Trying to Believe in My Mythical and Mystical Future

I just finished watching Joe vs. the Volcano for about the sixth time. The first time I watched it, I didn’t particularly care for the film but I watched it again and again because I could not get one image out of my mind — the scene where Tom Hanks is in the middle of the ocean, floating on his makeshift raft, and dancing.

A similar scene in Talent for the Game has Lorraine Bracco and Edward James Olmos running out of gas in the middle of nowhere, turning on the radio, and dancing.

I always wished I were like that — able to live to the fullest even when things were at their worst, but I usually cry. Crying is how I relieve stress, though dancing would probably be a better choice. At least in these two movies, after dancing, the characters find what they want even if it’s not exactly what they are looking for.

Joe vs. the Volcano has since become my favorite movie. It’s beautifully written, stylish, philosophical, and fun (though I still find the island folk a bit over the top and ridiculous). The story’s basic premise seems to be: live, take a chance, see what happens. (Come to think of it, that’s more or less the same theme of Talent for the Game.)

I’ve been having a crisis of faith lately. During all these years since the death of Jeff, my life mate/soul mate, I’ve clung to the idea that great wonders are in store for me if I can just embrace life, but now that my transitional life is winding down midst conflicts and drama, I’m beginning to feel the first stirrings of worry.

When I have to leave here, I don’t want to settle down in any sort of rental somewhere, don’t want to live on the road, just don’t want to deal with any of it. I’ve known from the beginning of my stay here that the second half of my grief’s journey is still to come. The first half is away from pain and sorrow, the second half is toward . . . joy, perhaps. I am very aware that I will not be going home to Jeff. Very aware I will not even have a home base as I did here. Aware that the emptiness I have held at bay may once again take hold of me. Aware of my limited financial resources.

When I expressed such a sentiment to a friend who lost her soul mate around the same time I did, she reminded me that life works itself out in unforeseen ways — when things seem most dire, opportunity can fall out of the sky and land in our lap.

Despite my momentary lack of courage, I am trying not to worry, trying to take each conflict/trauma/drama as it comes, trying to do the best I can for everyone involved even though my best so often falls short of wisdom.

Most of all, I am trying to believe in my mythical and mystical future. If dancing can make it so, as in the movies, well . . . I am dancing.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Grief Update: Four Years and Four Months

It’s been four years and four months since Jeff — my life mate/soul mate — died. These have been rough years, first dealing with the heartbreak of his death, then dealing with the agony and the void of his being gone, now dealing with the trauma and drama of my father’s dying, my brother’s dysfunction, my sister’s presence.

I’ve shed a few tears today, but I don’t think they are for my lost love. They seem more self-pitying than that, perhaps tears of exhaustion from trying to rectify a situation I cannot settle — everyone is pushing/pulling me, and it’s impossible to resolve the matter in any way that will satisfy or even half-satisfy everyone. Despite my efforts to help, I know that there is no resolution. Even if it’s not this week, my father’s end is nigh. Even if it’s not this week, my homeless brother will be forced back onto the streets. Even if it’s not this week, my sister will still have to deal with whatever comes, as will I.

The truth is, I can barely remember my life with Jeff. It’s so far away in time, place, emotion, that his being gone seems to have no impact any more, and yet his death defines my life. If he hadn’t died, I wouldn’t be here in this house of horrors, wouldn’t have gone through unimaginable grief, wouldn’t be drifting in this transitional state, waiting for my “real” life to begin. (Silly to think that — as John Lennon supposedly said, “life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” On the other hand, it’s horrific to think that this is my life. Ouch.)

If he hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have wondered for thousands of hours in the desert. (I meant wandered, of course, but I’m leaving the typo because it is actually truer than what I’d intended to write. I did wonder as I wandered. Wondered about life, death, his current whereabouts, my future, the meaning of it all.) If he hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have made so many wonderful friends. Wouldn’t have found dance (my redemption, my joy, my life).

I miss Jeff, but it’s with the dull ache of a half-remembered dream. I know he was real — he was the most real person I ever met — and yet, though he used to be “my North, my South, my East and West, / My working week and my Sunday rest, / My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song,” he no longer has any substantial reality in my life. I talked to him when I was out walking in the desert today, but I had no feeling of connection. It was just me, the heat, the restless air, the sandy soil, the oppressive low-lying clouds, and perhaps a lizard or two.

