For most people, a new year begins on Jan 1st and ends on Dec 31st. For me, A new year begins on April 20th and ends on April 19th. I’m not sure if it will be like that for the rest of my life, but for now, that is the date that etched it’s way into my being as the most significant of my life.
I cuddled up next to him, crying on his shoulder, counting the beats of his heart and the seconds between breaths. When there was nothing more to count, my life was permanently changed. The glory of heaven took his breath away and the grace of grief took mine. I thought I knew about grieving, I watched my 65 year old mom take her last breath just a few short years earlier. But this was different. When Mike took his last breath, I was no longer whole, but a part of a person who would now walk with a limp, the kind of limp that people can’t necessarily see on the outside, but that’s what happens when you feel like your body has been severed in two with no hope of the missing parts returning to you. Sure, I have hope of heaven and that ONE DAY I will be reunited. But frankly, that’s not what has gotten me through this year. If you ever tell someone, “At least he’s with Jesus.” I’ll come and punch you in the face! (oops – there’s that anger I never knew existed) Okay, I won’t really do that. But it’s a stupid thing to tell someone. There is no, “AT LEAST” when a spouse dies. Hey, I’m the biggest, “at least” person there is. I love finding the positive in every situation. But when someone is grieving, you need to let them find their positive. It may take a very long time.
Time. It changes when you lose a loved one. It is no longer that we have a 24 hour day. Seconds. The last breath count was 30 seconds. Then … no more. A half of a minute. From one breath, to another breath, to heaven. Then time stood still. Time no longer makes sense to me. I’m driving in my car and can look over and almost feel him holding my hand, as if it was just a moment ago. But it’s been a year. I can think the grief is subsiding, because you know, it’s been 361 days. I can almost grasp the idea of a day is like a thousand years to the Lord. Was it His grief for a fallen world that makes time seem so messed up? I feel that, a minute is like a day. A year is like … 30 seconds. I’m sitting in the same room where he died. I can look over at my bed and see him … missing from him. There are times it feels like he could walk out of the bathroom and just begin talking to me. And other times, I can’t reach out and grasp anything.
Falling. My feet are sometimes unsteady. I’ve fallen to the ground a couple of times, simply too weak of spirit to take another step. And sometimes everything in my being is what keeps me from falling. One day I went up for prayer in church. I remember speaking the words, “My husband died a few months ago.” Then nothing else. Not one more word would come out of my mouth. I’ve always been so strong. People will tell you, “Terri is so strong!” It’s like I’m a superhero! And I stand there, shaking, willing my body to stand and speak. And I say nothing. And my legs give out. So I sit on the floor in the front of church, tears running down my cheeks with such a rapid pace, I feel baptized. There is absolutely nothing I can do at that moment to move. I feel sorry for the person who has to pray for me. She doesn’t know what to say. Or maybe she does.
Silence. A hand on my shoulder in silence brings comfort. Silence is deafening sometimes. And at other times, it is peace. I don’t remember longing for silence until this year. I don’t know what it is about the silence. But it’s healing. And it hurts. Sometimes I just long for a moment of silence…two…three. I used to hate silence. I don’t have a theory about this. Or maybe I do. Perhaps in the silence … I can hear the breath of God. And I want that! The breath of God reminds me that I’m alive and still have a purpose. Sometimes I think my sole purpose for this year … was me.
Self. I simply had nothing to give anyone this year. It really was all about me. And I got to a place where I was okay with that. I started doing things that ministered to me, not just things that were fun, but that truly ministered to me. And sometimes I did things that distracted me from being. The biggest thing I learned about my self this year was that tending to my self was not selfish. It was vital. There’s a joke about people trying to find themselves. Someone will invariably say, “Why? Is she lost?”
Lost. I always choose a positive theme for the year. But all the positive themes for this year will be overshadowed by feeling lost. I described it one day as feeling like someone has put me in a maze, turned off all the lights, and barricaded all the exits. For the life of me, I could not find my way. I slogged through one day, into the next. One 30 second time into the next 30 seconds of time. I wanted to know my future. I wanted to know that the steps I was taking were positive forward motion steps. I wanted to know where I was headed. But I couldn’t know, because I had grief. And grief does not walk the same kind of steps I’ve always walked in my life. About six months into my “new” year, I changed my word to Forward! It didn’t help. I was lost in a fog.
Fog. Have you ever been driving on a clear day and suddenly you drive into heavy fog? You don’t really know it’s coming and then one minute, you’re in it, slamming on your breaks because you don’t know what is ahead of you. You can’t see anything! There you go. Welcome to my life! But here’s the other part of that fog. I lived in an area of CA for awhile that I would wake up and the whole area would have fog. We could see in this fog. We could go about our business. There was an oppressive feeling about it. But we could still do stuff, carry on. After a few days, it almost would feel like life was normal, even though the earth was covered with this fog. And then one day, the fog would lift and the sun would be shining brightly. This too, is how it happened with my grief. I was carrying on, doing business, walking again. And then, the fog lifted. And my heart sang. And my legs danced. And I twirled. And then a few weeks would pass, and the fog would return. I hate the fog. I like to sing. I like to dance. And I love to twirl!
Dance. It’s hard to dance with a limp. But it’s not impossible. One night on a perfectly clear evening. It was midnight at my favorite place. I went there to try to transcend time. I often will find Mike Memories waiting by the fountain for me. And I’ll sit by the fountain, listening to the silence in my heart. Tears will flow freely there. A Mike Memory flooded me. It’s almost like he whispered to me, “The thing I loved the most about you Terri, was your free spirit. Remember our first date here? You leaped around the edge of the fountain. You ran to the pond, with shoes in hand. You skipped with me in the street.” And so I did again…limping all along the way.
I’m finding my way through this crap called grief. I’ve said bad words that I’ve rarely said before. Sometimes this very non-grumpy person gets very grumpy. I’ve been surprised by anger. Very surprised and very angry. I seem to have little tolerance sometimes. And I’ve learned … about Grace.