Last week I met up with a friend that I had not seen or heard from for almost thirty years. As we sat talking and remembering and reminiscing I realized that I was referring to the two different phases of myself, the before and the after me. Everything I was telling her about my life was either before or after my husband died. This was not intentional on my part and it hit me right there that now a different chapter has started in my life. And I realized sadly that I had stopped pretending that everything was okay and that nothing had changed. Because nothing was going to be the same ever again.
At first I used to think that people even looked at me differently when I went out. I used to reason with myself that this was not the case, that nobody really cared. That I didn’t matter. Sometimes I used to tell myself that I would be strong and yet still have butterflies in my stomach when I drove the car or paid a bill or went on an errand for the first time after my husband’s death. Or like when my cell phone rang the other day while I was sitting in my living room and reading my book. For a moment I thought I saw his name and number flashing on the screen and then just as quickly I realized my mistake and I panicked for I became conscious that he will never call me again and I will never hear his voice again, not even in my dreams. In the words of Jodi Picoult:
“When your significant other was missing, it wasn’t the same bed. There was a void on the other side, a cosmic black hole, one that you couldn’t roll too close to without falling into a chasm of memories.”
Memories is all I have now from him, from a lifetime spent with him. And I am grateful for all that was given to me. Even though he is not here with me physically I can feel his presence every single second of every single minute of every single hour of every single day. I see more of him every day in my son and in my daughter. As Ray Bradbury wrote:
“No person ever died that had a family. I’ll be around a long time. A thousand years from now a whole township of my offspring will be biting sour apples in the gumwood shade.”
I know now what precious gifts life has given me. I know now that I couldn’t have strength without experiencing weakness, I couldn’t see the light without being in the dark. And I couldn’t have love without loss. I learned it the hard way.
“I thought a fellow would never cry when he got to be grown up, but it seems that’s when a fellow starts, because that’s when a fellow starts finding out about things. Almost everything a man finds is bad or sad. Why is that so?”
Mrs. Macauley began to speak. “You will find out. No one can tell you. Each man finds out in his own way. … It is always the man himself, and each man is the world. Each man is the whole world, to make over as he will and to fill with a human race he can love, if it is love he has. The world waits to be made over by each man who inhabits it, and it is made over every morning like a bed or a household where the same people live… always the same, but always changing too.” William Saroyan