I keep a photo of Jeff — the one photo I have — where I can see it to remind me that this was not always my life. Once I loved deeply, so deeply that I still felt shattered years after his death, so deeply that I could only scream the pain of my loss to the uncaring winds.

I still have his ashes, but one day soon I will have to figure out what to do with them. When my father is gone, I’m going to have to put my stuff in storage, and though there is nothing left of Jeff in his “cremains,” I cannot see storing them as if they were just more detritus of my life. And I still have many of Jeff’s things to dispose of, things that once I couldn’t bear to part with because he might need them. Now I know the truth — feel the truth — he will never need them. I will never be taking them home to him. I will never be going home to him. Will never talk with him again.

It’s been four years and four months and six days since Jeff and I talked. Tomorrow it will be four years and four months and seven days.

And so the days pass.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Casting Off Old Family Patterns

I’ve been crying on and off for the past few days, mourning the loss of my brother. He’s still alive, at least physically, but he is so very lost to schizophrenia, alternate personalities, alcoholism or some combination of all three, that it seems as if he is gone forever.

I remember him as a bright twelve-year-old — bright as in joyous, bright as in super intelligent, bright as in the favored child, bright as in open-faced, eagerly awaiting all life had in store for him. Family stories indicate I idolized him, but that was so long ago, I can barely remember anything but being wary of the angry, frightened, intolerant, relentless, bellowing man he has become. To most of my siblings, the neighbors, even the cops who have come to the house, he is, at best, a nuisance and at worst, an animal.

And yet, whatever he has become, he is still a human being.

In June, Robert Wilkinson wrote about the retrograde Mercury: Some will see what contributes to hesitation or insecurity about a life corner that’s already been turned, preparing to reshape their expression before moving forward boldly in July. Others will take a look back, say goodbye, and cast off the old family patterns forever. This can give us a new look at fluid ways of moving with life energies.

The major unresolved family pattern in my life is that of my father, older brother, and me. Those two shaped my adolescence and early adulthood with their fighting and the inability of both to ever see any side but their own. Both used my love as a rope in their tug of war, and it was only when I met Jeff, my life mate/soul mate, that the pattern changed. But not forever. When he died, I went to look after my then 93-year-old father in an effort to restore the Karma of my early life, and fourteen months ago, my brother showed up. And the pattern repeated itself, with each using me as the rope in their tug of war.

Perhaps neither of them could help what they became, but I hoped I could change the pattern of our relationship. My father kicked my brother out of the house when he was a teenager, and when he again wanted to kick him out last year because of some innocuous offense, I counseled against it. And yet, as soon as I left the house that day to run errands, our father tricked his son into leaving and locked him out.

Such patterns seem impossible to change, but a week ago, my sister came to help take care of our father and perhaps to do what she can to help relocate my brother. This constitutes a major shift in our dysfunctional threesome.

I seem to feel the change more than anyone, weeping at what might have been, never was, and never will be. I know now that whatever I hoped out of this insane living situation will never come to pass. My brother will never again be as bright as the youngster I once knew, nor will he ever be the adventurer he was as a young man, where the whole world was his backyard. And my father will never be anything but what he is.

It is I who will have to change, and weeping, apparently, is how I process change. I always hoped that when my responsibilities here were finished, that those patterns of the past would no longer haunt me, but I expected it to be a joyful change. I suppose at some point, when I am truly free, the joy will irrupt, but for now, all I can do is cry for the loss of that bright, sane older brother, and a wise father who could fix anything, even himself.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Nomadic Women

There are so many women in my grief age group — those who lost their mates around the same time mine did — who are starting nomadic adventures, or who dream of starting them, that it makes me wonder how many of us rootless women there are roaming the world.

