“That was one of the worst things about losing your wife, I found: your wife is the very person you want to discuss it all with.” – from Anne Tyler’s The Beginner’s Goodbye
“Does writing about it help you?” a blog reader asked me recently, and I was reminded of a conversation David and I had while he was in the hospital after his heart attack. I was sitting in a chair next to his bed, frantically scribbling away on a legal pad, intent on completing my weekly couponing column.
“How do you do that?” David asked groggily, leaning over the railing of the bed to look at me. I flushed with embarassment and shame, shoving the pad into my tote. How indeed? How could I be writing while my poor husband lay there, recuperating from the procedure that inserted two stents into his clogged artery?
“I’m sorry, I was just working on my column. I can do that later in the waiting room, while you take a nap.”
“No, don’t stop. That isn’t what I meant. I was wondering how you can create pages of words so easily. You are so talented. I love that about you.”
My eyes filled with tears then, just as they do now as I write this. David had become the biggest supporter in my writing endeavors. “I write. It’s what I do,” I replied, and David nodded. It speaks volumes about my husband, that as a non-writer, he seemed to understand the pull of the pen.
David sat in his chair in the corner of our living room that next Sunday as I worked on yet another column. “Can I read it?” he asked when I told him what I was writing about. I knew he was still feeling tired so I read some of it out loud to him,instead. For the last year, David had been my proof-reader, catching simple errors that I’d missed, and sometimes coming up with a substitute word or phrase that improved the final result. It was David that morning who’d come up with the topics for the next two weeks of my column, a fact that proved to be invaluable for an uninterrupted continuation of it. I don’t think I could have written them otherwise.
I wasn’t sure I could write after David died, and yet, I couldn’t imagine not writing through the pain of grief, the agony of my loss. How could I bear it otherwise? Yes, I prayed. And I wrote those prayers down. Yes, I reached out to others, finding comfort in their obvious care. I wrote letters and thank-you cards to them. I even completed an essay for an anthology submission, cut and pasted it into the online submission form, then immediately closed the word processing program and shut down the computer, losing the entire revised version in cyberspace. If that essay gets published, the final draft will be a complete surprise to me. Of course, that essay was about David.
I don’t write letters to David, as someone suggested, but I do find myself talking to him, in a barely audible mumble that worries me. I miss talking to him.
Does writing lessen my loss in any way? Because I don’t know any other way to grieve, I’m not certain. Perhaps I have the misguided belief that if I write about David, he lives on in my words.
Whatever it is, I will continue to write.
It’s what I do.