INTERVIEW with Carol Madigan

When Carol Madigan answered the interview questions, she did so with such quiet eloquence and clarity, that I decided to publish it as a narrative of her's and husband Mike's lives together, as well as a testimony to growing through grief.

                                                                                                                  --R.C.

   Carol and Mike's story

  Do you have any idea how many silver Prius's there are on the road? At one point over the past months, I started to count how many I saw.  There were more than two hundred over a few weeks.
  Mike drove a silver Prius. He loved his car. He bragged about the mileage he would get.

On April 19, 2017, Mike went to a courthouse in Riverside, California about thirty miles away.  He texted me at about 3:30 that there was a ton of traffic and that he was going to come home the "short" way on the twisting, hilly Ortega Highway. I was concerned and texted back to be careful on that road. The last thing he wrote to me that afternoon was "Always."

  I happened to be at my daughter's house for dinner on April 19th. Mike knew I was staying for dinner that night and he planned to fend for himself. Right after the children (11 & 8) were in bed, there was a knock on the door.  My daughter answered. A uniformed sheriff and two coroner reps were standing there. There had been an accident. Mike was killed in a head on accident with a trash truck on that narrow road at 4:35pm. That whole night is a blur. My daughter called her sister (we all live in the same town). The accident had happened three hours before they found me at my daughter's house, so we didn’t go to the scene. I went home that night. I wanted to go to our home. I slept hugging his robe, not believing that he wouldn't be there.

  Everyone gathered at our house the next morning. Word spread fast, and neighbors arrived with flowers and hugs. I felt very numb. Let me say that Mike and I had no plan. We never discussed our end of life. We were both healthy and happy. We had no life insurance. No cemetery plots. Cremation arrangements were made. On May 14, what would have been our
44th Anniversary, we all went to the beach in Crystal Cove, drew a large heart in the sand, filled the center with rose petals, and placed part of Mike's ashes in the heart. It took quite a while for the right wave to come, and we all sat in silence with our memories. 

 We then planned a gathering at our community clubhouse on May 21st. It all kept me busy, but I still slept in our house, alone, hugging Mike's robe. The tears flowed. After the gathering of over two hundred people, I had to take the next step and list the house for sale. This is the secondary loss. I was not working and had just started collecting social security, so there was no way I could keep the house. 

  My daughters and I have gone to Griefshare, a 13 week grief program through a church. I was raised a Catholic but I am no longer a believer, although at times I wish I had a belief in an afterlife. I think it would be easier to accept death. What I got out of Griefshare was that I wasn't crazy for some of the thoughts I was having, and I could hear what my daughters were feeling. I have moved into my daughter's house but they say it's my house. They would convert the family room into my room. I had no choice, but the result has been an excellent one. I am not alone for long periods of time, and I  am surrounded by love. Yes, when I am alone, the waves of grief hit hard. It's a physical feeling, first a shortness of breath, then a lump in my throat and then tears 

  I’ve stored some furniture and possessions for the "some day" that I will be back out on my own even though I have never lived on my own! I have started a walking routine and am planning a job hunt but cannot commit until after a trip I have planned to Dublin and Mallorca.

  I made a trip to New York in September with my daughter. She is a producer for Dateline, and since she was working all day,  I had the city to myself. I went to where Mike and I met forty-five years ago. I walked Central Park and took the Staten Island Ferry and enjoyed the peace of being on my own. I visited places I went before I met Mike.

  I made a second trip to New York in January. Again I was on my own in the city, but this time I didn't visit the old stomping grounds. I wanted to do this trip for me. I went to shows and movies.
I reconnected with high school friends who knew me before. It was very therapeutic, and I felt stronger in myself after this trip.

  When we were going through Mike's desks and boxes, we found an unfinished story. It was titled "Return to Andratx".  Andratx is a port town in Mallorca. Mike fell in love with this little town on his many visits. We’d always talked about going back to Mallorca.  It had been more than ten years.

  Well...The whole family is going this April. For us all to be together at Mike's favorite place will be so emotional. We are taking the remainder of Mike's ashes to Andratx right after Easter. He will "Return to Andratx" -  with his entire family.

  Widowhood is the worst. However, Mike and I lived in the moment and I was only twenty-one when I married him, so if someone told me widowhood is a phase of marriage, I wouldn't have worried about it. I know I have a life ahead of me. I'm not sure what it will turn out to be. I am
and have always been an optimist. When I was moving, I took off my wedding ring thinking I might lose it. I placed it in a box with Mike's.  When I opened the box after the move, my ring was nestled perfectly inside of his. It was meant to be there and I left it. I now wear a lotus flower ring. It is symbolic of my growth. As the flower grows towards the sun, it rises above adversity to
be reborn into the sunshine....

-- Carol Madigan

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