Richard Grant, author of American Nomads: Travels with Lost Conquistadors, Mountain Men, Cowboys, Indians, Hoboes, Truckers and Bullriders, estimates that 500,000 people travel the US without a permanent home. (Others estimate there are over a million nomadic Americans.) To be honest, I wouldn’t include people who travel around in $300,000 motors homes as “nomads.” They might not have a fixed address, but they do have a home, and a luxurious one at that. They just take it with them. Still, the nomadic life appeals to people at both ends of the financial spectrum, some because they have the means to live on permanent vacation, and others because they can’t afford any other lifestyle, so I shouldn’t judge on the basis of income.

A good percentage of modern American nomads are women. Some women simply want to see the world, so become rootless by choice. Other women started out looking for a different life after a divorce, a death, or other loss uprooted them, and so ended up traveling the world. (Being nomadic must be a popular obsession — not only is it a designer brand, there is even a perfume named “Urban Nomads.”)

It seems to me women are the ones who become nomadic after the death of a partner. Men generally stay put, and often remarry quite quickly. (This is entirely anecdotal, of course, gleaned from my interactions with other bereft, but the Census Bureau does estimate that 10 times as many widowers as widows over 65 remarry, though there are fewer older men than older women. And there are fewer widowers than widows. I couldn’t find remarriage statistics for younger people, or those in their late fifties and early sixties.)clean

Oddly, it seems that traditionally men were the cave dwellers while women roamed about, making me wonder if this male “cave” instinct, more than a need to be taken care of, is the impetus for widowers to remarry. By the same token, a nomadic instinct could be what takes grieving women out of the nest, leads us to adventure, and maybe helps us find a new life.

I have no interest in being a nomadic RV dweller. The upkeep alone seems more trouble than it’s worth, though I can understand the pull — wherever you are, you are home. To be honest, I don’t really have an interest in being any kind of nomad, but I have no inclination to settle down, either. For one thing, I wouldn’t know where to settle or why to settle there — without my life mate/soul mate, one place is the same as another. For another thing, settling seems too much like stagnation. It’s entirely possible that by the time I’m free of responsibilities, I will also be free of my disinterest in settling down, but I doubt it. It will be so much easier to put my stuff in storage and hop in the car or start walking, than to find an acceptable apartment somewhere in the country, move all my stuff into it, set up the utilities, get my computer connected, change addresses, and all the other necessities of moving. Nope. Too much trouble.

Either way, whether I take to the road or settle down, I’ll still be rootless. My life mate/soul mate was my home, and with him gone, the only home I have is whatever home I can find within.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Four Years and Two Months of Grief

In two days it will be four years and two months since Jeff — my life mate/soul mate — died, and even now I can feel the effects of his goneness. I still have occasional grief surges that bring a quiet bout of tears and a great yearning to see him once more. Chances are, I will have will have such upsurges for the rest of my life, though perhaps at a continually diminishing rate.

I keep busy, so I’m not subjected as often to the desperate loneliness and aloneness that plagued me for the first three and a half years of my grief, but holiday weekends, when everyone else is involved with family, brings the loneliness home to me. (I’m not strictly alone, but my 97-year-old father is involved with his personal end-of-life rituals, and my dysfunctional brother is . . . well, let’s just say I am much better off when he leaves me alone. Neither man sees me as real, so although I am not strictly alone, I am actually more alone than if I were truly alone.) Sometimes I wish I had someone for my own, but I’m desert knollsnot interested in getting involved. Not only is it too soon for another connection, but a connection would pull at me, keeping me from doing what I want/need to do — whatever that might be. So I deal with the loneliness as best as I can.

For thirty-four years, I was connected to another human being on such a profound level that when he died, it felt as if half of me went with him, as if I were straddling the line between here and eternity. I don’t feel the nearness of eternity any more, don’t feel the awesome gap between life and death — in that respect, my life has gone back to “normal.” But even after all this time, something in me yawns wide and cries out to be filled. Sometimes I try to fill the emptiness with physical activity. Sometimes I try to fill it with chocolate and other treats. Sometimes I try to fill it with reaching out to others. But it is always there, an itch beneath the surface of my consciousness.

Despite Jeff’s absence, despite my brother’s presence, I am happier than I ever thought possible, and yet . . . Jeff is still gone. Still dead. Still, strangely, a part of my life.

