Bless me blogosphere, for I have sinned.
OK, so I don’t actually believe in “sin.” I believe that there are some things that are bad and some things that are good, with most things somewhere in between.
But this feels like a confession. In my head I know I’m not really “bad” and that probably many (most?) have gone through this “stage.” But the feeling I got in the pit of my stomach when I realized I felt this way told me I had crossed a line. So, thank you, blogosphere, for hearing my confession.
It hit me like a ton of bricks, as I was walking today. Having tried running for the first time three days before at a friend’s encouragement (and survived), I was eager to exert myself more than I usually do on my lunchtime outings. So, armed with the trusty psycho-mind-reading ipod, I charted a new route, and it wasn’t long before I was huffing and puffing up the quiet, winding, narrow streets of Portland’s West Hills. Sure enough, as I began to twist and turn my way downhill, a song about grief triggered a flash of realization:
I no longer miss Julie as an individual as much as I miss the roles she filled in my life.
The details of her as a person have started to fade, to lose focus in the haze of memory. How she spoke, how she would act, what she would or wouldn’t do in a given situation—these are becoming less and less clear. What looms larger now are all the things she is no longer here to be—wife, mother, partner, companion, someone to talk to and share all the joys and burdens and tasks and events of life.
I suppose it’s inevitable—all the unique details of what a person was like in life will fade, as do all memories, especially those not assisted by visual or audio recordings. I can remember her singing voice or how she played piano because I can play them back with a few clicks of the mouse in the studio, preserved in all their digital purity. I see her photos, whether from 2 or 20 years ago, every day on the walls of our house. I am very thankful for these things. (Ironically, it was she who always pressed us to take more pictures, fix the video camera, etc., so that we would have these memories preserved. Now we are here, able to recall her in great detail, thanks to her own wish to look back on the three of us from a vantage point she never lived to enjoy.) Especially for the kids, they refresh her memory in ways that I’m sure will become more and more important over time.
But for me, her individual presence is fading in ways no photo or video or CD can revive. What remains, missed more than ever, are the holes left behind by her passing. For 21 years, my life grew and evolved and changed with and around her, like a tree that takes a unique shape based on the rocky landscape in which it grows. Now, the rock is gone, making the things I no longer have in my life—partner, lover, co-parent, friend, head of household—stand out in their absence more than the person who was all these things.
For now, no amount of rationalization or intellect can persuade my heart to give up the feeling that this makes me a terrible person, as if it means I am reducing her to a job description, a series of roles that could be filled by any number of likely candidates.
I’m sure, as my former therapist would so annoyingly say, it’s not so much a question of either/or as “both/and.” My pals in the widowverse will surely tell me that there’s nothing “wrong” with grieving any aspect of loss, whenever it happens, and that the river of grief ebbs and flows, changing course in ways that are not ours to predict or control. Intellectually, I get all that.
But in my heart it feels as if I am somehow the perpetrator of a great betrayal. Greater than loving another woman, or making decisions she might not have approved of, or anything else I have done since she’s been gone.
The news that truly shocks is the empty empty page
While the final rattle rocks it’s empty empty cage
And i can’t handle this
I grieve for you
You leave me
Let it out and move on
Missing what’s gone
They say life carries on
They say life carries on and on and on