Friday, February 24, 2012

Phantomness

There's a lull in our busyness in the past few days and I'm planning on visiting the cemetery.  The pain is raw again.  New and fresh.  When will this ever go away?  People with good intentions sometimes tell me it should be getting better by now...but that is just because they haven't had to walk this journey.  It must be easier for them to believe that.  It's different, but not better.  Death, like new life, is not easily processed by the human mind or soul.

I tell a friend last night on the phone that although I've tried so hard to stay away from the "Why me?" question because it seems superficial and egocentric- knowing how much suffering goes on in the rest of the world- why not me?  But I can't deny the feelings...when I see others with an abundance of life- pregnant women, or large families, I just wonder why some would be handed this abundance and richness of life- while I received death and the richness of this grieving process.  The fact is many people will never know a tragedy like this in their whole life.  I know that I also have so much to be thankful for.  I am not a widow in a third world country.  I have a beautiful daughter whom I cherish and who has kept me getting up each morning since you died.  I have loving parents who have been there to help me with anything I might need.  We are eating well and living well in general.  Still, there is that feeling- that the lives of others are...luxurious...like yesterday when I run into two women from the mom's group I hung around with before he died...when we all had one child.  They are both coming out of the grocery store while I am standing by my car waiting for Audrey to wake up from her nap.  They are both pushing infants, their second children, in strollers.  They've just gotten a pedicure together.  "Hey, how are you!"  We make small talk about house hunting and moving out of the area.  I meet their new babies, peeking in at them, "Oh, so cute...congratulations," while I focus on sounding genuine instead of heartbroken.  It is crushing and awkward and horrible.  And I ask myself, not that I want anyone else to suffer, but why not them?  Why are they getting it?  But I am not.  It is very, very tough to not take this personally after a while, after it settles in.

But even this feeling, this questioning, suggests an innate belief that the world should be fair or just and that there is someone who would control whether or not I would have that second child and loving husband.  By nature, you can't take something personally in an impersonal, meaningless world; a tale told by an idiot doesn't license that kind of criticism.

The "we" is also hard.  This is the "we" that all couples use to refer to themselves as one unit.  "Oh, we loved that movie!"  or "We're not going to get a real tree this year."  I still use that we sometimes when I'm referring to my previous life which is still the larger portion of my life at this point so I kinda can't help it.  "Oh, we used to do that," or "Oh, we never liked that."  We.  It carries a certain protection and safety of "I'm part of something bigger- there's someone else that agrees with me."  The we sounds smug to me now, and eerily unsafe.  You think you are "we," it seems to say, but trust me- you will not be we forever.  You are two distinct beings- one day you will be just one again.   I- that is a lonelier word.  It stands alone.

The whole topic of remarriage still irritates me.  From day one, it seems to be right there, ready to fix everything- at least that's what people want to believe.  If someone loses a child, or a sibling, or a parent- no one suggests that they get another one.  It isn't assumed it can be made better.  But this is the same.  There is no future union that will ever mend my heart.  I notice a few widow bloggers are in relationships now- they read my site and I theirs.  I am happy for them because they seem happy- and because I know how hard this road is...but I cannot imagine this for myself.  Another young widow friend tells me it's impossible to imagine until you are there.  Part of me feels it's a cop out of dealing with the pain, the aloneness- part of me thinks it's a powerful affirmation of life and love to say, "I will do this again- I will love and invest and trust and be vulnerable to the most painful loss I've ever known."  I am not there yet I suppose, nor does it matter if I am.

All day today, I stare at Audrey and feel like the cliche, "melting my heart" is close to what I feel.  I see more of you in her all the time - when she looks me in the eye- there you are.  This life, just like death, is impossible to process and fully comprehend.  Biology doesn't cut it.  The same way that I'd realized if you walked in here alive, it'd be a miracle- and that in fact, it was a miracle when you were alive to begin with...I realize that now about all people.  Each one, individually sustained, breath encapsulated in this walking flesh- no cords or batteries - just the swinging pendulum of the heart...is truly miraculous.  My daughter is miraculous.  I am a miracle.  My parents are miracles.  There is something to this- I know it.  Even as we are so very fragile and truly "mere phantoms as we go to and fro" - even as I see each person in the cafe we ate at yesterday, comfortably sipping lattes or biting into paninis - in caskets eventually...no matter which wrinkle cream they use or how much they exercise or drink green smoothies...even as I see the phantomness- I see- the miraculous.

2 comments:

  1. Dear Julia,

    I found your blog a few weeks ago and am drawn to your words. I've been grieving the loss of my sister for 4 years now. Death changes us, as does life. I think you're an amazing person, a gifted writer and a strong and great mom. I believe in my heart deep loss opens us to see the beauty and the miraculous and to reach out and help the rest of the world to see it too. You do that for me.

    S

    ReplyDelete
  2. I (a reader since your NY Times blog post) read this article and thought of you:

    http://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=254&issue_id=65

    Thank you for sharing your experiences - it has helped me develop more empathy for those experiencing loss.

    ReplyDelete