Home for the Holidays? Finding my “New Normal”

My Dear Brothers,

For the last article that I have the privilege of sharing with you this year, I want to share the article that started it all for me. In 2015, the Heartland Hospice Association asked me to contribute an article for their Holiday Newsletter. With Herb’s indulgence and your patience, I would like to dedicate this article to those who were not members last year.

As I look back on this article now, I can almost feel the emotion at the end of my pen as I created these thoughts. This year I will be experiencing my seventh Christmas without my Robyn. As this time has passed, no new Mrs. Whitener has come into my life, not even a serious relationship to report. But life remains full; life remains good.

So, here is the 2021 version of Home for the Holidays, a retrospective of where it all began for me.

Before you know it, many of us will be experiencing our first holiday season without our loved ones.

For me, everything changed one Saturday afternoon in late February of 2015 when I was called into a room and told that my wife of 15 years, Robyn, had died. The journey toward finding my “new normal” began at that moment.

What would this new normal consist of, I found myself wondering? You see, for 22 years, Robyn had been an integral part of the rhythm of my life. It began like so many in the dating process, then on to the transition of being husband and wife, later to caretaker as her health began to fade, and now suddenly, I am alone.

Robyn loved the holidays. From her favorite Waterford champagne glasses on New Year’s Eve to the annual trip to pick out the tree the day after Thanksgiving, I always came home to the holidays. Our Home was a constant reminder of what holiday was on the horizon.

The last holiday Robyn and I shared was Valentine’s Day this year. I picked out a card that had the music to the song “It Had to be You” playing when you opened it up. As she opened the card and the music began playing, I started singing the song to her. The smile that I miss so much came across her face, and then one of our famous duets ensued. After the music stopped, we had one of our countless great laughs. Two weeks later, Robyn was gone, and I was home alone.

Since that day, Memorial Day has given way to the 4th of July and then Bastille Day (yes, Robyn celebrated Bastille Day!). The house no longer transforms, the sweaters and patriotic clothes she wore now still hang in the closet awaiting my final decision, and my new normal life continues to emerge.

I sometimes wonder if I will ever come home to the holidays again. But as a tribute to the spirit in which Robyn lived, I am resolved to do so. I plan to share Thanksgiving with my friends, who often spend Thanksgiving alone for many reasons this year. The decorations will come out, and the hospitality will be in the style Robyn so loved.

Christmas may not start with the Lifetime 30 days of Christmas as it always did, but at some point, the decorations will again come out, and I plan to share our Home with friends and some family. I am sure during that time together; there will be laughs and conversations remembering Robyn.

Then the guest will leave, and I am Home alone again. But don’t feel sorry for me, I live a wonderful life, and I am sure many of you reading this article do as well. That is the place that we will find that enables us to continue a positive path toward our “new normal.”  Of course, it will not be the same, but much of life never is.

Last year as one of the countless Christmas movies that Robyn watched was ending; we talked about our favorite Christmas songs. I want to close this article by sharing the last line of mine that will probably make me sigh at some point during the Christmas season but will equally bring me comfort; it states: “I ‘ll be home for Christmas, If only in my dreams.”

I wish you all a wonderful Holiday season and hope you find your new normal someday.

Terrell Whitener is an author, motivational speaker, and coach. Based in St. Louis, MO. Terrell is the author of The First 365. He can be reached at [email protected] or through the Widow Support Network.

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