Editor's Note: This is part of Nancy's Caregiving series. Please see other posts in this series.
Place matters, especially when home must be redefined because the person with whom you made a home is no longer alive. The fog of widowhood began to lift two years after Brett's death, and I started to feel more hopeful about the future. I took a giant leap of faith in June 2006, moving from New York City to Denver with my five-year-old twins.
I chose Denver as the place to begin a new life because my college roommate lived there. Every time I had come to visit, I felt at peace. My children and I desperately needed sunlight. The Colorado skyline blanketing an expanse of mountains seemed like an invitation that it could ground us.
I remember Rebecca and Casey's sheer delight as they pranced back and forth between their bedrooms when we first moved into our home. Everything was new and wonderful—from living in a spacious house in the suburbs instead of a small NYC apartment, to parking in a garage instead of on a busy street, nine city blocks away.
After we settled into our new home, the kids and I placed a mosaic stone with Brett’s name on it in our garden. It was the perfect way to reaffirm that even though we lived in another state, their dad’s love was everywhere.
Distance helped me see my situation in a calmer light. With some 1,800 miles between Denver and New York City, I literally had space to step out from the shadow of cancer. I saw myself as a mother and a woman. Although most of my 30s was spent as a cancer caregiver and widow, I still had more life left to live. As scary as it would be to step out into the dating scene at 40, I still wanted to experience love again.
It took time for me to accept that moving forward was not the same as disregarding my past. Nothing could negate the good years that Brett and I shared, nor diminish the fact that I had done all I could to care for him while also caring for Rebecca and Casey.
Finding Love Again
My world changed in 2007 for the better when I met a widowed morning news anchor named Steve Saunders. Steve’s first wife died in 2003 of pancreatic cancer, one year before Brett's death. I read his personal story in a local Denver magazine, where he was featured as one of the city's most eligible singles. I took a risk and reached out to him. Amid all the crazy odds, (a story in and of itself) Steve and I married in July 2008, blending our two families.
Today, we are nearing our 12-year wedding anniversary. My stepsons Ryan and Dylan were 13- and 14-year-old teenage boys when I met them. They have grown into young men living independently in the world. My time with Steve will soon eclipse my time with Brett, and, of course, he’s already been in Rebecca and Casey’s lives far longer.
We are a blended family that was torn by cancer but also brought together in its wake. We are a family who still feels deep sorrow for the spouses and parents no longer alive. Our perspectives change, but our hearts don’t. We are a family that serves the memories of the past by honoring the present.
Nearly 14 years after moving to Denver, that same mosaic stone that honors Brett is still in our garden, and the Colorado sun, sky, and mountains have come to define home.