When you meet the right person, you begin to look forward to a lifetime with them. Unfortunately, life has its way of reminding us of our impermanence by taking the person we love the most. No one can prepare you for that loss. Here to open up about his life after the passing of his wife is Carey Christian. In this candid conversation with Tina Fornwald, he tells us about his life, his beautiful wife Michelle, and her death. From their great moments (meeting and loving each other and finding their love for traveling) to their heartbreaks (receiving Michelle’s diagnosis and later on, taking her last breath), Carey bares it all. He then tells us about where he is now and the life he is developing for himself. Tune in to this episode and let Carey’s story give you hope, healing, and encouragement to live life after a great loss.
Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach.
I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others.
Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide
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Life After A Great Loss: How A Widower Built A Life For Himself With Carey Christian
How are you?
I’m good. Yourself?
I’m doing well. No complaints.
That’s good. Where are you in the world?
Is that physically or in my mind, or both?
You can answer both or whichever you want.
Physically, I’m living in Cartagena, Colombia. I’ve been living here for a few years. Where am I at mentally is a good question. I don’t know if I can answer that. Maybe as we talk, the answer to that will come out. Maybe we’ll both discover the answer.
That’s fair enough. How did you get to Colombia?
Even before Chelle passed, I told her that I wanted to move to the Caribbean because I don’t like cold weather. She doesn’t like cold weather and we both love the Caribbean. After she passed, I started physically looking for property in the Caribbean. My first choice was Tulum right in the common Mexico area. I went there in 2019 and looked at properties. I saw some beautiful properties with great prices, but Mexico has laws that, to me, were a little complicated for foreigners to purchase property in those areas that they call restricted areas. Those were near the border on the beach.
I visited here. I came here on a cruise ship for one day and said, “That’s nice.” I came back in March 2020, the weekend before everybody stopped traveling for COVID, with some friends. I’m like, “That’s nice. I like that.” It was magical for many reasons. It was so magical that I immediately booked a return flight for when Colombia originally planned to open its borders for traveling again. It was June 2020, then they pushed it back to July, August, and September. In September 2020, they finally opened up. I came back in for two weeks in September 2020. The clubs and the bars were closed. All the party stuff was closed, and I still loved it. It was still magical.
I went back to North Carolina. I had already put my house on the market. I sold my house in November 2020, my property, and one of my cars. I put the rest of my things in storage, gave some away, and moved back here. I came back here for six weeks in December 2020. The 6 weeks turned into 2 years and 2 months. I was working for the school system. We were working online like most schools.
In February 2021, they said, “We’re bringing the students back into the building.” I had maybe 2 and a half or 3 weeks left in the purchasing process for my apartment. I told my principal, “I need two more weeks. I don’t have any vacation, but I got two weeks of sick days. Let’s work this thing out.” He said, “Okay.” This was what was aggravating to me about the whole thing. This was not an email. This wasn’t a text message. It was a phone call. We were talking. After a week, he sent me a message, “You haven’t been here in a week. You put in five sick days. What’s going on?” I said, “We talked about this.” He said, “You got to come back or resign.” I said, “Thank you for your time.” That’s not a decision. That’s a no-brainer for me.
You checked them out.
I had already invested the money. I had to be here to do things physically to complete the process. I was like, “You’re trying to tell me to choose between that and working for a school system where there are 200 to 300 vacancies?” Nobody is beating down the doors to get in there.
Let’s circle back. Chelle, you mentioned her name. Let’s talk about who she is to you.
Michelle Renee Christian was my everything. If during COVID she had still been alive and COVID lasted for 10 years, there was quarantine, people couldn’t go out, and I was in the house with her for 10 years, I would’ve been happy.
How did you meet?
We met at a birthday party. She knew the wife who the birthday party was for. I knew the husband who was throwing the birthday party. That’s where we met. This is going to be funny. I was there with my friend. The party was dry, so we left and came back in an hour. She and her cousins were there. I saw her and I’m like, “That woman is gorgeous. I might say something to her tonight before I leave.” She shot me down.
You had a little match for her.
She was going to have to reject my jump, but I was going to shoot my shot. She was sitting on the couch with her cousin and it was bad enough room for one more person. There wasn’t enough room. When I sat down, I was sitting on her side, like the side of her thigh.
You were going in big-time.
I went in hard. After we got to know each other, she said when I sat down, the first thought in her mind was, “Who is this fool who has no concept of personal space?” I started talking to her like I knew her. I looked and saw she had on an engagement ring. I was like, “Damn. I don’t care. She’s beautiful. I’m going to talk to her and enjoy her company.”
I come to find out she was still wearing the engagement ring from a previous marriage. She said, “I wear it for jewelry now.” We talked. She reluctantly gave me her number but we communicated and set up a date. At that time, she was living in Raleigh, North Carolina. I was in Portsmouth, Virginia. We set up a date. We met at Applebee’s. I got there early because I don’t like to be late. I didn’t want to give a first bad impression.
I got to the table and I remember sitting there saying, “I’m not going to recognize her because I was a little tipsy. There is no way she’s as beautiful as I can remember.” I had to be drunk for her to be that beautiful. I’m not going to going to recognize her. When she came in, I said, “She’s as beautiful as I remember.” She sat down and I kept staring at her. She asked, “Is there something wrong? Why are you staring?” I said, “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I can’t get over how beautiful you are.” We talked. We finished dinner. We went out, sat in her car, and talked probably for another 1 and a half or 2 hours.
What year was that?
That was April of ‘95.
She leaves, and what happens next?
We continued to stay in contact and then we started seeing each other. She allowed me to stay at her apartment. I don’t know how long it took for that to happen. At that time, I was living in Portsmouth. She would visit me there. It got to the point where every weekend, I would either go to North Carolina or she would come to Virginia. It was 1 of the 2.
Where did it go from there?
This could be different. We were both still married, going through the divorce process. She had gone over to the house where she was living to get some more of her stuff. Her estranged husband hit her and she had a black eye. I had gone to the basketball court that week and ran headfirst into another guy. I split my eyebrow open, so I had a black eye. We both had black eyes for different reasons.
On the same eye?
That I don’t remember. I don’t remember whether it was her left or right eye. I know it was my right eye because I still have the scar.
You both had black eyes around the same timeline.
I was angry that he hit her. I wanted to go over there but she talked me out of it because nothing good would’ve come out of it. I don’t know if it was that weekend. It might not have been that weekend, but it was the weekend or that Sunday before I was supposed to leave to go back to Virginia. We were talking and something hit me. I was like, “This woman has a lot of love to give. I’m not going to let anybody else have her. She’s going to be mine.” I told her that that weekend. I said, “I love you.” It made her so uncomfortable because it was so early in the relationship. It couldn’t have been more than 1 month and a half or 2 months in.
That is quick. That is early.
It was maybe two months in. She said, “I’m uncomfortable with you telling me that because I don’t love you yet.” I said, “That’s no problem. I don’t care. Take your time. I’m going to love you in a way that you’re going to fall in love with how I love you.”
She said, “I don’t love you yet,” so the potential was there that she could see that happening.
I never thought about that until now.
It wasn’t, “We’re going to break up the shift.” It was yet. What happened from there?
