Grieving became another way of saying how much I still love you.
After burying our son, the counselor told my wife and me that grief is a five-step program. If we didn't detour around it or take shortcuts through it, we would be delivered from grieving. Sounded good to us, because my brother had recently complained to us that his 12-step program made him feel as if he were perpetually recovering from drinking rather than being delivered from it. We didn't want to recover from loving our son. We wanted to be delivered from the pain of losing him. So we struggled through the gauntlet of all five steps. You can read more in my essay on Suffering. The process of losing him made us realize that one day we would have to say goodbye to each other. Knowing that men usually die before their wives, I pictured her, in my mind's eye, continuing down the road of life without me.
As it turned out, the opposite happened: I continued down the road of life without her. It was painful, but struggling through it, not around it, saved me from becoming bitterly disappointed that life had betrayed my expectations. Instead, I accepted the difficult truth that she was dead and that I was alive. Like the phantom limb of an amputated arm, she would always be at my side doing things that matter.
I had options, of course. I could believe that she was in heaven or hell. That God might send me to one of those places when I died. Or that this life is the only one we get. But neither belief nor disbelief would change the tragic fact that we no longer together in the here and now of this world. And neither belief nor disbelief were things that mattered. What mattered was that I found peace by letting go of her and my expectations so I could live fully and love well in the here and now of this world.
The bed was empty this morning
even with me and the cats in the covers.
You weren't in the kitchen, either,
brewing coffee or cooking breakfast.
No, I didn't find you there.
And you weren't in the garden
tending your flowers.
I told them you were gone
but they just kept on smiling like idiots.
I fed your hummingbirds,
watched them hover and zoom,
work the feeders and fight for territory.
Wish I could fly away with you but.
my heart is heavy, my wings broken.
We were soul mates!
How could you be finished with me
before I was done with you?
Whose eyes will see you smile?
Whose hands will rub your cold feet?
Whose fingers will brush your hair?
Soft, long and the color of peaches in Spring.
I can still smell it.
The Cosmos saves everything by changing it.
You changed in a heart break,
a change so sudden and complete
my breath ran away.
It may never return but I too am saved
for you changed me.
Those subtle brush strokes that are you
are still in me,
painting the picture of who I am.
You know how deeply you touched my life with yours.