After Life

Wednesday April 4, 2012

“On Monday, I was empty” I wrote in my journal last Thursday. I was so depleted that I really couldn’t write much more then or even until today. As big was the service, the fall was just as large.

After the memorial I cried and cried. The next few days were some of the most emotional I have felt since Dave’s death, with swings of confidence and loss; gratitude and sadness, optimism and loneliness. The roller coaster is back and the grief is magnified by the similar steps after his physical death: cleaning up finding meaning in little nuances of daily life, reminiscing, packing and unpacking memorabilia, seeking out comfort, answering calls from friends. The memorial was his death all over again, emotionally this time. And perhaps in some ways these last 10 day have been my most difficult. Now I face his daily absence as I pick up the pieces of my singular life.

His afterlife, my after his life, my life. These are the thoughts and philosophies I ponder. I am in transition. He, I can only assume, has transitioned his spirit to a place of comfort. And comfort is what I seek to carve out for myself.

I am finding comfort by incorporating some of the old routines from our life together. The Sunday crossword puzzle stands mostly incomplete but ready for the next round of solving during breakfast. He was always better at them but I often could break the pattern of the long answers. I say goodnight aloud to Dave. Why not? I have often hear his voice say “Hey, babe!” when I wake up, his greeting that always sounded surprised and happy to see me when we crossed paths in the house during the day. I try to bypass some of the changed routines that arose during his illness and retrieve the sense of security of us together just living simply as we did.

I can tell there are going to be many tasks left undone for a while. I feel no hurry to clear the bathroom or the closet of his things. I can’t imagine taking off my wedding rings. His home office, and the books and documents from school stored in the garage overwhelm me. Bills and letters and solicitations come addressed to him. There are hundreds of  checks with his name listed on the joint account. I do think about it all, if only momentarily.

Life after death is changed. I am going through the predictable I wish I could tell, ask, share a thought, get an opinion or tell a story of my day to Dave. Oh, he’s not here. I miss him during dinner. I remember times when we would go out dancing and drinking, band nights, raising Leah, too many illnesses, long discussions, silly arguments, cuddling, moving to new homes, puttering, cooking and his doing dishes. I remember his caring for me. I just want one more time to  be held and comforted by him.  It feels as if all 32 years of hanging out together are with me all the time being picked out memory by memory sparked by who knows what in any given moment.

These are all the little things. The ones that make me feel alone and cry. They are my personal memories equally played out by other people who also miss his connection after 72 years in our world.

And there are big things. My health. Now it is my life. I am forced to pay attention to me, not something I typically like to focus on. More than taking care of my everyday self, or being independent and competent, I have to recognize that I have some limitations due to a very real physical disease. This disease represents another type of loss and grief I sort through: loss of health, loss of a sense of youth. It sucks my energy away. Another change. A not yet known outcome. I don’t ask why, I wonder why now?

When I was diagnosed with SCDS (an inner ear syndrome) in late August last year I postpone the surgery needed to repair the disorder. Now I have more need and no excuse. I’ll fix it, I’d tell myself, when Dave is gone. So now he is. Now I have to face one of the biggest, scariest moments I know – head surgery – without his support.

I know deep inside that there is still a lot of life for me. I know I will be more than OK as time moves onward. I know that I have caring support to help me through. I know I can provide for myself and get through. Most importantly, I know that Dave is intertwined with who I am today, as much as I left my imprint on him.

I know that after life, comes death; and after death, there is life. I just wish I didn’t have to feel it without Dave by my side.

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