|Free Verse (M.A. Reilly)|
"...Don't worry, sooner or later I'll be home.
Red-cheeked from the roused wind,
I'll stand in the doorway
stamping my boots and slapping my hands,
covered with stars."
Mary Oliver, "Walking Home from Oak-Head," Our World, p 45.
Across these last three months since Rob died, I have cried some days a little, other days more so. But the tears last for a brief duration and then they end. What feels like months of crying is in essence thirty minutes or so. It is hard to calculate time as these waves of grief feel more out of time than in. And alongside these tears there is also laughter. My 28 years with Rob taught me to enjoy life, to find absurdity a comfort, and to laugh often.
Bereavement isn't a singular feeling. Like so much of life, bereavement is complex. Yes, sadness for me is potent, and so too is humor and laughter. There is solace in finding small joys in the everyday things that help to frame my life with my son. Devon continues to amaze and delight me and I notice more how many of his mannerism and gestures resemble his dad's.
Losing Rob has not rendered me apolitical. I have strong feelings about the upcoming presidential election and look forward to casting my vote in the NJ primary later today and casting my vote in November. During the last few months of Rob's life we discussed the upcoming election often. I can recall the many times Rob raised concerns about a Donald Trump or a Ted Cruz presidency.
Losing Rob has not stopped me from living each day and now I can anticipate a future albeit quite fuzzy, but nonetheless oddly present and at times exciting. I am learning that I am resilient in ways I simply had no need to test before or to name. Beneath that resiliency is unrealized strength that I am learning to use mostly out of necessity.
Live brilliantly, my husband told me before he died. And at first I thought that meant entering into the largeness of life and being somehow dashing. I thought about the job I passed on in Afghanistan. Is this what Rob meant? Is that the brilliant living?
But now I know that isn't it.
In the same conversation when Rob told me to live brilliantly, he also told me,"You draw people to you. You attract others." At the time I was so disturbed by the diagnosis that his cancer was no longer treatable, that I didn't dwell on his words. But I remembered them. It's an odd thing--grief. So many events I don't recall, and yet I can relive the last 6 months of Rob's life in slow motion. When I think about his message to me, I think Rob was telling me that I love easily, that I love fully. There's a brilliance to that. I rarely temper passion and this leads to an optimism about life. I deeply believe in the goodness of people, the goodness of life.
Living brilliantly is more about love and less about doing any particular thing. It's about being present, being a good parent to our son, loving without constraint and remaining open to possibility. In many ways this is how we made our life together.
I offer these words, as slim and incomplete as they might be, in order to say that each person's grief has its own signature, timetable, need and response. For me there are no stages of grief, just as there are no sanctioned ways to feel or be. I think of grief more as strange attractor, than a stage. For it is oscillation, not linear movement that better describes the last 9 months. And like strange attractors, there is organization to the chaos. In the chaos of grief, love is the force that organizes.
And it is out of love, that understanding develops. In the last week, I am awakening and noticing joy and an optimism I had not named before. The most important gift Rob and I made during our marriage was a deeper definition of love, imperfect love. For it was our imperfection as beings, as husband and wife, as parents that most allowed us to love so boldly, so bravely. We were going to err and there was beauty in letting that happen. It is within the ordinary bits of living and loving that who we are best finds expression.
Dear Rob, I have finally arrived home once more, red-cheeked from the roused wind, my shoulders covered with stars. Somewhere in a parallel world I know you are cheering.