I’ve come a long way in the three years since I wrote the following letter. I still don’t understand the nature of life or death. Still don’t understand the point of it all, but I am embracing life, trying to create my own meaning out of small occurrences. I’m learning to live without him, learning even to want to live without him. Sometimes I see his death as freeing us — me — from the horrors of his dying, and I don’t want to waste the sacrifice he made.
I still wish I could go home to him when my current responsibilities come to an end, but even that desire is waning. It took me a long time to feel the truth — that he is gone from this earth, and I am here. I still miss him, and I probably always will, but I’m learning to be comfortable in my own skin again. When one of “our” things disappears from my life through attrition, it no longer pains me — they are merely things, not “us”.
I’m grateful we met and had so many years together. Grateful I once had someone to love. Grateful that when my time comes to die, he won’t be here to see me suffer. Grateful he won’t have to grieve for me.
Excerpt from Grief: The Great Yearning
Day 197, Dear Jeff,
It’s been a while since I’ve written, but I’ve been thinking about you. Are you glad you’re dead? You said you were ready to die, to be done with your suffering, yet at the very end you seemed reluctant to go.
I didn’t want to throw you away. Despite all the problems with your restlessness and the disorientation from the drugs, I wasn’t ready for you to leave me. I still am not. Nor do I want to go back to where we were that last year, waiting for you to die. We were both so miserable, but honestly, this is even worse. I can live without you. The problem is, I don’t want to, and I don’t see why I have to.
I want to come home. Please, can I come home? I have a good place to stay, but without you, I feel homeless. Sometimes I watch movies from your collection and imagine you’re watching with me, but that makes me cry because I know you’re not here. Your ashes are, but you’re not.
I broke a cup today, one more thing gone out of the life we shared. Our stuff is going to break, wear out, get used up. I’ll replace some of it, add new things, write new books, and it will dilute what we shared. Is there going to be anything left of “us”? I feel uncomfortable in this new skin, this new life, as if it’s not mine. As if I’m wearing clothes too big and too small all at the same time.
There’s so much I hate about your being gone—hate it for me and hate it for you. It might be easier if I knew you were glad to be dead, but so far you’ve been mum about your situation. Just one more thing to hate—the silence of the grave. (Well, the silence of the funerary urn.)
Adios, compadre. If you get a chance, let me know you’re okay.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.