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Returning to Oz…

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Posted (edited)

I haven’t posted a ramble in quite some time.  It is time for another, I suppose.  I will try to give the Cliff Notes version of my story for those who may not be familiar. 


I have been a member of this club for almost 10 years – class of 2009.  September 22nd, to be exact.  Just typing that statement leaves me gasping.  10 years!  I lost my husband Barry to the expected complications of a progressive neuromuscular disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy.  I bought into early widowhood when I fell in love with a man with a disease that would end his life early.  He was initially predicted to die by age 5.  He made it to 53.  We were together about 18 ½ years and married over 17.  About 6 months after he died, I started a conversation with a wonderful widower named John who I met on the previous iteration of this website (YWBB).  We lived half the country apart, but we decided to meet, and we developed a very deep love.  I moved to Kansas to be with him and we married a year after we met.  We lived life as fully as we were able.  We were happy.  We still missed our late spouses, but we were able to move forward.  If I can be honest, we were both happier than we had ever been.


5 ½ years ago, when I was back on the east coast visiting friends, John died in his sleep 5 days shy of his 57th birthday.  He failed to respond to messages, and I called the police to check on him.  Unbeknownst to us, he had significant heart failure.  Fortunately, I was surrounded by widow friends the day he died and the next day as well, and then I returned home to face the emptiness.  At 51, I had been widowed twice.  And…to complicate matters, 12 days after John died, I started having medical issues, ended up having surgery 4 weeks later, and was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer.  I just wanted it to kill me.  It hasn’t, and I have passed the 5-year mark without recurrence (which is very rare for my rare smooth muscle cancer.)


My first career was a 26-year jaunt as a physical therapist.  Once I moved to Kansas, I came to the unexpected conclusion that I no longer wanted to practice.  My husband, who was a university professor, supported me in my decision and encouraged me to take advantage of tuition reimbursement and go back to school to study whatever I wished.  I was finishing up one degree when my husband died.  The university community was devastated with the death of my beloved and well-respected husband and I found compassion and support at the university.  I finished that degree (through surgery and a cancer diagnosis as well) and then went on to obtain a Master’s degree in Higher Education Student Affairs.


2 years ago, after finishing my degrees and still grieving, I decided to move back to the east coast to be closer to family, old friends, and wid friends as well.  My 90-year old father had been diagnosed with lung cancer, I wanted to be able to support my mother through his illness, and I just needed to get away from the reminders of what I had lost.  I rented my house in Kansas to a young professor.  I spent a few months with my parents.  My father remained stable – and still is 2 ½ years after diagnosis – not sure he even has a malignancy. 


It took me the better part of a year to find a job in my field.  I loved my work and my students – but not my boss or the institution.  It just wasn’t a good fit.  I found out at the end of January that my renters of my house in Kansas were leaving.  That started my thinking about the possibilities of selling my house, renting again – or moving back.  My decision was confirmed in April, when I traveled back to participate in a day the university has named for my husband that celebrates research and creative activities on campus.  I missed the small-town life in rural Kansas (hate the rat race of New England!) and I realized that 2 years away had brought me to a better place emotionally.


So…I have clicked the heels of my ruby-red shoes and I have moved back to Kansas!  I just started a new job at the university where my husband taught and where I earned my last 2 degrees.  It feels good to be here.  I never thought I would move back into my house – which I plan to redecorate over time – but I am here.


I miss him.  A lot.  But…I feel more ready to build my own life again.  I realize how I walked around the first 3 ½ years after John died with my eyes on the ground.  I needed to leave here to start looking up again.  The university keeps my husband’s legacy alive – and I have been welcomed back with open arms.


I guess I am thinking…there’s no place like home!


Thanks for reading...







Edited by Wheelerswife
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Maureen, Reading your post gives me hope that there will be a life after Mark, I'm probably just not quite ready yet. You sound happy and that makes me happy for you. Enjoy life in Kansas!

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So great to hear your happy news, Maureen. I came to widowhood in November 2011 so I remember your name and history. Thank you for sharing your story of resilience, determination and hope!

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I wish you all the best with this new chapter. You're so right sometimes we need a little distance to remember all the reasons why we love a place and we need to be there. 

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