Grieving in the Desert

It’s been a while since I went walking in the desert. A couple of months ago, I started taking extra dance classes, so I felt as if I needed to rest in the evenings and on the weekends to make sure I had the strength to dance, but lately it’s more because of . . . well, because of laziness, I guess.

After last night’s upsurge of grief for all my losses, I wanted to talk to Jeff (my deceased life mate/soul mate). During the past four-and-a-half years since his death, I’ve felt the closest to him out in the desert away from the traffic and commotion of the city. But he wasn’t there today. Of course, he’s never been there except for the part of him that used to be a part of me, but today even that tenuous connection was missing.

Bell MountainI used to worry that my grief kept him tied to me so he couldn’t go wherever he needed to go, though I’ve believed from the beginning that when he died, he went far beyond my influences, back to the higher reaches of radiance he came from. (At the same time, oddly, I believe he is gone, obliterated, oblivious. This second belief seems to be the result of my logical mind, while the first is more intrinsic.) I have no true belief as to what happened to him — either way, he is gone from my life with only his very pronounced absence still making him present to me.

At the moment, I have his photograph standing on a table where I can see it frequently, though sometimes I put it away or lay it face down depending on my current state of dependency. During the time of my dysfunctional brother’s nearness and my father’s decline, I needed to keep the photo handy to remind me that my life wasn’t always such a horror. Eventually, I’ll pack the photo away and not look at it much if at all — I’m not sure it’s a good thing to keep reminding myself of our past. The past is past, and only shows itself in what I have become because of it, anything else seems to be . . . I don’t know. Wallowing maybe. Irrelevant perhaps.

It does seem strange to think he isn’t relevant to my life anymore. For thirty-four he was relevant to everything I did, said, thought. Now my life is mine alone. I still wish I could go home to him, but though I seldom admit it even to myself, I know I would chafe under the life his illness forced us to live. I remember how numb I was that long year of his dying, and I don’t have that sort of defense any more. His death and my ensuing grief killed that particular mechanism in me — now I feel everything, as if my emotional tuning fork is poised to thrum at the slightest disturbance.

Sometimes, when I am at my most mystical, I feel as if my life’s journey is just beginning. That everything up to now has been prologue. (That sounds familiar. Didn’t Shakespeare write, “What’s past is prologue”?) So I won’t say prologue. Maybe school. My life does have a bit of that “almost graduation” feel to it, along with the panic/excitement of what is coming — whatever that might be. I’m trying to follow the advice of a very sage woman and not give too much thought to the future, but my mind does seem to wander/wonder at times.

I will make one plan for the near future, though. I’m planning to walk in the desert again tomorrow. Even though Jeff might be absent, I was very much present, and that’s what mattered.


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.

4 Responses to “Grieving in the Desert”

  1. Constance Says:

    My Grandmother kept my Grandfather’s Photo (portrait) on her Bedroom Wall until the day she passed on. He was either 43 or 46 years of age when he died. (I was 6 months old.)
    It has been on my Bedroom Wall since I retrieved it out of my Mom’s Closet when I was cleaning for her, when she was alive. I never knew him, but feel he is a part of me. I like his photo on my wall.
    I have a photo of my Grandmother on my wall too.
    Funny thing! My Mom did not have photos out. The only one I remember is the one of my son, that I put on the TV Set (7th Grade). I asked her to please leave it out for my son’s sake. She never put any of his other photos out. When she passed away, I found many photos. Some in frames and some not. I framed all the photos of my Dad’s Parents, niece that had lived with us and her sister’s Wedding Photos, etc. as a “Family Photo Gallery”. I put them all on top of the TV Set. He said, “He enjoyed sitting in his chair and looking at them”.

  2. Paula Kaye Says:

    I have a picture of Richard and I together sitting in the entry way. It doesn’t make me sad to see it there. It makes me happy for the memories that it brings. I don’t see myself putting it away yet. I’ve wondered about your ‘dysfunctional’ brother…does he know of your dad’s passing? I’m glad you have the desert to walk in. I wish there was so place close like that to my house. I remember how you talked about crying, screaming, and grieving in the early days of your loss…there is so much to let go of

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I couldn’t look at the photo I have of Jeff until after he’d been gone more than a year, and it took another year or two before I could leave it out all the time. As for my brother — my sister left a message at a homeless resource place in Colorado, and they said he got the message. I’m glad — he was worried that our father would die and he’d never know. And yes, so much to let go of! I haven’t felt like screaming, but maybe I should just to get rid of some more angst from all my losses.

  3. Constance Says:

    I feel bad about your brother’s condition. There is nothing that you can do to fix it, or him.
    I have been trying with my son for years. Still struggling with the situation since he lives with me.
    It is sad for him, and hard for me.

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