Tag Archives: traditions

The widow wore a little black dress

Today’s post – The widow wore a little black dress is a continuation from last week’s post, which you may want to read if you haven’t already.

For any new readers, welcome, you might want to catch up by starting here instead.

Nick was gone, his body laying in a funeral home somewhere, I was alone, yet surrounded by people. Cards flooded my mailbox, my phone was full of text messages, sending their condolences and asking about funeral times. The house was filled with flowers arrangements, which are meant to cheer you up, but ironically, don’t.

These were all just reminders that Nick was dead.

The widow wore a little black dress
Nick with our daughter in Italy, 2010

He had passed on Saturday morning, but arrangements were made that the funeral was to be held on the Wednesday with a viewing and prayer service the night before, at the same church.

I had more people visit me after his death, than we ever did when he was sick. It used to annoy Nick, that people stayed away once they heard he had cancer, like it was catchy. We had been such a social couple before his diagnosis.

Truth was, it was hard for many of his family and friends to see him this way, the once fit, confident guy they knew, was replaced by this thin, raspy voiced version instead, who walked with a slight limp.

His cancer transformation was huge and sudden.

Sometimes when we had visitors over, they wouldn’t know what to say, we always talked so openly about Nick’s condition and I guess it freaked them out. Especially when he would talk to them about having adequate life insurance and health checks!

When they’d leave, we’d chat and Nick would say to me, ‘you know what, they are driving home now and they are grateful this is happening to us and not them and that’s ok, because we can handle this.‘ I’d get mad and say ‘it’s not ok to think that way,’ but always so wise, he tell me, ‘it shows them to appreciate life, that no one is invincible and that’s all I want.’ (Hence this blog!)

I knew I had his viewing and funeral coming up, and while I had joked to my family about wearing something bright (read this if you want to know why this was a no!) I knew i’d have to at least wear black to these two occasions.

Funnily enough, 4 weeks before Nick died, we had been shopping after a chemo session, when he was drawn to a black dress in a shop window. Now, Nick hated me in black, but this dress was something he kept trying to convince me I needed.

It was a cute black mini dress and it fit perfectly, but I kept telling him I didn’t want it, I had nowhere to wear it and it was a little pricey!

Nick had a thing for me wearing anything short and tight, (one of his first gifts to me were a tiny pair of shorts, which i’ve never worn!).

He wouldn’t take no for an answer, running (or walking as quick as he could with his limp) to the counter to pay for the dress once I took it off!

He told me i’d wear it to our 6th anniversary wedding dinner and he hinted, ‘you’ll wear it to my funeral and be a hot widow‘.

The widow wore a little black dress
The newspaper announcement

So, the time came for his viewing and funeral, and I knew I had at least one black dress to wear, but I couldn’t wear the same thing to both. So off shopping I went, two days before the funeral.

I remember being in a store with my sister and our kids, looking at dresses, needing something conservative and in black. The shop assistant started to ask questions, ‘was it for an interview?’, ‘no a funeral’, I said, ‘my husband’s.’

Then the obligatory look of part shock, embarrassment and sympathy, as she looked from me, to the baby in the pram and bam, ladies that’s how you get 20% off your purchase!!

On the day of the viewing I tried on Nick’s black dress with some heels, wanting to wear it that night, only to have my mum freak out that, ‘it’s too short, you can’t wear that!’

Apparently, the hot widow look wasn’t in that season.

I was being a little defiant, Nick had bought this for me to wear for this occasion, I didn’t want another dress, I was wearing this one.

We decided to take the hem taken down instead as a compromise, which took away the look of the dress, but I got to wear it. Win for me!

To this day though, I have shoved both black dresses to the back of my cupboards, they are just a reminder of that week, the struggle, the tears and losing Nick forever.

Has anyone else not been able to wear their ‘funeral clothes’ again?

Back to the story, it was the night of the viewing and I didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t really had time to grieve yet, too busy organising and black dress shopping, plus the enormity of what had happened, hadn’t really hit me yet.

I was too busy making sure everyone else was ok and that my daughter wasn’t effected by what was happening, though at 13 months, I doubt she knew why everyone was crying around her.

I went with my family to the church to farewell Nick for the final time. Many people had called me during the day to say they wouldn’t be coming. They wanted to preserve their memories of Nick instead, couldn’t bear the thought of seeing him laid out in a coffin.

