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

Is the Unwitnessed Life Worth Living?

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.’”

twinsAfter the death of my life mate/soul mate, I felt that whatever happened to me in the future wouldn’t matter. He had been the witness to my life. He gave it meaning by that witnessing. During these years of grief, I have used this blog as my witness, writing about all that I have been going through. This witnessing of my grief gave it importance — because of what I have written, I’ve connected with people in a similar situation, and we’ve helped each other get through each new phase of grief.

For all these months (years, now!), I’ve been worried about becoming one of those forgotten old women who lives alone in a dingy apartment, with no one to care about and no one to care about her. It’s not an unusual fear — many women in my situation have the same worries, but we go on with our lives and hope that the fates are kind to us somewhere along the way.

The truth is, even if no one witnesses our life, it still has meaning because each of us witnesses our own live. It has meaning because we live it. That forgotten old woman living in her dingy apartment remembers who she is, who she once was, who she hoped to be. She remembers that she once was loved. She remembers that she once had worth. I only hope she knows she is still important because she still is.

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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+. Like Pat on Facebook.