Webster’s defines separate as to set or keep apart. All of us experience separation from the people we love. It begins as babies. Moms have stories of leaving their children at daycare or with someone else as they return to work. We grow we leave our families and separate to make our own lives. Some of us marry and divorce. Separation is sprinkled throughout our human experience.
Shortly after my husband’s death, my cousin sent me CS Lewis’ book, A Grief Observed. It had helped him as he had mourned family members – as it has helped many. I began to read it. The author’s pain seethed through the pages into me. It felt like I understood his sorrow and pain. I never finished the book. It’s not a long book, but at the time, I just couldn’t take on the author’s pain with my own. It was especially difficult for me when I read what he had written about separation at death with a loved one. He spoke of the permanence of it. He talks about the fact that even if we died at the same moment as our loved one (in his case his wife) we would still face separation. Those thoughts have stayed with me over the years…permanence and separation. While reading the first part of the book, I understood that my life had changed, but so freshly into my experience of grief, I had no idea how pervasive this change was or how much it would influence where I sit today.
In our culture or society we boast second chances, new beginnings and such. Again, it begins when we’re young. We are taught to try again. It is part of our human experience to believe in those second chances. We are a society with instant replay, reruns of our favorite tv shows, TiVo and reconciliation with things that went wrong. We are given another chance at many turns in our lives. I have always taken advantage of this. I do try again. I do ask forgiveness. I do still watch reruns of Bewitched on tv – not to mention Lost and all my favorites now. Life can be put off a bit because we know we will get to it. We’ll have time tomorrow.
With the death of a loved one, there is no second chance. They are gone. Their physical presence vanishes from our life. There are no more hugs, glances across the room, laughs or sharing a meal. Now, I can still have conversations with my husband, but he is oddly quiet! Where’s my second chance with him? I don’t even think I had a clue how permanent death was. Well, in theory I knew. I had lost my grandmother whom I loved very much, but this was different. My husband was my person. He was my go to guy, my friend, my lover, my confidant, my warmth and comfort at the end of the day. All those things left with him forever. No second chances here.
For the first year after he died, I really didn’t think about it being forever. I didn’t think about the simple fact that he was really never coming back…that first year for me was flooded with memories and experiences of him through those memories. I watched videos, I looked at pictures, I smelled his clothes. I knew what we were doing at the same time the year before at that same moment. I could bring all this into my mind so readily. He was gone, but his memory was in my face, heart and mind constantly. It really wasn’t until somewhere in the second year that I realized that he really wasn’t coming back.
My oldest son, who was six when his dad died, decided in that first week that we should pretend that daddy was on a trip somewhere fabulous. He would come out in the morning and ask me where daddy was…I would respond as he requested and said that daddy was out of town on his trip. He would ask where was he this time? We would make up stories about where he was and what a fabulous time he was having. Dave would go to Africa, Las Vegas and on occasion, Nebraska. It worked for a while, not long, but it helped him as he separated from his dad and tried to understand what that meant.
Sometime in that second year, as the trash piled up and the things that Dave would have done became a long list of things I hadn’t done, it really struck me and sank into my being…HE WAS NEVER COMING BACK.
How could that be?
I was frightened out of my mind. This really was it. I was going to have to handle everything. I really was raising our children by myself. I was a single parent, a widow, alone.
Our separation was real. Our separation was real, our physical, our everyday…really our life together was…well, it was over. I was not equipped to deal with it. I believed in second chances. I believed in miracles. I believed in us.
Today I sit nearly five years past his death and I still don’t really understand all of it. Why us? Why do we have to go through this? How can this be so permanent? There are moments when I am pulled back to those thoughts – how will I handle this? How will I survive? How will I provide the loving environment for my children by myself? There is my life before with Dave and there is life after Dave, AD. Everything seems so different now without him. Again, our separation…til death do us part…has impacted every essence of my being.
Living through this separation, letting it ease into my soul over the years has given me something that I didn’t know or had before Dave died…I know that love lives beyond this plain, beyond our planet. I know in my heart that our love is still very living…very much with me. It is with me in the children that we made together out of love and in the love that I shared with him that over the years that has helped me become the woman that I am right now. That is hopeful for me. It is hopeful to me that we (me and my children) still have open hearts. Our hearts didn’t harden when Dave left. Our hearts have continued to feel love along side the pain we feel. Even though we still really can’t comprehend all of the repercussions Dave’s death will have on us, we know that there was love. We know that love will never leave us. My hope is that through losing Dave, we will somehow be more able to love. It will make our hearts more compassionate. It will open us up to a type of love that we won’t be able to comprehend either…maybe that will be our second chance.