Well, either could I, but apparently, I had to go!

I had collected some of his things to add to his casket including a picture of him and our daughter, Claudia, a letter from me, one of his favourite watches (he collected them), and his g-star man bag, that he went nowhere without, using it to carry all his medication with him, it had became the butt of many jokes.

On a side note, I had emptied out his bag, ready to take to the viewing, when on the way there I noticed a secret compartment I’d missed, in it was $500 and the keys to our shed!

I still laugh that I almost buried him with all that, but, I think it was Nick who made me check it over again!!

His parents also had their own things to add as did mine and a few of his friends too.

I joked at the time, that they’d be no room left for Nick, it’s amazing how much stuff you can cram down the sides of a casket.

But my jokes were not appreciated, I was shushed.

But, making inappropriate comments is my coping mechanism, it’s what I do!

I remember being ushered up to see Nick laid out in his coffin at the alter. I carried my daughter with me. I looked at him, but it wasn’t him, it didn’t look like Nick at all. I felt very disconnected with this body in the casket.

Everyone was watching me, I stood there for what felt like forever, looking down at this shrunken version of Nick, not knowing what to do. I couldn’t cry, the tears weren’t there, I took his hand in mine, but he was so cold and stiff. I bent down and gave him a kiss on his forehead, whispered I love you and took my place back again with my family.

They asked if I wanted to go up again to see him, I shook my head, no I was done. I couldn’t look at him like that anymore.

Nick’s family were clawing at him, screaming incoherently, I wondered what people thought of me, not reacting the same.

Staying calm, feigning a smile, making inappropriate jokes. I didn’t know how else to be, it all felt like it was happening to someone else and I was on the outside looking in.

I felt like Nick was sitting up in the church rafters looking down at everyone carrying on, telling them ‘you’re nowhere’, one of his sayings.

I looked up often that night, perhaps hoping to catch a glimpse of him. All I wanted was for Nick to be there, sitting besides me, joking about everyone going up to see him in the casket, making me laugh.

But, he wasn’t there, it was just me, sitting on a church pew, feeling so heart broken.

I’ll leave it for there today, thanks for reading along and sharing my posts, means so much that people are reading our story.

Thanks also for all your comments, I love hearing from you.

Finally, please subscribe in the box below, if you want an email when a new post is published!

Til next week, Michela xx

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The circus has come to town – part 2

A second post in a week, which isn’t my normal habit, but I felt compelled to write this week’s first post, after watching the previous week’s episode of Offspring, which was a slight side step about the joys of widowhood. (read: sarcasm)

On that note, thank you to everyone who sent me messages on Wednesday night after Offspring ended, I think seeing what Nina has experienced on the show, has reminded friends of how hard it was for me, losing Nick.

Even though I held it together, I said the same things Nina did, ‘I don’t know how to live. I don’t know how to hold onto him… I don’t know how to live without him.’

And yes, I cried for the last 5 minutes of the show when she let Patrick go, using many of the same lines I did, when I said my goodbye to Nick, you can read it again here.

Enough about Offspring, now onto my real life course of events.

The circus has come to town - part 2
New York in 08

So, i’ve decided to pick up today where I left last week with – the circus has come to town – part 2, because the day was long and there was so much more that took place.

I left you with the laughable shower scene, which i’m hoping you did laugh along with. After finishing my shower, I obviously got dressed and went to join the rest of the family that had gathered. I watched as everyone turned to look at me, as I approached my kitchen area.

I was getting used to these stares already, waiting to see me crack….but no, this time I was wrong…

You see, I had put on a pink top. Yep, you read right, pink. Being of European background and the fact my husband had just died approx. 6 hours earlier, it was ‘apparently’ a sign of disrespect.

Now, I don’t buy into all these traditions and Nick absolutely didn’t. Me wearing colour was not a sign that I loved him any less, and it also wouldn’t miraculously help him rise from the dead.

We had laughed about it before he died. He hated me in black in general, he teased my mum constantly for wearing black, asking if she had a funeral to attend. He specifically told me not to wear black when he died! I was kinda scared he’d come back to haunt me if I did. (just joking!)

