Life is in upheaval.
After several years of cringing at the slipshod workmanship, chipped paint, and overall ugliness of my pool area, I decided to bite the bullet and have it completely resurfaced.
What I didn’t anticipate? The constant throbbing noise of jackhammers, upending layers of old concrete, paint, even carpeting (!) that lived beneath the surface.
My lanai looks like a war zone.
The noise, the upheaval, the mess? A perfect metaphor for my life.
For those of you who may not know, 2021 has been a humdinger of a year.
More aptly put, a cluster#$%^ of loss both expected and unexpected, and the waves of grief that accompany the death of your dearest people.
You likely read about my experience losing mom back in March.
You KNOW your aging parents are eventually going to die, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I sobbed during Shasta’s morning walks, feeling lost. During mom’s final year, my life was wrapped up in taking care of her needs, trying to bring a smile to her face (despite the distance COVID mandated), and, at the very end, holding vigil at her side.
When she died, I felt unmoored; with no purpose. She had been my purpose.
Slowly, I found my footing, grateful for a loosening of pandemic restrictions and finding comfort in Mark’s companionship.
Plus, I had a new purpose! My godson David’s wedding!
As if in training for the Olympics, I shattered all previous weight loss records and lived to fit in “the dress” – a dream of a gown that made me feel a little like a celebrity. The promise of this happy occasion brightened my spirits and I looked forward to celebrating.
And boy, did we.
It felt like turning a corner to better days.
And then, the unexpected.
Just a few weeks after the wedding, Mark died.
He hadn’t been feeling great; chalked it up to indigestion, kept adjusting his diet, put off going to the doctor, and when I finally called the ambulance, it was too late.
His aorta burst.
Since August 24th, my life has been a blur of shock, sadness, anger, depression mixed in to small pockets of hope, gratitude, and peace. But these final three are elusive.
Honestly, I felt stronger in the initial days and weeks following the shock. Friends swooped in to sit Shiva with me. Cards and flowers and food deliveries kept me distracted. I jumped back into work after just a week, because what else would I do? Just sit around crying?
My purpose in writing these missiles is always to encourage, so I can imagine you all wondering when we’re going to get to the good part.
When you’ve spent every night for the last few years holding hands with a dream of a man who lavished you with love and kindness; who fixed every problem that could be solved with power tools; who never failed to be your biggest cheerleader and was always on your side, you don’t just move on easily.
Yes, I am drawing on every spiritual tool in my toolbox.
And yes, I do believe that there is a future and a hope for me.
But there is no fast-forwarding past the heart-wrenching ache that is my constant companion.
I know that this, too, shall pass.
I also know I will never be quite the same, though I have to believe that, eventually, I will be better for this experience.
A little less trite in my positivity.
A lot more empathetic.
And oh, how the sting of death puts so much bull#$% into perspective.
Mary Oliver’s poem, When Death Comes, says it so beautifully:
|When death comes like the hungry bear in autumn; |
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse to buy me, and snaps the purse shut; when death comes like the measle-pox;
when death comes like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything as a brotherhood and a sisterhood, and I look upon time as no more than an idea, and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth, tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say all my life I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
I wake up each morning determined to shake the cloud of sadness.
If I must live without Mark, then I must LIVE.
We’ll see what that ends up looking like.
But for now, I mine each day seeking reasons for gratitude.
I know gratitude is the lifeline to pull me out of the darkness and back into the light.
As I look out my window and see the concrete dust and slabs of jackhammered rock. The brutal ugliness of construction.
I see in it, my life.
For my future lanai, how easy it is for me to imagine the done deal! The new surface, with a (finally) secure foundation.
And – through tears – I choose to believe that this deep work in my soul will lead to a similar, beautiful end.
If you feel inclined, Mark’s memorial service can be viewed here.