Grief: “It was a long time ago.”

Last night I watched the 2002 movie Heaven Must Wait. In one scene, Andrew McCarthy tells Louise Lombard that his mother died. She told him she was sorry. He said, “It was a long time ago.”

And I started crying.

I don’t know why that line struck me as being so poignant since I’ve heard the same sentiment in dozens of movies during the past few years. Maybe it was the sadly resigned way McCarthy delivered the line. Perhaps it was the underlying truth of the words — that time passes. Probably it was the reminder that my life mate/soul mate is moving further and further away from me. Or am I moving away from him? Either way, time is separating us.

Certain parts of our shared life are still very fresh in my mind: the day we met, the last time I held him in my arms, the moment of his death. It sometimes seems we parted such a short time ago that he could still be at home, waiting for me. But the years are passing. That first year crept by slowly, as if time itself were reluctant to let him go, but the years are beginning to pass swiftly now. It’s been more than three years since he died. Soon it will be four years, then five. And some day, I too will say, “It was a long time ago.”

Who will I be then? What will I have done? Will I still miss him? Of course I will miss him. I will always miss him. He was a major part of my life for thirty-four years, but with the passing years, his influence on my life might wane. Other experiences will have an impact on me. Other thoughts will change the way I view life. And he will have no part in any of it.

I don’t cry much for him any more. Days, weeks go by dry-eyed, though I have occasional upsurges of sadness. “Long time ago” is still a long way away, and yet last night I had the first inkling that such a time is approaching. And so, I cried for the coming years when he will be so very far from me that the tears will no longer come.

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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.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.