Figuring Out Where to Go From Here

Route 66During the past three years, ever since the death of my life mate/soul mate I’ve been trying to figure out where to go from here. Currently I am taking care of my 96-year-old father, but someday this responsibility will come to an end, and I will have to find somewhere to live.

Or do I?

By nature, I am a quasi-hermit who easily settles into routines, and now that I am alone, that very nature could become a problem. Unless I do something to prevent stagnation, years from now I could end up being one of those forgotten old women, living behind closed curtains in a dingy apartment. Doesn’t seem like a healthy way to live, but to be honest, I’m not interested in another long-term committed relationship, either. Still, there is a world of opportunity between those two extremes.

When I met the man I was to spend thirty-four years of my life with, I become the most spontaneous I’d ever been. His being in the world made it seem as if the world were full of possibilities, and I grabbed hold of life with both hands and ran with it. Years later, as he got sicker and life took its toll on our finances, the possibilities shrank. Our lives became staid and minutely planned to take his infirmities into consideration. He told me once he regretted that the constraints of our life destroyed my spontaneity, and he was sorry to be the cause of it.

It’s not something I like to face, but the last years, and especially the last months of his life were terrible for both of us. And, something I like to face even less is that his death set me free. The best way to honor my mate’s life and his great gift of freedom is to take back the thing he thought he stole from me. So, to that end, I’m considering becoming a wanderer, living by wit and whim, at least for a while.

When I mentioned this idea to one of my grief-group friends, she said she’d love to be able to live such a life, and she’d do it in a flash if she had a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

Two hundred thousand dollars? Would it really take so much? I hope not, because I don’t have that kind of money — or any kind at all, to be honest — and unless my books became a belated overnight sensation, I have no way of getting it. On the other hand, if I don’t have rent or a mortgage to deal with, if I don’t have utility bills and other standard expenses every month, if I don’t drive all day using up tankfuls of gas but take short jaunts from place to place, then all I’d have to deal with is motels and food, and I might be able to swing that for a few months. I might even be able to find ways of extending the wandering, such as staying with friends and relatives for a few days, or perhaps even try some sort of crowd-funding such as Kickstarter.

Although I would be living by whim, the wandering life, for however long it lasted, wouldn’t be entirely pointless. I could visit bookstores and try to get them interested in my books. I could chronicle the journey, taking pictures of the places I visited, interviewing people, noting differences from place to place (if there are any. For all I know, one place could look the same as any other with a McDonald’s, Dairy Queen or Sonic, and Walmart wherever I went). I could even end up with a new book!

At the very least, I might be able to figure out where to go from here.

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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+

1000 Days of Grief

S1000 days have passed since the death of my life mate/soul mate.

1000 days. An incomprehensible number. At the beginning, I could not imagine living one more hour let alone one more day in such pain. And yet now 1000 of those days have passed and I don’t know where they went or how I survived them.

Even more incomprehensible, while I remember being in absolute agony those early months, beset by panic attacks, gut spasms, loss of breath, inability to grip things and hundreds of other physical and emotional affects, there is an element of blank to the memories, as if it were someone else in such distress. I remember screaming to the winds, though I can’t exactly recall what it felt like to be so stressed that only screaming could relieve the pain. I remember feeling as if I would die if I did not hear his voice, see his smile, feel his arms around me one more time. I remember the horrible feeling of goneness I was left with, as if half my soul had been wrenched from my body leaving an immeasurable void, but now I am bewildered by it all. Was that really me — staid, stoic me — lost in such an emotional maelstrom?

Most incomprehensible of all, as recently as a month or two ago, I was still subject to occasional flashes of raw agony, but even those seem far removed now. I still have times of tears, and probably always will have. How could I not? Someone whose very breath meant more to me than my own is gone — gone where, I do not know. But I no longer feel as if half of me has been amputated. I am just me now, not a shattered, left-behind half of a couple. Or maybe I have simply become used to this new state, as if this is the way my life has always been.

I still hate that he’s dead, but I’m also aware that his death has set me free. I spent many years watching him waste away, numbing myself to his pain, waking every morning to the possibility that he hadn’t lasted the night, dreading the end, worrying if I were up to the task of fulfilling his final wishes. All that is gone now, though the feelings of dread and worry and doubt inexplicably lasted way into this third year of grief. I used to think that grief was his final gift to me — despite the angst and agony, I embraced grief like a friend. I knew instinctively it would take me where I needed to go.

But now I know freedom was his final gift, though it was as unwanted and as unasked for as the grief. I haven’t learned yet what to do with this freedom. Perhaps if I embrace it as I did my grief, it will also take me where I need to go.

I’m still so very sad, though I am more at peace than I have been for a long time. In fact, the same photo of him that was too painful for me even to peek at for more than eighteen months after his death, now sometimes makes me smile. It might take me the rest of my life to puzzle out the meaning of our shared life, our incredibly bond, his death — if in fact there is a meaning — but what I’m left with right now is the knowledge that for whatever reason, he shared his life with me. He shared his dying. And then he set me free.

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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+