I’m counting down to the fourth anniversary of the death of my life mate/soul mate. I used to count the minutes and hours, and now I count the months and years. One day I will count only the years, or maybe just the decades. He is gone, so very gone that I seldom think of him any more, though something deep inside of me will never forget.
I remember how hard it was for me even to take a breath right after he died — each gulp of air took all my strength and will. The pain consumed me — at times, all I could think about was getting through that very minute. And now I have managed to get through 2,065,726 minutes, one minute at a time.
At the beginning of my grief, a friend passed on words of wisdom from her mother that I never could quite figure out. The mother said that “you never get over losing someone. Their absence just becomes part of what their presence always meant.” And now, all of a sudden, I understand what she meant.
In my case, his presence gave me courage to be bold, to try new things, to be spontaneous and not to worry too much. At least, that’s the way it was at the beginning. When he got sick and continued to get sicker for many years, our lives became constrained, both because of financial troubles and because of the demands of his health. During those years, I sunk into myself, unable to bear what was happening to him, to us. Now that he’s gone, his absence gives me what his presence once did — the courage to be bold, to try new things, to be spontaneous and not to worry so much.
From the beginning of my grief, I knew I couldn’t continue to do the things that we did together. His hard-won death set us both free, and if I had continued to live the way we always did (or do what I so often wanted after he died — just go to bed and nurture my pain) — then I would have wasted his death. Instead, I used grief’s anger to propel me forward.
Like many bereft in my grief “age group” —- those who lost our mates about the same time — I have developed an inordinate need for adventure. I’m not sure why we feel this need except that perhaps both our love and our grief were so immense that only something equally immense will satisfy our souls. Oddly, few of us are able to indulge in adventure except in a minor ways — we seem be gripped by responsibilities, either taking care of young grandchildren or elderly parents. It’s possible that before we are able to set out on an adventurous life, the passing of the years will dim that craving for adventure, and we will shrink back into small lives.
I may not have the physical strength and necessary skills to undertake such an adventure as hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I may not have the financial reserves to spend my life on the road, traveling around the country. I may not even have the desire to try to walk 1000 miles, live abroad for a year, or take a freighter to New Zealand. But I will do something epic, something just a bit beyond my desires, strengths, skills. His absence gives me the courage for such a step. In fact, his absence makes it necessary to live large.
But oh, just between us, I am tired of trying to live large, tired of trying to expand my sphere beyond the day-to-dayness of life. I’d give anything for one more comfortable day with him, one more conversation, one more small smile. But such is not possible. And so I continue on alone, living each minute to the fullest, with whatever courage, boldness, and spontaneity I can muster.
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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.