Grieving: the state of the journey. I am writing short emails of support to someone whose partner has died. I find I care deeply, wanting to ease pain, wanting to stand beside. Not expecting anything back but enormously grateful that I have something to give. I read his sparse words and I remember how much everything hurt for me. I remember how deeply I was cared for Lisa and Marcia and Mary and Amy. I remember their care as some soft, warm, weightless fabric wrapping around me and holding me tight. I knew that it was there and I could lean into it. They carried my weighty pain and listened and listened and listened. Their insistence on care . . . I wonder if they were ever in contact with each other . . . was almost orchestral. I had nothing to give back to them for such a long time. Now I am full of gratitude that I am filled enough to give to someone, even if it is not one of them.
My friend wrote that he missed his partner, “as you do your beloved David.” I paused on an in breath for a moment when I read that. Miss David? No, I do not miss David. I do not miss him in the way of those first days and weeks and months. I remember missing when he was alive and due home after work although the visceral memory of that takes on the character of a photograph. I remember what it may have felt like but I can’t quite feel it any more. I remember those first awful weeks and months of such active missing that I could almost believe, irrationally but somehow not impossibly, that he would satisfy my intensity by appearing. I remember when missing was the dominant emotion–sometimes the only emotion–I had. I remember being broken anew each day because he did not return and I was moving further away from him.
And that is exactly what time has done. He did not appear and the time that has passed has driven me further from the intensity of actively missing someone who will never return. At some point, missing implies return, at least for me. Perhaps others can hold onto it longer than I. For me, the time and the work that I have done reclaiming my life has driven the searing pain of missing to the deepest part of me, so deep that it has become the fossil rock which serves as foundation to the present. The missing has sunk into my soul and is the warp and woof of the fabric of my being and the weave is tight. Perhaps this is integration and it comes with some peace. It does not replace the joy of long-time love nor the possibility of anticipated return but it sits close by.
Being a support, I can I hope for a better friend — strange how I was his partner’s friend more than his. We were couples friends and there were times we divided along gender lines. Even when that was not the case, I kept in touch with his partner. She was my friend. Now, if I am to have a friend, it must be him. How odd. I feel like I am walking through a door into some new dawn of relationships. I think of some of the women that I have gotten to know since David died. Some were already widows or single after separation, two have had husbands die since I met them. We meet in coffee shops to talk and death is never far from the conversation, sometimes not mentioned but there.
These are relationships not based on death but where death is one of the things we have in common. Like bad mothers or children in the same grade or gardening. We have what we have in common to talk about as common as talk about nasturtiums and hollyhocks and signing up for summer camp. When I reflect, it seems like this is a natural progression but I didn’t know I was getting to it so quickly. I bumped into someone at the Honda Dealership where I was getting an oil change. We did the MBSR class together last spring. She had just returned from a bicycling vacation in the Philippines with her husband. We talked of meditation and group sits and vacationing. We don’t have death in common. The topic did not sit between us. I do look on her with a touch of envy. I will never be where she is again. I know too much.