Everyone tells me I am doing quite well, considering my spouse died less than seven months ago. I am speaking in front of women’s groups, conducting writing and couponing workshops, and continuing to write. I’m finishing up devotions for a Grief Study Bible and working on two different books. Learning to go on “without,” is how H. Norman Wright describes it.
Mostly, I try not to think about it, because it hurts too much when I do.
Yesterday morning when I spoke before a Christian Women’s Club, I stumbled on my words for the first time during a workshop. I was explaining how I organize my coupons and I pointed at the zippered case full of coupons at the front of my binder.
“This is where I put the coupons after I clip them. Then when I’m watching television or sitting in the car while my husband is driving…,” my voice trailed off. I only missed a beat, and I’m fairly certain no one even noticed.
“…Or someone else is driving, then I can pull out the coupons and organize them.”
No one knew I panicked for a minute, realizing I would never, ever, be in the car with David driving again. I have learned how to hide the panic and the sadness very well. I’m very animated as I do my speeches; I relish getting up in front of a crowd and talking about things I am passionate about. Even three years ago I would not have imagined doing public speaking. Now I love it. I think about what David had said one morning as he watched Joyce Meyer on television; “I want you to do what she does,” he’d said, and though I laughed at the time, now I can imagine sharing my own story of what God has done for me in the last two years; how he has worked in my life. In fact, on the way home from yesterday morning’s meeting, I wrote a speech in my head. Yes, David, I could do that, though I am no Joyce Meyer.
I am functioning, and moving on “without,” but I’m not sure I am “doing well.” I drive past the cemetery a couple of times a week, looking for the gravestone, and when I don’t see it, I feel like throwing up. I just can’t bring myself to visit that plot of grass with the little statues Abby has left, now lying prone on the cement; knocked over by the wind, or squirrels. Abby can’t stand to visit anymore either. We need that tombstone. From outward appearances, it looks as though no one cares about David, when the opposite was true; he was loved so much.
There are so many things I used to enjoy doing, that I just don’t want to do “without.” I don’t want to go to any of the book sales we used to attend. It hurts too much. I am filled with sadness just thinking about all those sales we attended together, beginning with the first one in 1995. I cry every time I ride my bike because that was also a shared activity. Ditto with church. I couldn’t bear attending my niece’s wedding last month, where everyone would be “coupled up,” and I’m dreading other approaching celebrations. Another wedding. My November birthday. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Especially Christmas.
Then there is the secret that only my good friend Mary knows, regarding the publication of the newly released book, Falling in Love With You, from Oak Tara Press, which contains the very first essay I completed after David’s death.
I began the essay, entitled “Love Lessons,” before David died. I can remember the day I started working on it. I was sitting on the couch and David was in his chair.
“What are you working on?”
“An essay for a love story contest,” I’d replied, not looking up from the legal pad I always use for rough drafts.
“Is it about me?” I looked up into those lovely pools of brown. I believe it was the brown eyes that had initially attracted me to David. He wasn’t joking; he was serious. He looked like an eager little boy, waiting for validation of my love. That was all he’d ever wanted; to be loved.
“Always about you,” was my gentle answer, because after his cancer, much of my writing was about him, he’d become so precious to me.
He smiled broadly then, and his eyes lit up. He might even have sighed with satisfaction.
He was loved, and he knew it.
Of course I had to finish that essay after he died. My heart ached as I wrote, tears streaming down my cheeks. The writing of that essay suddenly became a heroic act of a grieving widow. This was the essay I cut and pasted into the submission form, hit submit, and immediately forced a computer shut-down, never saving the final version.
I had no idea what my final version looked like. I’d written, revised, edited, revised some more. What I had on paper was not the final version I’d sent. Was the completed essay any good?
When the editor took the time to write me a personal note before the acceptance letters went out, I knew I had at least touched her heart. Then came the acceptance letter, along with a contract and a copy of the essay I was to review and approve.
I couldn’t read it.
This is my deep, dark secret, which I have now divulged to the world. Never before had I signed a contract without proof-reading their edited version of the piece.
So the book is being released and will soon arrive on my doorstep and I will have to face reading that very first essay I completed after my husband’s death; an essay about the great love I had for my beloved spouse.
And it will be like losing him all over again.
I stopped counting “weeks” of loss a long time ago, but if I hadn’t, I could tell you that yesterday marked 28 weeks since David’s death. David used to tell me that 28 was his lucky number; he was born on the 28th, our first date was the 28th of July, we got engaged on the 28th of January, he was 28 when his first child was born. I lived with and loved one man for nearly 33 years and now I have been “without” him for 28 weeks.
Grieving doesn’t always make sense. It makes sense that holidays and celebrations the first year will be difficult. It is understandable that I wouldn’t enjoy activities that had been shared so closely with my loved one who is no longer present. It even makes sense that for a moment or two during a presentation I might speak as though my spouse was still alive, driving the car. But not being able to read that first essay I wrote? Maybe it is simply because it is the first, because I have written and read others since then.
Or maybe it is the memory of those brown eyes and the question;“Is it about me?”
Always, my love. Always.