Thursday, July 5, 2012

Grief: July 4th Missing the Fireworks

My husband hated holidays and I loved them.  If he was still alive we probably would have had our own fireworks yesterday.  That's the strangest thing about his death.  I miss the things that frustrated me the most when he was alive.  A character on a TV series said about the love of her life, "I appreciate him so much more now that he's dead."  Isn't that true so much of the time?  I appreciated Artie a lot when he was alive but there were things we wanted from each other that we couldn't figure out how to give.  Then we'd fight.  There was never any doubt - except for occasional moments of neurotic insecurity - that we deeply and truly and foreverly love each other.  The problem was sometimes we weren't very good at showing it. 

Someone said when he died that after a while I would only have good memories.  I said, "Are you kidding?  I want to remember my husband!"  I wonder if I do.  C. S. Lewis, in what I think is the most helpful book on grief, "A Grief Observed", talks about not seeing someone for a long time and realizing they are different than you remember.  Or, those times when you shared something with someone and you are both completely sure that it happened in two totally different ways.  I have so many memories but I wonder what Artie would say if he were here.  Would he remember it the way I do?  Would he be the man I remember?

One of the nice things about memory is that I can remember him being healthy and energetic.  When I look at the photos of him taken during the last year of his life I can't believe I didn't know he had cancer.  I thought he was just getting older.  With hindsight, it's obvious.  I know he would like being remembered in his best days.  He hated losing his hair.  He hated being in pain.  He hated not being able to play tennis in the heat of a summer afternoon.  He loved, though, that I was there to tell him stories and make him laugh.  He loved that he had finally found someone he could love and trust.  So did I.

It's the 3rd anniversary of his death on July 17th.  The past is beckoning.  I like resting there sometimes.  I am at my daughter's house and playing with my granddaughter is lovely.  Babies are so present.  There is much I love about my present.  I have worked hard at creating a life I can live that Artie would be proud of.  My favorite letter from him talks about how he sees me trying new things, falling down, getting up and trying again.  It's still difficult now with a spirit hand instead of a flesh hand to guide me.

I'm rambling a bit.  Grief is like that.  Going backwards into the future.  I had given Artie's slippers to Jon, who died of cancer at only 36.  His feet were swollen after chemo and I knew Artie's slippers would be comfortable for him.  I always had them next to my bed as if Artie could magically reappear.  It was a big thing for me to be able to give them away.  Now they have been given back to me.  Two dead men have worn them.  Do I put them back next to my bed?

I will, hopefully be moving.  I have decided to give more of Artie's things away.  I said to him - "How can you stand being somewhere without any slippers or sneakers?"  (He loved having multiple pairs of sneakers - one for the beach - one for restaurants - one for walking etc...).  He said, "I don't stand."  I laughed.  Did I make it up or did we share a joke - me here on earth, him wherever he is?

So...last night I saw some beautiful fireworks with my daughter and granddaughter.  I had a good time.  But I missed NOT seeing the fireworks with my husband and arguing about it.  I think that if he sprung to life I would never be angry with him again.  I would be so much more understanding.  I know, however, that the peace would last a short time and off we would go again.

I miss EVERYTHING about him.  My life is full and empty.  The fireworks light up the dark sky in brilliant flashes and then go...where?  Does it all have meaning beyond that which we give it?
Are any of the questions we ask even important.  One breath at a time and when the breath stops...then we'll know the answers - or not.

My job is to be grateful for what was and what is.  My job is to keep showing up and seeing what happens next.  Other than's okay with me not to know the answers right now.  What I do know is that you can miss the fireworks and have the fireworks at the same time.  xo


  1. Beautiful and just what the doctor ordered. You are a superb writer Ms. Warner.

  2. My third year anniversary was July 25. He came home from 10 weeks at Stanford to a warm sunny house and home. He died 7 days later. You can't kill an electron, he said. I'll be somewere, doing something; I hope he is sometimes with me. I miss him so much. And yes! Missing the contrary parts the most, sometimes.

    My life is full and empty. As it will always be. But how can it be--how many more years to feel empty and full?