We dated for two years before I proposed to her. I didn’t want to rush her into another marriage because she told me she had planned on never getting married again. When I finally proposed, I proposed to her in Hampton, Virginia. It was on Langley Air Force Base on the waterfront. I wrote the proposal. I don’t remember it all but I had it written down. This was 1997, so I lost it. It was something about two ships passing and how the winds of fate blew so that we would meet. It was time for us to join and become one. I don’t remember the exact wording. I didn’t want to be random, but I wrote it.
This was not something you copyrighted from someone else. These were all your original words. What was her response? Was she surprised? Did she see it coming?
I don’t think she was surprised because I think she was waiting for me to propose to her. Either her daddy or her sister told me she was wondering when I was going to propose to her. She was waiting for it. I don’t remember if she cried. I cried at the wedding. She didn’t. I don’t think I cried that night, but she said yes. We went to dinner first and went to the waterfront afterward.
She says yes. What did the wedding look like and where was it at?
The wedding was in Hampton. It was a year later. It was May 1998.
You didn’t waste any time.
We did it a year after.
It was enough to plan out everything.
My mom did the ceremony. We had the reception. It was at the Omni in Hampton.
What was the marriage like? What was it like with your lives together? What were the things you did or enjoyed together?
Lionel and Kim introduced us to travel. After that, we started traveling together a lot.
Let me back up a little bit. Lionel and Kim whom you mentioned are mutual friends we have. You met Lionel and Kim. How did you meet them?
Kim was my commander in the Reserves.
They were married at that point in time?
Yes. They had already gotten married. Lionel is Lionel. Eventually, Lionel and I became better friends than Kim and I was. After we started talking, I was like, “This dude is all right. This is a cool guy.”
He’s very passionate.
For the readers that don’t know, Lionel and Kim Grimes are my children’s godparents. We were all in the military together in the same division, not so much in the same exact unit. That is how Carey and I became acquaintances. We know of each other, but this is probably the longest conversation that we’ve had ever because it’s been in the midst of Kim and Lionel or passing in the military. What would you say?
This is the longest conversation that you and I have had. We’ve interacted together along with all of us, but just you and me, yeah.
Let’s go to the wedding. You’re married. You were talking about Lionel introducing you to travel. Lionel and Kim are the cruise gurus.
They’ve been to well over 50.
When you go into their house and go up to the second floor, on the wall, there are pictures from every cruise they’ve taken. They have more space to be able to put more. I see when they both retire that they would be cruising forever.
They came here on a cruise. You knew Lionel later. The four of them came by the apartment that day.
You and Michelle get introduced to traveling. What does that look like for your life? What are the places you remember you went to together?
What it means to my life is everywhere I go, I think, “Michelle would’ve liked that.” Somewhere we had been, I’m like, “I remember being here with Michelle.” If I walk around here, there are a lot of historic buildings here. The churches are from the 1600s like the earliest churches. I’m pretty sure Cartagena was one of the first Spanish settlements in South America. Everywhere I go, they’ll have captions or letters where you can read about the history. They talk about the history of whatever place it is. I remember Michelle always reading him. I’m always like, “As long as I see it, I’m good. I’m not going to read it.”
She’s reading it out loud to you and you’re over there like, “Da da da.”
She’s not reading it out loud. She’s reading it to herself. She’ll stop and read them all. I’m like, “I’m good.”
Are you reading them now?
Staying true to form.
In 2019, I flew to Italy and took a cruise out of Italy. That was our plan for 2019, so I did it. I booked a singles cruise and did that.
Would you mind sharing when did Michelle take ill and what was her illness?
She got diagnosed in June 2016.
Diagnosed with what?
It was that she had gastric cancer. It was in her stomach.
How was that presented to you?
How was it presented to me?
No. How did you guys find out about it? What was the road to that?
She was getting heartburn a lot. She scheduled something. What is it called?
It was not a colonoscopy. It was when they were going through the throat. It was an endoscopy. All you medical people know what it’s called when they are going through the throat. That’s when they saw the tumor. They did a biopsy at the same time when they saw it. They called her with the results that it was cancerous. When I got home from work that day, she met me at the door in tears. She said, “They said I have cancer.” She broke down crying. I wanted to start crying, too, but I held her. It was presented to me as soon as I walked through the door. That’s how I found out.
You knew she had the tests. You knew those things were going on.
Yes and she was waiting for the results.
Where did you go from there as far as treatment? What was the role forward?
We did the consultation. They originally told us to do chemo, reduce cancer, and then have surgery. That was the original diagnostic. I’m not sure how many treatments of the chemo, but then they said, “Chemo is not an option. Eventually, she’s going to die from cancer.”
How was that?
That was traumatic.
Were you and Michelle together in the doctor’s office when they told you that?
Yes. We were together. He told us that surgery is probably not going to be an option because it spread through the inner lining of the stomach. It was so many those small different growth that it wasn’t just one tumor. The chemo reduced the size of the tumor, and then they said, “It’s a possibility that she’ll be able to have surgery.” We were so uplifted. When we go back the very next time for the chemo and the consultation before that, he says that surgery is not a treatment. She was hurt. I was furious. I said, “That’s not what you told us last time. You gave us hope. You said surgery is going to be an option. Now, you’re telling us the surgery is not an option, or if she does have surgery, it’ll probably prolong her life for a couple of weeks. That’s not the hope you gave us last time we were here.”
She went through chemo at that time. On that ride home, we were both so broken. I remember where I was when I said it. I can’t remember the name of the street in Raleigh, but I remember it was right before we made the left turn to go home. I said, “I’m hurting right now.” She said, “I am, too.” I said, “That broke me right there.” She said, “It broke me, too.” I don’t know if it was that day we got home or after the next treatment. That’s when she told me, “I don’t want you to stop doing things in life that you enjoy because of me. Even if you do things with other people to enjoy life, I want you to do that.” I said, “Okay,” but I remember saying in my mind, “She’s saying that because she’s hurting. She doesn’t mean that.”
I’m like, “Whatever.” I also remember saying to myself, “I don’t want to do stuff without you. I want to do stuff with you.” I don’t know how long it was after that. We were at IHOP having breakfast. I got up and saw a friend of hers. I didn’t know if the friend saw me or not. I went back and sat down. I’m not going to say her name. I said, “I saw such and such.” When we got to leave, that person was getting to leave, too. That’s when she and Chelle started talking.
When we got outside, she said, “I saw Carey, but I didn’t see you. I was looking over there trying to see who he was with. I was looking out for my girl.” Michelle said, “Don’t do that. Don’t check up on my husband. My husband can go out with whomever he wants, and he knows that.” I walked away from them. I said, “She meant that.” I still didn’t see other people or go out with other people.
You are talking about she was meaning that while she was alive.
I didn’t process what you were saying. I thought she said that she was thinking when she was no longer living. She was saying at this moment while she was alive.
She said, “At this moment while I’m going through this process. I’m too weak to do it. If I can’t do it and you want to do it, do it.”
That probably made you love her more.
If that’s possible. The weaker she got, the more I had to be attentive to her. It felt so good to take care of her. I remember the last picture we took together. We went for a walk. I can’t remember the name of these parks anymore, but it was in Raleigh. It’s a nature park. I remember her saying, “I can’t go any further.” I was like, “I’ll help you.” She was struggling on that walk. We took a picture and that was the last picture I have of us together. Our walks went from walks in the park like that to walks through the neighborhood to walks to the mailbox.
