mending while bending

The Man that Came After

44691_206199182855689_1316067552_n (1).jpg44691_206199182855689_1316067552_n (1).jpgYou were not in the plan.

My story did not write the way I penned it.

I penned happily ever after. I penned the fairytale ending with the same man I married at 27 in a seaside chapel on the Big Island of Hawaii.

I penned one man, one love, and one life.

My pen stopped working at 36, and I was forced to re-write my story in the middle. My story up to that point had been a best-selling novel of love and adventure and ended in a sad and tragic way.

Best sellers often do.

You weren’t supposed to die when our babies could barely walk. You weren’t supposed to leave us alone on this earth to find our way without you.

You did.

I know you didn’t want to go. I know you didn’t choose to go. I imagine your last thoughts in your earthly shell were of us.

The soul within my earthly shell still thinks of you.

I never wanted more. I never expected more. Continuing the story didn’t seem possible or even tolerable. I had my fairytale – it just ended too soon.

In the time after death, I found my true self. Grieving makes you stop and take stock of who you’ve been, who you are, and who you want to be. I slowed down; I listened to my voice, and I found my way. It’s quiet after death in the wee hours of the night when you can’t sleep and your heartaches from not being able to speak the words you desperately wish you that you could. The shadows dance and your mind will begin to stretch as your spirit grows.

You can still live this life – a strange thought rife with potential, fear, and unknowing.

The moment came where I felt ready to move forward towards the life I wanted for my remaining days. That didn’t have to include anyone other than my babies and myself – for the first time in a long time I was ready to write my story alone.

Enter you – the man that came after.

You stepped into my novel in a slow and gentle manner. You showed grace towards my grief. You were patient with my uncertainty. You showed a quiet understanding, ability to listen, and allowed for space where it was necessary.

You are not him and for that I’m thankful.

You are your own amazing self and we are creating our own amazing story.

What was had is not what will be, and the fairytale is not in the ending of the story but rather the journey of the story itself.

It can’t be easy to be the man that came after.

I want you to know I don’t wish things were different. I want you to know that I want you in our story. I want you to know that as difficult as life has been – every day with you tops my grateful list.

I want you to know that when you kiss me, I blush and when you text me to say, “I love you beautiful” my heart smiles.

People like to compare relationships and make the person that came after feel less than.

You aren’t in my life because he died. You are in my life because it is your place to be. You are in my life because I made room for you and you made room for me.

There are no ifs in this life worth talking about.

I’ve picked up the pen and continued to write with an intense fervor and fire. The man that came before made me better able to love the man that came after. Life’s been a journey, I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret, but I know that as I continue to write my story, it will only be as beautiful as I allow it to be.

To say I never think of the man that came before is foolish. Once you love someone, they stay with you forever as a piece of your soul. To say those thoughts betray the man that came after is equally foolish. I spend every day writing new adventures, chapters, and creating new memories with this man I chose.

The human spirit is capable of immense love.

You don’t replace the man that came before with the man that came after. You absorb the love, the lessons, and you morph into a deeper soul capable of abundant love and a special perspective.

Love is not mutually exclusive and human beings are not replaceable. I’m not moving on – I’m moving forward. I’m writing beautiful new chapters with a man who has the emotional capacity and understanding to be the man that came after.

No place I’d rather be.


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Michelle Steinke-Baumgard is an author for numerous publications, international motivational speaker, fitness coach, mother and a re-married widow. After losing her husband Mitch in 2009, she turned to exercise as an outlet for grief and a way to handle stress. Michelle found it so powerful that she eventually quit her corporate job to become a fitness trainer. Since then Michelle has been featured in Fitness Magazine, Shape Magazine, contributed to articles for Prevention Magazine, The Huffington Post, and countless other media outlets. In addition to her virtual training business, Michelle recently launched her nonprofit focused on helping widows and widowers complete bucket list dreams to honor their late spouse while moving boldly into their future. You can find out more about Michelle’s training programs at 1fw Membership Options. Michelle is currently working on her first book for HarperCollins that is expected to be released in early 2017.

For more information on the nonprofit, please visit: Live the List Nonprofit