Life Goes On Even if the Whole Thing is Flawed

Today marks the nineteenth month since my life mate — my soul mate — died of inoperable kidney cancer. 580 days of missing him have passed, and there is still a lifetime of such days ahead of me.

It was a quiet day for me today, no big emotional storm — the storm came last month. I can see why there would be a grief upsurge at twelve months — that is a major anniversary and a big step. But at eighteen months? Can’t figure that one out. But, as I have learned, grief has no logic. It comes and goes as it pleases. Most times I do well by keeping busy and focusing on the moment, other times I am overwhelmed . . . again . . . by the realization that he is dead.

I hate that he is gone. The world is so much poorer without him. If he had left me for another person or place on earth, I would probably be furious at him for leaving, but I would not have this feeling of blank. It’s as if something in the middle of the page of my life was erased, and that blank spot remains. I work around the blank spot, fill it with excursions, friends, exercise, online activities, but still, it is there, a major flaw in my life.

He and I used to make tapes of the songs we liked, along with an index of each tape so we’d know what we have. I started going through some of his music tapes, trying to decide what I want to do with them. (I’d like to keep everything I have left of his, but when one leads an unsettled life, extraneous possessions become a burden rather than a luxury.) I was doing fine until I came across a tape marked flawed. I pulled out the paper that listed the songs on that particular tape. He had written in big letters across the top of the page: whole thing flawed. I set both the tape and the index on my work table, and that was the end of that. I haven’t been able to go through any more of his music, nor have I been able to throw away that tape or that paper. So every day I see that message: Whole thing flawed. That’s what life feels like now — it’s continuing on, but with him gone, the whole thing seems flawed.

I still have his tape player, and in the player is one of his tapes. If I rewind the tape a bit, I’ll be able to listen to the last song he ever heard. That’s something else I haven’t been able to do, or wanted to do. I don’t know how I’ll feel. Don’t know if it will make me feel connected to him, if it will set off a storm of tears, or if I will feel as if I were spying on him. So the tape player with that final tape is packed away, along with all his other tapes except the one on my table with it’s stark reminder: whole thing flawed.

10 Responses to “Life Goes On Even if the Whole Thing is Flawed”

  1. knightofswords Says:

    Facing those old tapes, or not facing them. The need to make a yes/no decision about such things is rather flawed it self, yet still, the stuff is there in a box or a closet and we can’t pretend it isn’t. What a haunting presence such things have, faced or not.


  2. Carol J. Garvin Says:

    After the death of our daughter I remembered a tape from our telephone answering machine that I had removed from the machine and tucked away. She had left a long, rambling, drug-induced message not long before she died, and I thought I’d want to hear her last words again some day. In fact, I found I’d rather remember happier times and not be drawn back to the pain of that time. I also have a box of my father’s possessions that were given to me after he died, and I’ve never pulled them out again to look at. I realize I have no desire to save any of the material things. I have photos and memories, and those have been the best for me.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I have only two photos, one of him looking away from me that was taken a few months before he died, and one of him taken fifteen years ago that no longer looked the way I remembered him . At first, I didn’t want to look at the old photo thinking I’d forget what he really looked like. Now I’m glad I have that photo — he looks so young and healthy (though he was already sick) and I’d rather have that image in my head than that of his emaciated self.

      Thank you, as always, for your comment, Carol.

  3. Carol Says:

    Today marks 100 days since the death of my fiance. I cannot bear to clean his grimey fingerprints off the refrigerator door. I love to look at the thousands of pictures that we took of our ten years together. I’ve made a memorial page that I add a picture to every day for his friends and his brother to see. His mother can’t look at a single one of them, but for me, it brings me great comfort. I’m making a quilt from his old clothes. He had undiagnosed diabetes, which the doctors have told me contributed significantly to his violent outbursts. I have 7 phone messages that include those outbursts. I cannot erase them. I need to hear his voice, even if it is angry. But, what do I do with his toothbrush? Something so simple, that he used every day. I can’t throw it away, but I don’t want to keep it either. Perhaps there will come a time when I will know what to do with it.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Ah, Carol, I am so sorry. At only 100 days it’s all still so new. The one thing I have learned is that you have to do whatever brings you comfort. If seeing his fingerprints on the refrigerator brings you comfort, then don’t clean them off, no matter what anyone says. And do only what you can do. If you can’t throw away his toothbrush, don’t. At the end, we didn’t share a bathroom, otherwise I too would have left his toothbrush hanging there. I know you’re not asking for advice, but I just wanted to let you know that what you are feeling is all part of grieving.

      Crap. I wish none of us ever had to go through this.

      My heart aches for you.

      And yes, there will come a time when you will know what to do with his toothbrush.

      • Dennis Says:

        At about a year, I had my wife’s sisters and mom clean Jill’s things out of the closet, bathroom vanity, and pantry. The pantry was emptier. I couldn’t really see the vanity drawers and cabinet emptiness. The closet was a different story. All of a sudden half the closet is empty. That was very different. The first time I went in the closet, I paused to feel what my reaction was going to become. I guess I wish I had saved a couple of my favorite outfits of hers. I wish she would have been much larger than me so I could wear her favorite sweater. Some days photos of her make me smile, some days they make me cry, some days I scream. When I can’t take it, I don’t look at them.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          I have only one photo of him. I couldn’t even look at it for the first year. After that, sometimes it gave me comfort, so I left it out where I could see it. Other times it brought only misery, so I hid it. When I headed out on my cross-country trip, I uploaded it to my phone where I could look at it when I needed to. It’s amazing how the simplest things become so complicated. This is why we bereft need to share our stories. What sounds nuts to the happily married is perfectly sane and normal to the grief-stricken.

          • Dennis Says:

            Pat, it is such a help and a tribute to you how your grief blog is followed by so many so long after your date of loss. It is with great appreciation and wonderment to see that you still monitor this and contribute good words and support to us newly in need. Bless you.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            Dennis, Thinking of you and hoping you make it through the holidays.

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