You didn’t pay attention to how it was taking place.
I was starting to notice. At the park is where I first noticed that she was getting weaker. It went from the park to the neighborhood to the mailbox to the living room to the shower. She couldn’t take a shower so I had to help her. I might be fast-forwarding a little bit, but she eventually got to the point where she was too weak to speak. She was in the hospital. I remember waking up and she was sitting on the edge of the bed. She motioned to me. She said, “I need to use the bathroom.” She did not want to use the bedpan.
She was too weak to speak, but she was like, “I’m not using a bedpan. I’m going to use the bathroom.” I walked her to the bathroom. She had me walk her to the sink to wash her hands, and then she got back in bed and slept. This is funny. She got up on the left side of the bed. The bathroom was on the right side. She still had all the intravenous cables and everything, but the cable was not like in the old days. It was on the towel with rollers. You could roll it. I said, “That’s the wrong side. You got to get up on the other side.” She gave me a look. She didn’t say a word, but the look said, “Do you realize how difficult it was for me to sit up? Get your butt over there, get my pole, and wheel it over here. Help me to the bathroom.”
It’s the things you can say with those eyes when you’ve been talking. You know what they’re thinking. It’s amazing to be able to find laughter in some things. What was the timeline in your mind after that before Michelle was no longer here?It is amazing to be able to find laughter in some things. Click To Tweet
I knew she was never going to leave the hospital at that point. Maybe the next day or a day after that is when the hospice nurse or the hospital counselor came in and told her, “It is time to go to the hospital. We were at the end.” She was like, “Okay.”
That brokenness got bigger. That brokenness was being continued.
As far as her physically?
No. You from that moment of hearing the doctor saying that the chemo is not going to work and surgery. That brokenness got bigger.
It was that day when we settled into, “Let’s accept it and then enjoy life as much as we can.” It wasn’t a continuous state of brokenness. It wasn’t like that.
Going back to you to live life when you can, what did you change or do differently after hearing that diagnosis that you didn’t do before?
Together or just me?
In general. I heard you say that you were going to live the life that you had. What did that mean? What did that look like for you?
It went from us being able to go out together to only being able to take a walk to the living room together.
That was enough.
I remember one night. She hurt me so badly, and she had no idea that she did. I never said anything to her. I never let her know what she said hurt me. It was to the point where she was too weak to work. She could still get moving around, but she couldn’t go to work anymore. She said, “I’ll be glad when I’m well enough to go back to work.” I didn’t say anything out loud. I rolled over and cried.
Tears rolled out of my eyes. I was like, “Why don’t you want to get well enough for us to start enjoying life together? Why do you want to get well enough to go back to work? Work, for real? Why don’t you want to get well enough for us to travel together again?” Her going back to work was her being normal again. That’s why I know she didn’t mean it in malice. When she said that and the way it came out to me, I was like, “We can’t even travel anymore. Go back to work? Eff work.” That hurt me badly. It hit me hard.
I can see what you’re saying. In her mind, it equated to normal life being able to do everything else. In your mind, you’re right there at that moment. You’re like, “I want to be able to have you back to do that.” Work is the furthest thing from your mind.
I want my wife back. I want the let’s-do-everything-together and enjoy-life-together wife, not the wife that can go to work.
What year did Michelle pass?
That was not that far after Mark. It was not even a full year.
My husband passed. He passed in March 2017. I knew it was after, but I didn’t exactly remember the exact timeline.
It was December 19th, 2018, six days before Christmas.
What was that Christmas like?
I had family in the house because they had come down for the funeral. Some of them stayed. My sister stayed. My cousin, Charles, had come down. He didn’t make the funeral, but he was there for Christmas. The main thing I remember about it was Christmas morning, the hot water heater broke and the hot water heater that we had was maybe six months old. My cousin and I took it out and went to the store on December 26th, 2018 because everything was closed for Christmas. We went to take it back on December 26th. They said, “You can’t return it. You got to have this. You got to have that.” We can’t return it, so we kept it and went to a different store. We bought it from Lowe’s. They wouldn’t allow me to return it, so I went to Home Depot to buy a new one.
I called the number on the hot water heater, and they gave me a code. When I took it back to Lowe’s and gave them the code, they refunded me the money. I’m saying to myself, “That’s got to be the pissiest customer service because they should have known to call this number and we can return it right now.” That aggravated me about Lowe’s. All they had to do was say, “Call this number,” because it had to have happened before. For them to send me out of the store with that busted hot water heater knowing I had a house with no hot water annoyed me.
It’s still annoying you.
That gave me a case of the world. That had me heated.
They were there for the funeral, and then people were there for Christmas. At some point, everyone else had to go home. Do you remember how that was and the timeline for you?
Nothing significant stands out. I remember being in that bed alone. I don’t think Michelle ever knew or realized how important her touch was to me. No matter how many times I told her, I don’t think she ever fully understood how important it was to me. When we lived in Chesapeake, I watched TV in the bedroom. She watched TV upfront in the big TV room. I would always go to bed first because I had to get up earlier. I would always go to bed first and she’d be in upfront watching TV. I’ll call her, “Whatever you’re watching, come watch in the bedroom.” I would go up front and she would be on the couch asleep. I’m like, “What are you doing? Come to bed.” She’d be like, “Let me take a nap.” I said, “It’s 2:30 AM. Come to bed.”
I could not go to sleep until I felt her touch if she was in the house. If she was in the house, I had to touch her to go to sleep. There is nothing more than me putting my arm over her, touching her stomach, and falling asleep. I always said, “Let me come in.” That would mean for her to let me lay between her legs with my head on her chest until I fell asleep. I roll over and then am able to go to sleep. I don’t think she ever realized that I wasn’t playing around with that. It was a game about how important that was for her.
Being in the bed, how did you find it to adjust to that?
I did a whole lot of pillow-hugging. COVID was the worst because I was in the house by myself. I couldn’t have guests. I couldn’t interact with people. I was home alone so much. That was after I had come here for the first time. It was weird because I met a woman. I talked to her. She gave me her number. We didn’t go out or anything. We communicated. When I got back to the United States, she Facebook-friended me. We started communicating more often. When I came back in September 2020, we had already set up to see each other when I got back here. The morning I left here, on my last day, I remember waking up with her in my arm and crying because I had to leave. I still sleep better with a woman than I do by myself.
That’s fair. I’ve heard that a lot. Dating, what was that like for you after Michelle’s passing? Was it a hard ending or company? What did it mean for you?
I’m going to tell you something else, too. Before we got up that morning, she started asking me questions and telling me things. She was like, “The insurance is here. The notebook is in this folder. I got this insurance with this company.” She started telling me everything because, at that point, she knew she didn’t have a lot of time left. She said, “Who is your next wife going to be?” I said, “I don’t have anybody picked out. As a matter of fact, I don’t know if I’ll ever get married again because I don’t think I could do this again.” She said, “You’re going to get married again. You told me.” It was because I told her, “When you die, I’m going to remarry.”
