Monday, 15 August 2011
A Different Place.
A difficult time.
These are a few of the books belonging to my husband. I don't want to say 'late husband'. He was a carefully punctual man. I don't want to say I have 'lost' him, which is a term used by many who don't like to use the word 'dead'. I have not lost him, nor is he late. He died but the evidence of his past life is here, in our home, and the memories are everywhere.
Nearly five years after his death his books are boxed, ready to go to a new place. I am grateful to have found an appropriate home for them; a home that wants the complete collection, and where they will be kept, still under his name. A glance at the titles may indicate that this is a specialised collection, mainly of theology, with some philosophy and a great deal of devotional material. Not everyone would want them but for those who do they are a great resource.
I live through the paradoxes of death and bereavement. Nearly five years, and yet I still have the feeling that he'll be furious when he comes back and finds his books are not here. Not if, but when.
There is no sense in this, and I know it. Yet it happens, this bizarre fusing of reality and complete illogicality, not just to me, but to many who lose a husband, a wife, a life-partner.
The worst thing that people say to me is that they are sure that my husband is watching over me. It is said with the best intentions of giving comfort, but it's bad because I have that feeling anyway, and I know, in my practical, common-sense way, that I must work hard to create a new and different life, to stay positive, not to be a nuisance. In doing that I know that I'm doing things that would cause him annoyance, anger even; radical surgery on his favourite tree, throwing away boxfuls of old newspaper-cuttings and now, worst of all, giving away his beloved books.
If I believed in any sort of after-life I would not find it comforting, for with his deeply held religious convictions he will have streaked ahead in the spiritual race to sanctity, while I will be floundering about on some dark and indistinct shore-line, and this is somehow an even greater separation than death. Few things make proper sense in widowhood, except for simply getting on with it.
Widowhood is a shockingly different country. After the inevitable drama of death the reality begins to hit, but it may take years, or it may take forever. You do not 'get over' the death of a life-partner, but you do learn to live a different way. You simply have to do so.
Marriage was the country where I lived for nearly thirty years, secure, happy, busy, fulfilled, engrossed, irritated, exhausted, light-hearted, miserable - the whole spectrum of human emotion experienced when living with another. I find, somewhat to my surprise, that somehow I can accept the huge changes, but it is the trivial losses that hit hard. Every time I asked if he wanted a drink my husband would respond by looking at his watch or asking, 'What time is it?' It drove me mad, but now I find myself thinking, if not actually doing the same thing.
Widowhood happens in a second. That second when the breath and heart of another person stop, and from that second you are changed. You are perceived differently. Externally, nothing much has changed for me. I have the same address, drive the same car, use the same shops, the same library, and yet everything is different.
At first I was beguiled by busy-ness, keeping the bleakness at bay with a host of distractions. Now my life seems to have become focused into islands of silence, peaceful silence, balanced by the voluntary work I love, and times with people I am lucky enough to love too, in person, by telephone, by e-mail.
I send this out into space today, because my husband's books go tomorrow, and it seems, once again, like an ending.
I send it deliberately for others feeling the bleakness, and it goes with the message that endings can often be beginnings as well, and life in this strange place goes on.