|Rick contemplating the recycler, his at home dialysis machine.|
After writing so exhaustively about the grief process after my husband died, it hardly seems fair not to write about how it’s going after two and a half years, because things have changed.
There were people who told me at the beginning that I would feel better in time, and while that was cold comfort then, it turns out to be true. Tincture of time, people, can improve many things, including grief.
In the weeks before the second anniversary of Rick’s passing, there came a new lightness in my spirit, and that has continued. Oh, there are low times still, perhaps not so much related to my grief as to my daily life and my inner chemistry, which has never favored me with a lot of cheeriness.*
Life is better. I woke up this morning feeling happy, and that is rare and wonderful, but at this point it can happen, and I am grateful.
It’s come to this: I’m beginning to feel like a person in my own right, and not so much the wounded remnant of a broken couple.
Oh, I still miss Rick, every day. I always will. I’m a better person than I was before I met him, because he truly loved me, and he showed me how to be a better person by his example.
When I think of him now, I find that I do not think of him during his final year or two, when he was so ill. I think of him whole and smiling. I think of him looking to me like poetry in motion as he split firewood. I think of him playing the guitar, the magic he had in his hands and his mind to create such beauty. I think of him cartooning, bent over his drawing table, sometimes taking his glasses off to work up close. He was terribly nearsighted, almost legally blind, and he loved being able to draw a few inches away from his face where he could see each detail clearly. The VA wanted to give him cataract surgery during his last year and he wouldn’t go for it because he didn’t want to lose his close vision.
I think of him coming home from work in the evening and telling me about his day. Right after he died I kept expecting the front door to open and for him to walk in. You know what I’m talking about.
I think of him getting up in the middle of the night to take care of water emergencies, like power outages and leaks. I think I hated that almost as much as he did, but he woke up and got up and went to work, no matter the hour. He was a slave to duty.
I remember how horrified he was when he heard or read about a gas line getting broken and catching fire somewhere. He worried that that might happen here. I once saw a house for sale down on Quartermaster Harbor and thought, ooh, that would be a cozy, beautiful place to live out our years. He wouldn’t even go look at it because the main gas line ran by it in the street. Forget it.
He was the most stubborn person I’ve ever known in my life. That could be aggravating, but let’s face it, it worked in my favor because he never gave up on me, and I can be pretty aggravating myself.
We never gave up on each other. Don’t let anyone tell you that happy marriages are always happy. Living with another human being is hard, whatever the relationship is. But somehow we always ended up giving each other enough grace.
I miss him, and I’m going on without him, and I am able to be happy again, at least in part because he gave me so much love and grace while he was here.
So that’s the sermon for today, folks: give your partners, your family, your friends, the world, enough grace. Everyone needs enough grace. And cut yourself some slack because life is sometimes so hard, or so crazy, or so senseless that you are left empty and grieving. Give yourself grace, and time, sweet tincture of time, to heal and go on. That’s all I’m saying.
*Paul Gilmartin hosts a podcast called the Mental Illness Happy Hour. You can look it up. He said when he was a guest on Luke Burbank’s NPR show Live Wire, “People who think they understand clinical depression because they’ve experienced situational depression are like people who think they understand Italy because they’ve had dinner at the Olive Garden.”