Journey Difficult after Loved One’s Death
Death anniversaries, specially the first one, are always difficult. If it were not for the resilience of human spirit and the support of family and friends the dark clouds of despair would push many of us mortals into the throes of deep depression. It is through these tenable bonds that we face calamities and overcome obstacles.
This is the third column I am writing on the loss of my wife who passed away a year ago last week. At this time of introspection most of the world happenings, exciting and intriguing as they may be, appear remote and distant. I beg your indulgence as I look back at the roller coaster ride my family and I have endured this past year.
It has been a difficult and at times painful journey of adjustment and understanding. It was made easy and bearable because many of you wrote and shared your stories. Your individual circumstances were different but your narratives of loss and lament and hope were strikingly similar. You helped me see more clearly through the frightening fog of uncertainty and disbelief.
All of you mentioned the void, a big hole as some of you put it, that has become part of your being. Not as an outside garment that covers the exterior but as what Lord Tennyson called the captive void of noble rage. Passage of time does take away some of the sharp edges but the void remains.
Nine-months ago when I joined a support group at the Hospice of Northwest Ohio the councilors cautioned us to brace ourselves for an uneven ride on the terrain of our remaining life. They told us that while in time surface wounds do heal, lurking under the surface, barely a tiny scratch away, are memories both painful and pleasant. The sudden appearance of a trigger - flash of a favorite color, whiff of a familiar perfume, aroma of freshly baked bread or a melody inextricably linked with a long-past romance - opens the floodgates of uncertain emotions. A million reminders, big and small, force one to return to the sad realization to that what once was and now is not.
In some ways it has also been an interesting journey. In the deepest of the blue moods - where one is engulfed with uncertainties - there appears, from nowhere it seems, a ray of hope for a better tomorrow. In those moments in mind’s eye one sees and feels the presence up close but still separated by a mysterious and unknowable abyss.
I can, a year since, look back and realize that death and dying is an awkward situation for most people. We try to camouflage the stark reality with euphuisms and clichés. ‘She is in a better place’, goes one worn-out statement. I am expected to nod my agreement. Instead, to the bewilderment of the consoling person, I say there was nothing wrong with the place she was already at. I am sure, given the choice, she would not have opted to go to that better place.
‘It must be God’s will’, goes another oft-repeated feel-good cliché. Being a person of faith I cannot question that without treading on thin theological ice. But in the past year however there have been moments, however transitory, when faith and reason have clashed. Some consider faith as a convenient crutch but for others it is indispensable. Lord Tennyson in his timeless elegy In Memoriam said it eloquently: By faith and faith alone, embrace/ Believing where we cannot prove.
The passage of time and a persistent longing for a departed spouse makes most of us see the person through the prism of emotions and perceive her to be perfect and the union with her more so. Realities of life however tell us otherwise but we celebrate, just as generations before us, ordinary lives in extraordinary ways. So I mourn and celebrate the life of a woman who considered herself very ordinary but to me, my family and friends was, in the words of William Wordsworth, ‘A perfect woman, nobly planned’ and ‘Fair as a star when only one/ Is shining in the sky’.
When I wrote about Dottie a year ago, I concluded the column by thanking my readers for listening. Now, a year later, I close by thanking you for sharing your stories and helping me understand mine.
I am grateful.