My mom told me, “If a man remarries after his wife dies, that means that he had a good relationship and a good marriage, and he wants that again.” That’s how I looked at remarrying. I said, “I’m going to remarry because I have a great marriage.” I honestly thought it was going to be easy to find somebody to love me as she loved me. When I started dating, I was dating with the purpose of finding a wife. I was like, “I’m going to find a wife because I want to be married again. Marriage is great.”
What is different about Carey in Michelle’s absence?
Other than the fact that she’s not here, I feel like a part of me is gone. The biggest change in me is my relationship with God, without question.
A part of you is gone. I hear those words and I know what it’s interpreting for me. If you were to try to explain that to someone, what does that mean?
She and I were a being. It was not Carey and Michelle. It was whatever we were, that’s what we were. We were an entity. We were one. My interpretation of Genesis where God explains the creation of man. When he took the rib out of man, if you read that, everything came out of whatever Adam was at that point in creation. It was no dirt and blowing life into it like Adam was. Everything a woman is, God took that out of Adam. When a man and a woman join, it’s the recreation of the original creation. We were the Chelle and Carey version of God’s original creation.
You say your relationship with God is not the same. What does that look like?
I don’t know what it looks like, but in every sermon I hear, I say, “That didn’t work out for me and Michelle.” When I hear, “Ask and you should receive it,” I’m like, “I asked and I didn’t get it.” They’re like, “God is able.” I said, “He’s able, but that doesn’t mean it is going to happen.” They’re like, “There’s nothing impossible.” I’m like, “God created everything, but my wife is gone.”
I’m not asking for anything else anymore because what I wanted most, I didn’t get. I’m not asking for anything else. If you ask me to pray for you, I’ll pray for you. I’ll pray for Tina. I’m not praying for myself anymore because what I wanted most, I did not get for whatever reason. That, “It’s God’s plan. God works in mysterious ways. God’s timing is perfect,” I don’t want to hear that. That means nothing to me. I’m not saying I don’t believe it, but it is no comfort to me whatsoever.
I can see that. I appreciate you being honest with that because this type of loss hits hard. It shakes the core of who you are in so many different ways. A lot of times, people try to placate or give you little niceties in different things instead of accepting this is how you feel. It’s important to be honest about how you feel. Before Michelle passed, was there someone else close to you that you’ve experienced death or a loss this great?
The only one else is with my mom. Days before she died, she gave me a new outlook on life.
We were sitting. We were in the hospital. It was at the point where she had accepted death. She was like, “I’m going to go, and I’m cool with it. I want to see Redrick and somebody else.” I don’t remember who the other person was. Redrick is my uncle. He is her sister’s husband. He lived in Wilson, North Carolina. Mom was in the hospital in Hampton, Virginia. She got diagnosed in November and died in February. It was that quick.
What was she diagnosed with?
That is very swift.
I was curious because she had a hysterectomy. I’m like, “How did she die from ovarian cancer?”
You could have a partial hysterectomy. You may not always medically need one.
She said, “Where’s Redrick? I want to see Redrick today.” I said, “I don’t think he is going to make it. He’s in North Carolina.” She said, “I’m not going to be here tomorrow.” I said, “What do you mean? Are you going home tomorrow?” She said, “If you’re saying that home is heaven, I’m going home tomorrow.” I was like, “How is she so comfortable saying that?” I said, “I need to enjoy the time I have left with you.” She said, “Now you’re starting to think right.” From that point on, I’m like, “I’m going to be happy. When I go, I go. I’m not going to be sitting around.” I might be getting off track here.
You’re fine. Go right ahead.
I don’t understand people who make decisions based on what can happen.
Based on what?
On what can negatively happen. People look at me and say I moved to Colombia but I didn’t speak Spanish. My Spanish is to the point where I can get through a day without using Google Translator. I still can’t understand a complex Spanish conversation. I can watch a movie or listen to a Spanish teacher who’s talking like he or she is teaching and understand 95% of that. If I walk past 2 Colombians or 2 Venezuelans talking on the street, it’s like me trying to read Egyptian hieroglyphics.
They’re going fast. You’re still better than me.
It’s a machine gun Spanish. They’re using slang. They’re not mentioning every syllable of every word. One word might be three words. If I tell you I want to go, you might say that I don’t want to go, but if somebody learned it in English, it is like, “I want to go.” I forgot where I was going with my point. Where was I going with that?
You talked about your mom saying that she was ready to go. You said that you were going to start living life. You don’t understand when people make decisions on the negative.
When I moved here, I didn’t speak Spanish. I knew maybe two people. They go, “How did you do that?” I’m like, “It’s because I saw that as a way to start life again.”
You moved to Colombia. You knew two people, and you’re able to understand somewhat of the dialect or the language there.
Where I was going with that was they were like, “How did you do that? Weren’t you afraid?” I’m like, “Afraid of what?” They’re like, “I don’t want to do that because if I do that, this might happen. What about if the Colombian government gets overthrown?” I’m like, “Are you serious? That’s what you’re basing your decision on moving somewhere that you might enjoy. It’s based on the stability of the government there as if there are no problems in the United States. Is that how you’re moving forward in life? The what-if that can happen?”
I’m not saying I walked into a lion’s cage and I’m not afraid to walk because if I walk in there, a lion will eat me. That’s stupid. To try to postulate all the negative things that can happen from a decision as opposed to the positive things about it, I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to move forward looking at what bad can happen and base my decision on that.Don’t try to postulate all the negative things that can happen from a decision, as opposed to the positive things about it. You are not going to move forward looking at what bad can happen from your decision. Click To Tweet
That’s fair. I want to circle back to something if you don’t mind. You have two things. One, you have your mom passing and having peace with that, and if I heard you correctly, altering the way you have seen life since then. Now you have the love of your life passing, which has shattered your relationship with God if I’m hearing you correctly. How would you describe that?
I wouldn’t say it shattered it. I would say it altered it.
What does that look like then?
I still believe in God. I still believe in Jesus Christ. I still have faith. I just don’t ask for anything anymore. I don’t pray for things. I rarely pray anymore.
Altered looks like no communication with God.
It’s much less communication. I’m still thankful. I still consider myself blessed and consider what I have through His grace, but I don’t ask for anything else even health because I don’t want to get told no again. There is nothing more valuable that he could have given me than Chelle’s life.
Do you feel like that was done to you or that was part of life’s existence?
It wasn’t done to me. It was part of the plan. It being part of the plan gives me no comfort. It doesn’t make me say, “God, I’m okay with it because it’s part of your plan.” I’m not okay with it. I don’t like it at all. I was talking to a guy. We were talking about, “What would your life change if you hit the lottery?” For a non-millionaire, $10 million is a lot of money. I have a lot of money for me. I would buy more stuff, be more indulgent, and probably help more people, but I wouldn’t be any happier or any less happy.
I know, for me, the lack of Mark’s existence altered the way I see things in the world, like what I value versus what I don’t value and what would make me happier doesn’t. Things don’t do it. It’s something I can enjoy or I could appreciate, but I don’t find joy in tangible objects. I can relate to how that wouldn’t particularly make life any different. If I hear you correctly, you accepted this is God’s plan, but you are not happy about it. You still believe in God. You don’t like how this has worked out. Do you think that joy is possible for you in life anymore?
