Conversations in Grief Blog: My First Death Date
My First “Death Day” Date
by Kathy Kline
Although it is not recorded on any calendar, this date was etched on my mind and in my heart for a year. It was the date that my husband Dave died in 2022. As with any first date, the weeks prior were filled with anxiety, apprehension, and fear. This collage of emotions led to exhausting thoughts, excessive planning, and endless preparation, all in hopes of a successful first date.
On the Saturday before Easter, I took a stroll through a small wood, watching my steps on the uneven ground, when I noticed something sparkling in front of me. Picking it up, I held a stone etched with the word “Courage.” I whispered, “Thank you,” believing I would not only survive this date, but also thrive.
Wednesday afternoon launched my three-day date. After getting familiar with my hotel room, I took a bit of time to reflect, breathe and be grateful. I settled into a chair on the large southern-style porch at the front of the hotel. Music spilled from the lobby joining the wonderful aromas from the nearby restaurant. I was relaxed and at peace as I waited for my three children to join me for dinner.
Dinner was delightful and it warmed my heart to be with those who love Dave as much as I do. We shared memories of the past and dreams of the future. We laughed. We cried. We were family.
The walk to my room after dinner was filled with a bit more apprehension than my first trip. I found the bed turned down with chocolates on each pillow. There was a bottle of wine chilling and rose petals spread on the tub surround. The romantic setting caused tears and panic as I experienced the unexpectedness of this. I climbed into the king-size bed alone, trying to focus on the wonderful dinner. Sleep came quickly and deeply.
The next morning, I walked to a local cafe, intending to sit in the sun, journal, and drink coffee. Words and feelings flowed easily as I began to observe my surroundings: An elderly couple gingerly walked along the sidewalk holding hands. I did not feel jealous or lonely. Endless smiles and contagious giggles brightened my smile.
The most beautiful young couple I have ever encountered caught my eye. They sat two tables to my left and I was drawn to them. I hesitantly approached them. With a hand gently placed on each of their shoulders, I told them that they were beautiful. Their radiance and presence with each other illuminated the entire area. Both were honored by my words, and the young woman asked if I was mourning someone special. She placed her hand on mine as I fidgeted with the wedding rings on a chain around my neck. When I explained my date, they both rose and hugged me into their circle. I was asked to join them, but declined, celebrating with a brief toast instead.
I finished my coffee, packed up my journal, and left for a book club at Rainbow Hospice. I spent time with six amazing women, each working through her own grief.
Back at the hotel, I visited the porch once again. I was peaceful and calm as I journaled while waiting for a friend to join me. After dinner, my friend and I returned to the porch. We shared my journal and had a heartfelt conversation about what I wrote. We shared memories and dreams, good and bad, laughter and tears.
Shortly after midnight, another young woman left the hotel with a gentle smile aimed at us. She told us that she was watching us from her table. She said that we “were lovely” and that we “had something special.” I stood up with glassy eyes and told her about my date. She shared that she was dealing with cancer and knew that she needed to be with us. We all hugged, and my friend asked her to join us. She dried her eyes, declined the invitation, and walked to her car. Perhaps more at peace than when she walked out of the hotel.
I was not alone that night. I was with my best friend Mary, the couple from the restaurant, the woman from the porch, and, most of all, my husband Dave.
The final day of my death date began with a brisk morning walk in the glorious sun, sharing smiles with strangers. An early lunch was followed by a visit to the most wonderful place of my childhood: the Winter Farm. My aging aunt and uncle were honored to be included in my death date. I asked if I could spread some of Dave’s ashes. With their blessing, I meandered down a hill, spreading his ashes in the wind. At total peace with what I was doing, I felt as if we both belonged there. When my hands were empty and my tears had dried, I turned to walk up the hill. Each step brought me closer. Closer to the brilliant sun. Closer to the singing birds. Closer to the loving arms of family. Closer to the realization that I not only survived……I thrived.