In a recent interview, Patti Smith said losing loved ones is “part of the human package…the privilege of being human is that we have our moment when we have to say goodbye”. Of course, the goodbye isn’t always in the way we want, but then again who really ever wants to close the chapter on a great story, and that is what our relationships are—stories within our lives, every moment we spend with someone a vignette. Our memories reinforce the leading roles we play in our own lives, but reflection, and a bit of soul searching, reminds us that we’re also supporting characters in someone else’s story.
Smith also said, “If we keep ourselves open, they will come…” Surrounding yourself with people who understand this is so important. Most people see death as such a finality, and absolute ending. I see the differences in how people react when I talk about my husband, often referring to him in the present tense, even five and a half years later. Friends who knew him tend to be most comfortable, perhaps because they remember his laugh, his kindness, or his sense of humor. Strangers tend to shuffle their feet, as you watch an uncomfortable feeling wash over them.
I noticed something in my neighbors recently when talking about Michael. They don’t seem to be uncomfortable. They laugh when I share stories, are not surprised to hear me talking to him when I’m in the garden, or yelling and crying at him over a broken light so high up on the garage that even a ladder provides no help. They also happen to have a strong sense of faith, and perhaps that is what grounds them in being comfortable with the idea of being gone but not forgotten.
I suppressed a lot the year I was in Maryland. I was in a completely new surrounding, and in a relationship that didn’t allow me to continue the one I was still in, will always be in, with my husband. The love I carry for Michael shouldn’t be considered a burden to anyone who comes next. It should be a testament to the dedication and devotion of which I’m capable. Of course it takes the right person to not only understand that, but also fit so perfectly in the larger puzzle that is my life, my story.
Our love was far from perfect, but as I always say it was perfect because we recognized its imperfections, and didn’t run from them—we worked at understanding them. While it would be far too easy to say I have to keep Michael alive for the sake of our daughters, that’s only a half-truth. Keeping Michael alive in my heart and mind is a matter of my own survival, lest I become one of those puzzles sitting in my family room missing a piece, forever feeling incomplete.
Photo credit: Meera Graham www.meeraphotography.com (p.s. she’s an amazing wedding photographer)