About six months after my husband died, I went to a birthday celebration for a friend. She is a dear friend and was turning 40. Her husband had put together a surprise party for her. It was really my first social (actually one of my only) outings since Dave’s death. My parents were watching the boys and on my way I picked up a card and a gift. I tried to phyc myself up to the challenge.
I arrived. So far so good, I thought. I saw a familiar face but many unfamiliar…which is actually comforting, because they don’t know me or my story…on sight at least. Maybe they had heard of me through my friend, but they didn’t recognize me on sight. I said some hellos and worked my way to my friend to say “Happy Birthday”. The usual things were said. People who knew me asked how I was holding up and I think my old answer was that I was still here and we were getting by day by day. Most of the party is unremarkable to me. I remember a very charming and silly video that my friend’s husband had made for her to celebrate her life and their life together…it was truly lovely. The other thing I remember is this:
The wife of one of the guys I went to high school with came to talk to me. I don’t know this woman very well, I can’t remember her name right now. I do know the family she married into though, we all went to school together. They are a very kind, loving family and have always been thoughtful and kind to me. Well anyway…I was talking to his wife. Most of the conversation I don’t remember, but one statement she made rings in my mind from time to time. She said to me, “well, I guess the hope would be that you will find someone else and remarry and the boys would have someone too”…or something to that effect. Every ounce of me wanted to yell back at her…no the hope was that Dave would have survived…or better yet, no cancer at all, just a really awful mistake. That was the only hope I had then. All I wanted was him back and to wake from this long nightmare I’d been having. I wanted my life back. I wanted my love back. I didn’t want to face my life and what had transpired. I really thought that if I wished it, willed it or hoped for it enough all the hurt and pain would go away and Dave would be home when I arrived back from the party.
At the time of this writing, I am just passed 21 months without Dave. We are approaching the 2nd anniversary of the day he went on and left me here on earth to finish our work. He trusted me and died peacefully. I have never recovered. I thought I could be strong, but have found that it is only in my weakness and surrender to my grief that I actually survive. Every day I awake and really don’t know how I will get through. I still feel a huge emptiness and a gap. I still long for his embrace, his smile, his humor, his tenderness, his brown eyes. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t feel this. I function more than I did back then and don’t feel as much like a zombie or the walking dead anymore, but the pain and emptiness is still very much there.
So, today, I am remembering what was said to me at that party and want to answer the question now. I know now that Dave is not coming home. He is home. He is at peace and he watches over me and is with me in a way I still don’t really comprehend. I do understand and am trying to integrate that. I’m trying everyday to turn the next page of my life and to guide my children.
So, the hope is…
That through my sorrow, grief and pain someday I will know a joy that is more joyful and authentic than I have ever known. Through the pain my children will have all their lives, the hole, the gap that was left when their dad died they too will know a joy that most cannot know. It is joy that will come to us because we weren’t willing to push our sadness aside, but to embrace it and walk through it. To let anger, hurt, pain, sadness, emptiness run through our lives and take it’s course. To allow our open wound to heal in it’s own time, only supporting that healing, not forcing it. To allow ourselves to be in the boat on the river…the boat with no oars, the boat we couldn’t control for so long…on the rapids of grief, twisting, turning, throwing us into the unexpected. We surrendered to it. I surrendered to my grief and in time, was able to grab the oars of the boat and steer it a bit, to guide us to dry land sometimes for rest and breaks from our sadness. Bit by bit, very slowly grief began to be a part of us, not all of us. My true hope is that because we did this, we will know joy and love like we have never known. We will have courage and tender hearts that will guide who we continue to become on this journey, on this planet. It’s not about finding a new mate. It‘s not about finding a new father for my boys. It is about finding the love that we know exists again and experiencing it even more than we ever have. It’s about embracing who we are and how our experiences have changed us. It is in acknowledging this pain that we know what real love is about. We grieve, we hurt and we are left scarred because we lost Dave and because we know that this was a great, horrific loss. If we pushed this aside, we diminish his life and his love. If we walk through it we come out carrying him with us in all that we do – in how we love, how we experience love and how we will life our lives. We have no choice. His life and his death will forever color who we are and my hope is that when we embrace all this we will embrace a new level of love and joy. We will risk to participate and live life again in a way only made possible because of our pain. My hope is that it will be to a depth we never expected or knew possible. My hope is that the legacy of my husband’s death will be that we can love and experience joy more deeply and meaningfully.
That’s what the hope is.
That’s what the hope is today.
Originally written in February 2007