Thursday, May 05, 2011

An Anniversary of What Was ... and What Isn't to Be ... and What Will Be

Today has been a day of peculiarity to be quite honest.  I overslept my alarm clock (set for a slightly belated 7 AM) by nearly an hour (with a feeling of shock to see the clock on the mantle click to 8 AM shortly after awaking and a moment of realization).  This didn't set the tone for a great day.

I knew today is / was Cinco de Mayo, largely a marketing-driven holiday for Mexico that gives us Americans a good excuse to kick back a cerveza o dos (o mas).  Apologies for my Spanglish ... I've been doing that repeatedly today.  I could write full sentences in Spanish, but what would be the fun in that? Most of you who read this couldn't actually understand it directly.  Cinco de Mayo actually has some American significance, although I doubt many of us could actually share why it is significant (namely, the turning back of the French military presence in Mexico from supporting the Confederate army during the American Civil War and helping to overthrow the American Union).  Many of us don't realize how different how country would be had the undersized Mexican forces not pushed France away during that critical moment in history.  But, to be really honest, I'm not writing about Cinco de Mayo today ... and I digress.

I really didn't plan to write anything special today, and, at this point, "today" really means 5/6 and not 5/5, the date I'm actually composing this.  It was five (5) short years ago that my wife, Jennifer Lee (Reeves) Rentz, and I exchanged vows in St. Ann Church of Groesbeck in Colerain Township, in northwestern Hamilton County, on a beautiful, warm Saturday afternoon / evening.  I remember that day like it literally almost happened yesterday.  We couldn't ask for more perfect weather on an early May Saturday.  The sky was nearly clear blue, almost matching the brilliance of Jen's own amazing eye color.  5/6/2006 was the same day as Derby Day (i.e. Kentucky Derby Day, the Churchill Downs tradition of Louisville, Kentucky, which coincided with our wedding day) ... strangely enough won that year by a horse named Barbaro (which, for any historical reference, was a horse, undefeated, who would tragically shatter his right hind ankle at the subsequent Preakness Stakes, never to race again after developing infection, and, sadly, be euthanized in January 2007).  Another odd coincidence that day, if only for my wife and I having mutual love of NASCAR, was the Saturday night race at Richmond International Raceway (in Richmond, VA), the location where I took Jen to her very first NASCAR races (Busch and Nextel events at the time, in May 2004).  The odd coincidence is that the Nextel (now Sprint Cup) race winner in May 2004 was the SAME race winner on May 6, 2006: Dale Earnhardt, Jr.  Junior, interestingly enough, didn't win another race after that night for over two years ... although, to this day, remains possibly NASCAR's most recognizable name and most popular driver (despite a lack of success in the subsequent years until this one).  Funny in hindsight, but Jen's favorite driver (Jimmie Johnson) became her favorite driver that first NASCAR Cup race she attended, only because the first guy she wanted to root for (Kevin Harvick, who won the preceding night's race in the Reese's Busch car) was one of the guys I disliked most ... so she picked the blue Lowe's car the next night instead.  Go figure she picked the most successful NASCAR driver in recent memory and saw him win four consecutive championships.

I realize in writing this now that I don't need to do what I've done in the past ... namely, dwell on the negative things that bogged me down for so much of the past eight months since my wife's passing.  Tomorrow (nearly today) is going to be incredibly difficult.  I've cried already multiple times tonight just thinking about Jen, visiting her grave site again this evening, and reminded in stark letters on the marker "Married May 6, 2006" with my own name to her left and a year yet to be placed for my own conclusion.

I know, the Church wants me to not think of death as only an Ending but also a Beginning.  The end of mortal life and the beginning of eternal life.  I admit, just over eight months later, it still doesn't feel all that comforting.  The afterlife, compared to the here-and-now, is still hard to fathom.  I still go to church. I still read from the Word itself (including my role as Lector this very Sunday morning, which is still tough for me to do since Jen's passing).  I know I shouldn't curse at something I don't understand, but, let me be frank, I don't understand it.  My wife should still be here.  Dying at 31 years old isn't fair.  It isn't right.  Taking away the love of my life in her prime will always hurt me.  It will always hurt her mother.  Jen's loss is an inescapable void left in more than just my own life ... and I can't undo the pain it causes me and others every day of our lives.

Why do I feel compelled to write any of this? Why do I publish this message in such a public forum (my own blog and cross-posted to facebook)? Am I seeking some self-satisfaction? Am I looking for attention in a world that could truly care less about most other people?  Even if these are rhetorical questions, I do have an answer for every one of them ...

I feel compelled to write because writing about it shares how I feel with other people.  Keeping inside doesn't do me any good; it makes me feel more anger, more sadness, and more despair.  Sharing it in a "public" forum (as public as the Internet can be to any common "stranger" who might actually take the time to read this) is my small way of sharing my own story with others.  I'm not seeking self-satisfaction ... far from it, I'm seeking enlightenment.  I'm seeking wisdom.  I'm seeking the knowledge of others to help me understand that life does go on, that people do actually care, and that I can find strength where I least expect it.  Do I really believe the world as a whole doesn't care?  Honestly, I used to think that ... but I don't anymore.  More people actually have genuine compassion than I ever realized.  Not everyone knows how to express it in a "good" way ... but how can you tell someone who lost a best friend to "get over it" or "it will all be better with time" even though you know in your heart that you will always carry some burden or pain for your lifetime.

Time does diminish pain; it doesn't make it go away.  I cry just as hard now as I ever did.  Why should I lie about a fact like that? Anybody who thinks my life is some fantastic thing ... you really don't want to be me.  I blame myself for most of what I perceive to be the bad things in my life, and losing my wife feels, no matter how hard I try to tell myself otherwise, like a personal failure.  I feel guilty.  She shouldn't be gone, I should be.  If one of us had to die young, it should have been me.  She changed lives.  She contributed to society.  She made an impression on children as a teacher that I can NEVER match.

I want to make a difference.  I want to impact people's lives EVERY DAY.  I want to make the world know, in my own way, that I care.  I want EVERYBODY, and I mean ALL of YOU, who read this to tell AT LEAST ONE person (preferably MORE) in your life who matters that YOU LOVE HIM/HER. Don't ever let a day pass where you don't tell people you love them ... and MEAN IT.  Maybe I use the term "I Love You" more freely than I used to ... but I don't think it's a bad thing.  If I tell you that I Love You, I mean it.  I share my genuine feelings far more often than I ever did.  I don't let my emotions out all the time, but I wear my heart on my sleeve.  I care too much to watch others suffer, and I don't ever want any of you to feel regret that the last thing out of your mouth to a loved one is something you can't take back.

Before I close, and Lord knows I've rambled too much yet again tonight to stop sometime soon, I need to say this.  My wife told me in the hospital room the morning she died that she loved me.  She told me she never wanted to be apart from me, and, (the hardest part for me to write without crying) if she died that day (with all of the pain she was feeling), to tell her mom she loved her.  I can't write that right now without tears in my eyes because she made me pull in close, my face next to hers, and tell her I would never leave her.  Unfortunately, here I am now ... and she left me.  I can't bring her back, but I see her face from that day EVERY DAY in my memory.  I see her lying there, and I want to change what happened so badly that I cannot even express it.  My heart is still broken ... and less than an hour from what would have been our fifth wedding anniversary, I still think about what could have been or what would be if things hadn't happened that night / day in Tennessee.  I pray for God to bless me every day, to help me get through all this, but it certainly doesn't make any of it easier.

I love you, Jen. I miss you dearly. I always will. Forever in my heart, and forever touching my soul.

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