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Wife Goes On

It was a picturesque spring day where the sun warms you through while the air lifts your soul a bit. You breathe it in – this moment – hoping that this overwhelming feeling, a mixture of joy, freedom hope, contentment, will be yours forever. The afternoon of May 4, 2014, this was me. A woman, wife, mother – finally realizing and embracing this time in my life where everything I had hoped for, and so much more, had melded and blossomed into this sweet, kind existence. I had created the loving family I had never known, falling in love with the most gentle and wonderful man with whom we were blessed two spirited, bright and beautiful boys. In that moment, 2 1/2 years ago, I had it all – we had it all. And in an instant it was all gone. While on a Sunday walk with our boys my husband died of a massive heart attack. Our lives would never be the same.

karen3“You’re moving soon. Somewhere far. Oh my gosh! You’re moving across an ocean!” These words were said to me at my first ever visit to a medium. I had ventured into this meeting with a sufficient amount of trepidation and curiosity but in that moment, right then and there, I was sold. I had already decided we should live somewhere near the ocean with nature and fresh air to help heal our wounds. At the time I had thought our next home would be in Hawaii.  Coastal California was my top choice but it is so oppressively expensive I doubted it would be a near reality.  When I questioned the medium if she had an idea of where this place might be she asked me to give her a consideration list and she would tell me if she received any feelings about them. I read off five possibilities: Hawaii, coastal California, Nashville (not coastal but close to my family), Spain (always on my bucket list), and the Pacific Northwest. All true options as I was open and willing. Her response sealed the deal. “Spain – it is Spain. Hawaii is too secluded. Once you’re in Hawaii, you’re in Hawaii and it is a five hour flight to get anywhere else.” In that Aha moment I knew instantly Spain was right for me and my children. Spain would be our new home.

Several months after my husband had died I saw a show about a family living abroad called House Hunters International. They had moved to a beautiful little village outside of Barcelona, one of my favorite places on earth. The little pueblo of Sitges was right along the sea and boasted a lively town center along with an incredible expat community representing people from all over the globe.

This sounded ideal. Now to make it happen. Being American I knew it would be rather difficult to secure a legal move to Spain. The process of receiving a visa is a long and arduous one. Many documents are required especially as we are non-EU. Remarkable amounts of paperwork that assures you will not be a drain on their society. It took several months to secure our visas and once received we had three months to make our move to Spain a reality.

I had sold our home, the one that was to be ours long-term yet we had lived in for only one month before my husband died. It was no longer meant to be ours. I had sold most of our possessions as I felt we truly needed a fresh start. My properly full suburban Chicago home and all of its contents were now condensed into a small moving trailer and one packed car.

karen2We came to Spain with 11 bags – one which included my beloved hammock, an All-Clad stockpot and a prized Wusthof knife. Otherwise we arrived only with clothes, a few children’s books, and even fewer toys. Here we would be rebuilding our lives from scratch. It has been a process, sometimes a headbanging one, sometimes a charmed one. One thing I am often reminded of here is that in time everything will work out…with patience. Loads and loads of patience.

After looking at 20 or so potential places I found a lovely semi-detached home just perfect for our introduction into Mediterranean living. It has modern conveniences and just on the cusp of the town center. We are a three minute walk to the sea and are encompassed by mountains.

I am often asked why I chose Sitges and I find the easiest (and probably one of the most accurate) reply is to say it is my affordable coastal California living. I also say it is my Eat. Pray. Love. Reality edition. All very true.

Having experienced so much in their young lives already I decided the gentlest route of schooling would be an English-speaking school with small class sizes. My children are doing well with their adjustment of living abroad. Working through their grief is a constant but luckily I have found a lovely English speaking therapist here. Because English is so prevalent around us I do have to work hard to encourage their learning Spanish. I myself take five classes per week, and although I can navigate basic situations after 9 months of living here, I know I have a long way to go before I feel truly comfortable. Fingers crossed that in another one or two years I will be there.

karen1Not many people have an opportunity in life where they can pick up and go, set totally new roots wherever they choose – within their financial stratosphere, of course. But being widowed at 41 years old with two little boys it seemed like the best choice for us. A new place without constant reminders of what has been and what will never be. A place that provides you with daily challenges – learning a new language, new customs, new people – all fresh, all bold and all ready to be explored. This was my recipe to help me from being consumed by grief. In Spain I would have to stay present and focused much more than if I had moved to a place of familiarity.

Sometimes I think of what was supposed to be – weekends with Daddy taking the boys to their baseball games and big family gatherings full of football and a Midwest feast of snacks doused with mountains of cheese, cold beers and lots of kids playing together —and I become a little sad for my children. Things did not turn out this way, our life has headed into a completely different direction for now. I don’t know how long we will continue to live abroad – I have never put a definite on anywhere I have lived. As long as it feels right. My mother-in-law said that people sometimes ask her why I would make this unconventional decision and she tells them I did it to help me stop feeling such enormous pain. To be somewhere without constant reminders. I was surprised and touched by her very astute reply. It is true. Adventure in any form can breathe life back into it a deflated soul.

That is my experience. That is my hope.

You can read more on Karen’s blog: myyearwithoutyou.com


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