I went walking in the desert today. I haven’t been out there for a while, keeping my ambulation more as a means of transportation than recreation, but it felt right. I used to talk to him in the desert, used to feel close to him in the vastness the open land, used to show him the steps and positions I learned in my various exercise classes, but today I just walked. Felt the ground beneath my shoes, felt the heat on my shoulders. Just . . . felt.

(I did ask Jeff if he’d watch over me when I took my epic walk, but he didn’t respond.)

I know he couldn’t have stayed. I know I couldn’t have gone with him (except for the part of me that died when he did). I know I’ve had and will continue to have many adventures I never could have had if we were still together. I know, though I seldom admit it, that when I am finished with my responsibilities here and head out on my own, my life will be better without him and the demands of his illness.

And yet. And yet . . .

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Grief’s Strange Blessing

We think we know who/what we are, but that image of ourselves is often at odds with what other people think. For example, if I disagree with some people, they call me negative. If I say no when someone asks me to do something, I risk being called contrary. If I want to do things my own way, I’m accused of being manipulative. If I try to set boundaries, I am called a vindictive, vengeful bitch.

Actually, only one person in my life ever dared called me a bitch. If anyone else did, he would not be in my life. It’s not that I want such a person in my life, of course, but my father allows my homeless brother to camp out in the garage, and it is my father’s house. (I don’t want to get into the morality of the situation, or how I am “enabling” my brother by not calling the cops, or how I should leave and let my 97-year-old father fend for himself. I’ve heard it all before, and anyway, that’s not what this post is about.)

When you live with someone with mental problems who insists that it is you who are out of touch with reality, it’s even harder at times to know the truth. Perhaps I am vindictive and vengeful as he says. Perhaps I’m negative, manipulative, and contrary as others say. I don’t think I am, but if I were, would I know?

A friend’s mother is going blind. One day this friend wore a pair of mismatched socks (they were part of a fun set of puposely mismatched socks, not mismatched by accident). The mother looked at the one purple sock and the one pink sock and said, “I love your red sSayingocks.” No amount of talking could convince the woman the socks were anything but a matched pair of red socks. It’s what she saw, and since she believed her eyes, what she saw must be the truth. And in a way, it was the truth — her truth. She did see red socks even though everyone else saw pink and purple.

Besides all the other nastiness my brother spews, he claims I have a dissociative personality disorder. If I did, would I know? I think I would — there should be gaps in memory, strange looks from friends, questions about things I have said — but my brother is the only one who insists I said things I don’t remember saying, who says I did things I don’t remember doing.

There was a time in my younger years where I would have worried about the truth of his allegations because I did feel unbalanced, as if one mental step to either side would send me over a cliff to insanity, but now I know the truth. I am sane. (It’s possible, of course, we are all insane, that life is a form of insanity, but that’s a path I don’t want to explore.)

So, what gives me the confidence to believe I am sane when others allege the opposite? The profound grief I experienced after the death of my life mate/soul mate.

Grief is a totally insane situation, with hormones of all kinds on overdrive, brain chemistry out of whack, emotions out of control, pain so deep it makes it impossible to breathe, tears that flow like open faucets without your volition, dizziness and nausea and a loss of equilibrium that make the world seem totally alien. And yet, somehow, through it all, I could feel the truth of grief, that whatever I experienced was normal. It’s this belief in the normality of grief’s insanity that gave me the courage to write about grief and connect with others going through the same thing. It’s what gave me the ability to explain grief to my fellow bereft, and to assure them that despite what they were feeling, they were not crazy.

And neither was I.

Grief brings strange blessings, and this was my blessing, the thing that is now helping me through a bizarre situation — the utter belief in my sanity.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Lilacs For Remembrance

Long before Ophelia begged Laertes, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember,” mourners would throw rosemary into graves as a symbol of remembrance.

Rosemary doesn’t mean much to me. It’s not an herb I like, nor is it a plant that has any association for me, though there is a humongous rosemary bush outside my father’s house that was once a potted rosemary Christmas tree. (Until I saw the bush and heard the story of its origin, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a rosemary Christmas tree.)

