Two years. Twenty four months. Seven hundred and twenty days…give or take. Those numbers keep circling in my mind, because that is how long it has been ( come March 27) since Jim left this earth on that Monday afternoon. The shock of it is still “like yesterday”, but at the same time, I cannot fathom that I have lived that long without him.
I have talked with others who have lost a spouse or other loved one about what seems strange when it is verbalized. I very often feel as though I am observing life going on around me but that my real life is inside my head, where Jim is. This is not a particularly sad feeling, just interesting. The sadness is more a permanent resident in my heart; it ebbs and flows in intensity, but I know that it always be there and I accept that most of the time. At other times, randomly, I feel panic, overwhelming grief, and some anger, not directed at anyone particular. This cycle of emotions seems to be normal among those grieving. Part of me almost “hangs on” to these feelings, because they connect me to him in an intense way which I am afraid of losing. The brutal truth is that everything in life, from waking and trying to straighten my arthritis-burdened body, to saying my last bedtime prayers, is no longer shared with him. This seems impossible to me, because we did share so many years…dating, marriage, raising children…times both wonderful and terrible. We both held God at the center of our lives, individually and as a couple, but Jim was my daily constant whom I could hug and kiss and with whom I could just “be”. I miss every aspect of being married to him. Yes, I am grateful for the years and the memories, but I was not ready for them to end.
I look into my earthly future with varied emotions. I am a naturally optimistic person, but also very logical and realistic. I fret about decisions, my house, my finances. Then I remember that the Lord has not deserted me. No matter my fretting or dissatisfaction with any specific situation, He has provided what I really needed. He has given me kind, loving friends, a job to do in serving my faith family, and the cutest grandchildren ever ( my grown children, too). I don’t have any grand plan. The ultimate one is His, so I choose to trust Him even though sometimes I can muster only a tiny bit when I am sad and afraid. The only thing I know to do is , assuming I wake up, put my feet on the floor and start the day. I have always loved something that Elisabeth Eliot said …that when you don’t know what to do, do the next thing, which may be washing the dishes (paraphrase). In my case, it is often sweeping and vacuuming the ubiquitous German Shepherd hair which never abates. In exchange, I get an eccentric housemate whom I know would kill for me…unless the bad guy offered her cheese. She was Jim’s pup. She sat literally under his feet at his desk, sat calmly by his boat when he was working on it, and rode in his truck once a week to the church building, where she patrolled the halls and checked out every room until she was satisfied that there were no terrorists or cats lurking about, whereupon she went back to the door and waited to leave, having completed her mission. She looked for Jim for months but finally adopted an air of acceptance and made Pat her human. For now, she is stuck with me, but I am grateful for the companionship.
I imagine that folks expect widows, or at least old widows, to possess wisdom and advice for others who may experience such loss. The problem is, the older I get, the more I know that I don’t know…and I am not afraid to admit it. I don’t know how people with no faith in God do this. Is He my crutch? Absolutely, in the middle of a long dark night and in the moments when I despair and when the day is going okay.
This is a journey I did not want to take. I don’t like it. But I am in the middle of it. I read and hear that it gets easier as time passes. I don’t believe life will ever be easier without Jim. What I can believe is that joy comes along every now and then from many different sources and that I can take encouragement from those times. I suppose I do have one piece of advice for someone who finds herself or himself in my shoes: find a routine that works for you, that provides comfort and structure, and don’t let other people judge ..well, they might..but they can keep it to themselves. If I could get a message to Jim, I would tell him that I love him, I miss him, his family misses him, that we know he is well and whole, and that today, anyway, I am carrying on.