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.

 

Small Losses and Great Losses

I lost something today. It wasn’t important in the grand scheme of life and death, but it was important to me. It made me feel good, for one thing, and it was perfect, for another. I can cobble together a replacement, but I will never find the joy that I did in the original item. It was a symbol, in a way, of my struggles to create a new life for myself, and now . . . well, now the symbol is gone. But only the symbol. My new life is still here. I am still here.

In two days, it will be the fourth anniversary of the death of my life mate/soul mate. The fourth anniversary of my new birth. I’ve come a long way in those years, so much so that I’m not sure the woman I was would recognize the woman I am today, but the inexplicable loss of this symbol reminded me of that other loss, the most important one I ever experienced, and I can’t stop crying. I haven’t cried for him in a long time. When I think of him, I don’t try to hold on to the thoughts as I have in the past. I just let them drift away. But today, when I felt that sick sinking feeling of an inexplicable loss, I was reminded once again that he is gone.

Sometimes it feels as if he’s been gone for decades, yet in some respects, his being gone is still very new. My plans, my thoughts, my dreams continue to be tinted through the dark glass of his goneness. Someday, as he recedes even further from me, the influence of his absence will wane. Or perhaps not. The truth is, it’s his death that inspires my life. He faced the end so courageously, I can only face my life with as much courage. In a strange sort of way, his death set us both free, he from pain, and me from being tied to an invalid (which he would have hated — he always told me that if he ever became incapacitated, I was to walk away. But I couldn’t). A small life, a life of not much, a life of not trying new things would dishonor that act of freedom.

I no longer expect him to call and tell me it’s time to come home, as I did for the first couple of years after he died. I no longer feel his vast goneness from my life, yet I always miss him. I’ve stepped back from the abyss of death, back into a celebration of life. I’m adding so much to my life — friends, excursions, dance — that I feel silly at times for still yearning for one more smile from him. I guess if I want smiles, I’ll have to generate them myself.

And I will. Just not tonight.

***

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.

Excerpt From “Grief: The Great Yearning” — Day 359

GTGYthmbI’ve come a long way in the three years since I wrote the following journal entry.  I still don’t understand the point of it all, but the questions don’t haunt me quite as much as they did during the first years after Jeff’s death.  I’m learning to live without him, learning even to want to live without him. Sometimes I see his death as freeing us — me — from the horrors of his dying, and I don’t want to waste the sacrifice he made.

I no longer feel as if I am squandering time when I am doing trivial things because I have come to realize there are no trivialities. Everything we do is living, taking part in the great panoply of life. Whatever we do adds to the Eternal Everything.

I still yearn to talk to Jeff, of course. I miss talking to him, miss his insights, miss the conversation that began the day we met and continued for decades until he got too sick to hold up his end of the dialogue. I was truly blessed. He never misunderstood what I said. I could make a simple comment to him, and he understood it was a simple comment. He didn’t make a big issue out of it, just answered back appropriately. It seems now every remark I make to anyone becomes a major deal as I try to explain over and over again what I meant by the first remark. It’s exhausting.

I’m  grateful we met and had so many years together. Grateful for all the words we spoke to each other. Grateful I once had someone to love. Grateful that when my time comes to die, he won’t be here to see me suffer. Grateful he won’t have to grieve for me or be tormented by unaswerable questions.

Excerpt from Grief: The Great Yearning

Day 359, Dear Jeff,

I never felt as if I were wasting time no matter what you and I did—even something trivial like playing a game or watching a movie — so why do I feel I’m wasting time if I do those things alone? Don’t I have just as much worth now that I’m alone as I did when I was with you?

