Time For Changes, Time For Life

Eds. Note: Introducing our newest monthly columnist, Alan Howard, with his meditations on life after the death of his dear wife Joan one year ago. Look for his column the last Tuesday of every month!


I haven’t written in quite a while.  I have been in mourning since my wife’s death last December, but also struggling for a sense of normalcy. The truth of the matter is that this new and scary part of my life – the part of my life that Dante described as being “in a dark wood” – is hard to explain verbally to family and friends. Putting it into writing is even more difficult.

The last year has been akin to learning to swim again.  Everything is the same, yet everything is also distorted by the water – the water of mourning mixing with the water of a new life.  I use water as an analogy for tears, but also because the sense of loss and being separate from the rest of the “normal” world is like swimming underwater.  Over the past year I have moved forward without making any major changes for the sake of my son. I believed – and still believe – that rapid change would make his sense of loss even stronger.  I have also used this “no change” year to get my finances in order, to give serious thought to what my future should be, and to make plans.

This next year will be a year of many changes.  I will be moving out of my home in the suburbs to a more manageable home in town – preferably into a nice neighborhood with lots of character.  I am applying for fellowships that may give me the opportunity to go abroad, including a Fulbright scholarship (if I succeed, it will be the second I’ve received).  And, to hedge my bets, I am actively looking at new roles and promotion areas within my existing company.  I am going “all in” this next year. I am intent on rebooting my life.

Part of that reboot is the decision to open my very vulnerable self up to meeting new people – including new romantic encounters.  This is the most terrifying thing I have contemplated.  I am willing to do it, but I will tread lightly and carefully – my heart is still very tender and will not take a trauma well.  I will be leaning on my friends to help me through – not by helping me choose people, I’m too independent for that.  But, to keep an eye on me.  The woman I loved more dearly than anything in this world has died, and allowing myself to consider meeting another is very cool and exciting, but equally terrifying.

Monday marks one full year since my wife Joan died. She passed from this life peacefully at 2:42 pm on a Sunday. One moment she was weak with the cancer but joking around and helping direct me to take care of all the things I had become used to handling. The next moment the house was filled with silence and a profound heaviness.

A year later, the heaviness is gone and laughter and joy fills the space again, whether it is our son and I joking around, our new kitten, or my son playing the violin. But, I know that on Monday I will go to the cemetery and think of her soberly and sadly, considering what the years might have been like trickling into old age. I know that spending this time with her mother and father will be sad as we remember her after a year.

But I also know that she will forever be young and vibrant. I know that she does not suffer any longer and is happy. I know because she has said so in the letters she wrote and sealed before she died, and in all the dreams I have had with her since her passing. She is happy and laughing.

It is time for change.  It is time for me to remember the past and build upon it, but not linger on it.  It is time for a new world above the water.  I am ready!

Related post: Love in the Time of Cancer

This piece was originally posted at Alan’s blog.

Alan Howard is an Engineer and Operations Manager at Cisco Systems Inc., where he has worked for the past 15 years.  He lives in Atlanta, GA and enjoys kayaking, hiking and writing when he has the time and energy. You can read more of his writing at his blog Get Busy with Life and in the upcoming anthology Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex & Intimacy.

6 Comments on “Time For Changes, Time For Life”

  1. Fatima says:

    May God grant you courage, strength and wisdom in moving on with your life. All the best to you and your son 🙂

  2. Sumaiya says:

    May this true love be your greatest strength.good luck to you n your son.may God bless you always

  3. Alan Howard says:

    Thank you Fatima!

  4. karla says:

    MashaAllah! Thank you so much for sharing these experiences with us, Br. Alan! May Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala facilitate success in all these endeavors and fill your life with happiness, peace, love, and light . . . Amin!

  5. Mira Khattab says:

    Masha Allah what a sad yet hopeful loving article.It made me cry,and smile.
    JAH for sharing…May God give you peace,strength wisdom and joy in coming year and always.

  6. […] haven’t written much about the transition of my son J to our new life and existence after Joan’s death. He lost his mother when he was 12; it is something that will shape him for the rest of his life. […]