Never Far Away, Grief, Week Five

Five weeks. It was five weeks ago this morning that I found David, unresponsive. Gone. It seems a lifetime ago. It seems like yesterday.

For those who have wondered if they should say anything, if perhaps saying something about the loss of the spouse might remind the person of their grief, I can assure you~ there is no forgetting. As the grieving souse puts one foot in front of the other, as they talk and respond appropriately to whatever is going on around them, as they laugh even, inside there is a constant sadness. Grief fills us, seeps out our pores, makes us feel as though we are not of this world, but in another dimension, like walking underwater. We co-exist on this earth, alongside the rest of you, but we are not really “all there.” Surely you can see it in our eyes; the walking wounded. We wonder if the couples around us wish we were not there to remind them of what they will face, if our friends and family anxiously wait for us to get back to “normal.” If our blog readers are tired of our grief, and want more garage sale and couponing stories. Some days, the best answer I can come up with to the question “How are you doing?” is that I am functioning. Other days, when things go very well, I worry that I am not grieving my loss properly. Then there are the days like this past Sunday, when I found myself going through old greeting cards, photos, and little notes from David. I just wallow in it then; tears streaming down my face and shoulders shaking with sobs.

Yesterday I had a book-signing at the University book store in Cedar Falls. Cedar Falls, the town where David and I had met, married, and lived for several years. As I drove down a street that David and I had traveled together just last June in a day of reminiscing, I passed the dormitory where I had stayed as a young, naive, nineteen year old. I glanced at the door of the building, where David had kissed me goodnight countless times. We’d taken a picture of me at that doorway just last summer.

We’d visited the married student housing complex we’d lived in during our early college years. They were being demolished, and the doors were wide open. We’d walked through the asbestos-laden rooms together.

I felt a now-familiar ache of sadness at the memory, but I did not cry. Later, inside the bookstore, a bookstore where David and I had once bought our college textbooks together, I sat at a table, talking to those who had come to see the three authors sign their stories in the Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven book. I enjoyed “talking shop.” I even managed to mention my husband in the past tense several times, without my eyes welling with tears. I was very proud of myself.

And then, driving home, I lost it. One glance at the empty passenger seat was all it took. I was alone. David was gone. Despite my Christian belief that David and I will be reunited someday, I will never, ever have David as my spouse again, my partner in life, my best friend. My remaining days on this earth will be without David.

I am reminded of this when I wake up and there is no David to greet me with “Happy May 1st!” David and I had shared this first day of the month greeting for many years. I don’t know when or how it started, but we’d tried to beat the other one to the greeting on the first day of every month, and David invariably won, sometimes even waking me up shortly after midnight, just to say it before I did. I am reminded yet again when I make my cup of coffee. It is no wonder I bought the Keurig coffeemaker David and I had talked about last Christmas~ the other empty pot sat there taunting me every morning with the reminder that there was no husband to prepare the coffeemaker the night before. And I am reminded yet again when I reach for ice cubes for my glass of water. David always made the ice cubes. Then, when I reach for a Tylenol and notice the bottle of Flaxseed oil supplement I haven’t taken in five weeks because David wasn’t here to hand me one. Idiot, I think, before popping one in my mouth, along with one of David’s Centrum vitamins, what kind of idiot depends upon their spouse to remind them to take their own vitamin? Then I drag the bags of garbage to the curb, yet another reminder of my loss. David always took out the garbage. 7:30 a.m., and I’d already experienced five vivid reminders of my aloneness. Senselessly, I kick the last bag of garbage.

Then I check my e-mail, and there it is in my inbox: a first day of the month greeting from my dear friend Mary. She’d remembered, and wanted to make me feel better! And it worked. Something so simple, so caring, worked. I smiled. The fog of grief lifts for a moment, and I can see clearly.

Yes, I’ve lost David, but I am not alone.

Last night I enjoyed a book-signing and the companionship of the other two writers. This morning I can appreciate a friend’s caring e-mail. A new friend from the Kansas writer’s conference told me she loved me in an e-mail on Sunday. Someone who cares about my family sent me gift cards last week. My sister Denise sent a greeting card. Two other sisters called me on the phone. I think of the devotional a complete stranger sent me, the hugs I can now count on from my children. The prayers of a friend on Saturday. Suddenly, the future doesn’t look as bleak.

I reflect on a comment someone recently made; I think when someone we love dies, they are never very far away. The “Wind Beneath My Wings” wind chime hanging on my porch, quiet all morning, rattles loudly when I type those words. Now it is quiet again.

Driving home alone in the van last night, crying so hard I could barely see, I called out, “I miss you so much! I love you!” It did not escape my attention that my love for David continues to grow, even in his absence. I want to talk to him, share these things; David, Mary will be visiting me on Friday. I’m excited about my upcoming writing workshops at the River Lights bookstore. Can you believe I won a scholarship to the writing conference that ends on our anniversary? I wish you were here to watch the kids. I feel guilty leaving them. David, our dream for my book is one step closer. I signed with an agent on Sunday! I think you would like him. He is the one who told me that when someone dies, he believes they are never far away. I wonder if he knows that clinched the deal for me. David, I love you. I miss you.

Prayer for today: “Dear Lord, I thank you again for the privilege of loving David for almost 33 years. Thank you for my eight children, and for the friends and family you have blessed me with. I ask for continued guidance in the path you wish for me to follow, and healing through your son, Jesus Christ. Please, Lord, when I don’t feel strong enough to handle the loss of my beloved, bring me strength and wisdom through the Holy Spirit. Amen.”  

6 thoughts on “Never Far Away, Grief, Week Five

  1. Jada in GA says:

    Mary, I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope the coming days bring happy memories and smiles, that help ease the pain a bit. Prayers from Georgia! “Jada in GA”

  2. Becki Smith says:

    My Dear Friend, you go on writing on this subject. I can hear David saying, “someday, all of this is going to make a great book, to help other people understand what loss really is”. I told him, He is wonderful!

  3. Alicia R says:

    Mary – your words bring me to tears everytime I read them. Thank you so much for your kind words on facebook about the passing of my mother last week. Please keep sharing your stories.

  4. zeta davidson says:

    Man, Mary, Does this ever sound like me five years ago. Time will help. After five weeks, others forget. After five years-you will never forget. This whole year is putting one foot in front of the other and keeping on going. You are so right. Zeta from Kansas City.

  5. Joan Kramer says:

    Mary, I am there for you whenever you want to talk. I love to chat with you, even if you talk about how sad you feel. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable, maybe it’s because I’m a nurse and used to dealing with grief-but you never need to worry if I will get tired of hearing your story, because I won’t. Most women outlive their husbands; my neighbor ladies and I discuss that possibility and my next door neighbor lost her husband already at age 54. So we all realize that it is a very real possibility we will be widows. I’m luckier than most women, because I have learned to do so many things myself with my husband gone from home so much. It wouldn’t be as hard for me as it must be for you; must be overwhelming at times.
    God will give you strength to deal with raising your children still at home, and handling household chores. Thankfully, you have a grown son and daughter and son in law close by. They will be a big help for you.
    God bless you, and keep you dear sister.

  6. Kristi Paxton says:

    Again, you remind me to be thankful for the here and now. You warn me that this earthly life does not last. You renew my faith in love.

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