When I was out walking in the desert yesterday, I talked to you. You didn’t answer, of course, or if you did, I didn’t hear. We talked about meaninglessness. If you still exist somewhere, if you still have being, if life doesn’t end with death, then life has an inherent meaning — whatever I do or think or feel, no matter how trivial, has meaning because it adds to the Eternal Everything. If death brings nothing but oblivion, then there is no intrinsic meaning to life. So a search for meaning is meaningless (except on a practical level. We all need to feel we are doing something meaningful so we can get through our days and even thrive). Life either has meaning or it doesn’t. Meaning isn’t something to find but to be. So, I’m going to search for meaninglessness, or at least accept it.

Such thoughts seem as meaningless and as trivial as the rest of life. They get me knowhere. (I’m leaving that error, because . . . wow! So perfect!)

I’ve been watching your Boston Legal tapes again. Nicely meaningless since they put me to sleep. But they make me feel connected to you because we watched them a year ago during your last days at home.

This first year of your being dead is coming to an end, and I still don’t know how to survive the pain of your being gone, but I am surviving. Not thriving, not yet, but I will. There’s still so much to work through — all those years of your being ill, our unhappiness, our shattered dreams. Despite all the bad, we did have a good life, a fulfilling one. We journeyed together as long as we could, now it’s up to me to continue our journey alone. Will it continue to be “our” journey or will it become mine alone? I know who I was when I was with you. Now I need to find out who I am without you. To find worth in being alone.

Adios, compadre. I love you.

Click here to find out more about Grief: The Great Yearning

***

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.

Escaping the Cage

I have always been a highly civilized person. For the most part, I am considerate of others. I am never intentionally rude or bad mannered or insulting. I am not uncouth. I don’t make scenes in public (or private, for that matter). I seldom raise my voice. I listen more than I talk. I dress modestly. I use correct English and am not given to crudeties or foul language. If it’s in my power and nature, I almost always do what others ask. I try to be helpful. In other words, I am tame.

Wheprisonn I was young, a lot of this tameness came from being fearful of doing the wrong thing. I grew up in a shifting emotional atmosphere where from one minute to the next, I didn’t know how I would be treated, so I did the only thing I could — be a good girl. I obeyed. I never talked back. I keep my rebellious thoughts to myself. I did what was expected of me, often before such expectations were even expressed.

As an adult, I continued to be tame. I seemed to know instinctively that any fierce disagreement would only lead to fiercer disagreements, escalating until one of the parties killed the other. Of course, such hostilities generally don’t end in death because somewhere along the line, one of the combatants gives in. Since I knew that in any conflict I would be the one to give in, I never took up the battle in the first place. If I were going to give in, I figured I might as well do so before any damage was done.

I’m still tame, of course. By now it’s not just a habit, it’s who I am. Kind. Conciliatory. Even-tempered. I do experience anger once in a very great while, but those infrequent outbursts flare up quickly and die just as quickly.

Still . . .

There is a untamed side to me — an inner savage, a wild woman, a primitive and elemental being — that I get glimpses of once in a while. I first noticed this untameness when grief descended on me with the all the power of Thor’s hammer. I had no idea I was capable of such feral emotions. Even if I had wanted to, I could not have controlled my grief as I had always controlled my emotions. Grief came in an instant then grew and grew until there was so much pain I wanted to scream. And so I did. Mild-mannered me, tame me, good girl me screamed my agony to the winds.

For the past four years, ever since the death of my life mate/soul mate, I’ve been feeling an itch for “more.” I have never known what this undefined “more” is, but I’m getting an inkling that it is my wild side. I’m not sure how to unleash the wildness, though. Perhaps just by being aware of my connection to the earth. Perhaps by letting the winds take me where they wish. Perhaps by being spontaneous.

As John O’Donohue wrote in Aman Cara, “To be spontaneous is to escape the cage of the ego by trusting that which is beyond the self.”

To escape the cage. To be wild.

Oh, yes.

***

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.

Challenges of the Fourth Year of Grief

The challenges we face during the first year after the death of a life mate/soul mate (or any other significant person in our lives who connects us to the world), are too great to enumerate. It’s all we can do to cope with the seemingly endless chores of laying our beloved to rest while dealing with the emotional shock, the physical pain, the psychological affront that are our constant companions. Sometimes the first anniversary of his death is one of peace when we realize that we managed to survive the worst year of our life, but then we wake up to the second year and find a whole other set of challenges to meet.