People say joy, happiness, and pleasure are not the same. I’m at the point where I’m like, “I don’t know what the difference between joy and happiness is.” There is a difference between joy, happiness, and pleasure, but I don’t know. Maybe if I met a woman and the relationship was as good as it was with Michelle, I don’t think I’d be happier. I’d be in a different state of happiness.
This might sound a bit somewhat contradictory to what I’ve said earlier or it may not. Even when I was with Michelle, I still met other women. I was like, “Wow.” It’s not that I would rather be with that woman than with Michelle, but I still met other women and I think, “I could be happier with her.” I think without spending time with her.
That’s based on the eye looking. You’re not investing time. Things can look good from the outside, but then you get in there and be like, “That grass is dirtier over there than what I had.”
I think the grass is green, but I get over there and it’s AstroTurf.
I don’t think there’s anybody looking that doesn’t go, “That looks good, but I’m satisfied where I’m at.” You can appreciate things. You can appreciate the beautiful flowers around you. It doesn’t mean you’re picking any of them. It’s that you saw them. Do you think it’s fair to expect some woman to measure up to who Michelle was? Is that fair for you or her?
It’s not. I don’t think I’m comparing women to Michelle. I’m going to use the word relationship loosely. I was with a woman here who is the only woman that I have met who loves me as much as Michelle did. I could tell she loved me. I loved her, but there were things about her that made me reluctant to enter a relationship with her. It was things beyond the love that I was reluctant to commit to her. I know how I made her feel and how she made me feel. I know she loved me. It was genuine.
One of the things I heard you say is you think that you could possibly have some resemblance of happiness if you were able to be in a relationship to the level that you and Michelle were in. That is my question. Is that fair to you to expect to be able for that to happen or to someone else?
I was in a relationship with another woman. I liked everything about her, but I could tell that she did not love me the way I needed to be loved.
Right there, you are defining how you need to be loved, not Michelle whom Michelle loved because that’s never going to happen again. No one can equate to that. Since you know how Carey needs to be loved, you are looking for someone to be able to do that. That is a reasonable expectation.
Woman number one had great habits. She had great this and great that, but the love wasn’t there. I didn’t feel it. With woman number two, the love was there, but she was lacking all the other qualities that the first woman had. Both of them were beautiful, smack the same age, and their birthdays were in the same month. They hated each other. I have a Build-A-Bear of the women I’ve dated since I’ve been here. I’m like, “I want her this and this. If I could get all these things from all these different women, that would be my Build-A-Bear woman.”
Let me ask you this. Have you spent any time learning to be happy with Carey?
Let me use the word content. What would happen if you don’t get another love of your life? If you’re single for the rest of this life, what would that look like as far as you learning to be okay with yourself?
Here comes a lot of adult stuff.
To be in a committed relationship for the rest of your life, what if that doesn’t happen?
I’m okay with that because there are pluses and minuses to both. There are pluses to being in a relationship. I don’t know about the United States, but here, there are a lot of minuses to it because I’m insanely crazy about Latina women. It’s ridiculous. Michelle knew it. If you ask Michelle, “Who is Carey’s Hollywood wife?” She’s like, “Eva Mendez.” She wouldn’t even take a second to respond. She knew that.
I started liking Latina women when I was stationed in Fort Bragg. There were a lot of Puerto Rican and Mexican women there. When I was in Korea, there weren’t a lot of Puerto Rican and Mexican women. When I got to Fort Bragg, I’m like, “This is something different right here.” Here in Colombia, there are 99.9% of Latina women. Every now and then, you see a European or African-American woman here. It’s not a color thing because the women here are darker than you to White. There is something about Latina women.
We didn’t even mention what ethnicity was Michelle.
She was Black or African-American, whatever the correct terminology is being used.
How is Carey now? When we started this conversation, you said you don’t know where you’re at mentally. You reached out to me and you wanted to have this conversation. What were you thinking we would unpack or things we would discuss that you haven’t done in your own space or in your mind?
I don’t know because I’m looking at it as opening the door that I have in my house of me that hasn’t been opened yet or I may not even know exist.
Have you connected with other people that are widows or widowers?
No, I haven’t.
Is that intentional or unintentional?
It’s unintentional. I didn’t do it when I was in Raleigh because I had a negative experience at the hospice.
What did that look like?
They have a post-widow or widower program for people to connect.
It’s a support group or something like that.
While we were there, I don’t know if it was the director or who she was, but she said, “Let’s talk.” It was me, my sister, and Michelle’s sister. She was telling us about all the different things they had available about the hospice. She said, “I need to talk to you alone.” She started talking about a lot of financial things and Michelle.
It had already been approved by insurance. She said, “Since she’s here in hospice, she can stay on inconvenience feedings for weeks or months. This could get expensive. How are you going to pay for this? It might be months before she passes.” It made me uncomfortable. I’m like, “It’s all covered by insurance. They got approved before we even came over here.” Later that night, she came to the room and said, “Come with me. The doctors told me she was not going last more than two more days. You don’t have to worry about that.”
That is so insensitive.
I was like, “Wow.” They reached out to me like, “How come you haven’t come?” I told them that story and they were like, “We’re going to look into this,” but they never got back to me about it. I never went back there. I had a friend. We call each other cousins because we have a mutual cousin. We weren’t cousins, but we were good friends. He passed maybe two months after Chelle passed. His wife reached out to me, not to so much connect with a widow, but because I was doing some work for her. She would talk to me about her experiences after Richard passed. It made me super uncomfortable.
She was telling me stories about how Richard came to her and talked to her. That makes me uncomfortable. I’m not looking for the ghost of Chelle to come to sit down and have a conversation. It wasn’t like I had a dream of Chelle. She was like, “Richard came to me and told me.” I’m like, “That’s making me pretty uncomfortable.”
I can hear what you’re saying. We don’t realize that everybody’s experience with being a widow or widower is different. It’s to not have an expectation that what you’re experiencing is what I’m automatically experiencing. To create a space to be open to say what your experience is and to listen is different. What I’m hearing you’ve had are very negative interactions and connections with people.Sometimes, we don't realize that everybody's experience with being a widower is different. Click To Tweet
It’s with widowers or widows.
They’re people that are supposed to be helping you in this process but are bringing more negativity than anything positive. I appreciate you reaching out to want to have this conversation.
I have one more. Another close friend of mine, we found out maybe a month apart that our wives had cancer. His wife had lung cancer. She died a year before Michelle. I was telling him things about this, that, and the other, and what I expected it to be. He came back to me and said, “It’s not like that.”
What did you tell him about what?
It was about what I expected his relationship with his late wife to be after she passed. It was how I expected my memories and relationship to be with Chelle. He was like, “It’s not like that.” I told him something along the lines of, “She’s still with you.” He says, “She’s not.” After Chelle passed, we went out a couple of times, but I don’t know if we ever sat down and talked about our experiences or how we felt after our wives passed. I don’t think we ever had that specific conversation.
He has since remarried. As a matter of fact, he was like, “I don’t want to date again.” I’m like, “Really?” What I told him was, “Maybe there is a woman out there that needs you. I know you miss Amy, but you’re a great dude. There is a lot you can contribute to a woman’s life. Look at it as, ‘Amy is gone and I’ll never have her again, but let me go out here and be a great dude to some woman who needs a great man in her life.’”
