Across the Great Divide

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of my life mate/soul mate’s death. It seemed like it should have been some sort of great divide, though why I expected this particular anniversary to make any more impact than any other anniversary, I don’t know. Maybe because five seems such a momentous number. A prime number. A strong number. Maybe because it comes at the same time my father’s house was sold, leaving me without a place to call my own. (Though I never did call this place my own. It was my father’s house, and now it belongs to all his heirs.)

The Black Canyon of the GunnisonBut there was no divide. Today is just the same as any other day. Jeff is still gone, and I am still left alone to deal with his goneness.

People advise me not to look to the past, to put his death behind me, and for the most part it’s good advice since there is nothing we can do about that which has passed. The problem is that although Jeff is gone, leaving our shared life in the past, his absence is very much a part of my present.

His absence brings an urgency to my life that it would not otherwise have since his goneness is a constant reminder that death is but a breath away. His absence brought me to this desert town to look after my father — if Jeff hadn’t died, I would never have come, would never have found dance, would never have made so many friends. His absence creates not only a void that begs to be filled but an uncertainty that demands to be acknowledged — since life is uncertain anyway, it makes sense to embrace that uncertainty along with a need for adventure. His absence engenders a sense of uncaring. It’s not that life doesn’t matter — it does. It’s that it doesn’t matter so much what I do or where I go because no matter where I am, there I am. And there he isn’t.

I know I can be happy because I so often am. I know I can find joy in living and discovering, searching and learning, maybe even loving, because I do. But none of that negates his absence because although the great divide of death separates us, his absence will always be a presence in my life.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

Grief: Feeling The Absence

I must be getting a grip on my grief despite the recurring upsurges of sadness because more and more I’m seeing the bizarreness of the process rather than simply experiencing it. On Friday, it will be twenty-two months since my life mate/soul mate died and though I’ve never felt his presence the way some people sense a connection with their dead mates, sometimes I feel his absence as if it’s a living entity.

I was sitting in the dentist chair yesterday, waiting alone for the verdict on my gum infection, when all of a sudden I started crying. We’d always gone together to the dentist, doctors, optometrists, etc, and yesterday, sitting alone, I could feel that he wasn’t waiting for me. I could actually sense that he wasn’t in the reception area, could feel the substance of his absence like a white hole (as opposed to a black hole). Just one more bizarre aspect of grief.

Oddly, I didn’t realize what a comfort his presence was at such times until it was gone. I took his presence for granted (not him — I never took him for granted), but it was as if his presence were part of the very air I breathed, and now that he has disappeared from my life, I’m stuck breathing the standard nitrogen/oxygen mix. And it’s not enough.

I don’t mind that I don’t feel his presence. If he still exists somewhere, I hope he has something more thrilling to do than watch over me, and I certainly hope he has something more thrilling to do than wait at the dentist’s office for me. But . . . I truly don’t understand how he can be dead. Don’t understand where he has gone. Don’t understand what death is. Don’t understand what life is, either, to be honest.

All I know is that he is gone from my life, and never again will I feel the comfort of his presence.

But it makes me wonder: did he feel the comfort of my presence? I was there at the end of his life. I was there when he took his last breaths. I hope he felt my presence the way I used to feel his. I hope it gave him comfort. Hope it still does.