How many times have you heard someone say, “People don’t change”? I can speak for myself and I imagine many others out there; that change/ transformation is inevitable. I know that to my core, I am the same genetic makeup for the part 4 decades. However, our experiences, stories and the people we share them with shift and change all the time. It’s our stories, emotions and people we share this with that can help us evolve in the journey of change.
When Ben Skalver entered me and my son’s, Danny, lives in 2008, I was filled to the brim with love, hope and a future as bright as I could ever imagine. Ben’s kindness, passion, energy and love of life were contagious (as many people described him). Before I met Ben, I was a single mom getting my footing back after a divorce. Life with Ben was easy! Our families are close friends and neighbors in a beach community in CT. Our first “date” was celebrating July 4th with all of our families together. It was literally true love at first sight. And yes, the love we share changed me. Our partnership brought out the zest for life that had been hiding within me for a while. I felt alive; ready to experience, explore, learn, share and build a family with Ben. We were a team; a unit and he treated and loved Danny as his own son. We made so many memories in our limited time together and so many plans for a future where we imagined growing old. We planned our beach wedding, a drive across country in an RV, taking classes together when we retired, raising more children, and so many more.
October 2, 2009, the moment two men showed up at my door, I felt darkness, shattered, scared and disbelief. I don’t remember much about the process or what they said. I remember sitting in my closet shaking, I remember family arriving in a weird time warp. I remember making phone calls and the shock, pain and despair almost impossible to explain. Of course Ben’s tragic and violent death changed me. Every ounce of me felt hopeless. I questioned my purpose on this earth. How was I going to raise Danny with the experience that life can be so evil? Ben, the man who led through example, our hero, was taken away from this earth in an instant. Ben lived and acted on the belief of “be the change you wish to see in the world”. We were creating a life of love and giving to others. How could I trust a world that would allow this to happen to such an extraordinary man?
We are coming up on the 5 year anniversary and I still miss Ben every day. Over the years, I opened myself up to many ways of “healing”. I have beautiful and supportive family and friends. My circle of support is incredible and I am truly grateful. The American Widow Project is one of these circles that I have no clue where I would be today without. The AWP created a space that allowed me to explore fears, obstacles, and JOY. Through many events and mostly the love and understanding of all the women, I have accepted where I am today and proud of it. At my first event in 2009 (I was just about at the 1 year anniversary), I had no idea how I was going to get through the weekend. Before I even got there, in my mind, I planned on an “escape” route if I couldn’t handle being around people. You all know what I mean by this! The next thing I knew, we were a group of widows standing on stage at a piano bar. The musician heard who we were and invited us on stage. He sang, with the entire bar, “Proud to be an American” with a standing crowd of people in tears. That weekend and other events I attended involved LIVING; we surfed, parasailed, and released lanterns/hopes by the ocean, shared, cried, and laughed. I wasn’t sure where I fit in the world. However, I was certain that I now had these women to hold me, understand my pain and sadness and give me hope and light, together. Fast forward to my most recent event in March 2014, WidowU Overcoming Obstacles, it was this weekend, where I was ready to take in more “change” than I thought was possible. This weekend was the beginning of a new chapter for me, and one that I am embracing whole-heartedly. In the last 6 months I changed jobs (I will be a social worker in an inner city school), am becoming a Reiki master and opening up a private practice focusing on Reiki and counseling. I am even attending the Fire-walking Institute in September!!
Since the day Ben was killed, I knew that the best legacy would be living my life to the fullest. I knew that to honor Ben in the best way possible was to be courageous, loving, compassionate, giving, a wonderful mom, to be me, the woman he fell in love with. I knew this, yet living this authentic life without him is not what I wanted. It’s still not what I want. I want to experience and share all of this with Ben. Well, in many ways I am. I know that our love will never die.
I have found an inner strength, confidence and self-love that I am eager to share; this is the “transformation”. The AWP gave me the opportunity to explore, face fears, be vulnerable, be honest, share my story, listen to others’ beautiful stories, put myself in situations I could never have imagined and create a “family”.
I don’t refer to “change” so much anymore. Rather, I instill phrases such as process, journey and evolving. Through time, practice, energy, love, trust and incredible soul sister relationships with some kick-ass women, I am walking the walk. I am embracing life in a way that I feel excited about. I will always wish I had more time with Ben and I will always miss the future we were “supposed” to have. However, I am creating a new future starting and being in the present moment. I accept and embrace change as a place for personal growth. I am more at peace, balanced and loving my life and all the people I am fortunate enough to walk the road together.
It’s not always simple. But here’s the thing, I hope that “losing” (I hate that world in reference to death) the loves of our lives the way any of us did, unexpected, tragic, not prepared, will be the worst tragedy we experience. After the fog lifts, which I promise it does, who will you be? In the beginning, I couldn’t imagine light. I felt heaviness, fear and dark, but one day when someone asked how I was (such an annoying question in that first year!!), I said “Ok, there are ups and downs”. I hung up the phone, sat up straight, wide eyed, and thought, “Wait, I just said I was having ‘ups’.” It was true. Moments of good turned into hours into days and nights and weeks. Time is a peculiar concept. It’s healing yet also a daunting reminder. It’s evidence of so much Ben has missed. He didn’t get to turn 33 and it pains me not to have any more pictures together, days at the beach, wine by the fire, cooking dinner together, sitting on my patio reading a book and his touch.
Each day, I am thankful for experiencing true love with Ben Skalver. I am forever transformed by my experience. I am grounded and dreamy, living a life with hope, goodness and light. Ben was a gift to many and our love continues to ignite a fire and desire to LIVE and experience JOY in all aspects of my life.
I know and understand the pain and fear. Please, hold on and TRUST. And, as Steve Perry sings and the widows love to shout out, “Don’t Stop Believe’n’”. There are people, me included ;), who want to hear your story and share the journey with you!
Categories: Moving Forward