What Grief Taught Me About Love

It always amuses me when I see “biographies” of young celebrities. “Biography” connotes more than a simple depiction of the facts of a life. It should tell us the person’s early influences, their failures and successes, their growth through adversity and grace during prosperity, and most of all,  how they ended up where they ended up. What does any of that have to do with an eighteen-, twenty-, or even thirty-year old celebrity? Sure we can see what their childhood influences are, but how do those early years affect their later ones? How do they carry themselves throughout a lifetime of success and failure? What did they learn? (Quite frankly, what is there to say about a person who acheives success at an early age and who maintains that success? So they struggled for a few years. So what? Many people struggle a lifetime and achieve nothing but old age.)

In fiction, the starting point of the story is when the character first encounters a major change that ruptures the status quo of his or her life, and it ends when s/he has established a new normal, a new status quo. In non-fiction, biographies especially, you expect the sweep of years, not merely a fraction of the life. (But then, who am I to say that biographies are non-fiction.)

When a person dies, you can begin to see the sweep of his life. It exists entire and whole in itself, without possibility of change. It is only then that you can make sense of that life, at least as it pertains to you. (I’m not sure we can ever truly make sense of another’s life, since so much of one’s life is internal and hidden from view.) So it is with me and my life mate/soul mate. I can see more clearly what we were to each other and why I still grieve his death.

What we had didn’t feel like love. After a few brief years of hope and happiness, our love was sublimated by the constraints of his growing ill health. It seemed that our cosmic love devolved into the prosaic things of life: cooking meals, doing errands, struggling to keep our retail business alive. And then it devolved further into simply surviving. Getting through the days as best as we could. We always knew we had a deep connection, though we never understood it and at times we both railed against it in our struggle to maintain our own identities, but we took that connection for granted. And what is that connection if not love?

It’s only when the story is ended that you can see the truth of it. And the truth is that love is not what you feel, but what you do. Love is being together, sharing good times and bad. It’s about not being afraid to explore who you are and what you will become. It’s about being together however you can for however long you can.

My wish for you, during this season of giving, is that you find enough love to last a lifetime.

4 Responses to “What Grief Taught Me About Love”

  1. karen Says:

    Nice post Pat –I see and like what you did wth this idea in DAUGHTER AM I and A SPARK OF HEAVENLY FIRE. How do you grieve for someone you never knew you had or for some one lost through a long illness?

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I wrote both books while he was dying. Kate was me, though at the time, I didn’t really know what greif was. So no wonder grief was such a major theme. Though oddly, love was even more of a theme in both books — love in all its guises.

  2. Cathy "Elaine Garverick" Gingrich Says:

    Dear Pat, During the past week as we have had our first contact with each other, I did not know that you are going through the pain of grieving the loss of your soul-mate. Please accept my sincere condolances on your loss and, if I may, my admiration for your bravery in daring to share that precious love with all of us.
    I hope the sharing helps to heal your heart. Sincerely, Cathy


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