A Witness to My Life

This morning, I cleared away the patch of seven-foot-tall weeds that had been growing unchecked behind a construction rubbish pile in my yard. Having them gone — both the weeds and the rubbish — makes me feel so much better! With the weeds growing like that, it made me feel slovenly, which isn’t at all how I like to think of myself.

I was going to pack it in when the work was finished, because I really did overdo it in my zeal to finish the task, but then clouds came and obscured the sun, and it felt cool enough to do a job I’ve been putting off.

I never considered bindweed a weed — it looks like small morning glories, and is pretty when it covers a field, or even when it entwines itself around the links of a chain-link fence. The problem with the fence is when the season is over, the plant dies back but leaves the vines wrapped around the links. I worked a bit on clearing off the fence the past couple of days, but so much of the weed was still left to clear off, that today, in the coolness, I got out a chair, sat down, and picked and picked and picked all that weed off the fence.

It looked so nice after it was finished, I hoped someone would notice and tell me that they noticed. I felt silly thinking that — I’m not a child, calling to her mother to witness some derring-do, “Lookame, Mommy. Lookame.” And yet . . . it is nice to have our feats noticed, even if they are as trivial as a clean fence. To be honest, I think it’s more than just nice. I think it’s a fundamental need.

In the movie Shall We Dance, Beverly Clark (Susan Sarandon) says: “We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet . . . I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things . . . all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.’”

Jeff, of course, had been the witness to my life. He gave it meaning by that witnessing. After he died, I used this blog as my witness, writing about grief and all that I went through because of his absence. This witnessing of my grief gave it importance — because of what I wrote, I connected with people in a similar situation, and we helped each other get through each new phase of grief.

I am still using this blog as a witness to my life, telling about all the large and small things that make up my life, but even if I didn’t have this blog, I’d still have a witness: me. I witness my own life. I see what I do. I see the end result of my labor and, in this case, I appreciate the cleared fence.

Incidentally, the lack of tall weeds — or any weeds — by the gray slag and along the other side of the fence is due to my labors at the beginning of the week where I dug up all the waist-high and shoulder-high weeds.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator