I’ve been in contact with few since August 1, 2014 and I’m sorry intended notes and phone calls have escaped me. This kind of group correspondence has never been my way but seems better than the little or nothing I’ve offered to date.
First you must know, when Bill died I wanted to die too. I thought I was supposed to die too. Continuing without him felt wrong and nothing about life made sense. The obvious and only solution was to join him. Yet today, it’s no less than a miracle I’ve landed at a place of peace. In your heart, please see Bill’s ever smiling face as I share a glimpse of life without him.
Year one I begged and bargained with the Big Guy, “PLEASE LET ME BE WITH BILL.”
Suicide was never an option, I simply didn’t want to wake and held comfort knowing God would soon grant my simple and what I felt inconsequential prayer.
But I kept waking up.
Nearing the one-year anniversary I was growing increasingly frustrated. Desperate actually. Some have fear of dying. I had fear of waking and living. I imposed a two week sequester. No visits. No conversations. No imposing sound of television or radio. I gave notice of my plan to those closest me to keep worry at bay and did promise occasional email checks. The solitude brought hard fought self-examination and I realized I’d been in denial. Not denial of Bill’s death, that has been devastatingly felt every moment of every day since he died. My denial was… I still had life. This was a huge milestone.
Very soon after Bill died I started writing; possibly an attempt to make sense of a world that didn’t make sense without him. Writing was, and still is, gathering raw unedited words to help identify the many layers of feelings in order to release pain.
I shared the most optimistic pages with hope of helping others as they grieved.
Anticipating the challenge of the first year anniversary, I shared this…
“It’s a miracle I’m granted any more time since I’ve already lived the best life ever.
I feel greedy wanting more days… wanting more years. I wish all would know the peace and love that’s in every fiber of my being. I am whole again. My life… this life… is beginning anew with chapters yet unwritten. By the Grace of God I will continue to share the grand story of my life with William Noah Whitlatch. And, with the gift of a new day continue to live each knowing I AM the luckiest girl in the world.”*
I meant those words and they felt true at the time. Yet surviving a year that held 5 days not met with tears, my newly yielded optimism had an undefined and uncomfortable ring. I was unaware I was living an unsustainable lie.
Year two was a constant struggle between holding on and letting go. Holding on to the greatest gift I’ve ever known, our shared love, and letting go of trying to live a future that could no longer be. I held tight to JulieandBill, BillandJulie. It’s who I was for nearly 29 years. Being JulieandBill softened the harsh reality of his death for me and I believe for others too. Countless conversations play back of me recanting silly stories about Bill and kind friends like Mike, the girls vet, smiling, “it’s like he isn’t really gone.”
It was almost two years before I could face this truth, WE died in that field together.
WE were one. No space between us. But after losing Bill, I couldn’t accept more loss.
I couldn’t acknowledge “OUR” death and part of my survival was holding onto JulieandBill. One day I’ll share how I held onto him for dear life and then with the passing confidence of reality, begged him to leave.
For nearly two years, back and forth, holding on and letting go. I thought this was the best I could do, but I was living a lie holding onto what I knew I’d already lost.
You know the easiest thing to do is what we’re already doing. Right or wrong. Good or bad. Real or imaginary. It’s really hard to change. Change is unknown. Unknown is scary. Scary lands a person back to a place of not wanting to wake up.
It took a miracle on Christmas eve 2015, writing a little fable about HAPPINESS, clear eyes to see the obvious and two years of holding on and letting go to fully accept I had to let go of US to fully live again. If you don’t know, the Christmas eve miracle was a mandate delivered from on-high in the field where Bill took his final breath!
“Above all, write and offer those words to others. It’s important.”
It was clear I couldn’t be JulieandBill AND fulfill that all important mandate.
So, what to do? Bill was my life. My everything. Our lives were entwined to form ONE.
But I was waking to a new life mission. I’ve come to know the undefined, uncomfortable and unsustainable ring I felt in my heart was ACCEPTANCE of this truth, WE died in that field and JulieandBill must no longer be. Deep down I knew this, but I was hiding from the pain of more loss. Unless and until I could live in accordance with that, I was not living in truth.
