|Guardians, Too (M.A. Reilly, 2009)|
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. - C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, p. 3.I.
I expected healing to be a loud a matter--to announce itself. A trumpet at dawn. A loud crackling, like a fire spreading. Late evening declarations. But this is not the case. Healing is more often silent, more of a background to the days that find me floundering, avoiding all things new.
These floundering days are filled with fear--an expression of grief. The very worse thing I could imagine has happened. My husband has died. One moment we are planning our lives, saying retirement is a mere decade away and then I am sitting next to him, holding his hand and watching as his breath shortens, as the distance between breaths elongates until he breathes no more. And I recall the overwhelming shock, the loudness of that empty room when his vibrant, beautiful soul left leaving behind a body on a bed.
But it wasn't only his death that stunned me, left me more hollow than filled. It was the unrelenting pain, sorrow, dashed hope, and fear that defined his last six months. Yes, we had light times but they were so very rare. Yes, we had hope for Rob was nothing if not a man who believed he would live. Yes we had love for was it not the base definition of us? But each new malady, each botched medical procedure, each unfortunate outcome catapulted us into more and more reacting.
We were rats in a maze.
My husband died in early March, but he was taken from Devon and me months earlier when staph infections ruled out cancer treatment; when his body no longer strong began to crumple: by the end of December his right leg could not support his weight and became numb from the thigh muscles to the toes and he could no longer stand, let alone walk. He became chair bound and then bed bound. My strong, strong husband could not lift himself out of a chair, a bed. He suffered through spinal surgery and 9 days of rehab before the last staph infection--the third one in five months--returned him to the emergency room of a hospital. By the end of January, his mind, his most amazing mind became too clouded from opiates and pain and more opiates and it started to break. He became more there and less here.
50 consecutive days in hospitals broke him--ended his life well before his last breath.
What follows in the weeks between Rob's death and now is that my mind seems to be taking the necessary steps to keep me from being harmed so boldly again. Even as the shock has worn, the numbness has faded, I keep a stillness about me that is unhealthy.
Don't try that.
Don't go there.
Don't do that.
Yet, against all this inactivity is Rob's louder voice, "Don't you dare hide yourself away." He somehow knew, ahead of time, that hiding would be my first response. And yes, I know that such protection keeps me waiting, stalled, suspended if you like between a past life I can no longer access and a new world I must actively make.
I am paused between two worlds.
C.S. Lewis captured this feeling well when he explained that grief feels "...like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen" (p. 33).
I thought I was writing for you. I thought I was writing in order to remember Rob. I thought it mattered if you read and took time to respond. And in some small ways it does. This bearing witness matters some. But I see now that I have been writing mostly for me, mostly to reinvent my life by rehearsing living--to stand in the fear and be vulnerable, to chance being loved.
It isn't fear, but rather sheer vulnerability; It isn't hope, but rather love--that inches this tired and broken self towards light.