October 16, 2019
It was mid-July of 2013 when Ian and I decided to take a spontaneous trip from Miami, Florida down to Key West for the weekend. We endured the four hour drive in the heat, finally settling into our cozy cottage-like suite. Our first day was filled with a snorkeling adventure, day drinking, and a romantic dinner out on the town. Ian had been acting so strange the entire time — like his mind was somewhere else. It must be that big deal at work? I thought to myself.
I walked home reluctantly from dinner that night wanting to go out to the bars and party some more, but Ian insisted that we go back to our room for wine and dessert! Ian was always the laid-back, just go-with-the-flow one, but because he was so insistent my stubborn self let him have his way this time!
Entering the hotel grounds I saw a sprinkling of beautiful flower pedals lit by soft glowing lanterns all over the courtyard. “Look Ian!” I exclaimed, “Someone is having a romantic dinner or something down here. How sweet!” I turned my gaze in the direction that I was walking and started to realize that the flower petals and lanterns were creating a pathway that lead to our room. It literally took me opening up the front door and Ian getting down on one knee to realize what was happening!
He popped the question. We popped champagne. And the rest was history! On the drive back to Miami I couldn’t believe that someone actually wanted to spend the rest of his life with me! It was such a surreal, ecstatic feeling, that to this day might have made me happier that my own wedding day (I’ll admit it!). There was just something so raw, real, vulnerable and in-the-moment that made our engagement so special and totally unforgettable.
It was just last week, October of 2019, when I decided to drive from Naples, Florida over to Miami to visit some friends for an evening, while on vacation with my kids and parents. On the two hour drive across Alligator Alley — a trip that Ian and I made together often when we lived there for two years — I realized how many amazing memories we created there together. I could see us paddle boarding on the crystal blue water laughing as we dodged jellyfish, drinking martinis at Lincoln Road after work (or with my parents in Naples!), and spending countless hours at the beach playing dominoes and drinking beers without a care in the world except that one of us might have to make dinner that night!
I remembered the days following Ian’s proposal when I excitedly broke the news to my girlfriends at Miami City Ballet where I worked for three years. They called an impromptu “work meeting” on the second floor patio to surprise me with a bottle of champagne and celebrate! I was able to visit this same group of special women on my recent trip. We laughed. We cried. We drank too much wine. (Well put Estefania!) And I think we all realized how seemingly strait-forward work relationships can effortlessly evolve into life-long friendships.
Time seems so abstract since Ian’s death. The memories I created four years ago in Miami or as Freshmen in college when we first met, feel like they happened just yesterday. And the experiences that are unfolding now seem so immensely shaped by events that occurred in my past — like foreshadowing in a story.
Last October at this exact same time, Ian and I were running around Spain and Italy together. It was the last experience where Ian was really Ian. We had planned to bring the kids and our parents with us for a full month of European fun, but Ian’s cancer had other plans. We had to shorten our trip to align with his treatment schedule, so off we went just the two of us.
Now, Ian had already taught Izzy how to say Buongiorno in preparation for her Italian debut, so when she learned that she wasn’t coming along anymore, she was disappointed (to say the least). To make up for it, Ian promised to take Izzy to Naples Florida Italy instead. Close enough right??!!
We don’t break promises. Especially promises made by daddy. So, exactly one year later from Ian and my euro-trip, I took Izzy and Theo to Naples Florida Italy with my parents last week. As I watched Izzy cannon-ball into the pool and shimmy her legs through the water like a little mermaid, I could literally see Ian’s proud smile on his face. I could visualize him teaching Theo how to swim — just as he did with Izzy — blowing bubbles in the water and letting him stay below the surface just long enough to make everyone a bit uncomfortable. But hey, that’s how they learn! He would say.
We talked about daddy a lot last week because everything we did (swimming/beach time) was just so “Ian”. When I tucked Izzy into her bed for a nap one afternoon the following conversation took place:
Izzy: “Mommy, can we get a new daddy? I miss the old daddy who got sick and died.”
Me: “I miss him too, Izzy. But you know, daddy will always be in our hearts. We can still love him.”
Izzy: “But I want a new one who can talk to me.”
Me: “We can get you a new daddy, but, mommy has to find you one.”
Izzy: “Let’s go buy one!!”
Me (laughing): “Ok, Izzy. Mommy will work on it.”
Beyond the innocence and humor of this exchange, I just couldn’t believe the timing of it. Izzy misses her daddy. But, she also wants a new one. I miss my partner. But, I also want a new one. It’s not that either of us will ever forget about Ian or stop loving him, but we both crave something tangible — a body that we can hug, play tiger with, or get tickled by; a human to talk to, to laugh with, and to tell us how much he love us. We miss human connection, contact, LOVE. And, up until Izzy so bluntly admitted that she wanted it, I had been feeling guilty that I wanted it too.
When a spouse dies, the widow or widower is often asked if she or he has “moved on.” As Nora McInerney explains in her TED Talk, you don’t really ever “move on”, you just “move forward.” What this means is that you never forget about the special person you lost — even if you fall in love again, remarry, or form a new family. You just make room for move love — old and new.
I’ve recently downloaded a dating app. I’ve even been on a handful of casual dates. It’s uncharted territory to me. It’s scary. It’s certainly not what I envisioned my 33-year-old self doing at this time in my life! … But … it’s what I need right now. I question myself wondering if it’s “too soon”. I worry about what others think. I mean, Ian died not even seven months ago!
So I pause. I do my best to silence the noise — the “shoulds”, the timelines, the uncertainty, the doubt. And I remind myself that matters of the heart are not often solved with reason of the mind.
I’m putting myself “out there” — not only in the foreign world of dating, but also in sharing this personal decision so publicly with you.
And I’ve chosen to share this decision — not to seek sympathy or affirmation for my actions, but to help others in similar situations — whether its from loss of a loved one due to death, or another tragedy like divorce, break-ups, or any event that created that void in their life. No one needs to permission to seek happiness.
Finally, I’m deliberately doing things on my own time — not because I’m 100% confident in my actions, but because I know that my intuition will guide me better than arbitrary timelines or societal expectations concerning grief. TIME IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT.
There is no such thing as the “right time” for anything. Besides the standard hours and minutes in a day, time is subjective and unique to each individual. As children we learn to walk and talk at different rates and the same applies to us as adults. Some of us become CEO’s in our 30’s; others it takes a lifetime. Some of us get married right out of college; others find true love later in life. You get the idea.
There is no universal timeline on anything that we do in life — so why try to apply one to how long we “should” grieve? How long it “should” take until we feel happy? How long we “should” wait to start searching for new love?
We feel. We remain open to what the universe sends our way. And, put one foot in front of the other and hope for the best. Some of us do this quickly. Others do it slowly. But, we do it openly, whole-heartedly and on our own time.
I intentionally share a memory about Ian in each of my blog post’s because it is a reminder that even after someone dies, he or she can still have a significant impact on our lives. All of the decisions and actions we make in life are a product of our knowledge to date and past experiences. Thus, Ian will always be with me — shaping my present through our joint past and guiding me into the future.