The five main challenges we face during the second year after the death of a life mate/soul mate are:

1. Trying to understand where he went.
2. Living without him
3. Dealing with continued grief bursts.
4. Finding something to look forward to rather than simply existing.
5. Handling the yearning.

There are other challenges, of course, some unique to each individual, but all the challenges are dealt with the same way: by continuing to feel the pain when it erupts rather than turning away from it to satisfy the concerns of those who don’t understand; by taking care of ourselves even when we don’t see the point; by trying new things.

In other words, we meet the challenges of the second year by living. It sounds simple, but nothing about grief for a life mate/soul mate is simple. By living, we begin to move away from our pain, but we also move away from the person we loved more than any other. For some bereft, this feels like a betrayal of their love — how can you continue to live when life on this earth is denied him? For others, it seems like a betrayal of themselves — how can you become the person you need to be without betraying the person you once were?

The third year of grief seems to be a year of transition with only one new challenge — beginning to rebuild our lives. (We still have upsurges of sadness, still miss our loved one, still yearn for him, but these feelings are not as prominent as they once were.) Most of us no longer feel that continued life is a betrayal of our love because we understand that we had no choice in the matter, either in his death or in our continued life. Nor do we feel we are betraying the person we once were — we are no longer that person, though we have not yet developed into the person we are to become. Most of us are still trying to figure out who that person is and what that person wants and needs.

You’d think by the fourth year there would be no challenges of grief left, but for most of us, this is the year where we make the necessary disconnect from our loved ones, and that is big though necessary step. No matter how close we were to our mates, no matter how much we felt as if we were two parts to a whole, we realize that in terms of life on this earth, we were two separate beings on two separate journeys. The questions that haunted us, such as the big question of who got the worst end of the deal, seem muted. Our mates had to deal with death and dying, and we had to deal with grief and living. It all seems the same now — life and death — though perhaps it’s more that we’re used to them being gone than that we made any great leap of understanding. We also don’t feel their absence the way we once did. The clawing yearning to see our mates once more has by now muted to a gentler feeling of intermittent melancholy.

Although my fifth year of grief doesn’t start for another two weeks, I am getting an inkling that this is going to be the main challenge of the coming year — dealing with grief’s absence. Grief was a part of my life for a very long time and the immensity of the loss and the enormity of the pain gave my life a feeling of epic importance, as if I were standing on the very edge of eternity. Well, eternity has retreated, and I am left with the ordinariness of life, and that ordinariness seems . . . well, it seems ordinary. Still, the lessons of grief taught me well, and so I will continue to take each day as it comes. Continue to find something to look forward to rather than simply existing. Continue to look for something to be passionate about, even if it’s just life itself.

***

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.

You Don’t Get Over Grief

I called a friend today to offer support on the third anniversary of her husband’s death. She is a strong woman, shouldering the burdens of an unemployed middle-aged daughter and a lively granddaughter, which takes her mind off her loss, but still, there are times (such as this anniversary) when grief descends on her once more.

During the conversation, she said, “I wish I could get over it.” The truth is, you don’t get over grief. Grief gets over you. The uninitiated, those who have never lost the one person who connects them to life, think we have a choice when it comes to grief, but most of the time, grief chooses us. We can, of course, choose to ignore our grief, burying it so deeply that we never have to acknowledge it, but doing so is like stuffing an inflated air mattress in a small storage pouch. Eventually, the pressures of the mattress will burst the seams of the pouch, and that unruly mattress will explode out into the open, causing all sorts of unforeseen damage.