Have you taken that same advice for you?
I always knew I was a great dude. I got proof I’m a great dude. I’m trying to tell you. I’m a good catch.
I can’t argue with you.
This is my proof. This is my testament. After Chelle passed, her sister still calls me her brother. Her sister still loves me. If I had not been a great husband to her sister, when Chelle died, our relationship would’ve died.
She still loves me and still looks at me as her brother. That’s my testimony. That’s my testimony. Her family still loves me, especially her sister who is her best friend.
When you think that you are a widower, which I am sorry for, what are some things that you think people don’t realize but should be more considerate about when interacting with someone that’s a widower from your perspective?
I don’t think I’ve had a situation where someone was super insensitive to the fact that I was a widower or even knew or didn’t know and said something that was super insensitive. It happened one time. It was when somebody said something to me and told me that Michelle would be ashamed of me because I did something. I’m like, “Don’t use her against me like that. You didn’t know her.”
They didn’t even know your wife. They used that haphazard statement.
That was the only time.
Does it come up?
It gets out of anger.
Is that something that comes up in regular conversations with people or is it something they would have to dig to know about you?
That was one time with a person that knew me. She was intentionally being mean.
That is mean. She was successful at that. Is Carey content with himself?
I think so. If I was in a relationship, I don’t know that I would be happier or more content. I would be different. I think not being there. Let’s go back to my affinity with Latina women and back to when I was with Chelle and I was saying how every now and then, you meet somebody and look at it like, “Wow.” You both catch each other’s glances and you’re both like, “Oh my God.”
That’s cute in the beginning. It’s the long game that matters.It's the long game that matters. Click To Tweet
That happened to me and Lionel. We called it getting Krispy Kreme. He said his brother was at a Krispy Kreme one time and saw this woman that overwhelmed him so much that he ended up leaving without his donuts. I’ve got Krispy Kreme in the United States. It happens once every eighteen months. You see beautiful women all the time. I get Krispy Kreme here 2 or 3 times a week.
Krispy Kreme is good, but what happens if you eat Krispy Kreme all the time? You got high cholesterol.
I get high cholesterol and fat.
That making of a relationship or the idea of committing to someone and doing all that, do you think you have that in you yet?
I don’t know because I’m dating different women.
You’re not in an exclusive relationship. I heard you say before that idea of there is a lot to make yourself vulnerable like that that if you got married, you’re like, “Could that person pass? Could I be in this state again?” Is that something that you would be willing and what that would look like?
We have a lot of nicknames. Me and my best friend call it finding your endgame. We say, “She is endgame material right there. Physically at least. Is she turnkey that once I move in, I don’t have to change the countertops or upgrade the AC system?”
How old did you say you were?
60. I’ll be 61 in 2023. I’m not looking for a fixer-upper. She has to be turnkey. If I find what I think is turnkey, am I willing to stop dating the other women?
Commitment like that may not be in you anymore.
It’s in me because it was in me once. I have wanted a wife since I was five years old. There’s something my mom said to me. I remember us talking where I was like, “I want a wife.” Maybe it was because I wanted to be the husband that my mama didn’t have. I don’t want to be a daddy anymore, but I wanted to be the daddy I didn’t have. That drove me to always say, “I want a wife.”
You did that. Do you have any children?
I have a daughter.
How old is she?
She’s 32. I have three grandchildren.
How has that been? You have been the father that you didn’t have.
I’d rather not talk about that.
That’s a whole other painful experience.
That could be a conversation for another day. You have had a full life and are still having a life. It’s pretty brazen to leave the States, move to Colombia, and say this is where you want to start life over. That is impressive in itself. I was blown away when I heard that you were moving. I was like, “He is going where?” I understand not wanting to be in the house that Michelle was in. That is too painful. At least for me, I know that it was. Is that what drove your move to Colombia?
No. My original plan was to retire in June 2022, buy a smaller house in North Carolina, and then buy something on some warm and doesn’t get cold beautiful beaches place on the planet. That was the plan. It happened in February 2021 because my boss was acting crazy. He thought he had leverage. I ended up retiring in February 2021 instead of June 2022.
You’re retired. Are you working part-time?
What do your days look like?
I got out and cooked breakfast with the friend I was with. We had some friends here from the States. We took a boat trip to this place called Cholón. It’s like a drive-up boat club. It has tables and bars in the water. The water is waist-deep. There are dozens of boats playing music. People are drinking and having a party in the Caribbean water. We came back from that, went to dinner, and then went to a bar while I was waiting for them to go to another bar. We had some drinks at that rooftop bar, left that bar, and went to the club. We then came back and had a 9:00 AM massage. I haven’t been sitting around all day waiting for this until then.
This is not a highlight.
It will be a highlight because I have a date. She’d never come over late anyway. I’ll probably go to the gym. I might go to the beach. Maybe I might do nothing. Some mornings, I’ll get up and watch YouTube Spanish lessons for hours. I started doing Duolingo again because it’s basic, but it still helps you practice. Some days, I do nothing. Some days, I do a lot.
Have you ever, in this journey, do any work on yourself being a widow or widower, trying to unpack what that looks like for your life? Have you been doing it and living and not particularly digging into it?
I’m not digging into what’s going to better me, what’s going to help me improve, or what’s going change me for better or worse.
Let me say it differently. It’s not so much the self-improvement, but understanding some of the feelings that are common with being a widow or widower. It’s that journey of that, looking into that, and seeing how that may impact you in different ways.
It’s not a mission that I’m on. What happens and what I learn as I go through this new journey is what happens and what I learn as I go through this new journey. It’s not a mission for me to redefine myself, come to grips with anything, or accept anything. It’s what I learn tomorrow is I learn tomorrow. If I don’t learn it, then I’ll learn it in tomorrow’s tomorrow. When there is no tomorrow, there is no tomorrow.
That is fair enough. Being in Colombia is a pretty cool place to be living and seeing how life goes. You take it as it comes.Take life as it comes. Click To Tweet
I can look out the window and see the ocean. I can look the other way and see the harbor.
I’ve seen some of the views that you’ve shown on Facebook.
Cruise ships come in over there. There are beaches over there.
I appreciate you allowing me into your world for a little bit. This is the longest conversation we’ve ever had.
Let me add one more thing to that. I’m in a Facebook group. Guys say, “What was the process like moving to Colombia? What made you decide on it?” I met a guy. He came here to Cartagena. He interviewed me. He has a YouTube video of me. I said, “What is it for you?” He said, “I want to make sure where I move is the best place.” I said, “What do you mean the best place? What is that?” He said, “I want to make sure it’s the best.”
I’m like, “Let me put it to you like this. I’m happy in Cartagena. I‘m driving a Mercedes with all the bells and whistles. If I test drive a Bentley and be like, ‘This is a little better than my Mercedes,’ I’ll still be with the Mercedes.” I’m not going to look back and be like, ‘I should have waited 5 or 6 more years trying to find the Bentley,’ when I know I’m happy in the Mercedes now.” There’s an apartment in this building that was for sale. It was on the 24th floor. The higher up you go, the more valuable the property gets because you get a better view. It was for the same price that I paid for mine. They’re redoing and putting a boardwalk on the beach. They’re investing millions in the beach, which is going to do nothing but help the property value here.
