When Roni Meyer saw her husband Ken and 13 year old son Jeremy off on their Poughkeepsie, New York hiking expedition, she never imagined how much her life was about to change. It was 1994. One moment her family was a harmonious whole, and then it wasn’t. She received a phone call. The gravel had given way under Ken’s feet on a cliff and he fell, landing next to Jeremy. He died instantly.
“I saw him. I was shocked, frozen, like a glacier,” recalls Roni of her arrival at the hospital. “You lose your best friend, confidant and you’re all alone. It felt horrible, frightening.”
She became a transcendentalist, which was the beginning of a spiritual way of being for her. “I see beauty and love in nature, the water, rain, trees, insects and animals. I love those things. The earth is very holy. I’m very spiritual but not very religious. I always thought of myself as a spiritualist but not a believer in God. But I believe in Spirit in nature. And I believe in love. That’s what it’s all about.”
As an English teacher at South Kingstown High School in Rhode Island for 28 years, she was all about the written word. She read voraciously about people who had experienced loss, and was particularly influenced by C.S. Lewis and his words, “Grief is like the sky- it covers everything.” “He knew the truth,” said Roni. “My world went from, ”is” to “was.” State of being verbs became everything.”
The first year after Ken’s accident, she describes herself as frozen and then thawing as she began to write, a process that really helped her to get through the most difficult of times. She wrote an allegory, making Ken a mountain and she was a butterfly. Their relationship continued in a literary way. Even in her writing she didn’t want him to be a memory. After six months, her father told her to “just get over it.”
“I wanted him to be real. I fought to keep him in the present. Even today, I can’t let go of him all the way.” Ken taught chemistry at University of Rhode Island and was researching the different genetic codes in DNA using lasers. “He was intelligent and a woman’s man,” said Roni. “He was raised by women and by a gentle grandfather. He was gentle, loving and understanding, and he understood women.”
Roni went through a lot within two years after Ken died. Her daughter, Michelle, was diagnosed with stage four Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and her son Jeremy nearly died of a staff infection.
“This showed me how our quality of life can change. It was a powerful lesson. I never wanted to get married again. But I realized I needed someone to hold me in the night. I decided I didn’t want to do this life alone. ”
Her resolve never to remarry was broken when Richard Medeiros came into her life. They married in 2004 and she believes that her wonderful first marriage of 23 years has taught her how to have a wonderful second marriage. She appreciates the friendship and companionship of her new marriage and the joyful things she and Richard share together.
But her decision to remarry was also a decision to survive. One of the best things she admits doing for herself was finding a grief counselor. She had spent a good deal of time taking care of her children after the loss of their father; she thought getting married would give her kids permission not to worry about her.
Two years after Ken died, in 1996 she wrote a renewal of their wedding vows and she realized she had finally accepted his death. “It is a piece I’m really proud of. He would have loved it. It shows how much I loved him. We cherished each other. And I miss him every day.”
“The pain made me write. It was a way to release the pain so it wouldn’t be stored in my body. Pain paralyzes you.”
Roni, who is 65 now, is no longer paralyzed. She does admit to still trying to find herself and to find meaning in her retirement. Today, some 20 years after Ken’s passing, Roni has taken her survival instinct and is thriving. She enjoys friends and family, traveling and continues writing, not to publish, but for the joy of it. She works together with her grandchildren on books that create lasting memories of their time together. She particularly enjoys writing poetry that comes from the heart and pours out in its own time.
“I love poetry because it’s so concise, succinct. It cuts to the truth. Not too wordy but very, very freeing.”
by Roni Meyer-Force
Today I come to your grave
I promise to taste your lips
I promise to see your face
I promise to hear your voice
I promise to smell your hands
I promise to know your intellect
I seal these vows with a taste
As one with the water,