses followed when my beautiful husband, Joe Clark, died on November 16, 2014. And I survived.
I so vividly remember sitting on an airplane alone, bouncing our daughter on my lap and thinking I’d be just fine if the plane went down. The pain felt unescapable. The grief was the heaviest weight I hope I’ll ever carry.
But with a lot of hard work, counseling, risk, travel, soul searching, and some really awful Bumble dates- I’ve found a light inside me again I was sure was out forever.
This past week surrounded by our friends and family, I leaned into that light and promised to love like there is no chance of getting hurt, to laugh and dance and wrap my daughter up in the love she deserves- that we deserve.
Mr. Chris did the same. He promised to love us with all our broken pieces, and I feel whole again for the first time in a long time.
For the wedding ceremony, I asked Mr. Chris if he could come up with something for the unity ceremony. Nothing cheesy, and I didn’t want sand or a candle- just something quick we could do to symbolize our new family.
He came home with beyond what my Pinterest board could even dream up.
He placed the white wood boards in front of me and laid out the letters, an A for Amanda, a C for Chris, an M for Mira, and a small J draped in a halo above us for Mira’s daddy in heaven.
The hot tears poured down my face at the intersection of happy and sad, joy and sorrow.
Then he added a little B at the bottom for the new baby we will welcome soon.
New life and loss, new love and grief- all are making up the story that is ours, in a life that is very worth living.