He passed on it because the owner would not do a little upgrade that he could have probably spent maybe $1,000 with labor and everything to do himself. I’m like, “For real? Keep on looking for that Bentley if you had the Mercedes available that you could have done a few upgrades to. What are you waiting on? You’re in your late 50s now. It’s not like you’re 30 or 40 years old and still grinding. You’ve got 40 or 30 more years.” I got maybe twenty more summers. I’m not going to waste any more of these summers like the summer of 2020 was taken away from me. Trying to find the perfect place is illogical to me.
Looking at Chelle, I was 100% happy with Chelle, but we had problems like any couple has problems. It did not cause me to not marry Michelle because she wasn’t perfect. That’s ludicrous. I’m not looking for perfection. I’m looking for happiness. Everything has ups and downs. If I was in a relationship, the downside would be I can only date one woman and I lose that variety. I don’t have that consistency and the comfort of having one woman to love me that I had when I had Michelle. If I find her, I find her. If I don’t, I’m going to continue to be Mr. International Playboy as much as my bank account will allow. I’m okay with that. I haven’t found a Build-A-Bear yet.
That is fair. Carey, thank you so much for this conversation.
Thank you for having me. I enjoyed this. I hope this helped someone and I can view somebody else’s that will help me.
That is what this is all about. It’s us sharing our journey. We’re not alone in doing this. Everybody is trying to figure this out and doing it their way.
Another thing, too. This may help somebody. This gave me a good perspective on life. It was after Chelle had passed and I was talking about some of the things I was doing. He said, “You have taken the hand you were dealt with and you’re winning it.” I’m like, “You’re right.” Life is a journey that has to be played, written, and traversed. Whatever comes at you in that journey, you only have two choices. The two choices are to be happy or be unhappy. It is not any more complex than that.Life is a journey that has to be played, has to be written, has to be traversed. Click To Tweet
It’s going to happen. What has happened has happened. There is no reset button. You’re not playing a video game. In that journey that is happening, be happy or be unhappy. Happy feels a whole lot better than unhappy, so be happy. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to cry or incur days where sadness overtakes you. It doesn’t mean you get up every morning and you’re like, “My wife or my husband is gone. Woe is me.” I’m not doing that. I miss Michelle. It’s beyond description. We all know that. Be happy or be unhappy. Make a decision.Happy feels a whole lot better than unhappy. Click To Tweet
You have chosen that.
I’m going to be happy.
I can relate to not wanting to pray. I can relate to not wanting to feel like there was any substance in connecting with God. I can relate to feeling like, “Why would someone even ask me to pray for them?” My husband died. God didn’t hear me. Mark did not die when I prayed and wanted that to happen. I can relate to feeling like I’m in a church where people are preaching messages and it’s shallow. It has no substance. It’s like those words are flying in the air. They were not landing on me. It was to the point that when Mark passed, I could not sit in the church we went to on a regular basis. To me, I was so numb. Nothing had any feelings for me. It seemed like I was going through the routines of things. I couldn’t find life in what I was dealing with.
For me, what was a change was there were a group of ladies that I knew and some guys. It was a prayer line my girlfriend Georgette had. They would get together every Tuesday. I remember getting on that call and being silent. I didn’t want to talk or anybody to engage me, but I knew that I needed to feel connected. I needed to feel connected to people that were not being churchy with me but that was genuine in their relationship with God.
With everybody that was on that prayer line, I knew different trials and tribulations they were experiencing in life. I knew their authentic relationship with God as far as things that didn’t go the way they wanted and some things that did. Them holding on to their relationship with God was a lifeline for me. It was a lifeline when I was in a place of not trusting. Like you, I’ve always believed in God, but I wasn’t able to trust him to the full extent that I was before Mark died. That trust was severed. It would’ve been like being in a relationship and finding out somebody lied to you or they deceived you and misled you.
One of the things for me was that when Mark died, I remember talking to my older sister. I’m in the hospital when he died. I remember telling her, “I love him. How is he dead? How is this man I have loved for 30 years can I say in my heart that I love him in totality and he’s not breathing? God says that he loves me and the plans that he has for me are good. How do all those work in the same universe in the same moment of time?” It did not reconcile in my mind at all. I was like, “It hurts so bad to think that I love God and trust God and my husband is dead. How does God allow that to be? Am I an idiot for saying that I love God and Mark is dead? How does that work?”
What I had to do was I had to be honest and tell God, “This is how I feel. I am not happy with this. This hurts. I don’t like this. I want no part of this.” I remember waking up every day and going, “Mark is dead and I am alive. Isn’t this some shiggidy right here every day doing that?” People were reaching out to me that I could be honest with and be honest about how I feel, not try to hide that, mask that, and give me a one-line Bible verse to try to make like it was all going to go away. That was some trash to me.
I started reading Job. I started looking at what his experience was like. I tried not to read this like it was a fable but to read this like I was Job. His children died. Everything, he lost. When you read Job, it talks about his material possessions like his land and cattle. It talks about the people running to tell him that all the children died in the house and all this happened or all that happened. His body was covered in boils and all these other different things. He was straight mad. He had three friends that were trash not helping the situation. They were coming and telling him, “What did you do wrong over here? Why did that happen? That probably happened to you because of this and all the other stuff.” I was thinking, “This sucks in so many different ways.”
It was reading how Job would come to God and say, “What about this? What about that?” God was saying, “I don’t have to answer you. Let’s be clear about that,” but he did give him answers. He did speak to him. He did talk to him about his situation. He then restored him. It did take Job being honest about where he was. He complained about those raggedy friends. He complained about that raggedy wife that told him, “Curse God and die.” He was doing all that. What I saw in that was God’s compassion for Job in the most wretched situation. God did show he is faithful.
I’m like you. I am not happy about the fact that Mark died. I am not a fan of that. If I could turn back time and make it change, I would quickly. One thing that you said that you have a life and you are happy is where I see God’s faithfulness in your life. That is where I see that you had the means to be able to relocate and do different things.
Another thing that I had done is I have kept a little memo pad. In talking with my therapist when I was in Pennsylvania, she said, “You got to find something you’re happy about. It may not be something big, but you have to find something that you can capture in life about.” On that little memo pad, I would write every day three things that I was happy about. It could be, “I didn’t get stuck in the rain without an umbrella. They made my coffee order right.” Whatever those three things were every day, I would lean into what those were.
I wasn’t good at reading the Bible for a long time. I used to get up at 4:00 in the morning to pray. I’d be praying and travailing. I didn’t have the energy for that. When I moved here to Virginia, I joined a church. I know God directed me there. It’s called Living Destiny Church. One of the missions of that church is for every person for their destiny to come to light. I feel like when I came here, that was also part of me not living, but beginning to thrive. To be able to say, “I’m here. What does that look like?”
I have cried out to God. I have cried out to help me with that heaviness of Mark’s absence and to learn how to live. It has been in every conversation that I’ve had with someone, whether a widow or widower. Every visit to me dealing with my therapist and every time I have journaled, released my feelings and my thoughts, and given that to God, I feel like it’s been one step closer to regaining what my relationship with God looks like versus what it was before.
