Widower Wednesday: Remembering the Past, Embracing the Future

My column last week started a discussion on whether or not the experience of having a photo of my late daughter, Hope, finally up in my home had changed my mind or made me more sympathetic to about displaying photos of the late spouse. After reading through the back and forth in the comment section there seems to be some confusion on my views over how I’ve chosen to remember the past and start a new life. So I thought I’d take today’s Widower Wednesday column as a chance to clear things up.

I’ve never been a proponent of having the late spouse’s photo up in a home if that person has remarried. If you’re willing to fall in love again the widow(er) should do everything they can to make the new spouse feel the center of their universe. I don’t display photos of my late wife in my home and never will. When I chose to marry Marathon Girl, I made the decision to start a new life. That means I put the past life in a place where it wasn’t going to get in the way of the life I was starting with Marathon Girl.

The only time I’ve thought it appropriate to have some photos in the home of the late spouse is when the widow(er) still has minor children living at home. In that case I’ve always best place for them is in the children’s room. Other family and common areas of the home should have photos of the new life—not the old. Those places should be one where the new spouse can feel comfortable spending time and creating new, wonderful memories.

I’ve also never had a problem with anyone displaying photos of deceased children or other dead relatives in a home. Just because I chose not to display a photo of Hope doesn’t mean I didn’t think of her from time to time. I think about her more than I’ll ever admit and she will always have a special place in my heart. However, when I married Marathon Girl I didn’t see a point of having a photo up that would bring me to tears. That would have been detrimental to my marriage and relationship with Marathon Girl. Looking back, I have no regrets about that decision. If Marathon Girl would have chosen to omit Hope’s photo from the Christmas gift, I would have been okay with that too. How I feel about Hope has no bearing on whether or not there’s a photo of her in my home.

All of the photos and other things from my past life I choose to keep are stored in two cardboard boxes in a closet in my basement. It’s been three or four years since the last time opened them and the last time I did was to pull some records that were stored there. I doubt Marathon Girl would have a problem with me looking at the contents occasionally if I so choose but that’s never really been an issue because unless I really need something from the boxes I have no intention of ever opening them again. I don’t need to look at photos and other trinkets to remember Krista or our life together. The feelings and memoires of my past life are stored in a special place in my heart where they will always remain. However, 99 percent my heart belongs to Marathon Girl and the family we started together.

I’ve never had a problem with a widow(er) having a memory box and looking at the contents occasionally or even visiting the cemetery—something I haven’t done in nine years. However, looking at photographs or doing something else to remember the late spouse shouldn’t make you sad or interfere with your feelings for your current spouse. If they do, you should either stop doing things that remind yourself of your past life or evaluate if you should really be married in the first place.

Others have told me that they know of widow(er)s who have photos of the late husband or wife up and the current spouse doesn’t mind a bit. Personally, I’m not into threesomes.  Marriage is making two hearts one. If you introduce any more hearts than that, you’re asking for trouble. If the new spouse doesn’t mind photos of the late spouse up, that’s their business. However, I still have to hear any compelling arguments or facts that show how having a photo of the late spouse up makes a marriage and the relationship between a widow(er) and the new spouse stronger.

A person who married a widow(er) deserves to feel like and be treated like that person’s only love. No exceptions. My inbox is full of stories from women who have broken hearts because the widower they love can’t let go of the past enough to move their lives forward. Just yesterday I got an email from a woman who has been married to a widower for two years and is now going through a divorce because she spent every day of her marriage feeling like second pace. Personally, I can’t think of a worse way to live than constantly feeling like you’re competing with a dead person.

Krista and Hope are part of my life and always will be. They made me, in part, the person I am today. But Marathon Girl and I have no problem discussing them or my past marriage at appropriate times.  But our focus isn’t on what I lost ten years ago but about the wonderful and beautiful life we’ve built together, our children, and the future we hope to share both for the rest of this life and in the next one.

Ten years ago I was at the lowest spot at my life emotionally and mentally. Through a lot of hard, hard work I have rebuilt my shattered life into something that, back then, seemed like an unobtainable dream. I have been blessed beyond measure in every aspect of my life because I made the decision to put the past behind me and focus on the future and building a new life with a woman that I love more than anyone else. My life wouldn’t be anywhere close to what it is today if I had let a photo of Krista or other parts of my past come between us.

We only get one shot at this life. Just one. I have chosen to put the past where it belongs and move forward in life with Marathon Girl. I have no regrets or second thoughts about that decision. We’ll be married nine years next month. They have, by far, been the happiest and best years of my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And I’d be a fool to let something from the past destroy what I’ve worked so hard to build.