LilacsTo me, lilacs are for remembrance. I grew up in a large family with a scraggly yard. Except for occasionally mowing the lawn, no one bothered much with keeping the yard nice, though when I was in second grade, I was allowed to grow a small garden. (“Grow” is a misnomer. I planted sweet Williams, and one or two flowers even came up despite my massive neglect.) Surprisingly, a lilac bush thrived in a corner of that unkempt yard. Though no one ever took care of it, never even watered it, it managed to bring forth gorgeous and gorgeous-smelling blossoms every spring. Truly a miraculous plant.

Many years later, my now deceased life mate and I transplanted an unruly lilac bush that blocked a gate. We ended up with dozens of plants, enough to surround the whole property. Apparently there were plenty of live roots left because eventually the original bush grew to be as large as it was before we’d massacred it. Western Colorado is often visited by late frosts, so we didn’t always have lilac blossoms, but the spring before he died, the entire place was wreathed by luscious blooms, a luxury he once could only dream of.

A year after he died, I was Blindsided by Lilacs. I’d come to a desert community to look after my aged father. The vegetation was completely different from anything I was familiar with, so there were no scent memories. Then one April day, when I was walking down the street, the smell of lilacs wafted toward me from an empty lot. Instantly, I was back in full grief mode, unable to stop crying for days. Today, I felt sad and needed to feel close to him, so when I passed that still empty lot, I went to inhale the blossoms and think of him.

I’d never put flowers by his photo, not wanting it to seem like a shrine, but today I picked a sprig of lilac and brought it back for him.

Sitting here now, I can smell that lovely fragrance, and I remember.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Everything Happens for the Best?

A couple of days ago I wrote about an item I lost. Although the item lost was relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of life and death, it reminded me of a loss that was important — the loss of Jeff, my life mate/soul mate — and I was swept by a huge upsurge of grief. This was just a few days before the fourth anniversary of his death, so everything that happened that day took on a greater meaning than it might otherwise have done.

ripplesAlthough I can never replace him, I was able to make a replacement for the lost item. The replacement wasn’t as ornate or as perfect as the first one, but as it turns out, it actually worked better for my purpose. So perhaps it was best that I lost the item.

My father is fond of saying, “Everything happens for the best,” which has always made my teeth grate because I don’t believe that things really do happen for the best. In books, everything does happen for the best, whether good or bad. That is the point of writing — to make sense of senseless happenings. There has to be a lesson to be gleaned from the story events — perhaps character growth or a fitting resolution. If the story events happened without reason, the way things happen in life, readers would throw the book across the room and never pick up another one.

Oddly enough, our brains do that same work for us. When a tragedy has passed and we have come to terms with it, when we have found a way to live despite the pain life dishes out, we often look back and think, “Everything did happen for the best,” though the truth is that we made the best of what happened. But what if my father is right? What if things do happen for the best? What if it was best that Jeff died, best for both of us? (Well, it was best — he couldn’t have continued to live with such pain and debility, but was it best he got sick?) I don’t know the answer, of course, since I am not privy to the inner workings of the universe, but the whole lost item/replaced item lesson seemed a bit pointed considering the nearness to the anniversary.

Maybe the universe really is unfolding as it should (assuming the universe is made up of shoulds rather than coulds). Once a very long time ago, I believed Jeff was a being of light — a cosmic teacher — come to accompany me on my journey to truth. (He really was radiant when I first met him, long before ill health became a way of life, which made the conceit seem reasonable.) At the end of his life, he used to give me all sorts of unwanted advice, and when I would bristle, he’d say, “I won’t always be here to teach you.” Obviously, I don’t know the truth of why he was here or why he left, but maybe he had taken me as far as he could and went back whence he came. (This idea seems a bit far fetched when I remember the pain he went through. What makes the idea even more bizarre is that I’m not sure how much of our consciousness survives. Maybe we simply become subsumed back into the whole.)

In the end, it doesn’t matter if everything happens for the best or not. Things happen, and we deal with them the best we can. There’s not much else we can do.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Fourth Anniversary of Grief

It’s very windy today, with gusts up to 40mph, but the sun is shining through the clouds.

And so begins my fifth year of grief.

