Sunday, August 29, 2021

A Hole in the Heart

 How big is the hole in a heart? How big is the hole in a life? Is it big enough to draw into itself everything that once had meaning?

When your spouse dies your world pieces its logic together again from scratch, almost as though it were a beginning.

And it is a beginning—or will be once you can see that far ahead.

For now, however, it is all endings, tinted in freshly perceived regret. You did so many things wrong, things that you didn’t think mattered at the time. Decisions you both were sure about, when you made them.

It’s as though instead of just living, you’ve been viewing your lives together through a transforming lens, and immediately death widens the field, adds filters that distort memory, or possibly give memory a truer focus.

You can’t be sure which.

For weeks—only weeks, so far—all you can see is the change. The difference. And you may be forgiven if what you see is visible mostly through a scrim of tears.

Because the initial batting that wraps you softly against full understanding of the blow, takes a couple of weeks to fall away.

When it does, you feel the hole in your heart, in your life, so fully that you must grope for something stable to keep your entire self from falling into it.

People are kind. People are wonderful. They call, they send cards and notes, soup and empathy, and it all eases the pain for a time.

Nothing helps for long.

You’re busy, sure. Paperwork, lawyers, various family considerations, a memorial service to plan during Covid Time. You plod through these tasks like an old burro carrying her pack up a mountain path into heavy cloud.

People ask: what are you going to do? Are you going to stay here?

Where is here, you wonder. The here in your mind doesn’t resemble the here where you sleep. Or the here you walk through on your way to the barn, or out into the woods.

The here in your mind is crowded with memory, filled to the brim with your husband moving through his daily activities—erect, cheerful, warm, beloved. These images almost displace the awful ones from the weeks before he died. Will they ever succeed in erasing those? Those moments whose recall occasions anguish no palliative can reach?

An old doctor you met when you were young spoke of the necessary “tincture of time.” You’ve heard the phrase spoken more than once, since then.

It means that you will suffer in this state until, eventually, you stop. You find that almost comforting. Or you would if it didn’t mean you might also lose the memories you desire to grow stronger, not diminish.

Those are the memories you want to hold close to that battered heart of yours and never lose. And they are memories you need if you are ever going to write about him, as he asked you to do.

You certainly can’t write a word, now. Not about one minute of those forty years together. When you try, what you feel is a frozen mass where a fluid, pulsing life should be.

It’s not time yet.

Now is the time for grieving, for mourning, whatever those things mean. A type of healing is surely implied, and longed for.

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