It was a combination of that prayer group. I’m still part of that prayer group. We meet on Tuesdays and connect. I want to say it had been maybe about a year or so after Mark passed and Reverend Georgette said, “Can you lead one day?” I almost dropped the phone. I was like, “I’m not trying to be doing that.” Her asking me to do that caused me to open up my Bible to be able to read that word and to be sincere about what it was that God was saying to me.
What I’m saying in all that is it wasn’t a switch that came back on. It was little steps. It was steps over time because there was a part of me that died when Mark died. That numbness, rawness, and lack of completion, I needed that back for me. There is not a place that anybody, any man, or any friendship that could fill that void of Mark dying for me. It took me recapturing and pulling back my own soul for myself.
There’s a thing in the Bible where it talks about how I must seek out my own soul salvation with fear and trembling. I had to recapture the part of me that was snatched away. Have you ever seen The Matrix? Do you know when Neo and Trinity are up there at the top and they go up and then come down? Neo’s blind and can’t see. They’re pulling him out and then she goes, “I got you.” She pulls him back. You could see that part where they’re pulling him out. That’s what it felt like to me when Mark died. A part of me was gone.
Every part of life, whether it was the Bible study, friends coming to sincerely call on me, or joining this church, I feel like that was them grabbing me and saying, “I’m not going to let you go. I’m pulling you back into yourself and to recapture.” Having a safe space to be honest about that is how my relationship with God, I feel like, has been not just restored, but I can trust God. I couldn’t trust God for so long because what I wanted did not happen. I did not want Mark to die that day. To even propel that further, I had been carrying around a lot of magazines. I wanted to make a vision board, but I didn’t have a vision anymore. Everything that I saw what life was looking like was going to be with Mark in it. The idea of trying to create a life in his absence made no sense to me.
I carry magazines from Pennsylvania to Virginia. I was like, “I’m going to hope again. I’m going to dream again. I’ll have a vision for my life.” I could not bring myself to cut that magazine and start making a vision board. I could hear God saying, “I need you to trust me to be able to thrive, not just live.” I got out all the magazines. Do you know when you’re in high school the board papers that you have that you put your science project on and stuff like that? I got all that together. I said, “I’m going to start dreaming. I’m going to start dreaming of different things that I want in this life. The only way for me to get there is part of trust in God.”
I have a gigantic vision board of all the stuff that I said I was going to start dreaming about and that I was going to start living. On one side, it talks about dancing. On one side, it talks about family. It has different things. There’s a component talking about my faith. I said, “I’m a person of intentionality.” This was me deciding that I was going to start living, start dreaming, and take steps to start trusting God.
He has shown himself faithful in these conversations that I’ve been having with other widows or widowers sharing their stories. To understand that we all go through that sense of hopelessness has been important to see that this is what grieving looks like. It is horrible. It is ratcheting. That is why I asked you the question about what you have done with yourself in this process of grieving.
You may find it helpful to maybe read some books on grief or losing a spouse. Sometimes, hearing it from someone else’s perspective has a way of putting it not in order, but you are understanding that this is what it looks like, this level of pain. It may prove helpful to be able to do that. A lot of times in different communities, the idea of maybe doing that type of self-help, people equates to being weak. There’s strength in unpacking the challenges of life.
I look at it like this. If your arm got cut off, you would not be out there with that thing bleeding. You would not be out there doing the one-arm pull-ups. You would not be doing that thing and never have taken care of that arm. You would’ve gone to the doctor. You would’ve gotten it stitched up. When you said that when Michelle left that there is a part of you that was gone, that part of you is the part that you may benefit from doing the same type of work you would do if that arm was missing.
That trauma that we experience by losing that significant other, part of that would be part of what I would say that would help you to learn to trust, believe, and to know again. That could prove helpful for you in that process because the pain is so much. If you would allow me, I have a book that I would like to mail to you that has been helpful to me.
Do you know how much it costs to mail that book? It would cost you probably $250 or $260 to mail a book.
Can I send it to you in Audible and then put that up so you can get it that way?
You can do that. Sending stuff here is ridiculous. It would be cheaper to tell me what it is and for me to go on Amazon and buy it.
I can send it to Amazon and that’ll be fine.
I think so.
I’ll send you the name of it. It’s called I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping, and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One. Someone gave me this book and this workbook. It was part of saving my life because I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t have someone to talk to. I didn’t have someone to lean in. My friend, Reggie, which is going to be a guest on the show at some point, sent me this book immediately.
I went and purchased the workbook. I started devouring the book and reading it. I was hearing some of the things that they were telling me to do to walk through this process. That was also a part of me regaining myself because who I am now is different than who I was with Mark because he’s not here anymore. I have learned what I look like. I like me. I do love me.
It has been a journey recapturing that thing with Neo, pulling myself back, and not letting myself slip away. That would be my answer to how I found myself here, the place where I am willing to pray and trust God. To know God does look for my good in what is going on. Do I like it always? I’m going to go back to what you say, which is no. I have realized that it is part of the plan and part of the process. I believe that to the extent that you and I have never had this much of a conversation even with both of our spouses’ passing. I feel like this conversation was helpful. You are at a place where you need something different. For this to be lined up for me doing this here is maybe one of the steps in your process of regaining yourself.
I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye, I’ll look it up on Amazon.
You can find it on Amazon, the book and the workbook. This is a gift I would like to give to you.
I’ll send you my address.
I can go on Amazon and then set it up. The beauty of this, which is why I’m doing this show, is this is a nonprofit. This is a 501(c)(3). About this is doing the show, having conversations with a widow, widowers, their children, and different things, and providing resources for people that are grieving to be able to journey through this. This is exactly what this is about. That is why people have donated for me to be able to give out these resources to be able to do this. That is my why. That is how I’ve gotten here. That is the truth. That is the whole answer. Thank you, Carey.
Thank you, Tina.
I almost have no words. I knew Carey was very upfront and honest. I wasn’t prepared for his level of candor. It was so refreshing and so thought-provoking. Many times, it took my breath away. I love our conversation. I love him being able to share his journey with Michelle, where he is in Colombia and the life that he is developing for himself.
I love when I thought we were all done talking. He asked me how I got to where I am in life. He gave me an opportunity to share some tips with him. I am looking forward to him receiving the book that I recommended and hearing how he will unpack more of his journey. Thank you for being here with me. I am so hopeful that this conversation with Carey has helped you.
Maybe share it with someone that you know that is on this journey of widowhood. You’ll be able to give them hope, healing, and encouragement. As always, I am sorry for the person that you lost that has driven you to this conversation, but I hope being here with us is helping you along the way. I’ll talk to you soon. Goodbye.
- Carey Christian – Facebook
- I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping, and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One
- Living Destiny Church
About Carey Christian
Met Chele in April 1995 at a birthday party. She was friends with the birthday girl, and me with the husband. Dated for three years got married in May 1998, no children together. I grew up in Portsmouth, VA She grew up in Raleigh, NC.
Worked as a:
Convenience store clerk
Football, wrestling, and basketball coach
Passions, being a good husband
Developing young people
What gets me up in the morning, is the desire to enjoy that day
Goals, to die without regrets
I’ll be 61 on March 12, 2023