Throughout my thirty-seven first marriage that I ended in 2012, I’d measured my success in life with the reassurance that I would never divorce. When I did divorce, though, I knew from the beginning it was the right thing to do, even while acknowledging it could never be a good thing.
Unlike that divorce, widowhood was thrust upon me quite unexpectedly. Throughout what turned out to be an all too short marriage to Carolyn, I’d never expected I’d be living my life as a widow. Yet, when it happened, my sorrow over losing Carolyn – from the first moment I kissed her cold cheek for the last time – has been buoyed more by the happy years we were able to share than the ones ahead we were never going to have.
On May 23, 2017 at 1:07 p.m., I looked at the attending nurse and asked, “Is she gone?” The nurse nodded. At that moment I experienced an emptiness I had never experienced before. Today marks one year since that nurse nodded that Carolyn was dead. I still cry at a sudden memory of her, but as I have since the moment she died, the tears represent both sadness and gladness. Sadness for the years we would never have, and gladness for those precious five that we did. Only the percentages have shifted. Increasingly over this past year the tears have favored gladness, as memories of her are able to bring smiles to my face. Now, the tears that are sad center around thoughts of a life she was unable to live for herself. That’s a sadness I’ll be carrying with me for the rest of my days.
When Carolyn and I first dated in 1972, the good times lasted six weeks. I came to refer to that halcyon period as the Prague Spring, after the similar period enjoyed by Czechoslovakia back in 1968 before Soviet tanks rolled in on the streets of Prague. And it hasn’t occurred to me until this minute, that this train trip of mine has also lasted as long as both my and the Czech Republic’s previous Prague Springs. But that’s where the comparison ends.