Friday, August 27, 2021

Nigel would’ve been 57

Today was Nigel’s birthday, the second one since he died. Last year was the first time I posted about his birthday, because I preferred to keep it more private when he was alive. Everything’s different now, very different.

Last year I decided I wanted to hold a birthday party for Nigel because I wanted us all to have something positive to focus on rather than the incredibly awful anniversary some three weeks later. That party was was good, all things considered.

This year, instead of sharing another photo of Nigel, espcially the one I shared on his 50th birthday, I decided to make one of the two of us, sort of (that photo is above). I posted it on Instagram, and that also published it on my personal Facebook. The captions said:
Today would have been my husband Nigel’s 57th birthday. I don’t need a special day to think of him—I do that every day. But today is his second birthday since he died, and that makes me a little more contemplative than usual.

Today I put on a shirt that used to be his, though he gave it to me many years ago. Same with my watch, for that matter. I’m also wearing the bracelet he wore every day for years, right up to his last couple days. And I put on a ring he bought himself but stopped wearing some 10 years ago. On my other hand, my civil union and wedding rings. I chose them, but he gave them to me in our ceremonies. My expression is what it is.

A lot has changed over the past couple years, and so much hasn’t. He was, and still is, the person who influenced my life the most. He was my soulmate and best friend, my companion, my rock, and the very centre of my universe. But the searing pain of his loss has dulled into more of a constant ache, more days than not.

These days I focus mainly on honouring the wonderful life we had, remembering all the good that was, and trying, slowly and with many stumbles, to find a life without him in it. I’m nowhere near having succeeded, but, I still exist, and that has to count for something—and it’s a testament to how he helped me become a stronger man so that I could do this at all.

The photo I’m holding is, as far as I know, the last one ever taken of him, several months before he died. It’s one of my favourites. That night, he and his work colleagues were at an awards ceremony for local governments in which a programme he devised for the local government he was a senior manager for won the award in its category and also the Supreme Award. He was so happy and proud, and it’s obvious in the photo. That programme took long-term unemployed people, many of them considered unemployable by businesses, and trained them for good-paying jobs with futures in the call centre industry, including ones in his department. The success for everyone was obvious from the lives his programme helped change. That was the kind of man I loved, and was lucky to be loved by.

But how I wish there could be decades more of birthdays with him.
This day for me is about love and loss, obviously, but it's especially about thankfulness. Even though I didn’t get to spend even remotely enough decades with Nigel, not even close, I’m nevertheless grateful for every second I did get, even the ones where one of us was grumpy with the other.

Because he was born on this day 57 years ago, I got to spend the biggest—and most important—chunk of my life so far with him. His birthday, then, still matters to me, and I think it always will matter, no matter how my life changes in what I hope will be many years to come.

Right now, though, there’s only one way to end this post appropriately, and that’s to say what I what I said last year: Happy Birthday, sweetheart. Now and always.