In my last column I invited you to google Micah 6:8 from the Hebrew scriptures. Just in case you didn’t, here it is:
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, and to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?”
Micah 6:8 – The New Oxford Annotated Bible
In other news, it is the end of 2018. Some of us are still standing. Some have shuffled off the mortal coil, and we miss them.
I sent out some greeting cards this year, as well as some email greetings. Usually these are cheerful catch ups with people, but this year I put my foot in it.
I wrote a holiday email to a high school friend of Rick’s, wishing the friend and his wife a good holiday together. They married six or seven years ago, a second late in life marriage for both. He wrote back to tell me he had some hard news – his wife died suddenly and unexpectedly last July, of a fast-moving infection. Two days in the ICU, and blink. Damn it. And I had chirped on so merrily in my note, wishing them a happy holiday together.
I wrote back expressing my condolences.
Another high school friend of Rick’s, Susi, called to touch base. She lost her mother this year. She was close to her mother, and her mother’s death is hitting her hard, so we talked about grief and how it takes you.
What I have learned about grief is that while it is a universal experience, and you can talk about your common experiences with other people, everyone experiences it uniquely. Some people start sobbing immediately. When Rick died I sat here staring at the trees, numb with shock, for about four and a half months, and then I started going to pieces, and yes, sobbing, and that went on for a long time. Sometimes I wished I could go back to the numbness. Sometimes I still wish that.
Sometimes people new to grief ask, how long does the initial intense pain go on? I can’t tell you. It will lessen. It takes “tincture of time.”
Those of us who have been at this a while laugh at the stages of grief. You go through all of them, all the time. This is not a program where you get to graduate and receive a certificate at the end.
You never get over grief. This huge event, the loss of someone you loved, becomes part of who you are, and part of your understanding of what the world is and your place in the world. It changes you and everything else, and it gives you terrific compassion for people experiencing grief.
Rick will be gone five years on December 29th. This year I feel like I have built a new life as a single person. Rick is an integrated part of me. After all, we knew each other for forty years, and were together for 36 years. When you are with a person that long, you kind of know how they would respond or what they would say about things.
I try to remember the guy he was, and not make him into the guy I might wish he was in memory. He was a human being and he was not a paragon or a saint. He was a wonderful singer and guitar player, a cartoonist, an Army brat, a Vietnam vet, a water worker, a workaholic, an introvert who wanted to be left alone. When my mother came to visit she kept asking, “Where’s Rick?” He was out on the porch smoking a cigarette or a pipe, usually.
He had a ribald sense of humor. He said he could never be a successful cartoonist because his sense of humor was too obscene. I only agreed with him on one cartoon he drew. No, I’m not telling you what it was.
Living together was not always easy. I think a lot of married people can relate. Marriage! A blessing and an aggravation, as another long-time married friend and I were saying to each other the other day.
I’m not here to lie to you. Much.
I have overbooked myself, so I’m trying to get a little more solitude at home now. This after decades of people, even a psychic, who told me his spirit guides were quite emphatic about this, telling me to get out of the house more. It’s difficult to find a balance, but I’m trying. My plan at present is to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with my God, to the best of my ability.
“Ah, but a woman’s reach should exceed her grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” – Robert Browning. Paraphrased.