Tuesday, July 25, 2017

#SOL17: Alone

Sunset at Cinque Terre (MA. Reilly, 2017, Vernazza, Italy)

After Rob died the world expanded, felt larger, less familiar. I thought of this when I was on holiday in Vernazza, nearly 17 months after his death; 2 years after he was first diagnosed with cancer. Upon arrival in this small, yet very crowded seaside town, the distance from the train station to the B&B seemed great. I wandered uncertain, not knowing where I was heading, pulling an overpacked suitcase behind me, listening to the unfamiliar bits of language being uttered. In less certain terrain, the sense of loneliness that wells up and recedes since Rob's death feels heightened, exaggerated. And yet by the time I was leaving--a mere 48 hours later, the distance between the B&B and the train station was now nothing greater than a brief stroll, and many of the words and phrases being bantered about were more practiced, known.  

Familiarity allows for a smaller world. Intimacy even more so. 


Alongside Rob's death I learned  I am alone regardless of the presence or absence of company. An existential truth we each must come to know. We all are alone. 

This sense of singularity is a human condition that good marriages, happy families, solid relationships hide somewhat. Having a loving partner for nearly three decades anchored me to the world by connecting me to him. Regardless of what happened, I knew with complete certainty that Rob would always stand with me, by me, for me. Love allowed me to feel connected, not alone. But it also did something that was less in sight. Rob's love helped me too develop a better version of myself. That's what good marriages inspire, ever better versions of ourselves. It is this sense of self that has grown alongside my marriage these last thirty years that allow me most days to be comfortable with myself. This is a gift. 


  1. I've been spending a lot of time alone this summer and have often thought about how alone we are even when w/ others. I love the Ezra Pound poem "In a Station of the Metro" and the way it speaks to this: "The apparition of these faces in the crowd. / Petals on a wet, black bough."

    And I feel the same about my husband's impact on my life. We just had our 20th anniversary July 21.

    1. Happy anniversary. The Pound poem is a favorite and it does give the impression of being alone. Being alone can be pleasant enough.

    2. Agree. I've had a lot of solitude this summer. It has been blissful.

  2. You've put some positive into that aloneness, Mary Ann. Sometimes I wish I had my husband to help, but I know that he knew I could do it too, and that is a support.

  3. Beautifully said. I really like the image in the first entry of a widened world that grew smaller and more familiar. I still have my wife of 31 years, but dealt with the loss of my daughter, age 17. I know that sense of an expanded world as well as the heightened sense of aloneness. When parents grieve, even when they want to help each other, they soon realize that they travel alone. That too, eventually, is strengthening.

    1. I am so sorry for your loss, Peter. Your words here humble me. How terrifying and terrible it must be to first recognize that you must travel through grief alone. I want to say how brave of you, but that would mischaracterize what sorrow is. It is not about bravery as much as it is about necessity. Wishing you and your wife--great peace.


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