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Dear Howard:

It’s Fall again, my favorite time of year, and it’s the 30th anniversary of our marriage. This Fall is more beautiful than ever. I can finally see again – with the eyes of the woman I used to be – the woman you married.

During the past five years, I’ve finally surrendered to my grief. I let it consume me, cleanse me, thaw my frozen heart, and teach me how to love again. The gifts of grieving have been many – the most precious being our granddaughter, Alexis Madeline.

It seems natural to speak to you now after having been silent for so many years. In recent years I have spoken to you in anger, in despair, and in doubt. Now I speak to you in love.

I begin by saying I’m sorry. I’m sorry for holding you hostage for so many years. I’m sorry for blaming you and resenting you for the choices you made so many years ago. I’m sorry it took me so long to see the part I played in the drama of our lives.

I’ve blamed you, your parents, God, the Army, and our government for what happened to you in Vietnam.

I kept myself chained to the God of my childhood in the same way, by blaming Him for your death. The grooves of anger and resentment were worn deep in my being. They’ve made wrinkles appear on my face. As I release them, I am regaining my youth.

For years I hid the remnants of you under beds and in closets thinking I could “disappear” you from my life. Losing you was the foundation upon which my life was built. That will never change. I no longer want it to.

Howard, thank you for planting that little seed in me before you went to war. You gave me something I could never have given myself… the experience of being a mother.

Being a mother taught me to love unconditionally and finally it taught me love’s supreme lesson – how to let go of someone I love.

Thirty years ago when I marched down the aisle in a white dress on my father’s arm, I felt pretty and innocent. When you died, I lost that innocence. In grieving, I’ve regained it. The breath that was knocked out of me when you died has returned.

It isn’t easy to give up what has defined my life for so many years: Michelle, the grief, and you. I can no longer blame you or her for what life hasn’t given me.

Though my association with you was brief (only a few short years) it has been the cornerstone of my life. We don’t belong to each other anymore in the way we used to. The ties that bound me to you – my anger and resentment – are gone. The other tie, Michelle, is grown and married with her own family.

What binds me to you now is the memory of the love we had for each other. It transcends time and space. It cannot be severed by death. The twinkle in your eye, that I often saw, was ignited by the love in your heart. I cherish that love, always will and I’ll remember that when I think of you.

I say “goodbye” now as I walk away from a life defined by your death to meet the life that awaits me around the next corner. Wish me luck, Howard.

Thanks for all you have taught me and given me.

I love you.


pp. 227-229. Excerpted from: "Grief Denied: A Vietnam Widow's Story" by Pauline Laurent. Posted by permission from the author. Published by Catalyst for Change, copyright 1999.

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