When my life mate/soul mate/best friend died two and a half years ago, people often compared my loss to the death of a pet or an aged grandparent or a sibling (all the while snug in the comfort of their own marriages). Some people compared my loss to their divorce. A couple of people even mystified me by comparing my loss to their struggles with alcoholism. Although these comparisons seemed insensitive at the time (I had previously lost both a sibling and my mother, and those losses in no way resembled what I felt after my soul mate died), I now understand people were reaching out to me, trying to comprehend my grief and to put it into a context they could understand.
The wound where his presence was ripped from my soul no longer gapes as widely; the feeling of his total goneness doesn’t haunt me quite so much; the anguish and physical distress has ebbed to an underlying sadness. This easing of grief has unmasked more subtle feelings of loss, and suddenly I can see how this itch to see him once more is comparable to the struggles of an alcoholic. We both have to live — forever —with a deep craving that can never be satisfied, both have an empty feeling that can never be filled, and we both live in a world where others routinely enjoy what we can’t. (Like all comparisons, this one falls short since those who give up drink have to do so from sheer force of will, while my lack is simply a result of fate.)
I hadn’t realized until after he was gone how much I counted on his very presence.
The sound of his voice filled my ears and my mind. From the moment we met until the cancer metastasized into his brain, we talked and talked and talked. We talked about everything — history, books, health, truth, all the many and various things we researched over the years. Though we said everything we needed to say, I still wish for one more word from him.
During silent times, his smiles nourished my soul. Even at the end, in his moments of lucidity before either the pain or the morphine swept him away, he still managed to smile at me. And oh, how I wish for one more smile.
A couple of days ago I wrote about my growing soul hunger, an indefinable need his presence had once satisfied, and now I wonder if that need is . . . nothing. Although we worked and played and talked for more than three decades , we often did nothing together. Were just there, a presence in each other’s lives. As his dying became the focus of our lives, and we couldn’t do much of anything together, not even carry on a conversation, we could still do nothing together, and we often did.
Although I am finding others to fill some of the roles he played in my life, this last is the role no one can fill. I have people to do things with, but I have no one to do nothing with. And, like an alcoholic, the one thing I need is the one thing I can’t have. He was a presence in my life first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. He was a presence in the kitchen when we fixed meals together. He was a presence when we watched movies or ran errands or did chores. He was a presence in my thoughts — because we had spent so much time together, discussing history and current events, our ideas developed in tandem. And we didn’t have to explain ourselves or our state of affairs — we were there and saw the effects life had on the other.
I understand that this sort of companionship is rare, and I feel greedy and perhaps insensitive for even mentioning the lack of his presence in my life, but this is my truth, my experience, my sorrow. No matter how much I wish things were different, these circumstances will never change, but I will. I am becoming more accepting of my situation, more respectful of the soul hunger, more grateful for what I once had. It’s possible someday I will even get used to having no one to do nothing with.