The Moment the Future Begins

In a little over two months, it will be eight years since Jeff died. It seems unfathomable to me that he’s gone. Seems unfathomable that it’s been so long. Seems unfathomable that it’s been such a short time.

Sometimes my shared life feels like it happened to someone else, and in many respects, it did happen to someone else. I’m not that same person. I don’t know what happened to her, don’t know exactly what (or who) has replaced her.

At other times, although I am no longer caught up in the breath-stealing agony of new loss, I feel as if my life stopped when grief began, and in a way, that is also true. I cannot live in the past. Although I am way too introspective for my own good, I never, ever, think about what my life would be like if he hadn’t gotten sick. If he hadn’t died. There is too much pain in that thought, too much negation of the reality of our lives.

At the same time, I cannot live in the future. We can never know what the future holds, can’t guess the traumas, such as my horrendous fall, can’t even guess what good might happen.

So, like this heron sculpture I photographed in the botanical gardens in Wichita, Kansas, I am forever poised in the moment with the past gone and the future not begun.

It seems odd to feel in any way that my life stopped when Jeff died since I truly have had an incredible number of experiences and adventures in the past years, experiences I would not have had if Jeff were still alive. I sometimes wonder what he would think of what I have done, what I have yet to become.

But that thought brings pain, too.

I used to think living in the moment was living on a knife’s edge, but now I prefer to think of it as living in the very instant before I take flight. It seems a bit more hopeful, as if I will eventually soar, but for now, all I have is that frozen flight.

I was going to add that I wish I knew that my life would work out (rather than the dread I have of being lonely and broke and old) but I really don’t want to know. If wonders are in store, then they will be a joyful surprise. And if not? Well, I’ll deal with that dreaded future when it happens.

So here I am — as we all are — poised forever at the very moment the future begins.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

There is Magic

When I was younger, I always wanted to have a special gift — ESP, maybe, or an ability to see ghosts. Or perhaps to have a touch of magic at my fingertips.

Now I am just as glad not to be special, glad to be mostly down-to-earth and pragmatic. I prefer to see the truth in the everyday world, though that never stops me from trying to become more than I currently am — to see further, to know more, to understand deeper.

magicWould I want to know what the future holds? Only if that future revolves around winning lottery numbers. I would love to win the lottery, to buy houses all over the country for the women I know who need a place to live, who want a bit of adventure but not much, so they could stay in whatever house they wanted for as long as they wanted before moving to another. Other than that, I don’t particularly care to know what will happen. I do know there will be good and bad. (Except that I don’t really believe in good and bad. It’s all life. All experience. All opportunity for growth.) Besides, I know what the future holds in the end, the same as it holds for all of us. Death. The getting there is the fun, or the not-fun. Either way, it should be interesting. (Grief wasn’t fun at all, but it sure was all-consuming, the most intense and life-changing emotional experience I’ve had besides falling in love.)

I certainly wouldn’t want the responsibility of seeing other people’s futures. What if I saw that something bad would happen? Would I be obligated to try to stop it? And if so, would it be the right thing to do? Maybe the bad thing would turn out to be good, and my interpretation of it was bad. And even if I saw it correctly, maybe changing the bad thing would create a vacuum for a worse thing to happen. Who needs that sort of pressure? Not me!

Would I want a touch of magic? Only if I could magic my books to bestsellerdom. Other than that, I wouldn’t know what to do with magic. To give myself what I want, first I need to know what I want, and that has been my problem for the past few years. I haven’t a clue what I want, don’t have any idea how I would like to shape my life. And anyway, I’m tired of trying to figure out what I want. It’s making me question everything I do, and that makes it harder to like anything.

Magic realism author Malcolm R. Campbell (who gave me the idea for this post) suggested I could use magic to wish for happiness and contentment, but I wouldn’t waste magic on such a paltry wish. I never thought happiness was all that important (other things are more important to me such as truth, experiencing, learning.) Even if I were so inclined to happiness, finding happiness and contentment on my own would make it all the sweeter. And anyway, today I am happy and content. I get to start a new life tomorrow. Technically, it’s just a new place to stay awhile, but who knows? Anything can happen. And there is magic in that.


(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.”)