To a final farewell
A week from today will be the ninth anniversary of my wife Liz’ death. I am, for the very first time, alone to recognize this most auspicious event. It is undoubtedly the single most defining event of my entire life. It has colored EVERY SINGLE DAY of the last nine years. In one way or another.
I wrote her a letter a couple of weeks ago. No one but me will ever read it. There are no copies. I printed it out, folded it up and placed it in an envelope covered with photos of our children. I deleted the original. On the day after Thanksgiving, I will take the envelope to the place where I first kissed her. I’ll open the envelope, read it one last time, cry whatever tears I have left, and place it on a fire to say goodbye.
I thought I had let her go a long time ago. Just about a month after her death I dreamed of her. She was standing on the other side of a white picket fence. Smiling and waving, she said goodbye to me. But I didn’t let her go. I haven’t been able to let her go. I’ve clung to her memory because the world without her was too much to face. I had never had to do that.
But it’s been nine years. I’ve destroyed two good relationships. I’ve hurt two good women that never deserved to be hurt. I’ve been surviving. But nothing close to thriving. Knowing that this is not particularly unusual doesn’t make any of it any better. And yet, I know we all process our grief in our own time.
There have been a lot of studies of grief. No one has yet found a working model of how to successfully process it that works in any general sense. Every human being deals with it in their own way. And in their own time. Men, in our culture, are expected to “suck it up” and move on. Often that means remarrying (my grandfather buried three wives). I even tried to follow that pattern. It just caused more unnecessary pain.
I don’t have any answers. My sister recommended the ritual I describe above. I put a couple of twists into it that meant something to me. I’m not a religious person. I don’t do ritual either. But something about this feels right. I don’t have any idea if it’ll make a difference or not. I know Liz will always occupy a big place in my heart. That scar will never completely heal. But maybe, just maybe, someday Thanksgiving can be something other than the week my wife passed away.
Thank you for reading.