What did I do? After all this time, what did I really do? I have to imagine others who have been caregivers ask the same thing. I don’t just mean caregiving, I mean what did I DO BEFORE THAT?
There is, in large part, a fantasy world surrounding the question. Every moment of this time, I wanted to be only one place - beside Heather, serving her, caring for her, loving her. I wanted to be at home, to support my children with my presence. Why did it come to this only then, though? There is such a tearing of the soul over the balance of vocation and family. There always has been. Even for ancient ancestors, they had to leave home, family to hunt and plant, to scout and care for their relatives and their tribes. Is it curse? Indeed. Oh mother Eve and father Adam, could you not have listened and heeded?!
Of course not for neither can I. Neither can you. We commit the sin of selfishness and selfish ambition every day. Every moment. Every second. And it is felt in the same place where the hole resides inside of me - in my soul where my dearest love lived and wrestled for my attention and devotion all these years. The curse won.
Well, not fully. The truth of the pain and gaping hole now takes center stage. I love her more now than ever, now of course that I cannot be with her - cannot touch her skin, kiss her lips, hear her laugh, see her smile, resonate with her voice. What a cruel joke that I am now more aware of love than when she was with me.
C.S. Lewis’ observation of “A Grief Observed” delve not into just any grieve but that of a loss of one’s spouse. This is an important distinction - it would be foolish to just compare any grief to any other grief. None of us are the same. I know now, what I wish I knew then. Like so many other things, I suspect my past self would never have listened to my present self just as you will likely not listen to me but heed it if you dare, for Lewis’ words ring true:
“...bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love. It follows marriage as normally as marriage follows courtship or as autumn follows summer. It is not a truncation of the process but one of its phases: not the interruption of the dance, but the next figure (pg 39, “A Grief Observed”).”
Hear the ancient vows and again, heed the bell that tolls: “Till death do us part…” It is not a play on words nor is it a creation of Shakespeare: these are the ancient words of truth - death will come and part lover from lover. Two will become one again.
Each day in the valley of suck takes us to the deepest parts of our soul if we let it after all, isn’t this where love truly resides? Is it not from the roots the tree depends on water to flow to produce fruit? Is it not from the roots the mightiest trees and strongest weeks depend to hold them firm to terra firma? Cut off the top and if the roots remain, they will grow again...my lawn is a parable in practice!
As is my soul. Even now, in my grief, in the soil of suffering, I find my love grow. Mainly, it is towards my children but it is beyond. My love for Heather grows for her and all of who she was and who she still is. Do not let me idolize her memory, though, she was not Christ any more than I am Christ or you are Christ. We are sinners all and it is the true danger to make more of the deceased in death than who they were in life. She was saved by grace not by any works and this is the grace, she boasted in. If I go too far, I suspect, Heather as she is, will be certain to knock my feet out from under me just as she did in this life whenever it was warranted.
But I know too each item, each note, each book she loved and touched retains part of her in some form; some fashion; though foreign to my soul. She is here but not.
All grieving brings us to the valley of suck and it takes us through places familiar and places unknown. We don’t go alone, I need no more reminders and I am very aware of the truth. I am cared for by dear friends and family. I know the Shepherd of my soul is by my side; often most silent but still, ever present. And even though this is true, widows wander on a way unknown but to widows only and the way is worth every moment of love and life in the past, present, and the future.