My grandma was the one who started on me, but in hindsight I can’t be mad because it’s what she believes in, and having lost her husband 6 months earlier, and now me, joining the same widow club, she felt it was her duty to tell me.

She started, ‘what would people think, it was disrespectful, you’ll look like you’re not in mourning, it’s wrong…blah,blah,blah.’

I fought with her for a while on it, trying to explain in my 1/2 english, 1/2 italian way of speaking to her, that it was my choice and I didn’t care what people thought and it’s what Nick wanted.

Obviously all falling on deaf ears, I felt like a child being scolded. She kept trying to push me towards my bedroom to change. In the end I did, because I couldn’t be bothered hearing it anymore.

But, once there, I quickly realised I had no black tops, not even a t-shirt, so I settled on navy instead, that was ‘approved’ by her.

Can anyone relate to this ??

The other part of having a partner die is that you need to get started on funeral arrangements. I wasn’t prepared for this!

Nick’s parents gave me the number of the funeral directors they wanted to use, so I made the call and waited.

A middle aged Greek guy arrived and got straight to business. I asked all relatives to give us some privacy, as I sat down with Nick’s parents to discuss the once unimaginable, burying Nick.

He went through it all so quickly, like we were holding him up from the next dead person. Flicking through the pages of his folder at lightning speed, caskets, flowers, rosary, burial, service.

Peppering his dialogue with enough Greek, that I could barely understand what he was saying. He spoke mostly to Nick’s parents.

I tried my best to get across what Nick would have wanted.

Nick had wanted someone to do a Eulogy, but in a Greek Orthodox church, this was something they would never make an exception for.

In the end, I resigned myself to the fact that it was only one day and it didn’t matter if it all didn’t go the way I thought he’d want.

It was only one day and I had 10 years of memories of Nick instead. He’d forgive me if this turned into a circus.

Again, I didn’t want to argue with anyone, especially Nick’s parents, who were already distraught and sensitive.

They needed my support and it wasn’t the time to shout, ‘he was my husband, I think I know what he wanted’, though some people may disagree with this.

I was respectful of Nick’s parents, and although I was hurting, they too had just lost their son and we were in this together.

The circus has come to town - part 2
Nick and his mum, always so close

To me, keeping quiet was also because I didn’t know much about the Greek Orthodox religion. Nick himself was not religious, but I knew his parents were, so I let them decide on the finer details.

In the back of my mind, I knew I’d continue with his birthday party celebrations as he wanted. That would be my chance to send him off, surrounded by loved ones, talking about their memories of him. (I’ve written about that in an earlier post here if you missed it.)

The funeral director asked us to get some clothes together for Nick, I went to our room and decided on his favourite jeans and jackets, that he had loved from his ‘skinny’ days.

His mum told me we couldn’t bury him in jeans, it had to be a suit. I hadn’t seen the email stating he wouldn’t get into heaven without one, but again, choosing my battles, I pulled out the suit we’d purchased when we’d baptised our daughter, being the only one that would fit him now.

And it was decided, Nick would be buried in his suit, at his family church.

In the same church, with the same priest that had baptised him, that had married us, and that had christened our daughter and would now officiate his funeral.

Nick’s time had now come full circle.

The circus has come to town - part 2
At a wedding in 2006

The funeral director had bought a couple of workers with him and they were to take Nick from the house to the funeral palour.

It was a tense time for us, though to them, there was very little emotion shown, they were just doing their job.

Everyone rushed to say their goodbyes to Nick, his mum didn’t want to let him go. I was calm, I gave him a final hug and kiss, but to me, he was already gone.

His body was cold, there was no signs of life left.

They lifted all 47kg’s of him onto a stretcher and then zipped him up in a blue body bag. I wasn’t prepared for that, the sight of my husband, the love of my life, the father of my child, being zipped away, like he was an extra on some crime show!

They rolled him down my driveway to the waiting car, neighbours obviously noticing something was up, all started to come over.

They walked slowly like zombies, getting closer, not quite sure what was happening.

And we all watched as they fittingly, put him into the back of a Toyota hi-ace van, and drove away. (On a side note, this was the only Toyota that Nick had never bought home!)

I’ll leave it there for now, thanks everyone for reading along and welcome to the new readers.

I’ll pick this up at the same time next week.

Keep sharing and commenting, I love hearing from you.

Til next week, Michela x

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