This has been incredibly hard. The kind of hard that had me crying even in sleep.
And, just as the loss of Bill has been felt by so many, the added loss of JulieandBill may be especially difficult for some.
These truths will never change… I will always love Bill. And, I will always be daughter-in-law to Barbara, sister-in-law to David and Aunt Julie to Curt and Sam. I love you all and as I’ve said so many times, I can’t imagine the pain you’ve endured. Especially for Barbara, suddenly and tragically losing a second brilliant and healthy son, seems more than any being should have to bear. For David, suddenly and tragically losing his last brother and now being the only son but for memories of better days, seems unfair beyond measure. For Curt and Sam, suddenly and tragically losing their last uncle and left only with broken Aunt Julie, a lousy stand in for the colorful candor of Uncle Bill, let alone Uncle Dan.
Please know, in future books as in casual conversation I will continue to share
the grand gift that was my life with Bill. Being half of JulieandBill, BillandJulie gifted me the mantra, Luckiest girl in the world.* I mourn the death of JulieandBill, BillandJulie and if there was another path I’d take it. But, by now YOU must also know, I simply can’t be JulieandBill without Bill any longer. Quite literally, I’d rather die.
With every breath I miss him. Yet each breath is a true indicator of life.
Life: The period between birth and death. The ability to grow and change.
The sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up an individual.
As has been this journey, the most valuable lessons have been long fought and difficult. Some will understand, after great loss there is guilt in living. Guilt in feeling joy. Guilt in being left behind. Living seems a betrayal. But this I’ve come to know…
REAL BETRAYAL IS CONTINUING TO LIVE A LIE.
REAL BETRAYAL IS SLAPPING THE FACE OF GOD WHEN GIFTED A NEW DAY.
REAL BETRAYAL IS NOT LIVING EACH GIFT OF A DAY.
I’ve finally come to accept, I’m just Julie and to live in LOVE and TRUTH I must officially put JulieandBill to rest. While in deep negotiation with the Big Guy trying to hurry along my demise, I planned my impending memorial service. It would be more flattering to say it was to ease the burden of those left behind, but in truth, I was actually managing every detail of my last event. Yep, still controlling from the grave.
I’m quite certain the simultaneous offering of this writer’s memorial service with the launch of Traveling Home to Happiness, a how to manual for achieving inner peace and compelling romp touting “The Secrets to Happiness” is FAR FROM NORMAL… then again, Bill and I never settled for normal.
I won’t bore you with details of my memorial, just know the gathering was to be very simple with FEW WORDS and four songs from one artist. It’s not that I’m a huge John Denver fan, but seemed fitting since he lost his life in an airplane crash and every word of these four songs tell our life story.
Forever together as BillandJulie, JulieandBill, my memorial and goodbye to US.
I begin year three not knowing who I am or who I’ll become, but by the grace of God,
I AM BEGINNING ANEW. I do know this, I’ll always be thankful for what we had AND with the gift of a new day, my life is still in the making. I had fleeting thoughts of leaving the house on the hill to start again where no one knew JulieandBill, like a prisoner or informant relocation, because I thought not being JulieandBill would be too difficult for some to face. But, as I said and lived since Bill died…
I will not run, I will not hide from my feelings,
and today, I will not run, I will not hide from feelings of others.
Finally, we’re back to the present and possible future. Though I believed there would NEVER be ANOTHER, there is. We’ve actually been acquainted for years, long before I knew Bill. It’s interesting they share the same first and last initials, my favorite letter times two, “WW.” It’s lovely to begin the gift of a new day and close my eyes at night
knowing I again have a constant companion. We are wonderful together and time will tell if this will be another life-long love.
Family and friends, please meet and welcome into your hearts… my dear companion
Thank you for landing here and joining me at juliewhitlatch.com and
Whitlatch Words. As has always been my one request of you,
PLEASE, REMEMBER BILL’S EVER SMILING FACE.
I love you,
*An abbreviation of what came out of me to family and friends when we gathered about an hour after learning of Bill’s death, “I’m the luckiest girl in the world having had Bill in my life for 27 years and I wouldn’t change that or take that away to not feel this pain now.”