As it is, even with accepting the dubious gift of grief, sometimes sorrow bursts wildly into the open, taking us unaware. For the most part, grief is leaving me alone. In fact, I thought I had gotten over the death of my life mate/soul mate, but on March 1, as I began the countdown to my fourth anniversary, sadness returned. My few tears are not at all stormy, more like a gentle mist. Strangely, I miss the grief tempests — they made me feel connected to him because I could feel the enormity of my loss.

To a great extent I have let him go. Somewhere during this past year, I realized that no matter how connected we were when he was alive, we are two distinct people, each on a special journey. For a while, our paths entwined, but now our roads have swung into two different directions. No matter how much I miss him, miss the me I was when I was with him, miss our shared dreams and goals, there is no turning back. The future beckons, and I must go where it leads me.

And yet, despite this acceptance, I still sometimes feel lost. We were together for thirty-four years, were business partners as well as life partners, making joint decisions about every aspect of our lives. He was my support, my inspiration, my cheering section. I enjoy my newfound independence and growing spontaneity, but I cannot forget why we are estranged. He is not somewhere else on this earth, happy and fulfilled. He is dead. Gone. Deleted from my life. Erased, at times, even from memory. (Which makes him seem doubly dead.)

My friend will get to this place soon enough. Grief will be through with her for the most part, and what she will be left with is . . . I don’t know. Herself, I suppose. In the end, that’s all we have for as long as we are here. Ourselves.

***

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.

Counting Down to Four Years of Grief

I’m counting down to the fourth anniversary of the death of my life mate/soul mate. I used to count the minutes and hours, and now I count the months and years. One day I will count only the years, or maybe just the decades. He is gone, so very gone that I seldom think of him any more, though something deep inside of me will never forget.

I remember how hard it was for me even to take a breath right after he died — each gulp of air took all my strength and will. The pain consumed me — at times, all I could think about was getting through that very minute. And now I have managed to get through 2,065,726 minutes, one minute at a time.

At the beginning of my grief, a friend passed on words of wisdom from her mother that I never could quite figure out. The mother said that “you never get over losing someone. Their absence just becomes part of what their presence always meant.” And now, all of a sudden, I understand what she meant.

In my case, his presence gave me courage to be bold, to try new things, to be spontaneous and not to worry too much. At least, that’s the way it was at the beginning. When he got sick and continued to get sicker for many years, our lives became constrained, both because of financial troubles and because of the demands of his health. During those years, I sunk into myself, unable to bear what was happening to him, to us. Now that he’s gone, his absence gives me what his presence once did — the courage to be bold, to try new things, to be spontaneous and not to worry so much.

From the beginning of my grief, I knew I couldn’t continue to do the things that we did together. His hard-won death set us both free, and if I had continued to live the way we always did (or do what I so often wanted after he died — just go to bed and nurture my pain) — then I would have wasted his death. Instead, I used grief’s anger to propel me forward.

Like many bereft in my grief “age group” —- those who lost our mates about the same time — I have developed an inordinate need for adventure. I’m not sure why we feel this need except that perhaps both our love and our grief were so immense that only something equally immense will satisfy our souls. Oddly, few of us are able to indulge in adventure except in a minor ways — we seem be gripped by responsibilities, either taking care of young grandchildren or elderly parents. It’s possible that before we are able to set out on an adventurous life, the passing of the years will dim that craving for adventure, and we will shrink back into small lives.

I may not have the physical strength and necessary skills to undertake such an adventure as hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I may not have the financial reserves to spend my life on the road, traveling around the country. I may not even have the desire to try to walk 1000 miles, live abroad for a year, or take a freighter to New Zealand. But I will do something epic, something just a bit beyond my desires, strengths, skills. His absence gives me the courage for such a step. In fact, his absence makes it necessary to live large.

But oh, just between us, I am tired of trying to live large, tired of trying to expand my sphere beyond the day-to-dayness of life. I’d give anything for one more comfortable day with him, one more conversation, one more small smile. But such is not possible. And so I continue on alone, living each minute to the fullest, with whatever courage, boldness, and spontaneity I can muster.

***

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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