Four years ago today, my life mate/soul mate died without a sound, not even so much as a whimper. His Adam’s apple bobbed once, twice, and then he was gone.

100_1807aThe world is poorer because of his absence. I am poorer. He was the best person I ever knew, kind and helpful to all, not just those who were close to him. (In fact, it was his unfailing kindness to others that cemented my love for him.) He was smart and wise and witty. He was exceedingly knowledgeable about many things — movies, music, mobsters, history, humans, health. It always seemed odd to people that someone so interested in health had physical problems, but his lack of good health is what made him interested in how the body worked and what could be done to make it work even better. He believed in self-discipline and, even at the end, despite pain and debility, he strived to learn, to be better, stronger, wiser.

I’ve gone through a couple of days of sorrow and tears as I neared this anniversary, and I’m glad I did. I seldom cry any more — in fact, I didn’t even know there were tears left in me — and oddly, I miss the tears. Tears kept me connected to him in a way nothing else has since he departed this earth. Besides, he deserves my sorrow now and again. I don’t want to live blithely without a thought for him and what he meant to me.

As always, once the time of his death passed (12:50a.m. MDT), I started to regain my equilibrium. I miss him, but the reality is that as much as I hate it, he isn’t here.

And I am.

Many of my grief mates (those who lost their mates within a few months of when I did) still have relationships with their deceased spouses. Their belief in the continued survival of their soul mates is so strong, they know without a doubt they are still connected; some people can even feel the connection. Others have moved into new relationships. While I . . . I do the best I can on my own, taking each step as it comes, trying not to cling to the past, trying not to fear the future.

And I strive to learn, to be better, stronger, wiser.

It’s what he always did, and I can do no less.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Terrible Anniversaries of Grief

I always dread the terrible anniversaries of grief, and this up-coming fourth anniversary is no exception. I don’t dread the pain of the day — I have learned that the days of remembrance are easy; the hard part is the grief that visits us beforehand. What I dread even more now than grief’s presence is its absence because the lack of sorrow seems to diminish him from my life even more. Once I was loved. Once I loved greatly. But “once” isn’t much to build a life on.

And so it goes . . . this awful and awe-filled journey we call grief.

In a strange sort of way, I feel lucky that I don’t have to dread grief’s absence today. I was upset over a lost item yesterday, and to console myself, I reminded myself that it wasn’t much in the grand scheme of life and death. And that, of course, reminded me of the loss of my deceased life mate/soul mate, and I couldn’t stop crying.

speedBy now, I’m used to his being gone, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the enormity of death. He isn’t just gone from me, perhaps enjoying a new love or new life thousands of miles from here. He is gone from this earth, so far away I can’t even fathom the distance. The earth hurtles around the sun at 67,000 mph. The sun hurtles around the galaxy at 140 miles per second. The entire universe is also moving and expanding, so today we are a very long way from where we were when he died. (Considering only the speed of the earth, he died 2,349,221,000 miles ago.)

I too am a long way away from where I was when he died. In blog post after blog post during those first couple of years, I remarked that I hadn’t changed at all — it seemed to me that having gone through such a devastating loss, I should have grown stronger or kinder or wiser or changed in some fundamental way. I don’t know about wiser, but I do know I am vastly different from the woman who watched a man slowly die, who wanted the suffering to end, yet whose love was so ineffectual she couldn’t make him well or take away a single moment of his pain. That woman who still felt so broken months after his death. That woman who screamed the pain of her loss to the winds.

Oddly, I didn’t expect to feel any upsurge of sadness this anniversary. It has been four years, and I don’t think about him much any more. If thoughts of him come to me, I don’t hold tightly to them as I used to do, but let them drift away again. If the thoughts brought me closer to him, of course I’d hold on tightly, just as I’d hold him if he showed up on the doorstep.

But the sad truth is (or maybe it’s not a sad truth, maybe it’s a glorious truth), life does go on. The hole he left in my life is gradually closing, as is the hole he left here on earth. And when I am gone, there will be no one left alive who remembers him.

I bought a bottle of sparkling apple-cranberry juice to wash away my sorrows (hard drinker that I am!), but maybe I’ll use it instead to toast his life, and mine.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

 

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