Your Ex Died, What Would You Do?
Early Christmas Eve morning I received news that an old friend, my high school sweetheart to be exact, and later my husband, had passed away. This strand of emotion, lingering dormant somewhere in time for almost 40 years was now awakened.
Christopher L. Catalano
January 7, 1954 - December 23, 2018
There are people we once loved and for whatever reason, the relationship we had with them dissolved. Call them an “Ex” or former whatever but when they pass on, they take with them your shared memories. For me, those memories were my glory days of a young taut body, youthful aspirations and ideals still free of the cynicism adult life can imbue in us. And for Chris, the accolades of a successful band that rocked across many stages with fans waiting in line to chat, just for a moment’s acknowledgement.
The band, “One Hand Clap,” was like a family, the nucleus being the band members themselves, followed by the girlfriends and wives, roadies, technicians and finally, friends. We traveled together, got lost together, kept each other awake at clubs when no one showed up, we sat through endless hours of rehearsals at a studio in Ozone Park, Queens and we dared dream of “making it”. Over time band members came and went, friends moved on and we all eventually parted as real jobs, graduations and maturity took hold. Some of these friendships, strong at their core, became lifelong, others rekindled after Facebook reconnected us.
One band member went on to stardom, Steve Stevens, famed guitarist performing with many, most notably Billy Idol. Steve posted an eloquent eulogy on his site, which drew much attention from his fans and from my friends. I wanted to join the conversation, after all we were together many years and it was my history too. My concern was that Chris’s widow, Stasia, would see these comments, so I chose to be respectful of both she and her 13-year-old son and didn’t.
Here I am in the funeral business, I’ve worked with thousands of families over the course of many years and now I’m left asking the question - Is it ever appropriate for an Ex to comment on social media or even attend a memorial service upon that person’s passing?
The hours that followed brought forth many more comments and a “Go Fund Me” account was set up for the family, now left with many bills. Chris had debilitating back issues and Stasia was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer a few years earlier. Neither had been able to work and could no longer afford life insurance. So saddened by their plight, I anonymously gave a small donation and chatted with my friend, Janet, the fund’s administrator, for possible ways to increase its funding. This didn’t go undetected by Stasia and through our mutual friend she offered her gratitude. A feeling of relief passed over me knowing that my gesture wasn’t rejected, but I never expected what happened next; she offered me her friendship.
Stasia is only at the beginning of this journey, tear streaked and frightened for the future. Now with the memorial services over, family and friends having gone back to their lives, the magnitude of grief sets in. It’s the empty chair and the quietness around the house. It’s reaching out across the bed to emptiness or digging your face into his clothing to smell his scent.
It’s a son, seeing other fathers at sporting events or down the street playing basketball one-on-one. It’s being alone to raise a boy into a man, being both mother and father to a child on the precipice of being a teenager. You see I have been there, I remarried and some years ago, became widowed with young children. Stasia and I have more in common than a shared love for the same man.
I don’t know much about the years after Chris and I parted ways, but I do know he and Stasia found that special love, you can see it in their eyes. They, along with their son, Chris, lived as we all do, hoping for brighter tomorrows.
On behalf of the Catalano Family, Please Give - A small donation when combined with other Generous minded folks can and will assist this family in need.
Regarding former partners and spouses, they may acquire the “ex” prefix but they may still be in our lives, especially if there are children and grandchildren involved. We are left in the sometimes awkward position of having to express condolences to that former spouse’s current partner in an appropriate and dignified manner. I suppose every situation is different and I ask: What etiquette advice would you offer when a former spouse or partner passes?
In memory of our fallen friends who passed too soon:
Chris Catalano, Frank Lombardo, (aka FL), John Hynes, (aka Que) and Tony Uttaro.