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Four Years

Spiritual Smart Aleck

Well, friends, comes now the end of another year, and with it come Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the Solstice which will mean longer days and more light for us up here in the Northern Hemisphere. Hanukkah has passed. The sixth of January will bring Epiphany for western Christianity, and around the same time Christmas will come for Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and in February we’ll be hearing about the Chinese New Year and saying, “Gong hey fat choy,” or “Gong xi fa cai,” depending on whether we’re going with Cantonese or Mandarin.

I have my personal milestone coming up. On the twenty-ninth of December, my husband Rick will have been gone for four years. If you’re sick of reading about it, go read something else. Thanks.

Boy, that four years was fast, but it sure wasn’t easy.

I miss Rick every day, but I find that I have come to some peace and acceptance of his being gone. It really takes a long time to wrap your head around the fact of the death of someone who has been a part of your life for so many years. So many years that he still is a part of my life. I find myself having attitudes that I caught from him, and I remember often instances of his humor, and I laugh again.

I have a friend who says, “The peace of the Lord be with you,” every time she leaves my house. One day I was baking something, and I pulled out the built-in bread board that lives under my kitchen counter. To my shock, one corner of the board broke off and fell on the floor.

“The piece of the board be with you,” Rick said.

I feel like for a long time I made myself smash my head on the reality of his absence, trying to bring it home to myself that he was gone, dwelling in that harshness as a way of not feeling the pain of the great things about him that I miss so much. Choosing which hurt I wanted to feel, I suppose.

Now I seem to be relaxing a little, getting a little softer, smiling at the memories of things I loved, and things I did not love so much as well. Laughing at both sides of that spectrum. Looking at his journals and drawings and getting a hit of who he really was, instead of the guy I idealize in my head. I think I prefer the real guy.

Four years gone, that man of mine. I’m doing okay on my own now. It feels like there is never enough money, a chronic condition of adult life, but then somehow there is enough money, and I’m still here. Go figure.

Rick’s father’s widow, Diane, and I have bonded over our similar journeys. We talk about belonging to a club nobody wants to join. She reported to me the other day that there is a new member, one of her sisters, whose husband has died at the age of sixty-seven, after almost forty years of marriage. It hurts to hear.

I know that new members come into the club every day, and I can only say I am so sorry for your loss, and it isn’t easy, and it will not seem like time is going fast as you go through it, but in time, in your time, your grief will simply become a part of who you are. You’ll never be the same, and you’ll never “get over it,” like recovering from a bad cold. It will change how you look at the world, and other people, and yourself.

Perhaps you will find out you are stronger, and weaker, than you thought. Perhaps you’ll learn how to ask for help. Perhaps you will have more compassion for and connection with people who grieve, and more understanding of people who have not walked the grief journey yet. Perhaps grief will express itself in your art, in your work, in the way you care about people.

Perhaps you will love again. You never know. Life is funny, and people are strange.

I approach this anniversary wondering how it will be. Each one is a little different. I have more equilibrium, more peace, year by year.

I wish you joy, and I wish you courage in these challenging times.

You know, for years I have signed off letters, emails, and sometimes this column with, “Blessings, love, hugs,” but lately I have found myself signing off, “Blessings, love, hugs, peace, and resist the damn fascists.” I didn’t mean to. It just started coming out that way.

I think it is an expression of grief.