Forty-one months ago, my life mate/soul mate died of inoperable kidney cancer. At times his death seems recent, as if he’s just beyond reach, at home maybe, waiting for me to finish with my present responsibilities. At the same time, his death seems very far away. Last night I looked at his photo and was perplexed to realize he no longer seems real to me. I have no concept of him as a person. It’s as if he were merely an idea I had once a long time ago or maybe a character I created for a book. And yet I know he lived, loved, laughed. I know he was real. I feel the loss in the depth of my being, and tears of sadness and yearning for him are always close to the surface, though the tears seldom fall any more.
My life doesn’t seem real, either. I walk, write, make friends, lose friends, make plans and break them, try new activities, see new places, sample new foods, wish on the first star I see at night. (Okay, so it’s Venus — from here, it looks like a star.) Despite all that I’m doing to create a life for myself, I feel as if I’m just going through the motions. I don’t want to live alone, yet I don’t want to live with anyone, either. I don’t want him back to suffer more, yet I wish desperately to see him once again.
Even if I did get a chance to see him, I wouldn’t know what to say — grief has changed me in some fundamental way, and I don’t know if we’d have anything to talk about. Of course, I’d ask him what his life was like, if he were happy, if I seem as abstract to him as he now does to me. We might reminisce a bit, and I’d probably tell him of a few worldly developments, but to be honest, nothing that has happened in the past forty-one months is so important that I’d drag him back from the dead to talk about.
I’ve been looking forward to a time when grief no longer has me in thrall (they say it takes three to five years to find a renewed interest in life, though from talking to people who have gone through a similar grievous loss, I found out it’s more like four to five years). And yet, if I feel this way now — as if he isn’t real — then I’m not sure I want to find out what’s ahead. But I have no choice. In seven months, it will be four years since his death, and twelve months after that, it will be five years. And he will seem even more gone than ever.
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.