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A Widow Talks of Love, Loss and Remembrance

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Here we are a year later. Slowly, we've returned to our routines. Some folks are just emerging from their sorrow and have adopted new routines. We've started down the road to recovery. One chestnut says that time heals all wounds, and clearly it has not been long enough for some to have healed. And how can we judge how long suffering lasts? This year I am postponing my birthday in remembrance of the tragedy we suffered. As tribute, ESSENCE.com features Voices -- first-person stories from those who have struggled in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. We hear how they are coping and their hope for the future. We hear from a woman who lost her husband, a firefighter who lost her colleagues. And from a Muslim correction officer who created a group to help promote understanding of Muslims and their culture. We hope that these Voices can help you find the strength to heal.
—- Ingrid Sturgis, Editor

 

I see men with their daughters in the park and I'm so angry. I can't even describe it to you. I'd sacrifice my relationship with my husband if my daughters could have him here, with them again. I would say "okay" as long as my children could have him. I think that it's so unfair that my two African-American girls have to be raised in this world that is already so filled with Daddy Hunger. And I can't tell you how sad, and upset and angry I am that I am a single black woman in America trying to raise my children by myself through no fault of my own. I can't tell you how angry it makes me.

August 14 would have been our four-year anniversary. I didn't celebrate. It was a normal day for me. No one talked about it, and no one called. I went to bed early and wished my husband, who died in the World Trade Center attacks, a happy anniversary in my prayers. I was devastated [by the events of Sept. 11] that I had to raise a baby by myself and was about to have another one--by myself. I still consider myself in mourning.

I keep my husband's memory alive in a lot of different ways. I talk about him often to my children, I keep photos of him around the house and we pray to him every night. I know it sounds crazy, but I still haven't cleaned out his closet yet. I've saved every card, letter, email and every voicemail and I plan to keep them in a September 11th Love Trunk for my girls. So throughout their lives they can have this and know that their dad was loved. More than one thousand people showed up for his memorial service. My husband was very well loved. He was one of the most well-loved people that I know. He touched so many people.

Ever since September 11, I try to take life day by day. I feel like my life is running ahead of me and I'm trying to hold on to the reins and act as if things are still the way they used to be. It's unrealistic, I know.

I'm starting to feel like it's all unraveling, because I'm trying to do too much. I never really had an opportunity to take a moment for myself. I had a baby a month after the tragedy, I was dealing with that and my two-year-old, and trying to run a household without my husband--trying to survive and pay the bills. And then to think about my career?

I'm an actress and I've always worked…and pursued it fiercely. I've been on auditions and I've been working--TV, film, theater, everything. But with my children, it's really hard to focus on an audition and the kind of attention that's required. So much of what I do requires that I keep my looks up, stay in shape, and that's a full-time job. It's difficult to split the focus between my children and my career and have a personal life, which I don't have much of right now. I've been auditioning for the past month and nothing has really been happening and I think it's because I can't really focus like I should. The industry has been really sensitive to my situation. But most of the opportunities I've been offered aren't practical for my life right now. I can't just pick up and move to California or Toronto for a job with two small babies. I just can't take it on.

My career is a big part of my identity. When I got married that shifted, but it was still very important for me. It was a priority and my husband loved what I did for a living. But for the first time in my life, my career is something that I'm thinking of putting on hold for my daughters--who my husband named-Celia Rose Gray, 2, and Zaya Chanze, 10 months. I feel they need me. I'm only in my mid-thirties, but I'm thinking about taking a break for the first time in my life.

My days are very full now. My two small children keep me from sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I do have my days though.

When my husband was alive, we were thinking about moving back to California. That's where we were living when we got engaged. I'm looking to buy a home here now so we can be near his family. They live in Queens. This way, my girls can at least grow up with his spirit through his family.

I've always been taught that you reap what you sow. God is going to protect you and your family, and that everything is going to be all right if you live right and believe in Jesus. I've always lived by that. But…you never know what can happen. Live each day the best you can because nothing is promised.

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